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.