Monday, December 28, 2009

Coati Mundi interview

This fall, I went out west to have some doughnuts and a Styrofoam cup of Orange Bang and hang with Andy Hernandez, a/k/a Coati Mundi, the man who had a hand in such bands as Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band and Kid Creole and the Coconuts. After bowing out of the biz for twenty plus years, he's back, dropping a fun single earlier this year and prepping an album for release on Rong Music early next year. I wrote a feature on the man entitled "It Came From Spanish Harlem." Here are a few more bon mots:

On his performance at PS1:
It was for an older crowd that knows my history. It’s performance art. In another age, the 40s-60s, it was all part of the performance: singing, dancing, music. Louis Jordan and James Brown and all that, you had the music, but it was a package. The music is together, then you can do the other stuff. It doesn’t become a substitute, it adds to it. That’s how it was with Kid Creole, but before us, it was LJ, JB, all these people.

Back to that show at PS1, it was clubgoer kinds of kids. What I told my posse is we’re gonna ignore the audience, we’re just gonna be another piece in the museum. Like people watch art. Sculptures don’t change because people looking at it. Either they like it or they don’t. At least, they’ll appreciate it. At least you put something forth.

One thing about me, I was always theatrical. If you look at those guys from the 40s, all those great musicians had a lot of theater to them. We were part of that, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, we kept that in. I was always a ham, which came from me just trying to entertain my aunts and uncles. I could never just do something simple. I could never just play the instrument. I could never keep still. If I played a note, I had to dance to that note, I had to make a face. I couldn’t just play the music. I wanted to show off.

Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band:
I was in my early 20s. I was coming out of being a social worker, up in Spanish Harlem, 122nd St. and that whole area. I don’t remember us thinking of vision. We just came together and everybody was into something. Stony and August, the brothers, they were just into a certain style. I don’t remember any of us saying “This is the vision.” It just came together.

We came together as a friend said these guys were looking for a piano player. My main instrument was vibes. Back in the day, few bands were using vibes. My guy was Cal Tjader, latin-jazz, one of my main influences. Cal Tjader was just a classic player. Lionel Hampton is the number one guy. Milt Jackson, and then Cal Tjader. With the piano, I couldn’t get work playing vibes. In order to keep getting gigs, I taught myself piano.

These guys were starting Savannah Band. And I auditioned with a lot of piano players, all better than me, but I had a sense of humor with it. I was willing to do anything on piano, not just stick with the basics. And they were dressed in these antique 1940s clothes they picked up in thrift shops and I dug it. I was with the program and I played enough piano to interpret their music and get it out there. I didn’t have to be McCoy Tyner. We were just kids in our 20s, from the Bronx in Spanish Harlem.

We became a very successful band. We were living high off the hog or whatever the phrase was. Like a lot of successful rock bands, we went bankrupt. August and then decided to do projects together. So I came along as his musical director and arranger and formed Kid Creole and the Coconuts. It was sad at the end, we were still in our twenties and had a taste of success. It was tough psychologically. How can you go back to square one and start all over again? In my case, my sister supported me and took me in and got me back on track, got me out of my depression.

Kid Creole & the Coconuts never having US success:
We never felt that successful. If you can’t make it in your hometown…we would go on tour: France and Japan and play in front of thousands and thousands of people and then come back to my little apartment in Spanish Harlem and it was like a dream. You’d come back and there’s nothing. What is so difficult about it that we can’t get over in the US. We had a good product and we were entertaining. The music wasn’t ‘pop’ Top 40, but it wasn’t that inaccessible. We weren’t from Mars! It was tough and it was tiring. Eventually it got to me after ten years. It was too much.

Did you and August part amicably?

Not at the beginning. No we didn’t. We’re okay now. When you’re younger, you’re more energetic on not liking somebody. The spiritual part of life doesn’t kick in that soon. We’re cool now, but not back then. That’s the way it happens.

On acting:
I had been doing acting on and off in New York and LA. It came during the band. What happened was…I never planned any of it, the band, the acting. So with the acting thing…The producer for Miami Vice saw me playing in Savannah Band and saw how animated I was. He wanted me in Easy Money with Rodney Dangerfield, but I was going off on tour. So he got this Miami Vice thing and he told the casting person to get a hold of me. My first professional thing was Miami Vice, an episode with Bruce Willis. I played a part of a gun-running mob and Bruce Willis was my boss. It was a lot of fun. I had a great time. I wound up doing a few episodes as different characters. They always called me “The Ghost” because they would kill me off and bring me back as another character. That’s how I got into it. I came out to LA because I had family out here and NYC was getting expensive to live in. It was colder. I just got to change it up. I go to NYC cuz it’s still my town.

Any other acting parts?

Who’s That Girl? was the most popular acting thing. Since then, I’ve done little bits and pieces for a lot of different things. Independent films, We Own the Night with Joaquin Phoenix. Choreography for an episode of Heroes.

The new record, Coati Mundi is Dancing for the Cabama Code in the Land of Boo-Hoo:
This new record was really an accident. One of my best friend’s was a singer and his niece married my co-producer, E-Love. He was a big fan of Savannah Band and Kid Creole. He wanted to write with me. I wasn’t really interested in doing a record, but we got together on our spare time. It took a few years, but we were just getting together and doing songs. A guy named Doug Lee was a friend of Johnny’s and he passed it along to Rong.

It’s cool these cats were into my style. That was intriguing for me, cuz I didn’t think they’d be into it. I was into dance stuff, but not into computer-laden, without any personality, stuff. I would go to the clubs but after awhile it became linear to me, it lacked personality and I wouldn’t know one artist from the next. It didn’t mean anything. It was great productions, great sounds, great beats, but…so I sez to E, I want to put my personality into it. I want to attach my personality, my signature to this album. I’m gonna sing what I want to sing, even if it’s stupid things about a dog. No one is telling me what I’m gonna do. And he was with the program. We’ll see how it works out.

I’m just going with the flow. I try to keep it in balance. If this record never came out, I could care less. I’m an old cat. I’ve had a lot of records out. I’m not a twenty-year-old with my tongue hanging out. If it ain’t right, I couldn’t care less. I’m a bit ornery, old age does that to you. In my 20s, I’d give up my ass a lot. As I get older, the less of a whore I become. In a way, it feels great. I hate to put it this way, but I don’t give a fuck.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Beats in Space article

This week, in celebration of the 500th broadcast of New York underground dance music radio program Beats in Space, I wrote a feature about the show for the Voice. Read it here. The best part was getting to hang in the studio the night that Juan Atkins DJ'd, a true honor to meet the techno legend and watch his alchemy in the moment. Truly an honor. Congratulations, Tim! (Full interview with Sweeney to come in the new year.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beta's Favorite Albums of the Decade he's not really seeing elsewhere

Thankfully, I've skipped out on having to quantify and qualify the last ten years of my listening life in the last month or so. Yet in talking to one of my editors about such drudge work, he mentioned a few zealous colleagues who have been pondering such a list since last year! Perhaps I am just blessed to know people who have moved beyond the calendar year of 2002 or who think that Funeral is kinda grating?

Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy heaps of the albums that are getting numerical rankings and silver medallions and plaques this month. Instead, I'm just posting up here are a few of my favorite things from the last decade, some by artists barely known to me, others more-recognizable but represented here by a less-hailed though no less-affecting effort. Regard this as just a list of alphabetaized albums I really did spend a great deal of time listening to and unpacking beyond my role as a music fan/ consumer/ critic/ processor/ ponderer/ devourer. They have all outlived their media cycles and deadlines for me (though there is a ringer tucked in here) and almost all come off of the shelf for the sheer sake of listening to them again:

Tetuzi Akiyama- Don't Forget to Boogie (Idea) 2003
Oren Ambarchi- Grapes From the Estate (Touch) 2004
Animal Collective- Here Comes the Indian (Paw Tracks) 2003
Mulatu Astatke & Heliocentrics- Inspiration Information (Strut) 2009
William Basinski- The River (Raster-Noton) 2002

Anton Batagov- The Wheel of Law (Long Arms) 2002
Black Dice- Creature Comforts (DFA) 2004
James Blackshaw- The Glass Bead Game (Young God) 2009 
Blues Control- "Puff" (Woodsist) 2008
Bonnie "Prince" Billy- Lie Down in the Light (Drag City) 2008

Boredoms- Rebore Vol. 0 (WEA Japan) 2001
Brightblack Morning Light- s/t (Matador) 2006
Cam'Ron- Purple Haze (Roc-A-Fella) 2004
Jonathan Coleclough- Cake (Robot/ Siren) 2002
Toumani Diabaté- The Mande Variations (World Circuit) 2008

John Duncan- Phantom Broadcast (All Questions) 2002
Farben-Textstar (Klang Elektronik) 2002
The Fiery Furnaces- Gallowsbird's Bark (Rough Trade) 2003
Mannie Fresh- The Mind of Mannie Fresh (Cash Money) 2004
Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom- The Days of Mars (DFA) 2005

Double Leopards- Halve Maen (Eclipse) 2003
ES- Sateenkaarisuudelma (K-RAA-K/ Fonal) 2005
Peter Garland- Love Songs (Tzadik) 2005
Goldmund- Corduroy Road (Type) 2005
Group Bombino-Guitars From Agadez (Sublime Frequencies) 2009

DJ Harvey- Sarcastic Study Masters (Sarcastic) 2001
Florian Hecker- Sun Pandamonium (Mego) 2003
Tim Hecker- Harmony in Ultraviolet (Kranky) 2006
Bert Jansch- The Black Swan (Drag City) 2006
Johan Johannsson- Englaborn (Touch) 2002

Kaito- Special Love (Kompakt) 2003
Eyvind Kang- Live Low to the Earth, in the Iron Age (Abduction) 2002
Salif Keita & Kante Manfila- The Lost Album (White Sun) 2006
Lil Wayne- Tha Carter II (Cash Money) 2005
Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas- Reinterpretations (Eskimo) 2007

Loose Fur- Born Again in the USA (Drag City) 2006
Stephan Mathieu- The Sad Mac (Headz) 2004
Meanderthals- Desire Lines (Smalltown Supersound) 2009
Mirror- Visiting Star (Robot) 2000
Juana Molina- Un Dia (Domino) 2008

Mountains- s/t (apestaartje) 2005
Mu- Afro Finger and Gel (Tigersushi) 2003
Takeshi Nishimoto- Monologue (Büro) 2007
Aki Onda- Ancient & Modern (Phonomena) 2003
Optimo- Walkabout (Endless Flight) 2007

Jim O'Rourke- I'm Happy and I'm Singing and a 1,2, 3, 4 (Mego) 2001
Paul Panhuysen- A Magic Square of 5 (Plinkity Plonk) 2004
Phantom Slasher- Gruble (Noid) 2006
Princess Nicotine- Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Sublime Frequencies) 2004
Ernst Reijseger- Tell Me Everything (Winter & Winter) 2009

To Rococo Rot & I-Sound- Music is a Hungry Ghost (City Slang) 2001
Tonalamotl: Mo(ve)mentsum (Sedimental) 2003
Ricardo Villalobos- Achso (Cadenza) 2005
Robag Wruhme- Wuzzlebud KK (Musik Krause) 2004
Rub-N-Tug- Campfire (Eskimo) 2005

The Stolen Stars- An Anaphorian Dance Drama (AoA) 2003
Akio Suzuki- Odds and Ends (Hören) 2002
Vetiver- To Find Me Gone (de Cristina) 2006
Brendan Walls & Andrew Chalk- This Growing Clearing (Three Poplars) 2004
World Standard and Wechsel Garland- The Isle (Staubgold) 2004

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Our Netflix the other night delivered both Kelly Reichardt's ruminative 2006 film Old Joy and Lynn Shelton's more recent and mumbled Humpday. The films blurred for me a bit and the blurbs on the back weren't really helpful:
When old friends Mark/ Ben and Andrew/ Kurt embark on a weekend camping trip at a sex-positive commune in the Oregon Cascades, they soon find themselves exploring much more than nature in strange new ways when a dare leads them to contemplate filming a live sex scene in this meditation on friendship, memory, and generational malaise. As the shoot date looms, our heroes journey deeper into the wilderness –losing and finding their way— as they struggle to find common ground in the divergent paths with two major logistical difficulties: Mark/Ben’s wife and their heterosexuality.


Some shows we were subjected to in-between televised football games:

Battle Hair Loss
Training the Perfect Dog
Free Money "They" Don't Want You to Know About
Stop Memory Loss
Millionaire Next Door
Stud Finder
Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables?
Knife Show
Carve Abs in Bed
Turkey Fried Easy!
The World of Stupid Criminals
Insane Workout
Healing Power of Juicing
Sandwich Paradise
Shark Feeding Frenzy
Clean With Shark Steam

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Despite an iPod and a CD wallet stuffed with CDs, fifteen-plus hours of driving down those Texas highways have been soundtracked solely by three cassette tapes:

Willie Nelson- Redheaded Stranger
Brian Eno: Before and After Science
The Stanley Brothers: Old-Time Favorites

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Between a few computer meltdowns, looming projects, and some family stuff, turning my attentions away for a moment. Thanks.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


A few weeks back, I posted here how I attended a Q&A with Pedro Almodovar as part of the New York Film Festival. During the interview, it came out that Almodovar worshipped at the altar of John Cassavetes. Which was uncanny, as the man who fathered American independent film isn't necessarily the first person to spring to mind when I think of films like Live Flesh and Bad Education (though I did parse that a scene from Opening Night was appropriated for Almodovar's All About My Mother).
Anyhow, in the interim, I have had Cassavetes' name invoked time and time again. First is in a recent NY Times fluff piece feature about Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are. In my review of the film for Paste, I bemoaned the film's "infantile dialogue" and "plot devoid of conflict," spurring a reader to comment that I needed to "read Eggers' adaptation prior to seeing the movie...(so as) to pick up on a lot more of the subplot." Which I uh...geez, really? I need to read an adaptation of a children's book (but not the original book itself) in order to understand a movie that children (and or immature adults) will go see? Per the Times piece, it says that Spike Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers modeled such inanity on the films of Cassavetes.
Not even a few weeks on, I came across Richard Brody's fluff piece feature on Wes Anderson's new film, an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book Fantastic Mr. Fox, in the New Yorker. While we are fellow UT alums, Anderson is not my favorite director of the past generation. In my review of The Darjeeling Unlimited, I unpacked my distaste for his previous efforts:
Anderson’s men still behave like petulant children in the throes of arrested development, while the women—be they Margot Tenenbaum or Eleanor Zissou—are chilly and hastily sketched, serving mainly as objects of desire for the male leads to place on pedestals. All of Anderson’s characters blindly stumble about, emotionally estranged from family, relationships, themselves, and ultimately reality. And yet for all of their personal tumult, they exist in a cute, stylized world as tidy as any play or book.
Needless to say, Darjeeling did little to alleviate such concerns, existing in a bubble outside of modern-day concerns. (And Slate's grousing about Anderson's films and "the clumsy, discomfiting way he stages ineractions between white protagonists --typically upper-class élites-- and nonwhite foils" is dead-on but a whole other can of worms.) The piece asks if Anderson's films are apolitical, to which he responds: "The politics in them is the politics among the characters."

The Brody piece then reveals that a big influence on The Darjeeling Limited is Cassavetes' 1970 film, Husbands, about three grieving friends who go on the bender to end all benders: "'They're all on the cusp or in the middle of some kind of meltdown," Anderson said. "(We) watched 'Husbands' together and we really felt connected to it.'" For a director hellbent on lazily falling back on clichés: this stylized Louis Vuitton baggage made by Marc Jacobs explicitly for me represents "emotional baggage"; my female leads should be seen and not heard; these bandages mean he's emotionally injured, too; "rather than have my characters engage in agonizing yet crucial dialouge, I'm going to deploy a Elliott Smith Kinks song instead," this is unfathomable. I'm hard-pressed to think of a director less interested in what actually goes on between his characters and aesthetically unwilling (or wholly incapable) of deploying language and dialogue to chart or capture inchoate emotions to unearth said politics. Save for maybe Spike Jonze.
For two directors that trade in cleverness, stylishness, and neat'n'tidy characterizations, not to mention eternal childishness, can they be more any more opposed to the femme-centered, mentally-messy, confounding, irrational, uneasy, emotionally-draining, raw, yet totally mature and adult films of Cassavetes?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


While I didn't vote for Paste Magazine's 50 Best Movies of the Decade (Almost Famous? Really? I know I should be pulling for more films about hookers with a heart of gold who secretly love music critics, but still...), I did pen entries for a few of the films: Pan's LabyrinthUpNo Country For Old Men, and City of God.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Finland 5

I know I know, every picture from Finland so far has been of Moomins, but isn't a peroxide blond bad boy also a beloved character from your childhood?

On to the bands...

Astrid Swan and the Drunken Lovers- First band I saw of the festival. Tart and catchy new wave-laced pop, but Ms. Swan's sparkly dress got diminished considerably by the dudes in her band wearing bowler hats. It set an unfortunate trend for mis-matched band outfits.

Downstairs- Blame it on the lead singer's beard, but this band reminded me of Les Savy Fav. Their band blurb though references: "The Fall or early Bad Seeds with a sound that has been compared to NWA and Shellac."

Miss Saana and the Missionaries- Retro throwback from a 15-person ensemble. Miss Saana had the pipes (think Bassey and Staton) to not get lost in the string quartets, backing singers, horn section and a dreadlocked organist, but how can she pay all these folks though?

Cosmobile- An oi band before they got broadband, allowing them to download their new influences: Green Day, Talking Heads, Vampire Weekend. Another friend made a game out of guessing what their influences were for each and every song. He heard lots of Paul Simon.

Plain Ride- Was told that this band was the Smog of Finland and they do have roots in Circle, which should've been a good thing. But Finnish dudes singing about "the bayou" is not a good thing. Lead singer is draped in Jeff Tweedy's flannel, there's a total long-hair hesher guitarist, and a keyboardist in a black turtleneck, but in the end, they sound like George Thorogood: "B-b-b-b-bad."

Joensuu 1685- Every single person I encountered at the Lost in Music Festival, locals and international guests alike, insisted that I catch this trio, who were billed as being along the lines of Jesus & Mary Chain and Spacemen 3, meaning pouty, trance-inducing psych noise cloaked in heavy reverb. Such word of mouth also guaranteed that the entire city was seemingly packed into the club for their performance. The androgynous look of their lead singer had me hoping that a woman might be unleashing such a roar, but alas. A decent enough band, but when they blew a fuse onstage, it broke the spell for me and I missed their cover of "I'm On Fire." Which leads to the Catch-22 of the music scene here, or anywhere up and coming. If you sing in your native tongue, you run the risk of remaining only in your niche market. But if you switch to English, you are then a third-tier simulacra of bigger bands, like, JAMC and S3.

Regina- Seeing this trio gave me great hope that there might be something good brewing here. Solid grooves and well-crafted breaks inform their sleek dance-pop. Even singing in their native tongue (save for one song which had Indian war whoops, which I did understand) couldn't stop them from being the most intriguing and catchy band I caught all weekend.

Reckless Love- For as much as Finland's indie rock scene would like to forget, the biggest rock band to come out of Finland remains Hanoi Rocks. While most of the delegates attention is turned elsewhere, one night we decide to dabble in the heavy metal showcases, meaning we are the only men in a room full of hot Finnish women squeezed into black leather, spandex and sparkles, hip-swaying to Reckless Love.
Clad in similar outfits themselves, the band sang "I Love Rock'n'Roll" in Finnish and then proceeded to made eye contact with every woman in the room during "Beautiful Woman." It's as if Use Your Illusion never came out and Brett Michaels never had to resort to doing Rock of Love, as Poison still ruled the airwaves. It's as if Nirvana, hip-hop, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Radiohead never happened, or at least, never reached Finland. Wait, is that a bad thing?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finland 4

One night while I was in Finland, I found myself seated at an event I would never in my right mind have attended back in the United States: a music industry awards ceremony. And yet there I was, subjected to all the free Jägermeister I could tuck away for three hours and an MC that looked like NBA star Tony Parker dressed up as Andre 3000 for Halloween.
The table I'm seated at won two awards and the statuettes looked like this:

Which in a way sums up the Finnish music industry: blocky, unpolished, not quite gold. For convenience's sake, let's just group Finland in with its Scandinavian brethren (leaving Estonia and Russia out of it) and ask why the Finns lag behind Sweden and Norway in musical exports. Seated at the table with me are a few members of said industry. Sweden is simple: starting with the massive success of ABBA in 1975, they've grown into the third largest music industry. To rattle off the artists who hail from here is a fool's task, but so ubiquitous are its talents that even our own chart-toppers are often propped up by their productions and studios.
And at least on an indie-rock level, Norway's crested in the past decade: Röyksopp, Annie, Turbonegro, Kings of Convenience,  Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas, etc. while whole subcultures like space disco and black metal are cultivated and nurtured there (and then there is 80's one-hit wonder, a-ha). But for most of my trip, I was hard-pressed to name famous Finnish acts beyond Luomo/ Vladislav Delay, Pan Sonic, and Jimi Tenor. Do any of them count as "famous" though? For a country of roughly-similar size, why does Norway outpace Finland?
One of my tablemates works for the Finnish Music Information Centre, and she informed me that Finland's breakout year actually occurred back in 2000, when three acts took Europe by storm: HIM, Bomfunk MCs, and Darude:

Conveniently enough, I was traveling through Europe at that time and remember all three acts very well. So my reply went something like this: "They were all Finnish?!"
For whatever reason, each act lent itself to anonymity or a misconstruing of their roots. HIM surely must have arisen in Sweden, while Bomfunk MCs were such a heinous strain of hip-hop that surely it must have been the Germans who got it all so horribly wrong. I mean blond dreads, jeeeesus. Darude was the number one song the duration of my trip, it seemed. Hearing it everywhere made me wonder why the US pop charts hasn't had an instrumental number one in decades (can anyone out there tell me what the last one was? My mind said "Axel F," yet it only reached #34 in the US). It took years before I heard "Sandstorm" stateside, but it was at Yankee Stadium, so it's at least crept into the subconscious.
Since then, the industry has admittedly been hard-pressed to follow up on that success, with only HIM being something you could really hang future expectations on. But what sort of act would it take for Finland to be back on the map? While we pondered that at the table, we were treated to the sounds of this band (I shit you not):

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finland 3

Since the Sibelius symphonies I checked out from the New York Public Library were too scratchy to play, my main impression of what the music of Finland sounds like remains the wondrously inscrutable Fonal imprint. In years previous, I had written about artists such as Lau Nau and even gave an overview of their folk scene for the Nashville paper, but hadn't quite kept up with their releases since then.
Before I left, I again pulled out the works of Kemialliset Ystävät, Paavoharju, Islaja, and ES and uploaded them to my iPod, providing an alternating soundtrack of blissed-out and jarring sounds. What I played again and again though was this double album by ESSateenkaarisuudelma, which was just sublimely idyllic for watching the pines and birches flicker past on the landscape. Steeped in the sounds of Harmonia and Popol Vuh (at least to these ears), it's one of the most beautiful minimal albums of the decade.

Arriving in the city of Tampere for the Lost in Music Festival, I wondered if I might somehow see acts such as these. Instead, I braced myself for what I knew to be a weekend of metal and attempted indie-rock, rather than the weirdo, introverted, idiosyncratic music that Fonal trades in (and that I am magnetically drawn towards).
As luck would have it though, the man behind ES, Sami Sänpäkkilä, is also the man behind the label itself. And while my impression was that the Fonal folks lived under giant mushroom caps or in log cabins out on the Laplands, Sami lived but a few blocks away from the festival and I spent a few afternoons listening to music with the man (our favorite being the French pop album cut by Princess Stéphanie of Monacco). He told me that the two principal artists that inspire his label and its telltale sound are Terry Riley and Alice Coltrane. Fitting then that those two artists and their body of work continue to inspire me as well. Sami then gave me a slew of new Fonal releases, by himself, as well as Shogun Kunitoki. To top it all off, Fonal won an award that weekend from the Finnish music industry (for Best Album Art), which is sort of kin to Catsup Plate Records walking off with a Grammy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Finland 2

I can unequivocally state that I've never been in a culture as intent on eating black food stuffs as the Finns. (Even in Cambodia, they stopped short at giant scorpions and tarantulas. Okay, that's a whole other level of fucked up, but I digress.) Perhaps it has to do with the dearth of sunlight, the sky an impenetrable cataract of clouds the duration of my stay, the time of day gauged only by gradations of grayness. Anyhow, I found myself ingesting quantities of black licorice that I never thought possible, especially salmiakki, this salty variant on the stuff: strong in taste as well as in fortitude: you could feel your gums developing muscles.
Another day, my hostess offered me a chocolate that when I bit into it, oozed out what she translated as "tar." Tar? In chocolate? It left an ashy streak on my skin and stank like Pine Sol, leading me to think that the confection was actually filled with pine tar. Meaning, what major leaguers rub all over their Louisville Sluggers is what counts as a delicacy here.
Nothing can possibly top the sight of mustamakkara (a/k/a black sausage) though:

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Packing up for a week in Finland today (read: thermal britches). A few days in the countryside and then off to attend a music festival in Tampere. Expect updates about the music scene (beyond Kemialliset Ystävät and Pan Sonic) to follow.

notebook beta

Originally, I merely wanted to swoon over this description of the San Bernadino Valley mental state as sussed by Joan Didion, wherein "a belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis has slipped imperceptibly into a belief in the literal interpretation of Double Indemnity," but as I recently catalogued a giant trunk filled with pen-scratched notebooks of mine, dating back to a college course wherein we were required to keep a journal/ notebook (something I've done ever since), this musing by Joan Didion resonated with me instead:
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself... Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss...our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable "I."

Friday, October 16, 2009


While I still haven't figured out a way to attend the New York Film Festival proper, I was able to watch an in-person interview with Spanish director Pedro Almodovar last week as part of the festivities, regarding the man as he espoused on the connection between motherhood and divas, how he detests fast, slapdash edits and prefers the long takes.
"Cinema helps us to explain ourselves, our troubles, our situation better than our own words," he explained, gushing about American b-movies, Spanish melodramas of the 1950s, and most surprisingly, expressing his lifelong devotion (as "a humble student of") to the film works of Ingmar Bergman and John Cassavetes. Recently re-watching scenes featuring men with great tits snorting heroin amid campy wallpaper, those are not the first two names that spring to mind. (He also mentions Douglas Sirk though, which does make sense).
He then proceeded to show how he paid homage to John Cassavetes' Opening Night (detailing that the film was ravaged by NY critics and only ran in one theater for a week before closing) by lifting a scene from the film for All About My Mother. He then did the same for Bergman, comparing a scene from Autumn Sonata with his own film, High Heels. I kept hoping he would do the same with Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity and Jean Renoir's La bête humaine, since both posters appear in the cinema for a crucial scene from Bad Education, but we would have been there all day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Nearly two years ago, I wrote an appreciation on the films of John Cassavetes for the Idolator website, focusing on this curious soundtrack I found for his 1967 film, Faces. In it, I lamented that one of my favorite Cassavetes films, 1970's Husbands, remained out of print, never ever released on DVD. Thankfully, that has finally been rectified (though seriously, it's time to get the man's swan song, Love Streams, out in the 21st century). To celebrate, I am re-posting this sodden, totally ridiculous mess of an interview (prank?) between Dick Cavett and the film's stars.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Linda Perhacs video interview

Funny how things work. Last October, I found myself in Los Angeles interviewing the lovely Linda Perhacs (I also found myself in a four-hour traffic jam...but I digress). A year on, I get an email stating that the video interview I conducted with Linda Perhacs is now streaming over at Anthology. Watch me scratch my beard and nod my head in her presence. And via serendipity, I will be back out west for her first-ever performance!

beta's mess

Random things I've lost recently:
  • the packaging for the new Tinariwen CD (scant seconds after importing)
  • headband (for gym purposes)
  • checkbook for writing the rent check
  • Boney M's Love for Sale long-playing record
  • power cord for a Chinese DVD player
  • a journal dated April 17, 2003 through August 25, 2003
  • Yasujiro Ozu's Late Ozu DVD box set

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

David Byrne interview

When I worked at Pitchfork (well...define "work" where there's no pay), I was odd man out when it came to hyping The Arcade Fire and placing the Talking Heads at the top of OMG! greatest bands evah lists. For most of my life, the Talking Heads and their brand of quirky, twitchy, intellectual pop left me cold. It's only been fairly recently (and primarily through TH side project Tom Tom Club and their embracement of early 80s NYC disco culture and vice versa) that I've come to appreciate a few of the band's dancefloor cuts (that said, the Staples done stole "Slippery People" and ain't never giving it back to Byrne).

That said, after reading his new book, Bicycle Diaries, I've become a fan of David Byrne and his outlook on life, art, and culture. When I wound up seated next to him at the Björk/ Dirty Projectors brouhaha a few months back, we got to exchange a few words about spacy disco dubs and the like, which was kinda fun. Anyhow, Nylon asked me to conduct a Q&A with the man via email a few months ago, so I'm posting the entirety of the exchange here. Now to go out looking for a new bike...

I’m told that you are traveling at the moment and so my first question is if your bike is with you and how the urban terrain is there (wherever that may be)?

There are 7 bikes with us. 2 are mine, one of which I loan to whomever wants it and there are also a bunch of folding bikes I bought in Greece for the band to use. Where did I ride recently? Ferrara, here in Italy, which is small and flat and everyone rides bikes- gorgeous women, grandmas and Tony Soprano.


Ferrara is in the north of Italy, where quite a few of the (smaller) towns are filled with bikes and few cars (notice there's only on car in that photo). The towns are, for us, strangely, peaceful, quiet, comfortable (one isn't likely to be mowed over) and the air even feels different. Granted, some of these towns even must have outlawed motos and scooters from their old centers, otherwise the streets would be abuzz with those lawnmower engines on wheels.

A few of us rode around Rome as well the other day- which is quite another story. Generally as you move south in Italy the chaos increases exponentially- though there are always surprises, like Locorotondo which a local described as "Zurich, compared to Napoli". Even Roma, believe it or not, was bikable- I rode around the old part of town, over to the Vatican to get someone a "Popener" as a gift, and around Borghese Park to see the modern art museum- which mainly had 20th century Italian art- Futurism and such.

What was the genesis of Bicycle Diaries? Have you kept such notes over the years and finally collated them after all these years or was the book idea the impetus to start putting such musings down?

I've kept tour diaries ever since I started touring in places where I wanted to record my observations and whatever happened to the tour- places like the Balkans, South America, Asia seemed worthy of remembering more than, umm, Sacramento or even Atlanta. I began writing them around 15 years ago with no thought of publishing any of it....though I'd show bits of them to friends and more recently I began posting some of the diary entries on my blog....which became an incentive to post the entries semi regularly. I've used a bike to get around NYC for 30 years, simply for pleasure and for practicality. So, it isn't something I only do when traveling. In other cities (mostly when on tour) I bring a full size folding bike and spent the afternoons exploring.

In the last few years it has seemed to me that biking as a way of getting around- even in the USA- is becoming more acceptable. I noticed I wasn't the only one out there besides some messengers anymore- so I became a tiny bit more of an advocate, but not, I hope, in a dogmatic or hectoring way. It does seem that other people might be willing to consider getting around their towns on bikes now too, and that local government might be willing to make a space for them as well. It's one of those tipping points we've heard about. 

The tone of the book throughout is one of peregrination, of musing and alighting upon ideas and thoughts (without nec. unpacking them fully) and I was wondering how closely it mimics your train of thought as you ride.

It's pretty much exactly a mirror of the experiences I have- I pass something or some place and wonder how it got to be the way it is....I visit places that to me raise a lot of questions (Stasi Headquarters, for example). It's incremental- and as these increments accumulate sometimes conclusions are reached. I'm generally fascinated by towns and our physical man made environment- how they mimic what we consider to be important in our lives, or how we get seduced by convenience and what that has done to our cities and to ourselves. 

What cities do you long to bike in? Have you ever been able to bike about in China?

I've biked in Guangzhou, which used to be called Canton. It was scary - like driving in rush hour freeway traffic.  If you're in the left turn lane, you'd better not be thinking of going straight. I've heard that things are changing in China, as more folks can afford cars, which might not be a good thing from a global perspective. But can you blame them? we've all got cars (well, I don't) so they must feel why shouldn't they have them too? 

In the book, you are often apologetic and/or cautiously optimistic about the political mindset/ climate of the US amid your travels. As you travel about now in the post-Obama age, have you discerned a change in how others now perceive us?

I think the jury's still out, as Bush and his predecessors did an unbelievably good job of destroying the US reputation around the world, but I sense folks around the world are willing to have some faith in Obama, and so far much of what he says (his Egypt speech was SO smart- it raises the possibility of undoing decades of meddling and bungling!) is about repairing that damage. It's pretty amazing how much of a turn around there has been- how he has given people all over the world an opportunity to believe again in what the US stands for....which is NOT torture, squandering resources, Blackhawks, Blackwater and Black Sites.

But, the jury's still out, there are a lot of Cheney's men and right wing fundamentalists still keeping the faith around the world and at home, and the damage they've done, and are doing, will not be undone overnight- but, amazingly, folks are willing to give us the benefit of the doubt.

That says something about peoples' innate willingness to forgive and believe that people can change for the better given the chance. 

In the epilogue, you hint that some of the cities visited herein might disappear within our lifetimes. What cities seem most susceptible to such a fate?

Detroit is returning to farmland as we speak. Let's see, which cities are simply and clearly completely unsustainable? Phoenix, Las Vegas, LA for starters- they've been stealing water for decades and soon it will become too scarce and they'll have to close up shop. This, to me, is not some apocalyptic paranoid vision, it simply the facts on the ground. those cities are unsustainable and are too entrenched, structurally and in their lifestyles, to change in time.


Knowing how hands-on you’ve been with the city of New York and their transportation problems (not to mention designing bike racks for DOT), what single change here would have the greatest effect? More bike lanes? Turning a major street into a pedestrian thoroughfare? Increased fares for cars (rather than for riding public transportation)?

I'm not an expert in how these transitions work. Jan Gehl, who has advised quite a number of cities around the world, is more experienced at recommending how these transitions take place. He believes in incremental change- he's against quickly importing the Velib bike system from Paris to NY, for example, as he believes that structurally and otherwise NY is not quite ready. Close maybe, but not there yet.

A street closed here, a dead auto zone turned into a pedestrian zone, a safe secure bike lane added here- they gradually add up and people get used to them. We incrementally change our habits based on these infrastructure changes- I ride down 9th ave to work more often than I used to, now that it is safe....and I have friends and family that ride where they wouldn't have dared in the past.

It's not really about bicycles, it's about are we going to take control of how we live? of the quality of our lives, or will we let what used to be called Detroit, Big Oil and Big Food etc tell us what is possible in our lives. I am disappointed that GM is hanging on- their demise would be something to celebrate. 

How do you think the whole mortgage meltdown might be beneficial in the short- or long-run in terms of preserving urban neighborhoods?

Well, from what I've heard the meltdown has allowed people to question the values espoused over the last couple of decades- the myth of the market policing itself has been revealed to be the lie it always was. People, for the moment, are willing to rethink their priorities- mostly because they have to. It's a moment when that cliched word, change, is indeed possible. 

Will Big Pharm and the medical and doctor lobby win and defeat a sensible health plan for the US once again? They might, but as more people drop through the safety net in the event of any medical emergency- losing their homes and savings as a result, they're more likely to stand up to the doctors and the drug companies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

betATP 3

Fun games we played while at Kutsher's Country Club for ATP:
  • Watch Nick Cave Engaged in Normal Activity: eat breakfast, play arcade games, munch snack from vending machine, etc.
  • Did I Flush This Toilet? Or is the water always this yellow and cloudy?
  • David Cross Dance-Off: Deluxe "My Girls" Version: not to be confused with David Cross: Make Me Laugh game
  • Louder Than Loveless: this year's winner was Black Dice
  • Men's Bathroom Barf-Out
  • Hock a Bigger Loogie Than The Jesus Lizard's David Yow: just kidding, it's actually physically impossible.
  • Stay-Up with Todd P.: Special Three-Day/ Three-Night Weekend Edition 
  • Black Mold Bonanza
  • How Many Weakling Boy Arms Does It Take to Crowd-Surf at Animal Collective?
  • Kid Millions vs. Drum Machine

Special Extra Credit Question

Match the following substances and the exact order they should be taken in with the appropriate band:

Vending machine coffee
Jameson's neat
Cocaine (line)
Allergy medicine
Oh! Henry candy bar
Bud Light (cold)
Emergen-C packet
Joint (fatty)
Irish coffee
Combos (pizza flavor)
Mushroom-laced chocolate
Chicken souvlaki sandwich
Cocaine (key bump)
4 Advil capsules
Bottle of red wine
This blue pill some kid gave you
Jameson's on the rocks
hot dog
Joint (kinda crooked)
$3 bottle of water
Bud Light (warm)

The Melvins
Jim Jarmusch Q & A
that girl playing the piano in the back lobby


Pic from the way sweet Sam Beam-Sufjan-Akron/Family chorale.
My ATP coverage wrap-up for Spin, touching on the Flaming Lips' glowing beaver shot entrance, the man-machine stamina of Oneida's Kid Millions, and a few other thingies. Another wrap-up to follow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Tomorrow, I'll be back at the Dirty Dancing meets The Shining resort that is Kutcher's Country Club for another round of the ATP Festival. In preparation, I'm packing up: one notebook, one pair of earplugs, a change of clothes, sleeping eye mask, as many bottles of Maker's Mark and Jameson as will fit in a styrofoam cooler, a power strip and three-prong converter, an electric kettle, and most crucially, a portable dialysis machine.

Friday, September 04, 2009

DJ Harvey Interview Mk. II

Capping an inadvertent week of interviews, I conducted my second interview with DJ Harvey for Resident Advisor, in anticipation of the man's appearance at my absolute favorite outdoors dance party (scant blocks from my home), Sunday Best on the Gowanus Canal.

What's hilarious is that right as I handed in the piece, I had a comment posted on my original interview with Harvey from winter 2007/08:
DJ Harvey? OMG is he still alive?

I first heard him play in London at the Gardening Club and I have to say he was great. But I'm amazed by what I read about him being so influential in England. He really wasn't. He was a relative nobody on the circuit and his early compilation for Ministry was the only high point on a pretty useless DJ career.

It seems that he's got the yanks thinking he was a big cheese in London, but sorry folks, it just wasn't so. I'm happy that after he failed to impact Europe he found some love in America and no doubt was fresh and cool to people who have generally been behind the times in terms of house music. But don't kid yourselves, DJ Harvey was one of several thousand unknown, talented DJ's playing across the UK every night and the only reason I even remember him was because he tried to pick me up that night at GC.

If Harvey's a pioneer to you guys, then well done him for finding a bunch of gullible newbies and making a living from it, because he sure faded fast in England, not that there was much to fade from.

One thing's for sure though, you won't find people flocking to see 'DJ Harvey' play anywhere in Europe. Maybe that's why he moved to America.

Enjoy!!! ROFL
Sour grapes much?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

fenn o'beta

Twice this year, I've had massive, highly-anticipated interviews fall-through. The first was with Christian Fennesz, slated to run in The Believer. There was a back and forth with both him and his manager arranging a time to chat, either in Vienna or when he was in the States for a festival. Abruptly, the dialogue lapsed on their side and a month on they informed me --via a temp underling for an out of town publicist-- that Mr. Fennesz could no longer do it. So all those notes got scrapped.

Last month, with the release of a new Jim O'Rourke solo album, The Visitor, I arranged to have a chat with a gentleman that I have long esteemed and respected (and defended to naysayers). It's hard to imagine that I would be into nearly as much music as I'm into were it not for Mr. O'Rourke's example, deftly mixing and referencing both the popular and the avant-garde in his music and productions. (That I would sooner listen to Scott Walker's Climate of the Hunter, This Heat, and Luc Ferrari more than his Brise-Glace album should not detract from his influence.)

Originally, he would only agree to talk about the new album, nothing else, but I lobbied for a chance to speak about other matters, be it Nic Roeg and Jack Nitzsche or Italian prog, swearing that I wouldn't just ask him about Sonic Youth and Wilco (not because of the work contributed, but I couldn't imagine dredging up all of that for the sake of conversation). That too, was heading to The Believer. Yet within a 24 hour period, the interview was both confirmed and then canceled.

What makes it all come round is that when I first started doing music writing, back in the late 90s, my dream was to interview Peter Rehberg, as I was obsessed with his 1999 album, Get Out. We corresponded a bit by email, until one day he fell off the face of the earth as well. Which is to say, it took a decade to happen, but I just got dissed by the improv laptop trio of Fenn O'Berg.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Wizz Jones interview

A minute or so ago, I conducted an interview with obscure/ obscured British folk guitarist Wizz Jones, right as many of his contemporaries were passing on, be it Davy Graham or John Martyn. The piece wound up on the backburner over at Anthology Recordings (and lord only knows what happened to my video interview with Linda Perhacs), so it's only just now seeing pixel light.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

jane b.

Interviewing Jane Birkin tomorrow morning. As one might imagine, I'm really looking forward to it, even if I can't find a translation for "Mon Amour Baiser" and its list of twenty-one kisses, or for "Help Camionneur!" which --according to A Fistful of Gitanes-- is "about a female hitchhiker with fantasies of being fucked by a heavyweight trucker in his refrigerated lorry."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

print bedia

In the August issue of SPIN, I contributed a few entries to their feature, "100 Greatest Bands You've (Probably) Never Heard." While I wasn't able to place acts like Sinamon, Dettinger, Ludus, or Gino Soccio, I did write about two favorites from South Texas and my favorite femme-noise band.

BAND NAME: Knife in the Water
Named for Roman Polanski’s debut film, this Austin band actually hewed closer to the Coen Brothers’ dark vision circa Blood Simple. Based around the haunted boy-girl harmonizing of guitarist Aaron Blount and organist Laura Krause, Knife brought a cinematic scope to their murder balladry in the late 90s, touching on everything from pill-popping to dead trannies. But even with 2003 reissues featuring testimonials from the Trail of Dead and Silver Jews’ David Berman, they fell on deaf ears.

A trio from San Antonio who embodied neighboring Austin’s slacker ethos to a fault, the band melded the Jesus and Mary Chain’s fuzz and the Ramones’ three chords to sunny surf pop to create three-minute koans in the early 90s. Making believers of Yo La Tengo when they rolled through town, YLT appropriated Big Drag’s cover of the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda” (right down to the one-note guitar solo) for their own I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.

New York no-wave scenesters who had far more success when they packed up and moved to England in the 80s. The trio of Nina Canal, Sally Young and Jacqui Ham raised an unholy din not unlike other female groups like the Slits and the Raincoats until breaking up in the late 80s. In Gut’s House and the Steve Albini-recorded Griller remain their watermarks and if anything, Ut helped mind the gap until the Riot Grrrl movement taught a new generation of girls to rage.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

DJing tonight at Stanton Public

Tonight, I'm filling in for my friend Gerald (Other Music) at Stanton Public in the LES, which should be fun. And free. And crispy cool. And featuring a pretty sweet subwoofer to give it all some boom. I myself am a fan of cask beers and drinking Dogfish Head on tap. Though last time there, they were showing American Psycho (in black and white no less!). Kinda hard to play 80s-tinged dancing tracks knowing that up above his head, Christian Bale is espousing the virtues of Huey Lewis and the News.

Monday, August 17, 2009

r.i.p. jim dickinson

Generally, I distance myself from my early internet writings (especially for Pitchfork with their "go steal the record off of Soulseek and review it for us for free" editorial advisement, resulting in poorly-edited biweekly 800 word heavily-padded snarkfests), but I'll always have a place in my heart for the piece I wrote about James Luther Dickinson's Dixie Fried from back in 2002. Rest in peace, big papi.

Friday, August 14, 2009

animal collective after-party

BTDubya, on Saturday night I'll be DJing a stack o' sweet tracks for the Animal Collective After-Party at The Bell House starting at 10:30 or so. Later on, the AC crew themselves will hop on for a bit of round robin action. Alas, my guest list is closed but it's only $5 for entry (free with yer ticket stubs) so don't miss out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

idjut boys (and dimitri from paris) interview version 2

Part Two of my Idjuts interview, stemming from my Skype chat with them and Dimitri From Paris that ran as "Paradise Garage Regained" in the Voice a minute ago.

When’s the last time you were all in New York City?

Conrad: That would be last World Cup finals.

Dimitri From Paris: We were together.

Dan: It was great. We finished the day with some French people and Alex from Tokyo, in a little Italian restaurant. It was fairly amicable. There was a fair amount of liquor drunk and music poorly put together.

When you think about NYC at the time, as opposed to London and Paris, what separated it musically? Why did disco happen here rather than in another urban center?

DfP: As far as I’m concerned, my whole musical influences started from New York. I was a fan of all the dance music coming out of there when I was 17. I always lived in Paris, that was in the early 80s, where I started noticing that all the music I was liking was produced by some New York guys. The first time I went here was in 1986, I was already collecting music and Djing in ’82-’83—so I was just hoping I would go there and see how it was. It did play a very strong part with mythical clubs and mythical producers. I didn’t go to Paradise Garage, the one I would’ve like, as it closed down sadly a month before I first went to New York. The rest are legends I read about. But I experienced Better Days, the Palladium, Area. So the first time I went to clubs in New York, I realized just from the technical point of view, it was just another world. It actually sounded good, people were there for the music, they were dancing, there was a whole different vibe. It made sense with the music coming out of there. It did live up to the New York of my mind. I met Arthur Baker, Shep Pettibone popped in, The Latin Rascals. For me, I was a kid in a candy store. There was a real energy you could feel.

Idjuts, you had a chance to see Larry Levan in the early 90s.

C: Same thing as Dimitri, I guess, digging a lot of music of that era in the 80s and then years later finding out more about it. We never went to any of the clubs. The music that was popular in the clubs there that crossed over here, things were happening even though the clubs were very different. The gay scene of New York was integral in that. In a similar way to Dimitri, in the music we played and the music we make that aesthetic, New York was an influence on that and the obvious ccharacters from that. We’ve seen Francois K. play years ago in London. That was mind-blowing, seeing someone with a reel-to-reel. We went “Wow,” that’s a different way to DJ.

D: Maybe that the ethos of this music, it being drawn from many different sources and put into a melting pot, I think that’s what’s lasted from then till now anyway, the fact that ---even though I’ve never been to the Garage—it wasn’t the pounding kickdrum all night, the music would be varied and go different places. We were into Harvey and his parties and musically they were like that. We got to see Kenny Carpenter and Tony ____ when they came to London. That’s how I got New York from the DJs. The freeness in the music if anything else really.

So many ethnicities and minority parties come together. Maybe New York could foster it where other places didn’t.

DfP: I don’t really know what was so special about New York and why we were so influenced by it. We didn’t know anything about the city, we were only getting the music. Dan mentioned Francois Kevorkian. On record labels I was reading his name and every time I listened to his production I went “Wow, this guy is amazing.” And more than anyone else I would read his name. I had no idea who this guy was other than he had a French sounding name. I didn’t know he was a DJ. There was no information we could really get. It was primarily the music that made us like New York rather than New York made us like the music. It’s a big difference from how things evolved in clubs. Clubs became more of a place to party rather than a place to listen to music. I guess the music was of a quality that really appealed to us. It was diverse and creative, there was a lot of creative things. How those guys were DJing was like no one else we heard before. Same goes for me when I first heard Francois, and he still DJs like no one else I know. And he’s nearly 60 years old! Primarily, it’s the music.

How hard was it to come across these records? Before the internet and finding everything.

C: (Tittering) We ended up in a garage in San Francisco that was owned by a record rack. We spent two days in there amid piles of records.

D: Mid-90s. We have been to secondhand shops in London. Traveling around is a good way to consume music. You find different stuff in different places and that’s always been a winner.

C: The music that was popular in New York was bought, imported, it was all here secondhand, lots of it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the case may be, it seems to be endless.

DfP: I agree on this.

C: You’d know, man. It’s easier now, man.

DfP: There’s eBay now. A lot of people just got into selling records because it was a lucrative business. There are good and bad things about the internet. Traveling was a huge chance for us to buy records. Wherever we were, or if there was a thrift store. I would wake up early in the morning just to go to record stores. We are really record freaks. It was just vocal exchanges of information. The first time we met, we just chatted about record “Do you know this? Do you know that?” And I went back home with like ten new songs I didn’t know. And then you start searching for that. People who thought alike would meet eventually and exchange what we know. And that’s how the information circulated.

Disco and dance music, it’s not like there’s this centralized knowledge or this canon. You have to go out, you have to see DJs play this record. Did any tracks surprise you when Dimitri handed you the masters?

D: It goes without saying, Dimitri has always been a source of great music. I didn’t know a couple of tracks. What was fun about it was that there were tracks we'd hammered, played lots over the years. It was nice to be asked to do it. Obviously, a lot of that music was dear to me. Wuf Ticket “The Key,” it’s difficult not to take that when you travel to DJ. There’s great tracks all over.

C: Serious Intention's “You Don’t Know,” I’ve worn out two copies of that record. The Rah Band we didn’t know.

D: We were Rah Band virgins.

DfP: That’s a good example. I owed it to this other DJ, P Wax. I used to hate that song. I really didn’t like it and then he started playing it and I went “What the hell is that?” I wound up liking something that I used to hate. That’s the beauty of remixes. That’s also why I put Wham! in there because everyone goes “it’s impossible, they cannot be good.” Just open your ears and listen for yourself. When some guy gets inspired by what he finds on the master tapes, you can just make magic. Rah Band and Wham are great examples of how you can turn cheesy pop songs into something that is really ground-breaking.

Why did you pick Dan and Conrad?

DfP: I did this compilation and while I love dub, I don’t play this as much as they would do it. I play clubs that are more “Saturday night” and I felt they did it much better than me. I knew from the history we had together that they would be into some of those tracks. I just asked them and it just happened. We had discussed it in a club in Japan kind of casually. Like Idjut Boys said, Serious Intention and Wuf Ticket indeed. If you do that, you cannot bypass those tracks. It is impossible.

Let’s talk about dub reggae and how it got infused with New York disco and the resultant odd mutation, those effects made to bear on this music.

C: Yeeeeah. We had a track we had done for something. Yesterday we listened to it without all the effects. We can really overdo it, and often do. It’s the element of space… and you confuse many different kinds and juxtapose sounds and genres together, and when it’s fed through delay and reverb, and it freaks the music out. And we like the freak, to be honest. I guess that’s why it stays.

DfP: We get some echo and feedback on this and it’s perfect.

D: Sometimes a man can turn too many knobs. Don’t play with your knobs too much. When you first encounter that kind of music, be it reggae or electronic synthesizer music, dub music, or the music here, when I first heard that in the club, sonically it had so much more resonance than some of the other stuff that was played beside it, simply because of the space the effects put into it, a drama accentuating various points on the record. Obviously, someone who is the master of that and as a DJ is François, if you want to reference how to do that, and he’s done that on all manners of music, not just on this compilation. He’s done it for rock bands and a lot of it. Obviously, since we’ve known Dimitri as well, a lot of his productions apply that. He does great edits and manages to do it but not do it excessively.

DfP: I would like to add about Francois… He’s been playing at Cielo every Monday. Every time I go to new York, I make a point to go there and sit down to listen to him. even if he plays music I don’t like, the way he plays it is striking. It’s like I’m getting a lecture in music from him. I love it. He’s like those old African tribal guys, who passes the history on to the younger kids orally. He’s one of those guys.

So how did you guys meet?

DfP: Paris is Burning. It was the second Respect party, in 1997. Respect did the first one with some annoying kids called Daft Punk and I was asked to do the second one. I think Daft Punk booked Maurizio. My choice was Idjut Boys, as I loved their U-Star label. It’s in Japan that people played them the most. They had that dub sound that I loved and I never heard anyone do it like this before apart form the original guys. They came to play Respect and we talked shop for hours and that was it.

You guys want to talk about the live mix?

C: Pretty much. We got BBE to hire a Pioneer mixer and two CDJs. To be honest it was interesting as we don’t play off CD, so it was a bit of a learning curve. We just wanted it to sound like playing records in a club. We did it at night in our studio and turned the lights down and had a few drinks and just went about it as if we were playing these records out. To be honest, that seemed the most appropriate thing to do rather than make it tight.

D: We played with Dimitri in LA a few years ago. We had our usual 15 bags of records. Dimitri shows up and is --if you didn’t already know— a fierce record collector and says “I only play CDs now” and proceeded to play seamlessly a load of disco to a big room. It’s only taken about another five years for us to get on the CD revolution. We still play lots of vinyl. A lot of places we go now, more clubs are geared towards CDs now. It’s easier than breaking your back toting records.

DfP: I wanted to add something about the mix. I was happy that they did it. I know I’m a little bit more anal and would’ve spent hours taking the life out of it making it perfect. They made it exciting and it goes together with the way those records were made back then. You had to do the FX as the tracks would go. That’s on the records we hear today because of that vibe and they replicated that vibe on the mix.

Final thoughts?

DfP: The whole club scene hasn’t been about music and hasn’t been in awhile. I think these are historical pieces that were only available as B-sides of vinyl 12”s. They’re not so easy to find but they’re not the most obscure either. If you are just a music lover, you’ve probably heard such things before. This music is quite influential now, like the Norwegian guys and snippets in the music of Metro Area and Justice and the new French punk-electro scene. I felt it was the right moment to show up with these and say “Listen to this.” Music is always repeating itself, but sometimes you don’t now what it is repeating unless you are a proper nerd. It’s something that non-nerds can enjoy.