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Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis


Bruce Campbell is a goddamn legend. He’s conquered the dead, fended off maniacal cops, locked up Billy Drago, lorded over thieves, sailed the East Indies, impersonated Elvis, brought back Ronald Reagan, and slept with Miami cougars on a nightly basis. He’s also directed four films, written three books, officiated multiple weddings, and raised two children. Now, he’s back for the third season of Starz’s Ash vs Evil Dead, reprising his iconic role as Ashley “Ash” Williams, who’s not only a prophesied hero this time around but a totally deadbeat dad. In anticipation of the February 25th premiere, we spoke to Campbell about his salad days in Michigan, how Stephen King saved his ass twice, and the trick to acting on horses. Groovy? See for yourself.

Meeting Sam Raimi

raimi evil dead Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis

I had seen him physically in junior high school, in about eighth or ninth grade. He was a year behind me, and I was walking down the hallway and this guy was dressed as Sherlock Holmes. He was sitting on the floor of the hallway — in the middle of the hallway — playing with dolls. I remember very specifically, very vividly, going “Okay, I’m gonna go way around that guy.” It turned out that was Sam.

So, in Wylie E. Gross — I guess in ‘75 — I had typing class. It was the worst class I ever had, but I never even knew I could drop a class. I never even knew where the counselor’s office was. It just never occurred to me. So I went down there and said, “Hey, can I drop this typing class?” They were like “Yeah. Well, what do you have in place of it?” I said “Well, how about this, how about that”, and one of them was radio speech. I said, “Wait – like a DJ who plays music and all that?” They were like, “Yeah.” I went “Ok, sign me up.” So, Sam was in the same class.

We started doing morning announcements together, and then we got in plays together, and we started spending more time together and seeing each other extracurricularly. He did little movies in his neighborhood, I did them in my little neighborhood, and then one other guy … there were about three neighborhoods that made Regular 8 and Super 8 movies. So, we just eventually started to link up.

Making Short Films

Around ‘75, Scott Spiegel, who wound up co-writing Evil Dead 2, was very into the Stooges and he had been making Super-8 movies pretty much since 1969. Scott’s the same age as me, he was around 11. I started doing it in my little neighborhood around ‘71, ‘72. I would do D-Day, Son of Hitler, Day of Violence  they were a bunch of these weird little shorts. I played Hitler and Hitler’s son was still alive lurking around. Scott would do like, Pies and Guys and Inspector Club Saves the Day. Sam was doing stuff like The Great Bogus Monkey Pignut Swindle.

Sam’s were a cross between Monty Python-ish, Groucho Marx-ish… Scott was very Three Stooges. I was a big fan of the Stooges. So we all had our influences. Then, these short films started to get longer or more sophisticated as we met each other. This one guy is like, “I got a better camera than that,” and the other guy is like “Oh, I got a package of lights here.” So, we started working more on each other’s stuff. The weekends were slammed. I never got in any trouble in high school because we were too busy.

Working with St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild of Cranbrook

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Unofficially, I was. I was too young to join. You couldn’t join this local, suburban Detroit theatre group … you couldn’t join until you were 18. But, every summer, they would do this big splashy musical in their outdoor pavilion. It was this beautiful facility formerly owned by the guy who created, The Detroit News. It was his former grounds. So, ‘71 … I think ‘72 … I did The King and I and played the King’s son. Each summer after that I was in South Pacific and Fiorello and played all these different parts.

I was always the guy who was the “servant boy.” I was a newspaper guy, a World War I soldier, that sort of stuff. Then I turned 18, and I could join. My dad had been a member for years, since the ‘60s, so my dad was a formative member there. He directed me in Sweet Bird of Youth. I started to do plays there, and it was a great access to costumes. They had a great collection for this theatre group that had been around for 30 or 40 years.

Keeping Things Professional

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We were serious. There was no one else other than us doing this stuff. We started buying equipment. Some of us would act more than others, some of us would direct more than others, and whoever put up the money was the producer for these things. That’s how that kind of worked. We started to get more and more interested, but more panicked at the same time because we realized “Ah crap, high school’s gonna end. Are we gonna actually have to get a regular job now?” There was that possibility. But then in ‘78, Sam’s brother Ivan — who went to Michigan State — his roommate was Rob Tapert, who became sort of a partner over the years. Rob was the first one. He met Sam through his brother, and Sam was always talking about making movies. He wanted to make a real movie. Rob was the first guy to go, “Well, you need a lawyer.” And we’re like, “A lawyer? What does that mean?” He goes, “Trust me: you need a lawyer.”

Rob had always been a teenager who was always in trouble, so they had a family lawyer. You know, Rob’s father and this guy went to Catholic school together. So this guy Phil Gillis … we went to talk to him and he goes, “Well you wanna drop a limited partnership.” Then, we go “What the hell is that?” You know, it was way before the LLC kind of thing. His point was that you needed a creative structure. If you’re going to go into a businessman’s office to make an appointment to get them to invest in your movie, you had to have a structure, and you had to have a law firm behind it that’s actually a reputable law firm in Detroit. You had to have it all spelled out: How much if I invest 10,000 bucks, what do I get, what’s my percentage, and what position am I in.

So, there is a perception that the first Evil Dead movie is an amateur movie, but that’s actually not the case. Contractually, every “I” was dotted and “T” crossed because we got lucky. We found a lawyer. He got interested in the project so he didn’t charge us for his work, he invested the money that he would have charged us into the movie. Other guys at the law form then became interested and, you know, guys with money go “Hey! What are you doing?” to their buddies. Then the guy goes “Oh, I invested in a movie.” So, we got some investments just because their buddy invested. They were like, “Sounds good! I’m in.”

Studying and Warming Up to Horror

texas poster Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis

They still had drive-ins. So, we would go to drive-ins and we went to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which impressed us all very much. The theory was that once the horror started in that movie, it never stopped. That impressed us. But we also saw Revenge of the Cheerleaders and other shitty horror movies. You would see in the lousy parts or bad parts — or if it was bad dialogue or bad acting — that people would turn their headlights on the screen. They’re like, “Fuck you.” They would flash their lights or honk their horn until something better happened. You could tell that they were the barometer for “I’m bored.” What was amazing was that it had a lot of commentary, and we said, “Okay. Let’s not do that. Let’s not be boring, let’s keep these moving.” So, that’s what influenced us if we were going to make a horror film,

And I think to answer your upcoming question, no, I could care less about horror movies. They had no influence in my life whatsoever. I listened to The Carpenters. I didn’t play any of that game, I didn’t have any tattoos. So, there was nothing that influenced me like, “One day my parents took me when I was five to go see The Beast with Five Fingers.” None of that. Whenever I saw horror, I found it incredibly disturbing. I read an article when I was 10 about Night of the Living Dead  this movie that is so disturbing that people are fainting. People are being disemboweled by zombies, unstoppable zombies. I remember reading that and going, “I hope I never see that movie.” It’s like my wife’s point: I’m already a nervous wreck. Why would I watch something that would make me more nervous?

Do you still feel that way now?

No, I respect horror for what it can do. Aside from comedy, it’s one of the few genres that can make some actually have a visceral experience with the movie, like shouting and screaming, talking back to it, or jumping or lurching in their seats. It’s just really one of the few genres that can get you physically agitated.

What scares you in general?

Ignorance. There’s nothing scarier than that.

The Power of Stephen King

evil dead poster Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis

He’s responsible for two of The Evil Dead movies, not just one. The second one is much more obscure. He’s obviously quoted for the first Evil Dead, he saw it at Cannes and allowed us to use that quote, which was really cool of him and we’ve been using it ever since. On the second movie, Evil Dead 2, we were having trouble getting financing. We were prepping it and trying to get it going. We had a woman who was kind of like doing scheduling stuff, and we had to let her go. So she was a crew member, and she took off down to North Carolina and started making all these movies.

Dino De Laurentiis is making movies down there. Who does she run into? She gets on the crew of Maximum Overdrive, directed by Stephen King. Stephen was like, “What are you up to?” And she was like, “I just came from working with these guys trying to get money for Evil Dead 2.” He goes, “Evil Dead 2? They can’t get the money for that?” She goes “No.” He calls Dino De Laurentiis and goes, “You should make this movie.” I think we had a deal … we met with Dino and I think we had a deal in about half an hour, and a basic understanding.

Imitating the Late Dino De Laurentiis

dino de laurentiis Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis

On The Losers’ Club, our Stephen King podcast, we always joke around that Dino De Laurentiis used to materialize out of the shadows with a cigarette or a cigar, calling out to King. What was he actually like?

He was just like that. He was basically five feet tall. The guy was very very short — very dark, very swarthy. You’d come into his office and he would have a button that would open the door, so the door would open very majestically to a giant desk. He had a thing about lion’s heads. So, there were lion’s heads on the desk, and the desk was enormous. Schwarzenegger got in immediate trouble with him. Schwarzenegger comes in and goes, “Why does such a small man need such a large desk?” Dino goes [imitates De Laurentiis’s voice], “Get that Nazi outta my office!” Their relationship for Conan [The Barbarian] started with that conversation.

But anyway, you go in and you meet with him and he just wants to know [imitates De Laurentiis’s voice] “how much, how long, when you start, when you stop, and who stars in this movie.” We gave him the basic information, but when he saw the foreign sales figures for the first Evil Dead that sealed the deal. He knew foreign, you know. Some producers … they know America. This guy knew everything but America.

This guy … he bought movies and packaged them everywhere else but America. His version of editing … like Army of Darkness. We would bring it into his office and off to one side of his office was an editing bay. This was the whole flatbed, so you’d put the reel of film on the side and you’d run it through. For any part he didn’t like, he would put his hand over the screen and just go [imitates De Laurentiis’s voice] “Out! Out!” Then it would cut to something else and he’d go [imitates De Laurentiis’s voice] “Come back here.” It was like that trying to interpret it. He still didn’t have full grasp of the English language.

Dino was all business. He had a guy named Josh that worked with him for, I don’t know, 20 years? They’d fly together constantly — long flights all the time overseas. Dino would do no small talk. One day, 15 years into the relationship, he looks over while they’re on a flight and goes [imitates De Laurentiis’s voice], “Hey Josh.” He goes, “Yeah, Dino?” “Where were you born?” He says, “Uh, Brooklyn.” Dino goes, “Agh.” And that was it. That was the extent of their private conversation. He loved business and started a brand new young family. He lived the classic over-the-top lifestyle. He really did. He was just a big, big character and a little, little guy.

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We like to imagine that he’d randomly call up Stephen King and be like, “Stephen, what do you have for me?”

He went to call our offices in Ferndale, Michigan. Someone had given him our number. He dared to like dial the actual phone himself and on the message machine was this: “Hello, thank you for calling Renaissance Pictures. We’ve moved our offices. Our new number is 313-547-6262.” He goes [imitates De Laurentiis’ voice],  “Hey hey,” now he’s yelling at someone from across the office, “they got another number.” Then, the machine cuts him off. It completely flummoxed him that he had to write another number down to call us. So we didn’t get called right away, it was the next day — like he had to give the number to someone else. So, yeah, that was Dino. We did two movies with him: Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.

The Art of Acting on Horses

screen shot 2018 02 19 at 9 31 18 pm Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis

The first horse stuff was Army of Darkness. I learned how to ride a horse, but did not learn to ride it well. I benefited from the fact that a cape behind me disguised what cowboys call “the ass saddle battle” from slamming on the saddle because you’re not really fitting the horse right. You know, normally you’re kind of one with the horses as you go across the countryside. I struggled through Army of Darkness with the horse. There was not a lot of training involved. It was about a “C-” riding effort on my part.

But! A couple years later, you know, Army of Darkness was ‘91. In ‘93 comes The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. That’s a different ball game. He’s a cowboy, so I thought that there’s no way I’m not training for this. The producers were very good about it. So, me and the wrangler — the actual guy with the actual set of horses … you never just have one horse. You have, like, four horses for your one horse. We would train for 30 days in this guy’s ring, and that’s how you do it. The guy, he just ran me through every fundamental. He goes, “Okay! I want you to sit on the horse now for half an hour.”

brisco Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De LaurentiisAnd if the horse takes one step forward, you go, “I didn’t tell you to step forward” and you correct it, you take it one step back. This thing gets bored, starts looking around, and steps to the side. You go, “I didn’t tell you to go to the side,” and correct it back. You have to let it know that you are the pilot. Otherwise, the horse will take complete advantage of you. Like, I’d be on the horse and the horse is acting all crappy, and I’d go “Gordon, this horse is being shitty.” So he goes, “Alright, get off and let me check. I get off, and the second he sits on the horse, the horse freezes. He looks at me and goes, “Yeah. I guess it’s the horse.”

This guy was the most sarcastic son of a bitch. Gordon Spencer, he was great. He goes, “Crew members don’t give a shit about her horse. So that boom guy is going to shove the boom right by you, and the horse is going to see it out of the side of its eye, and it’s gonna freak out. We’re gonna get that horse, your main horse, used to things being shoved in its face. All day long.” He goes, “Your job is just to sit on the horse.” He takes a 4×4 piece of box cart — you know, the big bright white stuff. It’s just a big piece of styrofoam. They used it to bounce light. It was a big, bright, shiny piece of white styrofoam. So, he would just stand there with it, and I would sit there on the horse and we would wait and wait. Then out of nowhere he would just shove that thing in the horse’s face. Then, I would get control over it again, and we’d wait, and wait. Then, he’d shove it in the thing’s face again. We would do this for, I don’t know, half an hour.

After a couple of days, the horse would go, “Oh, oh, it’s just that thing.” Then he started with the noise. Here’s the tough thing: An ex-Marine takes a string of cans and puts it all over him — like the Tin Man! He’s running in circles around the horse making random, loud noises. The horse is flinching, you know, and he goes, “Don’t get off. Relax.” If I would relax, 9/10 times the horse would relax. So, you know, we just did that with every gunshot. She shoved big wads of cotton in the horse’s ears, and they have different loads for your fake guns. They have a quarter load, half load, and full load. If you wanted a big flameout at the end, you would do a full load. The noise would get louder with each one. We had those, and he would sit next to the horse, again, and you’d wait and wait. Then, randomly, boom! Right next to the horse, and I’m on it the whole time.

bruce horse Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis

The horse just got used to noise, guns, things in its face … and by the time we would shoot, we did it, man. We did some stuff with that horse… I went back and was like “Damn, that was good.” The wrangler also did this: he taught us how to shoot the horses. It’s one thing to train them. So the director goes like this: “Okay guys. You’re gonna say goodbye to the girl, you’re gonna get on the horse, you’re gonna rear, and then you’re gonna ride out of town.” We’re like “Okay, that’s three different horses. And, like, four different angles.” He looks at you like, “What? Is he telling me how to shoot this?” And we’re like, “Yeah. Oh yeah. We’re telling you how you’re gonna shoot this.”

‘Cause the dialogue is on my main horse, Copper — and that horse is an old horse and doesn’t wanna go anywhere — that’s the dialogue horse. So, you do all your dialogue with that horse. Then, you fake like you’re gonna start your rear, swap it out with a horse called Ace, and all that horse does is rear. You give it leg cues on either side of its chest, and it’ll pop right up in the air. But you don’t want to use that horse normally, in a dialogue scene, because what if you gave it a leg cue inadvertently? The thing would pop right up and knock you off the horse — or knock you out. So the second shot is with Ace, that horse. Then the third shot, the wide shot, is with a horse that has a nice lope to it.


bruce brisco Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis

It’s, you know, three to four different horses for all this stuff — and the director’s faces would just fall. They always had it in their head about how they could shoot this seamless shot, and we’re like “Bullshit man, you got three horses. Here’s how it’s gonna go down.” In between each take, if you wanted a second take after the first take, the horse knows that it’s gonna ride outta town. The second you start to swing up on that horse, it’s ready to run. So between take one and take two, you jog it in a circle. Now the horse goes, “Well shit. Are we racing out of town? Or are we going to jog in a circle?” Then in take two, when you race out of town, the horse is like, “Aw, you fooled me!” Then, literally, if they want a take three, you now have to jog it in the opposite direction for a few minutes. So, now, it goes, “Am I going that way, that way, or around in circles?” You’re messing with the horse all day long.

I have great respect for the fact that we actually did it right. I’ve been on other stuff where they have horses since then, and nobody takes the time to do what we did. It’s so cool if you take the time. You can really do some great stuff. So, yeah, the horse stuff got better. It finally got to where it had to get — and now I’m good! If I never get on a horse to wreck my knees, or get thrown off, or get stepped on … that’s fine. I won’t miss ‘em. They’re a lot of work, horses, a lot of work.

Is that why Ash vs Evil Dead hasn’t gone back to medieval times yet?

There’s a myriad of reasons for that. That’s just one of ‘em.

Loving Motown, Ignoring Punk

I’m a Motown guy. I like classic rock. Gimme Bob Seger, gimme Creedence Clearwater. So, Ash and I sync up to some degree. I’m not as hard as Ash. Ash will go harder rock than I will. I didn’t do a lot of AC/DC, that stuff is just too much. I was too much for me.

Did you ever get into the Detroit punk scene growing up? Like The Stooges or MC5?

Nope, nope. I am, uh, musically illiterate. We were making Super 8 movies, man, while everyone else was going to Grateful Dead concerts.

The Future of Ash vs Evil Dead

 Bruce Campbell on How Stephen King Saved Evil Dead 2, Riding Horses, and Imitating Dino De Laurentiis

It’s too early to tell who’s coming back only because we don’t even know if we’re coming back. So, mid-March is when we’re gonna get the sign; either see you later alligator, or pack your bags: we’re going for another season. So, we’ll see. Our inclination is to start fresh. We had some big changes at the end of the season which are great, it’s a cool end of the season. But the way that we went, it probably requires, you know, a little bit of shuffling if we were to continue.

If this is it, what would you say is your favorite hero moment from Ash?

Episode 10.

Of this new one?

Yeah. The big payoff. It’s everything we’ve built up to. Hopefully the audience will go, “Fuckin’ A-right, Ash. Fuckin’ A-right.” You know? Ash is gonna prove his stuff, man. This is it. This is the final showdown.

Well the first five episodes are great, and I can’t wait to see how the next five go.

Nine and 10 are awesome.

Does Sam Raimi come back for any of them?

No. He’s a busy boy.

Well, you are too. Good luck with everything.

Alright, thank you.

Ash vs Evil Dead premieres on Sunday, February 25th via Starz.



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Size Doesn’t Matter: Why Festivalgoers Should Think Smaller


Photo by David Brendan Hall

Festivals are changing. When Coachella released their lineup on January 2nd — their earliest release to date — the news was met with a collective yawn. In fact, an “I’m Underwhelmed” thread in the festival’s sub-Reddit received nearly as many up-votes as the lineup announcement itself. And naturally, other major lineup announcements that followed didn’t fare much better.

As industry gatekeepers like LiveNation and AEG continue to snatch up one major festival after another, the once-thrilling concept of traveling far and wide for these experiences is becoming more and more passé. After all, why should anyone trek across the country to see a flock of performers they can likely catch closer to home?

The solution for festival goers is simple: think smaller.

Boutique festivals are becoming increasingly thrilling amid today’s vapid festival climate. By providing a thoughtful alternative, they’ve begun to satisfy a seasoned music vet’s desire for something extraordinary and something risky. While their long-term future is always uncertain, their commitment to a singular identity is key to their success.

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Photo by Jaime Fernández

Desert Daze, for instance, has carved themselves out a niche in the festival sphere by cultivating an experience around the Joshua Tree’s trip-inducing visual aesthetic. Each turn is host to a new burning-man-esque art exhibition, and the festival’s signature programming gives life to the location’s supernatural aura — though, not without its share of struggles.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher to have a unique lineup,” says Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone. “Look, I’m in a band, too, so I get it. It’s almost impossible to make money as a touring musician. I get where agents are coming from. I get the mad dash for cash. But, it does make it increasingly difficult to have a unique lineup when you’re in Southern California.”

Like many festivals of its size, Desert Daze jostles with a number of larger festivals in close proximity for big gets. Pirrone competes with So-Cal-based, Goldenvoice-produced festivals Coachella, FYF Festival and Arroyo Seco for bookings. “I have real envy for festivals that are in a market where they’re the only festival,” he says. “You’re not always going to get the dream lineup together because there’s so much competition. You basically have to have a lot of backup plans.”

As Prionne suggests, artists have become increasingly reliant on major festivals such as Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Agents are in a rat race to secure their clients the best possible billings at the most possible festivals.

Adding fuel to the fire, festivals are, now more than ever, willing to offer up the same headliners as their competition in order to move units. Multifest deals mean talent is often contracted for a cheaper booking price to play a string of festivals. Remember Chance the Rapper’s whopping 11 appearances at American music festivals in 2017? This year’s festival darling? Eminem. These instances aren’t simply coincidence but, rather, the deliberate efforts of production companies working the best deals possible.

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Photo by Jaime Fernández

From a business perspective, such programming is sound logic. Music festivals are high-risk ventures, and things can turn south quickly. Sasquatch Festival, for instance, had its attendance drop by 50 percent in 2016. That same year, Bonnaroo’s attendance dipped by a reported 45 percent compared to its peak in 2011. It makes sense that those with a controlling stake would want to play it safe.

Other fests like Pemberton, Karoondi, Summerset, and Mysteryland have met similar fates in recent years, and, especially considering the bad taste the Fyre Festival left in the mouths of investors, independent festivals often disappear faster than they emerge. An Austin staple, Sound on Sound Festival (formerly Fun Fun Fun) was cancelled this year, with organizers citing “several recent roadblocks outside of [their] control.”

Such failures have caused companies like Live Nation and AEG, as well as investors, to constrict their business models. With the signature touchstones of festival culture falling out of existence, promoters have begun to think twice about experimental bookings in their top lines. The result? Different permutations of the same product.

As we’ve seen this year with Eminem, The Killers, and Jack White fronting a plethora of festival bills, promoters are more than wary about who they offer as headliners. As they become larger and competition threatens to cripple them, festivals have undergone a loss of identity: no longer can one guess a festival by its headliners alone.

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Photo by Jaime Fernández

Organizers are flailing to find a solution to the festival problem. But if industry executives continue to treat our cultural gatherings like dollar-churning machines, little room is left for innovation, and we’ll likely continue to see more of the same. Still, boutique festivals like Desert Daze stick to their mission, despite the overwhelming threat of saturation bumping them out of the market.

“In an oversaturated world, we still somehow found a little nook,” Pirrone says. Last year, he hosted the likes of Spiritualized, Velvet Underground founder John Cale, doom metal trio Sleep, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s only festival performance supporting their collaborative album, and the king of punk himself, Iggy Pop, who headlined the festival.

Such programming feels urgent, even unmissable, and for hardcore music fans, the lineup demands attendance in cult-like fashion. This is an itch that boutique festivals have begun to scratch, however, satisfying the avant-garde live niche once occupied by Coachella — and Desert Daze is hardly alone.

Elsewhere, a number of boutique festivals have disrupted the status quo with engaging interactive exhibits. Houston’s Day For Night does exactly that, fostering a rare curatorial experience that weaves visual and sensory exhibits into the festival’s programming. For 2017’s installment, art curator Alex Czetwertynski showcased more 15 large-scale visual installations and hundreds of hours worth of digital programming.

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Photo by David Brendan Hall

“Festivals themselves are done,” says Day for Night founder Omar Afra, who believes that curation is pertinent to the attendee’s experience. “We’re on the precipice of seeing this model become antiquated, right? [Even though] many festivals are still working within a festival construct, it’s the experience that’s changing, and that’s where the focus is. You can’t say, ‘We’re an art and music festival’ if we put a giant dragonfly in the middle of our stages and say, ‘Look, it’s art.’ When you say you’re an art festival, you have to fucking mean it and put the love and the time behind it, because people can tell the difference.”

Day for Night’s emphasis on visuals is a huge diversion from traditional festival model. Dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into visual production is a tremendous risk yet few exhibit the level of curatorial excellence that Day for Night touts each year. Whether it’s showcasing the mathematical glitch-work from Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda or the “attack of epilepsy” from light pioneer Matthew Pioneer, the festival proves that thematic identities can work as a festival model.

“You can’t imitate other people, and you can’t imitate yourself,” says Afra. “That’s probably the worst thing you could do!” The question, though, is whether or not emerging festivals will continue to pave their own paths, or will they fall prey to industry homogenization.

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Photo by David Brendan Hall

The idea of discovering new and emerging artists is another avenue for festival organizers to explore, though also not without its share of risks. Austin’s own South by Southwest pioneered the concept in 1987, and since then, several other music conferences have followed. Driven by proprietary algorithms, Emerge’s Rehan Choudhry wants to provide a forward-thinking curatorial conference featuring the highest tier of next generation talent.

“We’re looking to create an entirely new category of experience.” Choudhry eagerly tells us. “There are a lot of traditional festivals out there. The first thing we want to do is avoid having to chase the same talent based on touring availability, and who’s decided to do festivals this year like everybody else is.”

Emerge’s programming features a plethora of artists that haven’t quite reached mainstream recognition. The concept behind the festival is geared towards showcasing names that music listeners and promoters will more readily recognize and adopt 18 to 24 months from now. “We’re very forward thinking and that’s for our musicians, our speakers, partners etc.” says Choudhry. “What I like about it is that it promotes discovery.”

But discovery comes at a cost. “It’s definitely more difficult to do,” Choudhry admits. “[It’s] more difficult to sell tickets like that. More difficult for the attendee to be able to sift through it.” This is opposed to the typical contextualization of festival lineups, where wide-eyed readers are lured in by massive stars at in large-scale fonts.

emerge Size Doesn’t Matter: Why Festivalgoers Should Think Smaller

Such an experience sheds light on festivalgoers’ contextualization of lineup announcements in terms of font size. Coachella largely pioneered this process with their one-of-a-kind poster: a cultural statement about the current state of music that now largely determines the future asking price for tour musicians. The massive text is eye catching and does well to sell thousands of tickets in less than a few hours.

“The [usual festival] hierarchy allows for a very simple decision-making process,” says Choudhry. “You look at the top line and ultimately you’re making your decision based on location timeframe and the top three lines. Is this something you want to invest in or not?”

Scanning the font hierarchy on Coachella’s lineup is simple: gawk at the big names and move on from there. But what happens when a festival gets rid of font hierarchy altogether and focuses on crafting their experience around discovery? Choudhry discusses the potential pitfalls related to programming a festival like Emerge.

“Here are a bunch of names I may or may not recognize” he says, citing the synthesis between algorithmic data and human curatorial-judgement as the basis for a new festival-conference hybrid. “That’s all part of the process, but it all starts with, ‘How are you selecting the artists?’ What we did was, we put together a 25-person curator committee.” By involving executives from talent agencies and music industry insiders, including those from Spotify, Choudhry argues, “We have the upper echelon of talent to perform.”

 Size Doesn’t Matter: Why Festivalgoers Should Think Smaller

Whether it’s SXSW or Emerge, those attending a music conference are traditonally seeking out something more than the flavor of the week, and when the emphasis is placed on discovery rather than hype, it opens the floodgates to programming that was previously thought to be reserved for local music venues and dive bars. Festivals like Emerge are hoping that seasoned festivalgoers are willing to pay for that full experience.

Even so, the festival experience will always be defined by the lens of perception. As David Byrne points out in his 2012 book, How Music Works, context — read: the creative production behind a festival — shapes our experience of the music itself. “Music resonates in so many parts of the brain that we can’t conceive of it being an isolated thing” he says. “It’s whom you were with, how old you were, and what was happening that day.”

Perhaps this explains why some festivals have started to put so much emphasis on the cohesive community fostered by their events. One such festival is Eaux Claires Festival in Wisconsin, which is curated by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner. “Each iteration of Eaux Claires has been a unique journey, unlike the festival that preceded it” says Michael Brown, Creative Director for the festival.

sign 04 lior phillips Size Doesn’t Matter: Why Festivalgoers Should Think Smaller

Photo by Lior Phillips

Doing away with festival lineup hierarchy is one thing, but what happens when a curatorial festival gets rid of a lineup announcement altogether, focusing solely on their interactive community? “This year is no different,” Brown says, “as we’re currently participating in one of the most radical concepts in the music festival industry: presenting a festival with no marketed lineup.”

The decision not to market the festival’s lineup is an interesting, albeit risky, concept to say the least, but it’s an opportunity for artists and fans to all exist on the same plane. Again, most festival organizers would call it business suicide, but Brown is confident that Eaux Claires’ unique, immersive experience alone will continue to advance the festival.

“We’re pushing Eaux Claires in this direction because we want our audience and our artists to live together in the moment and willingly participate in something special” he says. “We want, for one weekend in the year, that folks stop being concerned with the popularized ‘fashion’ of music and be more concerned with its creative pursuits.”

moms kiosk lior phillips Size Doesn’t Matter: Why Festivalgoers Should Think Smaller

Photo by Lior Phillips

The dynamic festival is nestled in the serene, wooded community of Eaux Claires, where Vernon grew up, and it’s a fitting backdrop for the festival’s programming. Vernon, Dessner, and Brown have set out to evoke a sense of spiritual belonging throughout the festival.

“We want people to put value on life experience and living in the moment,” says Brown. “We want people, if just for one weekend, to willingly be a part of a community that openly embraces artistic failure as much as it embraces artistic success.”

By placing more emphasis on the experience itself than the names on the bill, Eaux Claires flies in the face of standard festival business strategy over the last two decades, but it’s that purpose that brings a whole new meaning for the music festival model. Such a model might be more successful than previously thought, too, seeing how The Wausau Daily Herald reports that Eaux Claires attendance surpassed 20,000 in 2017.

boniver eauxclaires 6 by graham tolbert e1437407573418 Size Doesn’t Matter: Why Festivalgoers Should Think Smaller

Photo by Graham Tolbert

It’s clear that the festival industry is due for an overhaul, but it’s uncertain how such a shift will manifest throughout our nation’s cultural gatherings. As the focal points of music festivals shift towards more thematically programmed, extracurricular, and immersive experiences, the general public’s contextualization of festivals will shift dramatically. After all, music festivals are one of the biggest cultural touchstones of the 21st century.

As Choudhry explains, “In the last five years, we’ve seen the festival industry consolidate at an incredible rate, with two to three major players buying up independent events across the country. Each time this happens, you also see the pipeline of innovation constrict dramatically. The reason? Innovation typically takes place in smaller, more nimble organizations.”

Whether it’s immersive technology and virtual reality exhibitionism, expansive visual art installations, a unique set and setting, or an off-kilter programming scheme, the emergence of a new class of festivals is imminent. So long as music fans are vocal and innovators continue to test their luck with new and exciting festival models, fans will always have something to look forward to come lineup season.

They just have to be willing to squint.



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Anti-System: We Came to Tell the Establishment to Fuck Off Again!


Anti-System was an anarcho-punk band from Bradford, West Yorkshire, in England. Originally the band came into existence in early 80’s to be revered as one of the pioneers of the UK82 hardcore punk sound. Their lyrics dealt with the usual topics of anti-establishment, anarchism and animal rights but in an even more direct and confrontational way than most of the contemporary band of the time.

Their most controversial song “Leather, Bristles, Studs, and Ignorance” off their last EP “A Look at Life” sparkled a lot of tension between them and the local punk-rock crowd, especially GBH fans that felt directly offended by the Anti-System’s song. The above mentioned EP is also notable for the band’s sound moving more into the heavy metal / thrash direction, which makes Anti-System an influential band for the later development of crust punk genre. However, it became their last record in that era, partially due to members of the band being imprisoned for smashing up three butcher shops, destroying an abattoir and freeing all the cows that were sent for slaughter there.

In 2014, Anti-System came back together with a new line-up to steer the punk circles again with their old school sound and uncompromising message. They even managed to record a brand new EP in 2017 called “At What Price Is Freedom?” (Boss Tuneage Records), followed by a series of shows, including their current Balkan dates in beginning of 2018.

After their shows in Greece and Bulgaria we sat down together with the editor of Sofia Rebel Station zine to interview Dean Martindale (vocals), Mark “Varik” Teale (guitar) and Kevin Frost (drums) about Anti-System and their legacy. Modern day photos by John Bolloten and Mr. & Mrs. Hardcore Photography, 80’s photos unknown.

OK, let’s start with the introduction. How did you get involved in the DIY punk and subculture and then how did you become a member of Anti-System?

Varik: We were a band with no instruments for two years, when we were 13-14-15 years old. No instruments, just going “rah-rah-rah”. No money, nothing. Then we started our own band called Morbid Humour. We practiced at the same space as Anti-System.

When Anti-System first started they made a single (“Defence of the realm” EP, 1983) but in a very quick time some of their members have left. So they carried Anti-System ongoing using my old band Morbid Humour. Me and Keane were both in Morbid Humour. Back then we’ve got some basic instruments, we were just 16-17 years old.

At the time of “No Laughing Matter” LP (1985) Mick Teale was the Anti-System’s singer and Keane was on the bass. There was a direct action against the meat trade. Smashed the vans, the wagons of the meat industry, let the animals out. Smashed, paint, and fuck everything up. But then they’ve got caught. I didn’t get caught but them two got caught. Then, after this, we did the second record (“A Look at Life”, 1986) but the only original member was the drummer from the first record. But he wasn’t punk anymore. We thought it was his band, so we finished as a band.

Through all this time we thought it was his band, so we couldn’t redo it. But we said fuck that, we took the name Anti-System four years ago and we took the young lad, the good singer Dean, and we carry on from there. It’s going good, the band gets stronger. We are now doing gigs everywhere, it’s cool.

Mark Keane: Mick Teale joined after Nogsy left and I joined on bass after Mickey Knowles was dropped by the band, and Varik joined shortly after we started working on the album “No Laughing Matter” (1985).

Me and Mick Teale were imprisoned shortly after recording “A Look at Life”. We were sent to a prison based on a military style. We were given a bad time for being vegetarians, fed the same shit for every meal. The inmates respected us after a while.

Dean: Hello, my name is Dean. I sing in Anti-System. Before Anti-System I was a drummer in a cover band with the original bass player Mickey Knowles, who was on the single. He saw me sing in another band, so he asked me can I sing in Anti-System. So, obviously, I said yes.

So, we’ve been doing this for four years now and it’s fantastic. I’ve got into the punk scene with bands like Black Flag, The Casualties, Crass, Conflict, all the anarcho bands, and everything just got from there.

Kevin: I’m Kevin, currently playing drums for Anti-System. I joined the band February 2016. I first came across Anti-System in the very early 80’s and used to put up a gig for them around 1984. This never came off. Always been familiar with the band, with all their releases in the past. I came from a very heavy punk background from 1979. I’ve played for various punk bands, I still play for a punk band called The Varukers, also play for Disorder and a few other punk bands along the way. I came to support Anti-System a couple of years ago in Wakefield with another band called The Vile. I’ve got caught in Anti-System and I’ve been ever since.

What does anarcho-punk mean to you and is it true that by the mid 80’s the scene just died down because of everyone being a self-righteous asshole?

Varik: Yeah, it would have been like that a bit cause the scene died down. In England it died down and a lot of people were despondent with how everything went. Thrash metal was coming and it seemed a lot of people were moving to that. Punk was left for a while, myself included. I’ve left the punk scene for a bit because of children, family, and other stuff to do.

For many years, I’ve always wanted to come back and do it but couldn’t get the members. It wasn’t until 2016 when the new version of Anti-System really came together. After a couple of bumpy years to start, until we’ve got solid again to be productive and get things back in line. To tell the fucking establishment to fuck off again.

It’s been brilliant last five years. Four years ago my dream has come true to be again in Anti-System. So it’s not just for the fans but for me as well and I’m so proud with my band. Proud with what we do, with what we stand for. Against fascism and against fucking inequality in our society. This has been always what we are about. I, personally, am not gonna stop fighting until I’m dead.

Dean: Anarcho punk to me means solidarity, everybody working together to create live music, like what we have today. The gigs in Athens, Thessaloníki, Sofia were all fantastic. There is no money involved but everybody gets together and enjoys the scene. We’re also all vegan and vegetarian, cause it’s also all about animal rights. They have reason to be free just as much as we have. It’s all about friends, not food. Animals are our friends, not our food.

Kevin: I’ve told the world many, many times, mainly with The Varukers, that you and the rest of the world are very, very special. The UK is rubbish. You’ve got treated so badly in the UK. You will play venues where they treat you so bad, but when you play other places, in Europe especially, everyone’s so welcoming and it’s almost like you’re on a different planet, to be honest with you. All of Europe, all of the rest of the world. But, to me, the UK is just crap.

I’m not very polite about it, there are surely a lot of good people in the UK who try very, very hard after all throughout the years, but the UK is one of these places where people like to stab you in the back no matter how hard you try. We’ve had various promoters over the years putting on some fantastic gigs, but there’s always this small minority that always like to demoralize them and stab them in the back on every opportunity they ever have.

If you’re in a band and you’re touring for a living and you have to make a little bit of money, it’s almost like a daily job to you. If you can’t survive as a band, you’re gonna die. That is an unfortunate fact. You have to survive, but a lot of people forget about that.

Many people today think that anarcho-punk is about not giving anything back to anyone. But I think this is not true. So do you think that your records cost anything, that your gigs cost anything?

Varik: Yeah, everything has a cost. Unfortunately. You know, it would be great if we lived the dream of fucking anarchism—of sharing, of equality. But unfortunately we have to use evil bastard money. You know, this is a fact of life. Anarcho does not mean you don’t need to survive. That’s why there’s cooperatives and things in place. I believed when we grow old we’re gonna get rid of the system. But a different way of life like this is quite naïve. To me anarchy is a personal endeavor, which really means that the old views that we can live like that as a mass society, we can’t live like that with other people. This is so sad to see when we grew up believing in something different.

The reality is a big fucking world full of ignorant people. We’ve got live it. So anarchy to me is trying to make that world as best as possible. Greed, fucking war, politics—the old fucking law. It doesn’t fucking work. They still keep recycling it, but it doesn’t fucking work. We need the people to take the fucking power. And the people are their own fucking government. That’s the solution in my book. But it’s a dirty fucking world and a dirty game of politics. Cash, greed, everything we are against. And we fight against it all our lives and nothing changes but your personal environment and the people you are with.

Kevin: Anarchy nowadays is a form of ideology. While it tends to be a personal ideology that everybody thinks about it in their own way. Anarchy as a way of life without government, etc. will never ever work. So a lot of the old punks of the 70’s and 80’s now think of anarchy as an ideology. You live your own way as best as you possibly can without shitting on other people. And that is the way really that it’s gonna go forward.

I’ve always lived my life by these rules. I’ll do whatever I like as long as I don’t shit on other people. And I think that’s what the punk scene as an ideology has progressed to over the years. You can never have anarchy since there are far too many idiots in the world these days. The world nowadays is just based on greed. Everybody is out for whatever they can make to anybody else. They don’t give a shit about how they make people feel, how they treat people. The world is a very, very dangerous place at the moment. But as long as you as an individual live your life by the rules that you’ve set up for yourself, then you yourself can be at peace.

I think that and that’s exactly how I live my life. And I’m pretty sure a lot of the old punks of the 70’s and the 80’s do the same. They’ve realised over the years that anarchy is a way of life, it will never ever happen. But as a personal choice, it’s one of the best choices you’ll ever make.

In the past, the punk scene was like a breeding ground for hunt saboteurs, militant animal rights and animal liberation activism. And now, when veganism is so mainstream in the UK and all around the world, do you think there’s still ground for militant animal rights? Do you believe in it? Do you think that vegan and AR activism now is far from what it has been, i.e. when Barry Horne was still around?

Dean: Oh, I think it’s great that veganism and vegetarianism is becoming very mainstream. People are now standing up and realising what’s wrong with the fur farming industry, that the meat industry is killing the planet. Even the dairy industry, how small calves are being ripped off from their mothers straight away just to be used as products. It’s fucking horrible…

Varik: Meat industry is fascist. If you eat meat you are depriving someone of their life. If you’re making this decision, to me, if you eat meat you’re a Nazi. It’s the same mentality. Tear, fucking grab, smash, kill.

If you take vegan, you take peace. You take humanity, a higher level of understanding of the fucking planet and what you’re doing with it. Abusing animals just for selfish fucking consumption, you need to think do you want this for your fucking children…

Thank you very much, is there anything else you would like to add?

Varik: We, Anti-System, love Bulgaria. We love the people. We love this place. And we love what you are doing. Because we did the same.

Dean: And the hospitality is fantastic.

Varik: And the more there is like this, the more there will be a community and humanity. In England, people only care about themselves. When you come to people like this, with same views; it spreads. The humans are bad, the air is bad. In England people stand around like dead sheep with no fucking emotion. They don’t have lives, they are fucking androids.

They are programmed to serve the system. Fuck that shit! We are Anti-System.



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Anti-System: We Came to Tell the Establishment to Fuck Off Again!


Anti-System was an anarcho-punk band from Bradford, West Yorkshire, in England. Originally the band came into existence in early 80’s to be revered as one of the pioneers of the UK82 hardcore punk sound. Their lyrics dealt with the usual topics of anti-establishment, anarchism and animal rights but in an even more direct and confrontational way than most of the contemporary bands of the time.

Their most controversial song “Leather, Bristles, Studs, and Ignorance” off their last EP “A Look at Life” sparkled a lot of tension between them and the local punk-rock crowd, especially GBH fans that felt directly offended by the Anti-System’s song. The above mentioned EP is also notable for the band’s sound moving more into the heavy metal / thrash direction, which makes Anti-System an influential band for the later development of crust punk genre. However, it became their last record in that era, partially due to members of the band being imprisoned for smashing up three butcher shops, destroying an abattoir and freeing all the cows that were sent for slaughter.

In 2014, Anti-System came back together with a new line-up to steer up the punk circles again with their old school sound and uncompromising message. They even managed to record a brand new EP in 2017 called “At What Price Is Freedom?” (Boss Tuneage Records), followed by a series of shows, including their current Balkan dates in beginning of 2018.

After their shows in Greece and Bulgaria we sat down together with the editor of Sofia Rebel Station zine to interview Dean Martindale (vocals), Mark “Varik” Teale (guitar) and Kevin Frost (drums) about Anti-System and their legacy. Modern day photos by John Bolloten and Mr. & Mrs. Hardcore Photography, 80’s photos unknown.

OK, let’s start with the introduction. How did you get involved in the DIY punk and subculture and then how did you become a member of Anti-System?

Varik: We were a band with no instruments for two years, when we were 13-14-15 years old. No instruments, just going “rah-rah-rah”. No money, nothing. Then we started our own band called Morbid Humour. We practiced at the same space as Anti-System.

When Anti-System first started they made a single (“Defence of the realm” EP, 1983) but in a very quick time some of their members have left. So they carried Anti-System ongoing using my old band Morbid Humour. Me and Keane were both in Morbid Humour. Back then we’ve got some basic instruments, we were just 16-17 years old.

At the time of “No Laughing Matter” LP (1985) Mick Teale was the Anti-System’s singer and Keane was on the bass. There was a direct action against the meat trade. Smashed the vans, the wagons of the meat industry, let the animals out. Smashed, paint, and fuck everything up. But then they’ve got caught. I didn’t get caught but them two got caught. Then, after this, we did the second record (“A Look at Life”, 1986) but the only original member was the drummer from the first record. But he wasn’t punk anymore. We thought it was his band, so we finished as a band.

Through all this time we thought it was his band, so we couldn’t redo it. But we said fuck that, we took the name Anti-System four years ago and we took the young lad, the good singer Dean, and we carry on from there. It’s going good, the band gets stronger. We are now doing gigs everywhere, it’s cool.

Mark Keane: Mick Teale joined after Nogsy left and I joined on bass after Mickey Knowles was dropped by the band, and Varik joined shortly after we started working on the album “No Laughing Matter” (1985).

Me and Mick Teale were imprisoned shortly after recording “A Look at Life”. We were sent to a prison based on a military style. We were given a bad time for being vegetarians, fed the same shit for every meal. The inmates respected us after a while.

Dean: Hello, my name is Dean. I sing in Anti-System. Before Anti-System I was a drummer in a cover band with the original bass player Mickey Knowles, who was on the single. He saw me sing in another band, so he asked me can I sing in Anti-System. So, obviously, I said yes.

So, we’ve been doing this for four years now and it’s fantastic. I’ve got into the punk scene with bands like Black Flag, The Casualties, Crass, Conflict, all the anarcho bands, and everything just got from there.

Kevin: I’m Kevin, currently playing drums for Anti-System. I joined the band February 2016. I first came across Anti-System in the very early 80’s and used to put up a gig for them around 1984. This never came off. Always been familiar with the band, with all their releases in the past. I came from a very heavy punk background from 1979. I’ve played for various punk bands, I still play for a punk band called The Varukers, also play for Disorder and a few other punk bands along the way. I came to support Anti-System a couple of years ago in Wakefield with another band called The Vile. I’ve got caught in Anti-System and I’ve been ever since.

What does anarcho-punk mean to you and is it true that by the mid 80’s the scene just died down because of everyone being a self-righteous asshole?

Varik: Yeah, it would have been like that a bit cause the scene died down. In England it died down and a lot of people were despondent with how everything went. Thrash metal was coming and it seemed a lot of people were moving to that. Punk was left for a while, myself included. I’ve left the punk scene for a bit because of children, family, and other stuff to do.

For many years, I’ve always wanted to come back and do it but couldn’t get the members. It wasn’t until 2016 when the new version of Anti-System really came together. After a couple of bumpy years to start, until we’ve got solid again to be productive and get things back in line. To tell the fucking establishment to fuck off again.

It’s been brilliant last five years. Four years ago my dream has come true to be again in Anti-System. So it’s not just for the fans but for me as well and I’m so proud with my band. Proud with what we do, with what we stand for. Against fascism and against fucking inequality in our society. This has been always what we are about. I, personally, am not gonna stop fighting until I’m dead.

Dean: Anarcho punk to me means solidarity, everybody working together to create live music, like what we have today. The gigs in Athens, Thessaloníki, Sofia were all fantastic. There is no money involved but everybody gets together and enjoys the scene. We’re also all vegan and vegetarian, cause it’s also all about animal rights. They have reason to be free just as much as we have. It’s all about friends, not food. Animals are our friends, not our food.

Kevin: I’ve told the world many, many times, mainly with The Varukers, that you and the rest of the world are very, very special. The UK is rubbish. You’ve got treated so badly in the UK. You will play venues where they treat you so bad, but when you play other places, in Europe especially, everyone’s so welcoming and it’s almost like you’re on a different planet, to be honest with you. All of Europe, all of the rest of the world. But, to me, the UK is just crap.

I’m not very polite about it, there are surely a lot of good people in the UK who try very, very hard after all throughout the years, but the UK is one of these places where people like to stab you in the back no matter how hard you try. We’ve had various promoters over the years putting on some fantastic gigs, but there’s always this small minority that always like to demoralize them and stab them in the back on every opportunity they ever have.

If you’re in a band and you’re touring for a living and you have to make a little bit of money, it’s almost like a daily job to you. If you can’t survive as a band, you’re gonna die. That is an unfortunate fact. You have to survive, but a lot of people forget about that.

Many people today think that anarcho-punk is about not giving anything back to anyone. But I think this is not true. So do you think that your records cost anything, that your gigs cost anything?

Varik: Yeah, everything has a cost. Unfortunately. You know, it would be great if we lived the dream of fucking anarchism—of sharing, of equality. But unfortunately we have to use evil bastard money. You know, this is a fact of life. Anarcho does not mean you don’t need to survive. I believed when we grow old we’re gonna get rid of the system. But a different way of life like this is quite naïve. To me anarchy is a personal endeavor, which really means that the old views that we can live like that as a mass society, we can’t live like that with other people. This is so sad to see when we grew up believing in something different.

The reality is a big fucking world full of ignorant people. We’ve got live it. So anarchy to me is trying to make that world as best as possible. Greed, fucking war, politics—the old fucking law. It doesn’t fucking work. They still keep recycling it, but it doesn’t fucking work. We need the people to take the fucking power. And the people are their own fucking government. That’s the solution in my book. But it’s a dirty fucking world and a dirty game of politics. Cash, greed, everything we are against. And we fight against it all our lives and nothing changes but your personal environment and the people you are with.

Kevin: Anarchy nowadays is a form of ideology. While it tends to be a personal ideology that everybody thinks about it in their own way. Anarchy as a way of life without government, etc. will never ever work. So a lot of the old punks of the 70’s and 80’s now think of anarchy as an ideology. You live your own way as best as you possibly can without shitting on other people. And that is the way really that it’s gonna go forward.

I’ve always lived my life by these rules. I’ll do whatever I like as long as I don’t shit on other people. And I think that’s what the punk scene as an ideology has progressed to over the years. You can never have anarchy since there are far too many idiots in the world these days. The world nowadays is just based on greed. Everybody is out for whatever they can make to anybody else. They don’t give a shit about how they make people feel, how they treat people. The world is a very, very dangerous place at the moment. But as long as you as an individual live your life by the rules that you’ve set up for yourself, then you yourself can be at peace.

I think that and that’s exactly how I live my life. And I’m pretty sure a lot of the old punks of the 70’s and the 80’s do the same. They’ve realised over the years that anarchy is a way of life, it will never ever happen. But as a personal choice, it’s one of the best choices you’ll ever make.

In the past, the punk scene was like a breeding ground for hunt saboteurs, militant animal rights and animal liberation activism. And now, when veganism is so mainstream in the UK and all around the world, do you think there’s still ground for militant animal rights? Do you believe in it? Do you think that vegan and AR activism now is far from what it has been, i.e. when Barry Horne was still around?

Dean: Oh, I think it’s great that veganism and vegetarianism is becoming very mainstream. People are now standing up and realising what’s wrong with the fur farming industry, that the meat industry is killing the planet. Even the dairy industry, how small calves are being ripped off from their mothers straight away just to be used as products. It’s fucking horrible…

Varik: Meat industry is fascist. If you eat meat you are depriving someone of their life. If you’re making this decision, to me, if you eat meat you’re a Nazi. It’s the same mentality. Tear, fucking grab, smash, kill.

If you take vegan, you take peace. You take humanity, a higher level of understanding of the fucking planet and what you’re doing with it. Abusing animals just for selfish fucking consumption, you need to think do you want this for your fucking children…

Thank you very much, is there anything else you would like to add?

Varik: We, Anti-System, love Bulgaria. We love the people. We love this place. And we love what you are doing. Because we did the same.

Dean: And the hospitality is fantastic.

Varik: And the more there is like this, the more there will be a community and humanity. In England, people only care about themselves. When you come to people like this, with same views; it spreads. The humans are bad, the air is bad. In England people stand around like dead sheep with no fucking emotion. They don’t have lives, they are fucking androids.

They are programmed to serve the system. Fuck that shit! We are Anti-System.



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10 Years and 10 Questions with John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants


When I called John Flansburgh mid-morning a few days after Christmas, he was fresh off a flight from Los Angeles to New York the day before, his cat was ill, and his a.m. jolt of coffee was spilling across his kitchen. “This might be a low-key interview,” he playfully confessed. If anyone could be excused a decaffeinated interview, it would be the guitar-playing John of influential Brooklyn band They Might Be Giants. Flansburgh had spent the last few days loitering in airports between flights and was now staring down the barrel of back-to-back New Year’s Eve shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the US leg of a looming world tour, the release of his outfit’s aptly titled 20th studio album (I Like Fun), and a 2018 re-up on the band’s legendary Dial-a-Song project.

But before I could tell him that a dialed-down John would suffice — after all, I was still in my sickbed from a Christmas in quarantine — Flansburgh burst into a handful of lighthearted gripes about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s recent induction selections, almost as though he was determined to finish a conversation with me that he had been having with someone else. “Why doesn’t the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just stop?” he asked. “It’s almost inconceivable how there’s going to be an all-star jam at the end of the night. It’s The Moody Blues, Dire Straits, and Bon Jovi!” In that moment, I began realizing what the next two hours and change would confirm: there’s no such thing as a “low-key” John Flansburgh. He’s as generous with his time, memory, and enthusiasm as one could ever hope. It’s an energy level that at once makes you understand why he and bandmate John Linnell still have some pogo in their steps all these years later. But it also raises the question about how that seemingly bottomless well of get-up-and-go gets refilled — especially when the damn coffee leaks all over the kitchen.

Maybe it’s because our favorite Particle Men remain as spirited and youthful as ever that we sometimes forget all that They Might Be Giants have done and seen over the course of nearly 40 years together. They were an indie band from Brooklyn before that was a “thing,” became music video pioneers on a pop-infatuated MTV while armed with only guitar, accordion, drum machine, and tape, and have the found common ground between music and technology from the archaic days of Dial-a-Song right up to the slightly less archaic days of dial-up Internet. To speak to Flansburgh, it’s all been a beautiful mess of blood, sweat, and wrong ideas gone right.

Humility with a puddle of coffee. Just how we like it.

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You and John already knew each other from growing up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, when you moved to Brooklyn in ’81. What drew the two of you to playing together and starting a band?

We literally drove into Brooklyn at the same time to move into the same apartment building. In 1981, for lack of a better term, it was the height of the Fort Apache moment. There was a huge amount of flight out of the outer boroughs of New York. There were a lot of abandoned buildings. We lived on a block in Brooklyn that on paper you’d think would be a beautiful place, but one-third of the buildings were shuttered. It looked like East Berlin after the war. Landlords were routinely burning down apartment buildings to evacuate them and save money. It was that kind of downward spiral of a neighborhood.

I came to New York to finish up art school at Pratt, and John was in a skinny-tie punk band (The Mundanes) ostensibly coming to New York to get signed. The Mundanes were a real band, and They Might Be Giants were … I think anytime you start a band, you have to calibrate yourself against what exists in the world, and it was daunting that John was already a member of a band that had gigs, a PA, a lighting system, and real prospects. What we were doing together just seemed kinda like a lost cause.

They Might Be Giants was really just an extension of our friendship and a creative outlet for the kinds of conversations we would have and the things we were interested in. It came about very organically. There were a lot of conversations and pie-in-the-sky ideas about what a band could be kicking around as we were forming. Everything seemed abstract. We certainly weren’t ever thinking about making a record or having any career to speak of at all. It was always, “What if a band was…” It was always wide-open, abstract thinking.

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One of the most beloved parts of They Might Be Giants lore is the legendary Dial-a-Song, which you’re bringing back in 2018. How’d this project originally come to pass?

While all these buildings were getting shuttered, people were leaving town, and subway cars were getting covered in graffiti, all the young people of New York were buying phone machines, which previously had been reserved for actors or people with very itinerant lifestyles. Then these consumer phone recording devices came out, and it immediately reminded me of Dial-a-Prayer in Massachusetts, which was something the Boston Catholic Archdiocese had started so that very observant homebound or ill Catholics wouldn’t miss their daily prayers. So, when I saw these phone machines, I realized that you could record on that device and have individual people call and hear a song. At the time, it just seemed like another bad idea.

Later, John was working as a bike messenger and had broken his wrist, and I was graduating from Pratt. We had to move out of the apartment we had shared together, and I moved into this terrible apartment in Bed-Stuy that was actually run by the pot dealers who lived there, and they were as unenthusiastic to see me at the door with my moving boxes as you could imagine. So, I went off to my job, and when I returned, everything I owned was gone. Oh, actually, the one thing they did not take was my four-track tape recorder because it was too heavy. In fact, if they had taken it, we probably would have never been able to regroup. But those setbacks basically meant we weren’t going to play any shows, though I do think we played a gig at CBGB with John’s hand in a cast. I think that happened.

So, I had to find another apartment, and the whole notion of doing the Dial-a-Song project was to keep the momentum going, which is a really funny idea because I think we were drawing about 35 people at the time. So, we bought a phone machine and just started putting up little posters around the East Village, and people started calling up, and it started becoming its own stand-alone phenomenon.

Early on, callers were able to leave messages. Any memorable ones?

The one that always sticks out in my mind is when a friend we had lived with in Park Slope called up and did this very, very effective impression of Robert Christgau, something like: “Hello, They Might Be Giants. This is Robert Christgau of The Village Voice, and I just want to say that your band stinks, and I’m going to do everything in my power…” And it was extremely deadpan and very, very cold. The first time I listened to it I was pretty positive it was real, and I thought, “Wow, how much evil is there in the world that a rock critic would take time out of his day to call you up, tell you he hated you, and promise to destroy your career.”

Also, at least one woman, and probably more in New York City, took down the seven-digit number and used it as a way to blow off unwanted suitors, so we would get messages like, “Hey, Sarah. We met the other night. I thought it was pretty cool … Wow, pretty weird message, but, hey, give me a call.”

What is it about Dial-a-Song that still kinda tickles you guys? You’re bringing it back in 2018. 

In a strange way, everything has sort of changed and then changed back. Through the ’90s and the ’00s, we kept doing Dial-a-Song, even though we were making albums. At a certain point, it sort of seemed like this useless extra thing, and we didn’t want to stop it because people might think we sold out or got lazy. And it kinda fell off, but then as social media has kinda taken over the world, we noticed that things that happen this week are much more important than things that happened this month and certainly more important than things that happened this year.

When you’re working on a record for years, it’s very weird to come out with an album and then have people say, “Alright, so what’s next for you guys?” But that’s the way of the world. In a way, the Dial-a-Song project is now answering the question of how to keep introducing ourselves to our audience and just having people be able to experience the band in an ongoing way. Not to sound too crunchy granola about it, but one of the things I like is that everyone who was curious about the band got to experience this journey with us.

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It must have been both fascinating and daunting trying to break into the NYC music scene in the ’80s. Where did a band with an accordion, drum machine, tape, and big stick fit into that scene?

It was a really intense time in music. Things were moving very quickly in terms of styles of music. It was not that much after math rock and goth and prog rock and that California ’70s cocaine-fueled stuff, so all of that stuff was very much on people’s minds. And, of course, the breakout point of punk rock in ’77. Everyone was just sorting things out after that. When we arrived in New York, it was at the height of No Wave, which is the asterisk on the end of the New York music scene. Unlike the initial punk rock stuff and the New Wave bands that followed, the No Wave movement brought no breakout acts and was sort of universally loathed. It was this very almost performance-based kind of music, very screamy. And that was the future as we were starting. There was something very dystopian about the reality of New York in the early ’80s that is very difficult to explain without photographs.

When we arrived in New York in ’81, I was doing home recordings with a four-track tape recorder that I had, and John was playing on some of those recordings. We did one show in the summer of ’82 outdoors at a Sandinista festival where we played a bunch of songs accompanied by tape as just a duo. John was playing organ; I was playing electric guitar. One person could do the rhythm part and one the melody, and it’s very complete sounding. Drum machines were just emerging technology at that point. Because we worked with a drum machine and pre-recorded tape, everything took a lot of preparation. There’d be a recording of a Moog synthesizer and a drum part that we’d have to be completely in sync with. So, nothing was done on the fly, and there was no way to stop anything. That was our first show. Just putting all of that together was really the beginning of our permanent mode: We need to write more songs. We’ve been needing to write more songs for 35 years, which is a very manic, self-imposed episode. I think we should have a conversation with Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices, though I think he clearly kicks our ass in the He-Man songwriting competition.

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We had started playing shows in ’83 about once a month, and the East Village Scene was just taking off. That would ultimately be a much more important part of our career trajectory than, say, CBGB. But CBGB was very much the official gatekeeper of the New York rock scene at that time. It seems so surprisingly democratic, but there was so much demand for bands to play there that they set up this very clear structure for bands to march through to get to a weekend gig. There’d be an audition night, and if you passed that, they’d give you a Monday or Tuesday show, and if you brought in a lot of people, you’d get up to a Thursday or Friday or Saturday show. It took the better part of a year to get from audition night to a Thursday night, and if you didn’t keep on playing, you’d get pushed back.

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So, you went from trying to keep the momentum going from your shows with 35 people in the audience to, a couple years later, having “Don’t Let’s Start” become the first music video from an indie band to break into MTV’s regular rotation. What did that moment mean for the band?

It was super fun. New York City is a terrible place to try to get out of. The local scenes in New York explode and implode very, very quickly. We had kind of enjoyed this incredible East Village scene that had really come to a peak in ’85. But there were also a half-dozen or more nightclubs that were doing insane business — hundreds of people from all over the New York area pouring into the East Village to see these crazy nightclubs, with the Pyramid Club being the biggest one. Because there was this huge, local scene, and we were part of it, we were really plugged into it. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

These clubs were very different than previous ones. They only wanted original acts. It was very important that what you were doing was absolutely original. They were very focused on performance art and things that were very sensational. There was a lot of drug-oriented art; there was a lot of transgressive stuff, a lot of transvestite acts, and things that were never going to be able to be televised.

We made our first album kinda fueled by this local phenomenon — this thing happening in New York that had an audience. So, we came to the attention of this very smart and ambitious, young man named Adam Bernstein. He was working at Nickelodeon and wanted to get into video direction. MTV was only a couple years old, but it was already fully dominant on the pop charts. MTV was kind of like a soap opera. It seemed like it was in the shape and style of rock and roll, but it had no sense of humor or proportion. In the same way that nobody ever tells a natural joke in a soap opera, there are more belly laughs in a real emergency room. On MTV, all the established acts were so afraid of looking silly and breaking their very-well-crafted images that it was very leaden and pompous. John and I were as pretentious as anybody about what we were doing, but we didn’t care about our personas or personal images at all. It wasn’t about our faces.

We went out to the New York Pavilion at the now-abandoned World’s Fair site in Queens and made the video with Adam. It was already the second video off the album, and the first had only done okay, so we weren’t thinking that we were going to crush it. The album had come out and been out for a few months, and in many ways, it seemed very possible this video could’ve been the last thing we ever did, which is a really strange idea. It got picked up by MTV, and people responded to it immediately. It was something that went into rotation simply on its own merit. It’s hard to explain how unusual that was in 1987. Nothing went into rotation on its own merit. There was no such thing as just playing something because it was really good. That’s not how radio stations or MTV worked. We had exactly zero money behind us, and yet there it was, getting played on MTV like it was a real video from a real band. And things changed in very short order after that. It turned us into a national act. We could actually tour and play in clubs all around the country. It was scrappy — piling in a van and sleeping on people’s floors — but it pushed us out there. We went from being a very popular local band to being a very unpopular national band.

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Flood came out and sold more than a million copies. It’s still a record that people turn to and cherish nearly three decades later. What did it mean for you and John to suddenly connect with that many people through your music?

It changed everything. The success of that record gave us the career that would ultimately sustain us until now. It was a platinum record. There were songs that charted in the UK. The success of Flood was due to having this Saturn V rocket of the Warner Bros. distribution company latched to our backs, and that was no small thing. But we made a record that felt really special in its moment. We weren’t too far ahead of our audience … I felt like it was all good, which is so strange. We had many showdowns with the record company, and when you read interviews with people who have been in a band a long time, they always talk about these things, and I don’t think that people realize how pointlessly self-aggrandizing they can sound. We certainly had those types of odd conversations, but I do have to say that we felt the record company was very much on our side and was trying to figure out how to crack the code at the highest level. They were in the business of making hit records. The only reason you’re on Elektra is to have a hit. So, how to figure out how to have a hit for They Might Be Giants, just as an idea, kinda hurts your head. It’s just not necessarily a natural thing. I wanna say I’m grateful to all those people who worked so hard on that project.

And to be perfectly honest, I felt like our side was winning. It was a very corporate moment in music. This was very pre-grunge. The only trend of the ’80s was that recording artists got prettier and prettier and lamer and lamer. The rock video thing only made it more complicated for regular people to make music and contribute to the pop music scene. When looks didn’t count, successful musicians got pretty darn ugly. The ’70s was a period when you didn’t even know what a lot of people making records looked like. But if you did, you’d find out pretty fast that they looked a lot more earthbound than fashion models.

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On the album John Henry, you went with a full band for the first time. How’d that change the game for you two as songwriters and performers?

It was a really big challenge making records that sounded unique with a full band. When we were working with drum machines and samplers, we thought the ideas we had were super original and the tools we were working with were just the tools we were working with. Of course, it was much more in reverse. The tools that we were working with were really unorthodox and made really strange recordings almost automatically. That was something we weren’t really aware of when we were working that way.

When we made recordings with a full band, all of a sudden it sounded kinda like other bands. And that was distressing to me. Again, we were still in this very high-stakes environment with Elektra where they’re trying to figure out how what we’re doing is going to fit in on the radio, and all of a sudden, one of our secret weapons, which was working with this very unusual recording setup, was being directly altered to a much safer sound. I think there are a lot of great songs on John Henry, but the actual process of making it and the sounds on it are … it’s probably the only album we’ve made that actively frustrated me.

Did fans actually boycott or resist the switch from a duo to a full backing band?

There was zero resistance from our live audience to having a live band. The second we went to having a live band, our shows went from seeming like concert presentations, where everyone was sitting down with their fingers on their chins, to full-out, stage-diving, moshing, party celebrations. The energy of our audience’s response just went through the ceiling, and that was actually a change that happened in 1992. We did a world tour as a duo on the Flood album — almost 200 shows — and never got the response we did once we had a full band. Playing live music at insane volumes … it was just nonstop dancing.

I haven’t learned a lot, but I have learned there is a big difference between the front row and the back row. The front row’s perception of what things mean and why things happen in a band can be very, very off, and things just become predetermined as facts. It’s just part of the myth-making of being in a band. The truth is two things happened at the same time when we got a live band: our records sounded kinda safer, and our live show became really fun. And the idea that two things are happening at the same time can be hard sometimes for people to take in. But it was clear to me that we were never going to go back to our previous format after we got with a live band. But we did get back to working with drum machines and samples and work that way to this day.

Could you even go back to the old way of performing at this point?

We actually played one show as a duo in November of 2015, a set circa 1985. And it was really weird. It was fun, but circling back … The thing about playing as a duo was we really firmly planted our feet in that idea. We were committed. We were a duo in the way that AC/DC doesn’t do fade-outs. We were like, “This is who we are: guitar, accordion, bass synth, drum machine. That’s what we do.” It was a totally willful act to thinking there was no shortcoming to that format. And people would come and see our show and wonder if we were for real. The format itself was a huge governor on a lot of people’s experience with the band. Either they thought we were fake or incredibly weak. It just didn’t have any power. But I loved it. I thought it was real.

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Whether it be Malcolm in the Middle, The Daily Show, or Tiny Toon Adventures, They Might Be Giants have quietly infiltrated pop culture over the last couple of decades. What’s it been like having become a part of so many people’s daily lives — whether they know it or not?

We were leaving rehearsal at 11 o’clock at night once, and I was in the front lounge with the security guard. He was just changing channels on the television, and it literally went from a rerun of Malcolm in the Middle to The Daily Show to a rerun of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (who’s watching at 11 o’clock at night, I have no idea) to an ad for Dr. Pepper or Dunkin’ Donuts we’d done. It was like, “Click … us, us, us, us,” and part of me thought this was amazing, but I also thought about what it would be like to be, say, a sideman in a Motown band. It’s an extremely invisible thing to do. Nobody knows. In a way, it’s kinda fun. We’re definitely in the culture, but it’s under the cloak of night.

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In 2002, you released No!, your first children’s album. And children’s music has sort of been a successful side gig ever since. What drove you to try recording music for children? 

We were in a very weird transitional moment. It really was the only time where it was unclear what the future of the band was going to be. We were just really broke. We couldn’t figure out how to make a profit by being on the road, and we thought of this as an experiment. We figured we’d only be making one kids’ record, and we wanted it to be very special. Although we have a reputation for having educational material in our songs, our ambitions were kind of to push more absurd Dr. Seuss impulses. It made it kind of a psychedelic record for kids.

I think it came down to good timing. I was recently watching a Portlandia episode about a children’s rock artist — based on The Wiggles or something. There’s this hipster dad thing that’s a big part of kinder-rock. There are a lot of regional acts, some of them doing really top-quality stuff. It’s like a folk scene. But that idea was just starting when we did No!. And, of course, it’s now blown up into its own component of indie music. And watching that Portlandia episode, I realized this was a world now. You could make fun of this idea, and it’s funny to think back to a time when this was a brand-new idea.

Did writing for children teach you anything about songwriting in general?

It was very important to us that we kept to our personal production standards. When you’re making a kids’ album, if you tell anyone, you get into a lot of conversations about how kids like things like dinosaurs. If you get beyond that, they’ll tell you, “That’s great because it doesn’t even have to be good.” And that made us feel so weird that it turned into a passion project for us to make something of the highest quality. If it’s going to be something that’s part of somebody’s childhood, then it can be something that echoes a long time. Everybody wants their record to be good, but we really invested a lot of energy into it.

The truth is there’s a whole ton of 20-year-olds in the front rows of our shows, and that record was their introduction to us. We’re their guilty pleasure. We’re the act they didn’t give up on. That’s a very flattering place to be. I feel we’re very fortunate to have been able to hold on to an audience.

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Instead of just shouting out the city you were playing each night, you wrote a brand-new song inspired by and dedicated to each venue you played on that tour. How’d that unique project come about?

I don’t know why we did the Venue Songs project. I think it was just a very stray conversation in a rehearsal hall where somebody noticed we were doing the same tour we had done a year and a half ago. We were playing all the same places, virtually in the same routing. So, we thought if we cooked up a new song during soundcheck for each venue, it would make the show that much more exciting. So, we set about doing that. Some of them — maybe a half-dozen of them — are actually worth listening to again. The “Mr. Smalls” one might actually be the best one. The Hollywood one is pretty good, too.

The weird thing about the process is that we would cook up the arrangements for the songs onstage and then proceed to go off and have dinner and get ready for the real show, and by the time we were ready to hit the stage again, we would have to play the song at the top of the show because if we didn’t, we’d never remember it. So, right before we went on, we’d listen back to the soundtrack recording a couple times. It just seems like a mistake now. We really gilded the lily by having John Hodgman do all the narrations and making the videos. It was the beginning of the YouTube moment, and it seemed like doing visuals was such a big part of people even hearing stuff. But it’s a very lighthearted thing. I have no idea how much interest it is except to people who went to Richard’s on Richards or Mr. Smalls.

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You and John have been making records for three decades as They Might Be Giants. I Like Fun marks the band’s 20th. How has recording changed over the years, or is the process and feeling still the same when you two enter the studio together?

Everything we do as a band is scheduled. I’ve got a calendar of scheduled things in front of me that runs to December 2018. But the weird thing about a calendar is there’s no place that says something like “John and John Writing Songs.” Consequently, we can often be entering the studio extremely well prepared or not so well prepared. One thing that we have gotten better at — and a lot of this is due to doing commercial work — is working quickly. Our confidence level in the recording studio is much, much higher than it was when we started at home all those years ago making demos and taking these very fragile ideas and committing them to tape.

We have a much bigger skill set than when we started, but our ambitions and standards are kinda the same. I’m looking at the 15 songs on this album [I Like Fun] and thinking, “Yeah, this new record’s really solid.” I’m really proud of how it came together. It’s a good combination of very strange songs and just some good pop songs. But I’m probably as nervous as I am proud. The challenge of writing songs … there’s just so much unlimited potential. But I think we’re covering some original territory in songwriting, and I think it’s worthwhile.

Actually, I think this record is a very good calling card for what we do. People ask us what a good starting point is [for getting into They Might Be Giants], and I think this album has a really good range of things. A really healthy, unusually wide set of ideas. And for the kind of band that we are, that’s sort of what you’re looking for. We’re trying to create a universe of our own, and I think this album does a good job of setting out a bunch of different flags.

You’re heading out on a world tour in a couple weeks. What’s life’s wisdom taught you about touring?

The best venues are the places that are some percentage shitty. If you’re playing at the opera house or arts center where everything is nice, it’s just gonna be a bad gig. Playing in a place that’s slightly run down, lived in — those are the places that have the energy. The places that do 200 shows a year. Those are the places you wanna play. Basically, the places that smell a little bad. Those are going to be the good gigs. That’s where the real stuff happens.

Are there any new songs you’re dying to play live?

There’s “I Left My Body”, which is such a simple song, but it’s really fun to play. It’s a very hypnotic, throbby song. It’s just really fun to dig in on. And then there’s “I Like Fun”, this really left-field song that we’re doing with our trumpet player, Curt Ramm, who’s coming out with us. We’ve done a lot of shows with him in New York, but we’ve never been able to afford to take him on tour. Until now, he’s been working with Springsteen. I think it’s probably fair to say that Bruce Springsteen pays a little better than They Might Be Giants. So, we’ve added him to our live lineup, and it’s this incredible amplifier to what we do. There are all these songs in our repertoire that have really big trumpet moments — “Doctor Worm”, “Your Racist Friend”, “Whistling in the Dark” — and one of them is the title track, “I Like Fun”, and it’s very majestic, very unexpected, and having that kind of instrumentation onstage makes it so different than your average, cookie-cutter rock show.



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Cinamon Hadley, the inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s Death, has passed away


You get what anyone gets…
You get a lifetime…

Cinamon Hadley, the inspiration for the character design of Neil Gaiman’s Death of The Endless featured in his Sandman comics, has passed away from a long battle with cancer on January 6th.

She was diagnosed with the advanced stages of small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the colon earlier this year, but raised money for treatment causing her to go into remission.

Sadly, her cancer returned, and despite raising money for a new round of treatments via crowdfunding, she succumbed to the cancer’s spread.

Funds raised for her treatments will now be used for her funeral costs. You can donate here.

Cinamon’s influence on Goth Fashion and culture cannot be overstated.

“Death is the only major character whose visuals didn’t spring from me; that credit goes to Mike Dringenberg. In my original Sandman outline, I suggested Death look like rock star Nico in 1968, with the perfect cheekbones and perfect face she has on the cover of her Chelsea Girl album.

But Mike Dringenberg had his own ideas, so he sent me a drawing based on a woman he knew named Cinamon Hadley — the drawing that was later printed in Sandman 11 — and I looked at it and had the immediate reaction of, “Wow. That’s really cool.” Later that day, Dave McKean and I went to dinner in Chelsea at the My Old Dutch Pancake House and the waitress who served us was a kind of vision. She was American, had long black hair, was dressed entirely in black — black jeans, T-shirt, etc. — and wore a big silver ankh on a silver necklace. And she looked exactly like Mike Dringenberg’s drawing of Death.”-Neil Gaiman

In an interview originally published in part in her book Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Postpunk and Goth in the 1980s, our Editor Andi Harriman interviewed Cinamon on what her style inspirations were, and on how Mike Dringenberg utilized her for his design of Death.

Read the full interview published for the first time below:

When did you first enter the scene? What attracted you to it?

“I was a ballerina and grew up on the stage. What attracted me to the deathrock scene was, it was like theatre–make-up, costumes…..oh and dancing! You could be so creative with hair, makeup and clothes. And I’m a very creative individual.

I designed and made most of my clothes-not only was I poor, but I had specific ideas of what I wanted to wear

I didn’t enter the scene until late ’87. I was 18. I dyed my hair black, bought black liquid eye liner, and bought my first pack of cigarettes-camel lights hard pack. Lol.
I heard about a dance club in Salt Lake called the Palladium. I put my ballet stage make-up on, my little black outfit and teased my hair as big as I could get it and went to the club. I was in awe. I felt so at home, everyone was nice to me and I thought everyone was so “cool”. I decided this was the world I wanted to be in.

I copied Patricia Morrison’s hair from Sisters of Mercy!”

Who inspired your look? Was there a specific person?

“I wasn’t really influenced by any specific person-except my big hair-it was more; I saw people in lots of black and lots of eye liner- . I would just start out with my Maybeline liquid eye liner and just start drawing. I often didn’t know what I was going to do. I really like the Egyptian make up, I guess actually I was influenced by King Tutankhamen -a photo used in the comic has this makeup. But, There really isn’t anything original- some one somewhere has done it or thought about doing it. I thought I was so creative, drawing a big spiderweb on my face and gluing a little plastic spider in the center—yeah-well, it had already been done. Now for the infamous swirl under Death’s eye. That was a result of one of my little drawing sessions on my face. Now I see it everywhere. It’s kind of neat.”

How did you get involved with Neil Gaiman?

“Mike Dringenberg, the original artist for the Sandman, was a good friend of mine. He asked me one day if he could use me as a character for a comic book. I said sure. I didn’t know anything about comics and I didn’t know it was even anything special. I certainly had no idea it would be what it is now.
Funny story-About three years after Mike asked me if he could use my likeness, I was living in Houston, having moved from Salt Lake City, and I was at a friend’s house. My friend told me his favorite comic was the Sandman and showed me an issue. When I opened it I saw a picture of myself staring back at me. (It was one of the 2 photographs actually used and just inked over). i said ” oh my God,that’s me”. I had no idea I was in the Sandman, and I had even forgotten about being asked by Mike to use me as the model.”

 

Cinamon Hadley with Mike Dringenberg

 



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Guest Post: Jack Murray’s top 10 albums of 2017


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Having listened to every single piece of recorded music this year (even both Gallagher albums and the new one by Nick Knowles) and rated everything as a Pitchfork score of 6.66,  Jack Murray is here to provide us with his top 10 albums containing songs that he likes to listen to with his ears. Got it? Good.

Also, here’s his top 10 albums of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

10. Atomic Bitchwax – Force Field

This is the seventh full length from the legendary stoner power trio. It’s full on pedal to the metal stuff that goes at 100 mph and doesn’t let up until the end.

CHECK OUT: Shell of a Man

9.’68 – Two Parts Viper

This is album number two from the Josh Scogin fronted blues noise duo. This album is just as visceral as their debut, yet contains some more expansive moments.

CHECK OUT: Whether Terrified or Unafraid

8. Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

This new album from the sludge heavyweights contains elements of all their previous 6 albums. It’s also their first concept album since ‘Crack the Skye’.

CHECK OUT: Steambreather

7. Mutoid Man – War Moans.

This is the second album from the supergroup containing members of Cave In and Converge. This is the perfect blend of thrash, powerpop and Van Halen worship. Over the top and a hoot live.

CHECK OUT: Melt Your Mind

6. Unsane – Sterilize

This is the first album in 5 years from the seminal noise rock kings. Music does’t get more angry and pissed off than this!

CHECK OUT: Factory.

5. At The Drive-In – IN*TER A*LI*A

This is the first album in 17 years from the influential post hardcore group. This album was highly anticipated but received a lukewarm reception on its release. It sounds good to these ears though!

CHECK OUT: Call Broken Arrow

4. Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now

This is the fifth album from the Pennsylvanian hardcore punk/noise rock outfit. This is something of a concept album exploring themes of masculinity and femininity in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

CHECK OUT: The Bar Is Low

3. Ginger Wildheart – Ghost In The Tanglewood

This man is a regular fixture in my end of year list and there is a reason. This is being billed as his first country/folk album. This contains some of his most personal lyrics to date.

CHECK OUT: Golden Tears

2. Jamie Lenman – Devolver

This is the second solo album from the former Reuben frontman. This contains many musical elements while still managing to sound like a cohesive body of work. The man is a wizard!

CHECK OUT: Hell In A Fast Car

1. The Bronx – V

This is the fifth album from the Los Angeles punk band. This band is known for their consistency and this is a very welcome addition to their catalogue!

CHECK OUT: Two Birds

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Lizard Hips

Junior Vice President of Keep It Fast. In other news: I work in social media, talk about dinosaurs, run a book club and have amazing facial hair. I am also a male man who is still not dead.

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Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Can’t Fake Success


There’s a moment in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest wherein the author lists a series of lessons one might learn when forced to examine themselves: “Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.” And while he didn’t learn that lesson in a halfway house a la the mammoth novel’s protagonist, Jack Antonoff has relied on that vehement self-reflection to help unlock the deepest idiosyncrasies of prominent artists from Lorde to Taylor Swift, then helping those eccentricities resonate with millions who feel the exact same way.

Certain producers see doors and sprint across the threshold. Antonoff is not shy about taking every opportunity, starting when he leapt into the music world as a young teenager. He dug into emotional pop punk and indie rock as a way to express himself in the wake of family tragedy. “I wrote songs because I felt like I had to say something and see if anyone else felt that way,” he offers with a warm sincerity. After finding success with the outfit Steel Train, he moved onto fun., breaking into the upper echelons of pop stardom with anthemic hits “We Are Young” and “Some Nights”. Antonoff’s songwriting meshed impeccable hooks with entirely honest emotion, never sacrificing an ounce of personality or intimate confession for commercial appeal.

Even once he started making connections with the pop world, Antonoff continued to rely on intensely personal methodology rather than moving into track and hook songwriting. He didn’t emulate others or write on spec, but rather worked in close quarters with new collaborators, got to know them, and pushed ever further into his own and his co-writers’ realities. “All of my favorite songs with really great writing and production have something that speaks to everybody individually,” he affirms.

After penning hits with Sara Bareilles, Grimes, Sia, and more, the spread of Antonoff’s personal approach reached a saturation point in 2017. In a single calendar year, he co-wrote and produced the majority of Lorde’s Melodrama (our publication’s Album of the Year), a large portion of Taylor Swift’s Reputation, and chunks of St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION and Pink’s Beautiful Trauma — as well as releasing an album with his latest project, Bleachers.

But unlike other producers who have had years in which they’ve seemed everywhere, Antonoff’s production doesn’t have the signature formula like Timbaland’s rubber band bass and skittering hi-hat, nor does it have the ultra-gloss patchwork of Max Martin. Though his collaborators are spread from dance pop to art rock, Antonoff finds a way to accentuate the singularity of each. Rather than write for those artists, he writes with them, one-on-one, a sort of art by therapy or gently held hand to help lift the weight.

It’s telling, as well, that the vast majority of artists with which Antonoff has worked in his career — and in fact the entirety of 2017 — are fiercely independent and inimitable women. In an industry embroiled in abuse, assault, and generally inexcusable power dynamics, not only does Antonoff support these artists, but does so by encouraging their own strengths rather than insisting on his own. The only other person involved in the process is engineer Laura Sisk, another dynamic female voice in the sessions — “a very unsung hero,” Antonoff insists, in another moment of shining the spotlight elsewhere.

That duality — putting out a solo album while stepping out of the limelight, digging into incredibly personal material while hoping thousands of people connect — is a mercurial balance, the same alchemy that propels the chart-topping and critically beloved songs and albums he’s spread throughout 2017. By tapping into the deepest, unspoken belief that we’re all unique, he’s managed to bring so many together in passionate choruses. We spoke with Antonoff about 10 key takeaways from his journey, including being competitive with oneself, meeting his collaborators, never assuming people are stupid, and how he found himself at the center of the music that defined 2017.

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Home is Where the (He)art Is

It doesn’t matter how you do it; it just matters that you do it the best way for you. That’s actually a very hard thing to realize: how you’re best. It takes many, many years and a lot of trial and error to be able to look at your work that way. Your whole goal in writing songs and making records is to capture a feeling. It’s no different than fishing, where everyone has a different hook that they like and they’re trying to capture this thing.

I have a landscape that’s very specific, where I feel like I’m totally myself, where I’m around all my things, and I can’t escape myself. I like to create there. But then I also like to take it all over the world and hear what it sounds like on a plane or in a different city. It’s nice to hear things in different places. New York is really home, but I come to Los Angeles to just sift through some of the things that I work on.

I’ve always loved writing on tour. I’ve always loved writing and recording at home and hearing it while I’m on tour, having that experience of being connected to live audiences and then taking that feeling home. Sure, I’ve gone to the woods and things like that. In my experience, if I leave the things that know me — the walls, the cities that know me — I can lose myself a little bit. Some people need that to find themselves. All that matters with writing is that you put yourself in environments that give you the best chance — and even then you still might not get fucking anything.

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ben kaye governors ball 2017 231 Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Cant Fake Success

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On Success and Evolution

Songwriting and making records doesn’t change with success in any way. The big change is that more people are paying attention. I’ve been writing, making records, and touring for 15 years, so the past couple of years have been funny for me. Physically, my body is doing the same thing; it has just changed in other ways. I feel focused on getting these ideas out and getting them out correctly. Writing songs that connect with people the way you do when you’re a kid alone in your bedroom is really no different from the way that you do when a hundred million people are going to hear it. That’s a really funny thing to realize because I think there’s this feeling that you’re going to get invited into some kind of winner’s circle. And it doesn’t exist, and it shouldn’t exist.

I never wrote songs because people wanted me to write songs or because the world said I was great at writing songs. I wrote songs because I felt like I had to say something and see if anyone else felt that way. When I started writing songs, it was for two friends. The feeling of playing a song for two friends and them saying, “Oh, I know what you’re talking about” is the same feeling as when the entire internet says, “I know what you’re talking about!”

It’s like your first panic attack. The first time you get a panic attack, most people think they’re literally having a stroke or a heart attack. They think they’re dying because they’ve never felt that way before. Whereas no one remembers the first time their knee hurt, because who gives a shit? So, I think that is the feeling of having interesting collaborative relationships that work. You find another person that understands this thing that you feel is not understandable. That’s also the feeling, to be honest, when one person or a billion people like or connect with a song you wrote. You get this moment of clarity that makes the world feel a little more connected.

The process is exactly the same. So that’s why I don’t like to be in really big studios; I like to be in a home studio or the hotel on tour. And to be honest, nothing I did had any team involved. I made my records at home. The Lorde and St. Vincent and Taylor and Pink were just made with the artists. There were no focus groups, no test audience. If I had the same year and less people noticed it, I would still feel pretty great about those albums. I love those albums. They mean a lot to me, and I loved making them. There’s no need to change that. There’s no better way to do it. There’s no first class of writing.

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bleachers gone now Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Cant Fake Success

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On Writing the Best Song Every Time

All of my favorite songs with really great writing and production have something that speaks to everybody individually. Millions and millions of people can all listen to the same song and just feel like it’s talking to them directly. That’s how I felt when I heard “In My Life” by The Beatles or “Unpretty” by TLC.

In the culture of writing that I come from, you don’t write a song unless it’s the best song you’ve ever written. It’s an insane competitive streak, but I’m only competitive with myself because I just want to find that song. When you find that song, when you actually get it and you actually hear it, and the production and everything makes sense, there’s no greater feeling in the world — but it only lasts for one second. Then you immediately think, “Oh no, was that the last one?” Then you go into this crazy deep dive trying to find the next one, and you don’t want the next one to be a fraction of this one. This has nothing to do with tempo or bigness; sometimes it’s a sad ballad, sometimes it’s a huge dance song. You just want to find that one song that really touches you. When you do, you have a split second of release. It’s insanely competitive and ambitious, so much to the point that it drives you a little crazy, but the trick is to stay only competitive with yourself, because nothing else matters. I just know that if you let yourself be inspired by others and stay really competitive with yourself, there’s a lot you can discover.

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st vincent august 2017 Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Cant Fake Success

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Nobody Wants to be the Biggest Songwriter

Nobody writes songs because they want to be the biggest songwriter in the world. They want to write songs because they want to access themselves and be able to share it with other people. The greatest success you could have as a songwriter or a producer is for something to sound exactly like it does in your head, which is so impossible. You hear something in your head, you have a vision for it, and then you spend all this time trying to actually make it real, make it exist. That’s your ultimate goal.

But a big part of the past year for me in general is trying to stay fully connected with the original goal. No one writes songs because they want to make money. It’s a very desperate act, songwriting and production. You have a feeling that you’re terrified that no one has ever felt it before, and you make this grand, absurd gesture, put it to melody and production, and then you cast it out into the world and just pray that one person says, “Oh, I agree.” That’s the whole point. That’s when we’re at our best.

The heart of making work is being misunderstood for no real reason. I’ve had a lot of things happen in my early life that I write about a lot, some extreme trauma, loss, and grief. But that’s just stuff that I feel compelled to share, not why I make work. Everyone I know who is any kind of artist, the one common thread is that they have always felt misunderstood and can’t really pinpoint the exact reason. You’re just dying to know if anyone else has felt this way.

The greatest songs come from this singular space, this very specific thing, and then are amplified by the ability for many people to relate to something that is not super common. The greatest love songs are a very specific take on love. In my opinion, there’s no reason to write a song about something incredibly common that everybody experiences.

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antonoff Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Cant Fake Success

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On Being Understood

Media is a bizarre thing and has always been a bizarre thing, but that’s especially true right now. When I play a show and I talk to kids after, or if I go to a show and meet people, or I meet people on the street and talk about what I’m up to, I feel totally understood by the people who are paying attention to me. But I feel like if you’re not part of a very specific formula, people can latch on to one side or another. The inherent point of a lot of media, unless it’s the really, really good stuff, is to make something very simple. But by no means has my career and my work been simple, and I never intended it to be. I never set out to be super easy to understand by a large group of people. I didn’t start saying, “Okay, I’m going to wear these specific clothes, have this specific name, have this one sound, and that’s going to be that.” I didn’t go for a super mainstream audience. A lot of that found me later. I’m already who I am, so it’s just going to be vaguely confusing for anybody that’s looking for a really simple explanation — which is fine with me.

The people I’m most concerned about are the people that are paying attention. That’s all that matters. It’s part of why I love touring so much and why I never want to be someone who isn’t face to face with the kids. That’s what matters: that reaction from a kid buying a ticket to a show. There is nothing there besides the need to be in a room and celebrate a body of music that you care about. That’s my bible.

It’s weird. On one hand, you do this because you have to do it, but then on the other hand, you share it. And you don’t share it for no reason; you share it because you want to be in conversation with people in some way or another. So you can’t live and die by the expectations and opinions of people, but you also have to stay in that conversation if you want to be there. It’s a funny balance.

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taylor swift call it what you want stream Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Cant Fake Success

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On Working in a Specific Way

What I’ve done my whole life is what I do now, whether I’m alone or with another artist: I look at the whole thing and just push this boulder up the mountain. I work in a pretty specific way. I don’t do random things like writing camps — not because I have a problem with things like that, but because I’m not good at it. All the work I do is me in a room, either by myself or with one other artist. The only second or third person that’s ever in the room is Laura Sisk, who’s a very unsung hero in my opinion. She engineers all the records I do, and she’s a big part of the process.

I’ve talked about this a lot, and people take it as me throwing shade, but it’s not that at all. I think five people getting together, bouncing ideas off of each other, and getting a great song is a beautiful thing. I just never found much artistic success doing that. So, all the records I make, by myself or with other people, it’s a very insular process.

I used to have more opinions than I do now. The only opinions I have now are about myself. The longer time goes on, there’s only one thing that I stay sure of: I can only know what works for me. I can’t in good faith work on someone else’s art if I’m not being my best self. If I’m somewhere and I feel like someone’s not getting 100 percent of me, then I leave because it’s not fair. It’s all a weird algorithm in your brain: Did you not have too many friends in high school? Were you able to socialize well? Whatever the reasons are, everybody has their own code of how they can be the most creative and how they’re not. The best thing you can do if you’re going to put art out into the world is to stay your best.

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antonoff 5 Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Cant Fake Success

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How I Met My Collaborators

All my most important creative relationships happened very randomly. I’ve worked with Grimes; I’m a really big fan. I met her at a weird, fancy party, and we sort of gravitated towards each other out of that kind of energy. I met Lorde at a Grimes show, and we started chatting about music; we’re both big Grimes fans. I met Taylor [Swift] at some weird music thing, maybe the European Music Awards, back during fun. days, like 2013 or something. I think our working relationship started because we both think that “Only You” by Yaz is the most perfect song ever written. Tegan and Sara are old friends. My old band, Steel Train, opened for them. Sara from Tegan and Sara introduced me to Sara Bareilles, we exchanged some emails, and then got together one day and wrote “Brave” in one afternoon. It’s always been just nice and simple. Annie [Clark, St. Vincent] and I had sort of met here and there at different things. I knew people that she knew. And then one night we got some food, and then we tried a couple of things in her studio, and then we tried some things in my studio in New York. It’s always a very gradual process.

I’ve never just sat down and said, “Okay, let’s make this whole album together.” It’s always a very gradual process. That’s what it was with Ella [Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, Lorde] when we started working on Melodrama. There were a lot of early recording sessions on that album where the box was so big of what it could be, and we just really defined it slowly. And that’s my favorite way to make records: to have a partner, whether that partner is another artist or an imaginary person in your head [laughs]. Then you just set out this entire body of work that has all the things you love about albums. It’s too big to fathom, so you just very slowly push that boulder up a hill.

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Making An Album is An Endless Conversation

Making an album is an endless conversation. The people I work with are brilliant producers as well. Ella, Annie, and Taylor are brilliant producers. There’s this real partnership of believing in something together and never stopping until it’s right. But that’s what comes with a working relationship that goes on for some time: you start to develop this language. Sometimes the language is literal, a literal bank of sounds. When we first started making Melodrama, Ella would talk about things and I would understand a fraction of what I would come to understand a few months later. The same thing happened with Annie on MASSEDUCTION. You can talk and talk and talk, but then as a team when you find an actual song or sound that is that conversation, it’s a really beautiful thing that creates a framework.

Then one day you look back, and you think, “I don’t even know how we got here, but we got here.” While you’re doing it, it seems so impossible. The same thing with the Bleachers record: it’s so daunting and massive, the only thing you can do is a combination of holding onto a big dream and taking baby steps. You have to have both. In this neverending state of delusional dreams, you won’t let go of how great something can be, how honest and emotional. Then, on a day-to-day basis, you have to make tiny steps up that mountain.

It’s about understanding the space of something. For example, I did two songs on the Pink album [Beautiful Trauma]. I did two out of many songs, but the reason I felt so good about it was because in my experience with her, when we were working together, we would have these conversations, and it just felt so natural to turn these conversations, the things she was telling me, into songs. There are certain artists that are always going to have a singular vision. So, a lot of people that I work with, there’s not really a risk that they’re not going to have a vision. These are some of the most brilliant artists ever. There’s no world where that would ever not be the case.

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antonoff 2 Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Cant Fake Success

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Looking Back to the Future of 2017

I get a very intense feeling when I see the things that I’ve done this year, and it’s hard to describe. These albums mean the world to me. It just feels like a moment to me, this moment in my life.

It was never planned to have all this released this year. People I work with at labels may say, “Oh, we want to get it out around this time,” but what happens happens. A few months this way or that way is irrelevant compared to making the right or wrong album. All that matters is making the right album for yourself. My album wasn’t done until it was done, and that goes for all of the other stuff that I did. But it is in some ways symptomatic of the world and where I’m at.

Looking at the world, I’m sure everyone agrees that things are so hard to understand that you can only take so much. At some point, you have to go to the place where you do understand. I watch the news, I read the paper every day, and I know everything that’s going on, and I’m right here, but then the only way I survive is that everyday I write. And that’s very often not political writing; it’s almost always matters of the heart. But I can’t fully live in a place that I don’t understand. So, as horrible as that is, it really motivates me to stay in this creative space.

To be honest, shit’s always fucked up, but it’s obviously gotten really intense in the past two years — I’ve never been happier creating, either by myself or with other people. I think it’s because a lot of my creativity comes from harsh places. That’s kind of where I feel the most comfortable writing from anyway. I also know it’s not an endless well, so when it’s working, you have to follow it. I can’t control it. I always say this about songwriting: It’s a totally powerless art form. You spend five months racing down this path only to get to the end and find out there was nothing there. And then you turn around to walk back and write the best song you’ve ever written. It’s totally powerless. Anyone who says they know how to do it, that they have the secret, I don’t believe them. The closest answer I can come to is that it’s just about constantly trying.

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It Shouldn’t Be Easy

Everything I did this year I did because I really believed in it, and it really mattered to me. Another thing that’s important is to not make too many plans. It might not seem like it, but I didn’t think too far into the future. I just said yes if I thought I could do a good job. If I think too far forward, there are some vague feelings of terror, but that might just be a cultural defect.

It wasn’t always easy, but there was never an option not to overcome it because that’s what making an album is. It’s a fucking delusion until it’s not. You say, “I’m going to do this” and then you just never stop believing, even when it seems absurd. Any project I’ve worked on, there have been moments of euphoria and moments of being utterly lost. If it was easy, everyone would do it. If it was easy, it wouldn’t matter. If it was easy, it would be like making a sandwich.

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antonoff 3 Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff on Why You Cant Fake Success

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Never Assume People Are Stupid

The most important thing is the artistic success, and that’s strictly defined to you knowing whether you did it or not. You can’t fake that. I don’t think you can really pray to the gods of commercial success. I really, really believe that anything that’s an artistic success will find a version of commercial success. That doesn’t mean that if you make a great record everything ends up in an arena, but I truly believe that if you really achieve your definition of artistic success — without any bullshit, without making any excuses — that work will find a space. It’s a big world and there are so many different ways you can have success. I adore playing shows to big crowds. I love throwing a big party to celebrate songs. That’s something that feels very comfortable to me.

The bottom line is, if you design something to be commercially successful, I think you’ve assumed people are stupid. You should never, ever assume people are stupid, because they’re not. My least favorite phrase is when people say, “A person is smart, people are dumb.” I do not believe that at all. To have any commercial success feelings be part of the design of why you’re making work is such a losing game — like picking out five friends and saying, “We are going to have the greatest night of our lives starting right now!” It’s just not possible. The music industry is so funny because you’ve got an entire industry that is built to try to find out how to do that over and over again, and no one can! You can’t. All you can do is make work that you believe matters.



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Multiple Man & the Antithesis of True Futurism | Interview + US Tour Dates


Australian twins Sean and Chris Campion – otherwise known as Multiple Man – is one of EBM’s most exciting new acts. With their early 2017 LP New Metal on DKA Records, the duo’s punchy and sinuous tracks combine luscious heat with pure electronic power that is not unlike Cabaret Voltaire or fellow colleagues, High-Functioning Flesh. The duo released their self-titled EP in 2013 and has only matured since with their distinct 1980s melodic sound that is fused with EBM elements, ripe for any dance floor. Before embarking on the Multiple Man US tour that starts tonight in Manhattan, we were able to chat with the twins about their music making process, inspirations, and how MM’s music is precisely the opposite of the future.

What sort of inspirations did you pull from when originally forming the band? Did you listen to the same things when growing up?

Sean Campion: We were really into early primitive new wave at the start. Tubeway Army, early Human League singles. Melbourne’s Chrome Dome. Hearing Cabaret Voltaire’s “Nag Nag Nag” was a big moment. Growing up, I was head over heels for hardcore and hip hop’s electro era. 

Chris Campion : I listened to a lot of classic rock and all those dumb Detroit sounding boogie bands on Myspace. Our dad was always playing Grace Jones, 80s Herb Alpert and Grover Washington Jr growing up. If you know where to look you can hear those sounds in New Metal.

How did those influences evolve for the release of New Metal?

SC: Around [the 2014 EP] Persuasion we were obsessed with big brash platinum hit sounds of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and INXS. That record had a freakishly long gestation period and by the time it was out we were sick of the idea of a band writing songs.
I started running a local radio show and was diving into all kinds of throbbing synth music. Chris became the major musical driving force and the tracks became clubbier. When he moved to New York two years ago, the tracks got nastier. Maybe it’s a nasty place or maybe it’s because he saw Black Label Society on the plane ride over.

What sort of process do you go through when creating a MM song? 

CC: I like the kind of sounds of early sampling tech. Fairlights, E-MU emulators. A lot of the skeletons of tracks are sequenced on the computer and get a bit noisier once we elaborate on them in a live context. 

SC: Chris will demo a track and email it to me. I’ll run it through some quality control and crunch the numbers. If it’s a thumper then it we will bounce ideas back and forth for entirely too long before it becomes a track.

How would you define Multiple Man? It seems that you’ve been defined as both industrial and EBM – do you agree?

SC: We are trying to steer clear of of self appointing labels for a bit. “Synthpunk” and “Firm Handshake Body Music” seem to follow us like a bad smell. We are interested in letting our audience make up their own mind about our music. Call us whatever you like. We can take it.

CC: We called it “future punk” briefly when we still had a guitar in the band and someone did a 10,000 word blog post about how we’re the antithesis of true futurism. Which is true. We don’t sound like the future. The sound of the future will be the sound of one million arms shoveling coal.

What’s the EBM and industrial scene like in Australia? Have you seen it grow in the past few years? 

CC: Underground music in Australia crosses genre boundaries a lot, more so than in the Americas. I see us as a little pocket within the larger electronic and punk scene. Industrial and EBM sounds have been creeping into both steadily over the last few years. There is a lot of stuff we like and have been thrilled to play with. You could put us in the same bag with Lucy Cliche, Forces, NUN or Holy Balm and that bag would be a beautiful bag. There is a lot of BAD industrial bands with bad haircuts, bad politics and badly spelled band names but that’s true of everywhere.

What can we look forward to with your live show this time around? Any songs you’re most excited to play?  

SC: Playing a lot of new material off a forthcoming record we are working on for a great label. We are mixing it in Chicago with Jeremiah Meece in the coming weeks. We haven’t played since June so we look forward to shaking off the cobwebs and flog this dead horse. 

US tourdates below + more info here.



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The Cinematic World of King Krule


Long before he called his new album The Ooz, before he decided that album would come out on Friday the 13th, and before he released a music video for preview track “Dum Surfer” in which he leads a band of zombie-like musicians, shades of horror always clawed through the curtains of the King Krule world. Archy Marshall has never been too eager to expose the reality of the world or the meanings of his art, instead smearing bruised, raw textures and murky symbolism across the tracks and letting it linger in listener’s’ subconscious. But films, on the other hand, are something he has no problem dissecting. His love of the art form, from slasher horror to existential drama to tear-jerking realism, has inspired his entire artistic life.

In fact, Marshall shares films with others much the way that fans connect with his music. He associates them with people and places, whether organizing a movie night with friends or getting passed a tape from his older brother. Similarly, surreal songs like new single “Half Man Half Shark” follow a sort of dream logic, fusing punk, jazz, lounge, and hip-hop textures into a murky depth full of rough-hewn creatures. Marshall’s songs melt and shift shapes like rivulets of blood down the shower drain in the classic Psycho scene — a favorite of the 23-year-old English singer-songwriter. In fact, the new album oozes just as its name would suggest, absorbing every strand of musical DNA it encounters, while Marshall soaks in everything around him. For Marshall, music and movies share that potential for world-building, for taking parts of our reality and stretching them into new, unrecognizable shapes across massive screens. And, much like life, it’s not always pretty.

kingkrule theooz cover 310717 The Cinematic World of King Krule

So, you’re in LA now, but you’re still living in London, right?

Yeah, I live in London.

Is it strange when you travel to the US? I’m speaking from a foreigner’s perspective, and I find it unbelievably bizarre. 

Yeah, I was going to America a lot as a kid because I’ve got family on Long Island in New York. I guess there’s always a difference between America and Europe. Everything’s bigger, wider. That whole concept is quite interesting.

Yeah. Everything is bigger, the land, the food, the opportunities. There’s just so much going on constantly. London feels a little bit like that as well. I lived there for a while also.

Yeah? Whereabouts?

When I was 18, I stayed on Holloway Road.

I wrote a song about that road actually, once. I don’t actually know if it’s been released yet. It went like, “She walks over hollow Holloway Road/ She beckoned me to follow…”

I mean that place, I know that it’s really dark and dingy, but I felt like it was central enough. I think it was just the people and how nobody really bothered you. You could just float.

That is quite the mentality. I guess you get that in New York as well; it’s that kind of big metropolis thing where people just stick to what they do. They keep their heads down.

Yeah. And I kind of like that. It’s nice to walk down the street and not have people commenting on what you look like or your accent.

Yeah, but there’s pros and cons to it all. You can feel very isolated in a crowd, but it is a melting pot as well. People are used to everything there. When I grew up, there was all types of people everywhere. It was great. But yeah, you can be isolated in a crowd, which is quite a weird effect.

There’s a part of me that feels I can access certain things better if I’m left alone. For the type of art that you make, you must need time to process the world to gain perspective. As such a fanatic, I’m sure film is a way for you to have that experience. You even made a short film for A New Place 2 Drown with your brother Jack, run film nights with him, and put on exhibitions. What drew you to film?

The mixture of audio and visual is the best medium of art, in my opinion. That’s always been a fascination for me. I’ve always visualized a lot of the music I’ve written by picturing the imagery and videos for it. I’ve written videos for myself and worked with directors one-on-one. I’ve got a love for it. I also make my own films. I have a really lo-fi camera, and the films are really low-budget, but they’re interesting.

What is it like walking around with a video camera? You work with photography as well, but is there a large differentiation between the two?

I treat my camera more as a sketch book. I try and shoot straight to tape, so I’ll think about it before, and I’ll cut it where I want to cut it. I took a lot of photos for a book that I made. I guess I’ve always taken photos, but I’m just pretty lazy with developing, so I just have loads of rolls of film that have never been developed. A photograph isn’t as safe as a film. A photographer has to be like, bang. You have to take it; you have to commit to clicking the button, especially on a roll of film. You have to commit to using that section for something.

Have you not gotten the rolls of film developed because sometimes it’s better not to process everything — metaphorically as well as literally?

I guess you could perceive it as a time capsule, in a way. It’s quite interesting. It’s almost like a vault, and one day, if it does get developed, that’s a very particular section of time in your life. There’s a moment from Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch that I love, where the man of the Japanese couple who introduce the film only takes photos of the hotel rooms and never takes photos of the outside. His girlfriend asks why he does that, and he says, “Because I remember everything else, all the stuff outside and the landmarks. This is the stuff that I will not remember.”

I’m not surprised that you are drawn to somebody like that because your work tends to defy traditional framing and the generic ways that others attach meaning. You look at multiple genres from multiple views in just one song. When you’re writing a song in that way, do you have a visual in mind that inspires words, or do the words evoke an image?

Usually, the music evokes the image for me. At the moment, I’ve been starting mainly with just constructing compositions and creating a complete work, almost like an instrumental, before I’ve gone into the lyric side. But I spend every day writing lyrics anyway, or just writing stuff down. I’m always drawing influence from my diary entries. I guess it’s quite lucid. I’ve always loved Jarmusch’s work because I watched it at a time in my life where I was feeling like I was the coolest cat around. I was about 15, and I got my brother showing me all these films about conversation and imagery. The universe that Jarmusch created with Down by Law, Mystery Train, and Night on Earth, you find characters running throughout that you can draw together. The clothes, the colors, the actors — he used a lot of musicians like John Lurie, Joe Strummer, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and Tom Waits — I found that really fascinating. I was into John Lurie’s music, so it was really interesting to see the guy whose records I’d been listening to in Down by Law — and he’s great in it. I’ve got a lot of love for that.

Lynch has those musical connections, collaborations, and crossovers, too. It’s always been a fascinating and beautiful part of both of their work. It taps into every sense; you feel everything when you’re watching their films. Do you see film and music as inseparable?

Well, some films’ use of silence is what makes the film work. There’s the famous scene in Psycho when he’s stabbing her in the shower, and the strings are really attacking and loud. [Mimics the sound] Then, when she’s actually dead, there’s just this silence, and the silence is what made the fear factor even higher. The use of silence can be quite interesting in film. On the other end of the spectrum, with some music there’s no visuals that you could capture on this planet that would be suitable.

Those quiet moments are always difficult with Lynch as well, where there is not even ambient sound and he leaves you wondering what the fuck is going on. You want to rip your lungs and heart out and scratch your skin off because of that tension.

You know, with the scenes in the Black Lodge, the use of the reversed dialog is also something that he’s really thought about. That again is just another expression of sound obscuring what the viewer is seeing. The universe that’s created is the most important thing for any piece of art. If you can create a universe that you can submerge someone in, whether it’s a socially real universe or a socially surreal universe, that use of sound can submerge people.

Why do you turn to movies today?

With a movie, I can be with a group of 10 people all watching the same thing, and we can each get something different out of it. We can’t sit down necessarily in the space of two hours and read a book. I guess we could read poetry, but whether it’s a documentary or something more obscure, cinema is built for that experience. It’s always been a source of information for me.

I know that your list of favorite directors are all iconic auteurs. Have you watched anything lately that really had that same emotional spark for you?

I’m not going to lie: I’m a bit of a weirdo. I don’t watch that many modern films. I don’t go to the cinema much. One of the most recent modern films I watched was Manchester by the Sea. I was on the plane, crying my eyes out. There was so much subtlety in the conversation, and the acting was so important. That’s why I watch cinema. It’s a display of a brain, and then the brain using its organs: the director’s its lungs, its mouth being the actors. I find it quite fascinating.

Let’s get back to David Lynch briefly. What effect has he had on your music?

The first film I saw of his was Eraserhead. I was 15, and it was recommended by my brother Jack Marshall and his friend, Jacob Reed. Even in 2009, Eraserhead still had this excitement of being an obscure cult classic. I watched it about 20 times and eventually created my own concepts behind it. That’s often the experience people have with my music. I always wrote these stories about myself, but I would disguise them in obscure metaphors. I would disguise them with characters that were reptiles and other animals and replace topics like depression and freedom with the sky and the sea. People take away from them what they will, and so the main thing people take away from my music is the mood.

Lynch makes the surreal completely common and the common quite surreal. He has the darkness of the suburbs as well as spectral monsters and doppelgangers that can be right around any corner. Thematically, those monsters can connect to small, internal ideas like depression, loss, or fear. That’s true of George A. Romero as well. Horror movies can unpack so much in really bizarre contexts.

Horror movies are my favorite genre. Horror always taps into the raw emotion of fear, which is really fascinating. I loved that as a kid. I used to watch Halloween on Halloween, that kind of thing. Most recently, I watched all the Friday the 13th series, and now my record is coming out on Friday the 13th!

I was really into zombies, particularly George A. Romero’s works, when I was younger. I think these hordes of mindless beings can be quite a relevant topic in modern society. The use of the London landscape in 28 Days Later was amazing. One of the most profound things I’ve always noted about George A. Romero’s work is the ending of Night of the Living Dead. The film came out in 1968, and the black guy is the only one that survived in this house. The other characters all are symbolic aspects of America: the stereotypical sexist character, the woman who’s been completely shell-shocked from her brother’s death, the family where the dad’s trying to take control, the girl who goes after the boy and they end up getting blown up. And then you get right at the end, and the only person that’s managed to survive the whole ordeal is this black guy, and he seems like the most cool, sane character. And then, right at the end, he creeps out of the basement, and all of the zombies have been shot down. There’s an angry mob walking around with guns, and they’ve killed all these zombies. The black guy looks out the window, and he just gets a bullet straight in the head and then gets dragged into the pile of zombies. This is the survivor, and you think this is going to be a happy ending, and then — bang.

And then The Day of the Dead, the start of that is sampled in Gorillaz’ first album, which I used to listen to when I was eight. A song on the record I’m about to release is called “The Ooz”, where I directly quote that same line: “Hello, is there anybody out there?” I find that quite fascinating, going about dense cities and screaming, “Hello, is there anybody out there?” Most recently I watched Creepshow, which is adapted from Stephen King short stories. I also revel in trashy, badly made stuff. [Laughs] The aesthetic of it is almost rewarding in a way. The same with Friday the 13th: It’s insane that they stretched that to be about 12 films. It’s like, Jason just doesn’t fucking die.

But that’s the whole point of it! It’s the struggle of human perseverance, revenge, these innate feelings of struggle and familial torture. And that’s what makes horror movies stick with you. Romero was able to tell intimate stories in the face of massive, world-changing events. That’s actually true of Jarmusch and Lynch as well.

I definitely agree with that. In fact, I think most films that I enjoy do that as well. With Jarmusch, you can actually trace the characters across multiple films. Tom Waits’ character is on the radio in Mystery Train and then appears in Down by Law. Roberto Benigni is in Down by Law and Night on Earth, I believe playing the same character, but maybe not.

 The Cinematic World of King Krule

Do you have a favorite director?

It’s probably Scorsese. Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and obviously Mean Streets — these films really caught me. But then I loved George Lucas’ approach in American Graffiti. And then the film Badlands is one of my favorites. A beautiful girl showed me that film, and it stuck in my head forever. And then there’s Stanley Kubrick, as well. His vision was so intense. Shane Meadows, Michael Leigh, and Ken Loach are some people I’ve always looked up to, especially because of their use of the north of England. But throughout, all of their stuff is about the narrative.

What do you think about Scorsese’s use of music?

There’s something quite interesting about his use of music in Mean Streets. I was watching it with a girl once, and she walked out after 20 minutes because she said it was too loud. And then as soon as she walked out, he cuts to Harvey Keitel in bed with a girl and there’s complete silence.

That’s interesting. How important is it to stay as open as possible to stimuli, regardless of whether it inspires you immediately?

Everyone deserves each other’s time, in a sense. But if you feel weird, you should act upon it. I think walking out is a big statement, but it’s a good thing. I don’t think you should like everything. Maybe if you don’t like everything, though, you should sit through it to be a better judge of hating something. What’s the best way to deal with something you dislike? It’s to know everything about it — at least in a discussion or an essay. Everyone deserves to do what they want to do … but not if it’s murder or something. [Laughs]



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