Recent Posts in interviews
February 12, 2015
interview by Jonathan Dick, photos by Michael Wilhoite
David Johansen wears enough hats that discerning between the art and the artist can prove to be a difficult task. It's an aesthetic that speaks both to his influence as a founding member/vocalist of seminal protopunk innovators The New York Dolls and what's been an uninhibited pursuit of his own artistic vision in a number of ways from various musical side projects to film roles. Johansen's Buster Poindexter persona that while primarily known for the late 80s hit "Hot Hot Hot," a song he's admitted to loathing, but nonetheless helped to propel the persona itself as well as establish his own versatility as an artist. This month sees the return of Buster Poindexter with a series of performances at the Café Carlyle from February 10-21 (tickets). We spoke to Johansen about the performances as well as his own history growing up surrounded by music and when listeners can expect to see The New York Dolls again.
BV: You're revisiting the Buster Poindexter persona again with the series of shows at the Café Carlyle. What was the motivation to do this now?
DJ: The Buster thing, the way it's gone down, I've been doing the New York Dolls for like eight years. We started out wanting to do one show, and then we played for eight years and making pretty records. I just decided to give that a break for a while and be home. Instead of New York being a place where you just keep your stuff, I decided to live here awhile, and to make a living. I decided to do a show that could only be played in New York.
Speaking of which you actually had a performance with the Arcade Fire there in Brooklyn. How did that come about?
Oh, they just called and asked if we'd come out there and do a number with them.
January 17, 2015
Marky Ramone will take the stage at the Gramercy Theater on 1/17 to celebrate the upcoming publication of his memoirs, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone. Sitting behind the drums for one of the greatest bands in rock history for fifteen years provided more than enough perspective for the Brooklyn native who will turn 59 later this year. The timing is especially poignant given that last July saw the death of Tommy Ramone who'd been the last surviving member of the original lineup. It was Tommy who would recommend Marky to replace himself when he left the band in 1978, setting in motion another chapter for a band that had already established itself as one of punk rock's most iconic groups. I recently spoke with Mark to discuss the book release show (featuring Andrew W K), his earliest days with another genre-defining band, and why punk rock is still the best form of exercise.
BV: Let's talk about the book for a second, Mark. What made you feel this was the right time for an autobiography?
Marky: Well, it took five years in the making, and the process of writing it was a year and a half. I read all the Ramones books, and there were a lot of exaggerations, and I just wanted to clear them, so in my book I did. I just don't like when people try to change history for their own reasons. I'm not gonna mention names. I'm just saying that I believe what happened happened and that's what happened. To change history for one's idea of sensationalism I think is wrong. On the Internet, especially these days, a blog or a writer can say anything and then everybody believes that, y'know what I'm saying? I'm sure you've experienced that. That's where a lot of people unfortunately get their news. In my book it's my whole life story beginning with the music scene plus growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and then later on after me, Johnny, and Joey decided to retire in '94 and then our last show was in '96. It's a lot more informative. Obviously it has a lot to do with time being in the band for fifteen years and doing 1700 shows. I absorbed everything and what you read, that's the result.
December 5, 2014
by Bill Pearis
Hookworms' MB @ BV CMJ 2013 (more by Chris La Putt)
Hookworms just released their terrific new album The Hum which further's the band's motorik psych, taking last year's adrenalized "Radio Tokyo" single (which they re-recorded for this LP) and further stepping on the gas. It is, as they say, a blast. While the band are signed to Domino's Weird World label, they do almost everything in-house. Frontman MJ produces the records in his Suburban Home studios (he produces lots of other UK bands too, like Joanna Gruesome and Eagulls), and the sleeves are all designed by guitarist JW. Hookworms' members, who stick to initials, all have day jobs and have no plans of giving them up for rock n' roll stardom.
That said, they'll be taking leaves of absence when they tour North America this Spring, including two NYC shows in April. Tickets to Palisades on 4/18 are already on sale, and tickets for their Rough Trade show on 4/17 go on sale today (12/5) at noon. Hookworms' shows are loud and intense and not to be missed.
The band's bassist, MB, talked with BV about The Hum, balancing their DIY spirit with growing acclaim, in-jokes, recollections of playing Death by Audio, his Top 10 albums of 2014, and more:
The Hum is a more upbeat record than Pearl Mystic. Was that intentional?
100%. We realised after we'd finished the last record that a lot of it was very slow numbers. We only ever played Away/Towards, Form & Function and Preservation live from that album, which is only a third of the record. We wanted the new album to be more representative of our live show, so we started writing some faster songs that would work well in the set. Radio Tokyo was actually written before Pearl Mystic was even released, and that became the starting point for the album; we enjoyed how people reacted to that song live. Our band definitely has a funny thing where when we're playing, you look up and see a crowd of people stood perfectly still with their arms crossed, then the second the set finishes they all rush up to tell you how amazing it was. I'm not saying we want people fighting and head-walking while we play, but we realised that was perhaps our fault for not being particularly upbeat.
November 17, 2014
by Bill Pearis
Meemaw visits 'Wake Up, White People' host David Cross on 'The Heart, She Holler' S3
John Lee and Vernon Chatman have been weirding out late night television viewers for 10 years as the primary creative forces behind PFFR: first with not-for-kids kids show Wonder Showzen, then with the hallucinogenic, hard-to-look-at Xavier: Renegade Angel and, most recently, on the Southern Gothic soap opera The Heart, She Holler. (They were also writers and producers on Jon Glazer's awesome Delocated.) The thread running through them all: Lee and Chatman's gleeful dismantling of American culture, labyrinthine and pun-filled dialogue, and a desire to see viewers' jaws drop.
Season three of The Heart She, Holler debuts on December 1 on Adult Swim, starring folks like Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Amy Sedaris, Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Steve Little (East Bound and Down) and other familiar comedy faces. You can watch the trailer below. There's a Season Three preview screening on Tuesday (11/18) at BAM at 7:30 with a Q&A with Q&A with Adsit (who just joined the cast) and John Lee. It's free and you can RSVP to attend, though entry is based on capacity. We're also giving away a pair of guaranteed passes as well, and details on that are below.
PFFR's John Lee
In addition to working on his own shows, John Lee has directed episodes of Broad City and a few music videos, and he used to be in a couple bands: jokey late-'90s indie rockers Muckafurgason, and a pre-TV PFFR who put out records in the early '00s. Full disclosure: I've known John for almost 20 years, and he took a few minutes away from scarring Middle America's eyeballs to talk about The Heart She Holler, food courts, unprecedented sexual positions, Morrissey, David Lynch and the difficulties of wrangling an ex-President for a cameo. PFFR are infamous for their non-interview interviews, but there's at least a little directness here.
BrooklynVegan: So what are you working on now? Season 3 of The Heart She Holler is in the can, right?
John Lee: Yeah, it's in the trash can as we say. The trash can of America. Any of your local mall food courts, that's what we call the trash can. We call the South "Food Court America" up here in the North.
BV: How much time have you and Vernon spent in the South?
JL: (Laughs) Together or separately? Well, together it was all in sin. It felt like forever but it was only six minutes. Um, separately? Through touring... it would add up to a handful of peanuts. A bag of boiled peanuts, that's how long I've spent in the South. But the thing is you don't even need to spend time in the South to understand American culture, like American hillbilly ideals. All you have to do is go 40 minutes outside of any city and you're there. America, it's all that. It's everywhere you go. The South is just the place everyone says "Oh, it's that." But it's not, it's everywhere.
Did you think you'd be doing a third season of The Heart, She Holler when you guys came up with the idea?
We, as in PFFR, all our shows that are self-created have never gotten past a second season. This is the first time we've broken the curse. Wonder Showzen was only two seasons, Xavier was only two seasons. Delocated made it longer, but that wasn't just our show. It was a thrill, but we were also scared because when you break a curse you never know what sort of demon's going to show up. The undead will rise? Your nightmares will become reality? We'll see.
Continue reading "Adult Swim's 'The Heart, She Holler' returns for S3 (screening at BAM); creator John Lee discusses Broad City, his old bands, casting an ex-president, weirdness & more in BV interview"
November 4, 2014
by Rahill Jamalifard
Fat White Family @ BV CMJ 2014 (more by Chris La Putt)
It's been a week since Fat White Family's first stint at CMJ and still, the feverish feeling remains. Their music is raunchy, fiery, and disturbing. Envision a filthy romp outside your parents' house in the backseat of your unapproved boyfriend's car. It leaves one feeling aroused, soiled and liberated. The band, who recently relocated to NYC, just saw their album Champagne Holocaust reissued by Fat Possum. Folks in Los Angeles, can see them tonight at the Echo, and FWF will return in Austin for Fun Fun Fun Fest this weekend. They're also planning to reactivate their monthly "Slide-In" parties in NYC as well. Stay tuned.
At Fat White Family's savage apex is frontman Lias Saoudi, a man whose stage antics are a seductive mess of freakish behavior and cunning dexterity. He was born to perform and his transcendental journeys sear a lasting impression. Saudi has no inhibitions. More accurately: He doesn't give a flying fuck. He prowls the stage like a lunatic, flaccid penis protruding and available for public onanism. In fact, the furthest thing from Saoudi's mind during his performance seems to be any sort of rational thought. I sat with Saoudi at a restaurant in the East Village and listened as he enlightened on his band, their wild stage show, provocative lyrics, drugs, art, and how to stay dark and miserable in a fucked up world.
BV: Lets start by giving some insight on the birth of the band, how did it happen, when and where.
Lias: It happened kind of in stages over a period of about three or four years, with different members. Originally we were a band called the Saoudi's, which was really crappy ill-thought punk rock. We use to just do a lot of cocaine and listen to Bruce Springsteen, there wasn't much thought in it. That was kind of the genesis of this band. Obviously we didn't get very far with that and the money for coke ran out, so times got tough and we had to figure out how to make decent music. So we started listening to good records, in an attempt at broadening our horizons.
Well, that sort of answers my next question, but was there a vision in the beginning or did the vision manifest as the band developed?
There was a kind of a vision, it was a very unclear, vague, bitter vision. It became more intricate and more personal as it went on, and it continues to do so. There was a general ethos that was kind of like, well, we're not gunna go to East London and try to be a successful band, we're not even gunna do any gigs. So we just sat in this house for a year and a half trying to write songs, and driving each other up the fucking wall. Then, when we finally did start gigging it didn't take very long to be signed to a very small independent label, so this became our proper thing, our grown up effort.
October 16, 2014
Ariel Pink @ Baby's All Right 10/2/2014 (via @deeaannaaa)
Ariel Pink may have dropped the "Haunted Graffiti" from his name but remains resolutely idiosyncratic on his new double album opus, pom pom. At times chaotic, somehow Ariel pulls it all together in a manner only he would. Fusing what feels like multiple songs together into one coherent thing seems like a huge pain in the ass but here we have Ariel referencing everything from Devo-like lunacy to the drama of King Diamond to the earworm madness of commercial jingles. Some brains just work that way.
Ariel was in NYC earlier this month for a beyond-packed, scene-of-all-scenes, post-midnight show at Baby's All Right. Though Madonna was nowhere to be found, the audience was a crazy who's who of Brooklyn music, best represented by the trio of DJs for the night: Pitchfork's Ryan Schreiber, 285 Kent/Palisades/Webster Hall booker Ric Leichtung and Baby's' own Billy Jones (who was also celebrating a birthday that night). Sky Ferreira, Mac DeMarco, members of Real Estate, John Norris and Marnie the Dog were just a few of the familiar faces who came out to see Mr. Pink and drink Pink Babies at the intimate Williamsburg show. Featuring mostly songs off the new album, the late late late set showed off the breadth of his vision, from the totally out-there "Dinosaur Carebears" to album-closing highlight "Dayzed Inn Daydreams."
Ariel was still or back in NYC because apparently he just visited the kids of PS 22 in Staten Island to play some songs with them (they famously covered him a few years ago). Stay tuned for the video of that to surface.
One day before the Baby's show, BrooklynVegan interviewer Jessica Pilot visited Ariel Pink at his hotel. Here is their conversation...
Jessica: Are there any stories behind any of the new tracks that you might want to share that might be interesting to tell?
Ariel: You're making me think way too hard already. [laughs] I mean they all have their own stories.
Jessica: Is there one in particular that you think would make a cool story?
Ariel: Let me think about it for a second.
What's your favorite color?
Okay, easy: none. I don't have any favorite colors whatsoever. I've got a really long-winded explanation for it too. I'm colorblind, but that's not the reason. I'm one of the least artistically minded people you've ever met. I have no aesthetical preferences for anything.
Is that true?
It's the truth! Despite my wonderful wardrobe and attire, I actually have zero--it's only because people leave good clothes at my house that are very stylish themselves. I actually don't have a favorite color. I don't think in color.
September 24, 2014
'I grabbed hold of it, and the rhetoric of change was rock and roll, the platform for change was rock and roll, the desirability, the inevitability of change was rock and roll.'
Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats
Bob Geldof's legacy is a given. Whether with the humanitarian efforts of projects like Live Aid, Band Aid, and Live 8, or the musical endeavors of The Boomtown Rats and his own solo work, the honorary Knight of the British Empire has done more than offer a service to the entertainment industry. The 1980s saw Geldof's name become synonymous with philanthropic empathy that went far beyond the well-timed rhetoric of rock and roll's cause promotion. Geldof backed the attitude with something tangible and inspiring, bringing together events that raised awareness for those often ignored issues of worldwide poverty and famine. Talking to Geldof reveals a kind of casual dismissal of the work he's done as being anything more than a product of rock and roll's power or at least the power it once wielded. With upcoming Boomtown Rats shows this weekend in NYC and Boston, announced just months ago and months after the tragic death of his daughter Peaches (most likely not coincidental timing), Bob spoke with BrooklynVegan about the endearing simplicity and therapy that music still affords him and why he thinks music isn't the force it once was for change and progression.
BV: You've got these two Boomtown Rats shows coming up in New York and Boston. Obviously in the context of everything you've done both in the musical and in the humanitarian realm, reunion gigs seem almost like a no-brainer. What is it that continues to drive you now after all these years?
BG: Time is short. Curiosity. The road less traveled. I think those things. I mean, you know, in the course of this conversation you might say something that sort of piques my interest or I sort of ask you about it, and we go way off piece on the interview. Some people come out of that or something. That tends to be what happens, but the spine of it all - and I'm not trying to drag the conversation this way - but the spine of it all is music, because practically everything that happens spins off of that. I need to come back to the music thing, and I know this sounds completely ridiculous and cliché, but it's completely true. Last night we were playing in Cornwall at a festival there, tomorrow I'm going over to Missouri, and then coming back here to do another gig, and then going back to New York and Boston for those shows. Really you don't need to do that, not at this stage in the game, but I absolutely love it. Just beyond love it. It's a pure function - a necessary function for me. That function itself is incredibly cathartic if you've got a load of stuff going on in your head and in your life, and it works itself out whether in songs or on stage. There's two sort of parts of that. One's the solo stuff I do, and that's sort of internalized. I play the guitar, and I talk. The gigs kick off. And then the Rats, which is a different character like a sort of Bobby Boomtown comes out in a snakeskin suit and something else goes off. I know it's something a million rock and roll guys say, but it's absolutely true. I'd give up everything else, but I wouldn't give up that.
September 4, 2014
by Bill Pearis
As mentioned, Simian Mobile Disco will release their new album, Whorl, on Tuesday (9/9) via ANTI. The record was recorded live without laptops, and is a bit more proggy and less focused on club bangers than what SMD have done before. You may have already heard "Tangents" from the album and now you can check out the pulsing, slow-building "Nazard" which makes its premiere in this post via a trippy video. Watch that below.
The video actually gives you an idea of the visual element to Simian Mobile Disco's upcoming Whorl tour where they'll be playing the album in full much the same way the record was made. That tour hits NYC on September 21 at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Tickets are still available.
While getting ready for Whorl's release and the upcoming tour, Simian Mobile Disco were nice enough to answer a few questions via email. They talk Whorl, what happens when something goes wrong with delicate equipment, and what's up next. Read it, and check out the Nazard video, below...
August 21, 2014
Interpol, NYC, June 2014 (more by Dana (distortion) Yavin)
Next month will see the release of El Pintor, the fifth full-length from Interpol. Since their debut with 2002's acclaimed Turn on the Bright Lights, Interpol have continued to explore the depth of their music - a veritable force of sound that varies between the detached misanthropy of bands like Joy Division and those punk compositional textures of bands like Fugazi. While maturation can be a difficult thing to come by in the realm of initial popularity, Interpol have not let the success of their debut be a place of creative satisfaction. Even twelve years after their breakout, Interpol sound as ambitious as ever. BrooklynVegan spoke to Daniel Kessler (guitars/vocals) about the band's upcoming release and what their story has entailed so far.
It's been four years since the self-titled. Was there a different mindset for you guys coming into El Pintor just given that gap in time?
Daniel: We hadn't really discussed, in all honesty, "What are we gonna do" or "How are we gonna do this?" or "What's it gonna be like?" We really didn't. We just kinda got together in August 2012 and borrowed my friends in Battles' space for a few days and basically by day two Paul [Banks] was like "Maybe I should jump on the bass because I tend to sing the bass melodies pretty frequently, and it might help anchor the positions of the songs," and I was like "Cool." It was actually the first time we'd had any discussion about what we were gonna do bass wise for that record, and I had no idea what sort of bass player he really was. I knew he played bass on his record, but right away it was pretty clear. I was more enthused than anything. I'd say by day two or day three we had the formation of what are now a couple of songs on the record. Obviously it's not the songs on the record as far as arrangements, but we had a guitar and bass line and vocals, which we'd never really done that soon off the bat. Sam [Fogarino] flew down from Athens, and by the end of eight days we probably had three songs that were in pretty good shape, and we recorded it, and we really liked the construction, we liked what was happening energy-wise. We didn't really get together again after the last album until 2013 as far as writing goes, so we really wrote the whole record in 2013. It wasn't really, for me, until the very end that I started having a look at what kind of record we had made. During the writing process I knew that the songs had maybe an urgency to them, but I wasn't sort of analyzing anything while we were still in the game. It's like you're looking in from a step back. While we're in the middle of writing and all that, I'm just kind of more focused on what we're doing and logistics and when we're gonna get together again and stuff like that.
June 17, 2014
Slowdive back in the day...
Having left an indelible mark of influence on a multitude of bands and musicians since their initial breakup in 1995, Slowdive's reunion announcement earlier this year was more than welcomed by fans who'd discovered the band's remarkable shoegaze sound during its early 90s heyday and those new listeners who'd discovered the band well after their last release, Pygmalion. These new listeners come by way of a myriad of genres, not limited by any particular scene or sound, giving a broad picture of just how impactful Slowdive was and continues to be. Hearing the band's music even two decades later gives a striking sense of connectivity to bands on every side of the spectrum, from the experimental metal of Deafheaven to the psychedelic pop atmospherics of Deerhunter.
Founding member and vocalist/guitarist Neil Halstead, who we last talked to in 2008, immediately reveals a kind of quiet modesty concerning the band, satisfied to see Slowdive's story and eventual massive influence as something that simply fell into the band's lap. It's the kind of subdued quality and characteristic that's underlined Slowdive's music and those influenced by it, with a sound that seemingly builds the wealth of its power under a steady haze of melodic noise. With several festival appearances slated for this summer, the anticipation now points to what lies ahead for Slowdive. In our conversation with Halstead, the answer is not so much vague as it is deliberately positive and hopeful, with the vocalist/guitarist seeming as excited for the band's future in 2014 as he likely was over twenty years ago.
BV: I'm always interested to learn what initially brought a musician to their craft, and I'm curious as to what that was like for you personally, Neil. Was there a specific band or song or sound that brought you to music in the first place and provided that initial creative spark for you where you knew that this was something you had to do yourself?
Neil: I don't know. [Laughs] I mean, for me, I suppose - just I was super influenced by bands specifically like Jesus and the Mary Chain, The Cure, and I guess the Byrds, The Beatles, and stuff like that. I think that my interest in music was seeing The Beatles documentary when I was about eleven years old and just being like "Shit, that looks like fun," then, the next day, trying to get my dad to buy me a guitar so I could learn that. I don't know if I ever reached that point where I felt like "Oh, this is the thing I do." I still don't know if I feel like that, to be honest. Slowdive, we kind of got a record deal by accident as we'd really not done a lot of gigs or anything. We were sort of quite lucky in that we just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. And we were all quite young, and I suppose it was - we were all just obviously super obsessed with music and Creation, the label that we signed to, had a bunch of our favorite bands on them. I think all of us felt that we were extremely lucky to do it, and it was something that we were totally into, I think back then. I suppose, for me, personally, you reach a certain point in playing music and you sort of actually realize "I'm sort of really useless at doing anything else." [Laughs] It's not like how you can change a career. I've always really loved doing it, and I'm sort of lucky because I've been able to do it for quite a while now. But I never felt like it was a calling.