I'm heading to London in the morning so if things are quiet around here, that's why. But not for long...
What started as a drunken experiment in Seattle quickly spiraled into a roving audio art extravaganza throughout the Emerald City. Musician Mike Min recorded himself speaking over a piece of music he had just created and sent the entire commentary to Chris DeLaurenti, a new music writer for The Stranger; Min expected he would just rip him apart. DeLaurenti instead stretched out Min's music, which is now titled "Sexecutive Cummary," and remixed it in his own way. Min decided to send the music out to other "composers" around Seattle and the result is the Bike Bin Project, a pre-recorded, downloadable bicycle tour with designated listening stations. If you're expecting a blend of sugary-sweet pop to guide you through a Starbucks-fueled day, get over it. What you'll get is a hodge-podge of experimental beats with spoken word, scrambled sounds and fuzzy incantations. It's not for everyone, but then again, art is subjective.
Karim Rashid may be best known for making hip housewares (especially garbage cans) accessible to the masses when he created a line for Umbra. But, Karim is an international design star, a true globetrotter, having worked on everything from glasses, watches and shoes to restaurants, hotels and packaging for the likes of Method, Prada, Alessi, Dirt Devil and Issey Miyake.
Now Karim stretches his talents to arch into the music world by designing not only the CD cover for ObliqSound Remixes Vol 2 (out Oct. 3), but also a limited-edition CD carrying case, which was manufactured by Brazilian plastic footwear manufacturer Melissa and is available at the Karim Rashid Shop, MoMA Design Store, Bergdorf Goodman and ObliqSound.com. The case is made of flexible rubber with raised grooves and can hold all your essentials for a night out. The CD features an eclectic mix of world music, urban beats and jazzy breaks -- a perfect blend that represents Karim Rashid's varied personal tastes.
He told me he's been an avid music fan for three decades, when he first got turned on to electronic music and groups like Kraftwerk. In fact, he DJ'd through the '70s and '80s and once again recently hit the decks at a club in Milan. He travels with no less than three full 60GB iPods with artists as diverse as David Bowie, Moloko, Mylo, She Wants Revenge, Ry Cooder and even Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I briefly met Karim a few months ago during a quick trip through Chicago. A couple of days later, I got an email saying he enjoyed meeting me and discussing his forthcoming music project. He agreed to an interview, which we conducted via email due to his busy travel schedule (it turns out he was actually answering the questions wearing pink briefs and pink sunglasses out by his pool). Following the interview, we continued to chat back and forth for a few days -- he even gave me some tips for my upcoming trip to London.
He signed off one of his emails with a great phrase, which I feel everyone should adhere to:
More experiences = more memories = longer life
Q&A with KARIM RASHID:
SomethingGlorious: How did you get linked up with ObliqSound?
Karim Rashid: They just went into my shop and asked if [I] would be interested in redesigning their covers and brand then left me their music to listen too. The shop sent the CDs to my office and I was hooked.
SG: What was different about designing a CD case than other projects?
KR: Nothing. Design is all the same to me – it is all about redefining and revisiting the built environment and about communicating a human connection, a message, a dialect. Design is about shaping our contemporary landscape.
SG: Where did you find inspiration for this project?
KR: In the music, in the vibe of their jazz musicians and the remixes. I sketched digitally as I listened. I was always a jazz aficionado!
SG: What about the music on the ObliqSound remix channeled that inspiration?
KR: Yes. Funny you use such a dated and supernatural word – "channeling." The vibrating pulsing bone like form that I designed graphically for the cover and the wireframe compositions are the intangible music becoming tangible and taking on new form.
The first night I arrived in Austin, a friend took me out and wanted to show me a few spots in town. The first place we hit, I could've stayed all night. The Hotel San Jose in the hip South Congress neighborhood is a 40-room zen palace that used to be a rent-by-the-hour crack hotel. Refurbished in 2000, this former motor court is a boutique bungalow-style haven in the heart of the city. Gravel pathways lit by subtle lanterns lead guests through peaceful maze-like paths to their rooms. The centerpiece of the San Jose is the pool and adjacent courtyard where guests and locals linger into the night, chilling out with beer, wine and selections of cheese and olives under the Texas sky. And where Austin is known for fostering one of the world's best music communities, the San Jose has an artist-in-residence program where it features different artists' work every few months. It even hosted a range of parties during SXSW featuring the "South by San Jose" music series. Rooms range from the low $90s to the low $300s and all include free DSL and WiFi access
When one talks about child-focused serial killings, humor rarely enters the discussion. But in playwright Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, which opened Steppenwolf's 31st season this week, humor pervades the dark, harrowing play.
Set in two acts, The Pillowman takes place in a nameless, timeless totalitarian dictatorship -- it could be a shot against censorship in the '50s, a take on life behind the Iron Curtain or a modern-day rub against murderous regimes in the developing world. In any case, The Pillowman is a smartly written, brilliantly acted show. It's a dark yet viciously funny play that focuses on two brothers -- one a talented yet unknown writer (Jim True-Frost), the other his mentally challenged charge (Michael Shannon).
Over the course of the two hours and 15 minutes, the brothers discover and reveal dark secrets about each other that will quickly change the course of their lives. The show opens with the bespectacled writer being interrogated by two hot-headed police officers. At first he's unsure of why he's there and begins to suspect the police don't like the content of his stories. We soon learn he's a suspect in the alleged murders of three children -- murders that are acted out based on the writing in his stories. Through the interrogation, we learn that the writer has a warped past that flawlessly comes out in his twisted writing, where kids are, in many cases, inhumanely maimed, murdered, tossed aside and neglected.
The play is peppered with emotion, but one that comes out time and again is trust in and love for your fellow man. Despite the characters' shortcomings, you can't help but feel sorry for them all. The interpersonal relationships uncover a lot about what we like and dislike about ourselves, but at the end of the day, you can't help but like each of them.
The Pillowman, directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Amy Morton, runs through Nov. 12 and originally played in London and most recently on Broadway.
Back in 1991, an emerging hip-hop group busted out of the New York scene and made its way throughout, not only the rap world, but college campuses across the country. Black Sheep's A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, and the lead single "The Choice is Yours," was one of the most innovative hip-hop albums of the time, earning them props alongside A Tribe Called Quest and Jungle Brothers. But when it came time for the second release, Black Sheep was more or less black balled.
But now Dres and Mister Lawnge (aka Andre Titus and William McLean) are set to drop 8WM/NOVAKANE on Oct. 24 and just put out the digital-only single, "WhoDat?" that can hold its own against any recent track by Kanye. The lyrical content, while peppered with a few too many "niggas," flows effortlessly, backed by a steady stream of horns and up-tempo beats that will likely make this a huge club hit. Where they were skilled MCs back in the day, 15 years on life has treated Black Sheep well and their strength on the mic definitely shows.
Every so often a DJ mix crosses my desk that blows my mind. Lately, many of the CDs in the FabricLive compilation series have done just that. The last one to come out, FabricLive:29, mixed by Cut Copy founder Dan Whitford, had me craving more and more from the moment I put it on. The CD features, of course, Cut Copy songs, but mixes in Goldfrapp, Daft Punk, the Faint and Roxy Music, among others. It's a blazing collection of indie, hip-hop, electroclash and straight up rock.
This CD, along with others from artists like MSTRKRFT, are pushing forward a new dance genre: Hipster House. I spoke with Dan while he was back home in Melbourne, Australia, where he and his bandmates are working on a new album, the follow up to 2004's Bright Like Neon Love. This new CD, tentatively titled Demon Tracks, is set to come out in early 2007.
During the interview, we discussed living in Australia, their forthcoming tour and partying with the guys from Franz Ferdinand.
SomethingGlorious: Your Fabric Live CD is one of the hottest mixes I've ever heard - where'd the inspiration come from?
Dan Whitford: I guess it comes from other artists who do really interesting mixes. Over the years I've really loved what the Avalanches and Optimo have done for their DJ mixes; trying to create something really musical that can be more than just a collection of current club hits. When I listen to Optimo mixes I always get a sense that they have a really broad understanding of different genres and eras of music and there's always potential to be really surprised by their song choices. I guess the approach of wanting to challenge people a little bit with the track selection as well as making them want to party was a real aim for this FabricLive mix - and I think that's why it's had such a positive response.
SG: Were these all songs that you already knew and loved or did you research new material for this mix?
DW: It was a bit of both. I knew I was doing the mix about three or four months in advance so I sort of had it in the back of my mind. There were times when I'd hear a track played out or buy something from a vintage record store and think 'Ok, that's one for the Fabric mix.' But really it was an opportunity to gather a list of favorites and some obscure gems to put together the comp. The Ciccone Youth track, for instance, was a track I'd dropped into DJ sets as far as 5 or 6 years back and I'd always wanted to put it out on a mix CD. So this was one I'd been saving.
SG: Was this a collaborative effort from all three of you or were you the main guy behind the Cut Copy Fabric remix?
DW: Yeah it was my mix this time. Tim [Hoey] has recently started getting into DJing a lot and we play together a lot out and about. But so far I've done all the Cut Copy DJ mixes myself. I'd say that will probably change though as we do more and more together.
If you thought techonology wasn't moving fast enough, how's this for making your life easier? Motorola is rolling out 20 "robotic stores," massive vending machines that sell mobile phone and accessories.
The InstantMoto stores will be on-hand in airports and malls throughout the country by November, according to Motorola. San Francisco airport already has one and there are three in Chicago, including one at the "new" Macy's on State Street (don't get me started on that, I'm still bitter about them "killing" Marshall Field's).
With InstantMoto, which was designed by SF-based Zoom Systems, you'll be able to choose from 30 products: 12 different phones including the RAZR and Q, as well as a variety of accessories like Bluetooth headsets. Best quality: you can buy a phone with or without a rate plan.
In case you're worried about your phone getting stuck in the coils like a helpless bag of chips, fear not. Robotic arms will take the product you order and gently place it in your hands.
Ok, so I've been decompressing from Austin City Limits now for approximately 48 hours and finally have time to share the experience that brought me down to the only Blue county in all of Bush country (it just made my stomach turn to write his name ... gimme a moment to regain composure).
ACL -- put on by the same fine crew that developed the new-and-improved Lollapalooza -- was a wholly different experience. Zilker Park in Austin is a little slice of heaven for any music gathering, assuming the grass has been watered. Apparently, the organizers worked with the city for a few months to water the grass in the park to ensure green would lie underfoot. In 2005, by the third day of ACL, the grounds turned into a mini version of the Sahara with most people walking around with bandanas wrapped around their faces to avoid inhaling copious amounts of dust and sand.
This year, however, the green grass flowing over the ground's rolling hills was a welcome blessing amidst the somewhat oppressive heat that this Yankee wasn't loving. But again, it wasn't really about the weather, now was it. It was about the music. And what music, sweet sweet music, there was.
ACL -- FRIDAY SEPT. 15
My festival experience started with a friendly, funny and engaging interview with Tom Gray, one-fifth of Gomez -- and one-third of the band's voices. We chilled out at a table in the artist area, under a big tree while a welcome breeze cooled us. The interview's lightheartedness set the tone for my weekend. After out chat, Tom and I grabbed a beer and he introduced me to the rest of the band. That night, Gomez played a show at La Zona Rosa -- and gave it their all. They played a set mixed with old and new songs -- some that earned them the Mercury Music Prize in 1998.
Yeeawwww -- I'm heading down to Austin City Limits tomorrow. Should be an amazing weekend with a killer lineup. I haven't decided if I'm going to do periodic posts or save it for a full post-weekend writeup like I did with Lollapalooza.
But I wll be interviewing Gomez for sure and hopefully a few others (don't want to put it out there if it doesn't happen).