Urb.com: Orbital, Q&A

Interview with Orbital’s Phil Hartnoll, for Urb.com.

On June 28th, Orbital made a triumphant return to Glastonbury, the site of their famous 1994 headlining concert. Back then the helmet-lighted brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll, were among the earliest acts to bring electronic music to the festival. This year, Glasto celebrated its 40th anniversary and the Orbital brothers their 20th.

Never completely off the radar since breaking into the rave scene with the cassette-made “Chime” and “Satan” from their self-title debut in 1991, they broke up in 2004, after several albums of varying success (that included several collaborations with Alison Goldfrapp) to pursue individual projects; they reunited in 2009 for the Big Chill Festival.

Over the past few months they have been thrilling fans with a bombastic couple of new tracks, premiering them at some of the world’s bigger festivals including Winter Music Conference and Coachella. In addition to a spectacular live performance that is blowing up the internet, they have also been working on a new album, one track at a time. The complete product is loosely slated for release in early 2011. In the meantime, we caught up with Phil at home in Brighton, England, which apparently has “always been something of a party town, going back to the Victorian days.” At the time due to licensing sensitivities, we couldn’t discuss Matt Smith closing their set by joining them onstage for a “Doctor Who” inspired DJ set. But considering “Doctor?” from 2001’s The Altogether album, was a big part of their live performance, one could’ve guessed. We did manage to talk about the resurgence of electronica in pop music and how a volcano in Iceland led to nuptials far above Las Vegas.



Urb.com: Interview with Dimitri from Paris and Tom Moulton

For so many reasons, this was a special treat. Any excuse to talk to Tom Moulton about music is a good one; and Dim knows his Disco, so we all had a good time talking about the recent BBE compilation by Dimitri, Get Down With The Philly Sound. Excerpts below. Complete Q&A at Urb.com.

Part One, Intro:

All apologies to America’s favorite dancing Scientologist, but before disco was Disco, it was Philly Soul. Whereas the Motown sound was neat and the Stax sound was gritty, the Philadelphia Sound was L-U-S-H. The long introduction, the extended breakdown, the remix, the incessant fluttering hi-hats–all of these elements that mark disco and its mutations were born in Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios at 212 W. 12th Street. Opened in 1968 by engineer Joseph Tarsia, Sigma was “the second studio in the USA to offer 24-track recording and the first in the country to use console automation.” More importantly, it was home to MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother), an extended family of session musicians, arrangers, producers, mixers and engineers that included Thom Bell, Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, Gene McFadden, John Whitehead, Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris, Earl Young, Teddy Pendergrass, Tom Moulton and Walter Gibbons to name a few. Sigma is where, for most of the 1970s, Philadelphia International Records and Salsoul recorded such classics as “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now”, “Love is the Message”, “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)”, “The Love I Lost”, “Love Train”, “Love Sensation” and “Doctor Love”–again, to name just a few. It really is like the Fort Knox of Disco. Only a fool would dare break into it, right?

Enter Dimitri from Paris, 2010. Whereas many, including Philly native King Britt, have tried and failed, everyone’s favorite tuxedo-clad jet-set platter master succeeded in getting McFadden and Whitehead and Tom Moulton to hand over original master tapes. The result is Get Down with the Philly Sound, out now on BBE records. For disco connoisseurs, this is as close to a holy grail as you can get without a bullwhip, a hot blonde and a trusty sidekick. The gravitas of the situation was not lost on Dimitri. “My hands were shaking just holding the masters. And when I played them back on my tape deck and the strings kicked in, forget it–I almost lost it.”

Across the Atlantic Ocean, from his Manhattan apartment spilling over with audio reels, the cantankerous, gregarious Tom Moulton, the forefather of the remix and official archivist for Sigma, teased, “I told him, ‘If you take it out of Philadelphia, it’s not Philly Soul.’ Then I wished him luck.” The luck paid off for music lovers who are treated to a double CD of classic mixes (almost all by Moulton) and punchier edits by Dimitri. We spoke and shared a few laughs with both Dimitri and Moulton about the enduring allure of the velvety, revolutionary Philadelphia Sound, targeted mp3 viruses, the necessity of denying Larry Levan and the Curse of the Lost Remix.

Part Two, Intro:

Tom Moulton is rushing to get a package to his regular FedEx guy who keeps reminding him, “I’m double parked!” When Moulton hands over the parcel, the courier perks up, “You work for Dimitri from Paris?” “Do I WORK FOR Dimitri? You wanna come upstairs and see my gold records,” Moulton laughs. “I told Dimitri that story and he sent back a CD dedicated to the FedEx guy with a note that read, ‘Be nice to Tom. He’s one of the good guys.’” Tom Moulton is not only a good guy, he’s basically the Louis Pasteur of music mixers.

Famously credited with serendipitously pressing the first 10″ and 12″ singles on vinyl, popularizing the extended remix and being the first mixer to brand himself (and his assisting engineer Jose Rodriguez) on record sleeves, Moulton is something of a figurehead in DJ Culture. “A Tom Moulton Mix” still packs enough swagger to knock the new kids off the block with its “million dollar” production values. A former music promoter turned mixtape maker turned model, Moulton is credited with mixing some of the biggest acts and hits of the 1970s and 1980s, including the Trammps, BT Express, Grace Jones and most of the singles collected on BBE’s new Get Down with the Philly Sound compilation. Recently he’s been producing and mixing the Brand New Heavies and remixing Kings Go Forth.

As part of the special packaging, BBE is releasing “A Tom Moulton Mix” of “The Love I Lost”–on 12″ vinyl; other remixers include Francois K, Frankie Knuckles and John Morales. The original remix, reportedly long lost, has been the subject of lusty daydreams by ardent crate-diggers. “I honestly don’t know what happened to the original remix; maybe it’s in that ’secret location.’ This is an entirely new remix that I did from scratch,” Tom explains. “Dimitri asked me what I was going to do with it. I said, ‘You’ll have to wait and see!’” Then he adds, I’ll email you an mp3; tell me what you think.”


Urb Q&A: We are the World

I also interviewed Los Angeles electro-performance group We are the World for Urb recently. Excerpt below, check the rest at Urb.com.

Lady Gaga’s favorite new band, We Are The World “don’t give a fuck.” The divisive diva was so moved by their post-apocalyptic cabaret, she had to share her new found adoration with her millions of followers on Twitter this spring. Since then, WATW’s phones have been ringing off the hook. While the techno performance quartet with the eye-rolling name is giddy and grateful about the exposure, they won’t be switching up their kitchen-sink game anytime soon.

“We all have other things we do. So we can afford to make our music and performances however we want. There’s no pressure on us to do anything we don’t like,” declared frontman and film composer Robbie Wiliamson on the phone recently. Along with choreographer Ryan Heffington, burlesque dancer (and former CIA agent) Nina McNeely, and fashion designer Megan Gold, Williamson has been shaking up the fault-ridden Los Angeles underbelly, earning the troupe tours with Fuck Buttons, the Gossip and Tricky. Props have come from no less than America’s recently departed iconoclast Dennis Hopper who likened them to a spawn between Lollapalooza and the Whitney Biennial.

The group’s onstage and video antics trigger comparisons to everyone from Leigh Bowery, Yoko Ono and PJ Harvey to Planningtorock, Ratatat and Fischerspooner. A shoe boutique turned rehearsal space in el barrio seems an unlikely epicenter for an art-rock quake, until you consider that Los Angeles has been the stomping ground for provocateurs like Ron Athey, Vaginal Davis and Ann Magnuson since the 1980s. Given all the recent hype and the fact that the group just secured a larger rehearsal space, it’s starting to look like this could be the summer We are the World make good on their cheeky, eponymous threat.


Urb Review: Walter Gibbons, Jungle Music

A slightly fanboyish – gasp! – review of a recent compilation of Walter Gibbons essentials and bonus rarities, issued by Strut Records. For the good folks at Urb.com.

After Walter Gibbons died of AIDS complications at the age of 38 in 1994, his record collection was donated to charity. It no doubt contained some amazing tracks that many of us will never hear. Thanks to Strut records and their new Jungle Music compilation we can, however, enjoy some of the groundbreaking work by the kid from Queens, New York who pioneered reel-to-reel edits and drum-break beat-matching at the Galaxy 21 club in 1972. Included on Jungle Music are Gibbons’s mixes for Double Exposure’s “Ten Percent”, an unreleased mix of Dinosaur L’s “Go Bang”, Stetsasonic’s “4 Ever My Beat” and both versions of “Set It Off” by Strafe and Harlequin Fours featuring Barbara Tucker, as well as commercial cuts like Gladys Knight’s “It’s Better Than a Good Time” and rarities like Arts & Craft’s “I’ve Been Searching.” In  his later years, Gibbons found God and spent his final days alone living in a YMCA. Often overshadowed by stellar contemporaries that included David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Francois Kevorkian, Arthur Russell and of course Larry Levan, Gibbons provided an essential link between early disco, hip hop and house music. Nothing could ever match hearing Gibbons do his thing live, but Jungle Music gives the man solid props. If you’ve ever chanted, “Y’all want this party started right”, you can thank Gibbons, who often signed his work, “With Love.”

Imagination: So Good, So Right

Imagination were three UK R&B singers who conspired to make “slinky, sexy” music in the early 1980s. Their most recognizable hits are “Just an Illusion” and “Music and Lights”. Leee John, the singer had a distinctive, jazzy falsetto reminiscent of Cory Daye (Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band/Kid Creole) that glided over lushly produced and meticulously arranged synth-pop soul with a big band flair. John had previously been in the Delfonics and at one point the trio worked with the producer behind Loose Ends, another ’80s R&B synth-pop boy band. Imagination bridged late disco and early electric boogie. Their dance floor classics and lesser known ballads kept them constantly touring and racking up gold and platinum records. They were also known for wearing Greco-Roman-Egyptian garb and making videos full of quintessentially ’80s androgynous camp and subtext. Togas, sequins and Vaseline-focus lenses aside, their “slinky, sexy” brand of electronic soul still packs DJ crates and dance floors alike. And it ain’t half bad at a summer jam, either.

Urb Q & A with Ellen Allien

The interview with Ellen Allien went up on Urb.com last week. Excerpt below.

Over the last decade or so, Ellen Allien has become one of the most beloved and admired artists on the electronic music scene. In addition to recording, producing and playing all over the world as a DJ and performer, Allien has also been running Bpitch Control, (the record label she founded in 1999) and a namesake fashion line of casual, color-splashed active wear. She has often credited her enduring success to her family-minded attitude. This approach has resulted in her signing some of the most influential names in dance music and Berlin’s particularly tenacious DJ zeitgeist – Sasha Funke, Modeselektor, Apparat among them. Most recently, BPitch added trip-hop trio Jahcoozi, expressing an unmistakable desire to expand the label’s reach. Lucky for Allien, what she likes usually sells, even in these file-sharing times. Her new album is called Dust, which seems earthy enough until you notice the glamorous cover – a close up of Ellen, eyes closed serenely. She looks like a million-dollar muse sprinkled in silver. We rang her up in Berlin to talk about Dust, ghosts, drugs, how politics is personal and the perils of doing too much yoga.

Read the Q & A at Urb.com.


Shana and The Eternal Italo-Freestyle Debate

Shana wanted to share. Shana didn’t do her homework. Kids, don’t be a Shana.

Had Shana (the poster) checked Wikipedia, she would’ve been better informed on Shana (the singer). Then again, we wouldn’t have the comment battle below. Either way, thanks Shana and Shana.

Shana ‘I Want You’ is NOT Italo Disco, it’s old sckool Miami sound FREESTYLE.

Vorash,This song is ITALO DISCO.


I don’t know about it being Latino Freestyle. Take the singing and keybourd out and you have something very much like the instumental of Turbo Diesel by Albert One, and that is pure Italo.

This is not Italo Disco. Yeah, it more of Latino Freestyle. Freestyle & Italo Disco is two different animals.

its Dance-house with a Pop attitude

No, clearly an italo disco… (Note that I’m from Greece, the greatest italo-disco mania place after italy)

not italo!!!! its freestyle pop!

As a 80’s Club DJ for near 30 years now i can assure you that this is fare from Italo Disco.


but I thought she wanted me

She wants me!

I want her…..

She is serenading the owner of a hairspray conglomerate.

Shana Petrone (b.1972) is from suburban Chicago, USA. The sound was early-Frankie Knuckles-style, Chicago Warehouse-dance-techno, late 1980’s. She MUST have been influenced by the Chicago style. I can go with “Freestyle” definition, but I think that is too general for the DJ’s who spun for Chicago, NY, Detroit, etc., clubs then

whatever shana is beautiful her voice is mesmerizing madonna the 80’s brand kinda stole from the early latin freestyle and 80’s disco scene which was prominently italians and latin producer/artist

Shana is a friend of mine and in regards to the previous comment (Madonna Wannabe), let me tell you she is nothing close to that. Shana is her own person doing her own thing.

She shows so much passion..

dis song is so old



Moist Towelette and Other Pleasures

Trent Reznor, Jeordie White, Peter Murphy and Atticus Ross do a lazy version of a pretty swank cover of Warm Leatherette by the Normal.

Comments ensued…

There’s a FLY in there!

The guy sounds like Dracula lol” ( lol )

That “DUDE” is Peter Murphy. Its funny you do not think this sounds like a song, its been covered tons of times by different bands including Grace Jones and Duran Duran. It is a fantastic song, perhaps you should learn that songs do not have to be made to be “popular”, and maybe you do not know that much about the history of “popular culture” in music after all. Open up your ears..you can hear more.

God, you’re so clever and clued up and I’m so stupid… except that The Normal was Daniel Miller of Mute records, who signed Depeche Mode and is still putting out DM’s records and was their manager since 1981 but I guess that connection was a tad too difficult, huh?

only girls and fags don’t like this. Fact,

I’m a fag and I like this so I just proved you wrong.

That’s what your Mom said

Peter’s voice is weird.
like not in a bad way,
but it just makes everything seem very non-nine inch nails.

i think i just came in my lace panties.

you guys may be legends, but this is legendarily BAD.

im4everskilled u dick.
That is Pete Murphy from Bauhaus.A pioneer of goth music.

wow there are azzbags on here who don’t know who Peter Murphy is ???

i really want this on my zune but cant find a copy in limewire!

Moist Towelette


Urb interview: Son Lux

I also recently wrote up Son Lux. Read the rest at Urb.com

Symphony Space sits on the corner of 95th Street and Broadway on Manhattan’s posh and progressive Upper West Side. It’s the kind of neighborhood where the conspicuously conscious jog among sidewalk textbook vendors and dusty-wigged doyennes chatting up imaginary friends. Just outside the theater, the city is tearing up the street to upgrade the overcrowded subway station. Inside, it’s so quiet you can hear the dancers’ bare feet patter across the boards. As they move, a man in the shadows twirls knobs, pushes keys, fills the room with the sound of broken breath and disembodied voices looped in harmony with the action. For the second half of the Short Form Weave performance, the shadow is accompanied by yMusic, a small orchestral ensemble.


Urb interview: Juan Mclean

I met up with Juan Mclean for the good folks at Urb to discuss his new DJ Kicks mix out now…

Juan Maclean is kicking ass and taking names. On his new DJ Kicks mix for !K7, Maclean preaches a purist house gospel; in conversation he is just as direct, taking tiresome music and fans to task. And he’s got plenty of room to talk. You can’t really imagine New York nightlife in the early 21st century without Maclean or his cohorts at DFA Records. As part of Six Finger Satellite with future DFA co-founder James Murphy in the 1990s, Maclean was ahead of the curve making indie rock that winked at synthesizers. Debuting in the fall of 2001, DFA’s punk/funk vibe added much needed grit to the hyper sanitized party scene during Giuiliani Time. Channeling the DIY ethos of late ’70s dance rock and early ’90s house music, the label’s roster including LCD Soundsystem, the Rapture and the Juan MacLean (and eventually Hot Chip and Holy Ghost) gave nightcrawlers a reason to buck Drachonian Cabaret Laws and bottle service trends. It’s easy to forget that Juan Maclean has never and still does not live in New York. We caught up with the part-time professor on a pleasant early spring night at the Hotel Indigo in New York’s fading flower district to discuss the lost art of turntable mixing, global perspectives on dance music culture, the appeal of live musicians and the straight/gay disco divide.

Read the rest at URB.com


Bomb the Bass Q&A on Urb

Forgot to mention: the interview with Bomb the Bass went up on Urb recently. Clip below, rest at Urb.com.

Tim Simenon

Tim Simenon, aka Bomb the Bass

Chances are when you were 19, you weren’t dropping an anthem on your generation. Whether he cares to admit it or not, Bomb the Bass helped fire-start the acid rave scene in the late 1980’s alongside fellow UK producers like Coldcut and Simon Harris. BTB’s 1988 incendiary missive “Beat Dis” typified his technique, persona and the times: a popping electro bass-line bombed with synthesizer squelches and allegedly 72 rapid-fire scratches, loops and samples. “Just-just-just feel it! Keep this frequency clear! Everybody in the street, Get-get-get down to the funky beat!” The 12″ wore BTB’s bravado and mystique on its sleeve in the form of the dystopian Watchmen comics’ bloody smiley. It was all Scottish-Asian Tim Simenon’s cocky stab at creating b-boy inspired house beats and buzz. It worked. After “Beat Dis” became a crossover hit, and Simenon caught the ear of everyone from Steinski to Massive Attack, he co-produced Neneh Cherry’s breakthrough “Buffalo Stance” (1988), Seal’s “Krazy” (1991) and Depeche Mode’s Ultra album (1997). He worked hard, partied harder and hit the wall hardest. Burnt out, in 2000 he left London for Amsterdam where he launched the second act of his life as that most contemporary of creatures – the mobile musician. After producing a few singles as BTB and a Thai band called Futon, he presented 2008’s enthusiastically received Future Chaos, a brooding slice of dark new wave featuring Fujiya & Miyagi, Mark Lanegan (Queens of the Stone Age) and Paul Conboy. It was his first original album since 1995’s dubby William Burroughs-inspired Clear. In March 2010, a reinvigorated Simenon released Back to Light, an uptempo companion to Chaos, featuring production by Gui Boratto, vocals by Kelley Polar, Paul Conboy and others–plus a special holdover from old trench-mate Depeche Mode’s Martin L. Gore. We rang up Simenon in his new home in Thailand to sneak a peak at the man behind the smiley.

Continues at Urb.com

Too Cool for This

Boy/Girl video

Where Every Day is #MusicMonday

I’ve set up an all-music blog on Tumblr: Too Cool for This. It’s in its early phase, so it may change cosmetically, but its mission will be to capture all the music and videos that come my way in a dedicated space that doesn’t mix my personal and editorial business. By focusing the blogs and Twitter, I hope to generate more relevant content and focus my own attention. I don’t plan on cross-posting every item, but I will scatter update alerts around the different social networks. So stay tuned.

Turn off the lights…

This was one of those WTF now kind of days. Total devistation in post-quake Haiti. Stupid nameless preachers blaming the allegedly Satanic victims. And, at night’s end, Teddy Pendergrass passes on.

It gave the whole day a mystical tint. Maybe it’s just because I have a soft-spot for scandalous, traumatized soul singers. I’ve always threatened that if I could sing a lick, I’d be an R&B Crooner, lickety-split. Teddy, show ’em why.

Urb Q&A: DJ Spinna

More at: Urb.com

For some of us, homegrown late 90’s New York nightlife will always mean Bobbito, Rich Medina, Giant Step, Organic Grooves, Body & Soul and DJ Spinna. Wherever one of their parties pitched its tent, coveted multiculti urbanistas that worked hard, played hard. They didn’t know it then, but just about a decade later most of them likely would vote the first black President into office. It was during these years that DJ Spinna began throwing his now internationally famous and poignant “Prince vs Michael Jackson” parties.

In between parties, he has also created, produced and remixed music in a variety of genres from house and hip-hop to pop. Earlier this year, Spinna dropped a hip-hop album, Sonic Smash. More recently, he issued a mix set on BBE Records, The Boogie Back: Post Disco Club Jams, on which the NY native has sunk his stylus into the fecund funk between late ’70s disco and late-’80s synth-based R&B – aka early house music. On the day we rang him up in Brooklyn, he was in the process of uploading a podcast dedicated to Larry Levan to his Facebook page.

Sade: Soldier of Love

After making us wait for almost a decade for her 6th album in 25 years, Sade Adu and her band are back. The interwebs have been abuzz with bait and switch gossip, unabated by the relentless social media joggernaut – looking at you twitter. Not that we’re complaining. In anticipation, I have reconnected with all previous Sade releases and the countless bootleg, white label and official remixes. The first single is due to be released Tuesday December 7 morning, but copies are already floating around. The first single “Soldier of Love” is a deceptively thematic percussive piece that becomes increasingly trip-hoppy and mesmerizing as it unspools. By the end, you’re so glad to have her worldly voice wash over you, that it barely seems a day’s gone by since “Smooth Operator” first proved that quiet was the new cool.

Sade-Nothing Can Come Between Us Bootleg Mix.mp3

DJ Spinna Best of Sade mix

By Your Side (Ben Watt Lazy Dog remix)

Bomb the Bass: Back to Light

I just got this over the weekend, and I cannot wait for the remixes or the tour.

Tim Simenon’s been around for a while. He gave us “Beat Dis”, the sample-packed acid electro classic featuring the Watchmen “Bloody Smiley” cover. He then produced Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” and Depeche Mode’s “Ultra” album. In his later albums he collaborated with Sinead O’Connor and Meat Beat Manifesto’s Jack Dangers, among many. Like a good, decadent rock star, he burnt out and wound up in Amsterdam. Last year he released the darkly groovy “Future Chaos” featuring the sleazy electro slice “So Special” and a collaboration with Fujiya and Miyagi. In February 2010, Bomb the Bass will release “Back to Light“, co-produced by Brazilian emo-tech DJ/producer Gui Boratto, featuring Kelley Polar and Martin L. Gore; but it’s Paul Conboy‘s return as crooner that makes the melancholy bleeps and bumps go swoon. Sorry, no links – for now. But below is what happened the last time Boratto had his way with Simenon.

File under: Lonely Robot

Urb: Inspiration Information review

I hadn’t written a review in a while, largely in a misguided self-imposed edict to do “only features”. Time was, I was grateful for “even” a review. And there’s too much good music slipping by without getting ink. So, in the spirit spreading the word and keeping it humble, I’ve been doing more reviews. Especially when I’ve double booked or feel too intimidated to pick up the phone…

Urb review: Inspiration Information, Vol. 4 – Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen

That any of this album works without coming off like an ersatz boutique soundtrack is a credit to both Tenor and Allen’s legendary skills ‘ and perhaps the lack of familiarity between them.


I know, an interview for Earplug/Flavorwire and a Don’t Stop cd review for Urb. And after a hiatus, I high-tailed it down to ye ole Tribeca Grand for a DJ set. Serious fanboy-itis. But it’s no secret: men (of all persuasions) seem to love Annie, the smarty pants pop tart of choice.

Excerpts below, more at the links. Enjoy.


In the Mean Girls universe, Norwegian pop princess Anne Lilia Berge Strand would be Public Frenemy Number One. Some girls get hated on because they’re too pretty. Others, because they’re too smart. Worse are those who are both pretty and smart. And if she happens to be popular with the boys, then you may as well call her Carrie and fetch the pig blood. On the surface, Annie seems built to order.


By most accounts, should be a superstar. She has a solid tastemaker following and she’s the whole package – looks, skills, smarts, attitude. So what gives?

Urb: Warp20 at Terminal Five

Warp 20 Celebrates with Flying Lotus, Battles, & More (Review)

Posted Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 01:45 in Music by Jorge Hernandez

Warp 20 Celebrates with Flying Lotus, Battles, & More (Review)

Judging by its current anniversary tour, Warp is clearly intent on taking over the world – on time. At New York’s Terminal 5 Friday night it was “Doors at 6pm, first show at 7pm,” no joke; working stiffs and chronically fashionably late be damned.

Rather than roll out stalwarts like Aphex Twin or Squarepusher the maverick label chose this Warp20 night to show off what the next twenty years might hold: acts that were still rooted in renegade electronics but increasingly mixed up with indie rock and no-school hip hop.

The punctual and funemployed caught the US debut of Australian noise-funk provocateurs Pivot. Pushing the swinging doors open, we caught LA’s DJ Flying Lotus bobbing and weaving on stage like a praying mantis, all skinny arms and head-nodding, while lights flared around him. Signs along the entrance had warned “Strobe lights will be used”, and they were. The blow-out moment came as “Parisian Goldfish” stormed the mix. For someone kicking out such brain-rattling beats, he was all charm; taking swigs of his beer, laughing with the crowd, he seemed to be loving the moment as much as anyone on the floor.


In their “only New York gig” this year, dingy post-disco brats !!! took it one step further and actually got down on the floor with the dudes in retro-frame glasses and dread-locked blondes grooving to tunes like “Hearts of Hearts”. Beatboxing headliners Battles sounded like a melodic explosion in an instrument factory, highlighting new tracks like the oddly jazz-funky “Sweetie and Shag”.


Kudos to the techs at Terminal 5 for keeping the bombastic assault in relative check. In front of the stage, our photographer said the soundwaves were actually blowing her hair back. Six hours of full-throttle dissonance could’ve easily ended in puddles of bloody earholes, but the open roof serving up burgers and empanadas was a good place to rest fried cilia. By night’s end if someone had announced Radiohead had just signed to Warp, nobody would’ve blinked. Probably not even David Byrne, who seemed politely perplexed to be getting patted down at the door on our way out. (Just in case you like a celebrity endorsement with your sycophantic predictions).

– Photo Credit: Anna White


Earplug Q+A with GusGus’s Daniel Agust

The interview with Daniel Agust of GusGus is up at Earplug/Flavorwire. Peek below.

Exclusive: Interview With GusGus Vocalist Daníel Ágúst

As anyone who’s followed GusGus knows, surprises await with every release. But the Icelandic collective has even more surprising surprises with its latest album, 24/7. First, there’s the Jesus-on-velvet cover art; then there’s a cameo by pop-savant Jimi Tenor. And there’s the track list, just six songs long.

24/7 is the group’s first album on Cologne’s micro-house juggernaut Kompakt, so it’s filled with darker, abstract electronic tracks instead of club hits. The video for the first single, the share-friendly “Add This Song,” takes place in a morgue and includes a fetish-friendly corpse-licking scene. Despite these quirks, singer Daníel Ágúst says that this time around, the intent was to take a break from the circus vibe the group spent the last decade cultivating. “We allow the band to go through changes and develop musically,” he explains. “When I came back, it was because I felt I had something to share.” Read More »


Urb feature: Mungolian Jetset

The interview with Mungolian Jetset is up at Urb.com. There’s an excerpt below, the rest is here.

Oh, those happy-go-lucky Scandinavians and their music-loving ways, living in utopia as they presumably do, with their low crime rate, modular furniture and blue-eyed soul. It’s not hard to imagine folk, freak-jazz, funk, disco and house music flowing freely on tap. While Norwegian star-dust dandies Todd Terje, Lindstrom, Rune Lindbaek, Royksopp, and Annie are beaming their beats from a mirror-ball planet, Mungolian Jet Set’s sticky grooves sound like something that bubbles up from a mossy well in a lost forest. We Gave it All Away and Now We Are Taking It Back collects 16 remixes and collaborations of uncut internationalist, psychedelic, funk on a double CD. On “Creepy,” a lil DC Go-Go kicks through; “Original Highway Delight” sounds like a stomping Italo/Hi-NRG homage to Patrick Cowley; “Moon Song (The Gospel According To Mung)” bumps an ambient dub; and Bob Marley gets a breakbeat reset on “Could You Be Loved.”


Village Voice: Pet Shop Boys, Yes!

Pet Shop Boys kicked off their US tour in NYC last night at the Hammerstein. You can read my review for the Village Voice here. Pictures on Flickr!


Urb: Underworld interview

My second crack at an Underworld Interview is up at Urb.com

:: Interview with Karl Hyde
By Jorge Hernandez Photography by N/A

08/06/09 :: URB web

In 1980 when Karl Hyde and Rick Smith first got together in Cardiff, England, MP3s, iPods, even MTV didn’t exist, and Apple computer was in the middle of a lawsuit with the Beatles’ Apple record label. The experimental electronic band by Hyde and Smith was formed but undefined; the name was represented by an abstract squiggle and pronounced “Freur.” By the time “Born Slippy” appeared on the Trainspotting soundtrack and DJ Darren Emerson joined and left, Underworld had burned through several genres, line-ups, and personal dramas, marking their evolution with Underworld MK1-3 sub-brands. This summer Underworld releases its back catalogue on iTunes, launches an iPhone application and aims to stream a live concert to Apple’s ubiquitous handsets. We caught up with front man and “beat” poet Karl Hyde a few days before their tour of select North American cities to chat about the Internet, flashing fans, and why inflatable dildos belong on stage.

URB: I’ve been following your Twitter. It seems with all the snippets of dialogue that run around in your head and make it to your lyrics, this would be a perfect platform for you.

KH: [Laughs] When I first heard about it, I said, Oh great, they created something else I need to see. Fantastic. It’s okay. Fortunately, I haven’t switched it on my phone yet, so I’ve been saved. In the studio, I have to close my laptop. Otherwise, every second I’d be doing it.

URB: Were you involved with developing the iPhone app? How did you select which loops and which songs to include?
KH: That was Rick’s baby. Isotope Studios approached us, so Rick worked with them to reprogram the tunes for the app. I stood by and said, Oh, that’s nice. It’s nice sometimes not to be so involved with some things.

URB: You’re also re-releasing your back catalog. That must’ve been a massive project.
KH: We’ve been fortunate to own our catalogue from day one of this group, and that’s… that’s a smile. We’re starting with the albums, then we’ll roll out all the twelves, then the singles.

URB: Are you going to include the River Run material?
KH: A lot of people have been asking us about that. It’s been coming up. People have been asking for hard copies of that, on quality vinyl, which is quite extraordinary.

URB: But at the moment?
KH: No, because we’re also involved in writing and recording and testing out material on the road as we’re going. People have already been finding new material on YouTube. We’ve always done that. It’s invaluable, when you play something live onstage, and you see, Ah, that’s really working or Oh, that’s really NOT working, we need to look at that again. The dynamic and the energy of the audience tell you a lot about how successfully the music is communicating a vibe. Early next year we’ll start to roll out the new material and release it throughout the year.

URB: Will it be an album, or just stuff that trickles out?
KH: Eventually, it will culminate in an album. But for many years now, I haven’t been drawn to the album format. It starts getting silly, you can only have so much material.
Aaargh! What happens if you want to release ten tracks after you just released these ten tracks? What the Internet has allowed us to do is release things in whatever shape or form we want – CDs, albums, MP3, or giving it away through our radio show. That feels much more exciting to us than dropping an album and making a big hoo-hah for a couple weeks then forgetting about it. We’ve been doing that for years. We need to feel something fresh, too.

URB: So, why aren’t you coming to NY?
KH:  Because there’s plans to return to the East Coast later. I’m not supposed to say that. But you can’t tour the states and not play New York. It would be a bit odd.

URB: So is this like your pre-Broadway run?
KH: Exactly.

URB: In concert, you always have a video camera with which you project the audience onto the stage. What happens with that video? Do you save it? I heard you’re having a contest where fans can submit clips that could be played in their cities.
KH: We’re still talking about how it. I didn’t know that information was out. So, well done! I like being pushed. Are you living in my garden shed? Yes, we’re planning on using fan-made videos during the show. We’ve been putting some backstage footage online as well, everything from audience shots to some obscure stuff, which we wonder about putting out. Occasionally, you get an exhibitionist, so you have to cut away. Unless it’s an exhibitionist the audience wants to see more of.

URB: Besides naughty groupies, what else can fans look forward to this time around?
KH: It’s a new show, really. We’ve got new video material, new songs, and we have more inflated structures. The inflated structures have kind of taken on a life of their own.

URB: About those things… I’ve heard people call them everything from glo-stix to dildos.
KH: We just call them structures. They remind us of the toy Pick Up Sticks. With most shows, people put stuff on the floor, and they put things on the wall. But what about that 3D space? How do you fill that? The lights inside the structures really make them come alive.

URB: Will you be playing “Jumbo” on this tour?
KH: There’s a strong possibility. There are some tunes that if we don’t do, people would be disappointed. But there’s more new material than we’re able to integrate into the live set. So we’ve had to make a call.

When the publicist chimes in that it’s time another kind of call, Karl adds, “Thanks for helping us get the word out, mate.” This from someone name-checked by Radiohead as a major influence. Normally, it would seem a courtesy, but in this case, Karl remembers your name and the gratitude feels earnest and intimate. It’s enough to make you want to flash them.

Music :: All Points West ’08 Photos
Review :: Underworld, Oblivion with Bells
Video :: Highlights from All Points West ’08

Flavorwire: Danny Wang @ PS1 feature

I caught up with Danny Wang when he zipped and boogied through town this summer. The first couple photos are by the awesome Anna White, not me.

Daniel Wang: DJ, Producer, and Little Mister Sunshine
2:53 pm Wednesday Jul 29, 2009
by Jorge Hernandez
Ghostly artist Daniel Wang, a DJ who has been namechecked in Daft Punk liner notes, was on a bus to New York City, when he texted us from his German mobile: “still in boston with family…dont want pay roaming charges.” He was scheduled to play P.S.1’s Warm Up party the next day, along with Arthur’s Landing, an Arthur Russell tribute band. Like half of the East Village, earlier in the decade Wang moved to Berlin and became an instant fixture in the ex-pat broken disco scene. His visits to the States are frequent and fleeting, but giddy and anticipated affairs.

The next day was overcast and rainy. Arriving at P.S.1 early, you might have been worried by the sparse line. Would this be the weekend when New Yorkers just gave up and stayed inside? Brennan Green, a Balihu Records artist (which Wang founded back in 1993), was massaging the early birds with some no-wave and retro pop. Slowly, the crowd grew.

And then Wang arrived, dressed in color-splashed shorts and lime Day-Glo Nikes. After a quick round of hugs, kisses and pictures, he needed a moment alone: “Just give me a minute to get my music together. I can’t really concentrate on anything else when I’m thinking about my playlist.”

Photo credit: Anna WhitePhoto credit: Jorge Hernandez

Laying out his CDs and vinyl in what was undoubtedly some kind of theme, he stepped out from behind the boards for a quick chat and a few more pictures. “Sorry I’ve been in such a rush,” he exclaimed. “I”m always going from one thing to another.” The occasion, this time? “It was my birthday. I wanted to see my grandmother, my family. And it’s a fun party to play. I get to spin with Brennan, see some other friends. But then, I’m off again, to California tomorrow.”

02Photo credit: Joel Shaughnessy

A few tracks into his set, the motif he was assembling earlier became apparent. Patrick Juvet’s “I Love America.” Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker.” America’s “You Can Do Magic.” And one record that sent a certain writer up to the decks. “It’s called ‘Take Me to the Bridge’ by Vera,” Wang said, waving the record sleeve around a la Shirley Temple.

Later, the globetrotting, patriotic DJ’s DJ added, “I got my German/EU permanent visa in January 2009. I’m hoping to retire to a Greek Isle. USA — too many mixed feelings.”

03Photo credit: Joel Shaughnessy

Whatever those were, he kept the negative ones off the 1’s and 2’s. At one point he even hopped on stage during the theme to the Star Wars cantina and did the Charleston. It was only a few days after Michael Jackson’s passing, and a poignant ode was inevitable: “Life ain’t so bad at all, if you live it off the wall.”

The clouds may have lingered, and a stray drop may have landed in a beer or two, but by night’s end, when the sky was dark and the remaining devotees were jumping around on stage, it was clear that Danny had packed sunshine to spare.

Photo credit: Anna White


Urb.com: Nouvelle Vague Live Review

From Urb.com:
Nouvelle Vague Live Review (Filmore East @ Irving Plaza NYC 6/17/2009)

Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 @ 09:01 in Music by Jorge Hernandez

Nouvelle Vague Live Review (Filmore East @ Irving Plaza NYC 6/17/2009)

In some circles, Nouvelle Vague would be heretics, likely burnt at the stake. How else to describe and dispense with a French troupe of cover lovers that turns hardcore Punk, No Wave and New Wave classics into soft-core porn Muzak? New York is not one of those circles. Here, their laissez-faire-ness with raw riffs has endeared them to the Pernod-swilling set. But if you rolled into Irving Plaza – er, “Fillmore East” – on June 17 expecting a louche cabaret you were in for a boisterous awakening.

Producers Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux along with singers Nadeah and Melanie Pain had something much more American Gothic in mind, turning the venue into a honky-tonk revival, complete with roughhousing and supernatural spasms. The opener, Talking Heads “Road to Nowhere” set a deceptively casual tone. By the time Nadeah introduced “Oublions L’Amerique” – “a song by old punks who knew nothing of your wonderful country; pretend we’re singing ‘We Love America’, Merci” – the crowd was getting rowdy. Later as the full house chanted along to Dead Kennedys’ “Too Drunk to Fuck”, Nadeah, slinking in tongues, turned into Spider Woman, climbing the walls into the balcony, an act that nearly got her removed from the venue by security, unaware that she belonged onstage.

Say quoi?  Are these the same lounge lizards whose entire existence is premised on a cheeky triple-entendre on French cinema, 80’s electronica and Brazilian Bossa Nova? Yes and No. While Collin and Libaux are staples, the singers rotate. On this rare mini-tour in support of their third LP, NV3, the casting was pitch-perfect. As the musicians strummed, rattled and hummed through selections from all three albums, the singers vamped like wayward divas on the voodoo side of town. Their take on “Master and Servant” made a Depeche Mode headliner at the Grand Ole Opry seem like, you know, maybe not so crazy an idea. No matter how your fry your ‘taters, that deserves applause – and possibly a fenced-off stage. Pretty punk.

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Gen X mindfuckery: R.I.P. Farrah and Michael Jackson

Things that make you go, hmmmmutherfuckinmmmm: in one day, Gen X lost two of its biggest icons. Farrah Fawcett passed away in the morning; Michael Jackson in the afternoon. Every time I went for coffee, someone passed away. I’m not getting up again, I thought.

Farrah, you expected. She had been battling anal cancer for a while, and it had reently spread to her liver. Last night her family gathered to say their final farewells to the ultimate 70’s pin-up, actress and ultimately, heroine. It was a matter of hours. It was no less heavy. People at work were bummed out .

Then came a series of pings, texts, and exclamations. OMG, Michael Jackson rushed to the hospital; in cardiac arrest; dead from a pill overdose; in a coma. Finally, at 3:15, after hours of rumors, the LA Times confirmed, MJ, age 50 had passed away. On the way home, everyone in the subway was talking about Farrah and Michael. On the street, people had boomboxes on their fire escapes and car radios tuned to stations playing all Michael Jackson songs. The internet “collapsed” under the flurry of activity.

Iran disappeared. Once the death was confirmed, all mainstream news switched to Michael Jackson coverage. Barbara Walters aired a tribute to Farrah that ended with Jaclyn Smith crying.

Ed McMahon also died a couple days ago, but sad as that was, it didn’t really hit me or most people my age as hard as this one-two punch. Adding to the surreal vibe of it all, a rumor floated up from a fake news generator that Jeff Goldblum had died on location in Australia. According to “Kevin Spacey” on twitter, it’s all lies, so stop it. Just as well, there’s only so much even slackers can take.

“You’re just a product of / Loveliness / I like the groove of / Your walk, / Your talk, your dress…”

R.I.P. Andy “the Orb” Hughes

On June 12th, ambient/balearic producer and DJ, Andy Hughes passed away in a liver intensive care unit from a “short illness”. He was best known for his work with the Orb, notably on the album Orblivion which featured one of their bigger hits, “Toxygene”. Most recently, he was working with Basement Jaxx.  His family is accepting donations at JustGiving.com.

R.I.P. Ian “Eon” Loveday

Ian “Eon” Loveday passed away June 17 from pneumonia. He was best known for the early 1990’s rave track, “Spice”, instantly recognizable by the “Dune” blips: “He who controls the Spice controls the universe” and “the Spice must flow.” He also teamed with Peter “Baby” Ford often; and Mark “S’Express” Moore. Most people would say, “Who?” But for ravers everywhere, this track bring long, giddy nights instantly, freshly to mind.

Flavorwire: Rune Lindbaek interview

Exclusive: Idjut Boy and Meanderthal Rune Lindbæk Talks the Substance of Size
1:13 pm Tuesday May 19, 2009
by Jorge Hernandez
In Norway, size matters. “The big clubs don’t do well. They try to bring ‘BIG’ names there and it doesn’t really work,” says Rune Lindbæk from his part-time flat in Berlin. “Most of the popular DJ’s on the scene – Todd Terje, Lindstrom, etc – are the dubby DJ’s and we all prefer the small clubs.” How small is small? “150 people or so. We just came back from the Ukraine, places you wouldn’t think of, but people are dedicated.”

Lindbæk, once part of Those Norwegians with pre-Royksopp Torbjorn Brundtland, is presently a third of Meanderthals, along with UK’s disco-not-disco dons Idjut Boys (Dan Tyler & Conrad McDonnel). While Meanderthals’ new record, Desire Lines, was recorded between Oslo and London, it sounds like something out of a Malibu slumber party. After the jump, we chat with Lindbæk about disco dalliances, the impossibility of taking studio albums on the road, and the aesthetics of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Lindbæk had very specific ideas about the new album. “When we started on this project, I said, ‘This record should be like the Pacific Coast Highway – something very California.’ It became a cliche in the studio – our hot crowded studio with the tiny window,”

The trio’s unglamorous confines could have been a set up for failure, considering their working styles. “As a team, we sort of prefer to play alone, DJ alone. I need to go into a zone. Doing a back to back DJ thing, I lose some concentration,” he confesses. While they managed to work things out in the studio, don’t expect Meanderthals to go globe-trotting any time soon. “We’re talking about touring; if we were going to do it, we’d need to bring out a whole studio, a massive amount of gear. What we have in mind would be like a rock setup, and I don’t think it would work in dingy basement clubs.”

With a tour uncertain and the album done, what’s an idle primitive to do? “A remix album is possible; Conrad (of Idjut Boys) is making dub versions of all the tracks on Desire Lines. I’m doing some remixes for Annie, a minimalist/Italo guy on Kompakt called Skateboard, and Dominique Leon from San Francisco. Lindstrom discovered Leon and set up StromLand records to put his stuff out. I’m going back to Oslo on the 14th to work on my next 12 inch ‘Odessa’”.

Reflecting on his homes away from home, the wayward Rune adds, “The area where I live in Berlin, I would be better off learning Turkish, I really love it. I also lived in NY. My heart is there – can you please kiss the pavement for me?” When I ask him what pavement, he says “I used to stay at Danny Wang’s apartment, next to my favorite East Village café, 7A.” By coincidence, I tell him I used to stay at Danny’s as well, and that it was going through Wang’s record collection that I realized Lindbæk had sampled Bill Withers’ “The Stuff” for “Junta Jaegar.” “It’s a great bass line, and when I heard it, I knew I wanted to use it. On the B-side of Junta, I used a sample from a 70’s rock band called Zoo.”

That single, and the album it came from, Sondag, was released by Repap, a left-field sister label to Paper Recordings, the now-defunct deep disco imprint out of Manchester, UK. Paper also released Kaminksy Park, by Those Norwegians. The album’s cover features a pile of melting vinyl, a reference to the Comiskey Park “Disco Sucks” bonfire of the late 70’s often cited as the unofficial birth of House music. “When I was living in London I spent a lot of time in record shops. And one of my best friends used to live in Manchester. So we knew about Paper and decided to send them a demo, just to see. When they called us up, we were like FUCK, YEAH!”

London is also where Rune first met Idjut Boys. “They were on to something with their underground sound long ago. I was always a fan.” But how did this Nordic nomad wind up a disco purist in the first place? “My mom liked Disco and when I heard the rhythm, I liked it too. People my age, we were the first rhythm generation of Norway, I was like a sponge – this was before Paradise Garage and NY radio. We had a radio station, state owned, they had one program for pop music and there was no club scene at all, just really shit discoteques.”

Fortunately for Oslo, those days are over. Kings of Convenience, Erlend Oye, Lindbæk and company have put their homeland on the global music map. “It’s not like we have one place that we all hang out in Oslo – it’s a slow burning scene, and discos come and go. People have been doing their thing for many years. The rest of the world is just catching up now…”



Ratatat‘s psychedelic circus pulled into Terminal 5 last night long enough to freak the geeks with barrages of strobe lights, confetti, poultry-head visuals, wildcat roars and body surfing.  Gaunt, grungy and sweaty, the Brooklyn duo banged, riffed, and bleep bleeped through a set fit for an off-campus rave. You don’t have to be young and chemically-enhanced. But if you were, this would’ve been the place to be it.

Starfucker Just Wanna Have Fun

How’s this for an endorsement: Press List-addicted Media Whore spends $70 on a last minute mad dash to small, sweaty club to catch indie pop funkers. Scary, but true. A PJ Harvey concert alert led me to a listing for Ratatat tomorrow, and Starfucker – tonight! I checked the clock, put the smokes down, jumped in a cab and raced to the East Village from Harlem. Twenty five minutes (and as many dollars) later I pushed my way into the Mercury Lounge as they were warming up. Part Jeff Lynne, Beck, and Brian Wilson let loose in a Fisher Price romper room, Starfucker are not afraid to wear cheap drag and cover “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Spastic hipsters, overpriced beer, work interruptions and flash storm aside, it was worth it. If  that seems like a long, expensive way to go for a spontaneous thrill – eh, I’ve spent more on less.

The Field: Tomorrow, today

Alex Willner, the Field

Alex Willner, the Field

Swedish techno wonder kid Axel Willner, aka the Field, is back. And he’s still sounding like a fistful of top shelf E’s. The Field‘s pulsating, ambient sound made ravers, critics and the indie set swoon in 2007. And then, he made them wait. Now, two years after the rapturous debut, From Here We Go Sublime, we get the coyly titled Yesterday & Today, out May 19 on Kompakt/Anti.  Tomorrow seems to be missing. Until you listen.
The advance copies are tightly-guarded by invisible flying monkeys, so you’ll have to Google it yourself. Here’s a classic from “…Sublime”.

Flavorwire: Taming the Winter Music Conference Monster

Or, what I did on my winter vacation. Snippet below. Rest at Flavorpill, Earplug.

Taming the Winter Music Conference Monster
6:25 am Wednesday Apr 15, 2009
by Jorge Hernandez
Like most of the snowbirds, I was at Miami’s annual Winter Music Conference for some sun, beach, dancing, and schmoozing. As often happens, my first night descended into a series of mix-ups: was Gui Boratto playing or not? Was I “sorted” at Danny Tenaglia’s marathon? Fortunately, I’d caught both of them last year, so calling it a night (especially after a two-hour flight delay) came easy.

Thursday afternoon, I headed to an early meeting with NextAid, a nonprofit organization that works with DJs, musicians, and engineers to provide sustainable solutions to problems faced by Africa’s AIDS orphans. “OM Records just adopted this building,” said director Lauren Segal, pointing to a glossy photo of a modest structure. “It could be used for anything from a school to a clinic.” Asked where she got the idea, she chirped, “On the dance floor, of course!”


BPM: interview with N.A.S.A.


text by Jorge Hernandez

Let’s be real: most albums featuring everyone and their mothers pretty much suck. Not because of anyone’s moms, per se, but because collaborations tend to over-reach for street cred, moving units, or redemption via some charitable gesture. So one can be forgiven for popping The Spirit of Apollo into the laptop with some trepidation. After all, how the hell are a dozen plus artists (including David Byrne, Santogold, Kool Keith, Tom Waits, RZA, M.I.A., Chuck D, Method Man) over as many tracks going to produce anything solid, let alone righteously funky? Well, shut my mouth.

The debut by NASA (North America South America) is a musical labor of love that seamlessly rolls from intro to outro, one head-scratching, head-nodding track at a time. The magic behind Sam “Squeaky E Clean” Spiegel and Ze “DJ Zegon” Gonzales’s project reveals itself within the first few moments of conversation with Spiegel. That is, once you can manage to make either of your phones work properly.
Calling back for a third time, after a day’s worth of press, he jokes, “Man, I was deep in my spiel, too. I was totally rolling. Anyway, we’d be in the studio making tracks, thinking ‘Wouldn’t so and so be great for this, or that track.’ It was basically us writing letters to people. We didn’t publicize the record, pretty much until it was done. It took about 5 and a half years to make it.”
All of the funding for Apollo came from money earned through Squeak E Clean Productions, his commercial production company. “We did enough work that we could go do whatever we wanted.” That work included “Hello Tomorrow”, a track with Karen O. that started out as music for an Adidas commercial, but wound up becoming so popular, it was eventually released as single. He’s also scored “I Heart Huckabees” director David O. Russell’s political satire, “Nailed” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Biel, though he’s uncertain when the film (plagued by repeated shut downs) will be released. The range of work, he says, “Helps to work out different parts of your brain. You end up working on a variety of things that require different styles of music.”

Another ambitious investment they made was to the recording process itself. “We tried to be in the room with everyone when they recorded. And whenever possible, we recorded with everyone in the same room. So there was no emailing files, really.” In the case of “Strange Enough” featuring Karen O., Fatlip and Old Dirty Bastard, the approach was especially poignant. “We ended up recording with him a couple weeks before he passed away. Those are not pulled vocals from anywhere; they’re real, originals.”

The all-for-one spirit extends beyond the studio. There are 4 different covers for the CD, including one by the artist who created the iconic blue/red “Hope” Obama poster, Shepard Fairey. And they often recruit local artists and performers while on tour. “Since we can’t have all these people with us, we like to use locals, to keep the vibe going. It makes each show a unique experience. We always meet really cool people that way.”

In case you can’t make it to one of their upcoming gigs, including a stop at Coachella, there’s a documentary about the whole experience. Predictably, it features multiple directors. “Honestly, man, it’s always a different homeboy of mine behind the camera. We’ll just call someone and say, ‘You wanna go to Sweden and record with Lykke Li?’ There’s footage of us recording with George Clinton, chemically enhanced. There’s some animation in it, from some of our favorite visual artists that we work with. It doesn’t have any tour footage now, but you never know. We’re off to Europe to do a few dates, kind of a warm up. Maybe something will make it on there.”

Somehow, Spiegel still finds the time to interact with fans directly through a hype blog, which he updates frequently. Considering how hectic his 2009 calendar is looking, it may be the best way to keep up with him and NASA’s far-reaching mission. It promises to be one long, strange trip.


a twitter ditty

WFMU: Two Free Tix! Laurie Anderson & Friends at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House in Bklyn, Wed Jan 21 @ 8pm. First reply who wants ’em, gets ’em 8:21 PM Jan 12th from web

@johnsancheznyc: @WFMU yes?! 8:23 PM Jan 12th from TwitterFon in reply to WFMU

@mediajorge: @johnsancheznyc @wfmu si, si! 8:25 PM Jan 12th from TwitterBerry in reply to johnsancheznyc

WFMU: @mediajorge , OK Mediajorge, the Laurie Anderson tickets are yours. DM me here or email me at ken at wfmu do t org for the details. 8:26 PM Jan 12th from web in reply to mediajorge

@johnsancheznyc: @mediajorge You sunk my battleship! 8:27 PM Jan 12th from TwitterFon in reply to mediajorge

@mediajorge: @johnsancheznyc wait, what just happened? i won tix to Laurie Anderson replying to you about @wfmu? haha! ur my date, then! 8:30 PM Jan 12th from web in reply to johnsancheznyc

WFMU Sorry Jorge! I thought you wanted the tix but Sanchez actually replied first. Hope that’s OK. If not, I will send you a T-shirt. 8:34 PM Jan 12th

@johnsancheznyc: @mediajorge Haha, you won w/o trying? I must be your lucky star (b/c I shine on you wherever you are)! Ok we’ll go. 8:37 PM Jan 12th from web in reply to mediajorge

@johnsancheznyc: @wfmu Your system could use some fixin’! 8:37 PM Jan 12th from web in reply to WFMU

@mediajorge: WFMU hi ken, its ok, sanchez + I are bff’s. I’d love him to have the tix. The whole thing is hilarious! I’d like a T-shirt, though 🙂 thx! 8:43 PM Jan 12th

(John got the tickets; I never got the T-shirt.)

That Bad Eartha!

On Christmas day when I reached over to hit “snooze” on the Blackberry, I squinted at my messages. Everything was OK with work, then I checked my Gmail. Harold Pinter had died while I was sleeping. While I’m familiar with and admire Pinter, if I were even to attempt to try to write anything lamenting the passing of the Nobel prize-winning writer, poet, actor and humanist, I’d come across like a fake and a turd. More than usual. And sadly that might not really be as entertaining as it sounds.

The next alert I received a couple of hours later hit closer to home. Eartha Kitt, “the most exciting woman in the world” according to Orson Welles, had just died at age 81. The singer, actress, dancer, and activist who gave the world “Santa Baby”, was blacklisted  by LBJ for speaking out against Vietnam, had a CIA dossier, sang in half a dozen languages, played Catwoman and was an icon to gay men in every galaxy, including the undiscovered ones, checked out on Christmas Day. Ugh. Really?

My mom was a fan because Eartha sang one of her favorite songs in Spanish, “Angelitos Negros”, about the lack of black angels in paintings and churches (but not Heaven). My mom sang it to me as a lullaby, my aunt played it on the guitar. Mixed race people often have multi-hued families, and mine was no exception. Neither was Eartha’s. All three of them sang it from a deep place in their souls. (Cat Power did as well.)

Later, in keeping with the homosexual agenda, I “got” Eartha on a whole new level. I learned more about innuendo from one Eartha Kitt album than a million drag shows. Suddenly, the word “Fierce” had real meaning. Exotic, purring, globe-trotting, award-winning, show-stopping gold-digger – and she made Lady Bird Johnson cry? Talk about Kitten with a Whip!  For two years, fresh out of High School, I lived with my first lover and his best friend. We drank way too much wine and had too many sing alongs – including “Uska Dara”, though we had no idea what we were singing, and of course the Italo-disco classic “Where is My Man“. The phrase “cette petite sensation” from “C’est Si Bon” still tickles when I hear it.

Recently, while living in New York, I kept threatening to drag my best friend to Cafe Carlyle for her cabaret show. Sadly, we never made it. I like to pretend I don’t believe in regret, but if I weren’t me, I’d take away my own gay card. Fortunately, Eartha belonged to the world, so no card is required. All you need to appreciate Eartha Kitt, appropriately enough, is a taste for the better things in life.

The dark side of the rainbow

I’ve spent the last couple of days in a funk.

First, Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation hit me like a kick to the stomach. Intellectually, I appreciate and applaud the “team of rivals” strategy. I’ve been through the NA 12-step program, practiced Zen with HIV positive men, NSA Buddhism with pushy actors, endured my first lover’s fascination with the Course in Miracles, my second lover’s fling with Est/the Forum, and I often list Alan Watts as one of my heroes. I’ve been accused of smiling and laughing too much. I know better than to be upset.

Emotionally, intuitively, however, I feel like a fox has been let loose in the hen house. Like a deranged chicken, my reaction is not an enlightened one; it’s a passionate one. It’s a reaction rooted deep in the darkness of my brain, the part attuned by years of dealing with bigotry and prejudice as a gay, dark-skinned Latino in USA, Inc. It’s rooted in the blood and flesh I inherited from my lesbian mother who lived with her partner for 30 years but still can’t marry her. It’s my reaction, and it is valid, legitimate, cathartic and a vital part of my conversation and how I experience the world and arrive at insight. Do not dismiss me because I haven’t earned my wings or halo yet. I’m trying; but please, in the meantime, do not ask me to “calm down”, repress my gut-feelings, or take a shortcut. Engaging one’s rivals can and should be visceral, messy, heated. In that fiery discourse, ideas break down and are reconstituted.  As long as there are bigots out there, we will need that fire for protection, warmth and light. Otherwise, I could go up to the next straight stranger I see and kiss them on lips without fear. But, I know better. I know there are people out there who look upon me like a punching bag. My brother, the former gang member, and his friends were people like that.

Which brings me to the second thing that’s upset me. As I was kicking myself for being so radical, so reactionary, so “un-progressive”, cynical, paranoid, so “intolerant”, I came across an article about a lesbian that was repeatedly, brutally gang raped and left robbed and naked outside an apartment building. In San Francisco. Because she had a rainbow sticker on her car.

I’m not a flag-waver, and I know an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. But if this is what we have to look to forward to, is the view really worth seeing? And if it’s not, is it not our duty to say and do something until a better world comes into focus? Are we to achieve this by biting our tongues as our brothers and sisters are beaten senseless for simply being themselves? I could prize civilized discourse above a human life, but that’s not me. Sometimes, I need a heated argument to let my rage burn off. That’s just how Jesus made me. And Jesus don’t make no mess.

So, I will not boycott, censor, avoid or ignore the inauguration or invocation. I’m not even arguing that Warren shouldn’t deliver the invocation. I’m saying that it is in poor taste, a cheap appeal to the hard right. It’s politics, I get that. Rights and privileges are negotiated, bartered and compromised every day. When push came to shove, Clinton backed “Dont’ ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. When pressed on Prop 8, Obama could have said “Marriage should be between two people who love each other”. But tellingly, he didn’t. Did he not have faith in his base?  I would like to believe that including an avowed exclusionist in a highly didactic moment implies a surplus of faith. But how productive will this super-charged gesture be? Is the hard right going to convert by invocation’s end? Will they be inspired to comfort the queers with bus tire tracks across their faces? Or, will it embolden them to continue committing more brazen hate crimes as statistics indicate?

I do not know. But I will be watching. And listening. And venting. And if that upsets you, let’s talk about it.