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ALBUM REVIEW: The Gun Club Fire Of Love

September 3rd, 2018

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THE GUN CLUB
Fire Of Love

(Superior Viaduct)

On the night of August 16th, 1938, as Robert Johnson lay dying, poisoned by a jar of corn whiskey laced with strychnine by the jealous boyfriend of a pretty girl Johnson was flirting with at a country dance he was playing in Greenwood, MS, he had a brief and flickering vision — of a gaunt white man in a cowboy hat slumped in the backseat of a car motoring through the backwoods of West Virginia on New Year’s Day 1953. It was Hank Williams. Drifting in and out of consciousness as a potent cocktail of morphine, chloral hydrate and alcohol slowed his heart to a stop, Williams also had a brief and flickering vision — of a bloated, sweaty man wearing nothing but Rhinestone sunglasses seated on the toilet, spangled jumpsuit bunched around his ankles, as he gritted his teeth and grunted with Hulk-like intensity. Right before Elvis Presley’s immaculate, drug-scarred heart exploded as he sat on the throne at Graceland in the early hours of August 16th, 1977, The King also had a brief and flickering vision — of a purple album cover emblazoned with a crude, creepy mosaic of zombie voodoo shit his mama would not approve of on the cover. It was Fire Of Love by The Gun Club. All three men died for its sins. – JONATHAN VALANIA

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Q&A With Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek

August 31st, 2018

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Photo by PATRYK MOGILNICKI

Attachment-1-3BY KYLE WEINSTEIN Although born and raised in Massillon, Ohio, Mark Kozelek’s professional music career began in San Francisco with the formation of Red House Painters in 1988. Their first album, Down Colorful Hill, showcased, early on, Kozelek’s profound talent for sincere and deeply personal lyricism, which he would carry through his career into the present. The band’s style quickly became associated with sadcore/slowcore, and assumed an important role in influencing that realm of ‘90s alternative music. In ’92, the band were signed to 4AD after its head honcho, Ivo Watts-Russel, heard their jaw-dropping demo tape and just had to call Kozelek, who, at the time, happened to be sitting in the bathtub dreading that he would have to go to work that day. Over the course of the next nine years, Red House Painters released a total of six studio albums and one EP, until morphing into Sun Kil Moon, the members of which remained largely the same as they were in the former. Being the boxing aficionado that he is, Kozelek named the project after Korean super flyweight boxer Sung-Kil Moon.

Since then, Sun Kil Moon has undergone a series of lineup changes, leaving the only founding member, Mark Kozelek, at the center of its orbit. Steve Shelley, formerly Sonic Youth’s drummer, has provided occasional support to the band since 2015. As well as his work with Sun Kil Moon, since the dissolution of Red House Painters, Kozelek has released ten studio albums, with one more currently due to release in 2019, along with a handful of EPs, compilations, and over a dozen live albums. Earlier this year, he released a self-titled solo LP [pictured, below], and is currently on tour. He will be playing at the Theater of the Living Arts on September 9th.

In “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same,” off of Sun Kil Moon’s 2014 LP, Benji, Kozelek KozelekKozelekexpresses his gratitude toward Ivo Watts-Russell, singing “He’s the man who signed me back in ’92/And I’m going to go there and tell him face-to-face, ‘thank you’/For discovering my talent so early/For helping me along in this beautiful musical world I was meant to be in.” Thank you, indeed, for discovering one of the greatest songwriters of this generation.

PHAWKER: Last year, you scored a film, James Franco’s The Pretenders, although James Franco was not involved during the time you were writing the songs. How does writing songs for a film – and this film, in particular – influence the way you write them? Did you watch film footage before composing or just write songs in the abstract? Did you retain your autobiographical proclivity during the process?

MARK KOZELEK: This was an unusual film score experience. The screenplay was written by Joshua Boone. The Sun Kil Moon album Admiral Fell Promises had an influence on the screenplay and there were a lot of Admiral Fell Promises Songs as well as Among The Leaves songs referenced throughout the screenplay as background music.

But Joshua passed it onto James to direct and by the time I saw it they had a lot more of my songs in it from other albums. It was the easiest film I ever scored because they showed me an early cut of the film, and a later cut, which had a lot of my already recorded songs, and asked if I thought any changes needed to be made. I thought it was cohesive and that everything looked and sounded great.

Jack Kilmer is the lead. I’m not sure when the film will be released.

PHAWKER: Your self-titled solo album released this past spring was partly recorded in hotels in San Francisco. Was there a creative reason for this, and what difference does it make in the feeling of the songs recorded there as opposed to in a studio?

MARK KOZELEK: I was ready for a change. For the most part, I’ve been recording at the same studio, Hyde Street Studios, in San Francisco, since 1994. There are no windows and I wanted to see how daylight and views affected my writing as well as different neighborhoods other than The Tenderloin. As it was just an engineer and me, it was cost effective to book a few rooms in hotels, skip studio rentals, and hang around the hotels and record. During one week-long session we were at a hotel in Ocean Beach and the scenery there affected my writing. The fog rolling in every day and my walks along the Great Highway.

PHAWKER: Do you still reside in San Francisco, and if so what are your thoughts on SF circa now?tinycitiesfrontcover

MARK KOZELEK: Yeah I still live here. My thoughts are that I’m now the oldest guy in the building, that every person I see works for a tech company, and that if I got run over by a car, five people in the city would care. San Francisco still inspires me – the terrain, my walks, my girlfriend, my home, but being a 50+ musician in San Francisco isn’t glamorous.

PHAWKER: Speaking of writing in a San Francisco hotel room, the animated video for “666 Post,” off of your latest album, is quite a trip, as are the lyrics. Your lyrics seem to be increasingly stream-of-consciousness-based. Please explain the how and why of this apparent shift in your approach to song writing.

MARK KOZELEK: It’s easy to explain. Some guys, at 50, are still with their high school sweethearts, while some guys got bored with their high school sweethearts and dumped them by 40.

For the common civilian who doesn’t understand anything about art, that’s the best analogy I can think of. Some people don’t like change, some do. By 40 years old, I’d put my time in with metaphors. I felt like writing more and singing more. If anyone thinks I’m not singing on “Topo Gigio,” then cover that song and tell me how it goes. At 40 I fell in love with music again.

Collaborations with Justin, Ben and Jim, with Steve Shelley. At 51, I’m having fun playing music while every 50 year old I see doing reunions looks like a wind-up monkey a step away from committing suicide.

PHAWKER: You’re working again with Jim White, as well as saxophonist Donny McCaslin on a record due next year. In the single, “Day in America,” you express your thoughts on the Parkland shooting in enough detail that there’s probably no need for elaboration. On top of that, you wasted no time getting the message out there, releasing the single just three days after the shooting. As a nation, we have been through so many of these massacres in recent times, and what is depressing is how numbingly similar they are. But some people think that we have reached inflection point with the Parkland shooting, with the survivors becoming radicalized and organized and advocating for themselves and reaching out and connecting to all the other kids across America. Could this be the thing that turns the tide? Or was that just a little boomlet that’s already had its moment?

MARK KOZELEK: Yes, I remember the girl with the shaved head on the cover of magazines back in February, but the last time I checked, other shootings have happened, and the last time I turned on the news, it was all about the border situation. This is America: everyone stares at their phones, binges out on TV, is easily distracted, and yes there will be more and more shootings.

PHAWKER: What was the last record old or new that you heard for the first time that blew you away, and why?

MARK KOZELEK: All three Xylouris White albums. The big sound that those two guys make. Their chemistry seems blood related, but it’s not. Their music is everything I love in music; restrained, explosive, cathartic, melodic. George’s singing range and Jim’s playing are through the roof. You won’t see a two-man show like that anywhere but at a Xylouris White show.rollercoaster

PHAWKER: I’ve read that you are a boxing aficionado; can’t help but note the cognitive dissonance of someone who makes such gentle, soft-spoken music being drawn to such a brutal sport. Please explain the allure.

MARK KOZELEK: Gentle and soft spoken, at times. Boxing is art. Mayweather made his millions on his elusiveness, his craftiness, not his aggression. And Manny recently knocked a guy out for the first time in nine years.

When Floyd and Manny fought, I was there. They fought smart. I came home and every schmo in America was disappointed that there wasn’t any blood. They don’t understand boxing. Sure boxing is early Mike Tyson but it’s also Pernell Whitaker’s entire career. He was an artist. Slippery. Not a big puncher. That’s how he won. He outpointed but he wasn’t a heavy hitter. Nobody could catch him.

PHAWKER: What coping mechanisms do you use to make life bearable in the age of
Trump?

MARK KOZELEK: You mean the age that put us in the place where this obnoxiousness happened in the first place. The age of the internet and Facebook and let’s not forget Trump’s main weapon of communication: Twitter. As I recall it wasn’t long before the election that people were chasing Pokemon around and getting hit by cars. How I deal with making life bearable in this age is that I haven’t watched the news in over 40 days.

MARK KOZELEK @ THEATER OF THE LIVING ARTS SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 9TH

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Win Tix To See Mac DeMarco @ The Skyline Stage

August 31st, 2018

MacDeMarco_by_DannyCohen_

Photo by DANNY COHEN

Wise men say only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. But apparently nobody told pepperoni playboy Mac DeMarco and Indieland is all the better for it. Still, all things must pass, and somewhere around 2014’s Salad Days, DeMarco took a giant step forward in his ongoing transition from “wacky indie guitar boy” to “actual person with feelings and shit.” Going forward, there were less gimmicks and more self-reflection as DeMarco flirted with adulthood, which admittedly was a ballsy move for a songwriter beloved for cigarette anthems, stoner odes, and chorus pedal abuse. But despite expectations, DeMarco seems to have widened his audience without losing his original gangstas in the process. Which explains why he’s gone from playing Underground Arts to headlining the Skyline Stage of the Mann on Sept. 4th in just four years. We have a pair of tickets to give away to 47th Phawker reader to email us at Phawker66@gmail.com with the correct answer to the following Mac DeMarco trivia question: What is Mac DeMarco’s birth name? (HINT: it’s not Mac DeMarco). Put the words THIS OLD DOG in the subject line and please include your full name as it appears on your photo ID and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!

MAC DEMARCO + JUAN WATERS @ THE SKYLINE STAGE TUESDAY SEPT. 4TH

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DIY IRL: Q&A W/ David Commins & Rachel Pfeffer, Publishers Of The Philadelphia Secret Admirer Zine

August 30th, 2018

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BY MARIAH HALL A zine is a self-published, limited circulation and often hand-distributed work, often featuring art, photography, poetry, and prose. Zine culture is rooted in the social and political activism of the ’60s and ’70s, and later became associated with the underground music scene. In a reflection of D.I.Y. values, zines are more focused on expressing particular views rather than gaining profits, and they act as a mode of communication and a platform for those not typically granted a voice.

The last decade has witnessed a resurgence of zine culture, a revival of print media in a paperless age. Although some zines can be found online, published through sources such as Tumblr, WordPress and Issuu, many zines exist physically as hand-bound paper booklets. This is perhaps because zines are an artifact of another era, a time before the all-consuming torrent of social media. It stokes the joy of creating something tangible, something you can hold and collect. It is impossible to accurately track the circulation of zines and this ephemeral nature is a major component of its allure. It is an experience to hunt and find these fleeting and intimately personal works.

So much of our lives exist in the abstract void of the Internet. We regularly take the role of observers, hooked on the inexhaustibly refreshed feed and endless scroll. We are constantly being bombarded with information, an incessant digital yelling. Buried within our phones in every spare moment, it seems people have lost the ability to communicate verbally or connect with strangers. We don’t get to know our neighbors, we ignore each other, adopting a facade of apathy. Zine culture is a way of connecting with the local community through the sharing of art and ideas.

The Philadelphia Secret Admirer is an independent monthly print magazine based in Philadelphia. Issues feature short stories, crossword puzzles, Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHinterviews, horoscopes, comic strips and a section called “Overheard,” in which readers submit snippets of out-of-context conversations. It initially began as a free weekly, but after creator David Commins had some luck with Bitcoin investment, he was able to improve the production into monthly booklets. In a recent interview with Phawker, David Commins and art director Rachel Pfeffer [pictured, right] discussed the inspiration of the Admirer, the recent resurrection of zines, the influence of technology on printed word and the spirituality of paper.

PHAWKER: What was the inspiration for The Secret Admirer? How did you get started?

DAVID COMMINS: The inspiration from the monthly came out of, about a year ago I was on a road trip and went through Rachel when she was living out in Colorado. My friend Morgan and I stayed with her and her partner. We got to talking and she’s from the area, she was already familiar with the weekly. I needed to do something different. I’d been doing the weekly for almost eight years at that point and my two paths were either make the weekly into a bigger monthly or start Johnny Appleseed-ing weeklies in cool cities around the country. Keep this one going, get a staff, go to Brooklyn and get one going there then go down to North Carolina or Georgia, kind of start seeding and then be able to live in a shack out in the woods and create the general content like the crosswords, but have them do the overheards and stuff. It was either live a lot more in your city or live a lot less in your city. It wasn’t something I felt I could do alone. It was coming across Rachel and stoking that enthusiasm that gave me the belief it could be done.

PHAWKER: So Philly is the only place it’s published currently?

DAVID COMMINS: Right now yes.

PHAWKER: It didn’t start somewhere else?

DAVID COMMINS: It started in Bloomington, Indiana as a monthly zine. It came into what it was going to look like as a weekly in Flagstaff, Arizona. Then it became the weekly in Athens, Georgia.

PHAWKER: Was it mostly something you started for yourself or did you feel that there was something lacking in underground zine culture?

DAVID COMMINS: To be completely honest, I had just had a really bad breakup and I was a debilitating alcoholic, I couldn’t hold down any kind of job. I was like, well I know how to make crossword puzzles and write so I’m just going to go make this piece of shit thing and print out eight dollars’ worth of copies and try to pay rent. There was an immediate warm reception to it that I made a bunch of money right away. It came out of a place of necessity, it was either make this weekly or be homeless again.

RACHEL PFEFFER: I don’t think there’s another magazine like it. This is more speaking to when I got involved in the project, we started dancing with it a year ago and started producing the first issue right before the beginning of 2018. At this point in Philadelphia I think there’s a need for it.

PHAWKER: Where are both of you from?Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 1.46.52 AM

RACHEL PFEFFER: I’m from the Philly area. I lived here until like 2015, then lived in Colorado for two years, then moved back last fall.

DAVID COMMINS: I’m from New Hampshire.

PHAWKER: What brought you here, eventually?

DAVID COMMINS: I was a bit of a traveler and my younger brother came here after he graduated from college. We’d fallen out of contact and he was living here and I was a bit rootless at the time. I was like, oh I’ll go hang out with him and reconnect. He’s since moved away but I liked it here.

PHAWKER: Did either of you go to college?

RACHEL PFEFFER: Yeah. I studied painting.

DAVID COMMINS: I went to school for microbiology with an emphasis on pre-med. Then I took hallucinogens and decided I’d rather be a writer. So I dropped out of one college and went to another for creative nonfiction. I had one of those real tough Hemingway journalism professors who on the first day was like, “None of you are going to be writers.” I was living in a tent in the woods while going to school, because I couldn’t afford both. One morning— I always got there first because I was living outside so sun comes up, I’m up—he sits down and was like, “You do have a chance at being a writer, but you’re not going to find out how to do it in college, so you should leave. If you want to go to another town and make a fake resume just tell me what it says first and I’ll verify it for you.” So I went to Georgia and started working for an alt-weekly, doing music reviews.

PHAWKER: What are other jobs you’ve had before doing this?

DAVID COMMINS: I’ve had all sorts of jobs, kayaking outfitters, shoe stores, Walmarts, driving school buses, trying to find that niche.

RACHEL PFEFFER: I’ve also had a lot of jobs. I did study painting in school. Before I evenScreen Shot 2018-08-30 at 1.35.04 AM graduated I was doing graphic design, illustration and screen printing. I’ve had some full time design jobs, some freelance stuff. I also have my own business making junk, called Rainbow Feather. The graphic design stuff for me was less of a creative thing and more of a job to pay bills.

PHAWKER: Do you have other art projects you’re working on outside of the Admirer?

RACHEL PFEFFER: Yeah I have my company, we make shirts, enamel pins, patches. I do commissioned illustrations and I have a screen printing business called the Rainbow Ranch.

PHAWKER: I feel that lately there has been a revival in zine culture, can either of you speak to evidence of that?

DAVID COMMINS: Yeah, I think this is the moment. The moment for making the magazine was chosen, it didn’t just happen to coincide. I feel that we’ve crossed a hill with trusting the internet. I think there’s a general zeitgeist about interacting with each other. I knew it was coming, I think it came earlier this year where people were just like, fuck this. There was the net neutrality rollback and just blow after blow to the credibility to the internet, with Facebook and advertising and ulterior motives. People trust paper more than screen. Especially if there’s a long established name, there’s something more accessible about that then something you find online.

RACHEL PFEFFER: There always has been a contingent of people who prefer to have a printed thing. That has always been a niche thing. Also the Internet is all algorithms but the content we put out is me and David curating it.

DAVID COMMINS: People like having a piece of paper to do a crossword, to play a game of tic-tac-toe, to make a to-do list. Paper is still very much a part of our spiritual being. I think we collectively miss it and it’s an easy gap to slide into.

PHAWKER: Do you think this revival of circulating print and independent publishing is in part due to political circumstance?

DAVID COMMINS: I do, that’s a component of it. I think the isolation of existing in a digital way in public, or in your house, living on your street and not knowing your neighbors is a fairly new thing. Sitting in a bar and no one’s talking to each other. There’s a general gag reflex to that direction.
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Win Tix To See Asleep At The Wheel, The Texas Kings Of Western Swing, At Ardmore Music Hall!

August 29th, 2018

Asleep_At_The_Wheel

 

What’s that you say? ‘What is Asleep At The Wheel?’ Oh brother, where art thou? Where have thou been? OK, let’s start with the beginnings, as per All Music Guid:

Since the early ’70s, Asleep at the Wheel have been the most important force in keeping the sound of Western swing alive. In reviving the freewheeling, eclectic sensibility of Western swing godfather Bob Wills, the Wheel have earned enthusiastic critical praise throughout their lengthy career; they have not only preserved classic sounds that had all but disappeared from country music, but have also been able to update the music, keeping it a living, breathing art form. Typically featuring eight to 11 musicians, the group has gone through myriad personnel changes (at last count, over 80 members had passed through their ranks), but 6’7″ frontman Ray Benson has held it together for four decades, keeping Asleep at the Wheel a viable recording and touring concern and maintaining their devotion to classic-style Western swing.

Singer/guitarist Benson was born Ray Benson Seifert and grew up listening to a variety of music in Philadelphia, especially jazz. He formed Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw, West Virginia in 1970, along with longtime friend Lucky Oceans (born Reuben Gosfield; steel guitar) and Leroy Preston (rhythm guitar). They soon added a female singer in Chris O’Connell, who was fresh out of high school. Initially, the group played straight-ahead country in local venues, but quickly switched to Western swing when they discovered the music through Merle Haggard (specifically his Bob Wills tribute album) and eclectic country-rockers Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. In fact, Commander Cody helped the group sign with his own manager, Joe Kerr, who convinced them to move to San Francisco in late 1971. They subsequently added keyboardist Floyd Domino, and secured a residency at Berkeley’s Longbranch Saloon. Praise from Van Morrison in a Rolling Stone article helped them land a record deal with United Artists, which released their debut album, Comin’ Right at Ya, in 1973. MORE

Forty-eight years, 33 albums and nine Grammy Awards later, they are still alive and swinging and sound like they were born yesterday. Literally. We have a pair of tickets to see Asleep At The Wheel perform at Ardmore Music Hall tomorrow night to give away to the 34th Phawker reader to email us at Phawker66@gmail.com with the correct answer to the following easy-as-pie Asleep At The Wheel trivia question: What is the name of the city where Asleep At The Wheel leader/founder/last charter member standing Ray Benson was born and bred? Put the words TAKE THE WHEEL in the subject line and include your full name as it appears on your photo ID along with a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL PERFORM @ ARDMORE MUSIC HALL THUR. AUG. 30TH

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

August 29th, 2018

JOhn Oliver

 

FRESH AIR: Today we’re starting a series featuring interviews with Emmy nominees. They’ll find out if they’re winners on Monday, September 17. We’re starting with John Oliver, whose satirical news show Last Week Tonight is nominated in nine categories, including Outstanding Variety Talk Series, Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series and Outstanding Interactive Program. Oliver moved to the U.S. from England in 2006 to become a correspondent on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. Oliver started his HBO show in 2014. He typically starts the show with a comic, trenchant review of the week’s news, and then he takes a deep dive into one news story, a story that you may not have been following, a story you may not have thought was interesting. But through a combination of comedy and journalism, he makes it funny and really informative.

John Oliver jokes that Last Week Tonight does a 22-minute deep dive on news that “no one in their right mind wants to hear about.” The show has covered, among other things, the Italian parliamentary elections and NRA TV, an Internet channel with NRA programming.”We like the idea of not just regurgitating stuff people have already seen,” Oliver says. “The truth is, if you dig deep enough on anything, everything is interesting. So you just have to get to the point of a story where it becomes fascinating.” He describes the style of his long-form, heavily researched segments as “the slowest improv you’ve ever seen.MORE

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Q&A With Crazy Rich Asians Author Kevin Kwan

August 28th, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians

 

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Based on a trilogy of best-selling books, Crazy Rich Asians is the story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an economics professor at New York University who is invited by her boyfriend and fellow NYU prof Nick Young to accompany him to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding. What Rachel doesn’t know about Nick, her soon-to-be fiance, is that he is also a scion of one of the wealthiest families in Singapore. When Rachel gets to Singapore she’s not only forced to confront this secret, but also to contend with Nick’s overbearing mother (Michelle Yeoh), as well as his family who are dead set on driving away the woman they assume is nothing more than a gold digger.

Crazy Rich Asians is the first major Hollywood film to feature a predominantly Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club hit screens 25 years ago. Recently, Phawker was fortunate enough to speak with Kevin Kwan, the author of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, and two of the stars of the film, Gemma Chan and Jimmy O. Yang. Gemma plays Astrid, Nick’s complicated cousin whose relationship with her significant other has a much different trajectory. Jimmy O. Yang plays Bernard Tai, Nick’s eccentric and very wealthy classmate. They offered some great insights into the making of the film and discussed how they hope the film’s authentic voice challenges Hollywood’s chronic under-representation of Asian Americans on the silver screen.

PHAWKER: First off Kevin, have you seen the film and how do you think it works as an adaptation to your book?

KEVIN KWAN: I have seen the film, quite a few times and I absolutely love it. I just think 41xsiJ8NmdLit really captures the spirit of my book and actually elevates it in a whole new way.

PHAWKER: How much of your life was an inspiration?

KEVIN KWAN: Very little of my life is in this book. (laughs) You know I am a writer living in New York, but a lot of it is inspired by childhood memories of Singapore. I grew up there till I was eleven years old. It’s also based on frequent trips back to Asia and seeing how much it has changed over the last three decades.

PHAWKER: I am a big fan of the director Jon M. Chu, Kevin what was your working relationship like with him, because in my humble opinion he is vastly underrated?

KEVIN KWAN: He truly is.

JIMMY O. YANG: Hopefully people will now see how incredibly talented he is. It was such a clear and amazing vision that he was able to carry out, visually and with how he adapted the script to screen.

GEMMA CHAN: I texted him after I saw the film for the first time, Warner Brothers screened it for me. I didn’t know what I was going to see. I obviously thought the script was strong and I was a fan of Kevin’s books, but I was blown away. I thought he did such an amazing job with the music, in particular Brian Tyler and the pacing of the film. I think he did such an amazing job, rom-coms often they sag somewhere in the middle and I felt he really kept that energy up.

PHAWKER: So Gemma, given how Asians are traditionally marginalized in film what was it like to belong to such an amazing ensemble cast that really celebrated Asian culture in a way we rarely see on the American screen?

GEMMA CHAN: Well, it feels incredibly special. As you said, it’s so rare to have a film where it’s been 25 years since a Hollywood film has had an all Asian cast. For me what was special about this is yeah, it’s this story about this colorful cast of characters who happen to be Asian, but the theme to me are universal. Anyone who has ever struggled in love, with family or with a crazy mother in law, with familial expectations, this is not just a film for Asians. It’s really for everyone and I think that is something special to have these universal themes, with an all Asian cast, it’s unusual to kind of have that mainstream aspect to it all.

PHAWKER: Gemma, I found your portrayal of Astrid to be one of the most compelling parts of the film for me, originally, I thought she would be nothing more than a minor sub-plot. But instead it grew into this perfect counterbalance to the main romance and a really surprising conduit for the viewer to grasp on. Can you share your take on Astrid and how you approached her?

You know it’s very easy, with a character like Astrid, on the surface she is incredibly glamorous, she comes from an undeniably wealthy and privileged background. But what always was more interesting to me, particularly when I read the books was understanding there was so much with this woman going on underneath the surface. But what you see is not what you get with Astrid and my process was to try and get under her skin and find what the emotional truth of the journey she was on. I hope that comes across.

It was an interesting dynamic, that you see between her and her husband, because I think more and more in the world today you see families or couples where perhaps the man isn’t the main breadwinner. Perhaps his81PUqxFx0EL wife is more successful or has a higher profile and that is something that could be tricky. But yeah, I found that interesting to explore that in our story. It is an interesting counterbalance to Rachel and Nick, because you have this couple coming together and this other couple fracturing apart and perhaps showing what could happen if Nick and Rachel can’t resolve their issues.

KEVIN KWAN: I think Astrid is the most complicated and complex character I have written in all three books. There was so much of her in book one that was left on the cutting room floor, just by virtue of how we chose to adapt this movie.

GEMMA CHAN: You know Astrid the spinoff …(Laughs)

PHAWKER: Gemma, while most will focus on the more romantic underpinnings of Crazy Rich Asians the film also portrays these women in a very empowering light. All of the female protagonists are smart, strong, independent. They just happen to be trapped in a rom-com. Do you feel that because of that, even though CRA is still a love story, it’s more of a progressive take on one?

GEMMA CHAN: It’s interesting you say that. I think at the back bone of the film, you have these strong women. More than anything they are complex characters who have their own desires and their own wants. Probably if anything it shows how in other films, maybe that is not the case. You don’t get fully drawn characters.
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BEING THERE: Jeff Lynne’s ELO @ Wells Fargo Ctr

August 26th, 2018

Jeff_Lynne_ELO_by_Josh_Pelta-Heller

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

The year is 1977. Eleven-year-old me is sitting on my best friend’s bunk bed listening to his older brother’s copy of Electric Light Orchestra’s Out Of The Blue on the Hi-Fi, staring at the neon starburst-colored spaceship on the gatefold sleeve which, he informed me, was used to clean your weed on. Being 11 I had no earthly idea why somebody would collect weeds nor why they would want to clean them, and said as much. My best friend didn’t seem to really know either, but said he had it on good authority, i.e. his older brother. My best friend’s older brother could have played himself in Dazed And Confused, he sold weed, as was the style of the day, and trapped muskrats in the crick out back, and kept the pelts in freezer of the family fridge. When he was like, 14, he took a bus to see The Who at Madison Square Gardens without telling anyone, and it took him three days to get home. We were all impressed. Well, everyone except his mom.

My best friend’s older brother was a bottomless fount of dubious rock elder lore, forever sharing, in a hushed conspiratorial tone, shocking secret information about mysterious rituals performed at the rock concerts we were still years away from being eligible to attend, like how Alice Cooper would pass around a bucket at concerts and everyone would spit and puke in it and then Alice would drink it, as was the style of the day, and Rod Stewart once had to get his stomach pumped because he had ingested too much semen, all of which sounds Alex Jones-ludicrous in hindsight but makes a lot of sense when you are 11. He also assured us that all bands had spaceships that they climbed aboard back stage and then flew over the heads of the crowd, landed on stage and disembarked already rockin’. Especially ELO. At the time, I didn’t know much about music, popular or otherwise, but I did know that ELO’s sad, pretty prismatic songs always made me smile when I would happen upon them on the radio while growing up in the 70s when there wasn’t a lot to smile about — my parents had split up, and then my father died, and the next door neighbor’s German Shepherd ate my rabbit and on it went. Bad moon rising, ten soldiers and Nixon coming, etc.

According to news reports at the time, ELO’s spaceship cost, $300,000 to build, a then-astronomical sum of money, took eight tractor trailers to transport and 45 crew members 10 hours to assemble. The spaceship sealed the deal: ELO was officially my new favorite band. One day, I vowed with God is my witness, I would go to an ELO concert and see this neon Deco spaceship in action and then somehow stow away on board and join the band the way kids used to run away to join the circus, as was the style of the day. Spoiler alert: never happened. By the time I was of concert-going age, ELO was no longer a touring act, at least not in my town, nor were they accepting underaged stowaways with no discernible skill on any known musical instrument.

Still, those songs always stuck with me, always made me smile, even after I’d become a sullen punk and publicly disavowed all pre-punk music as dinosaur-rock, as was the style of the day. Years later, when I’d finally wised up to the fact that you could like both punk and hippie music, that they were all spokes on the same wheel of sonic possibility and equally valid in the proper contexts. This became increasingly apparent as I got into bands like The Flaming Lips circa The Soft Bulletin, or Grandaddy circa The Sophtware Slump, or Air circa Moon Safari or Daft Punk circa almost everything they ever did, and I could clearly hear the ELO in the DNA of all that music: The gated snares, the spiraling flangers, the super-compressed, phase-shifted vocals blown-out with oceanic reverb and infinite echo, the immaculate robo-harmonies, the orchestral maneuvers in the dark. ELO sounds like a Beatles song that you plug into the wall and it lights up. Or to put it another way: ELO = The Beatles + Tron.

Fast forward 40 years to the Wells Fargo Center Friday night. The spaceship has been long-since been mothballed in the wake of Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” fiasco, as has almost everyone from ELO. Jeff Lynne’s ELO is basically Jeff Lynne — still rocking the electrocuted ‘fro, the G.I. Joe beard and Dr. Johnny Fever sunglasses of yore — who is the mastermind behind all the music, backed by a crack 12-piece band of hired guns who are able to replicate the Electric Light Oeuvre down to the most minute sonic detail — the vocoder vox on “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” the alto operatics that bookend “Rockaria,” the funky clavinet on the chorus of “Evil Woman.” The show sold out within days of going on sale back in the spring, and despite the hefty price tag for tickets, as is the style of the day, a transcendental time was had by all.
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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

August 26th, 2018

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FRESH AIR: Today we join people throughout America on both sides of the political aisle in remembering Senator John McCain. His memorial service will be held at the National Cathedral next Saturday, one week after his death from brain cancer at the age of 81. We’re going to listen to an interview I recorded with him in 2000 after his best-selling memoir Faith Of Our Fathers was published in paperback.

But we’ll start with the interview I recorded with him in 2005 after the publication of his book “Character Is Destiny.” This was five years after he’d lost the Republican presidential primary to George W. Bush. When we spoke, he was considering running for president in 2008. He did run, but lost to Barack Obama. McCain requested that those two former opponents speak at his funeral. We talked about many things in these interviews, including his 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and his years as a Republican senator from Arizona. This 2005 interview begins with a story that involves his mother, who has survived him and is now 106. MORE

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BEING THERE: Interpol @ Union Transfer

August 24th, 2018

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Interpol by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

If it’s intimidating to open a sold out show for a band as influential as Interpol, any trepidation was well-hidden by Brooklyn punk outfit Honduras. They banged through a set that seemed like a Joy Division impression, conjuring images of studded leather jackets and quadruple-pierced earlobes. This may explain why they were tapped for this tour, satiating nostalgic cravings for 80’s post-punk revival. Interpol drew a diverse crowd— I was squeezed between someone’s mom squinting through horn rimmed glasses and a scraggly-bearded barista in denim.

Interpol emerged in somber funeral attire, shadows stalking across the stage, frontman Paul Banks holding a black Gibson guitar. They opened with “Number 10,” one of the singles off their sixth studio album, Marauder, which dropped today via Matador. Setting a precedent for the rest of the evening, they followed up with a classic off El Pintor, “All The Rage Back Home.” The set rotated between new and old tracks, pulling hits from their expansive repertoire and unveiling fresh material.

Banks maintained a deadpan stare, his voice flat and nasally. His brooding demeanor created an air of detachment, so that it felt the band was separated from the audience by a thick pane of glass. The sea of iPhone screens recording every minute contributed to the sense of dysphoria. A flashing disco ball chopped through the watery blue glow of the stage lights, blinding to the point of disorientation. Sunbursts exploded behind my closed eyelids like paparazzi flash. It was as if Interpol was self-consciously trying to distract from themselves, hiding behind the shield of a light show.

Shrouded in their nocturnal shell, the band churned through crowd favorites. “NYC” trudged desolately, echoey with suspended, shoegaze instrumentals. “Evil” received the most love, the crowd erupting at the first thrumming bass notes. With Banks’ rapid delivery, the lyrics tumbled over each other, an avalanche of words, the final chorus pleading with a heroine called Rosemary: “Why can’t we just look the other way?”

If last night was any indication, Interpol has reached their thematic climax as towering legends of the alt-rock genre. Marauder spins the threads of poetic narrative, each song another chapter in a longer story. Interpol digs up the roots of their debut album while planting the seeds of a new sound. On this album they claim their space, they take up room to grow. — MARIAH HALL

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Honduras by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

I’m an unapologetic Strokes superfan, so when Lizzy Goodman’s oral history Meet Me in the Bathroom came out last year, I hung on every word like it was my new Bible. Emblazoned on the jacket were names of bands I knew or heard of except for one: Interpol. So after their first chapter, I plugged in to listen to “Obstacle 1” for the first time, and it ripped me to shreds. I had never heard a love song so demented and hypnotizing and I couldn’t get enough of it. But like everyone else who came late to the party, I found out that Interpol had followed the pattern of its fellow New York rockers in taking a hiatus to work on solo projects, so I begrudgingly accepted to listen them through headphones and lowered my hopes of seeing them live any time soon.

But last night I stood in the middle of a sold out Union Transfer on the eve of the release of Interpol’s sixth album, Marauder. Opening the night of post-punk revival were Brooklyn-based Honduras, who channeled their CBGB ancestors with ever-accelerating drumbeats and punchy call and response vocals. Handpicked by Interpol to open the Philly and New York shows, the currently unsigned four-piece won’t stay that way for long if they keep pounding out high-octane sets like last night’s. Lead singer Pat Philips spat the verses in an agitated twang, his guitar slung low over a muscle tank with a New York Times “Obama” headline printed across the chest.

Despite all the markings of vicious punk rockers – the shaggy hair, the taut tatted biceps, the almost spastic headbanging – Honduras defied expectations by infusing shimmering guitar chords at the exact right moment, almost like basement punk cum dream pop. That may sound like an unlikely combination on paper, but adding a touch of haze to the punk rock crunch makes the music’s sense of rebellion all the more freeing.

This shoegaze version of classic NYC rock was the perfect primer for Interpol’s hypnotizing, room-filling power. On the eve of Marauder‘s release, Interpol, who are now a trio after the 2010 departure of bassist Carlos Dengler, couldn’t help but shake and smile with their music. With a light show worthy of their more recent major label sound, the black suited band towered over audience in clean dark silhouettes like omniscient idols of the lo-fi post-punk that is their namesake.

Despite a set list that emphasized the hits over the new album, a new and yet unreleased song called “Flight of Fancy” elicited the same volume of applause and cheers from the sold out crowd as songs like “NYC” and “Evil,” leaving both frontman Paul Banks and guitarist Daniel Kessler in face-splitting smiles at the song’s conclusion.

Looking at the largely middle-aged crowd around me, it was more than obvious that, as Goodman put it in her book, that “something had ended.” Though I was only a toddler when Interpol got their start, there are few songs I love more than “PDA” or “Obstacle 1.” But seeing them live gave me a distinct feeling that the rocking power behind them was never originally meant for me.

Instead, they are an intangible symbol and force of the early aughts indie scene when, for a brief and shining moment, it seemed like rock would rule the world again, a notion that feels further and further away in the glossy pop mainstream of today. On their new album, Interpol reaches 16 years back and channels their debut with that same gritty lo-fi distortion and echoing vocals that match the plundering attitude of its title. The way they roam through and attack each song on Marauders with thundering drums and knife-like guitar hooks mirrors meaning of the album title, that the listeners as much as the band members are the marauders of modern rock, searching and scraping through every inch of music in the hopes of finding the next great treasure. – SOPHIE BURKHOLDER

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INCOMING: Cinephilia

August 24th, 2018

PFF27 Cover

 

RELATED: The 27th Philadelphia Philm Phestival

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THE BASSMAN COMETH: Talking Tech, Trump And The End Of Americana With Wylie Gelber Of Dawes

August 23rd, 2018

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Photo courtesy of COLDSMOKE APPAREL

SOPHIE_BURKHOLDER_BYLINERBY SOPHIE BURKHOLDER In their nearly ten years as a band, Dawes has earned a reputation for old timey, scuffed denim sonics and sepia-toned Americana narratives that sound like this 21st Century version of the Laurel Canyon Sound. But on “Living In The Future,” the lead-off track from their latest album Passwords, Dawes plumbs the darker premonitions of America circa now with a colder, harsher sound that conjures the paranoia and darkness of the Age of Trump. Currently on tour with the Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Dawes play the Wells Fargo Center on Friday August 24th. We got bassist Wylie Gelber on the phone to talk about the new album, the strange days we find ourselves in, and what it’s like to finally meet Jeff Lynne.

PHAWKER: So the lyrics to “Living in the Future,” the first single off of Passwords, really seem to capture the awful zeitgeist of the moment, and I’d like to go through the second verse of it line by line, if you don’t mind, or at least as far as we go, and talk a little bit about what you guys are saying and why you’re trying to say it, or at the very least, what your interpretation of A1xYJ6GVVmL._SL1500_the lyrics that Taylor wrote are. So the first line of that verse is “It’s the battle of the passwords.” So is that a reference to the fact that everything in the digital age is password-protected and that there’s a constant struggle to remember all of these passwords and come up with new passwords that hackers and criminals can’t crack? Is that where you think that comes from?

WYLIE GELBER: Yeah, I think in the broadest sense, for sure. I’m not necessarily sure what the exact scenario that inspired that lyric is, but I’d say that sounds accurate enough.

PHAWKER: Okay, and so then, the next line after that goes, “It’s the trumpets on the hill.” The Book of Revelation in the Bible talks about seven trumpets blown by seven angels that will cue the start of the apocalypse. Do you think that’s what that’s referring to?

WYLIE GELBER: No, I doubt it.

PHAWKER: Really?

WYLIE GELBER: Yeah, I would doubt any biblical reference, if I was to say.

PHAWKER: Why would you say that?

WYLIE GELBER: Just because I don’t think that anyone in the band is that well-versed in the Bible to even know that.

PHAWKER: Oh really? What’s your interpretation of it then?

WYLIE GELBER: Of that lyric? I couldn’t really say. I honestly have no idea. I just know that it’s 99.9% non-biblical related just because I know the members of the band.
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NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Q&A W/ Comic Ian Bagg

August 22nd, 2018

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keely_bylinerBY KEELY MCAVENEY Recovering Canadian and and former explosives engineer, Ian Bagg blew up on contact with the stand-up comedy scene, first in the far north hinterlands of British Columbia and later in New York and then the world. Not that he really cares about fame or money, he proudly holds the title of Only Comedian To Work With Judd Apatow And NOT Become A Multi-Billionaire. He is a master at working the crowd for unscripted laughs, not for nothing is his 2015 comedy special called Getting To F***ing Know You. You may have seen him on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” or possibly in his own two half-hour long specials: “Comedy Central Presents” and HBO’s “A Comics Climb.” Either way you won’t want to miss him him in all his riffing glory at Punch Line Philly August 24th-25th.

PHAWKER: I read that before you started doing comedy you were studying to be an explosivesIan Bagg2 engineer? I don’t really have that phrased as a question, so much as a statement with a question mark.

IAN BAGG: [laughs] Yeah. It was something, it was just… I grew up in a small town in northern Canada, and you either became a logger or a miner or mechanic or, you know, all those kinds of work. I just stumbled into dynamite and started at the bottom of the chain, just carrying dynamite for the guys that, you know, were delivering it and then just kind of moved up the chain and ended up working in a gold mine and really enjoyed it.

PHAWKER: That certainly doesn’t sound too small town or boring to me, maybe the carrying it instead of getting to do anything with it.

IAN BAGG: [laughs] Well, we were looking for gold, blowing up the sides of things. It was fun.

PHAWKER: Did you study explosives in college?

IAN BAGG: No, I was headed to engineering school, like tech school, and I ended up falling into comedy instead. I’d always wanted to do stand up, but I had to move to the big city to go to school and found an open mic and tried it and never went back to school.

PHAWKER: It was in Vancouver right?

IAN BAGG: Yes.

PHAWKER: Did you grow up pretty far from Vancouver, or was it close enough that you had this access to live comedy when you were younger?

IAN BAGG: No. I grew up in Terrace, British Columbia, which is kind of close to Ketchikan, Alaska. It is nowhere near anything. I’m talking very isolated.
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