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.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

idjut boys interview version 1

2009 has been a fairly resplendent and wondrous year. Somewhere in my Top 100 greatest moments of the year thus far is the fact that I was able to conduct two interviews with the rather reclusive Idjut Boys. Dan Tyler and Conrad McDonnell have been ignoring the lines between disco, psychedelia, house, jazz fusion, balearic, Italo, dub, techno and whatever else you got for well over a decade now. This year might be something of a watershed for the Boys: they dropped their inspired collaboration with Norwegian producer Rune Lindbaek as Meanderthals, remixed the Dimitri From Paris early-80's edit set Nightdubbin' and to top it off, just dropped a bonkers new twelve, "Jammy Dodger." So here is my first interview with Dan and Conrad, conducted over email and answered in this sort of groupspeak for this feature.

First thing is some boring bio stuff: how you two met, what drew you to the other.

Idjut Boys: We met in Cambridge, mutual friends, going the same parties in peoples' houses, tonka events wherever they happened...moved to London, ended up at a later stage living together in a flat with our good buddy dickie P...weekends involved the going out ritual, filling the flat with people and listening to music whilst blitzkreiged...used to go to alot of the clubs and one off things ocurring at that time...enjoyed the ambience of the acid house as a relaxing pastime...heard and enjoyed Harvey play alot, got to understand the notion of everything having a place. Listened and dug out some of the music mixed by the likes of François and the other guys mixing in that era and realized that ...well bent is better than straight up, on most that time there was great house music from everywhere, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Italy, here...disco, whatever being played. Not really any specific LP/12, just going out dancing to a varied soundtrack in various states.

What always strikes me with all the edits, remixes, and by Desire Lines most recently, is the massive sense of 3-D space inside everything, so I’m curious about creating such a sensation in all the tunes.

IB: Old using effects... random ocurrences, mixing live with a board,using outboard processing, rather than everything
automated...things happen live, for better or worse that we won't get programming.

Were you into rock music before turning onto disco and dance stuff? Was it a natural progression for you? Was liking disco a contrarian thing, in that punks weren’t supposed to like disco?

IB: It was a hard, strict growing up regime in both cases...once church going abated and balls dropped it was a natural progression to the mosh pit followed by the flowing mullet.

Judging by titles of the album with Quakerman and the like, it seemed like you were trying to make the UK house scene loosen up a bit at the time. Was it proscriptive and uptight in that way?

IB: Deeeeeep.

As the Frank Zappa question goes, does humor belong in music?

IB: Yes Sir Mr Zappa... We just like to precede being laughed at by laughing at ourselves first, seriousness comes too close to head arse fusion..the only plan ever in force is to get to do another record and avoid the job centre...obviously we want to be really hip and make piles of money and indulge in a mirage of warped fantasies whilst having rightfully claimed to have invented hip hop but that doesn't fit with the no-strategy walk.

Did you get to see older NY legends like Larry Levan and François K. when they would come over? Who remain your favorite edit makers?

IB: Harvey's always been great, Maurice Fulton, Thomas, Markey Mark, Chris Rhythm Doc, Gerry Rooney...heard Francois a few times, mindblowing in the right environment with a proper set up to manipulate..heard Larry at Moist only but it was can't beat Francois for production, he's been involved in too many serious records and he's still standing with what seems like the same enthusiasm...Maurice is a great producer too, nobody sounds like him.

Rune talked about how records like “Jazz Fook” were big in Norway at the time and how crucial it was to that country’s subsequent “space-disco” sound. When you would DJ up there, were you at all surprised by how the scene had been influenced by your tracks?

IB: Wasn't aware of anything like that...being involved you're not really aware of that, it's nice of anyone says that was the case because there's been some great records from the people there..went over there alot and there were some great parties and some painful next days...they were already into stuff, Pal Strangefruit, Rune, Erot, Bjorn Torske, Ole Abstract..later we went over and played with Thomas, who played great music and met Terje..We obviously taught them nothing except the drink till you barf fitness regime..they are viking so it's a sport they took to with ease.

What was it about Rune’s productions made you decide to work on tracks with him, from “Laisn” to Meanderthals?

IB:We were friends for years, and he always had good music to be heard He was over and in our studio so we asked him to speak in Norske on "Laisn," to lend it that real soul, slow jam, drop your pants moment....Meanderthals happened cos we missed a flight and took refuge in his studio for the afternoon and hit the random button and he found a nice man, Joakim ready to sully his labels good name with further adventures in randomness involving a few more kind folk with instruments they were willing to play. We worked with Rune studio neighbours, Lenny and Jo for percussion, bass and guitar a couple of times at theirs and sent things back and forth, and we hung out with Per Martinsen for a day at Bugge Wuselltorf's lovely studio and recorded ourselves as an out of time percussion combo and his mate Anders on the Steinway.

What does he bring to the collaboration? Was it easy playing together? What was the process like?

IB: Rune opened the door to some great musicians in oslo..The process was most definitely random, involved much going back and forth...we went to the players with backing tracks and hung out and tried to remember to press the big red record button when something good was occurring...we then went way edited and demanded more where necessary.. setting out ideas would require some efficiency or organizational powers that were quickly acknowledged to be too challenging for the cast... it has a kinda live feel...we got what came out, we are maybe going to do a dub version of the lp because there is stuff lurking underneath that could be more club playable if undressed suitably and interfered with in the right places.

Rune mentioned Conrad having a bad bike accident right before work started on this. Can you recount that story?

IB: He was knocked off his bike. It hurt alot. He's better now.

So back to “obsessions”: what are some current ones?
Favorite comedian:
George Bush III
Favorite Bohannon track: "Maybe You Can Dance"
Food you always like to eat in the studio: coffee and lamachan
YouTube clips that you like at the moment: what's YouTube ?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

heep see (special summer reading edition)

David Byrne: Bicycle Diaries
A few years earlier I had been reminded that the former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, was a habitué of discos during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. This would have been the era of Studio 54, Regines, Privilege and Le Palace (in Paris) and other velvet rope clubs. This was also, um, the era of martial law and heavy censorship in the Philippines. Was the lightness, effervescence, and headiness inherent in that music --and the drugs that went along with it—similar to the feeling one gets when one is in a powerful position?

Pierre Michon: Small Lives
I did not know that writing was so dark a continent, more enticing and disappointing than Africa, the writer a species more bent on getting lost than an explorer.

Cesare Pavese: The Moon and the Bonfires
Now I knew why every so often a girl was found strangled in a car on the highway, or in a room at the end of an ally. Maybe they, too, these people, would have liked to drop on the grass, to agree with the tree frogs, to be masters of a piece of earth the length of a woman, and really sleep without fear. Well, it was a big country, there was some of it or everyone. There were women, there was land, there was money. But nobody had enough, nobody stopped no matter how much he had, and the fields, even the vineyards, looked like public gardens, fake flower beds like those at railway stations, or else wilderness, burned-over land, mountains of slag…A day would come when just to touch something, to make himself known, a man would strangle a woman, shoot her in her sleep, crack her head open with a monkey wrench.

Lawrence Wechsler: Seeing is Forgetting the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin
You had no visual or audio input at all, other than what you might do yourself. You might begin to have some retinal replay or hear your own body, hear the electrical energy of your brain, the beat of your heart…There were all kinds of interesting things about being in there which we observed, but the most dramatic had to do with how the world appeared once you stepped out. After I’d sat in there for six hours, for instance, and then got up and walked back home down the same street I’d come in on, the trees were still trees, the street was still a street, and the houses were still houses, but the world did not look the same; it was very, very noticeably altered.