Friday, October 21, 2005

I Found It at the Movies

Been hitting a spate of current and not/so current films here whilst recharging for my next trip abroad (rehearsals with Future Sound of London next week in London for several giant rave festivals we're playing Down Under at the end of November), so herewith some random observations on the current crop 'o celluloid on display in Manhattan (and otherwise):

"Domino"--I've had a, ummm, soft spot for Keira Knightley, okay, ever since she sashayed her way through the magnificent "Pirates of the Caribbean" (by the way, I nudged Caroline within 10 seconds of Johnny Depp's entrance in that one with "He's doing Keith Richards!!" in a loud whisper that got some folks sitting in front of us turning heads, annoyed...o deah!)...and she's pretty f'ing hot in this one, as proto-punk suicide gurll Domino Harvey (be still my heart) although if truth be told Tony Scott ever so predictably pulls every CGI and Avid trick out of the music video playbook for a de rigeur trippy retinal assault (ho hum) that more or less renders the material, undoubtedly an interesting story, fairly incomprehensible...would that they had used Laurence Harvey's classic turn from "Butterfield 8" in the interstitial film-within-a-film filler instead of "The Manchurian Candidate"...but Keira Knightley brings so much heat and light to the film that she eclipses the frou frou myriad visual fripperies, you (well I do) just want to stay glued to her every move, facial expression, tic (okay, down boy)...great cast, too, Mickey Rourke really did a transformer kind of number on himself over the years with his various surgeries plastique and now really looks in the flesh like the cartoon character Robert Rodriquez rotoscoped into "Sin City", he's transmogrified his voice too into a gruff whiskey-and-cigarettes kind of guttural growl, he's pumped and way way cool and it makes you want to forgive and forget early juvenalia like his attempt at doing Bukowski in "Barfly" ( a tad better than Ben Gazzara's in "Tales of Ordinary Madness")...he really is possessed now of a De Niroesque, "Ronin"-like gravitas and is certainly the most compelling action figure out there today for my money (sorry Vin). Fantastic title sequence too.

"Where the Truth Lies"--I generally dig the work of director Atom Egoyan (named in homage to nuclear physics, no lie), particularly "Exotica", but this one really left me cold, a very unstable mix of noir tropes, a hackneyed sex and murder plot by Rupert ("The PIna Colada Song", oy vey) Holmes, and the very unfunny stylings of a supposed classic comedy duo loosely based on Martin and Lewis (Kevin Bacon is no Jerry Lewis by a long stretch--he does however here get to sing an obscure Richard Berry tune--was it "Rockin' Man"?--in the telethon sequence. Who came up with that one?? Kudos for their excellent good taste). Speaking of telethons, there is an oh-so-curious Dylan DVD bootleg making the rounds consisting of a yarmulke'd Bob performing in the 80's and early 90's at several tv marathon fundraisers for the Lubavitcher charity Chabad--one time in the company of his nephew Peter Himmelman and Harry Dean Stanton (under the group aegis "Chopped Liver", Dylan a' bobbing and a' weaving and a' tootling on recorder, fer pete's sake, not that far afield from Robin Williamson come to think of it--or "Ruby Tuesday" period Brian Jones)-- and another time backing up the putative next governor of Texas, Kinky Friedman, on electric geetar in a rendition of the Kinkster's classic "Sold American". Surreal beyond the pale...

"A History of Violence"--David Cronenberg is probably right to get all exercised about the current appropriation of the title of his great filmed version of JG Ballard's seminal book "Crash" by another director for a completely different film, but as we all know (some learn the hard way), you can't copyright a any case, DC is always worth watching, and this one makes it by a whisker into the positivo side of the plus-minus spectrum, good cast (particularly Ed Harris and Maria Bello), good over-the-top yet tasteful violence (whaaa? a contradiction in terms, I know), and a spectacular appearance by uber-WASP William Hurt near the end of the flick doing Dustin Hoffmann's current ultra-Jewish schtick to a T (circa "Meet the Fockers"...I'm not kidding, the accent, the mannerisms, check it out). The screen really comes alive at that point. Makes the whole film (derived from a comic book?? sorry, "graphic novel"), which was going nowhere fast, absolutely worth watching.

"Manderlay"--I saw this (well, partially) in Amsterdam a couple weeks ago in a great old deco cinema near Prinseneiland. But I have to confess I walked out after the first 20 minutes. I love early Lars Von Trier (particularly "Medea" with superstar Udo Keir, also "Epidemic" and "The Element of Crime"), but have found his oeuvre increasingly hard to sit through since "Dancer in the Dark". The neo-Brechtian theatrical strategems are just so tedious and second-hand, the facile anti-Americanism (like racism isn't rampant in the rest of the world? Puh-leeeeeeeze) particularly offensive from a guy who's never set foot in this country...and despite the presence of my pal Willem Dafoe in this, I couldn't wait to go out and get some fresh air.

"Capote"--Best film I've seen all year (well, the new Wallace and Gromit is also pretty damn good.. .what a drag about the fire in their Bristol warehouse). Philip Seymour Hoffman is surely one of the finest actors working today (I loved his bit in "The Talented Mr. Ripley"), and here he nails TC to the cross with just a hint, a soupcon, of John Candy's Dr. Tongue character from SCTV (which was partially an admixture of Capote and Vincent Price to begin with).

Speaking of my fellow Yalie Vincent Price, by all means check out the new DVD double bill reissue of "Panic in the Year Zero" (showed this at Yale in '73, a Ray Milland 50's "Day After"-type survivalist flick), backed with "The Last Man on Earth", the superb early 60's Italian version of Richard Matheson's apocalypso vampire novel "I Am Legend", later to be butchered beyond recognition as "The Omega Man" w/Charlton Heston..."Last Man on Earth" is one of Vincent Price's finest hours, the futuristic apartment tower from Antonioni's "L'Eclisse" turns up in it as well (shout-out to Glenn Kenny!), and the new DVD edition is a far better print entirely than the one used for an earlier cheapo disc that paired it with William Castle's great "House on Haunted Hill" (still one of my favorites)--"Last Man On Earth" is just a classic horror film, and clearly the ur-inspiration for George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead". It impressed the hell out of me as a boy, particularly the scene where Price, holed up behind the barricades of his suburban tract house, lights a cigarette, pours himself a stiff one, and (the apotheosis of existential cool) throws some hard-bop on the stereo to drown out the incessant baying of the vampire ghouls outside calling for his blood: "Morgan, come out! Come ouuut!! MORGAN!" I sampled this for the end of my song "Vampire Circus" on "Bad Boys of the Arctic". One of Don Van Vliet's favorite films incidentally (he was also partial to "The Honeymoon Killers", and the Mexican "El Baron del Terror", a/k/a "The Brainiac").

okay, bye!




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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Peel Before Using

Today is the first anniversary of John Peel's death, and it's officially John Peel Day in the UK where he was deservedly regarded as a national treasure (think they'd have such a day here to commemorate the likes of...uh...Wolfman Jack?...Dr. Demento??...Phil Schaap??? Nah, not very likely...Dick Clark probably will get his briliantined mug on a stamp though one day).

In any case, I only met Peel once when The Magic Band played on his show a year or so ago at Maida Vale Studios in London, we had a good chat (told him I was a big Dandelion Records fan, citing Siren, Stackwaddy, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre and Bridget St. John as amongst my faves; he seemed apologetic as the label hadn't exactly set the world on fire, but hey, they certainly promulgated some classic sides plus there is that excellent label sampler "There Is Some Fun Going Forward" featuring Peel's naked bod in the bath with a young nubile on the cover...a model, "definitely not the Pig", he told me)-- and I laid a selection of my solo albums on him (handed him a bunch in a polythene laundry bag from the Swiss Cottage Hotel with the words: "Here's some of my dirty laundry...". He smiled, and later spun both "The Mad World" from The Edge of Heaven and "It's Like a Wheel" from Street of Lost Brothers on his show before passing onto that great gig in the sky...)

anyway he was truly a gentleman and a great force for good in music (fantastic booster for Beefheart and Kevin Coyne, both of whom I was honored to work with...and for The Magic Band; in fact, besides having us on his show--check the group photo from our session on my website in the pictures section--John Peel did the narration for Elaine Sheperd's brilliant DVD about the MB reunion project, available at, check it out!). You can read more about JP at Elaine is hard at work now on a BBC documentary about the hidden treasures lurking inside Peel's private record collection.



Blogger Andrew Thomas said...

John Peel was the best champion of UK unsigned bands, and I'm doing my best to carry on that tradition.

On my blog you can download a selection of free music from new unsigned UK bands:

10/14/2005 6:28 AM  
Blogger Blue Turtle said...

Classifications are over rated when you have the poor musician writing folk-world/beat/jazzy/funky experiential existensial -

11/06/2005 11:37 AM  

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Monday, October 10, 2005

What a long strange trip (the road never ends...)

How appropriate to revisit my recent European sojourns on Columbus Day! (okay, faux Columbus Day...Columbus Day "observed").

As I wrote in the program notes to a tribute concert to saxophonist/composer Steve Lacy I played at Lincoln Center here on Thursday last, "In Steve Lacy's music we find a total meltdown of European, Asian and African influences (a true American)."
(All roads lead to Coca-Cola, as Don Van Vliet was fond of saying...)

so back to the front of the middle of my last tour:

the day after playing Pascal Plantinga's hardcore electronica show on VPRO radio I hopped a fast train to Paris ( the Thalys) to play a solo acoustic show at the Sunset club in Les Halles. My gig was a pick in "Liberation" that day and I had the good fortune of being joined for the first set by longtime Gods and Monsters bassist Ernie Brooks, who was in town for a gig with Rhys Chatham. So the audience at the first set that night were treated to an unannounced convocation of Gods and Monsters unplugged minus one (o where are you now Billy boy, Billy boy?)...Paris was wonderful as always, brilliant summer sunshine held sway throughout my 2 day stay...and I had a lovely reunion with Elli Medeiros who was hard at work in the studio on a new album with French superstar Etienne Daho producing. Elli is a national treasure in France since the days when she fronted seminal Gallic punk rockers the Stinky Toys and was featured on the cover of the NME; she had a huge hit with the anthem "Toi Mon Toit", and she is an old old friend, we've collaborated on several songs together (check out the sultry "Dulce" from "Improve the Shining Hour") including a song on my forthcoming new Gods and Monsters album. Elli looked quite radiant, as always, time seems to stand still for Elli, and I am really glad to see her back in music after some time spent in the film business (and on the arm of Brian De Palma).

Paris always puts a song in my heart... I spent my first night there working to the wee hours of the morning in the home studio of Israeli/Parisien singer Yael Naim, a wonderful vocalist and songwriter who is finishing up a new album. Yael was a principal in the musical "Les Dix Commandments" which ran for ages in Paris and she released a terrific album for French Sony a few years back, "In a Man's Womb" (great title, non?)--her new one is shaping up to be quite extraordinary, and I played my heart out for her on my National steel. She cooked me an excellent dinner as well, which helped the silvery notes pour forth:-)

Paris is also an extraordinary magnet for chance meetings, and I had some quite unexpected reunions in Paris, literally being recognized on the street sipping my cafe au lait one morning by Christophe Piot, a music publisher friend I hadn't seen in ages (and one of the good guys), and also later that evening, literally on the same street (the infamous rue St. Denis) I ran into beautiful Julia Dorner, the epitome of haute French cool, a music journalist and translator of folks like Nik Cohen and Nick Tosches, and a singer in her own right (we did a song live onstage together a few years ago with the French band Tanger whom I was co-producing for Mercury)--I was outside on the street after my Sunset gig chatting to friends and fans and Julia came dashing by with her motorcyle helmet under her arm, we locked eyes, and...

the next day I flew to London where I was picked up by Mark Cosgrove from the Bristol Watershed Media Centre, he drove me directly up to Bristol after we stopped by the Swiss Cottage Hotel to pick up my electronics and '66 Strat which I had jettisoned there for a couple weeks, I really didn't need them for my acoustic gigs on the continent. I spent 2 delightful days up in Bristol with Mark and Bristol Silents director Chris Daniels, the first night we checked out a haunted house out in the country, an old hunting lodge festooned with macabre trappings, kitted up with spooky lights and fog machines and lots of trippy boys and girls larking about on a magical mystery tour that was part of the kickoff opening ceremonies for the silent film festival I was there to play. They were screening Val Lewton's "I Walked with a Zombie" with a live improvised soundtrack out in the garden, way way cool...

the next day I met and had a nice chat with Adrian Utley, one of the brilliant lights behind one of my favorite UK bands Portishead, and Adrian came round to my Golem performance that night, which was TOTALLY SOLD-OUT! Yeahhhh!!

Also in attendance was Gerard Langley from The Blue Aeroplanes, another musician friend I hadn't seen in ages...both Adrian and Gerard have new albums coming out soon, watch for them...and thanks again to Mark and Steve for making my time in Bristol (where the kids are sharp as a pistol) so memorable and for organizing such a successful concert.

The following day I was driven by Chris up to Lancashire to perform The Golem in an old theater in Lancaster, in front of another packed house, and I had a wonderful but brief look round the old stone city, before hightailing it back to the hotel to catch the last half hour of the first night of the Bob Dylan doc screening on the Beeb from under the canopy of a 4 poster bed...beautiful. Then a day off in London, where I hooked up with singer/songwriter Greg Byler who laid a copy of his new album on me which had an outstanding mix by producer Harold Burgon of "Sophrenic Days", the track I worked on with Greg and Jack McKeever in NYC last spring. I also managed to watch the complete second half of the Dylan doc undisturbed, and was happy to see John Cohen from the New Lost City Ramblers being interviewed in it (I cut some songs with his daughter Sonya Cohen some years ago, on "Bad Boys of the Arctic"), and also to see my man ace Dylanologist Mitch Blank get a nice credit at the end (as "hypnotist collector"! )

Next night, thanks to a hot tip from Chris Daniel's eighty-something year old Dad, I went with my guy Gaz Cobain and his girlfriend Dian Harris to Royal Albert Hall to see RAY DAVIES perform new and old songs, so appropriate because if you read back these last couple tour blogs you will note the music of the Kinks wafting in and out of my entries; and Ray was excellent indeed, the place was nearly sold-out with very little advertising for the gig, and he played such an amazing set including a suite from "Village Green Preservation Society" and some of my favorite songs I dont think I'd ever heard him play before ("Two Sisters", "I'm Not Like Everybody Else", "Where Have All the Good Times Gone"...). Utterly wonderful. (Although if truth be told I didnt actually love his band...needed keyboards for starters...and the absence of Dave Davies was definitely felt). But his new songs from an EP called "The Tourist" sounded good, first new Ray songs in...a decade? A long long time, in any case. The crowd was roaring and on their feet by the end, and I only wish my buddy and fellow Kinks fancier Francis McCarthy, with whom I made a pilgramage to RAH last spring to see the Cream reunion there, could have been present to see Ray redux. What a cool night it was, Gaz's new album "Alice in Ultra-land" (with guitar contributions from yours truly) had literally just come out that day under the aegis of 'Future Sound of London presents the Amorphous Androgynous' on EMI/Harvest, and what a nice way to celebrate...also bumped, into the writer Eddi Fiegel in the bar at Albert Hall, her new biography of Mama Cass Elliot has just come out worldwide, I first met Eddi a couple years ago at Brian Wilson's "Smile" at Royal Festival Hall and it was really good to see her again in the flesh as we've been email buddies for a while now...

Then it was a quick flight up to the shimmering granite city Aberdeen Scotland early the next morning where my friend Hen Beverly, booker of The Tunnels, had organized a tour of ancient standing stone sites, ley lines, and the spooky old Castle Fraser (looking much like Hill House from my favorite horror film of all time bar none, the original "The Haunting"--shame about Robert Wise's passing by the way, most obits I read didn't even mention this 1962 classic). Hen knew of my interest in such phenomena and actually he'd been an advisor and contributing photographer to Julian Cope's epic 2 volume tome about magickal olde Englande so he had prepared an amazing trip round the exquisite Scottish countryside via mini-Cooper and we spent a grand afternoon under the majestic blue windswept Scottish skies which alternated furious rain squalls with vivid otherworldly cloud formations, it was such a splendid treat dodging rain drops and whizzing about primeval stone circles (the Magic Band had paid our respects to Stone Henge on the last tour, and my Irish tour manager Larry Roddy had also taken me round several standing stone sites a couple years ago during an acoustic tour of the Emerald Isle), really neat climbing the twisted battlements of Castle Fraser and inspecting the mouldering library (and artifical leg on display) of one of its ancient denizens...and then, fully satiated, Hen casually let drop over tea and chocolate cake in the castle tea-room that my guys Alabama 3 were performing in Aberdeen that night, and did I fancy sitting in with them? A quick call to the Lemon Tree club where they were due to perform before a sold-out house and there I was a few hours later sitting in with the lads onstage doing my steel guitar thing on "Have You Seen Bruce Richards", a choice cut about The Great Train Robbery from their new album "Outlaw" which I had recorded in the studio with them a couple years ago, a song about Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind of that famous heist (Bruce Reynolds' son actually plays harp in the group). We had a nice reunion before the gig and I joined them for a killer Chinese meal down the road from the club, I really hope Rob and Jake and the guys continue to shine on and light the lights as they are a great band and deserve to be much better known (by some weird stroke of bad luck neither the group nor their song "Woke Up this Morning", the longtime theme to The Sopranos, is credited to the band at the end of that show, which is a damn shame, as their song is so closely identified with The Sopranos and really makes that show...check out my unplugged version with Alabama 3 at the top of my website).

The next night it was my turn to play solo steel guitar at the Tunnels, and I had twice the audience there as 6 months ago there, and received 4 encores, the crowd was mad for more--after which I begged off (my Dad told me "always leave them wanting more"), and so to, I love Aberdeen! Scottish people are so warm and friendly...big hug to Hen for organizing such a good knee's up!

I flew back to London early the next day and was invited by my Russian friends at the last minute to a wild party held on 5 adjacent house boats on the Thames at tony Cheyne Walk off the King's Road near Keef and Clapton's abodes..and I was invited to play solo electric guitar after the designated band had I spent my last night on this tour of tours playing loud bluesy electric slide solos at 2am from the forecastle of one boat to a bunch of tipsy 24-hour party people who were rocking and reeling to my groove in the adjacent boat, including my pals Yuliana and Alec and the legendary Stevo from SomeBizarre...and they were twisting the night away so hard their boat looked in danger of capsizing....

and it felt so good...




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Monday, October 03, 2005

Giving to You (I'll Let You Be in My Blog If I Can Be in Yours)

I realize there is a lengthy hiatus again from my last epistolary whistle down the wind but honestly I've been, uh, busy...back home in nyc now and will attempt to paddle backwards through the rush of time's torrents to recount some more highlights of what turned out to be my most memorable overseas tournee in ages...

return with us to those thrilling days of yesternow wherein our last episode I was wandering about the canals of Amsterdam bathed in sunlight which more or less held throughout the duration of my tour, mirabile dictu; said sunshine still holds dominion in zoo york and the streets of the west village are today clogged with men and women in short pants, romance, learn t' dance, o the merry mac dylan holdeth sway still but priketh them natures in her corages/ then longen folk to goen on pilgramages, in any case Jos Van Wissem and I sallied forth from Bruxelles by highspeed train and gave our all and then some with several more meetings of the spirit in Nijmegen (nice to see my old tour manager Laurent Sprooten and number one Dutch advocate Bas Andriessen again) and in the brand new rejiggered BimHuis, splendidly redux deluxe in the hot new Oost section of Amsterdam harbor, in immaculate condition if not conception with ace acoustics and the harbor lights a'twinkling behind us through huge plate glass windows as we played...was my first time playing in the new building, must have cost many a mill, many years to build, and worth it in my estimation, I have played the old joint a dozen times or so, and while its proximity to Nieuwmarket and canal life in general made it a very attractive gig indeed I can say honestly that this was a STEP UPWARDS in classiness...

then it was off to the heart of brightest Germany as Jozef and I traveled to Bielefeld and Halle to further cast the runes (great gigs both of them, first time in Germany in many a moon, thanks to Steffen Wilde for hooking us up)...

and I made a stop over in between to Berlin to pay my respects to and contribute some guitar for a new album being recorded by Super700, a very cool young band fronted by super-slinky chanteuse Ibadet Ramadani, her 2 lovely sisters Ilirjana and Albana, and 4 German menschen with a penchant for the experimental and the outre led by Michael Haves (find out more about them in my earlier Top 10 of 2004 blog entry)...Ibadet's family comes from Kosovo, the group is gigging alot in Germany Switzerland and France now, and they are currently being produced by Gordon Raphael of Strokes fame...we worked in a brilliant retrofitted studio that was originally a deco DDR radio facility overlooking the Spree...I chowed down on the bratwurst upon arrival (a ritual for me, can't understand how wurstchen has been superseded by doners in the hearts of the volk-- my pal Patti Smith is also hip to the brat according to her postings from Bayreuth this summer in Der Spiegel covering the Ring cycle )...

then it was back to Amsterdam to add more guitar to a live VPRO radio broadcast of my dear friend electronica artist Pascal Plantinga's showcase of material from his brilliant new Atatak album "Arctic Poppy"...Pascal is one of my oldest friends and earliest Dutch fans and in fact introduced himself to me at a gig I did in Leeuwarden in 1991 (Ween was opening for me at the Brouwershoek), he later directed and edited a fantastic video for my song "Vampire Circus" which we shot in NYC amongst the stained glass splendor of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (smuggled in a camera for that one), amidst the bloody hanging carcasses of the meat district on 14th street, on the flag-bedizened escarpment outside the UN, in the epicenter of the Times Square neon vortex, camped in front of the JP Morgan headquarters on Wall Street, and in the filmy boudoir of revolutionary sex-worker Veronica Vera (I draw a discretionary veil over the proceedings at this point :-) )... it was great to play live on the radio with his producer Kurt Dahlke a/k/a Pyrolator pumping his variable -speed sampler like no tomorrow and alongside a powerful German female percussionist whose name escapes me but it will come back (Saskia Von Klitzing--she is a dynamo!)...o yes, somewhere in there, yes between Nijmegen and the BimHuis gig, I did a day's lecturing at the Amsterdam Music Conservatorium, my second year in a row there thanks to headman Jack Pisters, students were as lively and attentive and engaging as always as I leavened my storytelling with occasional guitar punctuation... capped-off that night by a great opening-of-classes party at the Milkweg for several Amsterdam academies where the cream of young Dutch musicians held forth in singer/songerwriter mode, in rapper guise, in various punk and even big-band ensembles ... I left at 1am to be caught in a driving night rain that left me thoroughly drenched as I trekked the hour or so back to my hotel along the narrow cobbled streets and bridges 'oer the concentric eccentric circles of the grachts spiraling before me, but cared not as I was transfixed by the hypnotic beauty of the churning dark waters of the canals and the magnificent old Amsterdam cityscape illuminated by occasional flashes of lightning, which lit up the surroundings like an electrical torch, freezing the images in the misty twilight ozone...ahhhhhhhhh, I love Amsterdam!

more to follow...



ps check out Claudia Brucken and Paul Humphreys and their cool Onetwo website, go ahead, google 'em up and you're in for a spellbinding sonic treat...I love playing with these guys!


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