Thursday, July 31, 2008


Where I go, Dennis Wilson goes too. I have heard his lone album Pacific Ocean Blue at all my frequent haunts: Academy Records, Daddy's Bar, DFA offices, Other Music. Complementing that, I have also watched his single turn as an actor, in Two Lane Blacktop, three times this year alone.

Each and every time back through TLB, I'm amazed at how much weirder and deeper and more inscrutable it grows with every screening. Seriously, how inscrutable is Warren Oates in this film? Why does he have a different pullover sweater on in every scene? Why does he sip from that Coca-Cola bottle and then put it back into the slot twice? Is he really that much of a pathological liar? Where did he get such groovy 8-tracks?

Which is to say that you can read my thoughts on both works over at The Fanzine, who recently posted "Holy Man," my essay on the man.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

betahole surfers

While the Butthole Surfers --more than any other band I listened to in high school (meaning Beastie Boys, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Cypress Hill, Fugazi, Guns'n'Roses, Led Zeppelin, the Jesus Lizard)-- were responsible for more brain cell evacuation than all of the others combined, I had basically forgotten about them since the 90's. (Though surely the two are related, no?) And crazily enough, their depravity and weirdness were folded into my listening habits enough so as to become seemingly normalized: dub, Stockhausen, doom-metal, Aphex Twin, Thai pop, Black Dice, all were made chewable like George Lucas's chocolate.

Part of my love for the band even predates loving their music. Both Gibby Haynes and Paul Leary are from my hometown of San Antonio and aside from Doug Sahm, they are the only act to ever break out of that goddamned city, so they were always a source of pride and ownership (sorry Athens, San Francisco, and Austin). Not that I could actually get all the way through Brown Reason to Live or PCPPEP. Punk though I was, this was some noisome, repulsive, juvenile shit.

It wasn't until a friend convinced me to buy Psychic, Powerless...Another Man's Sac that my friends and I got hooked. "Concubine" and "Cherub" are two of the heaviest songs I know (and Optimo dudes agree). I can still hear a long-departed friend recount dropping acid at the Texas Military Institute and listening to "Lady Sniff" on repeat in his bunk, making all the sound effects (kahk-too!) until he spilled his mental marbles everywhere. Another friend had a pleasant acid trip turn dark and traumatic at a Butthole Surfers show when he realized that he was watching a film about penis-reconstruction surgery. (I would just as soon send you to a review I wrote for Pitchfork about these early BH records and these anecdotes, but since PFK switched servers, their archives have gone to shit (shocker!) and nothing shows up on any search engines.)

The only instance I can think of where I took a road trip to go see a band was in 1992, when the Butthole Surfers played with Stone Temple Pilots and The Flaming Lips at some rodeo up in Dallas. Asides from accusing STP of being "cops," I can't remember much about the show, save that the Flaming Lips sounded like a Boeing 747 pulling into a hangar and that Gibby Haynes squirted lighter fluid on a crash cymbal and sprayed flames everywhere (a trick he had done since the band played a show in a friend's garage in 1983).

By the time of "Pepper," I was far enough out on my own that the Buttholes having a legitimate hit was so surreal so as to appear normal. I honestly hadn't given them much thought until the prospect of seeing them reform to play tonight in New York City. Somehow, I've parted ways with the Alternative Tentacles stuff and sold the Caso Raro! bootleg and both my LP and CD copies of Double Live, mostly as having people pay $80-100 for such items are at times too much to pass up.

To this day, I honestly don't know who/ what the fuck this is. Anyone?

That said, I did discover that I still own Locust Abortion Technician on vinyl and with great relish, I played it out on my DJ night. Downloading "Jimi," the first track on Hairway to Steven, I was alarmed by how fucking odd the band sounded some twenty years on. How did I just listen to this as par for the course way back when? And why does nothing sound this brain-destroying anymore? Maximized weirdness in every direction (those drums, the chopped'n' screwed butler, the Gibbytronix in all its majesty, those corrosive blasts of industrial noise, the "Don't touch my little peeeeeenis!" talk, the unhinged and epic guitar solo by Leary, the baby cries, the "What do you know about reality?" demon sermon, the..), it's futile to unpack the psychedelic pleasures to be had here, but it's also kin to picking up an open garbage bag of hot sick: getting a handle on it only means having that acid spill onto you.

And yet, I've gone back to Rembrandt Pussyhorse/ Cream Corn From the Socket of Davis the most. Yes, it's always been a given that the Buttholes were deranged, perverted, sick, filled with fart jokes, but what's astonishing is how twisted and beautiful and alien they could be for a punk band. Of all the bands in Our Band Could Be Your Life, who was opening with piano ballads or deploying violin and pipe organ much less devouring classic rock tripe like "American Woman" and pooping it back out whole? And for as unsettling as they already were, such bits of melody only made them that much more disquieting.

I cracked up when "Two Parter" came on, as I had forgotten that years ago I took that cassette to my guitar teacher, hoping that he would teach me how to play it. Needless to say, despite his ability to play transcriptions of Charlie Parker solos on guitar, he was taken aback (not by it's awesomeness, apparently) and wasn't much help. Apparently, Paul Leary never tuned his guitar but had really strong fingers to bend the strings. To this day, that song and the Buttholes at large (heh) remain similarly inscrutable. For all my joking about "cream corn from the socket of Davis," I basically had to re-remind myself that such a title references not female genitalia, but rather the glass eye of Sammy Davis Jr. How could I ever forget such a sight?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Diplo interview

Originally, the plan was to run parallel interviews (or failing that, one interviewing the other) with both Alan Bishop and Diplo for The Believer's 2008 Music Issue, as both gentlemen are polar opposites in how they incorporate disparate worldwide sounds into their art. Schedules didn't quite permit, so instead, I conducted two separate interviews.

I met Diplo in person at the Indonesian consulate as he was getting his papers together for a travel visa there. In the same breath that he told me his one-off DJ fee (about a fifth of my yearly income), he also borrowed my last five bucks to pay for the visa. We then walked through Central Park and talked about Missy's beats, Santogold, and I passed him a copy of Sublime Frequencies' take on favela funk. We agreed to an email interview, but that's where it began to fall apart...he started traveling, the responses shortened up, and it wasn't ready when the other was. Maybe one day some of this will get saved.

I'm curious as to your thoughts about the C.V, the Sublime Freq. disc. Is it true to the sound of favela parties? Will armchair listeners get it? What is a better conveyance of the experience, something like this or Favela Strikes Back? or something else?

Diplo: i mean yeah the songs on the CD cover like 10 yrs of the scene.. it is more closer to the tru sound, which changes every day

favela on blast mixtape was like damn.. i can dance to this at home sorta was with the easy samples, etc. its a djs mix and its very tame.. but it does sound a lot like a marlboro radio show. as hes the pop funk DJ.. i do think that rio is big its not jsut favelas and everyon in that citie s thinks funk is the soundtrack to thier lives

but when it comes to gangs and the bigest wildest free parties.. yes this music rules ever the artists have to play this type of sound as opposed to thier own track when visiting a trafiicante party

Hollertronix mash-ups helped to establish you. When you were doing stuff like pitting TV on the Radio against Afrika Bambataa or else Mike Jones and Britney, what informed such decisions? Was it simply that it worked, that you could juxtapose two separate entities, or does it go beyond that? Is it just brokering a dialogue between two artists that otherwise wouldn't talk? Is it a dialogue that instead takes place in the listener?

Diplo: well we just worked things in that worked,, the club music landscape was changin while we werereally developing our style. gwen stefani on black radio, outkast on rock radio? we started out as an electro and 80s kinda party but we got the crowd open nough to really play different shit.. our demographics beign so diverse.. - really working class philly, white kids black kids.. anyone that grew up on hip hop and DJs.. but was bombarded by radio playlists.. they were our customers and we gave them everything we had and got really drunk and werent afriad to try different shit

And I guess along the same lines, an anecdote you posted on Mad Decent:
"when vampire weekend finished i got on and played the theme song to coming to america (black ladysmith whats there names cover of the tokens) and a couple of prissy journalist jerks down stairs gave me the fuck you dude face and it was worth it"
Why that song?

Diplo: i do like them . but i just thought it was funny to play coming to america, thier hype seems really silly cause they were boats shoes and play afropop, regardless that one dude was a good songwriter and they sound good, but journslists take them too seriously, they love tohate me too, but i just keep stickin around , that makes em the maddest.. but the ladysmith covering tokens is pretty funny idea anyway

Also from the Mad Decent site, I saw that Paul was discussing how "Jam On It" was popular in India. When you travel to different countries, does it surprise you to across such American cultural debris in other settings? I'm thinking of samples from stuff like Inspector Gadget or the use of Sanford and Son (for Baltimore club beats, which isn't exactly not American, but...). Is it just a matter of them hearing our trash in new ways?

Diplo: cultural debris is a really cool word.. i think that theres a lot of truth in sound when you dont have the cultural baggage.. what we consider trash in brazil or africa they get sent down in some way and it is just the sound and notes.. no pop references in a brittany sample or cheesy techno.. its just what moves them .. i tell you one thing though! SPoNGE BOB rules the world .. if your region or language doenst have a spongebob trak or sample. you dont exist

To clarify something you wrote to me: "if your region or language doenst have a spongebob trak or sample. you dont exist"
can you explain that? a language that doesn't have a sample? or give an example of stumbling across a Spongebob song out in a crazy country somewheres?

Diplo: well i guess these days theres a few cultural icons.. like disney people.
but everywhere form africa to english speaking countries to brazil and southeast asia. theres spongebob on tv dubbed in the local language.. hes the new new for kids
i have angola spongebob, budstep spongebob, bmore club spongebob, afrikaans techno spongebob, 2 live crew spongebob, bail funk favela spongebob.. and thats without even searching

And what about how "exotic" tracks become popular in the US, I'm thinking "Get Ur Freak On," "Rock the Casbah," "Walk Like an Egyptian" the little foreign noises that capture American listeners? Is it a novelty then? When I think of the little noises that inform these tracks, it makes me think back to Inspector Gadget, Sanford & Son as mentioned above.

Diplo: shit well I was listenin to a zulu nation tape yesterday . bambaataa playing at a party.. he was droppin tim maia, banjo tracks - "bad bascomb - black grass, kraftwerk, and babe ruth keep your distance.. some christian song i didnt even recorgnize... this is in 1981.. so its not a new idea . it is the findamentals of hip hop . i think walk like an egyptian was a gimmick.. or more like bow wow wow wow doing that african dumming things.. i mean there are no rules to what tools you can use.. the second irish peopele were doin jigs in nyc or africans were out on congo swuare in luoisiana 300 years ago -- up til imigrants from eastern europe at the turn of the century ... thats when we started this mess.. i mean i cant even tell you what is true american msuic from when I started growin up and listenin, was it madonna, woody guthrie, fats domino
bottom line is that it was exoticized when africa and europe met in americas and developed a blueprint

You reference the 80s a lot in your tracks and remixes, like the Pixies interpolation on your iTunes EP, as well as that 8-bit Nintendo sound on your Spoon remix, or copping that "Careless Whisper" sax on your PRGz remix. Is it a nostalgia that you yourself have for these sounds that makes you go for, or is it that your audience responds to something that's familiar more? Does it help to use something that has 'baggage' for your stateside audience?

Diplo: nah i just like to use samples, its very "hip hop"

Do you feel that by having Jay-Z and the Bangles (two "exotic" sounding radio pop tracks) on M.I.A.'s Piracy mixtape, that it helped to make it such a hit? When you look back on it, what do you think caused such a critical and popular breakout for the two of you? And when you talk about people hatin you at that SXSW set, what do you think they specifically "hate"? Why would they not want you to stick around?

Diplo: nah i didnt think peopel hated on me..
they just took them selves to serious (journalists) they like music journalism to be very dramatic or somethin.. i think we are all just in a big rave called life and some bands r just a lil too tiesto and the journalists are like the girls with thier tits out

Do you feel that in America that they've become more or less aware of global trends? Is America increasingly insular with fears of terrorism and the like? I felt when I was overseas that I didn't see many Americans travelling around. What is it like when you stumble across a phenomenon like the "Dança du Creu" dance? Is it any different than...say "Chicken noodle"? Are people more connected? back to Piracy's art for a sec, with images of b-boys, monks, freedom fighters, etc. all kinda together, was it aimed at that same sorta idealism? that it's all connected in the end?

Diplo: hmmm. yeah american accepts global trends .. but we co opt them as exotica and its kinda falls somewhere between world music and trendish.. something stick aroun when the community exists - fanis records and then reggaeton etc.. is here to stay and has been co opted into other genres. but yeah we dont accept and adapt easily like other micorcultures like jamaica where the indusrty is soo small but strong and has the balls to do whatever it wants and doesnt think twice

You decried New York City's radio when we met up. Why do you think they are so far behind the times? Is it like that around the US? Do you ever see media conglomerates losing their grip on things?

Diplo: yeh ny is over
philly is late on shit too
baltimore was pretty progressive.. not like canada or even ldn radio where djs are playilisting not the major labels

You contributed Missy beats, right? Do you like fucking with major labels? Is it a good platform or not worth the hassle?

Diplo: well im the hassel to them cause i can care less. havin a beat on a missy (or major label) record is not the end all be all (like it is to a lot of hip hop producers..) i can have a an underground track that goes all over the world from a free DL from my site or whatever and get played out more than a missy cut.. - i think debonair samirs "samirs theme" got more play in european clubs last year then any current pop/dance hiphop track...
but there wasnt much money for him to make off it (and he didnt know how to capitalize) but those big artist have to fuck with us in the underground now cause we are what keeps them current.. they are no longer trendsetters, they re just rich

Can such conglomerates ever really keep up with the kids and trends happening at street level? How do you keep up? How much of your time is spent simply processing music? Sam Hunt tells me that he emails you tracks every week.

Diplo: i cant keep up even cause if i played for a room full of diplos.. id play all new tracks that were wierd.. but i still gotta debut sounds in say berlin or some places like that.. where its still quite new to the stuff we are experimenting with

When you moved to Philly, you were working with inner-city youth, were you not? And one of your kids there turned you onto crunk and Baltimore club music. Is it crucial for you to keep the pulse of what "the kids" listen to and follow?

Diplo: well i always say this.. and of underage dances..
kids react to music in a more instictive way.. u can blow new tracks and styles to them.. only when they are a lil older and cooler do they start to thinkk//// hmm thats not cool , thats kinda gay, wierd.. etc..
songs being to gay is a pretty realistic concern to some kids that i find funny

Was it this work with kids that led you to create Heaps Decent? Your label seems to invest a great deal in making sure that kids, especially in third world slums, have access to technology, so as to create their own music. Can you talk about this program, how it works?

Diplo: its a sort of trade off for the hype and exposure i get from being the dude that capitalizes on music.. its every DJs job to do i mean most those uk euro dudes should go to chicago and detroit and set up shelters and build house in thier armanis shade if they got the same slack i get from breaking new music... (thier roots lying in house and techno) but nah what i do is much more obvious and i think we have a responsibilty, but i like to work with kids anyway its a thing that makes me feel good

When we first talked, you admitted that you don't consider yourself a 'great DJ'. What do you think it is that you do best? Spot youth culture trends? Put disparate things together? Bridge gaps between indie and mainstream? What?

Diplo: i think i have a good ear for things and i alwasy try and be progressive.. its important to me to always move forward.. goin backwards make me depressed

And what was it like working with the beats of someone like Tony Allen? I read something once where he said that you achieve trance states not with the bass drum, but with the hi-hat. Anything you discovered when dealing with his beats?

Diplo: well his i didnt have much to work with .. but i do see trends.. liek that in minimal techno.. where a beat can move peopel with no change for 3 minutes and on minute 5 hi hat comes in (only hi hat) and peopel heads explode.. somethign similiar in brazil in the favelas how that sound I was acttracted to has turned much more afr0-brazillian and perscussive without music .. and it sounds even more moders

Alan Bishop interview

The following sections were excised from the published Believer interview with Sublime Frequencies co-founder (and Sun City Girl) Alan Bishop. Some topics touched on here include Diplo, M.I.A. and funk carioca, the serendipity of travel, and the academics and ethnomusicologists not having "the fucking spine" to do what Sublime Frequencies does.

BLVR: What was the paper you saw presented at EMP this year about Sublime Frequencies, the one presented by David Novak?

AB: It was an overview of some of the more extreme concepts that have been affiliated with the label and he covered it from an academic (versus the academic ethnomusicological) approach and how different it was. That was his main point and how it challenged so many different viewpoints that were established over the years from the early days. He pointed out the differences in what we did as opposed to what is expected in the genre of ethnomusicology or international music.

It wasn’t that passionate a delivery. We may have made him a little nervous cuz we came in there and announced ourselves, shook his hand, then sat down. He just went with…it was a pretty shoddy sense of research. He started off by saying that Charles Gocher was an owner of the label and he was married to a Burmese woman. It was just all wrong. I’m the one married to a Burmese woman, Charlie was never involved with the label other than just being around. That’s nowhere to be found on the internet. I don’t know where he came up with that. It really shows you that if you can’t get that right… He brought in the Sun City Girl angle as a prelude to mine and Rick’s part in the label. He never mentioned Hisham (Mayet), he barely mentioned Mark Gergis.

He just got into all these things that are so generalized and not-specific, then glossed over very important points just because of a smart-ass quote I gave to Erik Davis designed to piss people off: “If these things start making money and selling like Outkast, I’ll fly over to Sumatra and just hand out Benjamins to anyone that looks like these people.” It was obviously a fucking crack but he prefaced the whole thing with: “Obviously, the label doesn’t believe in paying royalties or compensating musicians, as Alan Bishop is quoted…” and then he just blankets that and moves onto the next point. It’s by no means the case. If he had done any research in any of my diatribes on the Web, he would’ve been able to see that it’s not as black and white as that and it’s not --in any regard-- that we don’t want to pay anyone; we do. It’s just set up where it’s really difficult to pay. You have to make that decision. Are you going to take the risk to do it or are you just going to not let it be heard? That needs to be dealt with, that needs to be said, instead of what he said. You start to wonder how well minds can process information. How smart are these guys? How serious are they if they’re not going to bring this stuff to the table correctly? But that’s just the nature of the game, the nature of information, whether you’re covering politics or sports or music or whatever. It totally is in line with the way that things go down.

BLVR: Which is why you’re there in person.

AB: Yeah, I was able to defend it a bit. A couple questions came up and he directed them to us, as he would have said the wrong answer (laughs). I think he knew that. It tempered the situation. I got a few jabs in: “Well, there are a few things that were said that were completely inaccurate and I don’t know how you could have found them. They’re not even on the web!” But that’s the nature of it. It’s when that information gets spread around and compounded in articles as though they are gospel, then other people are going to propagate that forever and ever, they’re just always there to refer to. It’s always disinformation being thrown out there. To make a point about how we function sometimes, we put out our own disinformation. We want our own disinformation to be dealt with, not the ones that are completely wrong facts said by other people. We can’t have it both ways.

BLVR: Ethnomusicology just left the field, climbed up inside the ivory tower, and has been firmly ensconced there ever since.

AB: And they have their exclusivity and how they have their papers written and recordings filed away and there’s no access to them unless you’re a member of their club. You have to kiss their ass to get in to it and pay them money to get in. That’s the only way you can get it. Which is worse. I look at what we’re doing as practical work in things like that, weighing our options and trying to do the best we can as we move along, learning as we go and we’re making it up as we go along and side-stepping the whole thing and just getting our work done in the only way we have the means to do so without the funding and power machine that the institutions have. It still can make an impact.

BLVR: Having heard appropriations of the music by DJs here like Diplo, I was surprised to hear Sublime Frequencies dip into baile funk with the C.V. release. Did you know much about funk carioca and baile funk before Carlos Casas sent you those recordings from Rio drug gang Comando Vermelho’s parties?

AB: I really didn’t know too much. I’ve heard a few clips and I wasn’t really interested in that kind of music. But when I encountered the music that Carlos sent me, it struck me as something completely different. I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that it was from Rio and that it was recorded within the favelas and I didn’t associate it with baile funk or the Miami bass at all. I had no idea what it was. It just sounded like raw spontaneous hip-hop beat music from the urban Rio, in the favelas. And because it was so raw and the way that it was mixed, and the way that it was presented, I liked it. That’s the only thing to it. I immediately liked it.

An anonymous Belgian holds up a photo of George W. Bush for the sublime Frequencies DJ team and they immediately salute their president (from Sublime Frequencies DJ night in Belgium).

BLVR: You didn’t know about Diplo or M.I.A. and what they had done with it on Piracy Funds Terrorism, their mix CD?

AB: I hadn’t heard Diplo, but I heard his name. I was familiar with MIA’s music but I didn’t see a connection at all when I heard this stuff. To me, that was a different kind of music. MIA was this beatbox urban sound. I don’t know what she does. It sounded okay, but it’s not anything I’d sit around and listen to. Ever.

BLVR: She seems have this similar ethos of taking these third world cultures and re-appropriating them within “western pop” sensibilities.

AB: I find it hard to really say how mush she’s taken. It’s so wide open, the influences are so homogenized now, that it’s really difficult to say how much she’s taking from them. She is Sri Lankan and maybe there’s some things she has done, but even with what Sri Lankans are doing in that vibe, and what the Indonesians are doing in beat music or Thais in hip-hop, it all sounds alike to what the West has always been doing. It’s too close for me, it ‘s a kind of music I don’t respect. I’m not interested in it.

BLVR: Have you ever been down to Brazil?

AB: Never been down to Brazil.

BLVR: Do you find it difficult when you’re presented with music from a country where you haven’t been to wrap your head around it?

AB: Not necessarily. I’m very interested in Brazilian music, just not in that type of Brazilian music. There’s 500 kinds of Brazilian music to like. Funk carioca really wasn’t one of them on my want list when I do go to Brazil. You just never know. I have to hear to know if I’m going to be able to wrap my head around it. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of me not being able to wrap my head around it. I prefer not to go there because it doesn’t interest me. I look at the music as too simplistic or too easy to do or I don’t respect it because too many people that are associated with that music I would just as soon wish would vanish from the universe. I just can’t stand it. It reminds me of all that is wrong with the people that I despise. It’s a personal thing.

BLVR: Who are what are the earmarks of this music?

AB: People who worship pop culture to the point where they try to emulate it too much and all they’re concerned with is fame and money. The slick production quality, the lack of creative ideas and inspiration, the lowest common denominator factor of worldwide acceptance so as to continually promote a handicapped mentality of thought, where stupidity and an inferior mindset are 'cool'; There are pockets that interest me when I hear them but they are few and far between.

Even if it’s poor people growing up in the ghetto, I understand the situation but when it comes to people from other countries emulating what is big and powerful about the rest of the world and they’re blinded by it all, it doesn’t mean I have to feel sorry for them because they’re hypnotized. You either get it or you don’t and if I start feeling sorry for them, then I’m going to become weak and not be able to do what I can do to destroy the fucking thing that I hate.

I can go out and try to do social work that’ll never get anywhere or I can try and go at it with all the ammunition I have to just completely annihilate the thing that I hate. It’s the kind of music that reminds me of the big machine that creates that music and that entertainment and that hypnotism and that social engineering, cultural engineering that keeps people in their place and doesn’t allow them to innovate or evolve into greater beings.

We’re pushing the idea of the higher-minded bootleg being something that is legitimate. Because the system has failed, the system needs to be changed, and the system needs to relax, and the system needs to be less precious. And we’re pushing that envelope and we have the guts to do it and nobody one else out there has the fucking spine. You can’t find them, they’re not there. We’re the only ones.

BLVR: You told me before that you had never been into Laos or Vietnam. I was wondering what it was about those countries that isn’t interesting to you.

AB: That’s not the case. I just don’t have the time. I’ve almost been to both, it just didn’t work out. When I go to a place, I like to stay in one place for a period of time, so that I can get some things going. I could’ve gone to Vietnam but I wouldn’t have accomplished as much as I did in Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, India, other places I have been. It’s a matter of time. There are a lot of places I’d love to go: Brazil, Haiti, Yemen, Sudan, all over Africa. I’m not going to get spread out just to say I’ve been to a place. I have friends and contacts and continuing projects in the places I’ve been. That’s seven or eight countries I have worked in multiple times, that’s a lot for any one person. I’m not working for the corporate world anymore. It’s not easy to accomplish. I’ve got to make it all happen myself.

BLVR: How difficult is it negotiating in new countries?

AB: I think you build off your experiences and the more that you’re used to going into different places. The first time anywhere is mind-blowing. I was overwhelmed by everything. I now have experience in these religious cultures in Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism and have learned quite abit about all of it. it’s not nearly as big a deal as it used to be. There are challenges and you never know when it’s going to come. I'm pretty fearless about anything, I just naturally blend in to the situation. I’m really good with people and have the power of communication, I can pretty much do whatever I need to do no matter where I go and I have that confidence and people tend to like me no matter where I go. It’s pretty easy for me.
BLVR: I feel there’s a serendipity, a synchronicity, once you’re fully in the travel mindset, where magical things just start to happen. You meet certain people…certain things align.

AB: It’s amazing how many instances are like that. The more that you’re experienced, your radar works better. You know what you’re looking for or where you might find something. You know something’s going to be happening and you’re always ready to pull out the camera or record something; you’re going to catch it. There’s too many times when you have documentation equipment with you that you’re just thinking you’re not experiencing this the way that I wish I could. When I watch it back, it’s not going to be the same either.

BLVR: How do you balance it then, being in the moment versus capturing it?

AB: I don’t think about it. I go into mode. That’s what I’m doing…I’m taking it all in and I’m digging it as it’s going, but you have to be aware of what you’re doing if you want to document it in a way that can be used. It’s a give and take. There are so many different situations that are unexpected. Those are the greatest ones. It’s like a gift, it just shows up and you’re at the right place at the right time. In terms of collecting, I’m always looking for old cassettes and old vinyl wherever we go. That’s part of the situation as well.
BLVR: Of the different religions you've come across in your travels, is there any one that is more convincing than the others. If you were to subscribe to one set of beliefs, which do you go for?

AB: Hinduism is by far the most interesting and endlessly fascinating. Nothing else even remotely comes close. Although I will always respect and admire the beauty and discipline of Islam. Muslims are perhaps the most hospitable and kind people I have ever encountered overall.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

the betiever

My interview with Sublime Frequencies founder (and Sun City Girl) Alan Bishop is in the new issue of The Believer, as part of their annual 2008 Music Issue. An honor for me. While you can read the full interview here, the actual issue also features a swell mix CD (featuring Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance, Mahmoud Ahmed, Dirty Projectors, and others) as well as a centerfold map of my failed search for Thai molam music through Southeast Asia (with Bob Marley jokes aplenty). The best part of the magazine though is that the mix CD mounted in the front synchs with Irma Thomas's teeth and soft palette. Nudge the disc just so and she's either without her dentures or sporting giant horse teeth.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

cerebro eletronico

A head's up (get it?) that you should chew some blotter and then buy the recent reissue of Gilberto Gil's self-titled album from 1969, often referred to as Cerebro Eletronico (trans. "Electronic Brain"). I wrote the liner notes and was pretty proud of them. (Fellow associate Mike Powell wrote the notes for Expresso 2222.)

While I usually leave out such claims (don't expect much hyperbole in the notes themselves), I will say that there are moments on this album (like "Vitrines" and "Futurivel") that are the finest examples of psychedelia that I've ever heard (and yes that means Can, Fifty-Foot Hose, Linda Perhacs, Dom, and the first Pink Floyd album): majestic, nuanced, destabilizing, sumptuous, rapturous, visceral, a perfect blending of pop song, acid guitar, avant orchestrations, and studio trickery. Eat it up.