Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Go into Bright, Find the Light

When Lieven Bertels, atistic coordinator of the Holland Festival in Amsterdam approached me last January here in NYC and commissioned a new live score from me for the Netherlands Film Museum's beautifully restored new 35mm print of Abel Gance's silent anti-war masterpiece "J'Accuse" (1919, I jumped at the chance..

To be composed in collaboration with the young Dutch-Iranian composer Reza Namavar and the Ensemble Cameleon, a modern Amsterdam-based new music aggregation led by Wilmar Devisser and boasting the talents of such neo-classical stars as violinist/violist Emi Ohi Resnick, his offer to work on this film score to a monumental albeit little-seen film seemed a marvelous challenge which I rose to meet eagerly...

Now I had known Lieven since he had booked me with "The Golem" in a venue in Belgium back in the early 90's...and I'd heard of this infamous film by the legendary (but still relatively obscure to the general public) and still controversial French director Gance, whose lengthy restored "Napoleon" had played at Radio City Music Hall in the mid-80's under the auspices of Francis Ford Coppolla, with a symphonic score by his father Carmine...in fact I recall the young cinefantastiqueophiliac Joe Dante (when but a fan, pre-"Gremlins") list "J'Accuse" in his account of the hundred scariest horror films of all time in an article entitled "Dante's Inferno", which ran in the pages of my favorite horror film magazine of the 60's, "Famous Monsters of Filmland", issue #18 to be precise...and there he described the penultimate sequence of "J'Accuse", when the dead from World War I obey on command the voice of another living-dead soldier to rise up and walk the earth once more ("Levez-vous!" Levez-vous!"), their maimed wretched bandaged legions rising up off the blood-soaked earth to stalk and shuffle right off the battlefield in a ghoulish phalanx of zombielike reanimated corpses, to evetually march beneath l'Arc du Triomph--in an unsettling fantastic precursor to actual newsreel footage of the Nazis doing the same some 20-odd years later--and on into the French countryside, returning to the homes of their loved ones to glare balefully at them through cottage windows, to check on whether their surviving family members have been ethical and honorable spouses and family members in their death-absence...an absolutely chilling and horrific sequence, albeit from a film I'd never seen till very recently, only had heard described (like my first close encounter with "The Golem", which I also first read about and seen stills from in the ages of FM--my appetite ha been whetted)...

"J'Accuse" premiere, Holland Festival 2009, 6/24/09

click to enlarge | photos by Bram Belloni

The film, though running close to 3 hours, was just as intense and worthy of attention as I'd heard upon finally viewing it on DVD...and over the last few months I began working on the score intensively, in tandem with Reza and Wilmar, who became constant telephone companions as we correlated scenes together and argued over who would score which sequence, here was a lot of give and take here to be sure...lovely Japanese-Jewish Emi Ohi Resnick was in town in April for a concert with a Dutch string quartet she plays in and it gave me the opportunity to go into the studio and put down violin parts over the title sequence music which I had composed on my 1946 Gibson J-45, you can hear my title music demo recorded by my guy Jason Candler (and also some of Reza's music for the Ensemble Cameleon...and more from me) here in a sequence of music from the film which previewed in the pages of the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant last week in the run-up to the actual "J'Accuse" premiere held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights June 23rd and 24th in the Rabozaal of the Staddschouwburg in Amsterdam...

Joris, Wilmar, Sonja, Gary, Emi, Floris, Andrew, Reza and Bart at the "J'Accuse" premiere, Holland Festival 2009, Staddschouwburg Amsterdam, 6/24/09

At Cafe Stanislavsky before "J'Accuse" at the Holland Festival, Amsterdam, 6/24/09
Gary & the Ensemble Camelon w/ collaborator Reza Namavar
l to r: Floris Mijnders (cello), Reza, moi, Andre Heuvelman (trumpet), Joris Ven Rijn (violin), Emi Ohi Resnick (violin, viola), Wilmar Devisser (bass), Sonja Van Beek (violin), Bart De Vrees (perc)


click to enlarge

Suffice to say, it was a stone gas and an honour for me to work on the score with such talented and sympathetic folks at the EC and Reza, we really bonded almost instantly from the time I arrived there for rehearsals (the first one--an 8 hour balabusta--landed smack dab on my birthday, June 20th!!) with the guys and gals (Wilmar on bass conducted the Ensemble, whose members comprise Emi, lovely Sonja Van Beek on violin, Joris Ven Rijn violin, Bart De Vrees percussion, Andrew Heuvelman trumpet, and Floris Mijnders cello)...I took a break in the middle of this rehearsal to race off to De Bijenkorf Deprtment Store in the Daam Square of downtown Amsterdam to play a medley of my music for the film on electric guitar in a relatively hothouse-like show window devoted to events occurring during the Festival (which had a spectacular variety to it over several weeks--including a concers by Antony of Antony and The Johnsons with the Metropole Orchestra, a fim/text/theater multi-media piece entitled The Antonioni Project based on work by the celebrated Italian director, a new version of the opera "Carmen", and much more), Paul B and Esther and their daughter Bibiche were on hand to catch this and Paul snapped a few shots during my performance...

Appearance at De Bijenkorf in Amsterdam, June 2009

click to enlarge | photo by Esther B

At the B-hive (De Bienkorf, Amsterdam) with my driver/roadie Chris Sommers from the Holland Festival, June 2009

Outside the Staddschouwburg in the newly opened Rabozaal after 'J'Accuse' rehearsal, Amsterdam, June 2009

Sonja Van Beek of the Cameleon Ensemble and Gary at 'J'Accuse' rehearsal, June 2009

Gary and Reza Namavar in "J'Accuse" rehearsals, June 2009

Gary and co-founder and conductor of the Cameleon Ensemble Wilmar Devisser discuss the finer points of their "J'Accuse" score monster, June 2009

click to enlarge | photos by Paul B

Anyway the premiere was a total dream, the audience (sold-out both nights in a venue that held 500 capacity) sat spellbound througout the 3 hours in total silent concentration on the film and our music, you couldnt hear the proverbial pin drop--and then rose spontaneously both nights to give us a standing ovation!! What a thrill it was indeed...and I can't wait to play the work again with my fellow collaborators, our interaction on sections of the film were truly magical, and I am haunted by the spectral images of "J'Accuse" now till the rest of my days, they are burned in my consciousness forever along with the music we created for it...thanks so much again to Pierre Audi, Artistic Director of the Holland Festival, and of course to Lieven Bertils and Sigi Geisler and Dejoere Dejong and all the other talented and sympathetic people who were involved in this undertaking.--THANK YOU for believing in the dream...

Gary Lucas, June 2009

click to enlarge | photos by Bram Belloni

and then it was goodbye Amsterdam, hello Malaga!!

Wonderful town, my first time there, a tropical paradise in fact nestled on the Costa Brava in southern Spain, home to my friend, journalist, suthor and agent Hector Marquez and his lovely wife Eliezer (an excellent photographer, in the tradition of Dare Wright)...

Hector having hooked up my show at the Valladolid Film Festival last fall outdid himself with the preparations for this gig, and really laid on the charm--4 nights in a lovely beachside hotel overlooking the ocean nd lavish feasts at his favorite restaurants on the beach, in typical southern style beginning post 11pm round midnight...succulent feasts of fried fish, calamares, calamaritos...mmmmmmmmmmmm (and I never was much of a fish eater truth to tell...until Now...couldn't resist gobbling breaded sardines and white fish roasted on spits over an open fire)...and really enjoyed conversing with Hector's charming friends...including Isaki Lacuesta and his wife Isa Campos, Isaki has made a superb documentary about the legendary Gypsy singer El CamarĂ³n de la Isla entitled "La Leyenda del Tiempo (The Legend of Time)", in which a Japanese woman visits the singer's birthplace yearning to discover the secret of his style...I was first turned onto "The Shrimp"'s fantastic music by my friend the great Dutch painter Joep Ver back in the early 90's, and have been an enormous fan of his music ever since...

Before closing the Malaga Film Fest with "The Golem", Malaga Spain 6/26/09

photo by Hector Marquez | click to enlarge

Another oceanside feast brought forth the company of Hector's friends the celebrated Spanish novelist Jose Antonio Garriga, and his lovely wife, Blanca Machuca, a professor of scenography (theatrical design)...they were both en route to Venezuela to attend a conference on the work of one of my favorite writers, Roberto Bolano organized by Bolano's widow...such charming conversationalists all, I found their company remarkably invigorating...

and as for the gig??

YEAHHHHHH....(I miss Malaga!!)

I closed the Malaga Film Festival with "The Golem" to a resounding ovation from the audience...such warm and friendly folks in Malaga, such erudite questions and observations on the music and the film at the evening's end...it was a wonderful climax to my 10 day trip to Europe, made even more piquant by the visit to Malaga of my friends the amazing and lovely vocalist Marina Conti from Rome, and the fantastic producer/recording engineer Harold Burgon and his lovely wife Kate, who came to Malaga from Harold's recording studio down the road apiece in Granada for the show, we all went out to a Turkish fast food restaurant off the beach at 1am afterwards (well that was the only restaurant that remained open at that hour!) and had a fun old time of it reminiscing (Harold engineered my earliest records with Rolo McGinty of The Woodentops, including "Skin the Rabbit" and "Astronomy Domine" back in the mid 80's, and recently remixed "Coming Clean" for me) and scheming for the future...

Back home in NYC now for less than a day...relaxing with Caroline and Lulu (hah!!)...

Tonight I'm off to fly to Sao Paulo Brazil, to close the 1st International Fantasy Film Festival of Sao Paulo-SP Terror with "The Golem"...

I also am recording a solo performance for the Brazilian Pop Load website and their radio show Poploaded while there...

and then it's off to Bogota Colombia next week, for a mystery recording date and a performance with...

well...

wouldn't you like to know???

Keep watching this space :-)


xxLove


Gary

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Know that Friends Don't Mind Just How Grow

Electricitee de la musique:

Gods and Monsters 20th Anniversary Show at the lovely Gramercy Theater on 23rd Street last Thursday night June 11th was a stone gas, a celebration of my hard working band guys Ernie Brooks, Billy Ficca, Jason Candler and Joe Hendel, and some very cool friends (Alan Vega, Lenny Kaye, Jon Spencer, Dean Bowman, Peter Stampfel, Mike Edison, and compere/singer Dusty Wright)--a testimony once again to the power of music to lift and transport the collective audience (as well as a yrs truly--I was in a kind of enjoyable trance throughout, it was truly like a dream reeling off nearly two and half hours of music with only a 10 min. break/change 'o clothes in such a fantastic old theater setting, with the best lighting and sound--yeah!!)...

You can read a review of it here, from CultureCatch.com.

Jon Spencer joins Gods and Monsters at their 20th Anniversary Show for "The Train Kept a Rollin'", Gramercy Theater NYC 6/11/09

photo by Yvonne Ericson | click to enlarge

Mike Edison, Ernie Brooks, Gary, Billy Ficca, Dusty Wright, Jon Spencer, Lenny Kaye, Jason Candler, and Joe Hendel, Gods and Monsters 20th Anniversary Show @ Gramercy Theater NYC 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

"One Man's Meat" goes down a treat, Gods and Monsters 20th Anniversary Show, Gramercy Theater NYC 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gods and Monsters 20th Anniversary Blow-Out at Gramercy Theater NYC 6/11/09

photo by Howard Thompson | click to enlarge

Gods and Monsters 20th Anniversary Blow-Out at Gramercy Theater NYC 6/11/09

photo by Howard Thompson | click to enlarge

Gary Lucas, Jon Spencer, Jason Candler, Gods and Monsters 20th Anniversary Show @ Gramercy Theater NYC 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gary Lucas, Jon Spencer, Jason Candler, Gods and Monsters 20th Anniversary Show @ Gramercy Theater NYC 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

In the house were Giorgio Gomelsky, Danny Fields, Howard Thompson, Steve Paul, Jane Friedman, Caroline, Glenn Kenny and Claire, Tiffany Barbarash, Paul Mauceri, Ricky Ohrbach (who threw a great pre-gig party for the band at his loft near the Gramercy), Yvonne Ercison, Mark Larson, Jerry Roche, Sally Kirkland, Nicole Kafka, Kenny and Mi Ling, Peter Bull, Betsy Wollheim, and a host of other friends and supporters who will probably kick me for leaving out their names here but these are the first come to mind, the place was packed and they were applauding and cheering throughout (loudly)...I am too knackered to write a full blow-by-blow account of it as I am running to finish stuff before catching a plane for Amsterdam, (wait for some fan clips to surface on YouTube)...meanwhile you can see a clip of me and Alan performing our new song "Life Kills" from the show here at North Fork Sound, thanks to Howard Thompson...and there are or will be photos galore posted by Tanya herein by Howard, Michaela Warren, and the wonderful Michel Delsol who shot a centerfold pic of me back in the day (1992) for the Village Voice, and who was covering all the action at this one :-)...

Gary solo, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Howard Thompson | click to enlarge

Gary and Alan Vega, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gary and Dean Bowman (Chase the Devil), Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gary and Lenny Kaye, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gary solo, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gary and Dean Bowman (Chase the Devil), Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Just back from dinner at Alfama, our favorite Portuguese restaurant down the road apiece, with Caroline and our old friend the extremely lovely Melissa Mars, in town from Paris for a few weeks, Melissa is a very very talented singer, actress and collaborator (I wrote a song with her called "Little Blue" that graced her last album on French Universal) and she is about to star in a new musical--"Mozart l'Opera Rock"--opening in Paris in September in the 4000 seater Palais des Sports... based on the life of Mozart, it's directed by Olivier Dahan, who helmed that great "Piaf" biopic starring Marion Cotillard last year...and the musical features Melissa as Mozart's first love, the one who breaks his heart (naturellement)...

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary show we got all kinds of good press notices in NYC , and I did some media jaunts, did a promo solo acoustic taping one afternoon at Time Out New York's retro-fitted capacious hang during the office lunch break which you can check out on their music website "The Volume" here...and Jason Gross wrote a nice preview of our show in the mag itself complete with colour photo here...The New Yorker weighed in with a feature pick as well in The Nightlife section courtesy of John Donohue...and Jason and I skipped the light fandango down to WBAI's estimable studios at midnight one night after rehearsal's to guest on the legendary Bob Fass' Radio Unnameable show as a duo...

Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gary solo, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gary solo, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Howard Thompson | click to enlarge

Gary solo, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Howard Thompson | click to enlarge

Gary solo, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Howard Thompson | click to enlarge

Gary solo, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Michel Delsol | click to enlarge

Gary and Peter Stampfel, Gods and Monsters 20th anniversary show, 6/11/09

photo by Howard Thompson | click to enlarge

I'll write more about the anniversary show itself in subsequent blogs, meanwhile extra special thanks to Harvey Leeds and Matt Saril at Headquarters, and all the folks at Live Nation...Harvey invited me out Wed. night this week to see this hot new all female band from Norway called Katzenjammer do their set at the Mercury Lounge, they were a big hit at SXSW this year--and they were incredible, kind of like Gogol Bordello meets Abba, the four lissome lasses could sing up a storm, they harmonized together beautifully, and tossed and switched their instruments to each other during the set effortlessly...check out their new single "A Bar in Amsterdam" for a really good time (where I'm heading tomorrow night...to Amsterdam, that is--not a bar!)...

Meanwhile Karl Lippegaus at national German radio Deutschlandfunk devoted a 2 hour show to my music on June 6th, check out the playlist here, he spun a fair amount from my new album with Najma Akhtar, "Rishte", which is out this week (finally! good things are always worth waiting for) in the UK and Europe on World Village/Harmonia Mundi...and what terrific reviews it's getting: 4 stars in MOJO as well as fRoots, we got a Top of the World pick in the new Songlines, and this week the Financial Times gave it 5 Stars!! The first French review has surfaced too in Haute Fidelite, where it received 4 stars...and the news from Down Under is equally celebratory, as we scored a rave in Cyclic Defrost music magazine...and today (I mean yesterday!) in Australia, "Rishte" was selected as the Featured CD of the Day on National Australian Radio network ABC...

And the best is yet to come...wait till Najma and I hit the boards with this music again (keeo watching this space!)...

Have to turn in now, big day tomorrow, traveling to Amsterdam to perform a new live score written in collaboration with Dutch-Iranian composer Reza Namavar and the Cameleon Ensemble under the baton of Wilmar Devisser, and featuring violinist par excellence Emi Ohi Resnick to accompany a screening of Abel Gance's 1924 silent anti-war masterpiece "J'Accuse"...UK Film Historian Kevin Brownlow (*"The Parade's Gone By") will be there to introduce the film too...we do three days intensive rehearsal and then next Tuesday and Wed. June 23rd and 24th we will hold forth at the grand Staddschouwburg for the world premiere...expect instrumental fireworks (natuurlijk), percussive thunder, and electronic fugues and fantasias in surround-sound (yes, it will be a very 3D, very visceral presentation...set the Azimuth Coordinator for the heart of the sun)...

then it's off to the sultry Gold Coast of Spain to close the Malaga Film Festival with "The Golem"...

then home to NYC for one day only...

before I head to Sao Paulo Brazil to close the 1st International Fantasy Film Festival of Sao Paulo-SP Terror with "The Golem"...

and then...

(when the time is right.

all shall be revealed...

for your ears only!)


xxLove


Gary

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