Thursday, 13 November 2008

Andre Williams - Senile, Mobile, Hostile

Tragic, yet hilarious doc on Andre Williams explains his rise to fame, and his fall from grace.

An elderly man stands on a cold Chicago bridge. His worn face betrays years of drug and alcohol abuse and his jaw quivers as he charms passing strangers into filling his hat with change. Those familiar with the legendary reputation of Andre Williams may be shocked by the opening scene of Tricia Todd and Eric Matthies’ documentary, ‘Agile, Mobile, Hostile: A year in the life of Andre Williams.’ But Williams is just acting out a scene from a difficult time in his life. In the 50s and 60s he was a star. By the 1980s he was a panhandler and a crack-head.

Andre started singing in the fifties, recording over 50 songs for Fortune records, including ‘Bacon Fat’, ‘Jailbait’ and ‘The Greasy Chicken’. He went on to become a producer, working with the likes of Ike Turner and Stevie Wonder. Andre’s songs have been covered by everyone from Ray Charles to The Cramps. He even worked as an A&R man several times for Barry Gordon at Motown. In 1996 he cleaned up and released a come back album. Now at the age of 72, with sex, drugs and rum all making a come back in his life, Andre’s health is starting to deteriorate.

Todd and Matthies always work as a team, it’s a formula that helped them in the creation of ‘Ayamye’, their documentary about making bicycles in Africa, and it helped with ‘Agile, Mobile, Hostile’. Tricia also has experience working as production manager on several DVD-extras menu documentaries for films including 300, a Scanner Darkly and The Matrix Revisited. She and Eric have been fans of Andre for over 10 years. “Both of us have a life-long involvement with the underground; be it punk or garage, blues or jazz.” She explains, “Andre personifies all of it.”

Seeing Andre being so self destructive is alarming, during one live performance in the film, Andre is so weak, he can barely perform. On another shocking occasion he is arrested for possession and another he is hospitalised and told by his doctor he will die if he doesn’t make some life style changes. “It was difficult to balance perspectives between being his friend and wanting to remain objective as filmmakers.” Tricia confesses. “Don’t tell Andre but we always watered down his bottle of Bacardi.”

The film starts as a biography, explaining Andre’s history and achievements with the aid of interviews and archive footage, but ends up focusing on how today’s Andre finds it difficult to tour and perform in his old age and is a difficult man for his band mates to get along with. There is a depressing contrast between the success of his early musical career and his being brought out to perform like an old bear at the circus in his twilight years.

Tricia and Eric do not regret documenting the vulnerable side of the music legend, “My only regret is Andre not getting the success he deserves during that year!” Tricia says. The documentary is as much a critique of the way the music industry exploited gifted black musicians in the early days, as it is a window into the life of Andre Williams. “The system in which young song writers and performers worked, especially African American artists, in the 50s was very advantageous to the businessmen who ran the show and very disingenuous to the naïve young men and women with the talent. Andre is certainly a victim of this, like so many others.”

The tragic element, although moving, does not dominate the documentary. Andre has a terrific sense of humour and is relentlessly optimistic. Despite having so little to show for his remarkable career, he rarely lets his bitterness show. Andre's magnetic character and determination, ultimately, make the film very uplifting.

Joe Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

Review: A Life in the Death of Joe Meek.

Joe Meek is a name synonymous with uncompromising creative innovation in the history of independent music production. One of the first to use electronic sound effects and drum loops, Meek’s songs create an atmosphere sometimes bizarre and ridiculous, but always original. His works of musical pioneering genius include ‘Telstar’ by The Tornadoes and John Leyton’s haunting ‘Johnny remember me.’

The new documentary ‘A life in the death of Joe Meek’ explains the complicated and fascinating history and personality of this unique individual, without demonising him as others have. A homosexual, at a time when it was illegal in Britain, and also a practicing member of the occult, who believed he had a trans-dimensional psychic link with the deceased Buddy Holly, Meek is frequently written off as a maniac. This documentary not only demonstrates the significance and vast diversity of his work but also reveals the man behind the mincing, satanic persona the tabloids created.

Director, Howard Berger explains how he got hooked on Meek over 10 years ago, “I first heard of Joe Meek in a capsule review for the first and only US compilation of tracks on Razor and Tie. It just said his work was unorthodox and that he was responsible for the murder of his landlady resulting in his immediate suicide at 37 years of age. That alone was enough to peak interest.” Howard and his editor Susan Stahman originally set out to make a fictional biography based on Meek’s life, but as they learnt more about his perplexing story the idea was dropped and a more straight forward approach was adopted. “Sue suggested reviving Joe Meek in documentary form.” Howard explains. “She informed me of a bunch of recent deaths of some key Joe Meek performers like Screaming Lord Sutch and Heinz, and she said, ‘It's pretty much now or never,’ if we were to hope for interviews from first-handers.”

The film features an impressive selection of interviews with these ‘first handers’, as well as some modern music legends who have been influenced by Meek. “It's difficult not to be a little star struck.” Howard admits, “I mean, we find ourselves talking to people like Steve Howe from Yes or Keith Strickland from the B-52s.” But when asked if he is proud of accumulating this high-profile content, he answers modestly, “I'll be proud when it finds the right distributor. I'll be proud when I see it permeate culture the way I think it has a right to.” You can follow the progress of the film at: where festival screenings and distribution deals will be listed.

Friday, 24 October 2008

The 16th Raindance Film Festival Review

The Rain Dance film Festival had it's 16th year this month, and as usual it was host to an international selection of challenging independent cinema. I interviewed festival organiser Elliot Grove, a couple of directors and have reviewed a few of this years offerings. Enjoy!

Hi Elliot, you must be very busy this year! What have you enjoyed most at this year’s festival?

Elliot: The big story this year is the attendees, the box office is up 40% which is astounding, and having done it for so many years it’s gratifying to see that people are finally getting out to find us, which proves that independent cinema is alive and well! Very much so!

So you think the future is bright for independent film And British cinema?

Elliot: Yeah, independent cinema is not for everyone, but it is definitely for people who want something a little different from the normal Hollywood fare, that you get at the multiplexes and the normal fare that you get at other film festivals. Our programming is much more underground and extreme than you’ll see elsewhere, certainly more extreme than you’ll see in the multiplexes.

Could you possibly pick a favourite?

Elliot: I don’t like picking favourites because all the films are favourites, but there is something that’s happened this year which is a bit different, there were three excellent films from Canada, one is ‘production office’, another is ‘Who is KK Downing’ a hilarious comedy and the actors are coming over, this is a comedy troupe from Montreal that feed into second city, the stand up club in Toronto which feeds all the big names to TV show Saturday night live, and is the route taken by all the big people like Jim Carey, Dan Akroyd, Martin Short, Mike Myers and so on so that film is great. And on Sunday Jeremy Podeswa, the great auteur, is attending with a film called ‘Fugitive Pieces’ which is a harrowing account of the holocaust, so those are all very different films, but I would heartily recommend any one of them to anyone, they have to be my personal favourites because I’m Canadian!

Congratulations on receiving the honorary doctorate, what kind of people do you think most benefit from your lectures?

Elliot: Anyone who wants to write a film, make a film or direct a film.

What will your next film be about?

Elliot: I’ve put all that aside for the past year while I’m working on the launch of our web distribution portal, so none right at the moment although I have some ideas, but I don’t really want to talk about them.

What things will be different at next year’s festival?

Elliot: I think what will be different is, we’ll have to address our infrastructure because we just can’t cope with all the people wanting to come, most things are sold out and people are damned lucky, if they don’t already have a ticket, to get a ticket which is unfortunate. So what we’re trying to do now is to address that issue and see if we can get larger screens and make the wonderful films we have from all over the world available to an even wider audience.

Did your Amish background affect your style of film making or your attitude to cinema in general?

Elliot: Yes and no, no in the sense that cinema and acting are my natural topics, but the yes is as a child I was exposed to all the story telling that you do in my community, that certainly affected the way I look at films, from a storytelling point of view, I love great stories, and the fact that there’s cinema means everything I grew up with has been enhanced. The storytelling I grew up with has made me particularly receptive to the visual storytelling of cinema, and wow! What a great way to tell stories.

You have a lot of contacts in the film industry but can you still get star struck?

Elliot: Yes, every time. Faye Dunaway came, on the one hand, I’m able to speak to her as I’m speaking to you now on the other hand I’m pinching myself thinking can this be real? I’m having dinner with Faye Dunaway, like wow! Its quite an experience that, in itself. And taking her through all the paparazzi and seeing all the pulling power she has, the pulling power that Adam Yauch of the beastie boys has, that Peter Greenaway, that Michael Winterbottom, that Bill Nighy, that Liz Smith the wonderful actress, that they have. They can do something that I can not, and I am forever in awe and respect of them. It’s a bit like going to the private show that Prince was doing at the O2, where he would play after the main show for 4 hours, he had done an energetic 2 hour set for 20,000 and then going with a few people and playing for 3 or 4 hours, My god, that’s something special. How does he do that? How does she do it? Amazing.

Heavy Load – Jerry Rothwell

A documentary film about a punk rock band from Lewes near Brighton called Heavy Load, the majority of it's members are disabled. The film begins with the director explaining his depression and shows how he uses the optimism and perceived happiness of the band as a vehicle to pull himself out of his misery, but as the film progresses and the band run into problems, he wonders whether by making the documentary he is taking away from their happiness. The band starts off playing only at disabled events, then progress to pubs and finish by playing at a festival alongside the Levellers and the fun lovin’ criminals. The disabled members of the band are very likeable and although the film is in no way patronising, it is slightly too sentimental for my tastes, and seems somewhat self serving, drawing no conclusions about the lives of the subject matter only that of the director. The drummer Michael’s expanding ego is one of the most entertaining aspects of the film, despite having barely mastered the drums after decades of playing, he becomes convinced he is too good for the band and threatens to start a new one. The director covers the subject skilfully and with sensitivity, he also uses the Sussex coastline to great atmospheric effect, ultimately this is no better than a feel good TV documentary about what strong little soldiers disabled people are.

The Blue Tower- Smita Bhide

The Blue Tower is this year’s winner of best UK feature at the Rain dance film festival. What I presumed to be a straight forward inter-racial romance story set in Southall, is in fact so much more as producer Jamie Nuttgens explained to me “the romance isn’t problematic like Romeo and Juliet.” In fact the sexual relationship the protagonist Mohan (Abhin Galeya) has with his wealthy aunt’s white care worker Judy is in fact the only thing that doesn’t directly create problems for him in this film, His wife is distant and unfaithful and her family particularly her brother do not respect him because he has no job and has not yet fathered a child, his mates are chancers trying their luck at get rich quick schemes and he is hoping desperately that another unreliable friend will come through for him with a job. His wealthy aunt doesn’t suspect her nephew and care worker of anything, even when they start stealing from her; she is too concerned with her vanity, which is exasperated by her creepy sycophantic neighbours and their plans to take her money. To escape from the mess of his life, he and Judy conceive a desperate plan. As his marriage and hopes of work look more and more bleak, Mohan becomes delusional and desperate, Director Smita Bhide skilfully uses the prominent red and blue towers that dominate the landscape of Southall as symbols of the security of Mohan's life and the menacing reality that lies behind the illusion.

The symbolism of the blue and red towers is very striking, where did you get the idea from?

Smita: When we were scouting the locations, looking for interesting landmarks, I just noticed them; they were sort of organically integrated into the plot. They are such amazing structures that we couldn’t really film there and not include them somehow. The shot where the blue tower emerges from behind the red tower is how it actually is, and that’s how that came about.

And was a lot of the plot developed organically in this way?

Smita: Well some of it was, I had an idea that we should make a short story featuring the three main characters, and I wanted to set it in Southall because that’s a place I know quite well. We wanted to make something that was set in that kind of Indian landscape, that’s also very suburban.

By the three main characters do you mean the lovers and the auntie?

Smita: Yes, I had a story that revolves around that, a bit like the Honeymooners, I love that 1950’s feeling.

So the secondary characters were developed later?

Smita: Yes, I wanted to expand Mohan’s life, to explain why he is the way he is, and why he is so protective of the old woman. Both of the other themes developed from this.

Is Mohan your favourite character in the film?

Smita: I really like Judy, she’s the one that I think is most interesting. In fact we had much more storyline involving her, but when we were editing, it was too long, and we ended up having to focus more on Mohan. Alice O’ Connell was brilliant as her, I think she was the character with the most layers.

Did Alice bring a lot of that to the character, or was this already created in your writing?

Smita: Well I wrote the part very much with Alice in mind, it’s such a shame more of the scenes with her in weren’t included, but you have to be discriminating when editing.

Who is KK Downey? – Darren Curtis

A Canadian comedy critique of the easily deceived, attention seeking hipster culture. The story concerns two failing creative artists, a musician whose band is laughable and a writer who can’t get his book ‘truck stop hustler’ about a drug addled trans-gendered prostitute, published on the grounds that he is too middle class to release such material. Together they create a fictional character named KK Downey who is presented as the author of the novel, but things go a bit pear shaped when their web of lies comes unstuck. The film is a hilarious spoof of the artistic and creative youth community that is done in an original and at times surreal way with all too familiar characters who despite their hopelessness are very endearing. There is a lot of very basic and vulgar humour, but the film never pretends to be anything it isn’t, taking the piss out of pretentious indie types rather than trying to entertain them.

Flick – David Howard

A rockabilly zombie comedy bonanza. The plot is feeble at times, and the character’s motivation unconvincing but the flawless style of the movie more than makes up for it, including the teddy boy clothing, zombie gore and classic comic book style framing with actual illustrated comic panels used in place of montages for the plot links. The cast is also very impressive including the Oscar winning Faye Dunaway as Lieutenant McKenzie , the one armed American cop partnered with detective sergeant Miller played by Mark Benton (The fat bloke from the Northern Rock ads) who had her flown in to catch a rockabilly serial killer in the dark decrepit environment of a modern Welsh city which lends itself well to the horror genre. There are some great one-liners and amusing Monty pythonesque blood squirting wounds that provide the comic relief from the rampaging zombie teddy boy murderer Johnny Taylor, whose insane mother played by Liz Smith (Royle Family) is the best part of the film.

Hollywood star Faye said she was happy to work on what she described as an innovative film, saying “I was very taken with this little piece, it was an honour to work with all of them.” Mark Benton added “I think Faye learned a lot from me.” Despite not yet acquiring a distribution deal, Director David Howard has high hopes for the film, saying “hopefully it’ll get a cult following!” I asked him where he got the inspiration to draw together the different elements that gave the film it’s style, he replied “We were aiming for a B-movie feel, also a comic book feel in terms of the framed sequences. I already had an idea to make a low-budget movie, then I heard ‘Teenager in love’ on the radio and I thought about killing a man in a record shop, as well as that song things like Roger Corman, American International pictures and all those B-movies that have enduring appeal and an innocence which I think is appealing, I also love David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock!”

Watch Out - Steve Balderson

Disturbing comedy about loveless self obsessed narcissist who is looking for work as a lecturer at a small town college, it features a hilarious scene where he tapes a picture of his own face on a blow up doll then fucks it. The subject is compelling and the parts with dialogue somewhat intriguing, but the film is mostly comprised of shocking yet tedious sequences showing the protagonist masturbating. The violent ending is somewhat predictable but quite satisfying; I think the whole film could do with being cut down by ditching a few of the numerous wanking scenes. The subject of a cold, almost inhuman narcissist who reads German philosophy and hates humanity is somehow compelling, but not enough to endure this very boring film.

Mao-ce-dun – Besnik Bisha

An endearing comedy about a roma gypsy named Hekuran who lives on a gypsy camp in Albania during the reign of the 1970’s communist government, he names his ninth child Mao-ce-dun, at first he is met with anger by the party as it is not a conventional Albanian name, but after he writes to the Chinese embassy, they show an interest and the party, eager to maintain a good relationship with China, award Hekuran with luxuries he has never before experienced. He learns to manipulate the party, but takes a greater interest in communism as the film develops, it is never clear whether he is manipulating the party for his own means, or he has just misunderstood the way communism works and merely wants to be a functioning member of communist society. By bringing his family into the world of politics, he puts himself and the security of his gypsy community in danger. Not just a critique of communism but also of hypocrisy and international political relations in general. The simple characters are easy to love, and their uncertain future weighs heavy on the mind of the audience, but the ending is unremarkable, unskilfully portrayed and would have benefited from a different pace of editing, or perhaps a different final scene.

Adrift in Tokyo
– Miki Satoshi

Adrift in Tokyo is a heart warming comic drama about luck, a common theme in Japanese cinema, but interesting nonetheless. The film’s protagonist Takemura is a law student with a debt to pay off, a debt collector named Fukuhara who visits his house and threatens him, offers him a way out, all he has to do is walk the streets with him. The untrusting relationship changes as the two learn more about each other, it has the feel of a road movie, with the friendship developing between the two men, with the underlying theme of luck shaping their futures, Fukuhara lost his child and Takemura was abandoned by his parents as a child, they end up posing as Father and son and gradually Takemura realises his luck is changing. This sentimental and somewhat obvious male-bonding plot is held aloft by hilarious secondary characters, unlikely comic scenarios and the beautiful cinematography that captures the full range of Tokyo’s landscape and atmosphere. Uplifting, thought provoking and at times very amusing.

The Daisy Chain
– Aisling Walsh

Female directors are too rare, particularly those willing to approach the horror genre. Walsh uses the beautiful Western Irish coast to create a bleak atmosphere of isolation and vulnerability. The plot is somewhat obvious, a young couple move away from the bright lights of London to raise a family, the wife is pregnant, and the husband has inherited his childhood home in Ireland, but the neighbour’s child Daisy is suspected of being a fairy changeling, born in a fairy ring on Halloween. The Neighbour’s son is killed under mysterious circumstances and the parents are soon to follow, the child is then adopted by the London couple, the motivation for this aspect of the plot is addressed but remains unconvincing. The superstitious locals become increasingly scared of young Daisy. The film lacks originality but has some redeeming qualities, the child actress Mhairi Anderson who plays Daisy is exceptional, providing a genuinely disturbing performance, the cinematography and score combine to give the film a unique character that is tense and engaging. The theme of fairies and the supernatural remains frustratingly unresolved, it is never made clear whether the girl suffers from autism, is very disturbed or is really a fairy changeling, a question left unanswered deliberately by the director, but in a clumsy way, that doesn’t encourage the audience to feel sympathy for the girl, who is properly identified neither as victim nor as aggressor. Despite the flaws The Daisy Chain, a combination of Straw Dogs and the Wicker Man, is a visually appealing and at times moving addition to the horror genre.

Fine, Totally Fine – Yosuke Fujita

This is a delicate Japanese comedy about how life can be disappointing, it features three main characters approaching 30, none of whom are satisfied with their lives. A nervous, shy girl with an unusual affection for fish sausages who aspires to be an artist but is too clumsy to hold down a job, a hospital manager who never confronts anybody and commands no respect because he is always trying to be nice out of fear that people won’t like him and the most compelling and amusing of all Teruo an obtuse, sadistic but dim-witted part time park keeper who likes scaring kids and dreams of one day building a super-ultra-haunted-house-deluxe, which will literally scare people to death. There is a brief sub-plot where the two men compete for the affections of the girl, but this is never resolved as she finds love with another man. None of their dreams are realised, and there are no scenes where emotional or hopes are addressed, or aspirations resolved. This is not a fantasy film, but a film about fantasy, and it’s stark contrast to reality. The film is charming, set predominantly in a second hand book shop belonging to Teruo’s father, despite the lack of a conventionally satisfying plot resolution; there is a poignant message about the pleasure that can be taken simply by enjoying each other’s company and being thankful for it.

The Tour – Goran Markovic

Based on Markovic’s award winning play of the same name, his anti-war comedy is a film about a group of failing actors living in Belgrade in 1993, depressed and drunk. They embark on a reluctant tour to the frontlines to perform for the Serbian soldiers, but they are constantly manipulated by different forces of the Bosnian war, over the course of the film they perform and socialise with doctors, writers, generals, Serbian soldiers, Croats and Muslims and they come to realise that the different sides are hardly different, the actors feel removed from the whole business of war, but learn that most of the people directly affected feel just as far removed from the horrific events. Markovic’s script is a fine example of his literary and comic talent, he also unflinchingly recreates the gritty, snow, blood and mud streaked landscape of former Yugoslavia. The comic addition of a somewhat ridiculous sounding folk score adds to the impression of the ridiculous nature of the war despite the tragic and horrific reality. I found the film a bit long, but the script never failed to entertain, as a script writer, and a storyteller Markovic is a highly experienced and accomplished artist, but he would benefit from fine-tuning his film making skills with attention to pace and structure.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Outlanders - drama about illegal Polish labour in London

could you choose between love and blood?

Outlanders is a very well written film, with the plot falling like a blade aimed directly at the heart of the issue of cheap illegal labour in Britain, without drawing obvious conclusions or shying away from the complicated reality of the phenomenon. The plot focuses around a Pole named Alex who goes to find his brother Jan who moved to London illegally years before, and has become involved in the exploitation of illegal immigrants. The direction features some wonderful obscure shots that help to depict an unseen part of London but the film suffers from a poor script, dodgy sound quality and lack of decent lighting at times. All the elements for an engaging drama are in place, a great plot, good lead actor and a director with an eye that appreciates the appealing nature of the obscure, and can construct atmosphere with impressive skill. But the failings of the film can detract from the plot, when script is barely audible and some scenes so dark that you can barely see the actor's expressions. I spoke to director Dominic Lees and lead actor Jakub Tolak who plays Adam Jasinski.

Dominic: It’s easy to market the film for the polish community in Britain, which is huge, and it’s an opportunity for the UK audience to discover new stars.

Were you very conscious of the different national markets when making the film?

Dominic: No, I didn’t think about it in market terms, it’s a film about brotherhood, but it’s set against the background of East European migration to London and Britain, so the universal story is about the relationship between the younger brother Adam, who is the hero and his older brother Jan who has been here a long time, he came when Poles were having to work illegally, so he’s worked on the black economy and has become a corrupt character. Essentially it’s just a film about brotherhood, but because I lived and studies in Poland and speak Polish, it was natural that the story was going to be about two Polish brothers coming here.

How do you anticipate the film being received in the two countries? I know you said you don’t think about it in market terms…

Dominic: Now it’s going to be really interesting because it’s one of the first films that’s going to be marketed at two sides of the British audience, the cine savvy UK audience who love independent film, they’ll have a natural interest in it, and festivals and so on it’s been getting a good reaction from those kind of audiences and separately there is a marketing effort to get Poles in the UK, I mean there’s what a million people, to be interested in a British film that can reflect their experience. That’s a kind of voyage of discovery, because no one has really done that yet. It may be a whole big new section of the British community that will come into film watching through that, you never know.

Jakub, how did you go about preparing for your role?

Jakub:It was kind of a process, at first I came to London just shooting for one week or more and I really wanted to feel abandoned so I went to the city a couple of times, walking around in the areas I didn’t know, and I wanted to feel totally lonely and I just wanted to feel the city, because I’ve been to London before, but I’ve never travelled just like that, I was always purposefully seeing something. The character comes here knowing nothing about the city so I kind of took the tube and just went somewhere, anywhere, got lost and watched different kinds of people, this was a very good part of it. The second part was a lot of talking, we had rehearsals, and we built up a back story which was pretty huge for this story.I knew what happened, I almost became the guy. I also tried to draw from my own experiences and put them into the character.

How does the atmosphere of London differ from that of Warsaw?

Jakub: In my opinion London is more alive, it has more different cultures, a mixture, it’s a bigger city. You enter London, and you enter London, there’s houses and houses, it’s huge, I can’t have a view of the whole city, it’s impossible for me. Despite the diversity it’s very much a whole, different races and languages, but the city is a whole, with the architecture, you can feel the spirit of the city. I think it’s on purpose, because I know English people really like the symbols of the city, red post boxes etc

How do you feel about the mistreatment of illegal Polish workers?

Jakub:I do have some friends who came here, to work or usually to study. But I didn’t have any experience with illegal workers which would have helped, but I knew that was a problem, and it’s a problem that is everywhere at the moment. In Poland we have people from the East or even the Far East coming to work illegally, I think that’s the normal way of history, usually when the country has better living conditions, people go there, the whole of America was made of illegal immigrants.

And have you any feelings with respect to the vulnerability of those immigrants?

Dominic: One thing the film does with these two brothers is compares their different experiences, because the older brother has already been here for 10 years, working on the black economy, he was really vulnerable and exploited. His back story is really sad and quite tragic and that compares with his younger brother who has turned up here after Poland has joined the EU and all he has to do is flash his passport and they let him in, he can work legally and he can do what he likes. Two completely different experiences of what it is like to come to this country. The older brother is corrupt in his own way and he now exploits workers from outside the EU, who he can get to work for cheap, illegally on construction site, repeating the same exploitation that he himself suffered.

Could you elaborate on the theme of the unseen “dark heart” of London?

Dominic: It builds on what Jakub was saying about the nature of London, it’s a beautiful city, its fabulously multi-cultural, it’s so varied but still has a unified soul to it. We have to be aware that a lot is built on the suffering of very vulnerable people, this film is about the way migrants from outside the EU are very vulnerable, and are ruthlessly exploited, and have no protection whatsoever. Every civilisation does this, from the Egyptians who built the pyramids with slaves and onwards, every civilisation has built itself on other people. That to me is the two sides of a great metropolis.

Jakub: I think netiher of us wanted to criticise the system or preach, just ask some questions about some general situations, some things that are going on, but we don’t want to answer we just want to ask. If people want to think about it they can, otherwise they can just see the movie.

Do you think the film will help to break you into Britain?

Jakub: I wouldn’t expect that, it would be naïve, my motivation to take part was neither money nor fame because it’s an independent movie, I wouldn’t expect that, we all knew that so that would be nice, but I just wanted to do such projects. I’d like to do more in England, as it’s very interesting for me as a pole, everything is new.

What attracted you to the role?

Jakub: I was attracted because it was an adventure, and the story is quite dense, a lot of things going on, interesting scenes, interesting emotions. I would say I treated this as an experimental thing because I was alone here; I purposefully cut contact with my family. Trying to find something more of myself.

Dominic: Jakub is being modest, one thing I’ve really enjoyed about the limited audiences that have seen it so far, people who don’t know the leading actors in this film, they say God! Who is that guy, the leading actor in this film!

Jakub: you didn’t tell me that!

Dominic: Haha! It’s really exciting because they have no preconceptions, this is an actor they haven’t seen, he’s come straight at them from under the radar, Jakub is very well known for his film work and television work in Poland. I was very excited to have him board.

Was the casting a difficult process?

Well I was certain I wanted Polish actors for the main two roles, twenty years ago Jeremy Irons played a Polish construction worker in the film ‘Moonlighting’ that today is absurd. You can’t have a British actor do that. Poland has a wealth of talent, but I needed to find two talented actors who could work English, which narrowed down my choices, in fact when it came down to it, there was only one actor I wanted to play Adam and that was Jakub and one to play his older brother and I was really lucky to get both of them.

You see Adam as being a hero? His role seems to be that of an individual with a difficult decision rather than a hero.

Dominic: when researching for the film, I asked my friends ‘if you knew you’re brother had murdered someone, would you shop them to the police or if they needed your protection would you protect them? And almost every single person said they would protect them. But they’re also thinking ‘I don’t like the fact that I’ll protect him even though I know I must’ that kind of tension is what the whole film is founded on. For me it’s a film of universal themes of brotherhood and morality, but set against very current phenomenon, but it’s not about that phenomenon, it’s opening questions about what it is to love and hate your brother at the same time.

Jakub: Many people ask if it’s a movie about Polish people in London, it’s not, it’s about immigration anywhere, I would like to see it this way. I wouldn’t treat the film as a story about Polish guys, but about brotherhood and immigration in general. The brothers do not represent their country.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Drawn Leaders

What could be more American than comic books? Comic books about presidential candidates John McCain (Author: Andy Helfer, Artist: Steve Thompson) and Barack Obama (Author: Jeff Mariotte, Artist: Tom Morgan) immortalised in the form of graphic biographies by IDW publishing, in a revolutionary initiative in the world of both politics and comic books. The beautifully rendered and painstakingly researched comics will be available in paper format and to download onto your mobile at Go Comics from October 8th. The president of IDW says the comics will get more people involved with politics as they speak to such a wide demographic whilst they can also “help get beyond the headlines on these two candidates.”

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Airwaves Festival

I attended the London Airwaves festival in Shoreditch and rangled some interviews with french electro pop-punks The Teenagers and Folktronica pioneer James Yuill

The Teenagers

You guys have played a lot of festivals this summer. What’s been your favourite one so far?

I really like Glastonbury, Summer sonic in Japan we all liked, the crowd was amazing, there was loads of people, it was well organised plus it was in Japan which is really exotic, everyone was nice…even the sound engineer! Usually they are a bit rough but in Japan they are very respectful.

Do you like playing festival shows as much as you like playing smaller shows?

Yeah we like to play for bigger crowds. This kind of mixed thing is cool the airwaves festival. We did some others in the summer in Germany and also Brighton fringe festival, that was cool.

I heard you’ve said you don’t want to be associated with emerging French rock bands, what’s your reasoning behind that?

We just don’t have the same sound or do the same music
A lot of them try to sound English, I think the English are better at that sound. So it’s a bit pathetic.
There is no point trying to do something the English can do better.

Why did you move out to England then?

What happened is I moved to London after my studies. We made music when it was the three of us in Paris I would come back and we would gather there. I moved out for an independent reason but we all had to move out because our label was English and it was easier to have all of us here. We don’t feel part of the feel part of the elctro scene in Paris or any scene in Paris.

What’s the difference between that and the scene here?

It’s more dynamic and it’s growing very quickly here.

Did you find it difficult growing up in Paris?

You accept it, you’re either happy or you leave. Everything is really different. It’s a beautiful country and there’s some good things as well but its for music and art and stuff its very slow.

I heard you started doing rage against the machine covers and your all keen on Hardcore punk and heavy metal, why doesn’t that come through in your sound any more?

Well we don’t think it would work, with a mosh part in a pop song, abit out of step, I don’t think people will get it, but maybe we should try with the vocals

What like gang chants?

Yeah a sing-along

Your also Britney spears fans right?

Yeah we all like a lot of different music, so many genres, it’s impossible to put everything in. I like Metallica for example but I don’t want to sound like them.

How did you develop your sound?

There was never a time we said “lets do this type of music” it just happened, we just wanted to mix some indie rock and electronic music, to have both guitars and synth and to sound decent, that was the start of it and after we did what we could with what we had.

What made you want to become musicians?

The fame and the sex and the drugs I guess. The boredom of the suburbs. Listening to Guns and Roses, when I was 15 growing up, Kurt Kobain was my idol, I wanted to be A Rock musician like him.

Presumably without the suicide, is it quite rough in the Parisian suburbs?

We are from the South West which is ok, it’s a quiet environment.

How did your environment influence the aesthetic of your music?

People are more creative when they grow up in the suburbs, cos like it’s not that boring but we didn’t hang out in bars or pubs, we were just at home most of the time so you have to do something creative.

Were a lot of your friends creative as well?

In secondary school a lot of people would get high and say “im gonna do like paintings lalala….” There were big art sections with art freaks and we wanted to be them with dreadlocks and clubs…I don’t know

but it didn’t quite happen?

No. we failed.

Do you see your music as an artform?

I think it’s just entertaining. Its true we do the music and the visual so it’s kind of like a whole pack.

How did your tours go in the states?

Cool, really cool. The second show we did teamed up with Team Robespierre, I don’t know if you know them but they are very cool, they have a very good live show and I think we learned from them, which is cool to be able to learn from the people you tour with. When you do like 10 days together, at the beginning you are forced but afterwards you are happy to hang out with people that are not in your band.

What have you got planned for the future?

We will keep on touring until next year, then we will write some new songs, we’re just starting.

You write new stuff while on tour?

No! we are not like that, we like to be comfy. It doesn’t work I don’t know why, we just don’t want to do it, in between concerts I just want to sleep and eat I find it hard to be creative. Maybe this will change.

So after you finish the tour you’re going to work on a new record?

We’ve already started, but we have plenty of gigs lined up, we’re really gonna start on new years eve. We should start soon. But in between now and then we play Germany, then Mexico, Singa Pore, New York, Japan, so it’s cool. We’re not big anywhere btu we have lots of mini-fame here and there.

You’re quite big here now, more so than in Paris

I dunno, but we’re not like Jack Peñate, do you know what I mean? We’re a little bit everywhere, but I find it a lot more exciting than to have a big following somewhere then to find another place and it be like your first show. We’re a bit shitty but everywhere.

A lot of your songs are about girls, so I’d like to ask, based on your travels, where your favourite girls are?

Sweden and Scandinavia, all Scandinavia, Finland, Denmark. And England!

You’re just saying that because your in England!

No no! people say in France that English girls are ugly but we don’t agree at all, we think English girls are really hot!

James Yuill

Did you enjoy you enjoy your set this evening?

I did enjoy my set, it was very loud, and very enjoyable.

Folktronica is an interesting genre, how did you go about developing your sound?

I started out just doing singer/song writer nights, got very bored with that so I incorporated my laptop to try and replicate what I did on my last album, live. Then I got heavily into dance music, since then I’ve just been making it heavier and heavier.

When you say heavier..?

More electro

So what made you want to become a musician? Were you always into musical things?

Yeah I have. What first got me interested in music was listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind when I was in my early teens, it was the first CD I had and it really got me into the guitar so I started learning loads of Metallica and Nirvana songs, and I’ve got in to other things as I’ve become older and wiser.

What genres have been your most recent discoveries?

I got heavily into Indie for a few years, then when I went to University I got into world music and was inspired by Jeff Buckley, and obviously Nick Drake’s detuning the guitar was a massive influence. I started producing music when I left university I bought a studio just some bits and bobs, back in 2003, then got into dub, the chemical brothers, aphex twin, all the juicy stuff. I think the only genre that’s really progressing is electronic music, because everything else has been done pretty much. Recently Jackson and his computer band made everything completely different that influenced me a lot and Justice turned things on their head although it’s becoming pop now which is weird.

How do you see you self fitting into the scene in relation to your contemporaries?

I’d like to think that I make it a bit more interesting with the lyrics, meaningful lyrics and shit, although I don’t know what I sing about half the time. I thought it’s never been done before, I originally tried to sound like Amon Tobin meets Nick Drake but I kind of got heavily into electro stuff, it just seems to work together really.

Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?

I kind of just sit down, I’ve got a guitar riff or something and whatever comes into my head, I’ll try and steer it in a certain direction, it’ll just be random shit. Then “oh that kind of sounds a bit like that” and then I’ll twist it. I don’t really know what I sing about, I kind of sing about being lonely most of the time, weird stuff like that….that no one sings about, moaning.

I really like your roots manuva remix…

Oh cool! You heard that?

Do you enjoy doing remixes as much as doing your own songs?

I absolutely love it, probably even more really because the hard bits been done, you know, the vocal melody. You have free reign to do whatever you want over someone’s track, you can really change it completely, I like trying to change the chords underneath it to see if it could be a better song. I really enjoy it.

You say it’s difficult to construct a vocal melody, how do you go about doing it?

I try and make it as catchy as possible but normally it’s about whatever chords your playing, it’s kind of dictated. But you have to make sure you’re not repeating yourself, I don’t want to sound like my last song. I basically want to have a really strong melody.

At the same time you want to create a sound that people recognise you by?

Yeah but I think that comes from the acoustic guitar and the vocals mainly, but yeah I’d like people to be able to hear a track and say “yeah, that’s James.”

I heard the score you did for the short film ‘not a perfect world’….that was dark.

Oh God yeah! Well basically it was part of the 24 hour film challenge thing so we had 24 hours to come up with the idea, film it, and do everything. It was good fun. You can’t really hear it in the mix, the reason I put it up on my blog to download is so you can hear the work I actually put into it, because you can’t really hear it in the actual film.

Are you interested in doing more film scores in the future?

Yeah when I have a bit more time, they’re really laborious, what happens is you get a rough edit, you work to it, then they change all the edit points and you need to re-record it. So I don’t know, maybe further down the line.

How would you like people to feel when they come and see you play?

It’s a good question. I don’t know really…like they’ve seen something completely new, I’d like them to feel happy. It’s weird because I don’t think people feel happy when they listen to my music, but I’d like them to feel happy, just to know there’s someone a bit more fucked up than they are.

What have you got sorted for the future?

Got a tour in October, pretty much the whole of October is touring, album on the 13th single on the 6th and loads more remixes as well, I’ve got two I’m doing at the moment, that I haven’t even started yet. So yeah just busy trying to do as much as I can, I wanna start deejaying as well, if I can work out how to actually do that. It’s another form of income, I can just bring my CD’s instead of dragging all my stuff everywhere, its much easier.

Do you think your new single ‘this sweet love’ will be a hit?

No, I don’t think so, it’s the most commercial thing on my album, but I don’t think it’s….

at this point a Random wide boy with stolen bike wheels it up to us and says
"Ay, you interested in a bike bro?"

James: ......No thanks….....No I don’t think its gonna be a hit, because I haven’t got a big enough fan base, and it’s a limited release. I suppose if enough people buy it digitally it could be.

If you get the radio play and stuff?

Yeah exactly like Elvis Presley. Radio 1 needs to play it a lot more in the day time, but I don’t think they’ll be putting it on their play list. There’ll be 600 vinyl for people to get hold of.

Are you a fan of modern folk music?

Oh yeah, most of my friends are currently working the circuit, that’s where I spent 2 years playing the singer song writer circuit, so a lot of my friends are doing some great stuff, there are hundreds to check out.

Any emerging artists who you particularly respect?

Post War Years are really good, doing something completely different, and I live with a member of the Operators who are a new band, also really good, the sound of Bailey, Rod Thomas, there are so many it’s ridiculous. I worry I’ll get lost amongst all these new bands.

Do you enjoy doing festivals and large events like this?

I did latitude and secret garden party, but I prefer doing ones in the city like this because you don’t have to worry about the weather, you don’t have to worry about your stuff because it’s all inside and safe, your not sitting on your arse waiting to be rained on.

Do you get a better audience reaction in the city?

I think the sound is sometimes better, although I’ve only been playing smaller stages at festivals. As long as the sound is good it doesn’t matter where you play.

Where would you say your musical stomping ground is?

I guess London, because I’ve played more gigs here than anywhere. I don’t live here, I live in Ealing so I get to escape the whole scene, but yeah it’s great here, I love it. I’m not really a part of it, you can tell by the way I’m dressed, I’m not trendy.

You’re looking pretty smart…

Well yeah, that was my manager’s advice; he wants me to dress up a bit because I used to just wear t-shirts. I looked like I’d just got out of bed, so now I’m trying to look a bit smart.

Does your manager have an influence on the way you perform at the moment?

Well, yeah, the whole team around me, the Moshi guys will suggest things, although I am who I am pretty much, sorry to be corny. They might advise me to rearrange my set, and I might say actually your right.

Who will you be watching at Airwaves?

I want to see Cock n bull kid, Casio Kids, A-human and Digitalism if I can.


Teenager gangsters involved in drugs, murder and arms dealing. Shocking. Or perhaps not so much anymore? A lot of films deal with this subject for two reasons, firstly these terrible things happen and secondly it’s entertaining. This film directed by Matteo Garrone is based on the book by investigative reporter Roberto Saviano, who experienced the subject mater of the Camorra in Naples which he describes as a “European problem” a Southern Italian organised crime ring, that is connected to countless criminal gangs who kill thousands of people, as many as three a day. The Camorra use their illegally acquired funds to invest in legal activity including the construction of the twin towers.

The cinematography is poetic, skilfully capturing the atmosphere of the diverse Naples environment ranging from abandoned buildings and farms to decaying flats in poverty stricken neighbourhoods. There are several central characters with whom the audience are encouraged to identify including a very young boy employed as a mule by the mob, an ageing mule whose life is in constant danger, a tailor recruited by the mob since childhood and most compelling of all a pair of resourceful teenage hoods, who inspired by Scarface and the arrogance of youth, believe they can take on the mob on their own terms. The various plotlines are taken from 5 separate stories in Saviano’s book, and are skilfully balanced in the format of this film.

Gommora is by no means a revolutionary film, and although it is revealing for those curious about the criminal underworld of Southern Italy, the actual subject matter has been dealt with so frequently in cinema everywhere from Britain with Kidulthood to Brazil with City of God and can be a bit tiresome after awhile. Despite the ‘seen-it-all-before’ aspect I enjoyed the film, the acting is convincing, the mise-en-scene a pleasure to behold, Garrone is clearly a skilful auteur as well as having an eye for the beauty of symmetry. The accuracy of the subject matter has been addressed carefully, and sympathetically. The effect is convincing and entertaining. It has already won the Grand Prize of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and when it is released in Britain on 10th October, is likely to attract more attention.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

interview with S.C.U.M

S.C.U.M (society for cutting up men) is a group of young londoners playing psychedelic electro punk. Their name is taken from a group of feminist extremists. After seeing their performance at Offset festival, i caught up with singer Tom Cohen and drummer Rory for an interview

How did you feel about tonight, did you have a good time?

Rory:Yeah, everything really came together and I think it felt better than ever, almost better than any other gig we’ve done.

How are people supposed to feel when they hear S.C.U.M?

Rory: However they want to feel

What do you think of festival shows?

Rory:It was good to do something a bit more away from London, we play a lot of gigs there, it’s only ever really been in London, this is a bit further out and especially with other great bands like WIRE, it’s a good experience.

Did you watch WIRE’s set then?

Rory:I didn’t, don’t write that though

Any other bands you were happy to be playing with?

Rory:Selfish cunt!

What are the plans for your future?

Rory: On 15th September we have a 7’ “visions arise” coming out on loog records . on September 11th we have a single launch at Shoreditch church.

Is there any significance to that date being chosen for the launch?

Rory: Absolutely not, it’s a few days before the single is released.

So you’ve just had to mission all the way from a gig in Norwich to here?

Tom: Yeah, it was bizarre, really really bizarre at a village county fair or something with Victoria sponges and people sitting down on the local grass.

You had Victoria sponge in your rider?

Tom:Yeah we did! Victoria sponge cakes!

What was the Norwich crowd like?

Tom: Sitting down, very sparse, very scared.

It’s quite a rural culture there

Tom: Yeah, but I think we’re quite rural as people. We like the countryside quite a lot, we’re not from the countryside, but we enjoy it.

What do you think about offset so far? Have you enjoyed it?

Tom: I think there’s more rides than stages, tacky rides. There’s a very low quality ghost train that no one is going on.

How do you want to the audience to feel when they’re watching you play?

Tom: I want them to feel as though they’re experiencing something rather than watching a band you know? When we’re on stage we don’t feel like we’re just there to play our songs, we feel like we’re there experiencing something ourselves and my main hope would be that everyone experiences it too, it whatever sense that may be; love, hate….

What are your influences, musical or otherwise?

Tom: We’re all into electronic music, most of our music extends from punk, we’re into psychedelia
Rory: what’s interesting is everyone has their own tastes, we all like the same kind of things, but everyone has their extreme little tastes that they’re really into personally.
Tom: I think the main band that we’re all really into recently is a band balled Add N to X, quite a lot of bands on Mute records, drum and Bass…

There's a lot of reverb on your vocals, is that a psychedelic influence?

Tom:I don’t think it came from influence, we were in the studio…
Rory: it just adds another dimension.
Tom: I mean like as a person who writes the lyrics and sings them, I’m not really too into everyone hearing everything you know?

Is it too personal?

Tom: No it’s not too personal, I’d just rather leave it open to interpretation as to what our songs mean to different people. The effect was just to make it more of an instrument. There’s a band on now I want to go and see called Ulterior, have you got enough stuff?

Yeah that’s cool, cheers.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

O children

Toby from O children and Bono Must Die! Who also wrote songs for Girls Aloud tells us about why he hates festivals, gets arrested for criminal damage and what he thinks of Girls Aloud

Toby and I were already quite drunk when we met and he agreed to do an interview, we headed back to my tent to grab some Gin and whiskey to have a bit more to drink and a chat before Metronomy started their set.

TR: so you were gonna work with Metronomy?

Toby: It was just a girl called Cumbolt kid who works a lot with her, and they said write a single for her, and I still haven’t gotten around to doing it. It’s just lack of communication and me being kinda busy.

TR: before O children you were in Bono Must Die! Right?

Toby: Bono Must Die, was the crutch of the whole thing, where we started off, we were making silly songs about celebrities and what have you, but at the same time we were more serious than that. With Bono must die! We got press in the tabloids which was kind of cool but the infamy you get with it doesn’t really work in general because you then have to prove yourself as more than a fash band where people see maybe because of what you wear, what you talk about, whereas O Children are more laid back and on the musical side of things as opposed to just songs about nothing.

This is more the direction you wanted to be going musically then?

Toby: Definitely, with bono must die it was cool, we had a lot of fun, but it wasn’t my kind of music, it just came out from nowhere as a project that I got a few band members into and then we did that. With o children it’s more stable because I’ve got a million ideas about where we’re gonna go, what we’re gonna do. It’s just better I guess.

So your new crooning vocal style, is that an influence from Ian Curtis ? or where do you get it from?

Toby: I wouldn’t say it was an Ian Curtis influence, we get a lot of people coming up to us and saying “hey you guys sound like joy division, you and your low voice” but in all honesty, Ian Curtis did not invent the baritone vocal, its not like no-one else sang low until Ian Curtis came along.

Is it just because of the aesthetics of the music you wanted to use baritone vocals, or is there anyone who influenced your vocal style?

Toby: I spent most of my music making career singing really, really high and trying to be like my heroes if you will, the people I listen to always have high voices; Radiohead and a bunch of other bands who sing in a very high frequency, but it really tires my voice out.

It’s natural for you to sing low?

Toby: It’s more natural, I have a very deep voice, and with my deep voice I thought I could have more range by using it in that way. We never said, we want to sound like joy division; we want to sound like Bauhaus or anything. We are influenced by post-punk but that doesn’t mean we aspire to be joy division or any of those bands. Its cool they’re getting a second wave, what with films and movies going out, and everyone is calling us new grave, but that’s not we decided to be it just turned into the sound we have which is definitely influenced by the post punk bands, gothic as well but were not trying to be like them, we’re just trying to be a good pop band with darker elements.

How do you expect the listener to feel when hearing O children

Toby: Personally, I’d like it to be like as if I was molesting them, it sounds really bad but I want it to be like we’re all hanging out at a party and I’m the guy that wants to turn you on, I want it to be to the point where you almost feel really turned on or horny by the sounds that we make, but not so much by force. I don’t want it to be a rape scenario where I’m raping the listener’s ears, I want people to understand the stuff I say, get turned on by it and also enjoy it. It’s very much lust based, there’s a lot of lust and seduction in the lyrics and the sound. We want people to have a good time, but when we get on stage we want people to feel like they need to get laid. It sounds bad but that is what it is!

Well at this festival I think that’s what a lot of people are thinking anyway

Toby: Well at festivals everyone is apparently trying to get laid, myself I hate festivals, I think they’re terrible, but this has been good because its more about the love of the landscape and scenery

How come you hate festivals?

Toby: I’ve just never had a good relationship with them, I went to Reading last weekend, and it was cool but the only reason it was cool is I got to see my favourite band, Queens of the Stone Age. I wasn’t hanging out with everyone else, festivals to me is just a bunch of people, in a place trying to get as drunk as they possibly can and although it’s a very endearing thing because we all need to kick back once in awhile and just let loose, at the same time its very much just not my scene. Getting drunk and happy is good once in awhile but when you get other people in there I feel very claustrophobic. When I’m at a festival, there are so many people, but it’s like I’ve never felt so alone.

I see what you mean, there is a unique atmosphere at festivals. So what kind of intentions do you have for the future of the band?

Toby: We want to make good pop songs, all this scene stuff now, like you got this post-horrors thing with loads of bands like ipso facto blah blah blah all those other bands

Pretty girls...

Toby: They are pretty girls but that’s besides the point. Musically what we want to do is make sounds that people can really enjoy but not get too caught up in our sound. We can go from doing the darkest most gothic song in the world to making a really nice pop song which is why I see us ultimately as a pop band. We’re just kind of making music that works so that everyone can enjoy it. We don’t wanna have an exclusive thing where people say “I like oh children but you don’t as well” we want everyone to enjoy it, because if you don’t want people to enjoy it, then it makes no sense.

One of toby’s friends, a small girl passes by and then offers to tell me the story of how Toby was arrested for criminal damage.

TR:So is she gonna tell us the story of how you got nicked for criminal damage?

Toby:Yeah go for it, I just wanna add this was a long time ago

Girl: It wasn’t that long ago it was a year and half ago or something, basically we went to this party and we thought the whole house was the same thing, you know sometimes theres a different flat. And we were just like lets find somewhere to sleep cos everyone else had passed out so we find this house and were like woah! where did that come from? Who’s room is in here?

Toby: I thought the guy we were staying with called Med, I thought was place was just a massive house and it was all his but it turned out….

Girl: he was like “oh amazing we can sleep here, shall we watch a DVD? Sure! Like rummaging through, finds one, puts it on, lies on the bed, stays awake for about three seconds, then passes out immediately, gets woken up by these police people…

Toby: I woke up with all these policeman at the place and we saw two girls cowering in fear like “what the fuck is this guy doing in my house?”

Girl:apparently they got home and got really scared, and went out and immediately called the police saying “people have broken into our house!” if we had broken in and tried to rob them, did they really think we would turn the TV on?

Toby: They shouldn’t have left the door open.

TR: was that your defence to the police?

Girl:Eventually they got it, at frst they were like “what?” but eventually they understood, didn’t they?

TR:So how did you get away without getting charged?

Toby: it was a caution as opposed to a formal charge, I still don’t know how we actually got in there.

Girl: we never got invited back to the house of course.

TR: is there anything about the festival you’re particularly enjoying?

Toby: I’m happy to be in the vicinity of Gang of Four, because I’ve loved them for so long, I met the guy from Gang of four outside the dressing room, that was kinda cool! I said to him you basically gave me the inspiration to start music and he said “oh….ok” and walked off. At the same time I feel its been a good time in general, good vibes, I get to hang out with people I haven’t seen for a very long time. This festival is really cool, its been more about seeing people that you know as opposed to actually playing. Our set was good but we woke up really hung over.

It didn’t show man, I guess that’s the benefit of the wayfarers, they hide the criminal eyes.

Toby: I know! The reason I wore these on stage is more as a defence mechanism than anything else. And when I was up there I was like, I don’t want to make eye contact with anyone because if I do I might be sick all over myself.

Do you get anxious about being on stage?

Toby: All the time, every time, I’ve been making music for a long time but while we make live music, I also feel really strange being on stage with all the focus on me and the rest of the band. It’s like again with the exclusive part of things, it’s just very weird, I don’t know how to put it into words, the fact that a bunch of people will come down and see us play for 25 minutes and then be happy with it.

You’ve not got used to the idea of people enjoying your performance?

Toby: Really I haven’t! I wish I could go “you love me, you love me! Everything’s good” but it doesn’t work like that with me.

You did songs for girls aloud right?

Toby: I did a few things for zenomania, girls aloud, which went really well.

Did you get a lot of money?

Toby: It was ok yeah, I would have wanted more, but then again who wouldn’t?

How did they hunt you down for that?

Toby: No, that was just me doing remixes on Universal/polodor and after that I got an email saying do you want to write some songs for Girls Aloud, and I said yes, and that’s what happened.

Have you ever hung out with those girls?

Toby: Once. We went to a place, fuck what was it called? It was a very nice hotel, I can’t remember the name, I have trouble with short term memory in general, but if you go into the lift it turns into a galaxy of proportions.

What were they like? Nice girls?

Toby: They were cool! Good people, that Cheryl chick is really cool, that Nadine is probably the only one who can really sing but apart from that it was really good.

You don’t mind writing pop songs for other bands then?

Toby: Of course not, I think music should be for everyone, I can write some pop songs, then I can go back and do my own thing, which is, you could say, darker and very much influenced by old bands but at the same time I feel like if I’m gonna write songs for other people, it’s not a problem. I try my best to be as creative as I can with everyone from all scales from your most underground band in the world to general pop bands to….well fuck I wanna work for Black Sabbath but I guess that’s never gonna happen.

They’re kind of old now

Toby: I still feel I could put some stuff into them.

Wouldn’t you be more interested in taking off where they finished?

Toby: No I don’t wanna go with Black Sabbath’s legacy! I’d rather be better than Black Sabbath to be honest. At the same time it’s very hard to do in this day and age where everyone’s in a band and every one is hanging out doing band stuff. I just wanna make music that people think is worthy enough to be played on their compilations and DJ sets.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

10 year old boy Vs The World

This short film called warlord is an amusing critique of Western society using the medium of tribal mysticism and a 10 year old protagonist, whose outsider perspective provides an alternative view of the mundane modern world.


Thursday, 31 July 2008

XX Teens

Video for XX-Teens - How to reduce your chances of being a terror victim

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Sandwich special ops


The biggest village in England bore witness to an unusual new phenomenon that signifies a significant landmark in the history of the cultural integration of and ideological submission to American fast food culture in England. On a rainy afternoon in Cranleigh, Sussex on the last day of April 2008 a SUBWAY sandwich shop was opened
I had nothing to do that day, and like most people in the world, am drawn to the promise of a free meal like a vulture to a carcass. It was in the manner of a vulture that I casually circled the newly built Subway in Cranleigh, waiting for its first opening when for one hour all customers would receive a free 6 inch sub and drink. My strolling past became less casual when I realised how many people were congregating outside the establishment, and suddenly my desire not to seem like a cheapskate, unemployed jackal hunting for scraps was replaced by a primitive instinct to get to the carcass before the other scavengers.
An old man was already arguing with 6 college kids in front of him, attempting to appeal to their sympathies, saying he was busy and needed to get the food quickly. He soon abandoned this angle and pulled rank with his age, furiously scathing the youths for their lack of respect,“a man of my age shouldn’t have to stand in the rain like this. It’s criminal!” The old lion, would have to wait his turn to feed. Younger and stronger rivals had beat him to the kill. The rain fell heavily but the crowd grew, undeterred by the weather, pushing and jostling to get closer. All worried that these other unworthy punters would get the free food that was rightfully and deservedly theirs!
I started to feel more and more ashamed. What was I doing standing shoulder to shoulder with these crazed villagers? it was like a queue for aid distribution in an impoverished third world nation. Suddenly this sleepy old fashioned English village had thrown rural manners and respect for personal space to the curb and was stamping on its face for a poor quality sandwich that would most likely give them the runs. A journalist from the local paper had come to document the spectacle. As he raised a camera to photograph the squealing swine crawling over one another, I covered my face in shame. Finally the doors were open and a mad rush of villagers of all ages, predominantly students from the nearby private school, all rushed forward salivating, their eyes rolling like those of cattle being forced into an abattoir. Finally I had my meatball sub, and like an ape with stolen fruit in hand I battled against the stampede to eat in the safety of my car, where none of the lunatics could get my food! As I left the building I saw a squad car pulling up to control the ever increasing crowd. I have never seen a gathering of any kind in a British village that was not communal in nature, but here the opening of a single fast food restaurant, with the promise of free food to the inhabitants of a relatively wealthy village reduced men to beasts in seconds.
Free giveaways and bargains have a tendency to bring out the beast in the British public, but this event indicated something slightly different. What occurs frequently in the culture of urban environments, occurred in a rural context immediately when an urban establishment was opened in the country. Had the local deli offered free sandwiches I doubt the police would have been called to control the crowds, perhaps the recognized brand name of subway was identified by the villagers in a different way, an impersonal way, in which the manners and customs they would normally uphold in the process of acquiring lunch were immediately discarded?

Mannequin chainsaw massacre


David Firth is the twisted mind behind internet comic phenomena such as the peculiar 'salad fingers' animations and the amusing comedy adventures of young juvenile delinquent 'Devo' the chav. Firth created this artistic stop frame animation yesterday which indicates he may be taking his work in a more artistic direction. He maintains the dark and disorientating atmosphere of his previous videos, as well as the imagery of sex, mutilation and death with an underlying hint of childish humour. (watch in high quality)

Friday, 25 July 2008

Graffiti animation

Muto by Blu

This is a very impressive animation done entirely on public spaces. I think it encourages an abstract perception of the urban environment, while the imagery seems to portray the monotony and frustration of urban professional life. An overlying theme is that of metamorphosis and transformation, perhaps a metaphor for a desire to experience change.

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Challenging the Media War on Chavez.

Hugo Chavez - President of Venezuela

I had been planning a trip to Venezuela for some time now, I’d been reading about the history of the country, power handed from one group to the next, the natives and imported negro slaves being reduced like the land itself to commodities to be exploited by Europeans. The country has fascinated me since childhood, when I read Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, conjuring up an image of Mount Roraima covered in luscious green Amazonian vegetation as far as the eye can see, rich with unusual and exotic animals. But this image of the country has been replaced in more recent years by that depicted by the Media. I am filled with doubt and concern when I try to learn more about the reality of life in Venezuela under the rule of Hugo Chavez, there seem to be only two types of information distributed, and both seem heavily coloured by emotional outbursts defending deeply held ideological beliefs, whose assumptions are often so far apart, that it makes the work of a journalist attempting to fill in the gaps rather difficult.

So it was with a certain sense of optimism and hope, that I stepped through the doors of the Venezuelan embassy in London on a pleasant April evening where his Excellency the Venezuelan ambassador Samuel Moncada was to give a speech. A speech in which I hoped the record would be set straight in regards to the relationship between Chavez and the people of Venezuela. I have no doubt that just as Chavez and Mr Moncada say, the Western media is biased against his government. The night marked the 6th anniversary of the military coup that attempted to overthrow the government of President Hugo Chávez and to reverse Venezuela's social gains. Since then there have been ongoing attempts to isolate the Chávez government, including through the dissemination of misinformation. Sure enough, nearly all the news I have heard with regards to Venezuela has been negative, Student protests, widespread hunger, violation of the right to freedom of expression, exchanging insults with the king of Spain, dodgy oil deals with everyone from mayor of London Ken Livingston to President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Most of all personal attacks at Chavez, who, if certain aspects of the media are to be believed, is taking away the rights of Venezuelans and destroying rival parties. I am assured by Samuel Moncada and the secretary and founder of the Venezuela Information Centre Gordon Hutchinson that this is all lies, Chavez is merely proposing a coalition of all the left wing parties, but opposition still exists and he allows free elections. The media say that Chavez has made a huge mistake by allowing oil to be sold so cheaply in his country, and that many are starving, Mr. Moncada and Mr. Hutchinson say that social and economic progress has never been so advanced, and that the majority of their energy needs are met by hydro electric power, and they are progressive in respect of investing in renewable energy technology.

Samuel Moncada - Venezuelan Ambassador

For every unsubstantiated claim made by Western journalists, both of liberal and conservative persuasions, there is a Venezuelan official or Chavez admiring socialist defender to call it lies and offer their own propaganda. To sort the truth from lies from half way across the world is virtually impossible for two reasons, firstly that the Western media is a propaganda tool obviously used as a means of perpetuating Western ideology and defending the values of free market economics, secondly that some aspects of the media of Venezuela and many of the alternative sources of information such as the lecture of that evening, are merely a forum for socialist back slapping and feeding the fires of anti capitalist conspiracy theories. The speakers at this evenings lecture were seemingly honest in that they acknowledged there are people in Venezuela, particularly middle class whites, who oppose Chavez, but they said, as well as anti socialist students there are pro Chavez students. Their main concern was not just that the Western media makes up lies but more that it disproportionately reports political events in Venezuela with the intention of rallying Western support for deposing Chavez as a dictator despite the fact the vast majority of Venezuelans love him.

The evening ends with questions from the floor, several people stand up to make vaguely relevant points about biased media broadcasts and socialist uprising in South America, there are also some contributions from bizarre individuals eager for any opportunity to shout their heads off about the evils of capitalism, no one asks a proper question, which irritated me. I wanted to ask about speculations of Chavez being involved with the FARC and claims in the American media that evidence had been found on a laptop proving Chavez’ secret involvement with the Columbian terrorist organization. Mr. Moncada doesn’t address this issue, but he makes it clear anyone who attempts to describe Columbia and Venezuela as being clearly defined separate nations with separate cultural traditions is misinformed, they are as one he exclaims, and many of the members of the Venezuelan government are Columbian or have Columbian ancestry. I walk away from the lecture even more confused than before hand. I respect Chavez’ government for making a stand against the Northern American superpower, raising the standard of living in Venezuela for those at the bottom of the pile but I have my suspicions that like many Socialist governments, the voices of some citizens in Venezuela are being suppressed and the truth distorted amidst the barrage of lies being thrown back and forth by the government and their enemies, specifically European and North American media organizations.

“Come to Venezuela and see for yourself that the media are free and we have fully functional education and health care schemes” they say at the embassy, I intend to do just that.