HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Category: Interviews (Page 5 of 5)

Ed Rodriguez of Deerhoof plays guitar live at The Liquid Room in Tokyo

Deerhoof Tokyo Interview

On paper they read like a relatively run-of-the-mill, up and coming alternative rock band: two guitars, bass, drums, female vocalist all playing their hearts out for an eclectic independent label from backwoods, USA. Yet Deerhoof is not your typical San Francisco band. Nor is KRS (Kill Rock Stars) your typical label. Though somehow the two are a perfect fit, Deerhoof ranking as the all-woman-run, Olympia-based label’s oldest and best-selling act. Originating as a drums and guitar duo in the mid-90s, it has taken over ten years, ten albums and ten (or so) musicians rotating in and out to solidify the current four-member lineup (Drummer Greg Saunier, Satomi Matsuzaki (Vocals/Bass), John Dieterich (guitar) and Ed Rodriguez (guitar)) into the band that Radiohead, for one, likes listening to.

The classically trained Greg Saunier, fresh out of Conservatory, got into the Bay Area music scene with Nitre Pit, a short-lived quartet, where he met bassist Rob Fisk, the other founding member of what would eventually become Deerhoof. Nitre Pit broke up and, suddenly a rhythm-heavy duet, they nonetheless fulfilled their remaining dates, one of which had a young Slim Moon, the founder of Kill Rock Stars, in the audience.

In typical Rock and Roll Dream fashion, they were signed after the show to produce the first of Deerhoof’s numerous recordings. When HESO sat down with the band on their recent mini-Japan tour, Greg had this to say about how many lives has the band been through.”A zillion (laughs). If we count the time some guy came dressed as Milkman (Milkman, Kill Rock Stars 2004) to a show and jumped on stage, that’s its own lineup for one night. Every time we do a record or make up a song it actually does feel like we get a new life, radically changing the way we work.”

It wasn’t until 1996 or so when the band set into place the distinctive skeleton of the modern Deerhoof by adding the diminutive Satomi Mastuzaki, just off the Tokyo boat to San Francisco and looking for adventure. Besides Matsuzaki’s high-pitched voice adding a pleasingly disjunctive aspect to the duet’s oft-improvised artrock, she tempered their tonal testosterone with a demure yet powerful cuteness, not to mention a rhythmic bass once Fisk left in 1999. Thus beginning the band’s love affair with Japan.

Satomi Mastuzaki of Deerhoof plays Live at The Liquid Room in Tokyo

Satomi Mastuzaki of Deerhoof plays Live at The Liquid Room in Tokyo

Deerhoof Tokyo Interview/h2>

HESO: How many times have you toured in Japan? And what are your overall thoughts about touring here?

DH: “6 or 7. Usually more than once per album. Including Fujirock (2007) this is our third tour on this album (Friend Opportunity, Kill Rock Stars 2007). Japan’s music world takes care of a band in quite a different way. There’re more stagehands than people in the band and the room is what would pass for a smallish venue back home, but the PA system and lights, just incredible care. We have a very skewed perspective on it. We get invited and everything’s taken care of. We are the honored guests.”

Deerhoof are notorious for not giving straightforward answers to interviewers, though when HESO met them on a strangely cool June day in Shibuya, they were all ears and mouths, talking incessantly about their new album, Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars 2008) and whether creating new material, songs, albums, is a process of touring or more this revolving lineup or both.

“It’s not necessarily to do with touring, since music comes from someplace that’s unpredictable‚ it’s a matter of allowing your music to follow where your imagination is telling you to go and having an idea of what that’ll be tomorrow.” said Greg.

John Dieterich, who entered the band in 1999 and whose savant-esque guitar gave rise to the creation of their next album, Reveille, which caused many seminal bands the likes of Sonic Youth and the aforementioned Radiohead, to take note of, added, “It’s also affected by who you see every night. You have to react. If you feel something, you’re constantly reevaluating how you approach it‚ we’re touring with the Tenniscoats and XIU XIU right now and they’re such different bands. But the most valuable experience as a musician, for me is touring and seeing new and different bands all the time. You get to see different kinds of depth. You’re experiencing it as it happens and it’s penetrating all other aspects of your life, not just playing or recording, but it’s life. It’s human.”

HESO: How do you guys come to an album? Is it a collaboration or does, for example, Satomi always come with lyrics?

Greg: It’s magic if we come up with anything at all. If we finally think it’s good, well, why is that? I don’t know how we stumble upon it. Trying a different process every song‚ I’m always amazed that the well doesn’t run dry. I always think, well, that’s it. That’s probably my last song. I wouldn’t know how to find it if I had to, there are no rules, no system, no precedent to follow. Just guessing and making it up as you go along.

John: It’s an intuitive process. In any given city in the US, there’s no system set up other than family. Theoretically there’re schools indoctrinating everyone, but that’s completely different for everyone.

Greg: In my school 2 + 2 is 4.

HESO: Well, being left-handed we had to write that backwards. I didn’t like that.

Greg: Tom Cruise said that Scientology cured his Dyslexia. (Laughs)

Deerhoof in Tokyo (Manny Santiago)

Deerhoof in Tokyo

HESO: He probably meant that Dyslexia cured his Scientology. Moving on. Ed, what was the process of you entering the band?

Ed: John and I have known each other for about 15 years, been playing music for about that long and we were in a band
together in Minneapolis. The first time I heard Deerhoof was when he sent recordings. I was so happy John was playing, it was so perfect. That was 1999.

HESO: Do you walk into the studio with a time limit, say two weeks, to get it all done?

John: Instead of going for a long stretch of time, we went in one day in March, and our original idea was to record the whole album and we were sure it would be so easy. We ended up getting four (tracks), one of which we canned. We ended up going back in a month later and recorded and went through the rest of everything.

Ed: The thinking is that we should really do everything ourselves. Greg & John have such a developed sense of mastering sound and working with recordings that as a band we try not going outside of it as much as possible. It seems incredibly foreign, the idea of putting that much care into writing material and recording and then hand it to someone else, wait a while and get it back. If you can dedicate yourself to all aspects then.

John: It’s pretty amazing the things you can do.

Deerhoof’s latest album, Offend Maggie, comes out in October and they already have January dates in Japan to support it. Why not support them?

Check out the Interview with Deerhoof and a review of their latest album La Isla Bonita.

Deerhoof Live In Tokyo

Deerhoof Live In Tokyo – Photos of the Indie band Deerhoof live at The Liquid Room in Ebisu, Tokyo

This Is Cornelius – Interview with Oyamada Keigo

Fantasma

Cornelius is not a man. Nor, for that matter, is he an ape (though the name comes from Planet of the Apes). Cornelius is a musical group founded by Oyamada Keigo (小山田圭吾) in the early 90s after his Shibuya-kei duo with Ozawa Kenji, Flipper’s Guitar, split up. Suddenly a solo act, Oyamada spent the next five or so years crafting his persona and honing his production skills, a sabbatical ultimately culminating in what made it all worth the wait—the music.

1997 saw Cornelius break into various European and American indie scenes with the infectious Fantasma (Matador Records, 1997), a melodic blending of traditional and esoteric poprock elements alongside sounds of nature wrapped candylike around backdrops of digital wash. I remember driving down Venice Boulevard toward the beach when my friend first put it in the CD player, mentioning something about “addictive…” In the strange part of my mind which catalogues beauty, I’m still on Venice Blvd, heading toward the beach, listening to “Chapter 8: Seashore and Horizon.” I’ve never turned back.

Recently HESO Magazine sat down with Oyamada at his Nakameguro studio. Between sips of Oolong tea, cigarettes and stealing glances at his massive cd collection, we chatted about his defunct label Trattoria, his plans after Sensuous, and the supporting Sensuous Synchronized Tour (the final Japan performance of which HESO attended at the Grand Cube Concert Hall in Osaka), back in Japan after finishing up some dates in Europe. When asked about his success abroad, he laughed and demurred, talking about other bands. But in the end, he added, “on this past tour, quite a few people came out to see me in the US and I even played at Disney Concert Hall. I’ve been doing this now for ten years, and finally I get to play live in a hall—I thought that was pretty good.”

What he sensuously synchronized in front of that audience was an audio-visual extravaganza. A veritable smörgåsbord for the senses. Imagine two hours of expertly crafted electro-rock music synched to an ever-changing reel of nebulous videos featuring miniature landscapes a la Hieronymus Bosch, walking fingers, children and animals, and a million other things you will have to buy the DVD to catch.

Sensuous

Cornelius Live at Grand Cube in Osaka

Cornelius Live at Grand Cube in Osaka

This Is Cornelius – Interview with Oyamada Keigo

HESO: I’m guessing you’ve probably been on tours all over, but which has been the most interesting place so far?

Keigo Oyamada: Anyplace I’ve never been before is interesting.

HESO: I think most bands tour in the US and Europe, but Björk for example goes to places like China and Indonesia. Have you ever been to any places like that?

O: Haven’t been to China yet. I’m going to Korea for the first time next week. That’s about it in Asia.

HESO: What about South America?

O: Never been to South America, either, though I’d like to go. I’ve been invited to Brazil, but it’s half a world away. Taking all my equipment there would incur enormous expenses, so it’s near impossible to do.

HESO: The last date of your Sensuous Synchronized Show was in Osaka I think…

O: Actually, we have a few more dates in Korea, but yeah, the last in Japan.

HESO: What are you thinking about doing after the tour? Collaborating with some other artists or making a new album?

O: I haven’t made any decisions yet. Well, maybe a few small things. I’m making a jingle for Tokyo FM.

HESO: Do you have any plans to exhibit your videos at any galleries or art institutions?

O: I made a DVD with images from my live performances using 5.1-channel sound. It’s already out in Japan, and will probably be out in the US in the summer. It’s coming out from Everloving, my label. That, and a tour DVD called Point from about five years ago. I’ll be showing those two at places like museums.

Flippers Guitar - On Pleasure Bent

Flippers Guitar – On Pleasure Bent

HESO: Are you doing all that by yourself? Or are you collaborating with anyone?

O: I have a film director for the video, Tsujikawa Koichiro. We’ve been working together for a long time. He made nearly seven or eight tracks. There’s also a film director in Kyoto—Groovisions. And then the Kyoto artist Takagi Masakatsu, who made one track.

HESO: Speaking of collaborations, you recently put out an EP titled Gum.

O: That was only in the U.S.

HESO: That’s right. And wasn’t Sakamoto Ryuichi on that third track?

O: Sakamoto did the chorus for me on that one. Hosono Haruomi is another of the members of YMO. It’s something Sakamoto and I did for a tribute album for the leader of YMO.

HESO: You were on tour with Hosono, weren’t you?

O: Yeah, as a guitarist.

HESO: If you could work with any artist you like, who would it be?

O: A band? Someone recent?… (He thinks for a while) He’s not very recent, but Takemitsu Toru—you hear a lot of him on film soundtracks. He’s from the 1950s or 60s. I listen to a lot of people who do contemporary Japanese music or film music.

HESO: Really? Recently, I’ve found the There Will Be Blood soundtrack by Johnny Greenwood to be pretty good.

O: Oh, I listen to a lot of Radiohead myself—In Rainbows for one.

HESO: If you could have dinner with any three people, alive or dead, who would it be?

O: Hmmm… dinner? Alive or dead?… People I would want to eat with?… My own family (laughter).

HESO: What first got you interested in music?

tenorionO: When I was about 7 or 8, we did taiko (Japanese drums) at school. In class, we would all dance, but the sound of those drums probably made me want to make my own music.

HESO: When did you first start thinking about becoming a musician?

O: Becoming a musician… I did music because I liked it, but I never really thought I could be a professional so I never really thought about becoming one. But then someone from a record company heard our band and asked us to put out a record. It was completely by accident.

HESO: It seems like your music draws influence from all over. You can hear natural sounds and Zen-like sounds like wind chimes. There’s a lot of East and West. With each album, do you think about which direction you are going to take it? Or do you simply listen to all kinds of sounds and go from there?

O: I love all kinds of music and am influenced by all kinds of music as well. I think most of those sounds just naturally come out. It’s not as if I like rock or only listen to classical—I have a great love for all kinds of music. My father is a musician, and I used to look through his record collection. It’s all because my father’s got some great records.

HESO: You mix sound and visuals and even produce it yourself—the DJ mixing, too.

O: It’s multi-media, isn’t it? I don’t do the DJ mixing, but I do kind of act like a VJ for the live shows.

HESO: I recently heard one of your old Breeze Block mixes on BBC’s Radio One…

O: Ah… I do radio programs. NHK, too. Now that you mention it, I was a DJ on NHK. I don’t DJ at clubs.

HESO: A friend asked me recently to sum your music up in a word and I couldn’t. What kind of music would you say do? How do you define your music?

O: Mmmmm, that’s a tough one. I don’t really know what to say, but basically it’s just Rock.

HESO: On stage, you play guitar, have keyboards and a Theremin, use a Tenorion with a projection behind you. How is it different from your process of making an album in the studio?

O: In the studio, I am playing most of the instruments myself. Live, I’m playing together with other musicians. I guess I’m basically interpreting the album.

HESO: It’s pretty common in the US, for example, to feature someone on your album, but do you ever play with anyone in the studio?

O: I work alone, but on Sensuous, I worked with the Kings of Convenience. They sang a track for me. Their acoustic guitar duet is kind of like Simon and Garfunkel. Other than that, I don’t really work with anyone else on albums. I do, however, work on quite a bit of collaborations and mixes with overseas artists.

HESO: How did you wind up with Kings of Convenience?

Oyamada Takes Photos of the crowd post show Osaka

Oyamada Takes Photos of the crowd post show Osaka

O: They just came to Japan for a tour and we happened to know each other—I had met them in England before. Hell, they were in Japan so I figured we should just do something.

HESO: It’s pretty damn good. I thought the synchronization between the sound and visuals was particularly strong. How did you start out with that?

O: I’ve been synching sound and visuals for about ten years now, since about the time I put out the album Fantasma. I gradually developed from there, and with the current title Sensuous Synchronized Show, I had the concept of synching everything—the visuals, the sound, the lights—and I’ve been doing it this way for about two years now.

HESO: Who made the videos in your show?

O: My friend Tsujikawa, whom I mentioned earlier, made about ten of them. After that, there are several other directors I’ve made some videos with since long ago. I guess I work with several people, but Tsujikawa is the main guy, and he makes most of them.

HESO: Where most other Japanese artists haven’t had similar success outside of Japan, why do you suppose you’ve had such international success? Some of the few Japanese artists with any popularity in America are Pizzicato Five and Cibo Matto.

O: What about The Boredoms?

HESO: Yeah, I guess them, too. And Ozawa Seiji.

O: (laughter) Before I was Cornelius, I was in a band called Flipper’s Guitar. It was in Japan, when I was about 20. There were only two members, but one of those members was Ozawa’s nephew!

HESO: Was it one of the so-called Shibuya-kei bands?

O: It was before Shibuya-kei. It was a little before that word “Shibuya-kei” came out. After we broke up we were labeled Shibuya-kei.

HESO: To finish up, what do you like to eat?

O: (laughter) What do I like to eat? I like rice.

Cornelius – Live in Osaka

Björk Live in Tokyo © Daniel Griffin

Man Behind Björk – Interview with Damian Taylor

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Björk Volta concert in Tokyo, on both nights to met up with and interview Damian Taylor, the musical director and band member, watch the show, take photos and find out more about the tour and instruments. Unfortunately Björk couldn’t do an interview herself, as she needed to save her voice between shows, but still got to meet her and the band and hang out and even went karaoke with them all- of course Björk didn’t sing, and had to instead endure the likes of my terrible drunken efforts of some song I didn’t know! What a great time I had and more importantly what fantastic gigs.

Damian really looked after me during my visit and showed me the ins and outs of their touring life and is such a wonderful global gentleman, who grew up in Canada, New Zealand and England, and has spent the last decade working along side some of the biggest names in Music. Mixing up, engineering, producing and writing with The Prodigy, DJ Shadow and Talvin Singh just to name a few, and is now a major mixing force behind Björk’s latest album and tour, Volta.

Björk Live in Tokyo © Daniel Griffin

Björk bansee-ing out © Daniel Griffin

I sat and watched the sound check and saw Björk listening to the Sumo Halls acoustics and deciding which of the bands 42-song repertoire to play that night. Each gig is different and keeps all the band members fresh and on their toes. Damian chatted with Björk by walkie-talkie and gave instructions to the other band members. He has quite a commanding yet super friendly presence at 8 feet tall.

After the sound check Damian showed me around the stage before the gig and I got to have a look at and try the Reactable, a Spanish touch sensitive, illuminated interactive tabletop instrument, that reads the block-like objects placed on it and senses movement and translates that into sound along with an impressive light show. All the waveforms are displayed and the players can literally ‘see the music’, and how each block is interacting with the next and so on. There are limitless possibilities with that machine. We even had a look inside at the workings and Damian shared some of the troubles they have had being the first to take it on a world tour, all of which are ironed out now of course. What an amazingly interactive and futuristically dynamic instrument.

The Japanese artist, designer and creator of the Tenorion, Toshio Iwai was there on the next night and I got to ask him about his invention, another incredibly advanced next generation musical instrument, which take the user-computer interface to the next level.

We got the call for the doors opening and so quickly went backstage to relax for a while before the event and picked up our seat tickets. We noticed that there was a 200Yen donation to Unicef on each ticket sale, which was a nice touch! 15 minutes before the show began I took my position in the press pit and prepared to take some photos. The hall quickly filled up to its brim very efficiently and the lights dimmed and it all began. The Icelandic all girls brass band, marched on playing, all wirelessly miced up, and dressed like pagan jesters from a medieval jousting festival. Then with a huge cheer from the extremely well behaved and orderly crowd, Björk made her entrance in her Bernard Willhelm designed rainbow dress. Brilliant.

*

Björk Live in Tokyo © Daniel Griffin

Björk Live in Tokyo © Daniel Griffin

For the first three songs I was snapping away and kind of missed the music! So then I made my way to my lucky prime central seat.I was in heaven, the extreme marriage of analogue and digital. Icelandic Chinese harpsichord player Jónas Sen tinkling away with the girls brass on one side verses LFO Mark Bell’s beats and bass and Chris Corsano live percussion on the other and all mixed together by Damian from his star trek like control deck in the centre, adding his touch of electro wizardry and skipping round to the Reactable from time to time, which was beamed live to big screens for all to enjoy. It gelled so well. Her vision. What a great band and such a friendly and down to earth bunch.

I read stuff about this being about feminine power and shaman this and that, but none of that came across in a deliberate or cheesy new age way, but something powerful was certainly expressed and I was kind of magically entranced for the entire show. Maybe with the strange druid-like instruments and female blowers and flag bearers, and the strange eclectic harmony of different cultures and styles and musical traditions, I was entranced for the entire show! Maybe it really is modern day shamanistic healing that crosses boundaries, merges styles, peoples and cultures?A few times I could hear some awesome beats and bass coming through, but they never actually did come through until the grand finale encore and easily my favourite Björk track ever, the techno-y “Declare independence – (don’t let them do that to you)” came pumping out! The very well behaved crowd finally let loose with hands in the air and random cheering! I was so happy.

After it finished, we made our way back stage and into the communal dressing room for drinks and party. Björk came in with a bottle of champagne and greeted friends and guests, and then plugged her ipod into the wedding party-sized system in the corner. And started to pump out hip-hop tunes and started to dance. I actually was pretty into what she was playing and started to kind of dance too, but felt a bit shy with just me and her at that end of the room. Then my half awkward half amazing opportunity moment was saved/ruined by some weird Icelandic tune that came on and a rush of about half of the girl brass band excitedly bouncing along to join in the fun and games. There was only half a dozen or so others mingling around drinking and chatting. I heard it mentioned by about 3 different band members that that was the quietest 10,000 people they had ever played to and one girl even said at times it was like playing to an empty hall, quite spooky!

Björk then had an idea for us all to go to karaoke, and so we bundled in a mini bus and headed off, what a crazy adventure. With a quick stop at their Roppongi hotel on the way, and passers-by mistaking another band member for Björk, whose name is also Björk! Very funny. Hanging out in the hotel lobby with Björk and some others, I never would have thought anyone was famous, maybe the remnance of face paint gave something away, but apart from that, we were just one merry bunch of foreigners out for fun and games. The energy of the girl brass band is amazing, and what fun it must be to tour with them.

Man Behind Björk – Interview with Damian Taylor

Damian Taylor with a Tenorion w/ Björk Live in Tokyo © Daniel Griffin

Damian Taylor with a Tenorion w/ Björk Live in Tokyo © Daniel Griffin

HESO: What’s your current position and role in the band?

Damian Taylor: My official title is Musical Director, and basically that means I am responsible for the band being able to play music, but in simple terms it means that I am the liaison between the crew, production, management, Björk and the band. Björk is incredibly involved in everything, she’s not like some artists who don’t turn up until the start of gigs, so it’s more like facilitating everything she needs but on a very practical level. One way of describing it is that I use a spreadsheet, so when we started rehearsals, I knew what songs we had to rehearse, who had parts and which ones had arrangements. On the sound check I have a walkie-talkie and I speak to the front house guy. So it’s also that I am a ridiculous geek, keeping track of details and that kind of thing. In a way I think that I was hired to be versatile and to glue everything together, whereas everyone else in the band was specifically hired for what they do as artists, if that makes sense. So I kind of had to figure out what else needed to be done once everyone was doing their thing. That’s how what I do ended up evolving, so to speak.

HESO: How did you get the position?

DT: I was doing Björk’s record with her and we were finishing it. She asked me if I wanted to come play live and I thought that would be nice change of scenery after ten years in the studio basically. So she invited me and I thought about it for not very long and said yes. So the irony is that this is actually my first tour. I played music in bands and stuff when I was younger, but this is the first time I’ve done any touring in an official capacity.

HESO: What’s it like to be on the Volta tour?

DT: I think as far as tours go this one is a very kind of family-oriented tour. There are about thirty of us on the road and it’s actually been very civilised, and I mean that in a nice way. It’s much more like having a huge crew of your friends with you as opposed to all these motley crew kind of stories you hear about four guys going and taking far too many drugs and getting into all kinds of trouble. We’re much more into hanging out together, and its pretty low key. But also we do a month on the road and then a month off, so that keeps it pretty sane. If we do more than two or three gigs a week Björk loses her voice so the schedule is pretty relaxed as well. But that winds up being good because it means every time we play a gig it’s really exciting and fresh. We have got 42 songs, maybe 43 in the whole repertoire and Björk figures out the set list right before we play, so every concert is special and unique and I think that sets it apart from a lot of other tours that are going on at the moment.

HESO: I noticed on Björk’s website that some of the album was recorded at ‘Damian’s place’?

DT: Yeas! (Chuckle)

HESO: Which bit? Can you tell us a bit about that?

Damian Taylor on the Reactable w/ Björk Live in Tokyo © Daniel Griffin

Damian Taylor on the Reactable w/ Björk Live in Tokyo © Daniel Griffin

DT: Basically a lot of the record or a lot of even Björk’s writing process was done when she was sitting, editing at her computer, so the bit at my place was using my Pro-Tools rig in-between doing some mixing in London. She would come over for an afternoon and sort through some parts or if she had been sent some stuff over from anyone then she’d sift through it there and if she needed some help then I’d help her out. All that, maybe five or six days (a week), just in the afternoon, she would pop over and hangout and work on a few bits.

But that’s the same as a lot of places, like all the hotels and cabins and all these places where we’ve just set up anywhere, even on a boat as well.

HESO: So you were shacked up in cabin in Iceland for a while as well?

DT: Yeah, we did three weeks out by a lake in a national park called Thingvaleer, as Björk’s got a cabin out there. It’s kind of an Icelandic tradition that you have a summer home somewhere to go and hang out in for a month or so. A friend of hers said that her family had one that we might be able to rent and it wound up being literally next door to Björk’s. So we had all the Pro-Tools stuff and me in one cabin and her and her family in the other one. That was kind of amazing because we only had electricity up there, and in my cabin there was no shower and it only had an outside toilet. Luckily Björk’s had a shower, so I would pop over there in the mornings for a wash. (Laughing).

It was an amazingly quiet and quite a trippy place and I think we did quite a bit up there. It’s funny, actually just looking back at the amount of the world that I’ve seen working with her on her record is one thing, and now touring is yet another.

HESO: Do the album and the Volta tour have a deliberate message or theme?

DT: That I think that is probably more of a question for Björk than myself, but I think in terms of my conversations with her, Volta was a record that she made with the tour in mind and she was deliberately having a bit of an adventure with it; with making the record and also with the touring. There’s all kinds of themes and more specific emotional things, but I think overall she has said that it’s an extroverted record, so its more about making a lot of noise and going out and being very spontaneous. I wouldn’t feel right commenting on her individual intentions on each track, but I have read somewhere where she said that the album was almost like a dry run, like a dress rehearsal for the tour and I think that is actually very accurate. The album was a lot of experimenting and messing around, and now that we are actually playing it live I think those songs have come alive. I think they work far better live than on the record for me. The fact that there are all these neon colours and big bass drums and stuff on this record and on the tour, sums it up more on an energetic level as opposed to a specific interpretive level.

HESO: At your concerts, that there seems to be a lot of ultra modern digital instruments like the Reactable and the Lemur mixed with more traditional harpsichords and a brass band. How did that come about?

DT: Björk definitely likes to use unusual instruments, so I think that’s where getting the harpsichords and clavichords and stuff that are on the album come in, but they are also instruments of a strong pedigree. Björk also likes marrying technological innovation and innovators with virtuosi musicians, so that’s Jonas now, our virtuoso keyboard player. If you look at different incarnations of Björk’s bands, she’s tended to have someone who’s served that func
tion. People who were all top line classical players, like Guy Sigsworth who was in her band ages ago and is kind of similar to Jonas in that he is a virtuoso keyboard player as well.

In terms of the technological stuff, she just seems to get a kick out of it, (laughing) you know, whatever’s new and fresh, but the Reactable and the Lemur, those were actually things that we saw on Youtube when we were mixing the record at the end of 2005. So especially with the Reactable, after seeing it, Björk said that would be fun to take on tour. Because she understands and I understand and a lot of the techno people understand that when you see a guy standing there hunched over a bunch of equipment, they are doing something. But from a normal audience’s point of view they might not necessarily connect that person with the sounds that are coming out of the speakers. With the Lemurs and Reactables on this tour she wants people to understand that we are actually doing something.

HESO: How do you see these electronic instruments and interfaces developing in the future?

DT: I think that the way the Lemur and the Reactable is going is brilliant because they allow for a greater degree of spontaneity. The Reactable is its own instrument with so many different permutations, whereas the Lemur is a cross between a technical tool and a performance tool, as it is set up to use open source code, which means that you can make the Lemur do anything. So just to take a quick tangent, the Reactable is an instrument itself that makes a sound- it’s got an interface and a sound generator as part and parcel- but the Lemur is just, and I mean that I the best possible way, a controller. That means that it can talk to anything, so it’s fully conceivable that on one of the Lemur’s screens I could have it speaking to Ableton Live on my laptop, I could also make it run onto a bank of lights, into three other synthesizers and I could make each of those things serve a different function with a different piece of equipment. So far we have probably used about 2% of its capabilities, so I have got a lot of hopes for that company and what they are doing there.

The Reactable is really the show stopper because its such a crazy fresh thing, but the reality is that we have trucks and a huge case that it goes in and it’s very difficult to set up. Whereas the Lemur is something that anyone can actually buy now on the street, throw in their backpack and start using. So I think that the Lemur will have a grass roots impact that’s huge and it will be interesting to see where the Reactable goes in terms of if it can get into other peoples’ hands.

But for me personally, just on the big picture of where things are going, I have been pondering this a bit recently. What’s really exciting me at the moment are molecules vibrating in the air. So I am keen on trying to figure out how you can go further into marrying sound synthesis with acoustics, which sounds trippy, but more like could you create computers that are actually physically linked up to physical oscillators, like you would have in a pipe organ or something like that? And are there ways that you could manual manipulate the things that the sound travels down? That ties up a lot with me being an audio engineer and I’ve spent a lot of time working with computers and increasingly more and more I want to use microphones on stuff. I like the precision and the power that you have with electronic stuff but I like the subtlety and the nuances that you get with acoustic things.

About the Author

Manny Santiago is a travel writer / photographer researching a project on Cheese.

  • Daniel Griffin is a photographer who spends much of his time in Tibet.
Beardyman - The Interview - HESO Magazine

BeardyMan – The Interview

Beardyman in Bern by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Beardyman - The Interview - HESO Magazine

Beardyman Beatboxing live

The two-time UK Beatbox Champion takes time out of his packed schedule to tell Heso Magazine about the inspirational genius of Bach and recording his solo album naked while surrounded by monks…

BeardyMan – The Interview

HESO Magazine: Your hometown is Brighton. For the benefit of readers outside England, enlighten us about the little town by the sea that gave us Beardyman…

Beardyman: Brighton is a beautiful little place. Some people call it London-on-sea, but they’re just jealous and overly nostalgic. It’s an awesome place to try and make it in music. True, it’s almost as expensive as London to live there, but the character of the place is still as hippy-like and alternative as ever. It’s got so much character. And it’s just the right size that you’ve got loads of students and young people who love music and like being entertained, but still small enough to make a name for yourself with a couple of years worth of good gigs. For people putting on their own nights there are places to start out—less than there were, but still places. It’s much less harsh than London in terms of attitude. If living in London makes you crazy, Brighton is the antidote. It’s chill. I love it.

HM: How did you get into beatboxing?

BM: I’ve always done it, since I can remember, but I didn’t know there was a name for it, let alone that you could make a living from it. Soon as I saw Rahzel though, I knew I had to give it a shot. That was in 2003 I think…I saw him rock a crowd for a whole hour, and just thought, wicked, I wanna do that! So I teamed up with Klumzy-tung, a ridiculous freestyle MC, and we just started seeing how silly we could be. We developed our own style of “silliness” mixed with hip-hop and drum n bass, and that showed me how silly you could be and get away with it. Since then I haven’t been afraid to be stupid on stage.

HM: When did you decide to commit to being a full-time beatboxer?

BM: It was a decision I took about two years ago. I hit a crossroads, where I could either try and be a musical artist or not sacrifice my degree and possibly my career in product design. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I thought I’d starve, but actually I’m doing OK. For now…haha!

HM: Who are your biggest influences?

BM: So many people inspire me: Jimi Hendrix, for his improvisational and technical genius; Bach for being able to play a six part fugue with two hands and one brain and improvise the whole thing, which is a bit like playing six games of chess blindfolded. Bobby McFerrin for his incredible vocal accuracy and ability to control an audience to such an extent that he can play them like a keyboard with his feet. There’s this clip of him at the Montreaux Jazz Festival doing it. It’s required viewing for any live musician. Rahzel and all beatboxers worldwide – I’m fascinated by stagecraft, and every beatboxer has their own style of theatre that they bring to a performance. James Brown, Tool, Tim Exile. Tim Exile’s amazing! He regularly clears rooms because his sets are so scary. I love him.

HM: Your live performances are packed full of musical and mimical creativity. Where does your inspiration come from?

BM: Anything really. Whatever makes me laugh, or whatever I’m having a joke about with my mates. You’ve got to check out the Lyrebird of Southern Australia. It’s the best mimic in all creation. It could take any beatboxer down, I’m not even joking. Check it out on YouTube – it’ll fuck your head up. It makes parrots look like amateurs. There’s a quote for you…”Parrots are fucking amateurs!”

Beardyman - The Interview - HESO Magazine

Beardyman getting the crowd going

HM: When you’re up on stage how much is improvisation? How do you prepare before a show?

BM: It’s a mixture depending on the show. I practice routines but I always end up changing them on the day because every crowd is different and you gotta roll with whatever vibe is flowing. It’s pretty cool being able to just adapt a set to do whatever you feel like doing. That’s the advantage of making all the music at the same time with your mouth.

HM: You have a lot of collaborations in the pipeline at the moment. What should we be looking out for this year?

BM: I’m going to be cutting down on gigs in a big way this next 6 months. I need to get this album recorded. I’m doing a freestyle album with musicians and MCs, a podcast with recorded gig material, a studio album and various other collaborations: one with A-skills, another with the Quemists, and many others this year, some of which are too exciting to talk about… but if they happen, then awesomeness will rain down from on high and bless all da people dem!

Also though, and most excitingly, the club-night run by myself and JFB, the UK DMC champion, is going from strength to strength. We have a club night in Brighton and in London, both in excellent venues and at both of them we have complete artistic license. JFB scratches with sounds he’s recorded and we make the entire set out of that. It’s really quite unique—come see it before it gets too big and we’re packing out stadiums!

HM: What can we expect from a Beardyman solo album?

BM: I’m going to record the whole album naked, surrounded by monks of all different faiths. Then I will throw it away and make a new album entirely out of samples of fish being gutted. I’ll release that on a major label under the pseudonym “Robbie Williams” and go on tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra…But really…I’m going to be releasing a couple of different strands of musical recordings: the live improvised stuff, which will be more fun and dance driven, and then there’ll be some slightly deeper, more polished stuff which will be broader in scope and audience. I play instruments too so I’ll be using them. No need to hem in your creativity just to fit into the beatbox mould.

HM: Can we expect to see you out in Japan anytime soon?

BM: Definitely. If someone wants to book me, I’d love to see Japan. I hear the sushi is very good…

Beardyman’s debut EP Mr. Maybe is available from iTunes

Check out Beardyman online:
www.beardyman.co.ukwww.myspace.com/beardyman

Scroobius Pip Live in London (George Bull)

Scroobius Pip – The Interview

THOU SHALT THINK FOR YOURSELVES

“They say a picture’s worth a thousand words/ so with this thousand words/ I‘ll paint a picture in your mind that breaks the rule of thirds…” sound the first lines of Scroobius Pip’s album opener “1000 Words”. “Anyone can write a poem if you’ve got something to say,” he says when we meet before one of his recent London shows. Be that as it may, not everyone can stand and deliver like Scroobius Pip. Each time I revisit his self-released debut album No Commercial Breaks, I find a new reason to call everyone I know and tell them to get hold of it. A genuine wordsmith, ladies & gentlemen: this here Scroobius Pip might just be the most refreshingly original artist in the UK at the moment.

Actually, let’s take a long step back…

I meet him at The Pool, a dark lit bar in London’s East end Shoreditch. He’s due to play a gig tonight at the Strongrooms – an intimate affair given the small space, and it’ll just be him and the 6”2 Pianist this eve (Pip beat boxing into a loop peddle with 6”2 adding a rift, then coming in with the vocal) pushing his solo work, no Dan Le Sac with whom the first single “Thou Shalt Always Kill” is due out this month on LEX Records. He arrives just after 8pm clad in his trademark suit, skinny tie, and beard – that looks like it’s there for religious reasons he tells me – “I originally wanted a tight eighties moustache, but Hitler’s really got a captive market with that one.” He asks for a tap water (“very rock n roll, I know,” he says with a smile, sitting down).

Pip’s work is hip-hop, it’s jazz, it’s a cappella, but he is first and last a poet. The name in fact comes from the Edward Lear poem “The Scroobius Pip” – a man himself famous for his often nonsensical poetry. Scroobius himself is excellent company – effortlessly polite yet he’s bursting with enthusiasm and despite his sincere modesty, I’m also struck by a quiet confidence in him. He tells me he doesn’t really get nervous before gigs because his stuff is written as spoken word, to be SPOKEN and so if it’s sitting on the page, it’s not doing what it should be. Like the song “Angles” about a young guy who commits suicide after a run in with a security guard and whose brother then sets out to avenge him – “I wanted to write something that wasn’t just linear narrative, but made the listener respond like a viewer does to scenes in a film, characters expressing different points of view.” Originally recorded with a live jazz band on his solo album, this tune has now been blended with beats from friend Dan Le Sac and it may well prove to be this version that brings his sharp social commentary to a wide audience over the coming year.

He’s eager to talk about his influences and passionate about up and coming British artists he’s into at the moment like Kate Nash and Adele London. Spoken word artist Gil Scott Heron “was a big influence” – Saul Williams and Sage Francis are heroes. The history of this here Scroobius Pip shows a man with fresh ideas, who only a year ago made the decision to get his music out there – “this is still my rookie year.” Having made management at HMV then came decision time: “am I going to just keeping talking about my music or go out there and do it?” So he set off in his 1987 Space Cruiser and toured the country for a month doing street performances. He would check the listings and find out who was playing – people like Mr Scruff, the kind of gigs that would attract people who might appreciate the well-crafted spoken word offerings of Pip. He would just pitch up, set up a mic and give the punters a free gig before they got inside the venue to watch artists that Scroobius himself admired. “I was never a fan of the local band scenario. I didn’t play a gig in my hometown for ages, I wanted to get a genuine reaction on my stuff from people I didn’t know, strangers. First performance ever was outside a Buck 65 gig in Camden – I was outside doing my stuff and giving out flyers. Whatever happens Ill always keep doing spoken word,” he reassures me – “that’s where my roots are.”

Scroobius Pip (George Bull)

Scroobius Pip

Collaboration with Dan Le Sac came about more recently: the pair had known each other for years, though weren’t close mates at the time. Originally both photographers, they shared a big appreciation for underground label LEX Records, so when Dan remixed one of Scroobius’s tracks something clicked. XFM’s John Kennedy and Radio 1’s Rob da Bank picked up the demo for “Thou Shalt Always Kill” and championed it on their shows. The combined radio exposure and build up of public support led to more gigs and eventually the current release. Right now they’re both incredibly excited about forthcoming projects together, as well as the very real possibility of getting signed for an album deal.

“LEX Records was a huge honour. Dan and I both said even if our careers ended tomorrow we would be happy just to be able to hold up the LEX vinyl with our names on it.” In fact Scroobius had originally sent them his individual album – they liked it but didn’t think it was right for LEX. For now he’s putting a hold on his solo material, though it isn’t a case of this being separate to his work with Dan, there are certainly crossovers and he just focuses on whatever side of things are exciting him most at the time – and right now it’s the stuff with Le Sac: “We have an album worth. And we’re working fast – the buzz we’re getting from it all at the moment we could probably put it together in a couple of weeks given the chance!” For “Thou Shalt Always Kill” –Dan sent him the beats and he adapted a poem he had half written, recorded the vocal and sent it back within the hour. “It’s a list poem so it’s easy for people to get straight into it.” A list of commandments as an antidote for the wounds of a generation fed on tabloid news and the guns, bitches and bling scenario. They’d love to release another favourite live track – “Letter from God” using Radiohead’s “Planet Telex”, but that really depends on Radiohead. The pair want to be respectful and have stopped it from playing on the radio until they can approach the band for permission.

Our interview wraps up after 40 minutes or so and he asks if I’m going to come down to his show at the Shoreditch Strongrooms. I accept and head down. The little bar, it reminds me of poetry reading – and there’s Scroobius in the corner talking to the 6”2 pianist, bowling past, excited that all the artists and friends he’s mentioned during the evening are here to see him play “See, people will go anywhere for a free gig” he says, smiling.

To check out Dan le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip, this summer’s British Festival Goers would be wise to hit Bestival 2007 on the Isle of White.

  • Thou Shalt Always Kill by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip is available to download from ITunes now and on 7” from LEX Records.
  • To listen to Angles and Letter From God check out www.myspace.com/danlesacvsscroobiuspip
  • Scroobius Pip’s solo album No Commercial Breaks is available via www.scroobiuspip.co.uk
Interview With Don Hertzfeldt

Interview With Don Hertzfeldt

As the following will show, and after repeated attempts at contacting Mr. Hertzfeldt himself, I had to “make up” the following interview, though, that notwithstanding, that doesn’t mean Don didn’t say these things. Hey, me no plagiarizer. Thanks to Rob, for pointing me in the right way. I’ve included the intro questions, which, though now scrapped, still make me chuckle. The “actual” interview, such that it is, follows that.

Don, Let’s pretend like we’re sitting across from one another at a nice dark dive bar in the Valley, sipping, chatting, chuckling like men with beards and pipes and corduroy coats with patches. Let’s pretend that these words won’t be seen by millions of fans hungry for gossip and innuendo about The World’s Most Famous Unknown Interviewer and his next Everest to topple: you, Don Hertzfeldt, ok?

Interview With Don Hertzfeldt

Me: So, I hate interview-related questions, but I have to ask, How is the Animation Show’s 2nd season looking so far? And can you give a bit of background about how T.A.S. came about?

Don:

Me: Alright, alright, don’t throw your apple martini at me yet, we have a ways to go. Garçon, 2 double Doer’s, Heineken backs. OK, how about this: being as busy as you are touring with the Animation Show around most of North America, how do you find time to animate & shoot your stuff? You do it all by hand, right? I mean, there’s no all-most-naked-teen-girls Bitter Films staff in Indonesia cranking out Rejected Again as we speak, right?

Don:

Me: I see, so massages are like animation after all. Hmmm…I have met quite a Bitter Films fanbase here in Japan, people who ask questions like, “If Don could have anyone cook him anything, anywhere, what would it be, with whom and where?”

Don:

Me: 3’s a Crowd, Mister. What about, what animal represents you and why? Or better yet, what animal would you be if you could, mythical or otherwise?

Don:

Me: Favorite Comic? Favorite Comic gone Big Screen?

Don:

Me: Sexiest female cartoon character? Do you get aroused by saucer-eyed buxom manga ladies?

Don:

Me: Word on the street is that you are into plants. Does that include cacti or are succulents too “dry” for Santa Barbara’s “wet” climate? Also, best plant story.

Don:

Me: Ever wrote a song, entered a slam poetry contest, played beach volleyball, urinated in public, held an odd animal in an odd way?

Don:

Me: Any cd,movie, book, comic, cuisine, country recommendations?

Don:

Me: Any words to live by, famous last words, hidden mantras, the secret of Tom Cruise’s success?

Don:

Me: For the record, who wins a fight between ninjas and samurai?

Don:

Me: Well, thanks Mister. I hope the tour goes well and I can’t wait for The Animation Show Vol. II to come out on DVD so we can see it over here in the biggest Animation market in the world. Good luck with your plants.

The Meaning of Life © Don Hertzfeldt

The Meaning of Life © Don Hertzfeldt

ACTUAL INTERVIEW

Academy Award © nominated director Don Hertzfeldt’s animated short films have collected over one hundred awards and an international cult following. His films have been featured at the Cannes Film Festival, Sundance, MTV, IFC, Bravo, Comedy Central, and in over a thousand theatrical venues around the world.
-From bitterfilms.com

Don’s my friend. No really. We’re such good friends, he doesn’t even feel the need to take my calls or emails. He’s just busy. Right? So, in the name of friendship, I, Manny Santiago, undertake the task of speaking on behalf of the busiest animator this side of the pacific. (Sorry Mr. Miyazaki, Howl was great but, you’re old news).

Heso: Don, You’re currently busy as all heck with getting Vol. II of The Animation Show out on DVD by late summer, I know. So what, if anything, are you working on, after 4 years of intense work on The Meaning of Life?

Don: I did a bad comic strip a few years ago called Temporary Anesthetics, one good thing came out of it though and that was a character named Bill…and the new film is Bill’s film. He has quickly become my favorite character to write for, meanwhile…we will very very soon begin work on Bitter Films: Vol. 1: the dvd.

H: Rock on. I remember various conversations we’ve had and somehow they’ve always managed to meander back to music, specifically, REM. Does music of any kind figure in the mental process of starting a new project?

D: Central concept comes first… and lately music sometimes has been coming first. Then scribbles and storyboards and the outlines of a structure but, when you work largely solo there is very little info that you have to share with others, as in having to write a traditional script… ..so most of it is in my head or scattered around the floor on post-it-notes

H: Like the women in my life. So, you’ve been quoted as saying, “This may be the best short I ever make.” Where did the idea come from? Also, you using any computers these days to animate any of the especially painstaking scenes in MOL?

D: I’m not sure where the film came from..but, a central scene was something I’ve wanted to animate for maybe 10 years and never had a place for it (also I didn’t think it would be possible to do without computers), though eventually discovered I could do it without computers, albeit it would take 4 years…and quite a few brain cells. It was a very rough time…but I don’t think any of the new film’s space shots would look nearly as good as if they were done in a computer, granted it took me 10x as long to create them on film traditionally (with pinhole lights and diffusion and stuff), but there’s something about real light hitting a real camera lens that I’ve never seen a computer able to simulate. I think we’ll have a disclaimer at the end of the film, “no computers were used in the photography or animation of this motion picture.”

H: OK, what about Mike? Is he still involved creatively? Financially? Or is Rob (the extremely able-bodied plethora of voices in many of Don’s films) funding everything with armies of Chinese Triads & Yakuza extortionists?

D: Of course Mike is still involved! It’s his money we are spending… and he programmed everything with me again: the entire show – and I’m not exaggerating – is all thanks to Mike’s enduring faith and support. He stopped in to say hello in LA and Seattle and Vancouver… but lately he has been very busy with his new feature film, coming out in August.

H: So before we go, what distracts you the most working in “the industry”?

D: I am frequently distracted by invisible bats and miniature toads.

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