e v e r y t h i n g Optimo
Other Peopleâ€™s Problems CD. LP. MP3.
Editor-in-Chief / Publisher Andrew Parks, Pop Mart Media firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director / Deputy Editor Aaron Richter (M.R.S.) email@example.com Managing Editor Arye Dworken firstname.lastname@example.org Staff Photographers Shawn Brackbill, Caroline Mort Contributing Writers Dana Drori, Jayson Greene, Robert Ham, Cassie Marketos Contributing Photographers Alan Chan, Jimmy Fontaine, Vinna Laudico, Jeremy Liebman, Kyle Johnson, Todd Jordan, Jake Michaels, Bryan Sheffield, Dan Wilton Advertising, Submissions & Other Inquiries Andrew Parks / self-titled 685 Metropolitan Ave. #1 Brooklyn, NY 11211 718-499-3983 email@example.com
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Grimes cover photography Alan Chan
Writer Robert Ham lives and works in Portland, Oregon. When he’s not in the hunt for rare 12-inch singles by the Beautiful South, he contributes to publications such as Alternative Press, Portland Monthly, Willamette Week, Spinner and Network Awesome. Like everyone else in this godforsaken city, he occasionally DJs in bars around his hometown. Unlike everyone else in Portland, he knows how to tuck in his shirt. Heathens.
Alan Chan is a fashion/ advertising photographer based in Vancouver, Canada. Shooting since the summer of 2009, he is self-taught and lets his vision take him wherever it lands. Alan, who shot Grimes for this issue’s cover, gets his inspiration from the world’s super-photographers and hopes that one day he will be able to inspire others as well. Alan is currently working on various projects in North America and Europe.
CONTRIBU T O R S
Jayson Greene is the international editor of eMusic. He writes about hip-hop, indie rock and classical music for Pitchfork and The Village Voice, and his words have appeared in Spin and on GQ.com, among other outlets. From 2004 to 2007, he was the associate editor for SYMPHONY Magazine, where, among other things, he interviewed Elvis Costello on his ballet suite and reported on orchestral video-game scores. He played violin in the indiefolk outfit the Instruments and appeared on NPR’s Soundcheck to discuss Three 6 Mafia’s sampling of Carmina Burana. You can find Jayson tweeting under the ludicrous pseudonym @blingcosby. He lives in Brooklyn.
A freelance writer and model currently based in New York, Dana Drori attended McGill University where she received her honors BA in English literature. Her words have appeared online and in print for various publications, including BlackBook, The New York Observer and Room 100. For this issue, she caught up with her friend Grimes and recollected on their (hazy and wild) time in Montreal.
The six songs that survived my parents’ basement (can
you tell i went to warped tour every summer?)
350 WORDS OR LESS From the Editor:
Weezer, “Buddy Holly” Rancid, “Bloodclot” Bad Religion, “21st Century” Rage Against the Machine, “Bulls on Parade” Faith No More, “Epic” Green Day, “Brain Stew” — Click here to Subscribe to my ’90s playlist, “Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind”
chatted with artists that appear to be by-products of downloading and digesting as much music as possible, including ScHoolboy Q, whose bi-coastal When I was in high school, my friends used reading of hardcore rap makes sure to leave room to play random CDs in my parents’ basement for a Menomena sample, and Johnny Jewel, whose and ask me to name every last one like we were grimy rendition of glitter-dusted dance music has on some low-budget game show. Whether the been recognized by everyone from Kid Cudi to five-second sample was a Slash solo or that one the director of Drive. Or as Jewel, the Italians Do really good Hole song, I always had an answer. It Better founder/elusive producer, puts it, “That’s Immediately. what’s cool about electronic music and hip-hop If only those friends could raid my record these days: Anything goes. People like Kanye are collection now. The rows of vinyl covering one way more experimental than they get credit for. wall and nearly 500 GB of who knows what It’s so Dada—that ability to appreciate someone’s clogging my cloud drive seem like a bottomless vision on a mainstream level. It’s unprecedented.” time capsule—or, rather, an apt illustration of this And overwhelming; he forgot overwhelming. issue’s theme, “Consume Everything.” But that’s what self-titled is here for: to help you To explore the shifting (or shifted) dynamic of make sense of all that noise, right down to the how we devour media now on a relatively massive random lists of our Detritus section and the scale, we asked Ceremony frontman Ross Farrar to tracks that are streaming directly on these pages. veg out on TV for a full day and let Optimo share Now, where’s my copy of Antichrist Superstar? their life stories based on their deep, exhaustive record crate. Skype-chatting with Grimes, we learned about the special place in her heart for both Marilyn Manson and Mariah Carey. We also Andrew Parks, Editor-in-Chief / Publisher ST—006
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Ceremony | Frankie Rose Perfume Genius | Bear in Heaven Julia Holter | Bleached
Ceremony photography Jimmy fontaine
Frontman Ross Farrar reflects on an entire day spent watching TV. Photography Jimmy fontaine
Sunday, February 12, 2012
8:19 am: My inspiration for [Ceremony’s new album] Zoo came to me years ago. I picked up a copy of David Foster Wallace’s “E Unibus Pluram,” an essay on how voyeuristic the act of watching TV is. If you sit with the idea for a few minutes, you’ll very likely become irked. The truth irks. It’s hard for me to watch television for a long period of time. But when it does happen, it usually means I’m really hungover (morning TV), or I’d smoked a little weed (night TV). My reason for not watching isn’t because I think it’s a nonintellectual act, or because books are better, or any of the other excuses people often give for being anti-TV. My reasons for not watching too much are simply because of interruption and the terrible repetition of subject matter. The things companies try to sell you these days are incredible—not in a good way: acne face wash to help teens get rid of the inevitable surfacing of hormones; as Valentine’s Day approaches, jewelry ads hinting that women only care about diamonds; men marrying bacon (“You may now eat the bride”). It can be ridiculous. But it’s not all bad. Minutes ago, I saw a walk-for-AIDS ad. During the writing of Zoo, I was stuck on the unnatural way life sometimes is portrayed and our increasing voyeuristic pleasure of watching other people’s lives unravel—forgetting that we’re only getting one hundredth of that “reality.” 8:23 am: Two guys going through someone’s storage facility. The person who used to own the space looks to have been an undertaker. Formaldehyde tanks, scalpels... How do people steal other people’s personal property? 8:51 am: South American butt lift. The trainer is saying, “If you want to shape your booty...” There’s nothing wrong with working out, but a middle-aged man repeatedly saying “It’s all about the booty” is embarrassing. They have something called “The Booty Makeover Guide”—a calendar of positions and times. 10:00 am: Break to watch The Notebook. That movie rules.
12:34 pm: America’s News HQ—Whitney Houston’s death followed by a pig, street-luging for life insurance. These kind of things happen to us all the time. Things move by very quickly. One minute we’re listening to Tony Bennett give his condolences to the original queen of pop, quickly followed by the original life gambling system. This isn’t a coincidence. 1:14 pm: Middle American family on vacation. The boy has a John Deere big wheel (which is great), and they have something like 50 cases of Bud Light in the back of their pickup. Questions like “Do you hunt?” and “What are y’all eating?” Good stuff: raccoon, gator and other exotic meats. 2:47 pm: Mobster wives act worse than most of the girls I went to high school with. They have filthy mouths and treat each other like chewing gum. They seem more and more like fictional characters the longer I watch. 4:05 pm: These antique shows are really cool. All sorts of crazy stuff I never knew existed. I could never sell most of this stuff, though. I’d fill my entire house five times over before parting with most of it. Well, I might give a bunch of stuff away as gifts, just not the Les Paul. 5:20 pm: Al Green for vacation-commercial music. Strange because it’s “Let’s Stay Together.” 7:33 pm: This show is about people with strange addictions. So far there’s a woman who snorts baby powder and has for 16 years. The doctor gave her a CAT scan, but nothing significantly wrong showed up. The second case is a man who holds a serious romantic relationship with his car—emotionally and sexually. They showed a clip of him explaining how the sexual relationship started, kissing the car passionately with tongue. 8:00 pm: Lot of commercials that feel like Philip K. Dick novels mixed with Terminator 2 effects. It’s always for breath mints or mouthwash. 10:12 pm: Adele’s performance at the Grammys was incredible.
— Click here to read Farrar’s closing reflections on how he spent his day in front of the tube. ST—011
EATS Words Cassandra Marketos Photography CAROLINE MORT
frankie The rose Brooklyn singer shares her grandma’s pozole recipe. ST—012
Frankie Rose didn’t learn how to cook as a kid. In fact, it wasn’t until a recent trip home to Seal Beach, California—and a meal at her aunt’s kitchen table—that the singer/multiinstrumentalist even realized what she’s been missing. “I wanted that food!” she says. “I wanted my mother’s enchiladas, my grandmother’s pozole. So I had to learn how to make them.” Five months later and she’s reciting family recipes from memory in her own kitchen while sharing stories about growing up down the street from her grandmother, where a pot of pozole, the traditional Mexican stew, was always simmering. “Can you smell it now? It’s really getting there!” says Rose, thrilled to be cooking for company. “I don’t care about what I eat alone”— her knife chops functioning as audible periods— “I like to cook for my friends. There’s too much food otherwise.”
Rose’s sentiment fits right alongside the meal’s history as an oral tradition; until now, the recipe for her grandmother’s pozole had never actually been written down. It’s simply been passed from kitchen to kitchen in the Rose family. “As I get older, these recipes have become more important to me,” she explains. “They connect me to my childhood, and I can’t find these dishes, made like this, anywhere.” Frankie Rose’s latest album, Interstellar, is available now on Slumberland.
The Rose Family Pozole • 2 dried ancho chilies • 1 36-ounce can of hominy (drained before use) • 20 ounces of anything with a red chili base (hot enchilada sauce, preferably) • 1/2 can tomato sauce • 1 medium yellow onion, diced • 2 cloves of garlic, minced • 8 cups of water • 32 ounces of chicken broth • 1.5 pounds of beef short rib • Salt and pepper 1. Add water, beef, onion and garlic to a large pot and bring to a boil. 2. Let simmer a few hours, until beef is tender. 3. Add chicken broth; continue simmering. Then add hominy, enchilada sauce and chiles. 4. Simmer for another hour. 5. Add salt and pepper to taste. 6. Serve and enjoy.
RECORDING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Photography Kyle Johnson ST—014
Mike Hadreas explains what really inspired the devastating ballads of Put Your Back N 2 It. 1. Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”
4. Felicia436 on YouTube
His stories just end. You are left to resolve them yourself, to take what you need. I hope to write in the same way. I prepared a track-bytrack description of my album for promotional purposes but worried that it would deter people from taking whatever they need from my music. If a song reminds you of your daddy, it’s about your daddy.
Felicia is doing her thing. I like some fetish videos because people seem very happy, like they are finally showing up in the world as themselves. I classically have had a lot of shame around what turns me on, even the basic fact of it being men. I find Felcia’s videos very sweet and sometimes very beautiful.
2. Jeffrey My friend Jeffrey took me to my first AA meeting. We barely knew each other, but he would come pick me up. I would sweat in his car and yell about my problems. I was surprised each time he came to get me because I knew I was awful to be around. But I am very thankful that he did. He was heavy on my mind while writing—his wisdom and willingness and ability to listen.
3. Thelma & Louise I almost exclusively watch horror movies. I get off on the survival, people reduced to their most basic skill sets. But I rarely revisit them. I have seen Thelma & Louise many times over many years. I wanted to write an album people could come back to—not listen to for a week and be done with. This movie is tender and badass. I am interested in being a tender badass.
5. “Why don’t you make something nice?” My mother used to ask me this all the time. I was the kid in art school hanging everything from a noose, cutting my fingers and smearing blood. Surprise! This kind of thing is very easy for me. But I am no longer interested in solely coming from that place. I wrote my mom “something nice” for this album. I am very proud of it; it means a lot to both of us. It is not as hip to create something heartwarming. People nod quietly at paintings of dead dogs. You attempt to be sweet or heartwarming, and folks are up in arms, calling it sentimental or cheesy. This could entirely be my own bullshit, but it was a fear I needed to get over. And I still managed to reference a dead dog in one song. Holla!
— read other installments of Recording under the influence with Veronica Falls, Jacaszek, Pop. 1280 and more ST—015
Photography Aaron Richter
bear in heaven
From left: Joe Stickney, Jon Philpot and Adam Wills STâ€”016
The NYC trio on Neil Young. Trans (Geffen, 1982) Joe Stickney: This record sounds best when driving through the desert in southeastern California, heading toward the Pacific. It feels like the soundtrack to a sci-fi film about a race of robots rising from the ruins of a failed human civilization, growing up out of a radioactive desert wasteland and heading west as part of a robot Manifest Destiny—to learn about love and loss and boogie and surfing, about how they too can one day destroy themselves, maybe to make room for a race of scorpion people. All civilization must be born out of the desert, dig? Lyrically, I have no idea what is going on in these songs. “Sample and Hold,” with its vocoder madness—like some superficial machine ordering a new lover, “But not the angry, lonely, jealous one / A new design, new design”—is funny and surprising, but it still carries an emotional weight. I can’t place where it comes from, whether it’s the melody or sparse industrial rhythm or the lyrical repetition, but it seems sweet and sad. This isn’t a sad or heavy record, though. It’s mostly Krautrock-y, dance-y jams. It’s just the way he does it—the melodies he writes, the way the songs progress, how the choruses and bridges build out of the verses—that makes it so good.
Time Fades Away (Reprise, 1973) Adam Wills: “What am I doing here? What am I doing here? What am I doing here?” That’s one hell of a refrain! Hearing it wrapped in reverb from a live ’71 recording of “Love in Mind” at Royce Hall is even more chilling. After many years as a devoted Neil Young fan, I’ve jumped into the deep end of live recordings and bootlegs. Time Fades Away saw an official release just after Harvest and is one of my go-to albums. It’s pretty ballsy to release your biggest record and then follow it up with a haphazard document of live, far-frompolished renditions; in fact, there are moments of downright sloppiness. That’s what I love about Neil: He’s never been about polish, and he’s at his best the more raw he gets. (Uh, hello, Dead Man soundtrack?!) I spent about $250 on a ticket to see Neil Young five or so years ago at the United Palace Theater. It was the best money I ever spent.
Live at Massey Hall (Reprise, 2007) Jon Philpot: It took me a long time to like Neil Young. Friends prodded me with mixtapes and suggestions that I was crazy or stupid. I didn’t like his voice; it sounded like a goat singing over rock ’n’ roll. Then one day, while trying to shake an illness, I heard Buffalo Springfield’s song “Expecting to Fly,” and I went ape-shit for Neil. I bought every record I could get my hands on. Live at Massey Hall came out in the middle of this shopping frenzy, and it confused the crap out of me. A new record? But it’s an old record? What’s going on? I couldn’t fathom that it was shelved for so long. It’s a great record and important document, shining a light on his lyrics and the simple beauty of his chord progressions. It’s just him, a guitar, a piano and a big crowd. The audience cheers for a solid three minutes before they get the encore “I Am a Child.” I feel like he’s talking directly to them, like he wanted to let them to know he had a great show. Bear in Heaven’s latest album, I Love You, It’s Cool, arrives in April via Dead Oceans/Hometapes. ST—017
The LA musician’s first impressions of four illuminated manuscripts. Photography JAKE MICHAELS
Julia Holter ST—018
When most people see illuminated manuscripts, they think of field trips, art-history classes or church. Julia Holter hears voices. Not literal chorus lines; more like muddled memories...and monks. “I’m intrigued by the fact that monks read out loud when they worked,” says Holter. In the past year, Holter’s released two carefully cultivated LPs: the wild, wide-open spaces of Tragedy and the skewered pop songs of the recent Ekstasis, records influenced by doowop bass lines, ’80s beats, film characters, passing cars and even a manuscript or two— like the pieces on this page, alongside Holter’s reactions.
“Here are the three wise men. I’ve seen them before, kissing the hands of ‘the new lord.’ This time, the lord’s feet are in their mouths. The hands are drawn very simply— always purposeful, frequently telling more about the scene than the face. I always want to take everything out except the hands. Here we would see 10 of them and nothing else. It would be very beautiful.” “The three women at the top may be one woman. She has six hands, holding weapons of power: apples, swords and weights. She is communicating something silently. There are bright colors, but no one is speaking. Only from the sides, where the natural light shines, can we imagine a little white noise.” “The beauty and functionality of the calendar in the sky, which we all share, may have somehow justified our differences.”
“The people who’ve fallen in the river are smiling, but we think that is just an artist’s mistake. The ladies are getting ready to fight with their hats as weaponry. Everything is drawn a bit crookedly, but the gold is expertly placed. The gold is the most important. Then the hands.” ST—019
bleached Photography todd jordan
Bleached plans to unveil its debut LP this summer. In the meantime, the duo has released 7-inch singles via Suicide Squeeze, Art Fag and Ooga Booga.
this is blondes STâ€”022
Photography jeremy liebman Blondes recently released a selftitled double-disc collection of singles, remixes and unreleased tracks through RVNG Intl.
up next: Spiritualized | Grimes | Johnny Jewel ScHoolboy Q | Optimo
Interview robert ham Photography aaron richter
Jason Pierce on how he became J. Spaceman, and why he still believes in the higher power that is rock ’n’ roll.
LIFE STORY I didn’t really have any records when I was a kid. I think we had three records in the house. Stuff like the Australian Army Band album. I remember hearing stuff on Radio 2 that my mom really liked—middle-of-the-road music. My lucky break came when I bought Raw Power. I have no idea why I bought it. I have a feeling it was on sale, which probably influenced my decision. When I heard it, I felt like I had a gem and I didn’t want anyone else to know it. My mum bought me a guitar. We didn’t have any money so she bought it secondhand. An acoustic. She showed it to me ahead of time to see if it was something I’d like. Once I hit a few chords on that, I was hooked. If you wanted to be a musician, you went to art college. It wasn’t always for people who wanted to do art. It was for people who couldn’t do anything else. The main attraction for me to college was that you would get a grant, a year’s worth of money. I did a deal with the college: If I attended for the rest of the term, they wouldn’t bust me for taking a year’s cash ahead of time. I bought a guitar that had a “3” on it. There was a place in Rugby where bands rehearsed. Everyone came together on Tuesday nights, hanging out and making a racket. Pete [Kember, aka Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3] was there, but he wasn’t playing anything. He really couldn’t play an instrument. Everyone was buying records at that time. Pete’s big love was the Cramps. Mine was Iggy. So we swapped musical tastes. And we found other stuff like the Gun Club, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns. I had made posters for a gig that said stooges? stones? velvets? spacemen 3! We had one person attend.
We did our own club in Rugby. Brought in bands that we liked and bands that we didn’t just to make some cash and do our own shows. The weird thing when you start a band is that you get a picture of what your audience would or could be. We imagined drug freaks that stepped right out of Altamont or got rejected from Funkadelic. Really, you just get music geeks. We were completely in isolation. Most of what was out there at the time was really embarrassing. The nearest link was people that said, “You sound like the [Jesus and] Mary Chain.” For years, I wouldn’t listen to them. After we had released a few records, and toward the end of the band, people started to get really excited. There were bits of a psych thing, but it was very broad. Lots of people wearing paisley. A lot of Pete’s ideas came in pretty late in the game. I was writing the [songs] early on. And when I met him, he couldn’t play an instrument. I taught him the shape to play on “Catastrophe O.D.” But people were accusing me of stealing his ideas. We just didn’t get on at the end. It was a million little things. For one, he wanted to split up the songwriting on songs that I’d given him. It seemed like such a weird thing to want to do.
“I want to get in a bus and see the world go by.” I worked so hard for that band, to keep it together. It was my way out—my ticket to not have to work ever. And suddenly it’s not there anymore. I made a single that I gave to Dedicated figuring if that worked, they’d have to sign us to a deal. They kind of gave in. I knew I wanted to make something vast. But I didn’t want to say, “This is what we’re going to sound like.” I wanted time to explore ideas and, making mistakes, go down blind alleys to make a great sound. Ladies and Gentlemen... that was by chance and timing. It was no less grand an undertaking than anything we’d done before. We just got lucky, and it worked. Those songs were more realized as songs. My confidence grew, and my words got better. I didn’t just consider where a certain guitar chord or choir is in relation to the song. I had to know how it fit in the whole album. You can’t make an album that’s a single ecstatic high. You have to take it down and build it back up. Touring that album was amazing. The best thing in the world. I love playing live. It’s like being in a waterfall or an avalanche. You don’t try and pin it down. Every time we run out of shows, I think, “Fuck, now I have to make a record.” I can’t remember getting sick. I was pretty fucked up as it was. I didn’t recognize anything that led up to it. I just keeled over one day. It was probably good in a way ’cause I didn’t ST—028
know where [Songs in A&E] was going! I vaguely remember being in intensive care and hearing all the beeps of the life support machines. I thought it was beautiful. I thought, “I have to get that down later.” I spent a long time in there. It made me question what I was doing. I feel that rock ’n’ roll is the single most important thing in my life. But people hail these moments from years ago “when it was good.” And it’s so wrapped up with people wanting to relive their youth. The only way to keep it going forward is by making new and important music now. I wanted to make a pop record because I’ve not done it in some time. Other than melodies in other records, I jettisoned that idea almost immediately. And the stuff that did make it was abstract and distorted. I wanted to make a jukebox record. A record that wasn’t reaching for the stars. In the back of my mind, I thought I was doing myself a favor, that it would be easy to take a break. But as soon as you can’t hide behind abstract ideas, you’re in an “Emperor’s New Clothes” world. I want to get in a bus and see the world go by. I really couldn’t care less about the rest of it. I just want to get on a bus and start playing shows and see what happens. I’m still on that same hustle from those first few guitar chords I played. Some 30 odd years later, I’m still waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say, “You’re busted.” //
Spiritualized’s latest album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, is available in April via Fat Possum.
Mechanical Animal Words dana drori Photography alan chan Makeup and Hair Eman at THEYrep.com Photography Assistance Jacky Ling
“SORRY I’M ALSO STRETCHING AS WE SPEAK, WHICH IS WHY I’M FACING SIDEWAYS.” IT’S JANUARY, AFTER MIDNIGHT IN NEW YORK, AND CLAIRE BOUCHER’S FACE IS STREAMING THROUGH MY LAPTOP. I HAVEN’T SEEN HER SINCE OCTOBER—WHEN CLAIRE AND SOME OF OUR FRIENDS CAME TO NEW YORK FOR CMJ, WHEN I EXPERIENCED MY FIRST (AND LAST) JOB AS A GRIMES BACKUP DANCER, AND WHEN WE ATE DUMPLINGS, DRANK BEER AND SAT ON MY COUCH.
It’s just after 9 for Claire, who is 2,500 miles away in Vancouver, riding out the last week at her parents’ home before embarking on a European promo trip and US tour. She looks energetic and put-together, despite the fact that she’d taken a bunch of sleeping pills at 5 am the night before and awoken at 4 that afternoon. Her bedroom walls are bare, and aside from the unmade bed on which she is stretching, her room seems empty. Or maybe Skype just makes it seem that way. “I’ve been here two months,” she says, sounding a bit stir crazy. “My life is incredibly boring right now. I wake up, answer e-mails and do interviews all day, practice... It’s just work from when I wake up to when I go to bed.” It’s difficult for me to imagine Claire’s life as boring. In the past year, she has toured extensively (with fellow Canadian bands and friends such as Silly Kissers, Pat Jordache and Austra), logged a dozen South by Southwest sets and opened for Lykke Li. She’s been praised in The New York Times and Vogue, and as we chat, Visions, Claire’s much anticipated “sci-fi pop” (her words) LP under the moniker Grimes, is about to see release in the US via 4AD. Claire’s short cloister in Western Canada is only the calm before another storm of shows, interviews and transience. But such, she says, is life on tour. “The longest time I’ll spend in any given place is, like, a week,” she explains. “I don’t have a home; there’s no consistency.” The schedule can be tough, and Claire has decided to tour with the band Born Gold (né Gobble Gobble, from Edmonton), rather than our mutual friends making music in Montreal. Born Gold, Claire notes, is straight edge, ultimately a key reason for inviting them. “I can’t have any drugs or alcohol because I’m on the edge of sanity right now,” she says. “The main issue of me touring with anyone from Montreal— and the main reason I moved out of Montreal, actually—is because I just needed to get away from the drugs and stuff. I mean, you know how Montreal people are.” Having been one myself, I do. I really do.
AND THEN THE COPS CAME
“Was I on mushrooms at a Braids show?” Claire asks about the first time we met. ST—031
This is not the memory I have. From what I remember—Montreal now reduced, for me, to a blur of extreme temperatures and extreme parties, running through fountains on MDMA during heat waves and finding friends passed out drunk in the snow—Claire and I met on the balcony of our mutual friends’ home. It was summer. There was barbecue. She had just dyed her hair blonde and cut her own bangs, but the bleach didn’t take, and her hair had turned greenish yellow, like parched grass. Back then, Claire’s songwriting career lived in the darker realms of Montreal’s music scene, with shows and after-hours parties at DIY loft venues like Lab Synthèse and Silver Door—cramped and sweaty spaces that sat on the edge of the city’s artistic and industrial neighborhoods, where everyone was on drugs and the cops almost always showed up to shut us down. Set times started late and later, often around 3 am, when most people were too fucked up to pay proper attention, anyway. Which might be the best type of audience when you’re just learning how to make and perform music. “They were all pretty bad,” Claire says of her earliest sets. She played her first show under her own name at Lab Synthèse. “I would just forget the songs while I was playing,” she remembers. “I probably played for, like, 10 minutes. It was a disaster.” “She made these sort of cowboy songs,” says Sebastian Cowan, Claire’s friend since eighth grade, now her manager and founder of the indie label Arbutus Records. Claire met Sebastian when she’d started dating one of his friends, and then they all moved to Montreal. (For the record, Claire retorts, “I wouldn’t call them cowboy songs! I just used the ukulele.... Ugh, I hate the ukulele.”) Seb pushed her to pursue
music seriously and urged her to contribute to his developing record label, which was then, he admits, “just me burning CDs.” Claire’s early songs were psychedelic and experimental, playing with noise and dark, electronic sounds more than structure— appropriate for Montreal’s smoky lofts with less-than-stellar sound systems. She learned from her friends and fellow Montreal musicians. Blue Hawaii’s Alex Cowan taught her how to use GarageBand, which she now uses to produce her songs, and by watching artists like Sean Nicholas Savage (for whom she used to sing backup vocals), Dave Carriere (of the bands TOPS, Silly Kissers and Paula) and Braids, she gleaned songwriting fundamentals. “I’d look at these people and learn, ‘Okay, so you need lyrics, and you need to write a verse, and you need a chorus,’ ” she says. “Otherwise, it would just be psychedelic rambling that goes into space.” Visions—strange and ethereal, yet tight and clean—is the culmination of her development. Some songs, like “Nightmusic,” are explosive and erratic, while others, like “Be a Body,” have a richer, more sensual build. Her soft, avian voice can feel transcendent, yet she grounds the music in visceral rhythms—shiny beats that make you dance, even if you don’t want to. Claire acknowledges the city of Montreal itself, in addition to the people living there, in allowing her to indulge music. Cheap rent and easy access to bars and venues had us all living on the same adjoining two blocks on the cusp of Mile End and Outremont—an area akin to the Brooklyn border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Everyone was just up the street or around the corner, and shows were a short walk or bike ride away. The neighborhood is a haven for artistic types, who, without the pressure of needing a
“Was I on mushrooms at at Braids show?” ST—032
full-time job, can literally afford to spend time on creative projects. Artists can earn rent and living expenses with just a couple days’ work or through extensive grants from the government (or, for a lot of those still in college, from their parents). It’s the kind of surreal hipster utopia that Portlandia parodies, but it also catapulted Claire into making music. At the same time, the constant late-night partying, regular access to drugs and general lack of responsibility took its toll. Claire watched as one of her best friends became a drug addict—
“I’m so sick of walking home from somewhere and finding him blacked out, lying on the ground,” she says—and her own penchant for partying became overwhelming. “[When I return to Montreal] I’m, like, totally addicted to speed,” she confesses, “and I’m sick all the time.” Life can become inert when everyone lives just down the block, shares the same interests and likes to party the same way. “It was obviously an incredibly great and productive place,” she insists. But as touring started to become a routine, Claire seemed ready to leave.
A VISION OF PERFECTION
About a year after we met and had both left Montreal, Claire and I are at a wig shop in NYC’s East Village. She is staying at my place for a couple nights, about to open for Lykke Li at Webster Hall, and has decided, finally, to invest in a black wig, rather than dying her hair black on periodic whims. After much deliberation (and a bit of haggling), she chooses not one wig but two: a shoulder-length black one with bangs and a long platinum-blonde ponytail attachment that makes her look part elf, part She-Ra, princess of power. It’s how I imagine her looking when I listen to her song “Genesis.” “I like to aestheticize every experience as much as possible,” Claire once said to me. “Like taking yourself and making the most dramatic situation of your physical being—I like that idea.” She changes her appearance regularly, particularly her hair, playing with color and shaving certain sections. “I’m super addicted to adrenaline and changing shit up,” she says. Which also explains her stickand-poke tattoo habit: Every time I see her, Claire has new ST—034
ink, the most recent being the Triforce from Legend of Zelda, which she did with her cousins to commemorate their days playing the video game. Between the wigs and the tattoos—not to mention her love of medieval culture (she wrote her college thesis on Hildegard of Bingen) and sci-fi (she’s a big Dune fan)—Claire’s image leans as much toward the strange and otherworldly as her music. Even the self-made cover of Visions—a skull, eyes and Russian letters—evokes the edgier side of obscure. Claire plans to film a music video for every song on Visions—her first, for “Oblivion,” was directed by Emily Kai Bock, Claire’s friend of six years—and talks about the record using visual references, likening it to movies such as The Fifth Element and the Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell. “I’m more influenced by things that I see and translating that into sound than things that I’m hearing,” she says. Onstage, however, her live performance is raw and minimal. Without band accompaniment, she moves frantically between her sampler and keyboard, leaning in when she plays and tucking the microphone between her shoulder and ear when she’s not singing, which makes her look like a DJ spinning records. She holds the mic with one hand as she sings, her free hand moving in rippling gestures. Watching her petite, pale frame create an expanse of sound from behind her keyboard is, in itself, quite striking. Claire can be shy—she even was with me for the first few months we knew each other—and not as assertive as she’d like to be. “I used to have the worst anxiety,” she admits. But working with friends has afforded her the comfort she needs to put as much of herself as possible into her work. “I try to abstract the lyrics,” she says. “Most of the songs are sort of driven, weirdly enough, by my love life, which is really silly.” Some things about Claire’s love life that she will state on the record: “It’s way more hectic than it needs to be,” and it’s always “a dramatic affair.” (I laugh when she says this, remembering that even before Claire became lauded as Grimes, she always had many, er, No. 1 fans.) But leaving Montreal for life on tour has made her relationships—romantic and otherwise—“super
Claire Boucher’s Top Five Favorite Marilyn Manson Songs and Top Six (Because “They’re All Essential”) Favorite Mariah Carey Tracks 1. “Sweet Dreams” 2. “Nobodies” 3. “Dope Hat” 4. “Fight Song” 5. “Disposable Teens” — 1. “Angel” 2. “We Belong Together” 3. “Angels Cry” (Jump Smokers Remix) 4. “My All” (Club Mix) 5. “Honey” 6. “Fantasy”
transient and weird.” This constant state of flux evokes conflicting desires for Claire. “There’s no sense of closure or continuity,” she says. But a want for more— whatever that may mean—is what seems to propel her. This, she says, is what Visions is about—an “idealized version of life... a vision of perfection,” a perfection that is always elusive.
POSTHUMAN AND HARDWIRED
Claire doesn’t own a phone. This never seemed strange to me in Montreal, where it’s easy enough to maintain a social life by simply going for a walk. “People would just show up at my door,” Claire remembers. “My social life happened because everyone I knew lived on that block.” But on the road, with interviews and meetings and navigating new cities, she’s learned to rely on e-mail and Google Voice, when necessary. ST—035
“Don’t mis-treat robots children wi
“It’s really important to be disconnected from the digital world,” she writes in an e-mail, “or else you give in fully to being a cyborg, which simultaneously intrigues and terrifies me.” Disconnection, in other words, lets her choose when to be social and when to remain more private. “I hate it when people can contact me, too,” she adds, punctuated by a “haha.” Even her e-mail account has an auto-reply that reads, “I don’t have a phone or regular Internet access, so it might take me a while to respond.” When Claire’s in New York, it’s easy for us to meet up. She’s usually with Seb, her manager, who assumes telephone responsibilities, but otherwise, the Internet is Claire’s primary tool for interaction. Though she is often difficult to reach, she does use the Internet to reach out herself, posting on Twitter regularly: everything from random thoughts (“dont mis-treat robots, one day you or you’re children will regret it”) to updates ST—036
about her life (“its 7 am and i just stayed up all night writing the best song i have ever written holy fuck. this is 100% what i live for”) and even thoughts about Twitter itself (my favorite: “i like twitter cuz u can just say things and lots of ppl will read it. shit shit shit shit cunt cunt cunt cunt hahaha”). “[Twitter] allows you to speak in a way in which you’re comfortable,” she says, alluding to her general hesitancy with interviews, when she worries that what she has to say might be misunderstood. For example: the term “post-Internet,” which Claire once used in an interview to explain, as she says, “the very clear situation that obviously the Internet has changed the way people consume music,” how it provides access to music across all genres, encouraging a pastiche of influence. (Claire herself culls influence from across the spectrum, citing Mariah Carey, Aphex Twin, Marilyn Manson and Timbaland as key figures.) “Post-Internet,” in an accidental and not entirely
s, one day you or you ill regret it.”
inappropriate instance of coining culture, has become a self-perpetuating meme, attributed to her music in a way she didn’t expect. “People are starting to refer to it as if it were a genre, which is not the way it was intended,” she says. “It’s not that I’m a post-Internet artist; it’s that the Internet exists now, and at one point it didn’t.” Fittingly, she turned to Twitter to renounce the term entirely, posting, “omg ‘post internet’ whatever i was running my mouth i don’t support the use of that term—not affiliated with it yoooooo.” Of course the Internet has changed the music industry, and Claire’s career is representative of that, as she’s largely disseminated her music online and developed initial buzz via blog posts and reviews. (When Visions leaked, Claire even tweeted, “I support online piracy.”) The term “post-Internet” may have evolved beyond what she intended but perhaps necessarily so. Still, she prefers to keep her distance: “I’m just worried that it gives me an air of faux intellectualism.”
It’s now well past 1 am, and our conversation devolves from “interview” into “catching up.” Claire teaches me about K-pop and tells me about the time her dyslexic friend managed her books. We talk about how excited she is to visit parts of Europe she’s never been to before and about the next time we will get to see each other. I’ll be in Montreal for the debut of her “Oblivion” video, but unfortunately, she’ll still be on tour. We talk about her fear of becoming a tired musician, and how putting so much of herself into her music allows her to remain real in a sound that is heavily mechanical and synthesized. “Translating personality into computerized music is a difficult thing to do,” she says. The best she can try for is to connect with the audience by getting them to dance, and as she says when considering the possibilities, “There are so many ways that you can push people with music.” // ST—037
Johnny Jewel photographed in his Montreal home.
THE self-titled INTERVIEW
johnny Jewel I
Words ANDREW PARKS Photography VINNA LAUDICO
f Johnny Jewel learned one thing from being a teenage skateboarder in Texas, it’s this: Let your limbs go limp every time you fall. Like when you’re beneath a 10-body pileup at a house party—a spastic Glass Candy set above a lawyer’s office, to be exact. “I thought my neck was going to break,” says Jewel, “so I let go, got up, and the strings on my guitar were loose like a kid’s ukulele. I didn’t realize my ribs were cracked until the next day.” Back then, Jewel and Glass Candy singer Ida No were working at a Portland, Oregon, grocery and making $50, maybe $100 a show. The situation was so dire that Jewel attempted to mend his guitar with duct tape, but when that didn’t work, he tried the next best thing: He fully embraced the synth-centric sound that had been creeping into Glass Candy’s elegantly wasted songs since the late ’90s. At least that was the plan. It took the duo five
years to shift from the blunt-trauma tracks of their 2002 debut, Love Love Love, to the mirrorball melodies of the landmark B/E/A/T/B/O/X and After Dark, a compilation released on Jewel’s Italians Do It Better imprint. In the years since, he’s been dogged by the prevailing notion that several long-awaited releases (After Dark’s sequel; new albums from Glass Candy and Jewel’s other band, Chromatics) will never actually come out. “One of the reasons I have my own label is I don’t like deadlines,” explains Jewel. “You need to let your art marinate.” To be fair, Jewel was sidetracked from several key sessions this past year when he was asked to score Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Jewel has already spoken about the eye-opening experience—a crash course in Hollywood politics that ended in a scrapped score and the Italians Do It Better release of a similar-in-spirit project called Symmetry—so we probed the artist on other issues, like his unshakable religious upbringing and his days working as a guinea pig.
self-titled: You were based in Portland for a long time. That’s interesting because your music sounds like it’s from a much bigger city. The idea of geographical influence is weird to me because I grew up as a complete outsider in Houston, where everything was really far away. There was Ghetto Boys and Rap-a-Lot, but there wasn’t a musical identity. How did you get exposed to stuff then? I had a few lucky breaks involving cassettes—like I found Minor Threat’s Out of Step on the floor at the mall. A few years later, I found a Black Sabbath tape in my locker at school: Masters of Reality. I grew up in a religious household where secular music wasn’t embraced, and Christian rock was just getting started. There was, like, Stryper, which was kinda like Twisted Sister. As a young Texan, I was drawn to new-wave and club music because of how removed it was from organic instruments. I never really understand genres until I got into high school. ST—040
Hanging with different musical crowds was almost unheard of in the ’80s, too. Definitely. It’s crazy to see kids now. The crosspollination is awesome. I was listening to RunDMC, Madonna and Depeche Mode—even Bon Jovi and Garth Brooks—at the same time. It was all pop music to me. Was Minor Threat your first exposure to secular music? It was my first exposure to underground culture—the idea that you could put out a record that’s not on the radio. Punk showed me people doing it all from the ground up. Not just Minor Threat. Bands like the Smiths started from the same idea, in terms of... The process? Right. I didn’t know what a guitar or keyboard was in the same way that I don’t know what’s under the hood of a car. When I saw Madonna on TV, it was this dreamlike fantasy.
An alternate universe you don’t have access to. Exactly. Texas is really flat, so anything with mountains and greenery looked weird to me. It’s not like I lived on a farm. I lived in the city, but I kept feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, and that freed me up to do whatever I wanted. Did you end up fitting in with anyone? I was never allowed to go to parties or anything like that, so I was never totally in—never taking acid and listening to Robert Smith. I was going through a lot of things back then—figuring out what I wanted to do with my life and struggling with leaving the church. I remember I got really artsy at one point. I thought everyone was full of shit, so I started sitting with the kids who had autism and cerebral palsy because I knew some of them from choir. They were awesome musicians but couldn’t read music. That didn’t last too long, though. School—man, that was some depressing shit.
into Depeche Mode, I didn’t need to know what Martin Gore is doing every minute of the day. I don’t read magazines or rock bios, either. It’s not that I’m a purist or Amish; I just don’t find it that interesting. One thing that’s important about Italians Do It Better is that we stick to the music. We’re not trying to be omnipresent. Ida doesn’t even own a computer or a cell phone, so she is sorta Amish. [Laughs] But she’s learning. She discovered Google recently, so she’s having fun with that. And she loves watching YouTube. You recently got some mainstream attention for your work on Drive. Did that change anything? Not really. Working with Nic and Ryan [Gosling] doesn’t add or take anything away from my life. I still have the same schedule I always had. It’s weird because [Kid] Cudi sampled a [Desire] track, too. The fact that something
Did you have to sneak out at night? I couldn’t go to concerts or stay out late, but I’d go skating because I lived by the mall. I was a badass in that way; everyone else had to be dropped off at the mall, and I could just skate over there. I grew up kinda lower/middle class in this one neighborhood, and the kids who were into new-wave music lived like 25 minutes away. So I was more isolated. I always wanted to live in the areas where they had more money because the houses were nicer and the girls were hotter. Everything you think about Texas is true, but it’s not the whole picture. I’m happy to be from there. It destroyed some of my friends, but it made me stronger. I really value those preInternet years. I was miserable, but I learned how to fall in love with art. Now we’re exposed to so much that it can be overwhelming. I think about that a lot, as our audience keeps getting younger and I keep getting older. I feel lucky to be at a point where I use technology, but it doesn’t run my life. When I was really ST—041
recorded on an 8-track could be part of a Top 40 hit today is insane. That’s what’s cool about electronic music and hip-hop these days: Anything goes. People like Kanye are way more experimental than they get credit for. It’s so Dada—that ability to appreciate someone’s vision on a mainstream level. I think it’s unprecedented. Maybe it’s because we have so much access to every genre imaginable now. This has been on my brain a lot lately. Like, Drake’s production is so nuts for the mainstream. Things are so much more open now, too. We’re all exposed to the process of making art, so we can appreciate when someone does it well. The cream still rises to the top in many cases. The ratio of real shit versus bullshit is never going to change. You either have it or you don’t. Just because you took guitar lessons for 20 years and can play every Eddie Van Halen solo doesn’t mean you’re an artist. People get mad because some kid can hold his finger on a keyboard and make a beat. That doesn’t mean it’s not art. People who trip on that just feel threatened. Kind of like how a kid with a blog can have a greater reach than someone who went to journalism school. Technology puts a lot of power in the youth culture, which freaks people out.
How did you first get started with music? I think the piano’s the greatest instrument ever invented, but I felt less threatened by the guitar. It was more of a proletariat tool. You could suck and still be cool. As I became more comfortable on guitar, I felt limited by it, so I started branching out into synths, keyboards and the piano. Most of the stuff I use now was bought on a road trip with my girlfriend back then. Had you already moved out of Texas? No, I lived in Austin for two years before I moved to Portland. Where did you buy the equipment? We got the telephone book out and called all the pawn shops in places like Kansas and Oklahoma. I bought the main keyboard from Symmetry for just $20, in a case right next to a rifle and a lawn mower. Did you have to do a lot of work to fix it up? Oh, no. I don’t know shit about electronics. An 80-year-old accordion player in Montreal fixes all my stuff. It’s funny when people fetishize analog equipment. It’s no different than someone talking about a hot rod at a car show. I’m just looking for a tone, you know? I try to focus on making a song hot. A lot of people think I’m this deer in the wilderness, making music the way it’s meant to be made.
“I was miserable, but I learned how to fall in love with art.” ST—042
“I bought the main keyboard from Symmetry for just
$20, in a case right next to a rifle and a lawn mower.”
A purist. Yeah, but electronic music is all blood and guts to me. I spend enough time on the computer in my life; I don’t need to make music with one. Plus, I have really bad wrists from skateboarding and working my whole life. A couple of hours on the computer and I can’t even wave hi. You’ve done a lot of manual labor then? Yeah, I bought my equipment two ways: working at grocery stores, and doing medical studies in Austin at Pharmaco, the same place Robert Rodriguez went to when he was trying to fund El Mariachi. That’s how I got my first Moog—by being a guinea pig. Wait, what? They test drugs on you [laughs]. That must have been scary. I got the placebo the first four times, but the last time really freaked me out because my heart rate was going up and down real quickly. That was the last one I did. It was like, “Fuck this, man.” I like to be in control of my body all the time. That’s interesting because the Symmetry record sounds deliberately unsettling in certain parts. Were you channeling this drug experience in some way? Not consciously. I was playing on themes of adrenalin, discomfort and stress, though. Not to dwell on your drug-testing days, but were you incredibly anxious the four times you were given a placebo? A lot of musicians in Austin were [test subjects], and I’d been told that you should always go for the studies that don’t pay that much and have more people in them. But then I got a little inspired by this synth I wanted, and I took a study that had only three people in it. Why didn’t you just become a bar back or something like that?
Well, I was only 19, and I hated bar culture. This was the peak of the psychobilly era, with skinheads and big burly cowboy dudes going to shows. I’m a pretty femme-y dude, so I was a little tripped out by that. Plus, the whole fraternity culture in Austin is a major turnoff. It’s everywhere, and I’d get harassed just riding my bike or whatever. Did you tell your family that you were leaving Houston? Or did you just run away? I moved out right after high school, when I was 17. Then my dad got ill, and my mom wanted me to move back in until he died. I wasn’t really close to him, but watching someone die in your living room isn’t very fun. I was ready to get the hell out of there once he was done. I’m a pretty emotional guy, so it was hard to see the value in those bad times for a while. I’ve matured a little bit. I wouldn’t want to move back, but sometimes I romanticize about getting an apartment for six months and making a synth record. One of the hardest things must be the fact that you left the church on your own. It’s not like your family renounced it with you. It’s hard either way. The church burrows its way into your brain. You never shake it; you just learn how to deal with it. Any type of black-and-white upbringing is going to leave a mark on you. A lot of people I know are like, “Fuck church! Fuck god! Ha, ha.” But if I’m honest with myself, I still believe in some of that shit because I was brainwashed. It’s not something I can blow off or take lightly. Like, if I hear preaching on TV, I have to deal with it for a second. Or if someone on a plane starts talking about god, I need to process it for a few minutes. A lot of kids who were raised that way have a rebellious state of mind toward it, but I want to work through it at some point. // — Read the rest of our extensive interview with johnny jewel here. ST—045
FREE ASSOCIATION Words Jayson GreenE Photography Bryan Sheffield
schoolboy q ST—046
“Sacrilegious” “I went to jail when I was 21, got a strike on my record. A felon, you know what I mean? That fucked me up. I went through a lot of shit— changing friends, making promises to god and then breaking them. When you’re in jail, all you do is pray to god to get out. And then when you get out, you’re right back doing the same bullshit. That’s basically what I meant. I wanted to kick the album off, right from the beginning, and let niggas know that I’m not a joke. This is what my whole life is about.”
“There He Go”
hen I was 22, I was basically homeless—not living on the street, but I didn’t have nowhere to stay,” says ScHoolboy Q, one fourth of LA’s Black Hippy crew. “I was just hanging out, hoping for something good and making bad decisions.” Such dead-end desperation—in the wake of a jail stint and felony charge, no less—led Q to rapping, and ultimately, it’s the backbone for Habits & Contradictions, the most resonant release to come out of Black Hippy (which includes MCs Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and the collective’s de facto leader, Dr. Dre– approved spitter Kendrick Lamar). “My last record [Setbacks] was more peoplefriendly, but this one I wanted to be real dark,” explains Q of the album that turns those aforementioned bad decisions into a rich tangle of introspection, wry humor and blood-freezing threats. Sure enough, a head cold of the soul looms heavily over Habits & Contradictions, right alongside seemingly laid-back rhymes about drugs, girls, cars and the fun that can be had while mixing all three. Breaking down the album here song by song, Q talks about the shifted dynamic of gang culture, his admiration for 50 Cent and why he had to write one of the album’s best songs with his eyes closed.
“When I first heard this beat, I wasn’t into it. I thought it had too much piano in it; it sounded like a record Big Sean did already. No diss to Big Sean. And then, my daughter just popped up in my head. Every time we go out to play, or I take her to the park, or to Disneyland, when we get there, she says, ‘There he go!’ So I put it in there, just fucking around in the studio. This song wasn’t really part of the concept of the record; I was just trying to make a banger. I bit a little Nicki Minaj, too, with all the high-pitched stuff, the fucking around with my voice. “Right around that time, I was hanging with 50 Cent, and Dr. Dre came through. I just caught a vibe off that, so I threw that line ‘Word to Dr. Dre / Detox is like a mix away’ in there. That’s what he told me, anyway [laughs]. “50 Cent is a huge influence on me. Every bar that he delivers, you know he means it. It’s a confidence thing. He’s not as lyrical as Jay-Z; he’s not a Kendrick. He’s not like a Biggie. But his stories—you can just hear him knowing he’s the shit. That shit takes you a long way. For real: 50 Cent is the reason I’m rapping right now.”
“Hands on the Wheel” “A$AP Rocky is that nigga. We got the same attitude. When you listen to Rocky, it’s not like 16 bars, hook, eight bars, whatever. He’s in there doing him. There’s no rules. “I was a little surprised when [DJ] Pete Rosenberg got upset with me over this song [which glorifies drunk-driving] at Hot 97. But then I learned he’d just lost somebody to a drunk driver, and this song got to him. I didn’t want to ST—047
â€œWhen you have th hands, you feel for
hat money in your r real untouchable.â€?
get out of pocket with him because what do you say to that, you know? I’m not trying to push that button. As far as what the song talks about, rappers do it every day—even the good ones. You gotta have some type of edge to your music, or you’re just going to be boring.”
“Sex Drive” “I had [this beat] sitting around for, like, three or four months because I didn’t know what to do with it. I wanted to use it, but I didn’t want it to sound too R&B, either. But I did ‘Fantasy’ on my last record, so I don’t know if could say that. I decided I wanted [singer] Jhene [Aiko] on it. I wanted to make it ‘Fantasy II,’ but I already had ‘Druggy Wit Hoes Again’ on this record, and I thought that would have been kinda corny—two [sequels] on the same record. Anyway, I rapped out the signs of all the women I’d had encounters with who were real freaky. Pisces, Gemini, Sagittarius—those are true signs of women that were real nasty to me.”
“Oxy Music” “People know now that I sold Oxycontin. I wasn’t a big crack dealer or nothing like that; I sold a little crack but not enough to say I was any kind of real dealer. I sold weed, but I was real into selling Oxy. So I figured I’d tap into that and let people know about me and also let people know what goes on with Oxycontin, what niggas be doing when they be doing that shit: They smoke it all on a piece of foil. “ ‘[Raps lyrics] Oxycontin fiends, keep the foil low / Let the pill burn, inhale, exhale it slow / Let your heart explode/ Drop you to the floor.’ “Any nigga that’s on Oxycontin, it’s like they drank 10 bottles of NyQuil, looking like a fucking zombie. I called [this song] ‘Oxy Music’ because it sounds like somebody making a beat on foil. It sounds like somebody’s trying to iron foil or some shit. On the first verse, I’m talking about cooking crack. On the second verse, I’m slinging Oxy. The third is about transitioning into music: ‘Now I get bread for my audio.’ That’s kinda my trajectory right there on that song: crack, Oxycontin, music. “The best part about selling drugs is definitely spending the money and actually feeling like you’re untouchable. It’s a fucked-up disease you catch, but it’s a good one at the time that you’re ST—050
having it. When you have that money in your hands, you feel for real untouchable. And it’s crazy because you’re not. Most niggas that sell drugs usually go broke sooner or later. Either they go broke or to jail. I happened to get off lucky because I went broke. That’s why I got extra hard into music. I was learning to make the money, learning to handle my money.”
“My Hatin’ Joint”
“Everybody talks about how many haters they got, [so] I thought I’d be the hater for one second. That’s part of the contradictions in the album title. My homeboy Brock brought the beat home for me from Mike Will. I wasn’t really fucking with it at first. Then I listened a few more times and had to kick everybody else out the studio.”
“Raymond 1969” “ ‘Raymond’ comes right after the interlude ‘Tookie Knows.’ Anybody that knows about the Crips knows that Raymond Washington started the Crips. [Some people] think it’s [Stanley] Tookie [Williams], but Raymond Washington was the one who really started it. But I put Tookie in front of it just to let niggas know where I’m coming from, and how the Crip life is. “ ‘Raymond’ is about the whole Crip generation. I talk about the murdering, the ruthlessness, the not giving a fuck. I say shit like, ‘Sneaking out the window with angel dust in my endo.’ All the gangbangers used to do that shit. I never done it. Nineteen sixty-nine was the year the Crips started; Raymond was about 15. I have a number two to that one, a ‘Raymond 1979,’ named after the year he died. I’m saving that for the [next] album. That’s kind of like the flipside, the end of it all. I was a gangbanger for about 13 years, but I’m done now. “I’m a day-one nigga; I grew up over there, where all that shit took place. But nobody’s really gangbanging anymore. Or if you are gangbanging, nobody cares if you have a beef with this or that nigga. Nobody reps their colors anymore. That shit’s too weak. It’s watered-down. Ain’t nobody care about that shit anymore. “All the kids now is playing video games. They not hanging outside, riding bikes no more, going to the park and playing basketball no more, so they ain’t gangbanging either. They just sit inside, playing the games all day, and popping shit on
Twitter [laughs]. And they all wanna be rappers now, too. All these fucking rappers!”
“Sexting” “I was saving this for my [first proper] album, actually. But I got a call from my people, and they thought Habits & Contradictions needed another uptempo joint. I was sad to see ‘Sexting’ go because I had different plans for it; I wanted it to have a video and everything. It was kind of a last-minute decision, but I was cool with it. It certainly made sense in the end. For a minute, ‘Sexting’ was the top seller from the whole record on iTunes. “This song is a pretty nasty sex-rap joint. I talk about licking the pearl, taking pills and shit. I get nasty on it. Some of my favorite sex-rap joints are, like, ‘I Just Wanna Fuck You,’ by Dre—that shit’s classic. ‘Sweet Black Pussy’ by DJ Quik. I don’t really go down on every girl I meet, you know; I don’t even really take pills and shit. It’s just something cool to say on a record.”
“Grooveline, Pt. 1” “I reached out to Curren$y over Twitter, of all places, just because I wanted to work with him. He hit me back. Real simple. I sent him the music; he turned it around in, like, a week—no bullshit, no playing around. I wasn’t expecting him to do that at all. I was like, ‘I’m sure Curren$y isn’t fucking with me.’ ”
“Gangster in Designer (No Concept)” “One of my favorites. It’s just me rapping and fucking around. I repeat a phrase a few times— ‘Long hair, skin pretty, curvy ass, flat stomach, double D’s’—but I didn’t actually mean for it to be a hook. That’s also another contradiction— gangster in designer—right there in the title. And I call the song ‘No Concept,’ but I also gave it a concept.”
“How We Feeling” “I was off syrup when I did this one. That’s probably why I sound so drowsy. Yeah, man, I love syrup. ‘House fulla money / Tub fulla bitches.’ I’m so gone on there, I can’t even finish the verse. The dude in that song don’t have no
energy for a tub fulla bitches. “When I recorded that one, I was by myself in the studio. I was off of, like, four ounces of promethazine cough syrup. The AC was on, the lights were out, and my shoes were off. I was just dreaming. I pictured myself in a hotel, with a gang of bread and a bunch of bitches, with some dank at the Palms in Vegas.”
“Druggy Wit Hoes Again” “At the end of Setbacks, I gave you ‘Birds & the Beez.’ I summed up my whole album, basically, as the ending piece to me doing drugs and stuff like that. Then on the new record, I give you ‘Druggy Wit Hoes Again.’ That was another beat that I had for, like, four months. I thought it was too poppy; I thought niggas wasn’t gonna fuck with it. I recorded that one in Vegas, at the Palms. I got to Vegas, got some Hennessy in my system, and shit just came together. All I picture when I hear that song is a bunch of really happy people, all in one small room, all just jumping around.”
“Nightmare on Figg Street”
“On ‘Sundown’ [from Setbacks], I let you know what goes on on Figg Street. This time around, I let you know that it’s a nightmare there— prostitution, killings and niggas trying to come up. That’s why I quoted that ‘Niggas in Paris’ line: ‘What’s 50 grand to a motherfucker like me? Can you please remind me?’ “Niggas keep talking about I dissed Jay-Z, [but] I’m in no position to try to diss Jay-Z [laughs]. I got way too much respect for him; that’s just way out the question. I’m just speaking for the broke homies. When you’re on the bottom, ‘What’s 50 grand to a motherfucker like me’ has a whole different meaning.”
“My Homie” “The story in this song didn’t actually happen to me, but it did happen to one of my homies. I ain’t see this other dude that done it in years. He just disappeared. He’s not dead or nothing, or in jail; he just disappeared. I don’t know what’s going on. I had that story already rattling around inside me. I was just looking for a place to put it. And when the Alchemist played me that beat, it’s like it came out of me all at once. It was like magic. I wrote it all real quick—probably in 30 minutes.” ST—053
“When you’re in jail, all you do is pray to god to get out. And then when you get out, you’re right back doing the same bullshit.” ST—054
died, talking about ‘I’m sorry.’ I wouldn’t want to hear that shit, so I put it in the music. That’s like my closest homey, and we ain’t talked about it. “He said he liked the song. That’s not something we’re both comfortable talking about yet—maybe next year or something—because he just lost his son a few months ago. There’s a line where I say, ‘I don’t know how I’m s’posed to say this,’ and I even wrote that down. I wrote that whole song with my eyes closed. I had a vision of walking past a house, and I looked in, and I saw me holding my daughter.”
“Niggas.Already.Know. Dhavers.Flow” “I kick it with this nigga named Dhavers, and we were at the homey’s house, smoking weed, and he’s always rapping. When he freestyles, he always says, ‘Niggas already know this; niggas already know that.’ That’s the one phrase he always says: He thinks of a line and then starts it with ‘Niggas already know...’ [So] I stole it, and I told him, ‘Ay, bro, I’m about to use your flow.’ He’s not a rapper. He’s just fucking around. “I took this idiot to a studio, to try to get him on the record. I wrote a part for him to say—‘I’m Quincy, bitch / I’m hella groovy, bitch’—but he got in the booth and couldn’t even record it. It was written out for him and everything, and he couldn’t get it. I had him all high and shit, which is probably why.”
“2 Raw” “Jay Rock is on this song. He’s a lyrical monster. I’m more of a well-mannered gangster, but Jay Rock, he come over to your house and eat all the leftovers and shit, you know what I’m saying? I take a plate, but Jay Rock will eat all your shit. As far as the other members of the group, Kendrick is the nigga that’s standing on the corner speaking for us. He’s the speaker. Ab-Soul is the “Blessed” genius. Ab-Soul is the nigga sitting back that “I hate talking about this record because it’s so, we’re probably going to all ask and wait for his so true. On that last verse, where I talk about my opinion. I write a line, and I bring it by him. He’s friend losing his son... I don’t know, I just had a like my actual human dictionary when I’m in vision for the record. I wanted to tell the homey— the studio rapping. I’ll just bring a word to him: because I never told him—how sorry I was. I ‘What does this word mean?’ Sometimes when figured I’d put it to the music because I wasn’t you rap, you forget certain shit; you know a word, really man enough to tell him to his face. I don’t but you forget what the meaning is. I always just think I’d want nobody calling me if my daughter ask him.” // ST—055
optimo Photography Shawn brackbill From left: JD Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes
The soundtrack of our lives
rom Arthur Russell to Silver Apples and Nurse With Wound, everything fits right in the mix, thanks to the duo of Keith McIvor (aka JD Twitch) and Jonnie Wilkes, Glasgow’s reigning underground selectors. As Optimo, the two concoct sprawling live sets and curated compilations (Psyche Out, Sleepwalk, Walkabout) stripped of irony or name-that-tune nods. But the DJs’ skills aren’t simply resigned to the booth. Now nearly two years removed from the final installment of their beloved Sub Club party back home, Twitch and Wilkes—who saw nothing wrong with booking TV on the Radio one week and Whitehouse the next—are balancing hectic touring with side projects, production gigs, remixes and their own Optimo Music imprint. Here they share the records that helped shape their lives.
THE RECORD THAT WAS DIFFICULT TO WORK INTO ONE OF OUR SETS (BUT WE DID IT ANYWAY) Love, “Everybody’s Gotta Live” (RSO, 1974) JD Twitch: I was obsessed with this record, so I played it at Optimo one night, and it completely cleared the floor. So I played it again the next week and every week after that. We had such a regular, dedicated audience that after about three or four weeks, people would ask me if I was going to play “that song.” Before long, people
were going crazy for it, singing along from start to finish despite the fact that almost nobody knew what it was or how to find it. It became a genuine Optimo anthem and a Glasgow anthem in general as other DJs in the city picked up on it. Then when we put it on our How to Kill the DJ mix CD, people in other places would ask for it when we played. One of my favorite memories is playing in Tokyo and having most of the crowd singing along rapturously to it even though they probably didn’t even understand the words.
THE RECORD EVERYONE SHOULD OWN Funkadelic, “Maggot Brain” (Westbound, 1971) jonnie wilkes: Just last week in San Francisco, we took a short taxi ride, and the driver was playing Funkadelic—later stuff than this, maybe a compilation of hits—and I complimented him on his good taste. I was enthusiastic and asked if he’d heard “Maggot Brain.” He said he hadn’t. I then went on to give a drunken, crude description of one of my favorite records ever, telling him how George Clinton was out of his mind on LSD and told Eddie Hazel to play the first half of the song like his mother had just died and the second half as if he had found out she was alive.
THE PSYCH RECORD THAT’S BETTER THAN ANY DRUG COULD EVER BE Hawkwind, Space Ritual (United Artists, 1973) Twitch: Drugs and music go hand in hand, right? Or do they? I was heavily into dub reggae before I ever got stoned, yet getting stoned didn’t seem to make any difference to how I heard it. And I never really liked ecstasy, as it made dance music I didn’t like sound a thousand times worse. Hawkwind aren’t generally regarded as a psych band, but their early records genuinely alter my state of mind whenever I listen to them. I will boldly state that Space Ritual is the greatest live album ever recorded. It’s a monolithic beast of a record that I’ve probably listened to over a ST—057
I travel, and I’ve had little success. I know Eno’s intention was to create ambient pieces that didn’t force listening—music that could or should be as “ignorable as it is interesting.” For me, however, there’s just too much up ahead. I’m likely to become more anxious listening to Music for Airports as I queue for security or immigration. I was thinking instead I would try something from my most extreme records: total power electronics, something actually sonically closer to the sounds of the aviation industry.
THE RECORD THAT HELPED ME APPRECIATE COUNTRY MUSIC
thousand times. When the first cheap Walkman clones came out, I made a pause-button edit of the track “Orgone Accumulator” that lasted the full length of a C90 cassette. As a teenager with next to no money, I’d have to find cheap thrills, so I’d explore the city or the countryside listening to that track until the batteries ran out. It took me to a place no drug ever has.
THE GREATEST MUSIC-FORAIRPORTS RECORD THAT ISN’T MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS Whitehouse, Great White Death (Come Organisation, 1985) wilkes: I’m always in airports, and unfortunately, relaxation is a skill that I just don’t possess. I’m a worrier, I’m easily distracted, and I’m usually running late. I’ve tried meditation, noise-canceling headphones, stroboscopic brain machines, Buddha Machines and, of course, ambient music to try and diffuse tension while ST—058
Johnny Cash, “Ring of Fire” (Columbia, 1963) Twitch: Growing up on the east coast of Scotland, we weren’t really exposed to country. I’d only know the MOR songs that would breach the Top 40 and would tune them out. In the late ’80s in Edinburgh, there was an energetic band called Swamptrash that played bluegrass and country music with a punk intensity. I must have seen them dozens of times, every time thinking they were the best live band in the world. They also introduced me to Johnny Cash, with an epic version of “Ring of Fire,” always the highlight of their set. I remember telling a friend it was my favorite Swamptrash song and him looking at me like I was an idiot—I was!—only to inform me it was by the Man in Black. So another door opened, and I explored a lot of rebellious country music. Moving to Glasgow a little later, I discovered that country music is deeply entrenched in the local psyche. There’s even a Grand Ole Opry here. At Optimo, we’d play a lot of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and old Americana, particularly early on or toward the end of the night. It’s the original punk music, isn’t it?
THE RECORD I LOVED AS A KID AND RECENTLY REDISCOVERED Gene Vincent, “Be-Bop-A-Lula” (Capitol Records, 1956) wilkes: Over the last 10 or 15 years, I’ve bought a lot more rockabilly music. Gene Vincent’s version of “Be-Bop-A-Lula” is a song I remember from way before that, at my parents’ house in the early
’70s. A lot of daytime Northern Irish radio DJs would play ’50s rock ’n’ roll records alongside country music and Ulster “showbands,” so I got to hear some stuff like this. For me, this record was just funny, and I loved it for that. It sounded funny, it had funny words, and I thought I was funny doing bendy-legged dancing while my mother peeled the potatoes at the sink. I often play this now if we are playing a few records in a bar or after-hours with friends.
THE CREEPIEST RECORD I OWN Vagina Dentata Organ present Jim Jones, The Last Supper (WSNS, 1984) Twitch: This is a recording of the last moments at the People’s Temple in Jonestown, where Jim Jones talks his followers into drinking cyanidelaced Kool-Aid. The tasteful picture disc came in an edition of 912 copies—one copy for everyone who died. The recording was allegedly made by the CIA and ended up falling into the hands of Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV associate Monte Cazazza, who helped facilitate this release. It
is a deeply disturbing recording of a patently paranoid, delusional individual and a scary indictment of how far the cult of personality can go toward controlling others. I can’t say I’ve listened to it very often, but it is genuinely disturbing and creepy.
THE RECORD I FINALLY LEARNED TO APPRECIATE John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965) wilkes: I found this while digging in secondhand stuff and had to have it; it looked so special, and it weighed a ton. When I played it, though, I wasn’t that excited. I’d already found freakier free stuff like Pharaoh Sanders and Sun Ra, and Coltrane’s hard-bop sound just wasn’t crazy enough for my taste. I wanted the trippier stuff; everything had to be “out there.” A couple of summers ago, I bought some more Alice Coltrane records. Having previously only owned Journey to Satchidananda, I read about the relationship between John and Alice Coltrane and decided I
should revisit A Love Supreme. Although it’s not what Alice Coltrane’s music is to me, I would certainly say I “appreciate” the record now and realize that things had already begun to slowly head toward the cosmos.
THE RECORD THAT NEVER LEFT MY CRATE DURING THE SUB CLUB’S WEEKLY RUN Dinosaur, “Kiss Me Again” (Sire, 1978) Twitch: When I first listened to this record, I thought it was a bit of a mess and pushed it to
the back of the pile for a few months. Then I put it on again late one night, and it was as if a lightning bolt went off in my head. I realized that the first time I’d played it, my mixer had been set to mono and I hadn’t heard the vocals. But now I had discovered the magic in the record, and I stayed up all night listening to it on repeat. The A-side mix that Sire demanded be made— they thought Arthur’s mix was too weird—is okay, but Arthur’s 13-minute B-side mix is a thing of wonder and possibly my favorite 12-inch ever. People in Scotland clubs have short attention spans, so I had to make a shorter edit. “Kiss Me Again” ended up becoming one of the most beloved Optimo songs, with a full audience sing-along and much clapping and cheering every time it was aired. I’d also end up hearing it at almost every post-Optimo party I went to, where it would be drowned out by late-night revelers crooning along.
THE RECORD I WISH I’D WRITTEN Suicide, “Dream Baby Dream” (Island, 1979) wilkes: The simplicity in the composition of “Dream Baby Dream” and the emotional purity of the song are incredible. When something is repetitive like this but gaining in strength as it repeats, it’s rarely purely musical.
THE RECORD THAT MAKES ME PROUD OF BEING SCOTTISH Fire Engines, “Candyskin” (Pop Aural, 1981) Twitch: Glasgow has always overshadowed Edinburgh when it comes to great bands, but in the early ’80s, Edinburgh held its own with a huge number of amazing bands, labels and clubs. ST—060
Sadly I was too young to appreciate this but was vaguely aware of it when I went into Virgin to buy Blondie records and saw all the posters for upcoming gigs. A few years [later], I picked this 7-inch up secondhand and was bowled over. I later discovered the band hated the fact that the label had added strings to it, but I love the combination of somewhat shambling dissonance with blatant pop aspirations. I always wished I had been born a few years earlier so I could have seen them live, but then they briefly reformed around 2005 and played at Optimo. Most of the crowd had no idea who they were and were looking suspiciously at this group of middleaged men setting up onstage, but they went on to play an astonishing (and astonishingly short) 15-minute set that blew everyone away.
THE ACID RECORD THAT’S SO GOOD I’D PUT IT IN A LATE’80S TIME CAPSULE Fast Eddie, “Acid Thunder” (DJ International, 1988) wilkes: If we’re going to try and describe the sound of a great club around that time, this would be the record I’d choose. I’ve always thought this track had a narrative more than most “acid tracks.” I love its structure, even though it’s kind of clunky. It has an intense start—an insane 303 just repeating and repeating until that extended fill on the kick leads to the hooky 303. Then the use of simple sound effects and the melancholic pads that come in toward the end... This record is kind of like the story of a night out back then, and maybe it’s the right record to tell that part of our story.
THE RECORD SO AHEAD OF ITS TIME YOU’D SWEAR THE ARTIST WHO MADE IT HAD A GODDAMN TIME MACHINE CTI, “Dancing Ghosts” (Doublevision, 1984) Twitch: Recorded in 1982 for the soundtrack to a video piece, this track by Chris & Cosey is one of the most beautiful, ecstatic pieces of electronic music I know. Chris Carter is a total gear head, so he got his hands on the very first Roland 808s and 303s to reach the UK. This is perhaps
the first recorded piece of music to utilize both machines, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m averse to using the term “proto,” I might well describe it as proto-acid house. I started DJing in 1987 and would play the warm-up set at a club in Edinburgh, where this was the perfect track to set the mood for the night. When the first house records started arriving here, they didn’t sound shockingly new to my ears, as they used a very similar sonic palette to this. To my ears, they were part of a continuum rather that a sonic revolution. I licensed this for a compilation in 1994, and a lot of people at that time asked me if it was a new recording. I still play it out today and am on occasion asked if it is something that has just been released. I’m always tempted to answer that it was beamed into the future by Chris & Cosey 30 years ago. // ST—061
detritus Photography Aaron Richter
Ital’s top five psychedelic experiences not involving psych rock 1. Berghain On [my band] Mi Ami’s first overseas trip, our bass player, Jacob [Long], had a wedding in Russia to attend, meaning he would be splitting from Damon [Palermo] and myself for a weekend. Both of Damon’s brothers lived in Berlin at the time, so it was essentially an enforced vacation in the peak of spring. It was during this lull that I first went to Berghain, the techno mall with a sound system to crush most anything stateside. After a night of kinda intense drinking, we went the “fuck it” route and headed for the club. I don’t really do drugs, so there are certain doors of ST—062
perception I have never really knocked on, but I got a sneak peek behind the time-lapse curtain in Panorama Bar. I don’t remember the music particularly well, only the feeling of infinite stretch and throb for days. I promise I did not black out; this shit was real and has yet to repeat itself. 2. Prince Far I, “Plant Up” Adrian Sherwood completely devastates on this track, asking some fundamental questions about the nature, construction and raison d’être of dub. Far I already had one of the deepest voices this side of James Earl Jones, but here he gets run
through what sounds like a Boss octave pedal and is accompanied by a lone thud-y kick drum. Talk about spacial exploration and deconstruction; Sherwood takes a totally serviceable roots cut and turns it into a crocodile hoedown. The effect is disorienting and imposingly physical—the mark of true psychedelia if there ever was one. 3. Patrick Bukassa’s “Spritual Warfare Prayer” Not living in rural middle America, it took a very informative Terry Gross interview with Rachel Tabachnick to clue me in to the sprawling, terrifying world of spiritual warfare and the New Apostolic Reformation. So far, Bukassa has thrown down the heaviest gauntlet with this uplifting fever dream of a prayer, powered by churning gospel minimalism and TV Carnage–worthy visuals. Disturbing context aside, this is a fucking deep cut, a real blindsiding slice of musical greatness that sucks you into its vortex by virtue of its dearth of dynamics. And the speaking in tongues is sweet, too. 4. Women of Color, “Birth” Along with the Shadow Ring’s Lighthouse, this is easily the weirdest record I own. “Birth” is a house record that
Top five most head-smackingly obvious/totally badass samples on Death Grip’s debut album, Exmilitary 1. Black Flag, “Rise Above” 2. Jane’s Addiction, “Up the Beach” 3. Link Wray, “Rumble” 4. Beastie Boys, License to Ill 5. Pink Floyd, ”Interstellar Overdrive” — Michael Tedder
dramatizes breathing through— and even transcending the pain of—childbirth, ascending to a higher, cosmic state of awareness. Midway through, there’s an orgasmic breakdown, which is genuinely uncomfortable, and the whole thing exudes a tweaked new-age vibe that’s pretty fucking creepy. Scuba’s “Water Birth Mix” has an extra little pause at the end of each measure, giving it an un-DJ-able lurch, and there’s also a “Wikit Epidural Mix.” I don’t get it either. 5. Fake Mushrooms in Amsterdam I have consumed mushrooms on a few occasions and found them to be pretty great. I didn’t realize they were illegal
in Holland and that the very official-looking magicmushroom shop by the canal would actually be selling some weird, speedy, synthetic shit, rather than the real thing. Perusing my options, I skipped “Philosophers Stone” (a deep, meditative high) and “Dolphin” (beautiful colors!) for the one that “music sounds great with.” I don’t think so, unless your idea of music sounding great is lying in bed awake for hours while every horrible thought you’d ever had cascades down upon you at a molasses-slow pace, your body clenched and antsy. Actually, I imagine a bunch of records in the ’70s were made under those conditions, so perhaps these things were right on the money?
Top five Lil B song titles, ranked by subtext 1. “Tiny Pants Bitch” 2. “Violate That Bitch” 3. “Pussy on My Face” 4. “Beat the Cancer” 5. “I Got AIDS” —MT
Raf Daddy of The 2 Bears on the Teardrop Explodes’ Wilder (Mercury, 1981) I got into this record about five years ago after reading Julian Cope’s book Head On, an incredible warts-andall account of a fast rise to pop-stardom in the early ’80s. Julian Cope and the Teardrop Explodes came out of an amazingly prolific scene in Liverpool that was centered around a club called Eric’s and included members of Echo and the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the KLF and the Lightening Seeds, among others. Wilder was the Teardrops’ second album; it’s pretty tough to categorize. It’s poppy, but the songs are anything but straightforward. There’s great attention to detail in the slightly cracked production. I couldn’t tell you much what the songs are about, but they are lyrically inventive. Playful and dramatic, sharp and insane. ST—063
Dylan Ettinger’s top five most evil college basketball coaches of all time 5. Clem Haskins (Minnesota) while
Benjamin Curtis of School of Seven Bells on Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares’ Volume 2 (4AD, 1988) I first heard Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares when the amazing Gerard Smith (RIP) from TV on the Radio insisted I take his copy backstage at a UK festival years ago. He was gushing about the music in a way that only he could, so I made sure to give it a serious listen. I’d never heard anything so melodically slippery, so precise and massive at the same time. It was like the voices were water slipping down some smooth rocks, gathering in pools until they spilled out. I don’t think you have to be aware of the Bulgarian musical tradition to appreciate the beauty of what is happening in this music. This album has always been an amazing reminder of how music can be so free and so controlled at the same time. ST—064
Adolph Rupp (Kentucky)
the quintessential basketball villain, rupp was a ruthless, dominant coach as well as an overt racist. he was also a cheater. team
1966 western, the white
In 1951, his scandal. rupp’s all-
Kelvin Sampson (Indiana) 2007, sampson went under
investigation for recruiting violations
as a result of the investigation, he was fired and indiana was hit with to
John Calipari (Kentucky, Memphis, Massachusetts) calipari is an infamous recruiter of one-and-done freshman. he has coached three teams to no. 1 seeds in the ncaa tournament, but has had two of those seasons completely vacated. somehow, despite his many violations, he still continues to coach to this day. calipari has been involved with controversy everywhere he has coached, and it is only a matter of time before he brings kentucky down with him, too.
Dave Bliss (Baylor)
bliss is definitely the biggest scumbag of them all. after patrick dennehy—
one of his players—was murdered by a teammate, bliss unsuccessfully tried to cover up recruiting violations by falsely accusing the late dennehy of being a drug dealer. it turns out bliss had been paying the tuition of two players on his team and was afraid the murder investigation would reveal this along with alleged drug use among the players.
Top five accurate band names 1. One Screaming Female, Two Males 2. Brunettes 3. Boys 4. The Clothed and the Not Particularly Well Known 5. 31 —MT
Photography Dan wilton
Breton’s (heavily debated) top five leading ladies in Alfred Hitchcock films 5. Doris Day (The Man Who Knew Too Much) Day barely made it because she is the least cool and sexy of Hitchcock’s leading ladies. But she represents something essential: She was (at least when TMWKTM was shot) the most important mainstream actress of the time, and having her play this role was a brave move that paid off. 4. Ingrid Bergman (Spellbound) She is the crossover actress that defines Hitchcock’s move from post-war mainstream cinema to edgy French nouvelle vague. She is so understated in Spellbound yet still full-on early ’50s Hollywood.
3. Grace Kelly (Rear Window) You could argue that Kelly is the most unrealistic addition to Rear Window’s everyday Brooklyn vibe. But then we spend nearly the entire film in the apartment of one guy who’s crippled and obsessing over his neighbors, yet has the most stunning girlfriend. The central character is someone you want to scream at: “Stop looking out of your window, you loser!” What better way of reinforcing this than making his girlfriend a woman who eventually became the princess of Monaco. 2. Janet Leigh (Psycho) At this point, Hitchcock was at his most “punk” or indie phase.
He did not give a shit. It wasn’t princesses or unrequited love or jewel thieves and box-office spy drama; it was a secretary who wasn’t very bright being cut up by a sociopath who dressed up as his mother. No more fucking about. Leigh had to represent an honest American woman being scared out of her skull. And she nailed it. 1. Kim Novak (Vertigo) In David Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film, he calls Novak’s Vertigo performance “a helpless confession of herself.” She is everything in this film—a brutal, vicious liar; a weak, humble sales assistant; an honest, devoted wife; and a devious slut. She is someone you fall in love with and hate at the same time...every 15 seconds. ST—065
Disappears frontman and graphic designer Brian Case reimagines four record covers, including his own Album art is what first got me into design. In high school, we used to take over Kinko’s a few times a week, making flyers for shows, tape inserts, 7-inch sleeves—you name it. I had no idea what I was doing, but that’s what was so fun about it. It’s a lot like when you start playing music, just absorbing aesthetics and trying to see if you can get close to what you like. I used to buy albums I’d never heard of based on their covers. It quickly became apparent that good design and good music went hand in hand: Factory and Peter Saville, 4AD and Vaughan Oliver, Blue Note and Reid Miles. The designers were the first step in getting me to hear bands. Crass and the Smiths had their aesthetic so dialed in from the beginning, it was like stepping into their world every time you picked up an album. Then there’s Sonic Youth, who introduced you to an amazing artist with each release. And is anything better than the cover for Kraftwerk’s Autobahn? It’s just a road sign, but it tells you so much about what’s inside. I gravitated toward simple and stark designs with an underlying message about the music. Design is communication, just like music: How can I get you to understand what I’m thinking? These sleeves aren’t redesigns; they’re reinterpretations, like covering a song. Disappears’ latest album, Pre Language, is available now through Kranky. ST—066
Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga I think Britt Daniel does a lot of the design for Spoon. I know he did the little collage on the back of this album. They used a cool picture, but I always just look at it and see the Ga Ga’s everywhere.
Veronica Falls, Veronica Falls I love the picture they used for this release. It’s connected to the record’s lived-in vibe. I wanted to see if I’d hear the music differently if the art was a little colder and less personal. Disappears, Pre Language There was a lot of arguing about this art. I wanted it to feel different from [our] other releases, hence using a photo for the first time. I tried to keep some of the same hallmarks from past releases but wanted it to be striking in a different way. This alt version makes me think of the songs in a Rough Trade 12-inch single kind of way.
Lindstrøm’s top four favorite songs from bad Bob Dylan albums 1. “All the Tired Horses” 3. “Death Is Not the End” (Self Portrait, 1970)
(Down in the Groove, 1988)
when i started digging into dylan’s
i like the double meaning of the
discography, i found this on vinyl at
lyrics and find a lot of hope in this
not a typical dylan record. a lot of
the opposite. it’s special to me in a
a secondhand store and realized it’s
song, though some people might find
people regard this as the low point
personal way, too. many years ago,
of his career, but i love this album.
i decided i was going to sing this at
he’s just having fun. this track opens
end up doing it because i knew i was
the album with just two sentences,
going to cry out loud. it’s impossible
probably the shortest dylan lyrics
maybe it’s because he sounds like
“Sarah Jane” (Dylan, 1973)
Manuel Göttsching, E2-E4 Most of the Krautrock stuff has excellent artwork. This one’s a pretty obvious Swiss rip. The music is so uniform and boxed in, I wanted to make the design reflect that. The music is pretty “modern” sounding, and I wanted the design to have that same feel.
a funeral for a friend. but i didn’t
cover band at a wedding wouldn’t.
“Pressing On” (Saved, 1980)
it’s not about the meaning of this
i played a lot of gospel music when i
because my native language isn’t
background, but i really like lyrics
meaning in the music. as a kid, i
church, i always get in a weird state
song; it’s about how he sings it.
was younger. maybe it’s because of my
english, i didn’t hear any deeper
from the bible. whenever i enter a
would just sing what i heard in my
of mind just going in. i can’t even
head without really knowing what
explain why it happens. if there’s
i was even saying. with a lot of
a choir, singing or rehearsing, i
and again until it all stuck. it’s
it’s not about the architecture or
really think about any of it; it’s just
it’s all about the sounds in the
dylan albums, i just listened again
can burst into tears at any time.
like how i do my own music: i don’t
the biblical images in a church;
about the feeling of a song to me.
room, the grandness of everything.
Photography caroline mort
Bjorn Copeland shares two collageportraits of his band, Black Dice (above), and offers five artists that share his group’s fuck-all aesthetics (below) 1. Destroy All Monsters Formed in 1973 at the University of Michigan by young visual artists Mike Kelly, Jim Shaw and Niagra, this collective laid the blueprint for noise bands to come. Using an arsenal of broken electronics, they created discordant walls of sound that seemed steeped in Midwestern trash culture. The accompanying imagery of their film work and punk-charged zines still seem edgy and relevant. 2.Force Field This sci-fi warehouse collective ST—068
grew from the derelict industrial spaces of Providence, Rhode Island, in the mid-’90s. Working with highly psychotropic videos; discarded military pulse generators and synthesizers; and trippy, Afro-centric sculptures and costumes, the artists provided a model of how far out you could take your ideas. Their first three videotapes and two cassette releases are still sources of inspiration for me. 3. Archigram Archigram was a late-’60s, London-based avant-garde
architectural group. Their design proposals have a bright, collagebased feel to them that seem almost aggressively forwardthinking. They have a rock ’n’ roll aesthetic and often border on the highly improbable in the best possible way. 4. Ant Farm It was founded in San Francisco by Chip Lord and Doug Michels as a self-proclaimed art agency that was interested in ideas “that have no commercial potential, but are important vehicles of cultural inspiration.” These included multimedia events, architectural projects, graphic works and early video pieces. They appeared to be a design collective based more on a band dynamic than what one would normally associate with a design or architectural firm.
Five acts on Metallica’s Orion Festival that will likely get the worst reception (and what said reception will entail) 1. Fucked Up (observations about Damian Abraham’s weight) 2. Titus Andronicus (impatience with lengthy instrumental breaks) 3. Arctic Monkeys (befuddlement over their invitation to play, expressed loudly)
4. Cage the Elephant (accusations of overall shittiness) 5. Best Coast (unwelcome invitations to perform fellatio) —MT Top five most irritating song titles on Smashing Pumpkins’ upcoming album, Oceania (which we have not 5. Survival Research Laboratories heard but SRL was the brainchild of Mark Pauline. It formed in genuinely San Francisco in 1978 and hope is a began constructing large-scale machines and weapons, rereturn to appropriating the technology reserved for military purposes greatness) and mutating it into massive, tension-filled, sociopolitical performances. I remember Matt Brinkman of Force Field showed some of these performance videos in our sculpture class [at the Rhode Island School of Design], and the professor declared it was not art! That was enough to keep me interested. Black Dice’s latest album, Mr. Impossible, is out in April via Ribbon Music.
1. “The Chimera” 2. “Glissandra” 3. “One Diamond, One Heart”
and the People Mover” — MT
Scuba on Orbital’s Orbital 2 (FFRR, 1993) I still listen to this album. It’s one of the first proper dance records I bought— around 1995, I believe. Without Orbital, I wouldn’t be doing anything in the dance world. Within all three of my full-lengths, I’ve wanted to do a continuous-mix vibe similar to Orbital 2. I’ve totally failed in doing that, but I think what they do in this album is purely amazing. In terms of dance albums, it doesn’t get any better. Everything about my music is there in this record, like the cool use of rhythms. It’s always a bit different, and the amazing the use of melody is really emotional and not cheesy in the slightest. Any album people have been listening to for nearly 20 years must be all right. ST—069
Memoryhouse singer and photographer Denise Nouvion shot this image inspired by Trust’s debut album, TRST. Memoryhouse’s new LP, The Slideshow Effect, is available now on Sub Pop.
Here's the 15th issue of self-titled, featuring Grimes, Optimo, Ceremony, Perfume Genius, Julia Holter, Schoolboy Q, and more...