Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Artist of the Week

Jim Fuess

Paint in its original state is a liquid, and as a liquid it is naturally prone to movement. When allowed to move and then dry the results can be very natural, free, almost alive. As the paint flows onto the canvas it searches for direction branching out exploring at will. Eventually it will dry and patterns, textures, possibly images will begin to appear. Layer upon layer, color upon color, the paints roam guided by the artists eye and imagination.

So how does the artist control this liquid while still allowing nature to play a role? In the case of New Jersey artist Jim Fuess the answer lies in the nozzle of a spray bottle. Loaded with purposefully selected paints, Jim controls the pressure, volume, direction, and area. He also paints beneath and on top of the wild paint. Forcing himself to work small also adds an element of control and limit to the direction of the paint.
Recently, Jim was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work
Jim Fuess (JF): I work with liquid acrylic paint on canvas. Most of my work is abstract, but there are recognizable forms and faces in a number of the paintings. I am striving for grace and balance in my paintings. A lot of his work is anthropomorphic. The shapes seem familiar. The faces are real. The gestures and movements recognizable. I believe that beauty is a valid artistic goal. I also like energy.

OA: The technique of using a squeeze bottle to change the velocity and appearance of the paint is an interesting approach. How did you first come to paint this way?
JF: Like 10 million other Americans I have Essential Tremor. I am not a photo realist or a pointillist. I use squeeze bottles for more control.I use Golden and Liquitex paint. The nozzles of the bottles vary in size as does the amount of liquidly. The variations are endless. I start with a liquid base and the other paints can be placed under, in or on top of the base.

OA: Is control an issue or not a factor? Is this why you chose to work on smaller pieces as opposed to large scale paintings?
JF: Using the bottles is very high risk. Some of the paintings run over the edge overnight or just turn brown from too much over working or too much paint.I still throw out one in four.I like to work small. Small works cost less to do and are easier to store and transport. Small works are personal rather than the grand public statement that large works make.

OA: You seem to put together a series of paintings focusing on one or two colors, and move on to the next color or colors. How do you decide what color to focus on? Do you ever use color to evoke a specific emotion in the viewer?
JF: The series of black and white paintings are an exercise in going back to the basics of form and structure. They deal with the relationship of shapes and figures to each other and to negative space.There is a long history of black and white painting. I keeps me honest rather than relying on color for effect. Color gives the work vibrancy and energy. The blue and white paintings were done because I like blue. I found Golden cobalt blue and loved what I could do with it and went a little crazy.

OA: Are the faces or forms that appear in a few of your paintings intentional? How did you first discover that there may be faces appearing?
JF: The faces and forms are mostly deliberate. Sometimes there is a surprise or something that needs encouragement.

OA: What's next for Jim Fuess?
JF: I just bought a ceiling fan with ten speeds so I can vary the drying time. I can also crack the paint in interesting ways.

Bonus questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JF: I brew a combination of Starbucks caffeinated and decaf in a stove top espresso maker in the morning.

OA: Do you listen to music while you paint? Who are are a few of your favorites?
JF: No. Just the sound of the birds and the street and all of the McMansions being built all around us.

For more information on Jim Fuess please visit his website.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Release Tuesday

Portishead - Third Listen to: Machine Gun (mp3)
Awesome Color - Electric Aborigines Listen to: Eyes of Light (mp3)
Kid Sister - Pro Nails (single)
Jamie Lindell - Jim
Make Believe - Going to the Bone Church Listen to: For Lauri Bird (mp3)
Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves - Roll with You
Santogold - Santogold
Langhorne Slim And The War Eagles - s/t Listen to: Rebel Side of Heaven (mp3)
Y-love - This Is Babylon Listen to: State of the Nation (mp3)
Kites - You and I In The Kaleidoscope Listen to: Easy Now (mp3) (stream)
The New Frontiers - Mending


Monday, April 28, 2008

Paint the Town Orange

April 25th, 2008 - Nublu - East Village, Manhattan - Bell
Review and Images by Dominick Mastrangelo

In the future, the not-too-distant future when everyone is talking about Brooklyn-based band Bell, and specifically the charismatic leader, Olga Bell, you'll hear her compared to a certain Icelandic pop singer. A compliment for sure and as much as I wanted to write a review of her performance at Nublu on Friday night without mentioning her, I find it impossible. And in less capable hands it would be wholly unfair to saddle someone with such expectation. But Bell takes it in stride and at the intimate East Village nightclub she eschewed the covers that have garnered her much attention these past few months and focused on her own material including those on her new self-released EP.

Though awkwardly positioned in the highest traffic area of the club (where bar and band were less than three feet from each other) songs like "Echinacea" with hand claps and blips and Bell's soaring, confident voice, pushed the set forward and her excellent band mates, drummer Jason Nazary, bassist Michael Chiavaro and guitarist Grey McMurray brought out the nuances off the song's intricate arrangements. Though she is responsible for much of the instrumentation on the EP, there is so much going on in her songs that it would be all but impossible to pull off alone, live and stay faithful to the recorded version.

The way she softly delivered "Brown Bear"'s simple speak verse "It's so hard sometimes to carry, carry on..." you imagine it quietly played out in late night diner conversation over coffee. Then, driving her point home, she belted out the song's chorus ("Cause it's so hard to carry on, when the currents carry you so far from home...") with such force it echoed in the tiny club. And it's moments like these - where she let's loose - that she sounds most like Bjork. But not exactly. And away from those moments, her voice produced a fuller, steadier sound that is all her own. Thus, the initial, overwhelming comparison comes off a bit short-sighted.

On May 15th, Bell performs at the Mercury Lounge opening for Snowden and Colour Revolt with fellow Brooklyn electro-pop band, The Epochs.

The Orange Spotlight

Aleksander Hemon The Lazarus Project (Riverhead Book, May 1st, 2008)

In modern literature there seems to be a few reoccurring themes. The story of the immigrant is one that is vital to both literature and to the history of America. Documenting the places, products, fights and fears of the all who have come to America for a new beginning. Those who have found success and those who were not allowed to find success. Another theme is the struggle of the creative, the dream denied and then fulfilled. The writer who struggles to fund to his research and process, the artist who dreams to have his work displayed anywhere, the musician who plays to bar crowds in the single digits.

In Aleksandar Hemon's third book (first actually conceived as a novel) he manages to combine both of these subjects by essentially writing two books. You see, The Lazarus Project is both a novel about a young immigrant newly settled in Chicago in 1908 named Lazarus Averbuch, and a Chicago writer, Brik, in 2008 researching the life and travels of Lazarus. To tell both stories, Hemon decided to alternate the chapters between the two completely different yet somehow similar lives. This allows the pieces of both to unravel slowly, revealing only the essentials and building the tension. There are also a few sub stories or themes at work here, like the fear and hatred in the early 1900's towards Anarchy and immigrants and more importantly the importance of friendship. Brik travels, researching, with a photographer friend Rora who not only documents the trip, but adds the random joke.

If you are looking for novel about the journey, the struggle, the adventure of trying to live your dreams, no matter what they might be then check out The Lazarus Project. Aleksandar Hemon will be appearing at the Barnes & Noble in Evanston on May 1st @ 7:00pm.

Bell Bell ep (self-released, 3/08)

"Its so hard sometimes to carry on when the current carries so far from home." from "Brown Bear"

I must admit that I had almost written off Bell as just another Bjork imitation. A very good one, but an imitation nonetheless. You see the first track on her debut ep is a beautiful romp featuring looped hand claps and glitchy little quirks and bubbles, while Olga Bell's voice powerfully searches every inches of the soundscape in that breathy scream/whisper that Bjork perfected years ago. I loved it, but thought it had been done before. It didn't help that she also recently appeared on a Bjork tribute Album.

However, as I listen to the entire ep I realized just how wrong I was. Her music is so much more then I expected, ranging from delicate to near anthem as she covers many styles and emotions in just six songs. In the remaining five songs the electronics are present, but more understated giving the ep as a whole a very stripped down and organic feel. On my personal favorite "Brown Bear" there is a sudden explosion of full bodied grand rock not unlike something you expect from Annuals. Overall this is a wonderful debut from this Brooklyn musician.

We expect to be hearing more from Bell in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Echinacea (mp3)/Housefire/Expanding File/Brown Bear/The Miner/Chunk

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Orange Alert's Music Minute

A message from Cotton Jones Basket Ride:

On May 13th, I'll be releasing a Cotton Jones EP called, "The Archery" via Quite Scientific records from Michigan - good friends of mine. Shortly thereafter, we'll be doing another EP, before compiling the EP's into a comprehensive 12" down the road.

I have a full length finished, and am just figuring a few things out.... (label, timeframe, etc). Hopefully it will be available sooner than later. Let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks man, and have a great day. See you in June. - m.nau

Listen to: Chewing Gum (mp3) from The Archery

Cotton Jones Basket Ride will be appearing at the House Cafe (DeKalb, IL) on June 21st.

When do you know its over? Why do good bands have to break-up? One of my favorite local bands, The Narrator are going to play two final shows and then move on. Releasing four albums in four years on Flameshovel records, Sam Axelrod, James Barron, Jesse Woghin, have amassed a catalog of songs that will live to tell the story of The Narrator.

Listen to: Surfjew (mp3) from All to the Wall (2007)

Their final Chicago show will be on May 3rd @ The Empty Bottle @ 10:00pm.

Make Believe is real! These Chicago rockers are releasing their third full-length album on Flameshovel records on 4/29. Theirs is a complex sound of filled with quirky guitar lines and random drumming, strange song titles and interesting lyrics. If they didn't rock so hard they might even be called complex. To really understand Make Believe you have to see them perform live. Drummer Nate Kinsella is absolutely incredible as he drums, play keys, and shakes a lot of other percussion instruments all at the same time.

The soon-to-be released Going to the Bone Church pushes their sound to the next level and forces you to believe that they are real.

Listen to: For Lauri Bird (mp3)

Make Believe are playing a free show on May 25th @ The Double Door.

In 2005, Firewater's Tod A embarked on what would become a three year sabbatical through the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia. He had recently split with his wife; George W. Bush had just been re-elected; New York, his home for the last 20 years, had become a cold and foreign place. He wasn't even sure he wanted to make music anymore.

Recording with a single microphone and a laptop in his pack, he captured performances with a vast array of musicians across India and Pakistan--and eventually Turkey and Israel. Bhangra and sufi percussion would form the basis for the songs he wrote along the way--songs about the world he left behind ("This Is My Life", "Electric City"), politics ("Borneo", "Hey Clown"), and dislocation ("6:45", "Feels like the End of the World"). Tod's acerbic wit shines on The Golden Hour, elucidating both the beauty and the absurdity of the world.

Listen to: Borneo (mp3) and Feels Like The End of The World (mp3)

There is old saying that you have to take the bad with the good... or something. Well the latest mix from La Grève Générale mixes both and does it well. It takes a great amount of skill to effectively mix Fiest, Cut Copy, The Smiths, Cadence Weapon, and Klaxons with Bubba Sparkxxx and 2 Live Crew. Check it out for youself. (YSI)

I have the full tracklist, but it is 49 tracks long. I may post it in the comments.

The Peel Back: Anarchy 6 Hardcore Live! (1988, Giant/Gasatanka Records)

I have always been interested in the punk scene, but I have never felt hardcore enough to actually say I listened to punk music. Back in high school I briefly messed around with a punk rock girl, at the times she was actually my good friend's girlfriend but that's another story altogether, and she completely changed the way I view the punk sound. She had this all back mixtape with a bright red anarchy symbol on the front that she would always play in her bedroom. I'm still not sure what she found so romantic about lyrics like "Slam, Spit, Cut your hair, Kill your mom!", but who was argue with the tiny punk on top of me.

Anyway, Anarchy 6... I can not find a lot of information on them, but from what I can tell they only released one album. I know the lead singer's name is Chemical Warfare, and they like to sing about killing people, specifically hippies.

"Old Punks", "Attitude/"Unite & Fight", "Suburban Jail", "Drugs Aren't Great", "Victims Of The Government","Livin' In Society", "New Age/Old Lie", "Third World Vacation", "Skate & Destroy", "Negative Threat", "Crackwagon", "Next Stop Nowhere", "Babylon Rules", "Look Fast To Be Fast", "See You In The Pit", & "Slam, Spit, Cut You Hair, Kill Your Mom!" (mp3)

MP3 courtsey We Got Power films: check out their site for a lot of great punk history.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Watch List

1. Other World: Chicago's Mark Hendryx creates classic alternative rock. Fun but meaningful, guitars and anthems. He is currently working on his third album 24 Hour Sun. Listen to: All I Need (mp3) from Sonic Spirit
2. Into Flight: UK band Into Flight plays epic noise rock. They were just signed to a small label Pit Viper. Their music soars and so should their career. Listen to: Vena Cave (mp3)
3. Fear of Music: "With the spirit of The Smashing Pumpkins, the screech of Placebo, the scale of (yes) Muse and the conscience of Manic Street Preachers, but also the grace of Jeff Buckley and the hysteria of Pixies, Fear Of Music mine a virgin sound all of their own." Wow, they summon the greats in their bio, but can they deliver... maybe. Listen to: A Blueprint (mp3)

1. The Gospel of Tom Cruise by Tom Cruise (aka Bore Parade): "I am the president of my inner life I impeach myself and appoint you" This is a 12 chapter guide to the internal thoughts one Mr. Tom Cruise. I love the fact that he has trademarked love.
2. "Molt" by Claire Hero: "She fawns in a murmur of milk". This is from Claire's new chap, afterpastures, from Cake Train to be released in May.
3. Gloom Cupboard Issue #33: Not that every issue of GC is not great, but I like finding voices I haven't heard before. Joseph Goosey "Bears Without Honey" is greatness!
4. "The Plastic Flower Option" by Robert B. Travis: Directions for driving through the darkness of the desert.
5. "My Signature Moves" by Amanda Nazario: A drink by drink account of a house warming party.
6. "Between the Cracks of Everything" by William Taylor Jr.: To slip between reality for a moment and just breath, not lose time, not lose opportunity, just to slip for a minute... I'm in!
7. "Sometimes Girls" by Ben Segal: A glass plate and a stolen experimental cow.
8. "An Introduction to my Open Mike Poetry Set" by S. Craig Renfroe, Jr.: This is from the new hardcore-indie-underground-ultra-cool-zine that somehow manages to combine art, music, & lit (imagine that... ). This Zine Will Rock Life and Change My World... or something.

1. Awake: A Reader for the Sleepless: A collection of stories, poem, comics, essays, clipping edited by Steve Lee Beeber all designed to help the sleepless and entertain the rest. $15.95
2. "Who I Want in My Foxhole" by Megan Dorien: Collage on paper and wood with little pink army guys. $810
3. I wish I was somehow involved in Version Fest.

1. Load Issue 11: Music, Film, Art, Style... sorry lit geeks!
2. Search Me: It's the new google!

1. Joseph Arthur "Echo Park" (Live): Joseph is performing at MUSEUM OF MODERN ARTHUR 25 Jay Street Brooklyn, New York this Saturday. Space is limited, tickets available HERE.
2. Mates of States "Get Better": This is he new video from the fifth studio album, Re-Arrange to be released on May 20th.
3. Anarchy 6 "Babylon Rules": Not the song I was looking for, but I finally found the band. More on Anarchy 6 tomorrow.
4. Vivek Shraya Behind the Scenes of the making of "Power"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Band of the Week


"All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overhead. What else? Use of scissors renders the process explicit and subject to extension and variation. Clear classical prose can be composed entirely of rearranged cut-ups. Cutting and rearranging a page of written words introduces a new dimension into writing enabling the writer to turn images in cinematic variation." ~ William S. Burroughs

If Burroughs believed that all writing is a "cut-up" of previously used words and phrases then it is not a stretch to believe that all music is follows the same principle. A blend of notes and musical phrases, samples and loops, being pieced together in the mind of the musician. With every new arrangement, with every variation of sound and tone, with every cartoon sample, a new song is created. A song, regardless of its influences, that you can call your own. However, some of the greatest musical "cut-ups" have never been legally released. Of course I am talking about the incredible body of work created by Steve Stein (a.k.a. Steinski). With the help Double Dee, Steinski cut and paste hundreds of samples together to create three legendary works known as The Lessons. This three songs blended pop, hip hop, R&B, soul, cartoons, news casts, and all kinds beats and noises. They, along with his other pieces, were revolutionary, inventive, but above all else they were extremely funky!

His works has served as a primary influence to many of today's Dj's (i.e. Cut Chemist, Dj Shadow, Girl Talk), but it may be the popularity of the work of Girl Talk that has served as a platform for Steinski's music to be brought back into the spotlight. Until now Steinski's work has circulated through illegal means, primarily because it is so sample heavy. It only seems fitting that the label that will release his retrospective is called Illegal Art. However, it is disappointing that sample based music has been considered illegal for so long, because as I said all music is in fact a cut-up. Whether you use a guitar, a piano, a laptop, a turntable, or a tape recorded your product, you song deserves to be heard.

Recently, Steinski was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Next month (May 27th) Illegal Arts will be releasing a retrospective of your music career spanning the last 25 years. In your opinion, how has hip hop changed in that time? What I mean is there have been different phases and segments, but has there been a fundamental change?
Steinski (SS): I'm not sure I'd know how to tell the difference between a phase or segment and a fundamental change. Hiphop - at least the hiphop I'm aware of - still revolves around funky beats and breaks, MC'ing, and turntable styling. Hiphop's changed from South Bronx party music to one of the most influential musical styles in the world, but like rock and jazz and house, growth is part of what happens to music when a lot of people recognize its good qualities. It doesn't necessarily mean that the form itself has undergone a fundamental change.

OA: What you and Double Dee created in The Lesson Series has always reminded me of what the DIY Zine Culture of the 70's and 80's was all about. With the cut n' paste, blending of forms and styles, mashing of genres, was there any connection between the two?
SS: I was aware of some of the DIY zine culture from punk magazines like Sniffing Glue and a few others. I'm not sure what Douglas was into as far as improvised print material. I know one of the strong influences on me as far as cut & paste was my ex-wife, who's a gifted collage artist and whose work and interests played a part in my own taste. I think she's the one who turned me on to vsual artists like Louise Nevelson and Joseph Cornell. And Douglas and I were both familiar with the early Buchanan & Goodman "flying saucer" records, of course.

OA: In an interview you did last year you mentioned that you cringe when you hear your older work. What is it about these legendary pieces that make your cringe?
SS: To be precise, I'd have to say that SOME of my older work makes me cringe; thank goodness, that hasn't happened with The Lessons, or with the Double Dee & Steinski remix of "Jazzy Sensation," or with "Nothing To Fear," the mix I did for Solid Steel Radio in the UK. Apart from those pieces - which I still play out and enjoy throughly - it's rare that I listen to other things I've done without wishing I could go back and make different choices about samples, timing, production, whatever.. Oh well.

OA: I just watched Scratch again this past week, I love the way your describe the first time you heard this new form of music. Are you surprised by what musicians like Z-Trip, Cut Chemist, Dj Shadow, Q-bert, and so on have been able to do with Turntable music? Do you see this as the purest form of hip hop or the antithesis of hip hop?
SS: I'm wildly impressed with turntablism and turntablists. I've been lucky enough to share stages with a lot of the great DJ's, and they're all incredible. What's additionally impressive about a lot of them is that they can throw down inflammatory dance sets as well as show off their devastating fader technique.

I'm not sure I'd take such a categorical view of turntablism as being either pure or antithetical to "real" hiphop. It's a creative outgrowth from one of the most basic aspects of the music, and aren't we lucky to be able to see these great artists do their thing?

OA: Like I said your retrospective is being released by Illegal Arts, what are your thoughts on the work of your label mates Girl Talk and Oh Astro? Their work seems to be taking the cut n' paste style to a completely different level.
SS: Girl Talk knocked me on my ass when I first heard his stuff. It seems like supercharged cut & paste dance music. He's great, and I'm hot to see him live. The label hasn't serviced me with Oh Astro yet, so I'm waiting with great anticipation to hear that.

OA: What is next for Steinski?
SS: More touring in Europe and the UK, regular gigging in the NY area with Double Dee and our trained laptops, and probably releasing some of the remixes and edits I've been doing for my dance sets over the past 2 years - as vinyl bootlegs, naturally.

Bonus Questions:
OA: What was the last great book you have read?
Since I gave up TV completely in 1983, I've been able to read a lot of great books. Most recently, I re-read "Hard Times," Studs Terkel's amazing oral history of the 1930's Depression in the US. It's absolutely mindblowing. It's the period of American history when the government's free-market economic policies and hands-off management style put the entire economy into the toilet (sound familiar?), and New Deal policies like Social Security came into being.

OA: Who is the best DJ, from back the day, who never received the recognition he or she deserved?
SS: There are so many great people from back in the day who seem to have drifted out of the spotlight; it's quite unfortunate. A few that come to mind immediately are Chuck Chillout, Charlie Chase, and Oscar O.C., but there are a lot of others...

Listen to: Lesson One: "The Payoff Mix" (mp3)

For more information on Steinski please visit his website, and to preorder you copy of What Does it All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective go here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reader Meet Author

F.N. Wright

Lately I have been thinking a lot about projects, complete and incomplete alike, and wondering what drives us to finish one thing while delaying the other. Some believe that everything has its moment, all things will be accomplished in time and time dictates all things. I am currently listening to an album that took two years to complete, while others are recorded and released in a matter of months. Why was April, 2008 the proper month for this release, and why was it sent to me today. Why has Portishead taken ten years to release their third album? There seems to be connections to these events, reasons for urgency and reasons to validate procrastination.

Writer F.N. Wright knows about having a project delayed until it fell into its proper place. F.N. is the author of several novels (The Whorehouse, 1977, Flight to Freedom, 1986 and The Music Sluts, 2005) over the last thirty years, and all have been written at various stages of his life. As projects are started, shelved, completed, released a legacy is born. It has to give those creative souls with lists and dreams and goals and projects hope.

Recently, F.N. was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): Your latest novel, The Music Sluts, is being called the sequel to 1977’s novel The Whorehouse. What can the reader expect from The Music Sluts and why the 30 year separation between the two novels?
F.N. Wright (FN): I should begin by saying I went to work for a chain of record store/head shops in the late 60’s. The name of the chain was The Wherehouse. The majority stockholder/owner was one of the most paranoid and greedy individuals I have ever encountered. All employees were required to take mandatory polygraph tests on a random basis. After several years, I refused to take any more and was surprised I was not terminated. He also hired people from a security firm to act as sales clerks in order to spy on the store managers and all other employees. It was ludicrous because it was obvious who they were since they were hired by the main office and not the store manager. As soon as I confirmed an individual was from the security firm (I had a source in the main office who would confirm my suspicions) I would terminate them.

As stressful as the job was, I really enjoyed it. I was soon opening new stores, training managers and crews, then moving on to open a new store in another city. I had been writing mostly poetry and painting for several years but soon began writing humorous stories about the company to relieve my stress. A girl (Tish Perry) I hired to work in a store I was opening and I fell in love and she started reading my stories. One night she said I had a novel on my hands so I began writing The Whorehouse or what I call the longest letter of resignation in history. Tish and I probably had one of the shortest engagements in history (laughs) though after all these years we remain close friends.

The Whorehouse is a very scatological satire about the corporate industry and what paranoia and the feeling of power and greed can do to people; and those involved with them. Eventually, four of the “honchos” and several other people in management positions resigned and started a chain of their own which they named Music Plus. Soon after, Music Plus began to hound me to come work for them. As bad as they wanted me to come to work for them, I had no desire to return to the L.A. area since I was priced out of the beach communities. However, in time, word got out about my book and I knew my days were numbered with The Wherehouse. Then Music Plus opened a store in what was then a small community in Ventura County and asked me to manage it. I drove down, checked it out and accepted their offer.

Music Plus was a blessing after The Wherehouse and referred to all employees as “family.” I think I went to work for them in early ’75 and The Whorehouse was published in late 1977. I then began writing my second novel, “Flight to Freedom” and it became so large I realized I had to break it up into a trilogy. In the meantime the four “honchos” went to hell for the most part. Two of them developed drug problems and all four discovered greed. Before long we were no longer referred to as “family” and many employee/friends were being terminated. Though I was being hassled on occasion I was pretty much left alone.

Bill Pieper, a rare book dealer I had been buying Patchen first editions from and became friends with, read The Whorehouse. He said it reminded him of Bukowski and I should try to get it published in Germany. Bill introduced me to John Martin who in turn put me in contact with Carl Weissner who was Bukowski’s German translator and European agent. Martin, by the way, did not endorse the book having not read it even though I had sent him a copy. Carl loved the book and compared me to HST. A compliment if there ever was one. He managed to sell it to one of Bukowski’s German publishers and got me five times more advance money than German publishers usually gave foreign writers, even the established ones.

Sales on the book were great. The German publisher sent Michael Montfort, Bukowski’s photographer/friend, out to take photos of me for book and publicity. He came out three times and we became friends and drinking buddies. This is relevant to the last part of your question. As I worked on “Flight to Freedom” I stopped and completed a novel called The Strangers. Then things went to shit at work and I was terminated in 1980. I went to work managing a bar and began writing The Music Sluts while finishing “Flight to Freedom”. The German edition of The Whorehouse was published in 1980. I sold “Flight” and it was published in 1986. I finished The Music Sluts and sold it to the same publisher. He lost money on a book he’d postponed publication of The Music Sluts for and went out of business. I put it aside because I was working on sequels to “Flight” but the reader can expect the same biting satire found in The Whorehouse.

In 1984 I went to work for the Postal Service. During these years Michael Montfort and I stayed in touch. He phoned one night after I’d left the Postal Service (disability) and said he had a friend and publisher who wanted to meet me. It was Gary Aposhian who owned 12 Gauge Press. He wanted to publish The Music Sluts. I enjoy writing but hate fucking around with submitting things. There is the reason for the 30 year separation between the books. I should get an agent I guess.

OA: Taking in to account your background in the record store business, what are your thoughts on the current state of the record business? With record stores closing daily, and more people turning to the web, what are your thoughts on new media and the record industry?
FN: It’s in sad shape. I have a friend who was in charge of MCA Records nationwide and he said sales were down and he was constantly having to lay-off people. I phoned him at his office in Santa Monica one day and he answered the phone instead of his secretary. I asked him where Dawn was (I loved flirting with her and she kept a picture of me on her desk. I think I was with Waylon Jennings in the pic) and he said he had had to lay her off. I called his office a couple of months ago and the number was no longer in service. I called Information, got a number for the record division, and the guy who answered the phone had never heard of Bob. It’s like he never existed. His home number was disconnected so I can only assume he was laid off and returned to Cleveland or moved to Vegas where he and his wife had a condo.
The sad thing is, like the book business when conglomerates began buying up publishing companies, the larger labels are afraid to sign new acts just like your large publishing companies are reluctant to publish unknown writers, less fiction and virtually no poetry. I doubt if artists like Warren Zevon or Tom Waits could even get a record deal with a major label today. But then, like the small press scene, the indie labels are beginning to grow. Kiefer Sutherland started a label and their first CD is by Rocco DeLuca and the Burden. The lead singer plays a dobro and it’s a fantastic CD.

As far as to what I think about the current media and record industry? SUCKING POND WATER! Artists are being cheated out of royalties and you don’t have the personal touch or ambience of a record store. Don’t get me wrong. I buy most of my CD’s, DVD’s and books from I get better service or that equal of going into a Barnes & Noble, Borders, Best Buy or even one of the few remaining record store chains, Sam Goody’s. It used to be that record store and independent book store managers and employees developed a rapport with their customers. I am still friends with people that began as customers when I was in the record business going back 30-40 years ago; the same with people in the book business. I could go on but this answer is already too long. (Laughs)

OA: Many of your poems have a political theme to them, has your experience in the military influenced your writing in any way?
FN: You might get a short answer here. (Laughs again) YES! Besides Vietnam I spent time in about another dozen countries. Our government has no idea of what other cultures are and therefore the general populace is very ignorant. We think everyone should be and live like us which is absurd. We did not lose the war in Nam on the battlefield (the politicians abandoned the people of South Vietnam) and we will do the same in Iraq. I also believe we will eventually allow the Chinese to invade and conquer Taiwan which would be a major blow to the democracy we so vehemently preach.

OA: Why do you think Bukowski is such a major influence on today’s writer?
FN: That’s a tough one, perhaps because he recognized no boundaries or borders. Unfortunately, too many young writers today are trying to emulate him and not finding their own voices. They should also read some of the writers who influenced him. John Fante is the first one who comes to my mind.

OA: You’re also a painter. How would you describe your painting style? When did you first discover you wanted to paint?
FN: (laughs) More primitive than the primitives and often very whimsical. Most people seem attracted to my use of color. I come from a family of artists but I would say I really took to my painting when I was in my early twenties.

OA: What’s next for F.N. Wright?
FN: I hope to paint more than I have in the past two years and I want to do a final rewrite on my novel The Strangers and finish a novel I began in the late 80’s. Its working title is The Deviants and it’s about the Postal Service. Let’s say I’m picking up where Bukowski left off with his novel Post Office. The fucking place is even more of a nightmare than when he worked for them.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
FN: I usually drink more tea these days than coffee but drink Yuban when home, always black. Coffee out is usually on Fridays when I go to The Rock Store, probably the most famous biker hangout in the world, when I go there for my weekly breakfast fix. I have never been to a Starbucks or any “coffee hangout” in my life.

OA: I’ve read you listen to the blues when you write, who are some of your favorites while writing in general?
FN: Oh god, that depends. I mostly prefer the “older” more than the current blues musicians when writing. Memphis Minne, Hank Williams Sr. whom I consider to be a great American poet and blues musician as well as a honky-tonker, Furry Lewis, John Lee Hooker, Cedell Davis; one of my favorites is a Tracy Nelson LP on the Prestige label I believe. She sang with Mother Earth in the 60’s and is said to have been a big influence on Joplin when the latter moved to San Francisco. There are just so many. Though I can’t leave out Lucinda Williams whose father is (I think he’s still alive) a southern poet named Miller Williams.
For more information on F.N. Wright please visit his website, and also be on there look out new material from Wright to be released by Rural Messenger Press this month.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Artist of the Week

Jason Amos Oaks

The statistics on child abuse are hard to track down mainly because many cases of abuse goes unreported. However, no one can deny that children are abused on a daily basis be it physically or mentally. As a father of four, I quickly understood the high level of trust that young children place in their parents. Children look to their parents for the essentials and so much more. They need a stable, loving environment to flourish, and abuse destroys their this balance and everything they ever thought to be true and trustworthy. It is hard to comprehend a bigger crime then the abuse of a child.

April is national child abuse month, and I couldn't think of a better artist to feature this month than Jason Amos Oaks. Since entering into fatherhood he has focused on two goals, being the best father he can be and creating quality art. His early work focused more on this subject then his current piece, but still the original thought behind the Chocolate Shores in intact. Looking through Jason's work I feel at times as though I have entered into the dreams of an abused child. With illustrations, spray paint, exposing bunnies, and so on, all speaking out, searching a world of fantasy that never quite escapes the violence.
Recently, Jason Amos Oaks was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Jason Amos Oaks (JAO): I believe the root of my work is storytelling. The south is rich with it. My father is a storyteller and a minister, but unlike him I'm not verbal. I don't express myself well at all in conversation, explanations, or debate. My work is often viewed out of context. I think of myself as an installation artist. I know I'm not in the traditional sense, but I love to create an environment for a viewer to walk into and through. I combine drawings, paintings, structural elements, found objects, audio, and sometimes photo and video. These create vague story lines that I hope overwhelm and consume the viewer. Unfortunately I don't get the venue to do this often. The work ends up separate as a show of drawings or any other individual grouping. Regardless they stand strong as a story to be told.

OA: There seems to be elements of graffiti in your work, especially your "Honeycomb Series". Is there a connection in your work? Do you feel graffiti has played a role in the current art world in general?
JAO: Though I work in a variety of media, I get recognized for my cartoon based illustrations. Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, and frequent trips to Disney World were huge influences on me, unfortunately. I say 'unfortunately' because of the saturation of 30ish white male artists pursuing the same thing as me. I'm guessing quite a few from my generation had the same influences, because the market seems to be overflowing with it. Much of it is garbage, but the select that are great at it make it hard to push one's work. I think the art world is an exciting and diverse community right now, and I'm thrilled with it. I really hate getting lumped in the Juxtaposer Category though. I like to believe I'm not in a trend. This is something I've developed over years and years. It isn't a style I decided to jump on board with, so I think that help makes me legitimate... I guess I should give you a direct answer, sorry. I'll try to shorten this part of the answer even though it's a long story: Graffiti in the urban/street sense doesn't have any relevance to me at all. I'm from the gut of the south. I was never exposed to it. I certainly saw it on K-Tel Breakdance Records and in previews for movies like 'Beat Street', but that was it. I am however a lover of crude graffiti. The "I love you Jane!" on an overpass, bathroom stall scrawl. I love old desk tops from gradeschool. I like finding faces my daughter has drawn on the baseboard behind the couch. And I even like arms ruined by homemade tattoos on tragic southerners. I started writing in my work. I was scared to be bold and expressive with it though. I started using spraypaint and stencil letters as another element of word writing/storytelling just to add somewhat meaningful atmosphere in the background of my drawings. Later in the year I fell 16' from a ladder and shattered my wrist on my drawing arm. I was, of course, unable to draw at this point. I started to fall back on the spraypaint and discovered the use of my left hand. This pushed my work in a completely new direction. So, my accident was the real reason spraypaint came in. I don't really see it as urban/street graffiti influence though. As far as its influence in the art world? Most certainly. It's in every art publication from Artforum to Hi-Fructose. It has trickled to the masses in advertising, design, and clothing. Everywhere you go, man.

OA: Do you work with a set color palette? Do you ever use color to express a certain emotion in a painting?
JAO: I do tend to gravitate to a palette. I like muted and washy colors. I studied watercolor, so that's what I know. I'm very colorful with reds, pinks, blues, greens... I use quite a bit of color. The overall taste kind of goes...hmm...I guess I could describe it as terra-cotta? I do have a custom color I mix that I call bruise. It's a peachy-bluish-grey, and I'm quite fond of it. For emotion, red is the big one. When you have all of these dead or muted colors all over and you throw in faint touches of red, it really seems to create uncertainty or unease. And in a simple drawing, just one lone color with the black and white gives a nice empty feeling.

OA: I've read the Chocolate Shores came about when you entered into fatherhood. What is the significance of the title Chocolate Shores, and has fatherhood changed the way you look at art in any way?
JAO: It came from worrying about being a good father. I noticed other fathers that really shouldn't be fathers, or others that just pretended to be. Oh! The tragedy of what their kids will become! One day I ran across a statistic about abuse and kids. It specifically addressed sexual abuse. I don't remember the exacts, but it was unbelievably awful. Just terrible. My heart is still heavy about it. What fathers (and mothers) are capable of doing to their children is unacceptable. I did a lithograph after that called 'A Man, the bear and his family.' It was a huge piece that told the story of a hunter transforming into a ravenous predator and consuming his family. It's really a poor piece now that I look at it, but it was the springboard for Chocolate Shores. There is so much symbolism that I forget what it all means. Every mark I make in a piece symbolizes something. The chocolate girls and licorice boys are victims of abuse. Chocolate bunnies are somewhat like excrement, but not really because there is still a sweetness to it. It is a product of a kid's demise though. The chocolate bunnies turn into 'ghost bunnies' that work their way through the Licorice Forest helped by various characters along the way to make it to the Chocolate Shores. The beehive is a holy of holies type icon. It stings you, but it coats you in sticky sublime, and heals all wounds. And I'll quit with the Shores. It's a purgatory of sorts for victims to wait on the Ship of Gold. It's a very obsessive-compulsive tale. Fatherhood has confirmed my obligation to creating art. It has increased my appreciation for everything. I get annoyingly excited to expose my family to museums, galleries, and other art-related events.

OA: A main theme in your work is the various abuses you have observed in the lives of children. What was it that lead you to chose this issue to focus on, and how do you feel your work speaks to these concerns? Have you considered donating proceeds or pieces to organizations that address the same concerns?
JAO: Abuse at this point is no longer the central theme, although it's still around. The ideas are never really pleasant though. They are about being broken, lost, empty, desolate, thirsty, tired, and all guilt that may crawl into your mind when your head hits the pillow. I have absolutely considered donating proceeds to such an organization. The brutal truth though is that I'm lazy. I've often considered looking up the statistics that moved me originally and posting them on my website, or handing out information at my shows. I have such a hectic life that I never get around to it. Now that you've exposed my illness, I must go cure it!

OA: What's next for Jason Amos Oaks?
JAO: Next, I'm drawing again. I'm working on my first group of drawings since the accident. This body of work is for a show in Sacramento, California with artist Annie Owens. She draws beautifully and uses watercolor also. I think our work will compliment each other well. I'm doing raccoons and possum interacting with Licorice Boys and Chocolate Girls. I'm uncertain of the storyline. It's vague as usual. These creatures are so mysterious and I'm certain I'll pair them with some symbolism. I just don't know what yet. I also have several products coming out this year. I have greeting cards that should be out by the end of the month. After that there are shirts, journals, stickers, a felt Chocolate Girl Doll, and other kitsch in the works. It will post on my website as I work through it all.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JAO: Yes, and straight no chaser...strong. Bitter, black, mmm! I don't do the local haunts for coffee. At the risk of sounding artsy, I love drinking it at a diner in Astoria, NY. There is a diner down the street from a friend of my brother's apartment. It's under the subway tracks. I don't know if it's just the atmosphere and the fact that one is in New York, but that is one dem fin cup'a cafe! My other spot is the back yard in early morning while letting the dog roam.

OA: Do you listen to music while paint? Who are some of your favorite musicians while painting and in general?
JAO: The music goes with the theme. Sad, sad stuff. Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, etc.), Damien Jurado, older Black Heart Procession, etc. I'm also into emotional stuff like Mum, Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Arab Strap, etc.

For more information on Jason Amos Oaks please visit the Chocolate Shores, and for information about the prevention of child abuse visit Prevent Child Abuse America.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Paint the Town Orange

April 17th, 2008 - Union Hall, Brooklyn, NY - Cloud Cult w/ The Forms & Arms
Review and Images by Dominick Mastrangelo

Cloud Cult have been one of those bands that I could never quite figure out. I'd hear a song I'd like followed by something that made me cringe. No more so than their cover of Mr. Tambourine man which my favorite radio station, KEXP, in Seattle seems to think is the greatest cover ever. I believe otherwise. But beneath the bocce ball games and book-covered shelves of Union Hall in Brooklyn last Thursday, the quirky sextet's energetic performance won me over. The coziest performance space you're likely to find in Brooklyn, and near capacity, lead singer Craig Minowa led his band through material from Cloud Cult's new album Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), which has been out less than two weeks. Their performances are half concert half spectacle as Minowa's wife, Connie, tucked back into the left corner of the stage, painted on a large square canvas. (The painting was auctioned off for charity after the show.)

Opening were Brooklyn's The Forms, a foursome that specializes in smartly-crafted indie rock. A sound that is equal parts Modest Mouse and defunct Dallas outfit Chomsky, The Forms performed songs from last year's self-titled release and 2003's Icarus. "Knowledge By Hand", the opening track to the new record, highlighted the quick, spirited 45-minute set. A moody bass line backed by punchy guitars and stop-start drumming, Alex Tween screaming his vocals. "Red Gun"(mp3) showcased the band's affinity for vocal harmonies that texture many of their songs. The Forms also dropped a well-placed cover of Nirvana's "All Apologies" into the set. A possible hat-tip to their producer Steve Albini who produced a little record called "In Utero".

Starting off the evening was Arms, the solo project of Todd Goldstein. Catchy tunes with smart turns of phrase, Goldstein (also a guitarist in Brooklyn band Harlem Shakes) reminded me of a cross between two other solo indie rockers John Vanderslice and Jens Lekman. His new record, Kids Aflame, is due in June. The whole set was enjoyable while the title-track (a jaunty little ukulele number) (mp3) and the angry guitar strumming of The Frozen Lake have me excited to see him perform again.

New Release Tuesday

Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell Listen to: 2 in a Cave (mp3)
The Weepies - Hideaway Listen to: Little Bird (mp3)
Flight of the Conchords - s/t Listen to: Ladies of the World (mp3)
Bridges and Powerlines - Ghost types Listen to: The Golden Age (mp3)
Beat Union - Disconnected
Biography of Ferns – Pastel Gothic
Blind Melon - For My Friends
Bum Kon – Drunken Sex Sucks Listen to: Drunken Sex Sucks (mp3)
El Perro Del Mar - From the Valley to the Stars Listen to: Glory to the World (mp3)
Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Momofuku (LP Only, CD out in May)
Juno Reactor - Gods & Monsters Listen to: Inca Steppa (mp3)
Portishead - Machine Gun (single)
Pepi Ginsberg - Red

Monday, April 21, 2008

Orange Pulp

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the first ever (hopefully first of many) What to Wear During an Orange Official Mix Tape entitled Orange Pulp has been completed! The finished product has turned out way better than I expected, and that is largely due to the efforts of Jill Summers and Stray Dog Studio's, the team at Team Concept Printing & Thermography, Chris Szostek for the above cover, and the recording skills of one Mr. Ben Tanzer.

Elizabeth Crane (Intro)
The Interiors (Power Lines)
Death to Anders (Camera Lens)
Jill Summers (Larry)
Vivek Shraya (I Won’t Envy)
Michele McDannold (Rural Messenger Press)
Ernest Gonzalez (Caviar, Cigarettes, Dynamite, & Laserbeams)
Amanda Oaks (Lost Petition)
Fever Marlene (We Are All Colors)
Nick Ostdick (Dream When You’re Old)
The Battle Royale (Racecar) (mp3)
Jason Jordan (decomP)
(me)shach Jackson (Smile)
Hosho McCreesh (Van Gogh Only Sold 1 Painting)
C. Robin Madigan (Beg For More)
Murder Mystery (What My Baby Said)
Spencer Dew (Lines For Kate)
Tinyfolk (Dear Apollo)
Michele McDonnald (Red Fez)
Real Live Tigers (Flood Plains)
Venna (Eulogy)
Karl Koweski (Intro)
Karl Koweski (Breakwater)
Magical, Beautiful (Right, Rock) (mp3)
Aleathia Drehmer (Dashboard)
Jason Pettus (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography)
Lights.On (How Much You Can Do) (mp3)
Yea Big & Kid Static (The Life Here) (mp3)
Ben Tanzer (Hate You)

A blend of power pop, indie folk, spoken word, electronic, and hip hop clocking in at 79+ minutes. There are 500 copies of this album that will be distributed around Chicago and New York this summer. If anyone not invovled in the project (you'll get your copy soon) would like a copy please let me know.

The Orange Spotlight

Karl Koweski Demon Country (Showcase Press, 2007)

"So many times you've been tempted to just walk away. It would be so easy. It would be the easiest steps you've ever taken. Yet you stay. She's your addiction." from "Accumulating Hells"
In every life there are a few demons, not skeletons... demons. The dark addictions, the thoughts of death, the moments of rage, apathy, and fear that seem to mix so well with liquor and drugs, these are the modern demons that fill the pages Koweski's Demon Country. Karl has always held the magical ability to capture the life on the fringe of financial poverty and mental despair. His stories and poems paint a such vivid picture of the daily lives of the working class. However, he then takes his characters and pushes them to limits beyond their level of comforts just to see how they react.

Karl Koweski is a good friend of and reader of Orange Alert, he writes a monthly column for and co-edits Zygote in my Coffee. He is a displaced Chicagoan living on top of a mountain in Alabama. This is his fifth chapbook, and preceeds his other release of 2007 "Diminishing Returns" (sunnyoutside press).

Demon Country was released last April by Showcase Press, but still be purchased for $7.50 through paypal.

Langhorne Slim & The War Eagles s/t (Kemado, April 29, 2008)

"I'm Dreaming of leaving my demons, and the first one I'm leaving is you" from "Hummingbird"

Leopards lurking in trees like vicious memories of lost time, lost love, and lost faith. Faith in a future without demons, faith that someday ever thing will be alright, faith that your dreams really will come true. As time seems to move forward without control or direction you begin to believe that your life is somehow different, like you are always a step behind, like you are consistently missing out on something. Not good enough for success, but quite at the bottom of hill, not good enough for heaven, but not in hell, landing directly on the rebel side of heaven.

On his latest album, Sean Scolnick (aka Langhorne Slim) has created a soulful album full of confused hope, unknown futures, and a perfect sense of longing. On top of all of this thought lives great melodies, poppy sounds, and a great and powerful singing voice. At their core these are love songs, but just as in actual love these songs are complex in theme but appear simple on the surface. So as the leopards stare down wondering where their next meal might come from, man and woman continue to walk alone wondering with their next touch might come from.

Spinning Compass/Rebel Side of Heaven (mp3)/Restless/Sometimes/She's Gone/Hello Sunshine/Diamonds are Gold/The honeymoon/Tipping Point/Oh Honey/Worries/Hummingbird

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Orange Alert's Music Minute

This past week we reviewed the perfect new album from Sweden's El Perro Del Mar, and mentioned how she would be appearing at Shuba's on May 12th. Well we wouldn't be giving you the full picture if we didn't tell you about her opening act and tour mate, fellow Swed, Lykke Li. Having already gained popularity in Sweden, her US debut ep, Little Bit, will be released on her own label LL Recordings. Her full-length debut, Youth Novels, will follow later this year. Her sound is tender much like El Perro, but Lykke's music has a little of a worldly feel. This could be attributed to her time spend traveling as a child. Her music brings together many cultures and sounds, while remaining fun and poppy.

Listen to: Dance Dance Dance (mp3)

Turn Heads is the Third full-length from Sweden's Tobis Froberg. This journalist turned singer/songwriter has the ability to not only write a quality lyric, but to create melodies that sound new and familiar in the same three minutes. This album features guest appearances from Peter Moren [Peter, Bjorn and John], Ane Brun, Kathryn Williams, Teitur.

Listen to: Just Behind a Brickwall (mp3)

The creative cover of their latest release is not the only creative aspect of this Portland, OR bands new album. Verbs (aagoo records) is in fact the second album from AU, and it promised to be one of the most surprising albums of the year. Verbs is padded out with contributions from nearly thirty collaborators, a list which includes featured vocalists Sarah Winchester (track 6; of Team Love recording artists A Weather) and Becky Dawson (tracks 2 and 4; of Ah Holly Fam'ly, Saw Whet), as well as members of Yellow Swans, Parenthetical Girls, and Evolutionary Jass Band, among many others-inadvertently resulting in a strange and singular snapshot of a very particular corner of the city's famously sprawling musical community. The resulting record-recorded over three days at Portland's Type Foundry Studios and finished over a subsequent two-month period in Wyland's own attic studio-seamlessly segues through new and unlikely ecstatic extremes with an arresting economy. Breakout Pop jams like "RR vs. D" rub shoulders comfortably with retreating meditations ("Two Seasons", "Summer Heat")-the record's several distinct movements working at once with more autonomy and cohesion-with arrangements that stretch in longhand across the album's length.
Listen to: RR vs. D (mp3)

Over at L.O.A.F. Recordings you can download a free sample of the new Gable album to be released on May 27th. Check it out!

Also coming out on May 27th is the latest album from the Dallas band I Love Math. On the surface this album has a very southern feel with harmonica, banjo and steel guitar, but there is a natural lean to the indie pop sensibilities of Belle and Sebastian and others. Getting to the Point Is Beside It is a bouncy jaunt through Texas with many knowing glances toward the sounds of the rest of the country.

Listen to: Josephine Street (mp3)

Ikey Owens (The Mars Volta) & 2Mex (Visionaries/SonGodSuns) are the Look Daggers. This is a concept album and the concept was simple: a Hip-Hop album performed by human beings. Straight from Long Beach, CA, this is a album for all of those who have been craving the sound we have come to love from the West Coast. The full-length debut Suffer in Style (Up Above Records) was released on March 25th, but check out this message dated April 14th from their myspace page.

"Here is your chance to ask 2Mex and/or Ikey Owens those burning questions you've been dying to know! We're going to have an interview section in our upcoming Look Daggers "Suffer In Style" CD+DVD and we want YOU to ask the guys some questions! The generic "How'd you guys hook up" questions will already be answered, so come original and ask those questions you won't find anywhere else...this is YOUR interview! Please e-mail all questions to mailto:%20BONUS@UPABOVE.COM - only the best questions will be chosen so make'em good! And please ONLY SERIOUS QUESTIONS!"

The CD/DVD package will be released in Sept. 2008.

Listen to: New Wave Spazout (mp3)

The Peel Back: Boogie Down Productions Criminal Minded (B-Boy Records, 1987)

For me the year was 1990, my friends and I thought we were in the know when it came to hip hop. I had order several tapes from Columbia House (Digital Underground, Kriss Kross, Vanilla Ice, and my favorite 3rd Bass). We knew what was going on, and this was what hip hop was all about. Well we were wrong, very wrong. We grew up is small two street farm town in Illinois, and only new what was on the radio and in Columbia House. That was until Ann moved in across the street, she was in high school and could drive. She wore these huge pant's, Cross Colours, and had dread locks, as twelve year boys were intrigued. One day she walked by and we were blasting "Little Boys in the Hood" by Kriss Kross. She asked if we like hip hop, and in a speechless shock we nodded our heads. She then said "That's not hip-hop, follow me". She took us over to her car and pulled out a tape case that was so large it needed a strap to be carried. She lead us into her bedroom opened the case, and told me to close my eyes and point at randomly. I did and she had us all keep our eyes closed while she put the tape in her system.

There it was sparse drum, beat, scream, horn, scratch... primitive, not in sound but in nature, primal. We open our eyes, "When I enforce, to listen to the teacher and lesson, class is in session...", and it was in session. Ann says, "Boys, this is hip-hop!". We spent to the rest of the afternoon in her room listening to Boogie Down, EPMD, Eric B. & Rakim, and so much more. This was the first day I really listened to hip-hop.

Poetry (mp3)/South Bronx/9mm Goes Bang/Word From Our Sponsor/Elementary/Dope beat/Remix for P is Free/The Bridge is Over (mp3)/Super Hoe/Criminal Minded/Scott LaRock Mega-mix

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Watch List

1. Rustcycle: Primarily the work of Adrian Johnson, Rustcycle combines electronic music with live instruments resulting in a great sound. Listen to: The Vaulted Blue (mp3)
2. Fishhawk: This band creates tiny pop music straight from Alabama.
3. Red Light Company: This London band recently signed to Lavolta Records in the UK. They create wonderful pop music. Listen to: a three song sampler (YSI)

1. "The Platypus" by Zach Plague: This is actually an except from Zach's upcoming debut from featherproof.
2. "Blow" by Melissa Mann: An incredible story of the darker side of life.
3. "The Fight" by Charles Edward Brooks: A story with a "chubby blonde"... it makes me think of your the one for me fatty.
4. "The Cracks and Strains!" by Gabe Durham: I had no idea why this was labeled experimental until the very end. Nice one Gabe! Those tireless tencho drummers get me every time.
5. "Slideshow" by Miles J. Bell: A walk down memory lane, and proof why Miles does not play ska.
6. "Topless Breakfast" by David Jordan: I think I lost my appetite.
7. "Being Chris Beniot" by Matt Finney: A story of realizing your power and sadness in the same moment.

1. Six Sentences, Volume 1: This is a 374 page collection of the very best of the now legendary Six Sentence Lit journal. Robert McEvily has really created a literary monster, and now exploring his various options. Check out 6S Films and 6S Art.
2. Black & White Bangers Volume 4: Just released and well... Bangin'. A series of monochrome explorations on watercolor paper by Matt W. Moore. $28
3. Anything from Bleeding Heart Organic Bakery: The mixture of punk rock, organic ingredients, and baked goods, you add in The Beat Kitchen being just down the street and you have yourself a great day.

1. Pinnacle Issue #1: Brand new art zine of Canada, this mag has already got it down.

1. Architecture in Helsinki "Like It Or Not": Great new video from AIH.... (Saturday Morning Cartoon).
2. Mike Doughty "Foot Hood": One of the most recognisable voices in music, Mike Doughty is back again.
3. Dan Deacon "Okie Dokie": The most unlikely rockstar I have ever seen!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Band of the Week

The Fake Fictions

Close your eyes, picture that volcano you made in seventh grade out of glue and newspaper. You work hard on that, didn't you? Now picture the crowd of kids gathered around, staring, waiting for something, anything to be produced. You push the button, but nothing. Silence turns to laughter and you run from the gym. Ok, not your best moment, but close your eyes again. This time picture yourself pushing the button and there is an explosion of noise, "lava", and kids and teachers running for the exits. That is the sound of The Fake Fictions, and on their brand new concept album, Krakatoa, they draw upon this raw and volcanic middle school fear and anger.

The Fake Fiction formed by in 2004, and have released two previous albums. They consist of husband and wife Nick and Sarah Ammerman and Ben Bilow. Krakatoa is being released today on Chicago's Comptroller Records, and to launch the album they are performing tonight at the Empty Bottle.

Recently, Nick, Sarah and Ben of The Fake Fictions were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Your new album "Krakatoa" will be released today. This is a concept album about volcanoes, and we all know Chicago is known for its volcanoes. What else can you tell us about this album?
Nick Ammerman (NA): It is hard to talk about the album except in relation to what we've
done in the past, so for a second you're going to have to pretend like you've heard of us before. Our older albums were fairly diverse, with songs shooting out in all directions, the only restriction being that they somehow fit a broad definition of "pop." But when we were working
on songs for "Krakatoa," we realized that what with the concept and the storyline, we had a much more cohesive package of songs. So when it came time to record these songs for posterity, we decided we wanted the same sound through the entire album. We wanted the album to sound very much like we do live (i.e., awesome), so we recorded almost all music live, with almost no overdubs, and recorded on cassette tape to get the blown-out, loud sound that seemed necessary for an album about the world's biggest volcano eruption. We turned into annoying
dogmatic analog purists and alienated everyone and it was worth it.
Sarah Ammerman (SA): The word "Krakatoa" sounds fierce, a little rough around the edges, and a little silly too. The event itself of course was in no way funny. This album is not morose. It is more of a mockery of the daily nondrama that makes us sweat and leads to fetal position panic attacks. It is not the end of the world! It is just the beginning! One door closes and another opens. This too shall pass. In the meantime, feel free to bitch about it. We're here for you. We understand. We're bitching too. But also, we think you're just being silly.
Ben Bilow (BB): I have never been interested in volcanos before the experience of recording this record, but now I'm totally hooked. Really, the only fact worth noting from a drummer's perspective is that three of these tracks were recorded with broken drumsticks.

OA: You are on a small up-and-coming label here in Chicago, Comptroller Records. What has your experience with Comptroller been like?
NA: It has been mysterious but fantastic. The day-to-day operations of the label are handled by friends of ours (Jody of the Spectacles and Max of the Prairie Spies), and I (Nick of the Fake Fictions) hold a nominal title and help out whenever I can. The label line-up is diverse but cohesive and awesome, featuring the electronic girl-group sounds of the Spectacles, the pop mastery of the Prairie Spies, notoriously reclusive art punks Boner Jamz, and the captains of the proletariat Poem2Song. So we're really proud to be included with all these great bands.

The only thing that's a little weird is the funding. We've never actually met Phil Smithick, the CEO of Comptroller Records, and I guess he just keeps his distance and signs the checks when they're needed. I'm not really sure where he gets his money. We hear rumors that he's at shows but he refuses to come up and say hello … we probably shouldn't say much more about this in an interview. But apparently he's a big fan of the Fake Fictions so we deal with his eccentricities.
SA: It's been nothing but a constant stream of awesomeness and love.
BB: What label are we on? When did that happen?

OA: Is there a "Chicago Sound"?
NA: The long answer is an extended, red-faced nerd-rant about the effect of the Internet on musical regionalism and whether it's a good thing or a bad thing but the short answer is no, not really.
BB: I wish there were -- it would make it easier to write new songs.
Instead we have to be totally original. It's a lot of work.

OA: What is the Fake Fictions live experience like? I've heard you tend be on the wild side.
NA: We aren't exactly crawling in glass and covering ourselves in peanut butter, but I think that perception comes from us being tagged with the dreaded "twee" term after our first couple of albums. People hear there's a married couple in a band singing pop songs and expect the
whole show to be us staring in each others' eyes and cooing tender words. In reality, we have a lot of contempt for the audience: people who like us are suckers, and people who hate us are morons. So there's some audience abuse at our live show, both verbal and sonic.
SA: I thought we were staring lovingly into each others' eyes at shows? Now I don't know what to think about our relationship, about the band…
BB: I try to remain calm and cool during shows. I do my job and get out of there. I don't want to look like I'm trying too hard. My primary concern is to keep the beat, Nick can get crazy and act like an ass, that's cool, but Sarah and I are the engine that keeps this train on schedule.

OA: I saw your performance on Chic-A-Go-Go, what a weird and wonderful Chicago product, what was that like? Do you find that kids are drawn to your music?
NA: We aren't really a "career band." We are all hovering around 30 and we all have real jobs and serious relationships and responsibilities. We talk about boring stuff like books and mortgage payments and 401(k)s. Being in the Fake Fictions is what we do for fun. We like staying up
late and playing shows in bars, but a big part of why we're in a band is to experience weird things like playing on Chic-A-Go-Go, showing up at a TV studio at 11 a.m. on a Sunday and lip-synching our song while a bunch of kids dance around. Weird things like performing in a plexiglass cube at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of an exhibit. Weird things like driving 12 hours to New York to play CMJ and then turning around and driving back home. Things we wouldn't get
to do if we weren't in an awesome rock band, in other words. So basically being on Chic-A-Go-Go is the whole reason we're in the Fake Fictions.
SA: Totally.
BB: It is a lot harder to "lip-sync" drums than one would think. I will never do it again. That said, it is true that kids LOVE our music: my nieces and nephew are obsessed with the Fake Fictions so much so they have started their own band. I have helped them to write a few songs,
most notably "(If You Want to Look Nice You've Got to) Dress With Some Spice." and "(Mirror Mirror on the Wall) Who's the Cutest Pug of All." They seem to have adopted Nick's wordiness. They are looking for a good band name if you think of one. I keep telling them "Hannah Montana" is already taken.

OA: What's next for the Fake Fictions?
NA: We're going to become more insular and private, to the point where we are total hermits and only play music in our practice space and tell everyone we broke up and keep making new albums but only make three copies of each one and exist as a secret Howard Hughes-style band
until we die.
BB: Honestly, I just think we'll continue to do what we do without too much careful calculation. The real question is: can I see my self doing this when I'm 64? To paraphrase Mick Jagger, "Yes."

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
SA: Roasts darker than the deepest jungles.
NA: My favorite coffee spot is my house because I don't have to wear pants there.
BB:Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to eliminate water. I get easily dehydrated so I tend to stay away from coffee. I do like Filter on Milwaukee though; oh wait, it's not there any more...

OA: What was the last great book you have read?
NA: Chronologically the last great book I read was "Charlatan" by Pope Brock, which is a nonfiction book about a fake doctor who implanted goat testicles into men as a virility enhancer and almost become the governor of Kansas.
BB: Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma". If you really care about your health, your community, and the future of our natural environment you should read this book. And if you don't care you should read this book twice.

(I Cannot Get Any) Satisfaction / Lasers + Mirrors (mp3) / Enough Isn't Enough / Retrace Yr Steps / (Don't Drink the) Office Coffee (mp3)/ After Hours / Which Witch is Witch / Krakatoa / Pick Up the Phone / Radical Movement / No Attraction / Esperanto / TV Snow / Soiree

For more information on The Fake Fictions please visit their website. To order your copy of the album visit the Comptroller website.