Thursday, April 28, 2011
I was just getting ready to leave work and grab the train to Shepherd's Bush when I got the call. "The show's been cancelled". My heart sunk. A quick double check online confirmed the worst. Descendents frontman Milo Aukerman's voice was fucked. He couldn't make the show. And at the last minute, the band decided to cancel. Then I heard that support band Teenage Bottlerocket (who I wanted to see more anyway) had put together a last minute free show at the New Cross Inn - "I'm trapped in a glass of emotion!"
An hour later, New Cross Inn was a pretty surreal place to be. It was Open Mic Tuesday. A free night for amateur musos to test the water. Build some self-confidence. Or just get drunk and wing it. Only this particular Tuesday, the place was packed with early bird punk rockers. One guy I spoke to had been on a bus for 15 hours from Northern Ireland - he was a Descendents fan.
After the first band, "Emily" got on stage and sung an a capella version of Mariah Carey's "Hero" to a cheering mob of mohawks and leather jackets in the front row, while members of Teenage Bottlerocket walked around nonchalant. It was so Fat Wreck. Like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah. Classic.
Just after nine, Bottlerocket were on stage blasting their way through "Skate or Die". The crowd went nuts, carrying stagedivers and digging its heels in from the first few chords. There was no way through the madness. I couldn't believe it. To me, these guys are celebrities. And here they are, rocking a stage smaller than my bath towel.
Drummer Brandon Carlisle is a master of the fast hi-hat. Watching him, his arm doesn't even seem to move - it's all in the wrist. Meanwhile, twin brother Ray and Kody Templeman take turns on lead vocals, swapping sides, pretty much, after every song. I couldn't get over how thick Ray's neck is. But watching him rock out, you understand why - this guy's a professional headbanger...
At some point, someone in the front shouts for "All I Hear Is Static!", a classic by Kody's previous band The Lillingtons. Really, he took the words right out of my mouth, but Kody replies, "I don't know what that is". Fair enough... TBR played new single "Mutilate Me" instead and it sounded great. They did play "I Saw the Ape Man (On the Moon)" though...
Staring at the crowd during TBR's you-better-play-or-they're-going-to-riot encore, I couldn't get over the amount of love in the room. Everyone was singing along, hands on their hearts, begging for more. And really, I was glad Descendents cancelled. I'd take this small time personal pub show over First Floor Standing at Shepherd's Bush any day. Still, I bet Northern Ireland Dude doesn't feel the same...
Here's Teenage Bottlerocket playing "Black Hole In My Mind" in Milan.
"From the director of Pineapple Express". That's all I needed. Then throw in written by Danny McBride and starring Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel, and expectations were sky high. But McBride and director buddy David Gordon Green's surprisingly high-budget stoner-comedy-meets-Lord-of-the-Rings fantasy saga never really delivers.
As far as plot goes, it's a classic Boromir/Faramir dynamic, with James Franco playing the dashing, monster-slaying Boromir brother Fabious to McBride's lazy, under-achieving, stoner brother Thadeous. Fabious returns to the kingdom from another heroic weekend away cyclops killing and announces that he plans to marry virginal girlfriend Belladonna (Deschanel).
Then evil sorcerer Leezar arrives, kidnaps Belladonna, takes her off to rape her in the moonlight and it's up to Fabious and first-time-quester Thadeous to storm Leezar's castle and save the day. That's about it, really.
The problem is, as much as you like them, Franco and McBride just aren't lead actors. Pineapple Express works because Seth Rogan is a lead actor. And his more deadpan performance anchors McBride and Franco, making their bumbling stoner goofiness funnier and more memorable. Your Highness is like watching two sidekicks duking it out for the lead. And of course, you can't discount Judd Apatow's absence as well.
There are a few memorable moments. Like the scene where Fabious holds up a severed cyclops head and someone in the crowd shouts, "Fuck yeah!" Then there's Thadeous' minotaur dick trophy necklace. And of course, Natale Portman in a medieval g-string's worth the ticket price alone. But overall, Your Highness is pretty disappointing.
Unlike Pineapple Express, this time, Green and McBride's genre bending, chronic-infused comedy just isn't slick enough. The writing's not as good. The jokes are borderline creepy. The characters aren't as legendary or quotable. And instead of another stoner classic, it's just okay, mildly-amusing, not bad... Like Bill & Ted's Medieval Adventure with a frontal lobotomy... It's like comparing Land of the Lost to Anchorman. You know what I mean.
“It’s like a cartoon explosion of fun... It’s like Slayer for girls”, says drummer Ian Vanek, describing Japanther at SXSW last month. “It’s like if Old Dirty Bastard’s kid had a teacher whose mom had a kid who played the bass”, adds bassist and co-pilot Matt Reilly. Really, Japanther’s a state of mind. A never-ending party where performance art meets rock ‘n roll, punk rock meets hip-hop and quotes drift in from Futurists to Public Enemy.
“You can be 75-years-old and have the spirit of a 10-year-old”, says Vanek. We spent all day at the beach yesterday. I think it was a week day. Yeah, my life’s going fucking great, how’s yours?”
Well... I stayed up all night transcribing this interview. And listening to Japanther’s 'Surfin Coffin', digesting lines like, “To all the corpses, in metal coffins, along the freeway and in the office. To all the corporate, spilling their coffee, we do not copy, the human spirit’s still alive”, makes it even harder to swallow (as I mop up a blotch of coffee I spilt tapping along).
Anyway… here’s what the Brooklyn duo had to say about riots, playing for 84 hours straight, life, death, the New York Post and everything in-between.
How did the two of you meet?
Matt: We met at Pratt, in Brooklyn.
Ian: Art college. We went to art college together.
Was it love at first sight?
I: No, it was hate at first sight. We argued a lot.
Your bio describes Japanther as a time-based performance duo. What does that mean?
I: I think a lot of the time, people in bands are fucking douchebags. I can’t say that with enough vehemence. They jerk off over their equipment. They wanna talk about what guitar they have. And they really don’t give much sincerity to any performance they ever give. People like Jerry Lee Lewis. People like Chuck Berry. They were giving time-based performances. We consider ourselves a performance. We work very hard to be a living piece of art.
Okay… do still you have normal band fights?
I: No. We’re like a big family. We’ve actually just opened a restaurant here in Lower Manhattan…
What’s it called?
I: Eat the Butt.
Eat the Butt? Ha ha... How’s business?
I: Booming. We only have three nights so far and they’re all fucking sold out. But there’s no band fights, to answer your question. There’s family arguments, certainly.
Right… what's all this about a riot at the Lincoln Center in January?
I: Security were just being fucking horrible towards women. I confronted the guy and said, ‘If you grab that girl one more time, you’re gonna have me to deal with’. Which turned into a confrontation that our friends Unstoppable Death Machines really didn’t like... It was a case of security trying to put the punks in their place and the punks saying ‘Fuck that shit!’ Essentially, it was sexual harassment. And we do not fucking stand for that! Security were being fucking dicks and we had to react violently.
The New York Post's story opened with the headline, "Lincoln Center went lowbrow tonight".
I: They can fucking suck my cock. I don’t know if you’ve heard Public Enemy, ‘A Letter to the New York Post?’ – “Ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on!” Fox Corporation prints its newspaper and has an opinion about Japanther? I think it’s funny, because we obviously don’t give a fuck what they think ever, ever, ever. We think Fox is lowbrow as shit.
M: It really is…
I: The New York Post is garbage. I would call them out as the worst newspaper in the world, if I cared to even comment.
And how was South by Southwest?
I: We saw Wu-Tang Clan, Pill… a bunch of great rap groups. We did a lot of BMX-related stuff. Saw a lot of great concerts. Ran around Austin. It was great. We played for Sexbeat, which is a London party.
Do you both still live in Brooklyn?
I: Yeah. We lived together for years. Now we live kinda far apart.
M: It took me, like, 15 minutes to ride from my house to here.
You spent nine months touring in 2009. Was 2010 as intense?
I: I think so. We didn’t have a home in 2009. We were just on the road the entire time. I don’t really remember 2010. I think we travelled for about eight or nine months.
You've been playing the UK quite a bit lately, how have the shows been?
I: Fucking amazing. We love the UK. We love Europe. Really had a good time in France, Italy, Spain…
Matt, what kind of setup do you use to make your bass sound like a guitar?
M: Just a guitar amp and a Big Muff distortion pedal.
I: He uses my brother’s Randall amp.
M: I had a guitar amp but it blew up in San Francisco.
You also play tapes. What does that mean?
I: It’s like an analogue hiss, or analogue glue. Like a stereo cassette player. It has some loops. It has some samples. It has different things that add to the backdrop.
And where did the telephone mics come from?
I: I used to be the singer and not play drums. And I was just smashing everything. I was able to beat the telephones on things. They’re also free all around New York City – we’re into recycling. It’s an art piece and a compression tone. So we get a sound, a visual and a free, indestructible device.
The restaurant you’re running also involves some kind of phone?
I: We got a phone booth from 1974 and installed our own telephone and mp3 recorder. When you pick up the receiver it starts recording. When you hang up, it pauses. The idea is you trade your best story for a meal – we have these delicious vegan meals. It’s a modern confession booth, if you will. Which is moving towards the idea of a recording sculpture. Which is very exciting to us.
© TBA 21 Gallery
Can we see any of your art projects online?
I: We keep that stuff a little more private. We recently did a performance in Vienna for the TBA 21 Gallery. We performed for 84 hours straight with no food or sleep on a rotating stage. The piece was called ‘It Never Seems to End’. It was in honour of our friend Christoph Schlingensief, who passed away in 2010. We’ve done all kinds of fucked up art shows around the world.
I was wondering, do you ever hear from office-dwelling Japanther fans, desperate to quit their day jobs?
M: Tons. They play it in their offices. I: Twenty people came to the show in Chicago. I think it’s an insurance office. Maybe they sell real estate. I feel bad. I wanna say what’s up to those guys. To have that feedback from any fan is the real payback. That’s the million dollar cheque right there.
Ian, how old were you when you got your first tattoo?
I: God, I don’t know – 13 or 14? I don’t keep track of that shit. I think I started being bad when I was six or seven. I started playing drums when I was five. Try things you’re not supposed to fucking try. Fall on your face. Do things you know you definitely should not do. Bad things have benefits and good things have side effects. I didn’t come up with that. That’s The Grouch.
Matt, have you got any tattoos?
M: Yeah, I’ve got one tattoo.
I: A little ass tattoo.
Ian, the interview also casually mentions you seeing a friend commit suicide. Matt, you talk about being in a more positive place in another interview. Is there a darker side to Japanther, behind all the catchy good times?
M: We’ve all seen shit in our lives, but you’ve got to try and manifest that and move forward or you’re just going to dwell in the past. And that’s not a good place to be.
I: Everyone has a darker side, but who the fuck wants to talk about that? People that want to focus on that are looking for attention. We want to be a positive light. The human spirit will reclaim humanity from Fox News Corp, the New York Post (fuck you)… things like that.
Is ‘What the Fuck Is the Internet?’ a response to anything in particular?
M: It’s more of a joke…
I: It’s about people who think their opinion online matters. The Internet’s filled with shit talkers. I would encourage you to get in a fistfight and see how your shit talking goes.
So it’s like Jay and Silent Bob, chasing down the bloggers?
M: It’s similar…
I: That’s where the title comes from, “Dude, what the fuck is the internet?” It comes from hanging with Ninjasonik – a great rap group from New York. People just wanted to hate on them. We were like, “Don’t listen to them. Look at all the people jumping up and down at the show. Ninjasonik rocks, Japanther rocks, fuck the Internet”. When I see my tag painted up on the wall – and it’s in a hot spot, and I remember how sketchy it was hiding – that shit’s real. That tagline you put on your Facebook photo is not fucking real you toy clown motherfucker. Ha ha, that’s my shit…
So you guys have been doing all those Japanther tags on your Facebook?
I: No, we don’t endorse vandals.
M: We’ve never put paint to surface. Ha ha…
I: We didn’t have a bunch of bottles of wine at some free restaurant the other night and run down Canal Street. We just have fun, man. It’s New York City...
What’s going down tonight?
M: New stickers.
I: I can’t remember what we’re supposed to do.
M: Riding bikes around. New York’s a very spontaneous place. You get the call…
I: Might go see the Mets play. Something really fun’s going to happen tonight. I’ll text you later and let you know.
For more, check out www.japanther.com. Gig photos © Dudephotography
When I read that current Hollywood ‘it’ boy James Franco has a lesser-known younger brother named Dave, I thought, “Shit, what would it be like to be James Franco’s younger brother?” Right now, I’d imagine it’s a pretty golden ticket to Tinseltown decadence. Until recently, Dave’s biggest role was Cole Aaronson on the final, shockingly-bad Season of US sitcom Scrubs – his previous roles include Greg the Soccer Player (Superbad) and Telephone Tree #5 (Milk).
Then, 127 hours after his small turn as Rich, opposite Ben Stiller in Greenberg (2010), MTV’s Nextmovie.com listed Dave as one of the ‘breakout stars to watch for 2011’. And the rest (i.e. a leading role in the upcoming film version of 21 Jump Street) is his story. Still, Dave must love the reach of his actor, painter, screenwriter, author, model, Green Goblin brother’s stylishly-tailored coattails. But it got me thinking, who else has a less famous sibling burning with bitter disappointment, ready to step in in case of an emergency?
Obvious one first: The Baldwin dynasty! Now this is a family of actors. Can you just imagine them all sitting round the BBQ, open shirts, hairy chests and medallions everywhere, swapping stories of Kim Bassinger, Miley Cyrus and rehab. Oldest brother Alec’s clearly miles ahead when it comes to Hollywood credibility. Daniel’s claim to fame is John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998). And William Baldwin’s struggled to recover from the damage inflicted by his billed-to-shine leading role opposite Cindy Crawford in Fair Game (1994). Youngest brother Stephen’s the clear runner up, with a mixed bag of roles that includes The Usual Suspects (1995), Bio-Dome (1996) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989). But where do you go after Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas (2000)? A Hannah Montanna tattoo, that’s where...
This one really caught me off guard. I was watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm late one night ('The Rat Dog' – Season Six) when I thought I saw a ghost. “That can’t be Chris Farley?” I thought. But when he stamps the rat dog to death, Mike the Exterminator looks exactly like an overweight, arm-flailing reincarnation of the late Beverly Hills Ninja star. Turns out it’s his younger brother Kevin. No way!
How funny is this one? Frank Stallone, the younger brother of Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone. It makes you wonder, what’s Sly got that Frank doesn’t? A question I’m sure’s been burning through Frank's mind the past 30 odd years. Surprisingly, Frank’s a Golden Globe-nominated singer/songwriter (not that that means much these days). And he’s played a singer in Rocky (1976), Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985). He also played “guy at a funeral” in Sly’s 2000 take on Get Carter and “diner patron” in the sixth Rocky film, Rocky Balboa (2006). Mamma Stallone (Estelle Getty?) must be proud...
Here’s a few quick-fire siblings for you:
Eddie Murphy and his younger, less-successful comedian brother Charlie.
Dakota Fanning and her 13-year-old sister Elle (Dakota already had a shelf full of awards aged 12).
Bill Murray and his older brother Brian Doyle-Murray, who co-starred with Bill in Caddyshack (1984), Groundhog Day (1993), Scrooged (1988), Ghostbusters II (1989) and The Razor’s Edge (1984).
Mark Wahlberg and ex-New Kids on the Block older brother Donnie – the basis for brothers Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon, who’s probably on a par with his real-life brother Matt these days) in the TV series Entourage.
Ben Affleck and his rapidly-gaining momentum younger brother Casey (I predict an upset).
Then there’s the Sheen/Estevez clan. Originally, Charlie Sheen and older brother Emilio Estevez were on a pretty even footing, back in Emilio’s Breakfast Club (1985), Stakeout (1987), Young Guns (1988), Mighty Ducks (1992), Paula Abdul glory days. Emilio must be wondering where it all went wrong for him really. Ramon and Renee Estevez never stood a chance.
And then there's the weird cases of Chris Penn and Eric Roberts. In the late 80s/early 90s, thanks to films like Best of the Best (1989) and The Specialist (1994), Eric Roberts was a high-profile, bankable household name. While younger sister Julia made a name for herself with films like Flatliners (1990) and Pretty Woman (1990). Now, thanks to catastrophes like Sharktopus (2010), Eric's firmly out of the running. Maybe he's putting his faith in 20-year-old daughter Emma.
Chris Penn, who also starred in Best of the Best, made a name for himself in the ‘80s/’90s with films like Footloose (1984), Reservoir Dogs (1992) and True Romance (1993). But these days, his multi-award-winning older brother Sean's way out in front. "What ever happened to Chris Penn", I thought? Turns out he died of a drug/weight-related heart problem in 2006, aged 40. Tragic...
Friday, April 22, 2011
In the '50s, cult classics like The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The Creature From the Black Lagoon and Godzilla invented the so-bad-they're-great, cheesy creature-feature genre. In the '80s, Wes Craven's Swamp Thing and David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly carried on the not-so-grand tradition. Then the late '90s brought more forgettable films like Anaconda, Lake Placid and Deep Blue Sea.
In late 2010, the genre hit warp speed, spitting out ridiculously over-the-top hybrid titles like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, Dinocroc vs Supergator, Mansquito and Sharktopus. Only this time, handmade, clumsy Ed Wood-style inventiveness was replaced by badly-digitised, personality-free, CGI - spawning watery deathbeds for stars like Luke Perry, Jaleel White, Eric Roberts, MIchael Madsen and David Carradine. But one thing remains, the ocean depths are still crawling with monsters.
In March, the Syfy Channel launched 'Saturday Monster Madness', a weekly, knockout voting competition to find out which of their original monster film creations is top dogfish. Currently, they're up to the semi finals. The remaining four are: Piranhaconda, Dinoshark, Cerberus and the mighty Sharktopus. Here's a look at some of our favourite recent creature features. Crackers on standby...
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus: The Thrilla In Manilla
Sharktopus: 50% Shark, 50% Octopus, 100% Deadly (Featuring Eric Roberts)
Dinoshark: The Great, Great Granddaddy of All Sharks
Dinocroc vs. Supergator: Alligator and Crocodile Are Mortal Enemies (Featuring David Carradine)
Komodo vs. Cobra: Don't Move A Muscle
Sea Snakes: Snakes On A Sub (Featuring Luke Perry)
Wise old Wikipedia calls it agalmatophilia (statue love), describing the act of statue groping as "the sexual attraction to a statue, doll, mannequin or other similar figurative object." It's weird... at first, you assume it's just a bunch of people goofing around, posing for a funny photo without much Freudian thought. Then you discover an entire subreddit and community of online agalmatophiliacs, mixing humour with arousal, fetish with ridiculous... And you’ve got to wonder, where do those photos end up?
Intrigued, I posted an interview on Reddit, hoping to coax a few real-life gropers out into the open. Praying I didn’t get some Carl Stargher (The Cell) nutcase, into skin bleaching and suspension. At this point, I think I should point out the difference between statue groping and sex machines... Move along!
Only two gropers replied in the end. But one of them, perhaps fearing public exposure, went back and deleted their answers before I had a chance to copy and paste them. So the only genuine response I got came from a user called BlackbeltJones. Here’s what he/she had to say:
Is statue groping an actual fetish or just a wacky, fun-to-look at sub-reddit group?
I have a sincere appreciation for sculpture as an art form. It beats painting, wood carving, photography and anything else, hands down. Sculpture is just more impressive than other forms of art. It's more of a unique talent. I could never create something so wonderful. I am incapable. And I can't crap on them like a pigeon. So the next best thing to do is statue-grope.
If you're a statue groper, what do you get out of it?
And what's better, groping your own statue or looking at photos of someone else's grope?
Groping my own, unless another's is a clever or quality grope.
Is there a downside to statue groping?
Getting kicked out of museums.
What's the statue groper take on pigeons?
Pigeons are disease-laden pests.
Best kind of statues to grope?
Statues that are only slightly larger than life-size.
Are there any famous statues in the statue groping community? I imagine David’s quite high on the list?
I tried to grope the official David, but David's on a pedestal and security are dicks about cameras. Fortunately, Italy has about 999 other David replicas sprinkled around the country. I think the best statues to grope are those sculptures whose participants are already engaged in gropes. You can work your way in and create a statue grope orgy.
Any advice to would-be statue gropers?
Don't be shy. You know you wanna...
One other poster, Kjoneslol, did add, "You're taking us far too seriously". And when I approached one of the moderators of the group, complaining about the lack of response from the statue groping community, he/she replied, "I was afraid of that. This sub has kinda died, which is why I wanted to mod it, to try and bring it back to its former glory. But, to be frank, I've always seen r/statuegropers as a gag. People taking suggestive pictures with statues are funny to me, and I sorta like the idea of a fake-ish fetish poking fun at some of the serious fetish subreddits. Keep trying, I wish there was more to say, but to me, it's always been just a silly joke with funny pictures." But then he/she added, "Try submitting some pics of you and a statue. That will get a response."
Look, I can see the fun, "silly joke side" of it, of course. But - and you can call me old fashioned here - I've never sexually assaulted a statue for the sake of a funny photo. And when you Google the subject, some of the gropers have climbed fucking high, risking their necks to snare their petrified victims. Also, some of the expressions look a bit too much like "utter glee". Yeah... I'm unconvinced. I think it's a grey area that's all ha-ha fun and games on the surface. Then at home later, when no one's looking, who knows what goes on.
Either way, when a statue groper's kicking back between gropes, do you think they're unwinding to something like this?
Monday, April 18, 2011
Did the time warp this Saturday at 100 Club in Oxford Street, watching The Sex Pistols Experience. The lineup: Johnny Rotter, Kid Vicious, Steve Clones and Paul Crook...
Johnny Rotter was the most convincing. The dude played it so well you wonder who he is on his days off. "You're entertaining me, not the other way around", he said to crowd with mad Johnny Rotten eyes, moving around the stage just like the real thing (minus the Country Life). "I'm getting paid to be a cunt, you lot are doing it for free".