Friday, August 31, 2007

Band of the Week

Photo by Kristin Reger

Magical, Beautiful

"When white and ruby dawn among the rakes breaks in, she's with the harrying Ideal, and by some strange retributive appeal within the sleepy brute, an angel wakes." - Charles Baudelaire from The Spiritual Dawn

The awakening of a musician, the event or the vision that allows a musician to hear their new world, is a poetic moment. T. Thurston is a musician that is just beginning to wake-up and discover the world of possibilities within his sound. He records long stretches of instrumentation and plays it back searching for that one sound. He is fascinated by the process of recording and rerecording, and having released three albums in less then one year, it appears that his fascination continues to grow. Currently living in Chicago, Thurston has enjoyed many opportunities to grow as a musician. He has played in and with several local bands including Head of Femur, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Northwest. He has learned something new from each band and is now preparing to listen deeply to that new world, and extract a sound that is both magical and beautiful.

On his latest release, "summers are better than others", Thurston gives you an 80 minute live mix of some of his favorite tracks. He made this mix for the love of the mixtape, and that in itself is a noble effort. In his words: "Summers Are Better Than Others is a creative effort to combat that disrespect & re-establish the mix as a piece of love and hard work. It is not a cash-in on other musicians/recordists' work - no profit will be made from the selling of this CD - rather, it's a chance for people to re/discover songs in an awesome/fun light they would never hear them otherwise".

Recently, T. Thurston took some time out from recording to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How did you come to call yourself Magical, Beautiful?
T. Thurston (TT): The only thing worse than trying to find a job is trying to find a band name. Until recently I lived in a smelly, moldy, low-ceiling basement. In the wintertime icicles would form from a leak under the sink down there. (This is where I recorded the first three Magical, Beautiful records). At the beginning of Spring, it's still very cold in the basement even when it's 70 degrees outside. One such morning I was huddled with freezing hands under a pile of blankets, cursing the warm happiness of my roommates I could hear walking overhead, thinking about how awful my lot in life was. Walked upstairs to the sun porch, looked at the cumulus clouds hangin' out up there and thought 'nexttime I get caught up in my petty discomforts that I've got to remember the Magic and the Beauty'. I even wrote it down in my notebook: "Remember the Magic and the Beauty". What better way to remember than to make that the name of my music? ***Contrary to popular belief, the name of this band does not refer to the quality of the music or the personality/looks of the involved musicians.

OA: In an interview one time, Owen Ashworth (aka Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) said "I'm nowhere near as good as Tyson Thurston...but I'm practicing". How did you come to tour with Casiotone? Have you done any studio work with them? Will you be on their upcoming tour?
TT: I saw that interview, and let it be known to your readers that Owen was only referring to our respective piano playing abilities, and not to his songwriting or any other facets of his life. Owen and I met a few years ago when Northwest, a band for whom I played guitar & sang, performed a house party with Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. However, it wasn't until he moved to Chicago that we became good friends.

He asked me to be his pianist on a 6-week European tour with Casiotone and the Dead Science almost exactly one year ago. It worked out perfectly because I was going to be on vacation in Berlin at the time with my recently exed-girlfriend. The next day he called me and said it wasn't actually going to work out, which was a huge crush and made me go out & get drunk, but then it did end up working out. It was the most fun and fulfilling thing I've yet done with my life – falling deeply in love with everyone and everything I saw in Europe. There isn't much keeping me in the USA since that trip.

The interesting thing about playing in Casiotone For The Painfully Alone is that it requires a complete subversion of ego because the songs exist independently of whomever is playing them. This is something that I didn't quite figure out completely until the last couple weeks of tour. We've certainly talked about playing together again, but who knows? I have not done any CFTPA studio work outside of very basic engineering on a couple of recent demo recordings.

OA: Your latest release, as with all of your previous releases, features a handmade packaging. It is also limited to 50 copies, and the cover is one of fifty Polaroids taken by you. How important is the packaging of your music? What does it add to the overall experience of the album?
TT: I don't know that the packaging is important to Magical, Beautiful's music. I don't have a lot of money, so when I do purchase an album I appreciate when there is love and respect apparent in the total package. Any idiot can record some songs on their computer, put it on a CDr and hand you a copy that will end up broken on the floor of your car; forgotten about in your backpack. So far, all of my records have been on CDRs and cassette tapes, which many people consider to be of less value than a "professionally" pressed CD or LP, so if I'm going to charge people money for them, there better be something to hold onto; look at and get lost in.

This feeling can be traced back to the first two CDs I ever purchased- REM's "automatic for the people" and Tori Amos' "little earthquakes". At this time, which was 1992, CDs came in a 12"x6" (orso) cardboard box. I tacked those ones up in the corner of my room and would stare at them forever, like, "That's what I bought! That's the music that I like!" and couldn't wait until my whole wall was covered with them. Of course, the boxes were phased out due to the gross waste that went into producing & disposing of them, so I didn't get any further.

A few years after that, I almost exclusively listened to hardcore records, which were great from a packaging standpoint, particularly the more esoteric records like those on Gravity Records or the super political ones on Ebullition. They'd come with like 5 inserts and be silk screened on a grocery bag or hand-typed with a shitty old typewriter or whatever and maybe come with a huge booklet with tons of words to read. At that time, I had a more disposable income and would uy records solely based on their packaging. All that said, the packaging for Magical, Beautiful records is a direct extension of the music. I can't put out or perform music that I haven't put a magnitude of care and love into, and it's only out of respect for that careful love that the records are packaged.

OA: How are things going with Head of Femur, what can we expect from their latest ep "Leader and The Falcon" which due out next month?
TT: I quit Head of Femur a couple of months ago and very recently performed my last show with them. Head of Femur was the first band I was in with a record label and booking agent and fans and all of that stuff. I learned a lot and grew so much as a person and musician while touring with them, but I am done with being a member of a careerist band, at least for a while. I am still fine friends with the members of the band, past and present, and Mike (their guitar player) continues to play drums with Magical, Beautiful, but for now I am going to concentrate on teaching, recording/performing my own music and doing fun collaborations with friends.

I play keyboards on the title track of The Leader And The Falcon EP and on a Rolling Stones cover and helped write another one of the songs on it. Hopefully Great Plains comes out because it's something we all worked very hard on and there's some super hot piano licks contained therein.

OA: Who are some of your biggest influences musically?
TT: I don't know, man. Any time I've tried to write a song like someone else it sounds nothing like them. I've only written like 20 songs or something, so it's hard to say at this point. Magical, Beautiful has only played 10 shows since the first in May 2006. I'm more influenced by the sounds of a recording or the way a song makes me feel. The most successful songs I've written have less to do with the chords or the melody or even the words as much as they do with the feeling I'm trying to communicate. I don't even really know what a song is at this point. I've got Bringing It All Back Home right here, and that says: "a song is anything that can walk by itself", which sounds pretty good to me.

What I'm most influenced by is what I do not want Magical, Beautiful to be: safe and disposable. If I feel the songs going in that direction, I reel back and violently go the other way. I don't want someone to hear a Magical, Beautiful album or walk into one of our shows and say, "Ah, this is pleasant. I'm having a pretty good time "and then forget all about it. I named my record label and studio I Hear A New World for a reason, you know? If one of my records ever sounds like Sufjan Stevens or The Decemberists I want to be punched in the stomach by Todd Rundgren, circa '73.

OA: What's next for Magical, Beautiful?
TT: I've got a batch of songs I've been working on for a while and playing at shows; tryin'em out with different musicians. So far none of the recordings I've made are usable, but I've recently been feeling a keen sense of freedom in how they are presented. They have to be recorded and ready to press by December because I'm under a deadline from the Chicago Artist's Assistance Program. Some recent recordings have come out quite well, though - they are of long-form synthesizer or guitar improvisations. Some of them are edited after the initial performance, others remain untouched after the initial performance. These will not be released under the name Magical, Beautiful (I don't have a name for them yet - see the first sentence of this interview).The most recent show we played featured more musicians on stage than ever before, which was a lot of fun, but we sounded a lot like a rock band and I want to get it back to more haziness and heartfullness.

I Hear a New World

Bonus Questions:
Coffee, If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
TT: My favorite coffee spot is in my own home, but coffee in the middle of winter at Owen A's house with really strong Ethiopian stuff brewed with cardamom is also pretty great.

OA: What was the last great book that you have read?
TT: Speaking of O.A., he gave me "Shilo" by Bobbie Ann Mason for my birthday. Much like being influenced more by sounds than songs, I tend to like language more than stories, and Bobbie Ann writes in a language I relate to, which is similar in rhythm to Raymond Carver or Ernest Hemingway. I also like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Burian, though.

I Hear a New World (mp3) from the Self-titled debut
I Send My Love To You (Remix) (mp3) from the Self-titled debut
The Second Song Recorded (mp3) from Obscure Love

For more information and more mp3's please visit their website.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Writer's Corner

Jonathan Messinger

If it seems strange for a writer to perfect his skills through live performance, instant feedback, and audience interaction, then you haven't met Jonathan Messinger. As co-founder of The Dollar Store Show, a monthly event combining literature, comedy, and music, Jonathan has constructed many stories with the full intention of reading them and these shows. There is a running sense of humor throughout his work, even in the face of the most sobering issues. Several of these stories have found their way into Jonathan's first book "Hiding Out", which will be released October 1st from Featherproof Press. Jonathan is the editor-in-chief of Featherproof and takes great pride in the young press.

This past week Featherproof began to accept pre-orders for "Hiding Out" and the released the latest installment in their light reading series, a story by Jonathan entitled "Bicycle Kick". This short piece about a not quite soccer player becoming enthralled by a member of the opposing team named "Azofeifa" and taking a missile of a ball to the eye. This just happens to also be a sneak peak at one of the stories contained within "Hiding Out". However, here is the most exciting part, if you pre-order your copy Jonathan will do something very special for you. This is taken a message he sent out this week, "And, as a show of thanks, I'm writing an essay for everyone who pre-orders a copy. It's on the topic of your choice. You name it. Just put it in the little notes field when you order. Why? I have no idea". I have a feeling Jonathan is going to be a busy man over the next few months. Personally, I am debating between asking him about quantum physics and the life of jazz great Dexter Gordon.

Recently Jonathan was kind enough to take a break from essay writing to answer a few on my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Tell us a little about what we can expect from your debut book "Hiding Out".
Jonathan Messinger (JM): Would it be completely stupid to say, "I have no idea"? People are now reading the book, which means there's an ever-widening gulf between what I thought readers would get out of it and what they are telling me. Which is fine. It's a collection of short stories, about half of them taken from The Dollar Store, the reading series I run in town. So a lot of them, I'm hoping, have a sense of humor that weaves its way through some serious topics. It's funny, because the people who have read it at this point have said, "Oh yeah, there are a lot of stories in there about relationships." But I had thought it was mostly about death. I don't know what that says about me.

OA: I really enjoyed your mini-book on the featherproof site, "Eight Permutations on the Binoculars of Power". How did the concept for that series come about?
JM: Thanks a lot. That was actually taken from a Dollar Store piece. The item was a pair of binoculars, but the whole thing got weird on me pretty quickly. I had just read Brian Joseph Davis's The Portable Altamont, a collection of really funny, bizarre pieces about celebrities. It got me in the mood for doing something a little disjointed.

OA: The Dollar Store readings have become something near legendary in and about Chicago. Where did that idea come from, and as you look back over the last few years how has it affected you as a writer?
JM: Thanks again. Honestly, the idea came from this period of stagnation that my friends and I had gone through. There were five of us who were all unemployed or underemployed, and we would have lunch from our various temp jobs now and again, and joke about doing a "creative project." But then one day I was too bored not to do something. And I figured it'd be a series that combined all of the stuff I was into at that time as either a participant—literature—or spectator—theater, comedy. The Dollar Store thing? Well, I love dollar stores.

As a writer, it's prevented me from becoming lazy. I've written a new story every month to perform in front of a crowd, which is an insanely nerve-wracking thing to do, never mind do it with a first draft (and I'm thankful to all the writers who have put themselves through it, too). It's helped me in the sense that for three years I've received immediate feedback on a lot of my stories, which is a very unusual, humbling and helpful thing. And it's definitely committed me to revision. A lot of the Dollar Store stories require a fair amount of reworking to get them going on the page. I can't footnote the different parts like, "Okay, imagine I'm using a wicked funny voice when you read this next sentence."

Chicago's literary scene has really exploded with readings in the last five years. I think you're seeing it everywhere, for a number of reasons (authors need to be more proactive about promoting their books, it's easier to get word out about events with the internet, etc.), but Chicago seems uniquely readingriffic. I think it's great, it makes for a lot of fun and helps foster a real community. Of course, it is just one part of the literary scene here, there's a whole slew of writers who don't participate in the various readings, nothing wrong with that at all. But I think it is emblematic of how Chicago writers, absent the industry that New York has, are looking for other ways to reach an audience.

Here is Jonathan reading last year at a Dollar Store Show:

OA: As co-publisher of Featherproof Books, what are some of your vision for the future of featherproof? What do you look for in new projects?
JM: As for the first question, that's a hard one. We seem to think there aren't enough challenges in small press publishing, because we keep taking on new ones. After my book is a fantastic young adult novel called "This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record." After that is a very funny, drugged-up novel/art book called "boring boring boring boring boring boring." Each new book is a new surprise, presents new challenges, etc.

Of course, we're hoping we're getting better with each book, and picking up new audiences with each release. We want to expand a bit, be able to do more books, etc., and we've added staff recently ("staff" should be understood to mean bright, big-hearted people whom we don't pay). Our eyes are big but our wallets are small. But definitely, we'd like to make Featherproof a bigger operation. It's tough to pinpoint as far as new projects go. We're always looking for a book that really stands out, is very idiosyncratic, like it could only have come from one particular mind. I realize this is of no help whatsoever, and I apologize.

OA: Do you foresee any potential problems in the publishing industry as it relates to the internet? Will there come a time when people illegally download books as they do music?
JM: I don't think so. The thing about music is that when you download it, you can burn it onto a CD or put it on your iPod and it's in the precise form you would have it in if you'd bought it. That's not the case with books. As a writer and a publisher, I'm most interested in someone reading the work we put out, so I don't sweat how they get it too much. Besides, books are already available for free in these wonderful places called libraries. I've recently become enamored with libraries again, for like the eighth time in my life. If our readers just went to their local library and checked out our books, I'd be perfectly content. Everyone is constantly flipping out about what's going to happen with books and the Internet. I just think we'll all figure it out. To use your music analogy, if writing all becomes digitized, then printed and bound books will become literature's vinyl. So be it. Then our hipster grandkids will hang out and read books with their droid pals at their photon bars. You heard it here first.

OA: What's next for Jonathan Messinger?
JM: I'm working on a novel. It's going slowly, we'll see if it makes it the whole way. I'm also working on a choose-your-own-adventure novel that was commissioned for a fund-raiser for the Chicago Art Department. They auctioned it off: The winner picks the genre, and then answers a ridiculous survey I made up. Then I use their answers to turn him or her into the hero of the CYOA novel. Joseph Lappie, of Peptic Robot Press, is going to handcraft a cover and binding for it. I'm really pumped about it. Although, I think CYOA might be trademarked, so we'll probably call it SOPE, Select One's Personal Excitement.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JM: I'm allergic to caffeine, so no coffee for me. I like to pretend that it's evolutionary: I've gone beyond the need for the artificial energy boost caffeine provides. But I'm actually a sleepy guy. And I'm pretty sure that if I can be killed by something that everyone has for breakfast, well, that's not really how evolution works.

OA: Who are some of your favorite musicians past and present? Does their music ever affect your writing in anyway?
JM: When I write, I listen exclusively to jazz, because I can't hear lyrics and come up with words at the same time. My brain just can't function like that. So I listen to a lot of Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Ken Vandermark. I love Vandermark, and am thankful he lives in Chicago. As for other musicians, at the moment I'm listening to the new Spoon album a lot, and my obsession with The Thermals has shown no sign of ebbing. I'm also constantly inspired by my pal Abraham Levitan, who co-hosts the Dollar Store with me and is lead singer of the great Baby Teeth, who are the best band in Chicago. That's not my opinion. It's science fact.

For more information on Jonathan Messinger please visit his website. To pre-order your copy of "Hiding Out" go to Featherproof Press, and to catch the next Dollar Store Show check out their website.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Artist of the Week

FW025, 2006
Urethane, acrylic, pencil on wood 13" x 12 ¾"

Brienne Rosner

Discovery, finding something new inside something familiar. There are many unknowns in this world, but many times the artist works within the realm of know. However, he or she is charged with the mission to create something new, something different, something so unique that busiest soul stops to take a look. There have always been the basic tools paint, canvas, and brush, but there is no longer a need to stop there. In recent years, the genre of mixed media has been rapidly gaining popularity and acceptance. Artists are adding glass, wood, metal, and many other items to their work to create complex designs and textures. They tempt the viewer to become more then just a viewer, and to actually dive into the various layers and explore the artists vision.

Brienne Rosner is one artist who has discovered many things about herself and her work through experimenting with mixed media and various new techniques. Her work is full of fascinating layers and textures, and she enjoys allowing the paint to form in new and exciting ways. Brienne graduated from Boston University's College of Fine Arts in 2005, and has been involved in several group and individual shows and is even part of a permanent collection at the University. She recently took some time to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your style of painting?
Brienne Rosner (BR): My work tends to appear abstract, but my imagery is taken from real life and objects. I paint with a large variety of layers and lots of tiny detail. I am obsessed with surface detail. I want to be enthralled with every centimeter of a piece, always having something new to look at.

I don’t like to limit myself to a particular genre of style, which shows through in both my personality and work. I gather source material from every different corner and combine them to make something new. I investigate the duality of the natural vs. the man-made, hand vs. machine, and deliberation vs. accident. I try to achieve an ambiguous scale, playing off the idea of microcosm and macrocosm, that they are one in the same.

PD101, 2007
Digital print, ink, colored pencil, watercolor, marker on Rives BFK

OA: Under the materials section of your website, you mention a specific paint that you use for your pieces. How important are the materials used in relation to the overall aesthetic of the painting?
BR: Essential. I love when people have no idea what surface they are looking at but want so badly to touch it. I use a combination of pigment-water dispersions and five different acrylic and urethane binders that are made by Guerra Paint and Pigment in New York. The most notable difference between acrylic and urethane is that the latter settles out, dissolving any brushstroke. By mixing different amounts of the various pigments and binders the paint can appear like encaustic, ceramic, plastic, or just paint. In each painting I juxtapose different textures, opacities and sheens.

In recent paintings, I have incorporated poured paints as another type of imagery. These are really experiments of combining a painter’s skill with the natural properties of the materials. Based on predecessors, the paints (made up already from prior use) are carefully selected for color, opacity and binder ratios and poured very specifically, though the natural process will always be unpredictable. This makes the paint come alive. As it dries the paint continues to interact, and I learn a little more about the relationships of the different mixtures.

OA: How did you first come to add mixed media (i.e. glass, digital prints, acetate films, etc) to your paintings? Besides texture, what do these elements add to your pieces?
BR: This past spring the opportunity to be visiting artist/artist in residence kind of thing at Lafayette College fell into my lap. Their facilities include two 44” archival digital printers and two large scanners. A professor there was incorporating acetate and backlight films in his work and I was immediately interested in exploring the possibilities of layering these different materials parallel to my layering process in painting.

I think these pieces are different but complimentary to my paintings and drawings. There is certainly less physical ”texture”. However, there is a greater physical depth that is less evident in paintings which is why I gravitated to the acetate and glass.
I look at this first series more as drawings (and often my drawings are more like paintings) in their process. There was faster decision-making since I could readily put one layer on top of another or print one out. Of course I firmly believe the computer and other technologies should be a tool but never replace the artist’s hand. The digital images in this series came originally from drawings or poured-paint surfaces of my paintings that I scanned and manipulated in the computer. Each piece is also hand painted whether on the backside of acetate (to make parts of a layer opaque) or on glass or another film.
I have a larger series (30”x40”) in progress but the facilities are currently unavailable for my use. This has put me in a position to think more openly about where to go with these as I contemplate the greater need for paint and other possibilities of putting it together.

PS100, 2007
Urethane, acrylic, digital iron-on on handmade papers mounted on board
15 ¼" x 17 ¾"

OA: Who are some of your biggest influence artistically?
BR: Old Eastern and Middle-Eastern Miniature painting and Macro-/Microphotography are some big conceptual influences on my work. I am definitely inspired by a huge range of artists, some for one specific reason, others only a single work and nothing else, others everything. I tend not to refer to other works during my creative process. Living relatively close to NYC I get a large dose of the museums and galleries at a single time when I make it in and sit on that for a while. Two favorites I saw in Chelsea this year are Jung-Yeon Min and Oliver Vernon.

OA: With pieces named NL749, RA306, and ST531 it gives the impression that you have created thousands of pieces. What is the meaning behind these names? How many pieces have you created, and how long does it take you to complete a piece?
BR: I have found that more times then not titles get in the way. Either a work finds it needs a title to explain itself, or the titles sound cheesy or dramatic. I also recognize that a title should serve a purpose, and “(Untitled)” sounds like a cop out. So I began exploring other places titles are found in today’s world. Cataloging and abbreviation seem ever prevalent as our need to produce and organize grows more expansive. In my work, each combination has a meaning that may or may not reveal itself to the viewer. With two letters followed by three numbers there is quite a large pool of titles to choose from, yet the possibilities are not infinite. This leaves my options open for linking certain pieces and series at any point in the future, but keeps me limited within the system I have developed.

OA: What's next for Brienne Rosner?
BR: Good question! I am currently planning to apply to graduate schools come winter, but I always have my eyes out for any opportunity that sounds appealing. I have found it quite challenging to live in relative isolation but make the connections that would be more visible living a city.

LP106, 2007
Digital printing, hand painting on any (and many) of the following materials: Rives BFK, Acetate, Backlight film,
glass 11.5"x9.5"

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
BR: Yes, coffee. My favorite is a latte made by one specific owner of a coffee shop about 40 minutes away. Since I don’t get there often, I buy organic fair trade Guatemalan coffee from a friend that owns a local independent cinema and coffee shop. Because she buys in bulk, I must bring home a 5lb bag and subdivide it for my already tiny freezer.

OA: Do you listen to music while you are creating? What are some of your favorites while painting and in general?
BR: I used to listen to music much more frequently while working, but currently I seem to rotate phases of public radio (I recently discovered the world of podcasts), audio books and music. As far as music, I listen to variety of music but some favorites in the studio include White Magic, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Cat Power, New Order, The Notwist, Fela Kuti, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, PJ Harvey, The Fall…boy it’s hard to stop…

For more information on Brienne Rosner please visit her website. Just be warned it takes a minute to load her site, but once you are inside you won't regret a minute.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Release Tuesday

Photo by Chrissy Piper

Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass Listen to: Coffee (mp3)
LoveLikeFire - An Air in the Ocean Listen to: From a Tower (mp3)
Pseudosix -Pseudosix Listen: Under the Waves (mp3)
VHS or Beta - Bring On The Comets Listen to: Bring on the Comets (mp3)
Liars - Liars Listen to: Plaster Casts of Everything (mp3)
Madlib - Beat Konducta in India vol 3 & 4 Listen to: Masala (mp3)
New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom Listen to: Get Lucky (mp3)
Victoria Hart - Whatever Happened To Romance?
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals - Lifeline

Blades of Glory
Kickin' It Old Skool

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Morning Mix

Rebirth... not of self but of reality. I am not talking about a religious experience, but more of a change in perception. The way you perceive your situation and your abilities can either help or hinder your growth. If you believe you will never grow and expand then you never will, but if you believe you have already begun to expand then you will grow forever. A tree is not always a tree, sometimes it is a collection of thoughts and experiences pushing towards the ceiling preparing to burst through to something boldly rewarding. So please enjoy "Rebirth", and make something happen today.

Artwork: "Rebirth" by Josh Macphee

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Orange Alert's Music Minute

This New York band recently self-released an incredible debut album entitled " Are you ready for the Heartbreak Cause Here it Comes". Their music is fun, infectious, and really well put together. This album rips through 12 tracks in 33 minutes, and moving every minute. Lead singer Jeremy Coleman reminds me a great deal of Matt Berninger from The National. It is a deep, but passionate delivery rolling over amped poppy baselines and roaring guitars. It is as if Matt Berninger sang for The Strokes. This is a great debut, and hopefully a sign of many good things to come from Murder Mystery. Currently the album can be purchased through Insound. Also be sure to check out the bands website. Listen to: Love Astronaut (mp3) and Honey Come Home (mp3)

Copperpot has been producing hip hop since 2000 when he joined The Phonograph Scientists, a Chicago-based turntable crew. Pot went solo in 2005 with his album Chapter 7 and soon after things got hot when The Chicago Reader ran a feature spotlighting his appearances on local projects from artists like Qwaazar (Typical Cats), Iomos Marad (All Natural) and several acclaimed 12” singles featuring local Chicago emcees paired with lyricists from London.

Now, with his new album, WYLA?, Pot has strayed from the bedroom producer style. Enter Matthew Lux, a member of the experimental group Isotope 217. Lux called upon a slew of artists from all over Chicago to help create WYLA?, most notably Jeff Parker and Dan Bitney, members of supergroup Tortoise. WYLA? also features many notable guests, including hip hop legend KRS-One and MC Braintax. Listen to: Come Back Home ft. KRS-One (mp3) and Demo ft Braintax (mp3)

This Tuesday, San Francisco's LoveLikeFire will release their second Ep, "An Ocean in the Air", and they have produced some classic indie pop tunes. Lead Singer, Ann Yu, has a dynamite voice that seems to power straight through the guitars and keyboards that roar behind her. She creates these incredible melodies with strength and passion, while the guys (David Farrel, Ted Parker, and Robert Kissinger) support her perfectly to form a huge sound. You can pre-order their album today. Listen to: From a Tower (mp3) and unlighted Shadows (mp3)

Morrissey recently announced a new tour of the states starting next month. He will spend most of the tour in California and New York, but he will also visit NV, IL, UT, MI, and more. For the full tour details visit his official website.

The Peel Back: "Superhero Music" by Fingathing

It really is a unique combination, a turntablist and an upright bass player. Well, not to Peter Parker and Sneaky, they continue to play that style of music to this day. However, "Superhero Music" was released way back in 2002, but the skills and the melodies are still strong today. My favorite track on the album is Orge, it combines the orchestral elements while adapting to the turntable. The entire album is filled with sporadic samples and scratches, and it's a true treasure to own. Listen to: Orge (mp3) and Scrap (mp3)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Watch List


1. The Golden Isle - Will Cone creates music is his apartment in Seattle, WA. Last year he independently released an album entitled "Climb a Library Self" which will be the first of three albums. "This here is fred rogers inspired ascot rock". Listen to: Look Hard (mp3) and Going Back (mp3)
2. Clockclean Er - Welcome to Clockclean Er. The group has released a 12" ep , two singles and one full length lp. They have played 137 shows. They have toured four times in the US. They have several friends. More enemies. They are fine with that, all of it. It is now 2007. They have a second full length LP, Babylon Rules, out Oct. 2 on Load Records. They were named "the most hated band in Philly" by the Philadelphia Weekly just last week. This music is almost painful, but there is also a certain amount of pleasure. Listen to: Vomiting Mirrors (mp3)
3. Amasser - Written, programmed, performed and otherwise compiled in various locales across the upper/western United States, legal wall proved an exercise in exorcising the perfectionism of its creators. the goal was always to arrive at structured songs, but most of the sounds discovered during the process were more or less spontaneous. amassing tracks in this way – following instinct and curiosity – meant committing to a moment's vitality. As a result, legal wall eschews autobiography and celebrates other trajectories: beyond one composer, beyond one music, beyond one debate. More than merely celebrating them, it follows these trajectories, to the point that listening to legal wall becomes a reminder to constantly question what one hears. with all of us – all the time – policing the legal wall, amasser believes that reminder is important. Listen to: Cranium Posse (mp3) and Green Like the Sky (mp3)

1. "Flat Mindy" by Patrick Sommerville - Featherproof books has a series of free mini-books that you can print and fold. This is the latest, just released this week.
2. "Mouse" by Kiara Brinkman - I really love the way this story weaves in and out of past and present realities.
3. "Don't Go Back To Bridgeport" by Spencer Dew - On Saturday, July 21st, Chicago police shut down the Poetry Foundation's Printer's Ball event at the Zhou Brothers art space. I wish I had been there to witness some of this.

1. Pretty:Darn:Swell is closing it's doors after 2 years of offering quality prints and supporting worthy charities. Stop by and grab one last print. - $20
2. The Lunch Break Book - Place your order now, the book is at the printers. It features poetry from David Barker, Wayne Mason, Karl Koweski, Zachary C. Bush, and among other Miles J. Bell. The funny thing about Miles J. Bell is he is one of the only writers that I have contacted that did not return my e-mail. I think I may have had an old e-mail address, so Miles if your are reading this I love your work and I have some questions for you... e-mail me! - $10
3. The Ok Go Flipbook - Guilty pleasure maybe, but I love Ok Go! - $10

1. Castle Issue #11 - 128 pages of art, illustration, and design for free.
2. Design & Life Issue #6 - / Vitra Edition / Uniqlo / UT / Onitsuka Tiger / Sneakers / MUJI NY / BrenB / Ireland / Designer / Illustrator / Oliver Jeffers / Daydream Alva Noto / Ryuichi Sakamoto / Mop / Organic / nature / Matsuyama / handsoap / Amadana / Shuwa Tei / Tuna salad / egg salad / Hotels Homes / FREE

1. The new video from Connecticut's Magik Markers "Taste"
2. The Ben Tanzer/Lucky Man viral campaign continues here and here. Ben is encouraging everyone to make their own video and spread the love. So break out your books and your cameras and post your links in the comments section. If you don't own Lucky Man go here, it will change your life!
3. Ben Frost scares me, but I just can't get enough!

Saturday Morning Cartoon

I've been sitting on this one for a while, it really reminds me of last summer... So as you eat your bowl of Wackies, enjoy this video from Chad Vangaalen.

Flower Gardens

Friday, August 24, 2007

Band of the Week

Cotton Jones Basket Ride

"In my craft or sullen art/Exercised in the still night/When only the moon rages/And the lovers lie abed/With all their griefs in their arms/I labour by singing light/Not for ambition or bread/Or the strut and trade of charms/On the ivory stages/But for the common wages/Of their most secret heart." - Dylan Thomas from In My Craft or Sullen Art

The process of writing a song, performing that song, and then recording that song can be backed by many different motivators. The artist can be trying achieve a certain sound, make a living, change an opinion, build a following, and so on. However, it is the song that is built upon honesty and passion that shines brightest or plays the loudest. These are the songs that speak to the heart of the listener because they are from the heart of the musician.

One musician that consistently and prolifically contributes passionate songs to the American songbook is, Maryland native, Michael Nau. The word prolific can be defined in several different ways, but my favorite is "intellectually productive". Michael has penned three incredible full-length albums and three equally great ep's with his primary band Page France, an ep and two 7"'s with The Broadway Hush, and now he is finishing off an LP as Cotton Jones Basket Ride. Keep in mind that all of this has occurred in the last three years.

Recently, Michael took sometime out from recording, as he prepares for his upcoming Cotton Jones tour, to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): What was the motivation behind the forming of Cotton Jones Basket Ride? How does the sound and look differ from Page France? Who is in the band or will in the band on the upcoming tour?
Michael Nau (MN): I've wanted to do the jones thing for a while. I just wanted to make a record without any initial strings attached. I think that the whole concept and motive of jones
differ from page france. it feels different to me, but i'll leave sonic comparison up to the mind of the listener. i recorded most of this record alone in my studio, but had some lifesaving help from a few talented friends toward its conclusion. as for the tour.. I have a few buddies coming out to help me with the shows.

OA: Are there plans to release "Human Kindness and The Moon" through a label or in any manner other then at your shows?
MN: We'll see what happens here once any loose ends are tied. iIm not certain that that's gonna be the title of the record yet either - still trying to figure a few things out.
I guess we'll see what happens.

OA: Your lyrics for Cotton Jones and Page France are quite literary. How much time and energy do you focus on lyrics as opposed to the actual music? What are your thoughts on people reading to deeply into your lyrics?
MN: My approach to writing the jones songs are a bit different. i wrote a lot of the music first, which was a new method for me. as for people reading too deeply into lyrics...
to be honest, i'm just happy that a few people are interested in what we're doing, in any way at all.

OA: The musician, more then individuals in other arts, is placed upon a pedestal and praised. Your song "Singer in a Band" seems to speak directly to that fact. How have you handled the extra attention?
MN: i think that everything that i've touched has remained well under the radar, so i haven't noticed extra attention. i just go about my business.

OA: It comes as no surprise to hear that you have been labeled 'prolific'. With three know projects and probably others in the wings, how often do you write and can you briefly explain the process of turning what you write into a song?
MN: I used to write all of the time, and recorded every little side-thought that I wrote. As a result, I was throwing stuff out there left and right, without ever letting it settle in.
I still write songs often, but I feel that I'm finally growing a filter, so to speak.

Video: Cotton Jones Basket Ride "All Along The Year (in a Day)"

OA: Are there any plans to work on new materieal with Whitney for The Broadway Hush?
MN: We'd both love to record more songs, if time ever allows. We've enjoyed the 7" stuff we've had the chance to do. We'll see.

OA: What is next for Michael Nau and Cotton Jones, and/or in general?
MN: I just want to finish up this jones record, play a few shows, and spend some time with family and friends at the moment.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If so what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee shop?
MN: It all tastes the same to me, so i don't really have a favorite type or a favorite shop.

OA: I know you tour quite a bit, but what was the last great book that you read?
MN: An assortment of dylan thomas poems that was given to me by a friend.

Upcoming tour dates as Cotton Jones Basket Ride:
Aug 31 2007 8:00P tryals @ good soil collective Frostburg, MD
Sep 5 2007 8:00P lit lounge w/ mean creek New York, NY
Sep 6 2007 8:00P the great scott w/ mean creek Allston, MA
Sep 8 2007 8:00P dante -apos's w/ royal army recording co & mean creek Frostburg, MD
Sep 9 2007 8:00P the red & the black w/ andrew dost Washington DC
Sep 10 2007 8:00P union hall w/ andrew dost Brooklyn, NY
Sep 11 20078:00P scene metrospace w/ andrew dost, that’s him! that’s the guy! East Lansing, MI
Sep 12 2007 8:00P blind pig w/ andrew dost, canada, & chris bathgate Ann Arbour, MI

For more information on Cotton Jones Basket Ride please visit their website.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Writer's Corner

Wayne Mason
"And then one day I got a true look at the Poor, millions
of the Poor, patient and toiling; more patient than
crags, tides, and stars; innumerable, patient as the
darkness of night--and all broken, humble ruins of nations."

-Carl Sandberg from Masses

It's a common thread in literature, the blue collar voice, the tired steel worker, the poor and the patient, the unpaid and disrespected. I have heard some state that this genre is currently filled with complainers, and that everyone hates their job. They question the significance since it is such a common experience. However, isn't that the very reason why it is so vital to poetry? The fact that we hate our jobs has become almost a universal truth. It is the poet's responsible to paint our picture, sing our praise, to champion our cause, and to simply tell our story.

One such poet is Wayne Mason of Central Florida. Wayne is a factory worker who has discovered that he has the hands of a worker, but the mind of a poet. Wayne also studies Buddhism and tries to allow what he is learning them to seep into his writing. Last year, Wayne self-released his first chapbook, Broken Zen, and is already shopping his follow-up to publishers. Wayne has also started a group called The Wordcore Collective to promote the local poetry scene in and around his home town.

Recently, Wayne took some time to answer our questions on the collective and his work in general.

Orange Alert (OA): What came first for you, the poetry or the Buddhism?
Wayne Mason (WM): I was writing poems long before I knew anything of Buddhism, although it’s definitely had an impact on my writing from the koan inspired minimalism to the re-occurring images of Kannon or Dogen. Actually I’m not a very good Buddhist, I can read Buddhist text all day long and I really try to follow a boddhisattva path in my everyday life, but as far as meditating everyday or abstaining from vice…. I’m really terrible.

OA: The statement on your website states that you are working on a novel entitled, 'Buddha In Purgatory'. What can you tell us about your novel?
WM: Man, I’ve started and re-started this novel a million times but I think I’m finally headed in the right direction. As surreal as the title is, it’s basically the story of an artist and his crappy factory job and his attempt sat dealing with these two totally contrasting lifestyles… something I can certainly relate too

OA: Your poem "Dead Poetry Gods", which was published in the Spring 2007 edition of Words Dance, touches on the struggle between acknowledging and learning from the poets of the past and deeming yourself unworthy to work in the same realm as those poets. Who are some of your biggest influence, and how do you deal with this struggle?
WM: Like a lot of others I was hugely inspired by the Beats. Mostly these days I read my contemporaries, and I often find myself humbled and flattered being published alongside them. As far as the struggle goes, it’s something I don’t spend too much time worrying about… except for the occasional existential crisis.

OA: Your first chapbook, 'Broken Zen', was published last year by Beer and Loafing Press. How was that experience, and are there any plans for a second chapbook?
WM: Beer and Loafing was sort of my own little “press” to release my chap. It was very limited. But all in all is was a good experience. Right now I have another chap manuscript put together titled “Every Day Is Labor Day”, which is mostly working class stuff. I’m hoping to place this one with a publisher to see it done right. Any takers?

OA: Can you tell us little about The Wordcore Collective?
WM: The town I live in isn’t exactly a small town but it’s not exactly a big city either. There’s a decent music scene, decent arts… but when I decided I wanted to move into live performance I quickly realized there was really no literary scene. Rather than sit at home and complain about it I started Wordcore. It’s been hard but it’s been rewarding too.

OA: What's next for Wayne Mason?
WM: Just to keep on writing. But more immediately another beer.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
WM: I love coffee. Nothing fancy, black coffee the stronger the better! I can’t afford those hip little coffee shops, give me a greasy diner with a never ending cup of coffee.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are some of your favorite musicians? Does their music affected your writing in anyway?
WM: Sonic Youth, Merzbow, John Zorn, stuff like that. When I write I either tend to listen to jazz or extreme noise…. anything without words. I’ve played in several bands over the years and for better or worse I think that musical training is something I still carry with me as a poet.

For more information on Wayne Mason visit his website.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Artist of the Week

Matthew Curry

Graffiti turned art may be too simple of a statement, but Washington DC based artist Matthew Curry applies many of the elements of graffiti when creating his pieces. Graffiti is not simply about tagging, and having your name visible to the world. The end result of graffiti is an amazingly complex series of images layered upon one another to create a richness in both color and texture. It is as if each piece is a case study of a small fragement of a much larger mural on a bridge underpass or on the side of a train car.

Matthew Curry is a GRAMMY® Nominated designer, illustrator and painter that resides and works from his studio in the Washington DC area and is the principal of the design studio, Imagefed. In addition to his commercial work as an illustrator and designer, Matthew's personal artwork has been commissioned for use on magazine covers, limited edition products, snowboards, and can also be found on exhibit in numerous art and design related publications, galleries, and venues all over the world.

Recently, Matthew found some time while waiting out Hurricane Flossie in Hawaii, hours before his wedding day to answer my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your style of painting?
Matthew Curry (MC): Heavily layered landscapes with anatomical and figurative juxtapositions.

OA: Who are some of biggest influences artistically?
MC: As far as painters go, I gather a great deal of inspiration from El Greco, Milares, Botsford, Hokusai, Wyeth and Close.

OA: Your work tends to build upon the basic principles of graffiti. How did you first get into graffiti and what do you think of its increasing acceptance in the art community?
MC: I got into it in my early teens and continued studying it through college. I was always more into incorporating it into my work as part of the landscape, more so than actually writing. Some people might devote an exhaustive amount of time learning to paint trees or water, I was learning how to convincingly draw and paint throwies, letters and tags. I apply this discipline to my mark making and visual vernacular. I did some bombing along the way, but I really draw pictures of graffiti now more so than actually write it. As far as graffiti's growing acceptance in the art community, I think , is due in part to the art community being younger. Personally, I think the greats of graffiti in fine art are few and far between.

OA: In utilizing graffiti techniques your work tends to be layered and complex in design. Where do you typically begin and how long can it take to complete an average size piece?
MC: It never begins the same way. Most of the time I'll have several works going at once and I'll hit them up randomly. That's really where the graffiti aspects come into play, as the drawings can have been in play for several months and in some cases, years. So, in a way they mimic the layering that occurs on the walls and other surface areas of an urban environment. OA: How do you choose the colors for your pieces? Do you have a specific color palate that you utilize? Do you ever consider the emotional effects of color and how that might effect someone as they view your pieces?
MC: I try to keep my color palette relatively simple-but, I rarely plan it out. I am more aware of the colors role as an emotional tool when I'm doing my more simple and graphic drawings.

OA: What's next for Matthew Curry?
MC: I'm literally about 16 hours away from getting married. That's pretty much all I can think about right now, and it feels very good.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee place? MC: Any kind i can get my hands on.

OA: What type of music do you listen and who are some of your favorite artists?
MC: I like Dub. Some of my favorite bands are The Police, Steely Dan, Zeppelin, Main Source.

OA: Does their music ever affect your work in any way?
MC: Totally.

For more information on Matthew Curry please visit his website, and for the most recent images of his work visit his flickr page.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Release Tuesday

Architecture in Helsinki - Places Like This Listen to: Heart it Races (mp3)
The New Pornographers - Challengers Listen to: Adventures in solitude (mp3)
Caribou - Andorra Listen to: Melody Day (mp3)
M.I.A. - Kala Listen to: Boyz (mp3)
Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight Listen to: Under the Blacklight (mp3)
Minus the Bear - Planet of Ice Listen to: Throwin' Shapes (mp3)
Dax Riggs - We Only Sing For Blood Or Love
Talib Kweli - Eardrum
Kinski - Down Below It's Chaos Listen to: Punching Goodbye Out Front (mp3)
Numbers - Now You Are This Listen to: Hey Hey Dream (mp3)
Foreign Born - On the Wing Now


Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday Morning Mix

This week's mix was inspired by this amazing mixed media painting by Austin Dodson. It combines crayon, ink, acrylic, paper collage on arches.

"Little Alice is the second image in a series of seven. Each day of the week Alice gets to play with her friends. She lives a very charmed life, like a perpetual Saturday morning with no work for adults."

Enjoy, Alice Comes Out to Play (Monday) featuring music by Okkervil River, Bat For Lashes, Caribou, Throw Me The Statue, Jen Lekman, and more...

Murder Mystery "What me Baby Said" (mp3)
Deerhoof "Matchbook Seeks Manic" (mp3)
Jose Gonzalez "Teardrop (Massive Attack Cover)" (mp3)

Artwork: "Alice Comes Out to Play (Monday)" by Austin Dodson

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Orange Alert's Music Minute

T. Thurston has created a live mix album entitled "Summers are Better Than Other", but he has only made 50 copies. Each disc has a different Polaroid on the cover. The track list is not disclosed on his website for artistic reason, so I will leave it up to you to find out how Magical, Beautiful fill this 79+ minute album. "However, we will tell you that it's separated into three vague sections: the first establishes the basis of Magical, Beautiful's music; the second is Jamaican; the third is dark & treacherous; the fourth is a good time; the fifth gets pretty gnarly and the final section is THE END." You can get your copy here for $10.

"On September 11, Low Altitude Records (the label that brought us Patrick Wolf and the Noisettes) is set to release Australian Sarah Blasko's second album, What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have. Her sophomore release is a collection of bittersweet songs propelled by her ethereal voice and atmospheric production - a cavernous, haunting presentation recorded live in a converted ballroom." This is a beautiful track, and I am sure the rest of the album will follow suit. Listen to: Planet New Year (mp3)

This group has always been one of my favorites, mainly because of their 60's influence sound. However, this band has a new label, K Records, a new album "Fill up The Room", due out October 23, most importantly they have a new sound. I don't know if they have matured or just felt like a change, but their music much developed into something much more straight forward, and more focused dynamite. It is fine quality indie pop. Check out the new sound over at their myspace page.

Vivek Shraya is quickly becoming one of my favorite young musicians. He combines dance, electro, and rock in his lastest effort "If We're Not Talking". He also knows few very talented women (Sara Quin and Meghan Toohey). We hope to be hearing more from Vivek in the weeks to come, but for now enjoy his version of The White Stripes "7 Nation Army" (mp3).

The Peel Back: Mike Johnson "Year of Mondays"

As a life long fan of Dinosaur Jr., I was excited when their bassist at the time decided to release a solo album. The fact that J Mascis would be appearing on the album reall put it over the top. The album itself is a true departure from Mike's work with Dino Jr., but fans were still able to relate to the sound and the lyrics. For me the focal point of this album is Mike's deep rich voice, that envokes images of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. He tells story of being lost and unable to relate to his friends and family. This album also features a wide range of instrumentation from Mascis' drums, to violins, pianos, and an upright bass. The album, just like Mike's entire career, never seemed to receive much praise, but it has always been one of my treasurers. I have a copy stamped "For Promotional Use Only" so I felt I would promote it here today. Enjoy!

Mike Johnson "Year of Mondays" Atlantic Records, 1996
Where am I? (mp3)/One Way Out/Way It Will Be Too Far/Another Side/Circle/Eclipse/Left in the Dark (mp3)/Hold The Reins/Say It's So/Overdrive

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Watch List

1. Aaron Beaumont - Nashville artist plays with a piano-centered aesthetic, and has an incredible voice. He will be touring with Meshach Jackson this fall. Check him out!
2. Wintermitts - "Cascadia Fault" is the new album from this fun loving Canadian Group. For more information visit their website. Listen to: Heartbeat (mp3) and Shake it Off (Vivak Shraya Remix) (mp3)
3. The Fake Fictions - Their music is raw, energetic, and just plain fun. I hear their live shows are insane, maybe I should live the office once and a while and catch a glimpse of this Chicago band. Listen to: Time Machine (mp3) and Impossible You (mp3) (from their 2006 release "Raw Yang")

1. Lost at E-Minor - Is it strange for a blog to promote another blog, maybe but Lost at E-Minor is a great blog and they send out a weekly e-mail/newsletter with a nice little recap of the weeks posts. It is the highlight of my Thursdays!
2. Motherkisser Issue #1 - You never know what to expect from a start-up Lit Zine, but Motherkisser's first issue features work from Justin Hyde, Aleathia Drehmer, Wayne Mason, and Karl Koweski. It is a very solid product.
3. "Here We Split" by Michael Jauchen - I found this under the "Experimental" section of Word Riot today. I have read this twice, and now I am going to print it out and go through it again. I guess they called it experimental for a reason. Check it out for yourself.

1. "The Orange Meltdown" by Revise CMW - Rotofugi just posted all of the amazing work from the recent BFF show, and I would love to purchase all of the pieces but this one has my name all over it! - $175
2. The Lettertee Shirt - From Featherproof Books, this shirt allows you to write upon it and then rub it off when needed. Wear your favorite poem or write whatever you like. The shirt also comes with a shirt sized envelope to mail your letter to a friend. - $15
3. Mailer .2 from Rural Messengers Press - Featuring the poetry and photography of Aleathia Drehmer. - $10
4. "We Swallowed Spiders in Our Sleep" by Zachary C. Bush - $10 - ZCB is my hero!

1. Etel #1 - A brand new art magazine from Collective 'E140' from Mexico. This first issue features Chris Smith among others and it is free.
2. Betamag #5 - Beautifully design mag that focuses on art, life, and culture in general and it's free.

1. "Set The Woods on Fire" by Art in Manila
2. "Ben Tanzer and Lucky Man Gets Puzzled" - He is shameless, but he has the talent to back it up! Did I mention shameless?
3. "Yea Yeah (Flosstradamus Remix)" Matt and Kim - I don't think there are two happier individuals alive! Also check out their live performance at Lolla, and their appearance on Dinner with the Band.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

This morning while you consume your bowl of Chinese Cocoa Puffs, enjoy this animated video for M. Ward. It is one of my all-time favorites.

Chinese Translation

Friday, August 17, 2007

Band of the Week

Meshach Jackson

Life's journey, the events and small moments that build layer upon layer, at times moves quickly and at other times slowly pushes you towards character. This is the music of Meshach Jackson. It is a culmination of every town, of every face, of every sermon, of every disturbing interaction that he has experienced. Born in Louisiana, the son of a minister, Meshach has lived in Texas, Nashville, and finally New York. When creating, Meshach pulls pieces and samples from each of these places to form a sound that is both structured and wildly unpredictable at the same time. His music glides gracefully through electronic fields, while his vocals range from hollow and distant to warm and delicate to strong and forceful. You can instantly tell that thought and passion went into every single sound.

Meshach's journey has brought him to somewhat of a crossroads. Pouring virtually everything he has into his debut ep "Experiments In Drowning" (produced by Roy Mitchell-Cardenas of Mute Math), Meshach has chosen his path and is taking those necessary next steps to fulfill his goals. As he puts it "I hope, as I now "make" my own music, contributing to the collective consciousness of beauty and art, for the sake of beauty and art - that you'll make "my music" - yours."

I recently sent Meshach six questions to answer, and one of them pertained to his time in Texas.

Orange Alert: I have noticed a tremendous amount of quality music, especially electronic music, coming from Texas. What are your thoughts on the different music scenes in Texas? Do you feel that living in multiple states through out your life has added to the eclectic feel of your music?
Meshach Jackson: You know, I can't really say that I identify with the whole Texas music scene at all. I left Austin after 4 years because I was just disgusted by the music scene there. It just felt so forced. Contrived. Even pretentious, and I just couldn't do it any more. It was disheartening to find local "faux-lebrities" who had reached such a plateau with their fame that they essentially just stopped taking chances or inventing. I think that may be a benefit to my having moved around so much in my life. I'm really turned off by the idea of localized stardom, or fake fame, which has made me less and less satisfied with anything I do. It's made me hungry.

Kind of in the same way that growing up in church made me disgusted by counterfeit religion and made me seek God far more earnestly than I had before. A mentor of mine once told me, "The opposite of True is not False, but Counterfeit." I find that to be the case not just in religion, but with art as well. The opposite of true art is counterfeit art. Fake fame. I think I pursue creative inspiration and sincerity in my music far more earnestly now than if I had been allowed to stay in one town and settle into a local sound or vibe.

I hope I never do that. Settle in. Into a sound, a style, a vision, or even a place. If it means trading inspiration for stability, I'm just not interested in being stable. One of my favorite features of living in New York is that there's really no such thing as being a "local" success without also making an impact elsewhere. At least not with what I'm doing. There is always someone new who's doing something that's never been done, and you've only got a short period of time to act on anything new before it becomes a fad. Then, it's not just that you're in danger of seeming unoriginal, but you're something far worse... lazy. I hope to keep growing and to use the diversity of my experiences thus far as a sort of toolbox for future projects and songs. I plan to keep moving. Changing. Growing. But for now, I'm thrilled to be in and around a city like New York.

As for the reminder of my questions for Meshach, you can find them inside this incredible video:

Experiments In Drowning

Listen to:
Smile (mp3)
Shrug (mp3)

For more information on Meshach Jackson you can check out this myspace page or visit his blog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Writer's Corner

Nick Antosca

"I was a man who thrived on solitude; without it I was like another man without food or water. Each day without solitude weakened me. I took no pride in my solitude; but I was dependent on it. The darkness of the room was like sunlight to me." - Bukowski

Through the eyes and the heart of an outsider can come page after page of dark and twisted fiction. The outsider paints their reality, boarded up in a one room apartment madly recording every thought, every moment. We now call this the outsider's life, but there was a time when the word of choice was solitude. When a writer is allowed the time and space to slip inside of his own mind, the character and situations can be endless.

Such is the story of Nick Antosca's first three years at Yale University. During his time in college Nick found solitude, and from the age of 18 to 21 he was able to write a novel a year. Of those novels, Fires was the one that allowed him to sign a deal with Impetus Press. In an interview earlier this year with Ned Vizzini of Bookslut, Nick had this say about Fires, "Fires feels like an ex-girlfriend. I am very fond of it and I remember every crevice, but artistically I've long since moved on". That is no insult to this novel, but a sign that growth and literary expansion is in store for Nick's follow-up, Midnight Picnic.

Recently Nick took some time out from his constant writing to answer a few my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Your recent story "Mammals" published on Identity Theory is about twins who discover they were actually triplets. What inspired that story?
Nick Antosca (NA): The story was inspired by wanting to write stories about a) someone who discovers he has a teratoma, and b) someone whose job it is test cosmetic products on animals. I actually find the latter more interesting. People do have these jobs. There are people who drip nail polish in rabbits' eyes all day and then go home and eat pizza or whatever. Are they cool with that or do they have nightmares? Some must.

OA: Now that we are eight months out from the publishing of your debut novel "Fires", how do you view the process as a whole? What, if anything, will you do differently with you next book?
NA: Fires was fun to publish. My publishers, Impetus Press, had just gotten started. We were kind of playing it by ear a little. That's fine. They will publish my next book, Midnight Picnic , next year, and I am looking forward to that. In terms of what we will do differently, I don't know--plan out promotion/reviews a little bit more ahead of time?

OA: I read that you had written " Fires" during a lonely, yet prolific period in your life (ages 18-21). Can you tell us a little about "Fires"?
NA: I wrote Fires (the first draft) in just a six weeks, from January 2003 to maybe beginning of March 2003. It's a traditional novel in its structure and prose and so forth--it takes place in roughly the real world. Not all of my stuff is like that. Midnight Picnic is not like that. Also, Fires includes a lot of things from my real life, like descriptions/experiences of being an outsider at Yale and descriptions of a neighborhood very like the one where I grew up. It's a paranoid, depressed novel.

OA: Do you perform at readings? What are your thoughts on readings for novelists as opposed to poets? Yes, the novel is the highest form of story telling, but is it meant to be read a loud?
NA: Yes, I do readings all the time. No, I don't think novels are particularly meant to be read out loud. But there are many reading series in New York, so it's an easy thing for me to do, and they are generally tolerable experiences. Sometimes I meet other authors whose books I really like. I like doing readings in bookstores more than in bars, but either way is all right.

OA: Who are some of you biggest literary influences?
NA: Nabokov, James Salter, Ray Bradbury, Denis Johnson, Alicia Erian, John Fowles, Graham Swift, Martin Amis, William Trevor. I guess that's an embarrassingly Caucasian-male-heavy list. Well, it is what it is.

OA: What's next for Nick Antosca?
NA: More books. All books that are very different from one another. Midnight Picnic will come out next year from Impetus if everything goes as planned. I have another finished novel that no one wants to publish--you should see all the rejection letters. I'm putting together a collection of short stories. I've just begun another novel about a rabies-like disease that is triggered by toxins that accumulate in adipose tissue so it only affects obese people.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite kind of coffee and where is your favorite spot?
NA: I actually never drink coffee, but I do eat a lot of sushi and raw oysters. My favorite sushi place is Ise at 56 Pine Street, and my favorite place to get oysters is Lure Fish Bar during the happy hour, when they are $1 each.

OA: What type of music do you currently listen to, and who are of your all time favorites?
NA: I listen to all kinds of music. I go to concerts sometimes by the Harlem Shakes, which is the band of my friend Lexy Benaim. They're very good. I like Cat Power, The Beatles, Necro, Gene McDaniels, Chris Whitley, Neil Young, Eddie Money, Omar & the Howlers, The Cars, and anything that's been in a Martin Scorsese movie.

For more information on Nick Antosca visit his blog, and to order your copy of Fires go here.