"They're wonderful and horrible at the same time": Q&A with movie mocker and Raspberry Brother Jerm Pollet
|MOCK-UPS: The Raspberry Brothers,
including Jerm Pollet (left)
The Raspberry Brothers concept is simple: Take familiar films that are worthy of ridicule and riff off them in a way that plays upon the collective memory. Jerm Pollet, along with his fellow Raspberry Brothers (a group of talented comics and comedy writers that includes Penn alum Johnny McNulty), is in from NYC tonight to serve up two noteworthy '80s films ' Footloose and The Karate Kid ' for mockery. When they play the 941 Theater tonight, all you need to do is sit back and drink while they sit up front with microphones in hand.
CP: What's the history of your show?
JP: I was doing it since 2000 at The Alamo Draft House ' a great atmosphere for our show; they serve a lot of beer. Very fun place. So for about seven years in Austin and in the last year in New York City at Chelsea Cinemas. Just as we did in Texas, we're starting to expand slowly while checking out other cities.
CP: Speaking of bad movies, I recall an evil black puppet movie I reviewed. Definitely funny at times, but it left me feeling robbed of an hour and a half of my life.
JP: That's where we come in. We're sort of like The Avengers. You can't take those minutes away. We take them back.
CP: Mystery Science Theater 3000 did a lot cheesy sci-fi and lousy serials from way back, while you guys take on more contemporary films.
JP: The nice thing is we're not restricted by copyright law since we're doing it live. Hell, I'm sure the producers of some of these films are happy we're paying the screening rights. Doing newer movies [including Snakes On A Plane], it's great to take some of the Hollywood egos down a notch. Anything that takes itself too seriously is fair game.
CP: So perhaps a send up of Michael Bay's explosion plot arcing/shitting on everyone's childhood is in order?
JP: Yea, not to mention this overuse of Megan Fox. There are these robot machines and then this girl's tits show up. Is she fucking the robots?! But I guess it's all about reverting back to your comfort zone. Regressing back into early childhood and beyond.
CP: What is it about '80s movies that you're going after through Footloose and The Karate Kid?
JP: There's a kind of naivet' or innocence about them. It's the fact that writers were getting away with such corniness. And both movies were big sellers in the same year, with '84 being the 'doomed' year. George Orwell come to life. Something about that time, that idea, and writers doing the same thing.
CP: But this is Karate Kid we're talking about. 'Sweep the leg!'
JP: It's not like I want to insult someone, in a way I applaud their attempts. They're wonderful and horrible at the same time. Do you remember the famous scene where Mr. Miyagi catches the fly? You can see the string connected to it. Why didn't they try harder? Sure, no CGI back then, but there wasn't clear string or a way to mask it? And Pat Morita is a great actor, but his accent slips into this horribly racist[laughs] thing that you can't ignore.
CP: But with CGI we get films like Transformers or that awful remake of Beowulf.
JP: [pauses] It is candy isn't it, but in a way, if you think about, it's that reversion again. Think of how big Megan Fox's or Angelina Jolie's tits are when we're in the theater- we're all suckling.
CP: Well done[laughs]. Didn't notice the string you mentioned in Karate Kid. Anything else you guys caught?
JP: Yea, you see the same extras walking by in both directions and you're forced to yell at the screen. [Aside] Keep in mind we watch these movies 10-15 times while preparing.
These movies were also made at a time when product placement was wholly new, with both of them being sponsored by Coca-Cola. We'll notice a Coke can being slammed down on a table right in front of the camera, but it wasn't readily picked up back then. Nikes are everywhere in Karate Kid, along with Volkswagens. Every car in the movie is made by VW. The films are sloppy but also kind of loveable. You feel kind of like a big brother helping the little guy out.
CP: What about Footloose then?
JP: The morals, in both films actually, are very heavy handed: new kid comes to town and he doesn't fit in, he gets picked on, and he flips the town on its head. Both movies are your feet helping you save the day. Kevin Bacon uses his dancing to overcome his anger while Daniel-san uses his kicking to express himself, with both films dealing with [the absence of] father figures. Mr. Miyagi is Daniel's surrogate father; there is no father figure in Footloose. And then they both get the girl. They fit in finally, but the real answer is get the girl. Go to the boobies. [pauses] I swear there are some good fart jokes in there as well; it's not all Freudian analysis. And besides, you're not gonna see much boobs in either movie. . I mean, Elizabeth Shue [in Karate Kid] fills a sweater, but I guess I shouldn't say that since she was 15 at the time'
CP: It's cool.
JP: Awesome, thanks.
CP: How have audiences responded and has anything changed since moving the show east?
JP: We made a lot of jokes about Republicans in Austin that didn't go well, but went well in NYC. The show has definitely gotten better since coming to NYC. It's the people, their sophistication, and the wealth of theater in the city. It made us come up with better jokes, to get more into the psychology of the moment and the films themselves. And the comedians are really good. I went to the Upright Citizens Brigade ' a well established troupe ' and did some scouting on numerous occasions.
CP: Do you ever have problems with the crowd? Any heckling?
JP: Generally people aren't heckling us. At times they're going after the films just as we are, but we usually keep it under control by playing drinking games and through short crowd interaction bits.
CP: Drinking games, you say?
JP: Everytime someone says 'Ren'' DRINK! Everytime you see a VW in Karate Kid ' DRINK!
CP: And that's without dropping the aforementioned caveat to the audience about VWs being all over Karate Kid?
JP: Of course.
The Raspberry Brothers, Fri., Aug. 14, Double Feature, 9pm, The Karate Kid, 11:30pm, Footloose, $10 each, $15 for the Double Feature, 941 Theater, 941 N. Front, 215-235-5603, 941theater.com.
|Photos by Brion Shreffler|
One of the few rap acts to break up the proceedings is the one-two punch of the Bushwackerz.
The DJ cues up the music, the beats seemingly urging the effects lights on as they spin around Fluid's small cantina like space in the dark. The music continues on and you wait, thinking perhaps it will be on the next hook that the vocals come in. But that's not an MC standing on a crate before the audience; DJ Ill Skillz waits while a selection of his beats ' music filled with an epic sound reminiscent of great '90s hip-hop ' plays for the crowd and the judges seated above the dance floor. The music stops and he looks up to his right. 'Powerful,' Jimi Kendrix says while giving his approval before turning the microphone over to judge Chris Styles, who takes a harsher note; 'it may sound all well and good,' he quickly says, 'but with all those samples in there you ain't gonna make any money,' an admonishment he addresses later in the night by saying, 'look I'm not trying to be harsh. We're here to teach. I've lost too much money early on due to sampling,' he says, imploring the producers there to work with musicians rather than digging out gems from old tracks that can cut into their profits due to licensing fees. This kind of instruction, offered by Styles and Kendrix whose combined production credits include Jay-Z , Ashanti, and 50 Cent, is exactly what iStandard is all about. Founded by J Hatch and Don Di Napoli, these events ' quarterly in Philly and monthly in NYC, with many stops across the country ' create proximity between up and coming producers and talented and knowledgeable industry insiders. Additionally, iStandard's site connects popular artists directly with producer's music.
One of the few rap acts to break up the proceedings is the one-two punch of the Bushwackerz. Fam and Brooker Wood take to the small stage, the two seeming to lyrically spring board off each other, their music packed with as much vocal dexterity as sheer power. And perhaps since they aren't being judged they also appear to be having the most fun of anyone there. But then again, their swagger kind of says they wouldn't much give a shit if they were part of the competition. They go through a medley of a few tracks before getting to 'Ryan Howard,' a homage to every man's favorite past-time that deftly utilizes a Harry Kalas sample. Rakiya Rae sings the cheeky female part of the song before taking the lead on her own soulful track ' she shares the same producer (Antwan Carr) with the Bushwackerz ' with backing from Brooker Wood (Nicholas Schurr).
'We're giving people a candid journey of young adulthood,' Fam, aka Brian Tucker, says outside Fluid, while the night still rambles on. 'The effects of going out and partying and having fun but also the relationships and situations that come out of that. We make sure our delivery is different, using slang at times in a creative way, though we also want to remain accessible,' he says of their unique approach that draws inspiration equally from The Beastie Boys and 2 Live Crew.
I ask him about the sampling issue, which seems to be the main take away lesson of the night. 'Yeah, early on people were taking a break and 3 bar loops from 70s Funk albums, and at first, the artists being sampled looked at it and thought, 'maybe that's cool.' Eventually, people realized they were getting ripped off. The successful producers are the ones who have the savvy to put in the musical accompaniments themselves, to draw upon musicians rather than samples,' he says before mentioning Jon Bryant who helped Kanye West do just that after a sample heavy first album that was funded by Kanye's Jay-Z production credits. He points out how producers, who can get 35-75k per track depending on how it is used, could see their profits wiped out by licensing fees, all of which is compounded by them losing out on mechanical royalties (stadium and commercial play). 'Underground producers ' look at what Dangermouse did with the Grey Album ' can get away with it, but once you get somewhere everything has to get cleared. Sure, people sample since certain instruments don't exist,' he says, going on to mention the distinction between antiquated reel to reel analog recording and the current digital standard that many growing up with MP3s are unable to hear. 'I understand the music is based on sampling but the only way it's going to get better is through evolving.' And that sentiment rings true with both the judges' advice as well as the Bushwackerz plan to use a series of mixtapes to draw in fans to their sound. 'We're taking to the mixtapes like they're albums-instead of simply frees-styling over them- giving people our take on tracks they know, so they can see what we're all about, while we're also putting out and working on original material,' Fam says, his eyes keenly looking off into the future.
|Spock Buckton and Kimberly Kane|
A chat with popporn.com porn dude Spock Buckton ' man about town, voyeur, director, clown.
A.D. Amorosi: You guys were shooting this film forever. What took so long?
Spock Buxton: In addition to writing and directing, we edited the movie ourselves too. Well, not me, but our resident editor who goes by the name of Meat Ball. Like the dopes we are, we shot hours upon hours of footage so it was a lengthy process sifting through all the crap to find some gold. Ironically, we also like to sift through actual crap to find gold, but all we ever find is quarters. Believe it or not, porn studios like Zero Tolerance (who released the movie) actually had slight issues with some of the footage in the movie so there was a lengthy back-and-forth of re-editing where we had to remove scenes.
ADA: I've read that you're calling it "the most retarded adult film ever." Whyfore?
SB: Well, I think the movie kinda answers that question on its own. Honestly, we're the kind of backwards folks who use 'retard' or 'retarded' as compliments. So, calling our movie 'the most retarded adult film ever' is akin to calling it 'the most amazing film ever'. Plus, retarded folks are always doing amazing things. Just look at Stephen Hawking and that retard from Rain Man.
ADA: What made ya'll choose your cast, other than endurance?
SB: We specifically picked the cast based on folks we already knew pretty well. Considering some of the shit we made those poor fuckers do in the movie, there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that we would have worked with a cast that couldn't handle our retarded brand of humor. Also, since these folks were our friends we were able to scam them into working for much less money then they normally would receive
ADA: What's next cinematically for POPPORN?
SB: We shot our second film in June or maybe July? I'm bad at remembering when stuff happens. Too much weed. It's a parody of celebrity scandal and gossip called TMSleaze. We had one fuck of a time trying to find porn performers that resembled douchebag celebs but thankfully we had a crack make-up and hair team that really knocked it outta the park. That flick comes out August 11th from the studio 3rd Degree. Then next month we shoot How to be a Ladies Man with Spock Buckton which will basically be an extended infomercial where I try to teach a bunch of losers my secrets on how to get ladies to spread their legs and let them stick their wieners in. The catch being that I give really, really bad advice.
ADA: Any last words about Making Fuck?
SB: It really is a shame that we were ever given the opportunity to make The Guide to Making Fuck because now there's no fucking chance that we'll ever stop making porno unless Hollywood decides to call us up and lets us start making movies about vampires and werewolves working at space stations. Hollywood, if you're reading this, our Vampire/Werewolf Space Station script is already done.
Popporn ' The Guide To Making Fuck premiere screening, Thu., July 30, 9 p.m., free, National Mechanics, 22 S. Third St., 215-701-4883, nationalmechanics.com, popporn.com.
Digital media has so proliferated within our daily lives that it's become easy ' whilst skimming news headlines online and indulging in Twitter updates ' to underestimate the role of the changing media landscape in the grand scheme.
Then there are people like Barry Vacker. A media theorist, author, filmmaker and professor at Temple University, Vacker dissects how media has influenced our perception of the entire universe, and how it can lead us into a better future, in his Theory Zero book series, available at A House of Our Own, Wooden Shoe Books and GERM. Zero Conditions explores the recurring theme of the number zero in post-millennial society. Crashing Into the Vanishing Points examines the effect of technological innovation with projecting and predicting the future. His most recent book in the series, Starry Skies Moving Away, merges cyberspace with inner and outer space, and draws upon the similarities between the chips in a computer grid network to the with the number of stars in a galaxy and the connections of neurons in the human brain.
City Paper spoke with Vacker on Battlestar Galactica, recurring zeroes and the real center of the universe (hint: It's not us).
City Paper: Why do you think traditional print media like newspapers are dying out?
Barry Vacker: [Marshall] McLuhan was correct when he said: "The medium is the message." He meant that the form of media technology has a greater impact on society than the messages carried. Society adapts to the patterns affected by the new technologies, precisely because they represent new and more powerful forms of perception.
For example, the printing press ushered in the modern industrial world,'creating'the first mass media and the first forms of mass'production. Society reorganized along new lines, for better and sometimes for'worse. Literacy become the expected norm, an issue that educators grapple with today.
Computers'and the Internet will exceed the impact of the'printing'press, precisely because the Internet unites the printing press, television, movies and all electronic media. We are only at the beginning'of the restructuring'of society and its institutions. By this, I am'not'referring to presidents using Web sites and Twitter.'That is mostly superficial, especially if the policies indicate little'insights into the potential of the internet beyond propaganda, fundraising and social control.
The death of many traditional newspapers'is just'one'effect of'television and the Internet, one'of many to come. It is no coincidence'and that modern'newspapers rose in concert with the nation-state.'Is the nation-state in danger? As illustrated by the Internet and'the global'financial networks, electronic media'make borders obsolete.'Yet,'around the world, nations are defending borders ever more fiercely.
CP: What's with the obsession with the theme of zeroes?
BV: Obsession or observations? The zero theme emerged when'I kept seeing "zero" appear in popular culture before and after the millennium. There were the many millennium clocks'counting down'to all zeros, toward the dreaded double zero of'Y2K and'the triple zero of'2000. The hyper-literal reader might say the recurring zeros mean'nothing. And they are right. Zero does mean nothing, and, in meaning nothing, it means much more.
We also have hit ground zero in our ability to reproduce the world as a copy, a clone. This is illustrated by Coke Zero, the soft drink simulacrum, and Las'Vegas, the city as simulacrum. Strangely, the hotel New York-New York anticipated September 11 when it was built in 1997, for the Twin Towers were never included in the massive themed hotel. This is a case of the map anticipating the territory.
CP: What is the correlation between starry skies and space, as you write in your most recent book Starry Skies Moving Away?
BV: With the rise of the modern metropolis, the starry skies have been replaced by electric lights, neon signs, TVs and computers, LED screens, and so on. Most humans are utterly disconnected from the cosmos, as their "cosmos" is almost entirely their city and anything glowing on the screens of the media. The only stars they care about are movie stars and celebrity figures.
Starry Skies Moving Away leads readers out of the fantasy that humans are at the center of the universe ' and the fantasy that some cosmic master is looking out for us in our infantile visions of premodern utopias, gardens of eden, and so on.
We need new utopian models that embrace these kinds of scientific ideas and are secular and eco-technological, not religious or authoritarian, which are quickly combining to be the American model of "the future." America is fast becoming an authoritarian socialist theocracy, where everyone is supposed to be content to have their lives ordered by two gods ' church and state.
CP: How would you define a vanishing point in media theory?
BV: Hollywood repeatedly shows us,'we can envision'the'end of the'world, but not the end'of God or ghosts or wars. Every'summer,'filmgoers flock to see the end of the world in apocalyptic films.'Humanity could vanish at any moment,'but not superstitions'or war. TV is much the same. This strange situation was perfectly'expressed in'the hit show Battlestar Gallactica. Humanity may die out, but not human ignorance, as if the two are not related.
A vanishing point is a creative way to visualize the trajectory of modernity. The vanishing point signifies three existential ideas:'the end of'the'world, the edge of the world, the rest of the'world, all contained'in'a single point at the horizon. The trajectory of modernity was always toward the vanishing points, to create a new world, to remake the world in all directions. From the city centers, the mechanized metropolis extended in all directions, toward the vanishing points. Skyscrapers pointed toward the vanishing points in the skies, while highways and trains extended into the vanishing points. Jets and rockets disappeared into vanishing points in the skies or beyond horizons.
CP: Why is it important to consider the philosophical implications'of media technology?
BV: Let me answer that question by referring to the Amazon Kindle. Is the Kindle merely a cool way to access books? Perhaps true at one level. My books are in Kindle.
But, at a deeper level, the Kindle suggests the full merger of books and computers, print with electronic, real space with cyberspace.'Then we must ask if books and computers are merely neutral vessels carrying the far more important stuff: the content and messages. Or is the book itself more important? Did the book, mass-produced by the printing press, help bring about the modern industrial world and the very ideas of free speech and free press?
And, what are the computer and Internet if not the complete merger of the printing press with all previous electronic media in a vast global network? Will this not change the organization of the world as we know it? The book and printing press did. Why should the Internet be different, when it is far more powerful than the printing press? Computers and the Internet have transformed global finance, but do not tell that to our policy makers, who seem to think we are living in 1930s industrial America.
So, most of our culture is dominated by superficial understandings of the effects of media technology, which lead to naive theories of social change and misguided political policies. We substitute technological proficiency for philosophical understanding.
In anticipation of The Hangover (read Drew Lazor's review), I got to talk to star and Jenkintown native Bradley Cooper about his role in the film. Cooper was slick and comfortable talking to the four journos in the room, but when asked his most salient memory of his Jenkintown roots, all he could think to say was trains (dude, trains?) and SEPTA (mentioned with equal parts fondness and disgust ' a true native).
What I find most interesting about Cooper is his career switch. Like most who actually remember his name, I first saw him as Ben in Wet Hot American Summer (husband of Michael Ian Black's McKinley) and, from that, Alias (I wasn't an avid viewer, but got that he was playing token nice guy). But then there was a shift, not only in his role choices, but physically, as well. Cooper beefed up and stole the show as Lodge, Rachel McAdams' popped collar fianc' in Wedding Crashers. He's worked as a mean guy ever since ' namely in He's Just Not That Into You, where he essentially plays douche epitomized (and gets to bang Jennifer Connelly and Scarlett Johansson in the process). What's the deal with all the asshole roles, Brad?
First off, he doesn't think his Hangover character, Phil, falls into the same Lodge category (Drew calls him "rakish"): "I don't see him as that. Look, he's an alpha male but his bark is a little bit bigger than his bite. To me at least, he's the whole reason why they find [groom-to-be] Doug. He'll go to the end of earth to help these guys. At the end of the movie, and I'm so glad we kept this in, you gotta show that he's a father and that he's a good father."
Touche. OK, Phil comes through in the end ' but that doesn't explain everything else. Give it a whirl:
"I actually stayed away from a lot of asshole roles after Wedding Crashers," say Cooper. "After Alias, where I played the nicest guy in the world, no one would see me for roles that are at all edgy, at all. Like, 'Oh Bradley, he's such a nice guy.' But I was acting! I was playing those guys! Then I got Wedding Crashers and [director David] Dobkin didn't know anything about Alias. Something clicked in the room and he took a chance on me. After Wedding Crashers was a success, it was always, 'Isn't he kind of an asshole?'"
|Photo | Rhoda Ziegler|
|Philly Boy Roy|
So, WFMU DJ Tom Scharpling ' easily the funniest man on radio today ' has recently added a second podcast. The first is his radio show with all the music cut out, available on iTunes. (If you want to hear the music too, you have to stream it from the FMU archives.) This second one is the Best Show Gems, essentially a highlight reel of bygone audio sketches with his comedy partner Jon Wurster.
Wurster is from Philly (he got a pretty memorable shout-out on a Dead Milkmen track back in the day) and his pride/shame associated with his childhood home often bubbles up in the form of the ignorant, cackling, hoagie-eating, Franks-guzzling Philly Boy Roy.
In this week's Best Show Gems we flashback to 2002 to witness the first appearance of Mr. Royden Ziegler and that over-the-top accent. I must admit it was tough listening to Tom rip into Philadelphia from his high and mighty throne up in Jersey City ' when he called us angry I wanted to punch him in the armpits ' but overall this is the sound of Philly proide. I mean pride.
The Tale of the Tapes
|MISTER TNT: That's Josh Grier in the white shirt.|
City Paper: Which part of Tapes ’N Tapes are you, the Tapes, the N, or the apostrophe? What was the story behind it the name?
Josh Grier: Well originally we had three members in the band and we were just kind of being smart asses and thought it would be funny but then once we became a four piece we pretty much dropped it because there wasn’t really anyway to support the three letters with four people, so that’s kind of why we went away from it. We originally thought it was funny and then we were like, eh, now we have four people and its just confusing and not as funny anymore.
CP: Between The Loon and Walk it Off, which was your favorite to record?
JG: You know it’s kind of like... I kind of view all that stuff as like I don’t know. Its kind of like having kids, you don’t really have a favorite you just have different experiences with them you know. Definitely with recording the Loon, there’s some memories there and recording Walk It off it was really cool to be recording with David Reichman because he’s somebody who we all really admired and to actually be working with him and have him be a very relaxed dude who’s a great engineer. We got to basically live up at his place for a couple weeks so that was just a lot of fun too, but between the too I really can’t say that one was my favorite at all they’re both fun experiences that are so different from one another that its hard to compare the two you know?
CP: Speaking of favorites, my favorite Tapes N Tapes songs are the “Illiad,” “Insistor” and “the Dirty Dirty.” Which are your favorite ones, if you have any, to perform live?
JG: Awh, geez you’re making me pick all of my favorites here. Uhm, I don’t know really, honestly it kind of depends on the night, like any given night, like what songs to perform cause well just kind of I don’t know, any night we’ll kind of mess around with stuff and sometimes when we mess around with things it’ll work really well and it’ll be really exciting and really fun so I think on any given night any song could be my favorite to perform. Honestly I do have to say that playing “Dirty Dirty” is a lot of fun because we can mess around a lot and it’s different than a lot of the other songs we play. But I don’t know it’s not always my favorite to perform but it’s definitely fun.
CP: Last time you played in Philly it was also an R5 show. I think it was actually on the night that the night that the presidential primaries were happening and you guys played at FUC and were amazing. This time you’re playing at Johnny Brenda’s, have things changed since you were here last?
JG: It’s crazy, I totally remember the Pennsylvania Primaries were that night when we were in Philadelphia. Because I remember everybody seemed to be talking about it, it was big. Back in the day it was a very big deal, everybody was like is Hillary going to win, is Obama going to win? And nobody knew. But for us now, I don’t know. I mean like obviously like with last time our record had just come out so we were doing a lot of touring around then and we were all just really excited about getting the record out. Now its getting up on a year since it came out and we’re starting to work on some new songs and so I guess that’s like the major difference for us is just that were working on new material and were playing some of those new songs out on this tour and just kind of messing around and having ourselves a good time. There’s not really a whole lot else that’s happening right now. Were excited to be out and touring because we hadn’t toured since June and we’re excited to be playing these songs because its been an even longer time since we’ve been playing these songs.
CP: How’s the tour been so far this time around?
JG: It’s been great. We’ve had a blast. We’ve been to a couple cities we’ve never been to before. I honestly just really like playing the new songs and after having a little break from touring I feel like all of us have been energized and we’re having a blast. Like the first three weeks of the tour ended like on the Fifth or Sixth of February and then we were home for two weeks so today’s actually our first day out again and I think all of us are feeling well rested and looking forward to playing some more shows.
CP: You were talking about new material… Do you guys have any idea when your new album will be coming out?
JG: We have no solid plans right now, like we haven’t set any timelines for ourselves about when were going to start recording or anything. Like right now we have a whole lot of new song ideas but we’ve only worked out a handful of them so I think we’re just going to keep on working on stuff and when we kind of feel like things are at a good point then we’ll start working on recording but we’re not there yet, we’re still working stuff out. Since I don’t know a timeline, I can’t give you any more info, if I did I’d let you know, but that’s where we’re at.
Tapes ’N Tapes play Sat., Feb. 28 at Johnny Brenda's. It's sold out.
(L-R) Kurt Feldman, Kip Berman, Alex Naidus, Peggy Wang
|Photo | Annie Powers|
Alex Naidus, bass
City Paper: What was the recording process like for the latest album?
Alex Naidus: It was pretty relaxed — we recorded at our friend's house studio, so there were lots of coffee and sandwich breaks and joke crackin'. We took a bit more time with this recording than the first EP, but nothin' too crazy or Spiritualized/full gospel choir style. The recording part was pretty simple. We'd been playing most of the songs for a good while and knew what we wanted, but the mixing (with the super-great Archie Moore) was kind of eye opening and helped make the album sound way better than we imagined it could. Shout outs to Honeyland Studio and Archie.
CP: Favorite song off the LP?
AN: It changes a lot. For awhile it was "Everything With You" (above), but at the moment I think it's "Come Saturday." It's a nice little sugar rush — simple and fun and loud like we like it.
CP: Are there any countries that you're dying to visit?
AN: Man, a ton. Australia and Japan are probably the most exciting to me at the moment. Maybe because they seem alllllllmost within reach. Crossing my fingers!
CP: What's your favorite day of the week? Explain why.
AN: The junior high me would be so mad at this, but right now it's probably Sunday. I just like that it's totally normal and acceptable to do nothing all day. If you drag yourself out for Bloody Marys at 2 p.m. that's considered mass effort for a Sunday. I suppose I cherish long, slow downtime-full days like that. Also, [guitarist/vocalist] Kip and I watch football together on Sundays when it's on and that's always a good nerdy time.
Kip Berman, guitar/vocals
CP: Who was your favorite band in high school?
Kip Berman: Weston, or maybe Plow United.
CP: What was the last movie you watched? What'd you think of it?
KB: Teen Witch! It was awesome! It's about a nice but sort of awkward teenager who discovers she is a witch.
CP: How long have you all known each other? How'd you all meet?
KB: We've all been friends since before the band for sure. I met Peggy at an indie pop dance party at Cake Shop, and Alex sat next to me at work and would listen to Exploding Hearts and The Dirtbombs a lot. We all met Kurt later — he came to our shows when we had a drum machine and he had cool Sarah Records, Blueboy and Field Mice badges. Plus, he's the only person that loves Galaga as much as I do.
CP: What's the music-making process like for you and the band?
KB: I write the songs and then see if Peggy likes them. If she wants to play a song 10 times in a row at practice, it's usually a good sign.
CP: Excited to play Philly?
KB: Definitely! I went to so many R5 shows growing up, that it's totally strange and awesome to get a chance to come back and play. I just wish it was all ages, but hopefully we can come back and do that, too.
Kurt Feldman, drums
|Photo | Pavla Kopecna|
CP: As a kid, what'd you want to be when you grew up?
Kurt Feldman: A motorcycle racer.
CP: What kind of kit do you play?
KF: A Pearl export. I've had it since I was 12 or 13. It's a pretty bad kit, but I'm a pretty amateur drummer, so it makes sense.
CP: What are rehearsals like for you guys?
KF: Fun. We practice at our friend Danny and Derek's house, in their studio in the basement. sometimes Kip presents us with a new song and then we try it out. If Peggy dances around enough while we play it, we keep it.
CP: Which songs are your fave to play live?
KF: "The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart" and "Everything With You."
CP: Do you believe in UFOs? Why or why not?
KF: I don't think so. I'm too pessimistic to believe in anything I haven't seen firsthand. Not to mention all the "evidence" I have seen has been so ambiguous anyway. I think there are other planets out there in our giant universe that have life on [them], but I don't think there would be a reason to cover up aliens making contact with Earth if they already have.
Peggy Wang, keys/vocals
CP: What's the story behind your band's name?
Peggy Wang: It's from a short story by one of Kip's friends from Portland, Oregon. His name is Charles Augustus Steen III.
CP: If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?
PW: Harriet the Spy? Or maybe Claudia Kishi from The Babysitters Club.
CP: How do you feel about the Pains of Being Pure At Heart's sound being described as New Wave?
PW: I'm into it! It's definitely not something we ever get, and I don't think we fit the preconceived notion of what New Wave is. But I think there's something dark about the songs, and the EP (the first thing we put out) has a mechanical feel, primarily because of the drum machine.
CP: If any, what themes would you say are prevalent in your songs?
PW: Obsession, not running away from home, doing forbidden things in secret — general teenageryness, I guess.
CP: If you could have any super power, what would it be?
PW: I think I'd be a lot more motivated to leave my house if I could just magically transport myself anywhere.
Ice storms are no joke. Just ask Aziz Ansari. The Human Giant star canceled his show in Philadelphia last night after his flight was delayed. He plans on returning (we promise to tell you when!). In the meantime, he spoke with City Paper about more whimsical subjects than inclement weather.
City Paper: How would you describe your comedic style?
Aziz Ansari: I'd say it's a lot like some of the people I perform with like Patton Oswalt, Louis CK, David Cross, that whole scene.
CP: How do you find inspiration for bits?
AA: Usually I'll just be walking around and something happens and I'll write it down in my notebook. Then I try it out on stage and it usually takes seven or eight variations of a joke before I really land on one really well. I've never been able to just sit down and write jokes.
CP: You perform stand-up, sketch and even movie roles. How do you hone your skills as a performer?
AA: I tried doing stand-up in the summer of 2001, so it's been close to eight years in May. I had been doing standup in NY while I was in college at NYU. While we were doing that, me and some friends of mine were shooting short skits called Human Giant. So I was doing stand-up the whole time while I was working on Human Giant. Then we finished season two of Human Giant, and I've been working with Amy Poehler from [the producers of] The Office for a show on NBC. But I just found out that show was pushed back a few months because she was pregnant, so I had time to do a stand-up comedy tour.
CP: I'm sure you had nothing to do with her getting pregnant.
AA: Not at all.
CP: You mentioned a love for southern food and Indian cooking in our last interview. What is your favorite food?
AA: I don't know if I can pick one favorite food out. That's hard to narrow down. I like all sorts of food. I like hot dogs. I'm pretty much down for whatever with food. I go the extra mile to try something new.
CP: How was it like being raised in South Carolina, and then going to school and eventually working in New York City?
AA: I grew up in a very small rural town called Bennitsville in South Carolina, and New York City is the capital of the world. It's kind of a weird place. You don't really realize it while you are there. It was all I knew, so I didn't have a frame of reference to realize it was a really, really, really southern town. When I moved to NY, it's such a crazy place where so many people come to. Plus I was going to college with all sorts of people at NYU, so you're kind of in it there together. It was like I was going to college and exploring NYC at the same time.
CP: What was the funniest thing you've ever seen in your life?
AA: Pretty much anything I talk about in my stand-up. One time I saw a clown trip on a banana in a football field and fall into a cream pie. Then a bowling ball fell on his head.
AA: No, man.
CP: Any true stories?
AA: I was doing a show in Colorado and getting a lift pass at a ski resort. So I'm standing in line this guy asked me I was from, and I told him I grew up South Carolina but my parents came here from India to work, and he was like "Wow, you talk exactly like I do."
CP: Are you a fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship? You mentioned Ken Shamrock as your favorite fighter in our previous interview.
AA: I haven't seen the UFC stuff, but I've been in a few fights with Ken Shamrock. I was walking with my girlfriend and he started shit with us, so I fought him and it didn't turn out very well. Every time — and I'm not sure why I fought him multiple times — but he got me in an ankle lock every time and broke my ankle.
CP: Where would travel if you could go any place in the world?
AA: I really want to go to Tokyo. I have a few friends that have been there recently. It looks really awesome and I'm a big fan of sushi.
CP: So will we be seeing you on Season 3 of Human Giant?
AA: They offered us a third season, but I'm doing that as-yet-untitled show for NBC and scored a few movie roles, so we kind of passed on it. I work with my friends [Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer] from Human Giant for both seasons, and it's hard to find people that are on the same exact wavelength. MTV sort of left the door open for us.
|Matt Wingall | myspace.com/mybrightestdiamond|
My Brightest Diamond plays Philly tomorrow, Dec. 12, at the First Unitarian Church. Dianca Potts talked to frontwoman Shara Worden about what song she can't play live, bizarre/amazing towns in Colorado, her upcoming collaboration with The Decemberists and what she typically buys at Target.
City Paper: Your second full-length, A Thousand Shark's Teeth, was released this past summer. In what ways is it different from the material on your debut, Bring Me the Workhorse?
Shara Worden: The records were made about the same time ... well actually, they were started at the same time and didn’t finish at the same time, but they were an experiment in one way of trying to bring strings and drums together. [On] Bring Me The Workhorse, the strings took a step down, got put in the background a lot more than they did in the orchestration on Shark’s Teeth, so it was a way of trying to negotiate this relationship between the dynamic range and kind of flexibility that you have in classical music with the more traditional orchestration.
CP: What were some of your inspirations for this album?
SW: Alice [in Wonderland] was very influential, and Peter Gabriel was another one. ... Visually, the German installation artist Anselm Kiefer was very key for me. I read a lot of his interviews and saw a couple of his exhibitions ... he explores a lot of man's desire to ascend to the heavens, and so I wrote a couple songs kind of based on that idea. He also employs ladders or sometimes staircases to indicate man's desire to ascend. And so we used a lot of the ladders and big skies and charred black — you know, burned hells and the sea for the images for the photographs.
CP: What are some of your favorite tracks from Shark's Teeth?
SW: I really love playing "From the Top of the World." I enjoy that song a lot. I like all of them, but I think some of them don’t work very well live. Some of them, I feel like the last half of the record — or at least [closing track] "The Diamond" — every time I've tried to play it live, I've never liked it and I've cut it off the program. [It's] sort of ironic since that song named the band, but it just really doesn't want to be played [live]. Yet, anyway.
CP: I know you did an EP that's already released — the remixes for A Thousand Shark's Teeth. I was wondering about the other two EPs I've heard about. What's going on with them and what artists will be involved?
SW: David M. Stith is going to do a remix EP and also Sun Lux, who [remixed] "Inside A Boy." David does all my artwork and he also sings on my records and he did a remix for "Tear it Down." I just heard the Sun Lux ones this week and I'm so excited about them. They're so beautiful. He just puts so much into these remixes. I do all of the arranging myself and it's sort of my baby, [but] I have very little input in terms of the remixes and it's really fun to separate yourself from your material. To hear the way someone else approaches it, it's really refreshing and kind of gets me out of the boxes I have around myself.
CP: You guys have been on tour for awhile. Any fun stories to share?
SW: Story time, story time ... what can I give you for story time? One of my favorite shows was in Paonia, Colorado, and it was this teeny-tiny little town. I think there's 1,500 people in the whole town. There's an 100-year-old movie theater and they brought us in ... we didn’t really know what to expect 'cause when you pull into town, there’s the one little strip of Main Street and it's definitely like a one-horse town. I went over to do something on the radio and they had a fantastic radio facility that was just amazing, and the people were so cool. They fed us an organic dinner that was all made locally by the owner. I think it was all [from] their farm, and they cooked us this amazing meal and we played the show and people were just dancing. It was like being with lettuce gnomes and little wood fairies. I mean these people were just so amazing.
After the show, there was this lady and she has this sort of parlor that felt like you were in a 1920s brothel or something — red velvet everywhere, with old-school naked lady pictures up. She had a bar with a café and then in the back. Everybody came over from the show and all the ladies of the town started dressing up in like antique lingerie and feather hats and feather boas. A bunch of us girls went into the secret stash of this lady’s old costumes and everything, and it was so special because you sort of make these assumptions about what a place is going to be like and these people were really very special. It was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the tour was sort of being there.
CP: You cover Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." What made you pick that?
SW: We started doing that a year ago or something when I was touring with The Decemberists. In the song "Workhorse," the bass line goes "bomp bomp bo-de-de-de-da-de" and I was like, "Guys, look! This sounds like, 'Bomp-bomp, Now I feel I’ve got to ... bomp bomp.' So we were like this flows directly from into "Tainted Love," so we started breaking out the glowsticks, you know what I'm saying?
CP: What are your post-tour plans for My Brightest Diamond? What do you guys have planned?
SW: I'm going to sing on Lori Anderson's record in January, so that's going to be one of my big things. And I also sang on the new Decemberists record. It's going to be like a rock opera — or it is a rock opera of sorts. Becky Stark from Lavender Diamond and I ... I am playing the wicked queen figure.
CP: That's awesome. Two diamonds.
SW: Yeah, totally. So the two diamond girls are going to join forces with The Decemberists — it's like a 3-D affair. There's [also] a compilation called Red, Hot and Indie, and I did a Nina Simone song for that, so that will be coming out next year, too. I'm really excited about [the plans] because it's doing all stuff that's sort of different for me. Since I've been in My Brightest Diamond layin' so hardcore for awhile, it'll be fun to kind of do some things with other people.
CP: Last question: What are your favorite things these days? Books, music, colors, foods, shapes, sizes ... anything.
SW: Favorite things are made of glass and metal. I've just been collecting anything glass that sort of has pitch. I've been buying candle holders at Target and hand-blown balls of glass that have pitches that sort of hum. My skull hoodie is also a favorite thing, and Limonata San Pellegrino.
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