Feature #19 – Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (Dean & Britta)

Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips started creating and performing music together in the NYC band Luna (1992-2005), which Britta joined in 2000. Prior to Luna, Dean fronted Galaxie 500, the highly influential three piece “dream pop” band (influenced by The Velvet Underground, among others) and Britta played in a few different bands (notably The Belltower and as bassist for Ben Lee’s live shows) in addition to doing film and television work.  As a duo, they’ve crafted three distinctly different albums over the course of the last eight years: “L’Avventura,” (2003) a stunning album of covers and duets produced by Tony Visconti, “Back Numbers,” (2007) a collection of original pop songs (also produced by Visconti) written in the tradition of American singer-songwriters like Lee Hazlewood and Tim Hardin, and, most recently, “13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests,” a project commissioned by the Andy Warhol Museum and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. The Screen Tests are silent film portraits that Andy Warhol shot at the Factory between 1964 and 1966, featuring a wide range of artists, collaborators and hangers-on (including Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Bob Dylan and Alan Ginsberg, among others), and Dean and Britta wrote and recorded 13 songs to accompany a selection of the footage in order to create a unique performance: Dean and Britta perform the songs onstage with their band (including Anthony Lamarca and Matt Sumrow), while the Warhol films are projected overhead.  We’re grateful they took the time to answer our questions and provide us with some excellent lists.

Derick Rhodes/Listgeeks: Looking back, when Luna broke up, among the items listed in the announcement were, “Rock and Roll is killing my life,” “There are too many bands out there,” and, “Too much time spent in fifteen-passenger vans.” As a big Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean and Britta fan, I was a little worried that the action would come to a stop.  Clearly the action has done anything but come to a stop, fortunately.  Have you both surrendered to dealing with the downsides of touring/performing/rock and roll, or just found a better way to do things?

Britta: Well, we try not to carry really heavy things anymore, and we don’t spend as much time in fifteen-passenger vans. We’ve been spending more time in airports, though… It’s great to be able to travel the world… go to Paris, Brazil, Japan, Sweden, Spain etc., but everything great has a downside… there will always be itineraries to plan, hotels and flights to book, and musicians to heard through the gates.

Dean & Britta – “Night Nurse” from the album L’Avventura

Listgeeks: The “13 Most Beautiful” project seems to have been very well received internationally, and your work feels like it’s ideally suited to this type of performance/project.  Can you imagine future collaborations along these lines, perhaps involving another artist or performing in a film-oriented environment?

Britta: Yes, if it’s something inspiring and beautiful like these screen tests, we would love to do another project like this. A music project that is more of the art world than the “music biz” world. Working within set parameters can be very refreshing.


Dean and Britta performing “13 Most . . .” photographed by Julienne Schaer

Dean: It has been eye-opening to play in venues that don’t need to sell beer in order to pay you at the end of the night, arts festivals and museums, to realize there are other ways to do it. We just came back from performing the Warhol show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and I am quite sure I never anticipated playing there.

Listgeeks: I came across a few articles online that were critical of your performing Galaxie 500 songs on “your own” during the recent “Dean Wareham performs Galaxie 500” shows, typically suggesting that the original line up should have been involved.  While it’s clearly documented why you decided to move on from Galaxie 500 (in “Black Postcards,” the memoir you wrote which came out in 2008), I wonder what the decision making process was like behind deciding to perform those songs again.  Was it simply a matter of people loving that material, and wanting to hear you play it, or did you feel a personal/artistic urge to bring those songs to a live setting again?

Dean: People will sit at their desks and opine on what artists should be doing but I figure I am the one actually riding round in a van and I can sing my old songs however I want. I’d like to see the 1978 New York Yankees get back together but that’s not happening either.

As to why now: We were asked to play a set of Galaxie 500 songs at the Tanned Tin festival in Spain, and I enjoyed singing and playing the songs again, it was like slipping into another (younger) voice, and seeing how excited people were to hear the songs live, people who never had a chance to see Galaxie 500 back in the day.  We came home from that show and then Belle & Sebastian asked me to do it for the ATP festival they curated and we decided to add a few U.S. dates and that turned into more dates.

Listgeeks: One of my absolute favorite Dean and Britta tracks is “Ginger Snaps,” from L’Avventura – perhaps your most dance-oriented track to date.  Can the two of you imagine making an album or EP of songs with more of a dance/electronic atmosphere at some point?

Britta: Dean wrote that song, but yes, yes, yes, I would like to do more songs like that, if not an entire album.

Dean: Our other rather dance-oriented track was “Singer Sing” (the remix by Scott Hardkiss who brought the dance elements to the song). Maybe we will pursue the dance EP idea. . .

Listgeeks: Finally, are future Dean and Britta releases in the works?  Do the two of you spend much time working on music, when you’re not touring?

Britta: We released a limited edition single CD version of “13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests” on October 11th – all in the original order of the DVD.

Dean: We have some half-cooked songs sitting around; December will be the first month in about 3 years where we haven’t had live shows going on, so it will be time to get cooking again.

Dean and Britta Homepage
Dean and Britta Twitter
Dean and Britta on Listgeeks
Dean and Britta Facebook

Feature #18 – Cookies

The Facts: Cookies is a band from New York City specializing in popular music.  Ben Sterling formed the band shortly after the dissolution of his former group (the critically lauded Mobius Band) last year, enlisting Melissa Metrick (vocals/bass/keyboards) and Ian Ainley (drums) to help craft a unique and compelling sound. Unlike most good bands specializing in popular music, Cookies is a truly innovative outfit, incorporating into its productions a genuine love of 90s hip hop and R&B, electronic music, and – perhaps most importantly – savvy, distinctive songwriting.  We’re grateful to Ben for taking the time to answer our questions, and for creating some excellent lists. Those of you who are in the NYC area should be sure to check them out tonight (Thursday, November 10th) when they play at Glasslands, in Brooklyn.

Listgeeks: So far you’ve released six tracks, and based on the live set, it seems there’s more than enough material for a full-length on hand.  Do you anticipate releasing an album in the coming months? More generally, do you think we’ve moved past albums, for the most part?

Ben Sterling: We’re doing at least one more single and then probably an album. I like singles. I like albums. Grouping songs together will be around in some fashion forever… though our attention span is shorter, expectations are changing, and the internet means we often hear a song or two and leave it at that. But maybe that’s fair. It’s hard to make a record that deserves its length. They are very rare. Even “Rumours” has a couple wack songs.

LG: Your previous band, Mobius Band, was a little more on the traditional side, both in terms of the live show and from a production perspective . . . what are the main differences in how you approach realizing the songs in Cookies Vs. the way process worked in Mobius Band?

Ben: Mobius Band was a gang. We met in college and lived together and finished each others sentences. We were a thorough democracy with every decision. It was great for a long time. But then it wasn’t anymore. The dynamic broke down and got weird, like it usually does.

Cookies: “Love Will Never Do Without You” (Janet Jackson cover)

Cookies doesn’t work that way, it’s truly the opposite and that’s something I need after that experience. For me, the process of writing songs is very simple to start with and then excruciating to finish. The original rush of an idea is quick and beautiful and easy. But it’s just an idea, not a song or a production. The rest is basically window dressing and finishing lyrics, but without that it’s not a song, unless you’re making folk music or free improvisation. The original spark usually takes about ten minutes but I can’t finish a song in under two months.

LG: I’m a big fan of the boy/girl tradeoff vocal approach, which seems to be becoming a more central element in your productions. Has working with Melissa over time changed your perspective or approach in writing the songs, or did you envision that Cookies would have this type of dynamic from the start?

Ben: Melissa’s voice was at the heart of it from the beginning. I love her voice and have always wanted to do something focused on singing together. At least in my little hetero-framed world, the dynamic between men and women is relevant to just about everything, so it can point in every direction at once. It’s a really good challenge to write for a female voice. I’m not sure I’ll ever be totally comfortable with it. That’s part of why it’s so interesting in the first place.

LG: Who are some of your major influences at the moment from a production perspective?  Which artists have done things you’ve found compelling in the last year or so?

Ben: I’ve been digging back into early 90s New York hiphop. It’s such an optimistic era. Tons of 60’s and 70’s samples, everything soft focus.  A lot of Pete Rock and some lesser known stuff. Caribou’s “Swim” is probably the best pure production work I’ve heard in a few years, it’s untouchable. Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Junglinge.” Watch The Throne sounds amazing blaring from a car loud and distorted. New stuff: I have a feeling the new Chairlift album is going to be era-defining, based on one live show in June.

LG: You’ve collaborated with the photographer Emily Keegin and director/designer Wyeth Hansen, both of whom seem to have a visual sensibility/vision that really works with Cookies. Are the visual aspects of what you’re doing an important part of the process of releasing the music?  How did those collaborations come about?

Ben: Part of why Emily and Wyeth are in tune with the Cookies aesthetic is because they invented the Cookies aesthetic.  I knew what the cover was for “Summer Jam” before I’d written the song.  I’m so lucky to have Emily in my life, she is an amazing artist and thinker.  We’ve got some great stuff coming soon. Wyeth is the same, just a great friend that makes work I admire. He made the “Wilderness Tips” video in one night. I made him dinner and spoon fed him wine, and he sat there mumbling at the computer and made a video in two hours.

Related Links:

Cookies Website
Cookies tumblr

Cookies Twitter
Cookies on Listgeeks

Feature #15 – Christopher Owens (Girls)

Christopher Owens, half of the critically acclaimed San Francisco-based band Girls (Chet “JR” White, the other half, has handled bass playing and production since 2007) is a remarkably gifted songwriter.  His disarmingly heartfelt songs, which evoke comparison to such great American songwriters as Brian Wilson, Elliot Smith, Daniel Johnston and Cole Porter, gained the band immediate widespread recognition with the release of their first album, Album, in 2009.  The band’s new full-length, Father, Son, Holy Ghost ranges sonically from shoegaze and noise pop to the sounds of the girl groups of the 1950s/60s, channeling a heavy dose of classic rock moves along the way.  Tethered by the emotional core of Christopher’s meditations on love, loneliness, and family, the songs on Father, Son, Holy Ghost resonate with a beauty and sincerity uncommon in today’s pop landscape.  We’re grateful Christopher took the time to answer a few questions and send us what is undeniably one of the most inspiring lists we’ve received from an interviewee on Listgeeks so far: “A current to do list copied and pasted from my phone


Derick Rhodes/Listgeeks
:  I’m curious about the kinds of relationships you have with Girls fans – it feels like people would really feel that they can intensely identify with you, as a person, because of the amount of heart you put into your songs.  Do you find people who love your music want to turn to you for advice, or – conversely – want to offer you their own thoughts/advice when you meet them?

Christopher Owens: I haven’t had anyone offer any advice, thankfully. People sometimes ask for advice and if it’s on something I think I can help with then I will, but even that is rare. I do get a lot of sincere thanks and gratitude from people for not being afraid to address the things that I do, or admit the things that I do, and I hear often from people that the songs “really helped” them in different ways. It’s always genuine and it’s one of the gauges that make me feel like maybe this is working.

LG:  It seems like people are really enjoying the current configuration of the band (as an eight piece, including three back-up singers) – how does it feel different for you from the previous Girls tours?

CO: The backup singers aren’t able to tour full time right now, they have children and lives and we’re lucky to have the money to fly them in for shows in big cities or filmed performances, etc… I wish that we were an 8 piece touring band but that’s not really the case. I will say that within the band, Matt Kallman and Evan Weiss and Darren Weiss are the strongest positive force and it’s wonderful to know they’re a part of this.

Girls, live in Vancouver 10/5/11 by Mikala Taylor/backstagerider.com

LG: My favorite song on the new album is “My Ma,” a profound and beautiful track.  It reminds me a little of the breathtaking Smog song, “Rock Bottom Riser” – I think because the sentiments are so straightforward and honest.  Do you work towards simplicity when you write songs?  What I mean is, do the songs sometimes start more complex, lyrically, and then transform into something more direct/honest over time?

CO: Never. When I find a song I take it or leave it. Lucky for me I’m not smart enough to write anything complicated.

 

Links: Christopher on Listgeeks
Girls on Facebook (Tour dates, videos, etc.)
Some Beautiful Portraits of Christopher by Hedi Slimane

Listgeeks Feature #14 – “Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art”

Adolf Konrad, packing list, 1962–63. Adolf Ferdinand Konrad papers, 1962–2002. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

The Morgan Library & Museum is currently featuring an impeccably curated, list-oriented exhibit called, “Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art,” which runs through October 2nd, 2011.  Derick Rhodes (one of the co-founders of Listgeeks) recently had the opportunity to visit the exhibit, and apart from being overwhelmed by the profoundly fascinating array of lists on display, he thought it would be of special interest to the Listgeeks crowd to hear more about how the exhibit came together, and what inspired the selection of lists.  Liza Kirwin, the Acting Director of the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution, who curated the exhibit (and compiled the accompanying, highly recommended book), was kind enough to answer Derick’s questions about the exhibit and provide some insight into this unique collection of lists:

Derick Rhodes/Listgeeks:  How did the idea for the exhibition and associated book come about?  Was there a specific list that first sparked your interest in curating the material?

Liza Kirwin: Picasso’s list, recommending European artists for the 1913 Armory Show, has long been considered one of the great treasures of the Archives of American Art.  Written in Picasso’s hand, complete with misspellings and curious omissions, it revealed the behind-the-scenes organization of a landmark exhibition in the history of American art:

Pablo Picasso, recommendations for the Armory Show for Walt Kuhn, 1912. Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show records, 1859–1978. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

In 1996 this list was included in the Smithsonian’s pan-institutional treasures show, “America’s Smithsonian, Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution.”  Then, when I organized an Archive of American Art’s treasures show in 2000, I again featured Picasso’s list, as well as Reginald Marsh’s 1953 “list letter” to collector Lawrence A. Fleischman; the John Trumbull auction catalog of 1844 with appraisal prices; Worthington Whittredge’s illustrated ledger with thumbnail sketches of commissioned works; and Everett Shinn’s personal account book listing titles and prices of his contributions to “The Eight” Show at Macbeth Galleries, 1908. There were a lot of lists, which got me thinking about this form of documentation and what it could tell us about the lives of artists.

I like to use common forms – the diary, illustrated letter, or love letter – as a hook to draw people into more esoteric aspects of American art history.  It occurred to me that the list was a perfect vehicle for this kind of cultural exploration.

So I started making lots of lists of lists.

LG: The exhibit features a wide range of fascinating lists, from such disparate people as Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, and Eero Saarinen.  Strolling through the space at the Morgan, I started to wonder what sorts of lists or list-related materials were excluded.  Were there certain compelling things that you wanted to include that were a little too far from list form?

LK: That’s a good question. Some artists, such as Oscar Bluemner, were such avid list makers that it was hard to choose just one or two lists from their papers. When I started this search in the Archives, I thought I would find more lists of books to read, or New Year’s resolutions, but I didn’t, which seems odd to me.

Oscar Bluemner, list of works of art, May 18, 1932. Oscar Bluemner papers, 1886–1939, 1960. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

After the book was published one of my colleagues found artist David Ireland’s list of “assholes.” It was short, just five individuals, but one wonders how they qualified. I thought of including that list in the show at the Morgan Library, but in researching the names I could only identify two of the five, and I felt that such a list deserved greater context.

An art historian, who had written about painter Ad Reinhardt, told me that she had seen a list that Reinhardt kept of parties he was not invited to. I looked for that list, but sadly it is not among Reinhardt’s papers at the Archives of American Art.

Ad Reinhardt, list of paintings, ca. 1966. Ad Reinhardt papers, 1927–68. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

Now that I revisit some of the lists that I didn’t use the book, I regret not using them.  There is a lengthy letter from Charles Frederick Briggs, a writer, novelist, editor and critic, to artist William Page, dated February 24, 1846, that includes his Briggs’s opinions, in list form, about portraiture and history painting. I may have decided not to use it because it was more letter than list.

LG: One of the things that’s been interesting about starting Listgeeks is observing the many forms a list can take.  Some of the lists in the exhibit/book are simple and practical (like Franz Kline’s grocery list) while others are more emotional/expressive, or elaborate, multifaceted art objects (like Eero Saarinen’s list of Aline Bernstein’s good qualities).  Are there specific lists in the exhibit you felt were especially revealing?

Eero Saarinen, list of Aline Bernstein’s good qualities, ca. 1954. Aline and Eero Saarinen papers, 1857–1972. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

LK: Some of my favorites are Janice Lowry’s lists that she kept in her journals. They are most interesting read in progression – to-do lists that move to successive pages, and successive days, as well as lists of “angry grievances,” and “people I need to forgive.” She used lists to clarify her thoughts and move forward from day to day.

Janice Lowry, to-do list, August 9, 2003, journal no. 101. Janice Lowry papers, 1957–2008. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

LG: Are there further plans for showing the exhibit in other cities?

LK: I am hoping that the show will travel to at least one more venue, but a second museum has not yet been confirmed. It is a quirky show (art-historically significant lists), but one that appeals to list makers and anyone interested in American art. If any of your readers have ideas, please let me know.

LG: What’s your relationship with list making? Could you share a list you created (handwritten or otherwise) in the process of curating the exhibit?

LK: My whole day is governed by lists. Here’s one of my typical to-do lists from my desk:

And here’s a list of lists not included in the exhibition:

Links:

Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

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Listgeeks Feature #12 – Rick McPhail (Tocotronic, Glacier)

Rick McPhail is a Hamburg-based American musician best know for his contributions as a member of the acclaimed German band Tocotronic.  Having joined the band in 2005, Rick (playing guitar and keyboard) has helped to push Tocotronic’s music sonically, and adds a dynamic, compelling presence to their live performances.  When he’s not busy touring and recording with Tocotronic, Rick runs his own studio and releases albums (accompanied by a host of talented friends) as Glacier (of Maine).  His new album, “Above and Beside Me,” which is his second full-length, is an expansive, stylistically wide-ranging collection of beautifully constructed songs played and captured on analog equipment.  A seriously eclectic range of influences, ranging from Genesis and My Bloody Valentine to 70s space rock and Elliott Smith, are evident in Rick’s unique, evolving sound.  We’re grateful he took the time to talk with us about Tocotronic and Glacier.  Be sure to check out his Listgeeks lists after you’ve read the below interview.

Listgeeks: How and when did joining Tocotronic come about? Were you a fan of the band’s earlier work?

Rick McPhail: My girlfriend grew up with Dirk, our singer.  In ’99 she got me a job selling t-shirts for them on their k.o.o.k. tour.  I had heard them before but wasn’t really a fan until having to hear them every night on tour.  At that time I was still listening to a lot of noisy stuff and didn’t feel the need to hear what I considered to be the German version of Pavement.  But on tour, the music really grew on me and I started to really respect and appreciate what they were doing for German music, which sucked pretty much at the time and continues to until this day.  Anyways, because the record had a lot of synths on it (and I was quite the synth freak at the time), they eventually asked me to play keyboards for the festival dates in 2000.  Then I ended up playing 2nd guitar and keys for the tour of the next record (the white one).  Because a lot of the keyboards on that record were too difficult for me to pull off (with my limited ability and the fact that they wanted the songs to rock a bit more live), I ended up playing guitar about 50% of the time.  I think this gave the band, and Dirk especially as singer/guitarist, a greater sense of security on stage – having a second guitar – and I guess they decided there’s no turning back, so they asked me to become a permanent member in 2005.

LG: It seems like you guys fairly consistently release an album every couple of years . . . is there a pre-defined pattern to how you work, or is it mostly about getting the right songs together, whenever that happens?

RM:  Dirk usually writes the songs quite quickly, often in between tour dates of the record before.  He records demos with acoustic and vocals and sends them round.  Then, after touring, we usually take a short break and then get cracking on the next one.  All three last records were recorded pretty much live with hardly any overdubs, so everything really has to sit before going in the studio.  We practice in my studio at home so we can always do quick demos and hear if the songs work and practice to them alone.  After about 3-6 months of practicing and arranging we go into the studio and record.  We usually book 14 days, but every record has gone faster than the one before it, 10 days the first, I think 7 the second and the last one took maybe 5 days.  The last 3 records have gone very quickly, and we’ve hardly taken any breaks (there are always summer festivals and benefit concerts, etc.) so this year we finally decided to take a sabbath and not play at all.  We have met, though, a few times already to talk about the next one and to look at a studio as well.  We start practicing again in December.

LG: Up until now, Tocotronic has largely made guitar-based records, though the various side projects have taken other directions – can you imagine that changing with future releases?

RM:  I don’t think so.  I think the band did a lot of its experimenting with electronic music 10 years ago with k.o.o.k., the remix album and the white album – plus the side projects from the others are all quite electronic as well.  I think we all feel quite comfortable in our skin as an independent rock band.  First of all, it’s quite a wide genre, and luckily Tocotronic never really stuck themselves to one sound or influence.  A Tocotronic song may have many influences but I believe we have a distinct sound that people always recognize.  Second of all, I think that after almost 40 years of indie/post punk it’s shown that it has held up to the test of time – especially after everybody in the 90’s was shouting how guitar music was dead etc. – I don’t see it dying anytime soon, and if it does, Tocotronic has always completely ignored the trends so we’ll probably keep on even when noone wants to hear it anymore.

LG: As an American in a band best known in Germany/Europe (even though you’ve been in Hamburg/Germany for a long time), you’re sort of between two worlds.  Do you think this “between-ness” influences your approach to making music, either with Tocotronic or your own project, Glacier?

RM:  I think the main difference between the American and German approach is that Germans like to talk about things much more and Americans just do it.  I can imagine, before I joined the band, that the guys probably talked 75% of the time and only played 25%.  I think now it’s probably the other way around.  In interviews it’s still difficult to talk about the music because journalists focus very heavily on the lyrics – because they’re in german – and one often has the feeling that they wish for you to explain every detail.  This is often quite tiring because, first of all, I didn’t write the lyrics and, second of all, there’s no cliff note version of the lyrics.  I often have the feeling they’re afraid that they might misinterpret them, but that’s the point – they should have the guts to build their own opinion.  I mean, you would think that’s why they became music journalists, right? As far as being between two worlds, it doesn’t phase me too much.  I was always an outsider, and now I’m outside two worlds instead of just the one.  It’s something that obviously bothered me a lot in my youth, but at some point in life you grow up and accept who you are.  I tried to fit in and become a number but I always stuck out and voiced my opinions openly.  I’m just really lucky now to have the perfect occupation for it.

Glacier (of Maine) – “This is Not About Love (Act II)” from the album “A Sunny Place for Shady People”

LG:  You recently released your second Glacier full-length, “Above and Beside Me,” which has a more expansive feel, both production-wise and thematically, than “A Sunny Place for Shady People,” your first album. How was the process of making this record different from the first album?  Will you be touring to support the release?

RM:  I guess you could say “A Sunny Place” was the first time in my life that wrote “serious” music and lyrics and I had to get a lot out of my system. Lyrically, it’s all very personal and self-reflective, and actually has a lot to do with my having to deal with being a nerd in my youth and my obsession with fantasy/sci-fi as a way of escapism.  It had actually started out as sci-fi rock opera or concept album, but at some point I got stuck in a rut with the story and thought, “Wait this is all ridiculous anyways, this is – or really should be – about me” – so at some point I turned it aound.  Musically, I felt the need to try out a lot as well and quite possibly overdid it throwing in everything but the kitchen sink.  After having to record everything live with Tocotronic on the last few records, I really started to appreciate the dynamic and the limits or dogmas that we set for ourselves that way.  So I decided to incorporate more of that in the new Glacier record – finding a lot of inspiration in limiting the band instrumentally (especiallly the keyboards).  It’s not all the original backing tracks, but playing the backing tracks live as a band does a lot for the dynamics, especially the drums.  Thematically, it’s definitely more open as well, when writing lyrics I often start with a few words and see where they take me.  It’s much more fun – whereas concepts can be a real pain most of the time.

Glacier (of Maine) – “Athens to Roam” from the album “Above and Beside Me”

LG: The track “Flanders Revisited” references the WWI poem, “In Flanders Fields.”  The lines “The ones who sent you there/they’re far away, their sons don’t bear/the weight you hold” – for you, does this sentiment especially resonate in the context of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Listen to the album “Above and Beside Me” on Myspace

RM:  I’m so glad you recognized it! I came real close to changing the title, because I was afraid that everyone here would think I wrote a song about Ned Flanders, from The Simpsons.  This was the only song I sat down and wrote with a concept in mind.  After seeing the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young film Déjà Vu, and especially after the scene where Neil Young gets interviewed and asked why he wrote “Living with War” when he already had “his” war with Vietnam (and why we wouldn’t leave this one for the younger generation), he answers that he did at first but no one said anything.  This really compelled me to write something, because even though there are German troops in Afghanistan, nobody really cares about the war here.  Because of Germany’s history, most Germans have a healthy, extremely anti-military point of view, but that also includes not caring about the soldiers over there –  because they volunteered for it.  You could say this in theory about the Americans over there as well, but it’s not so simple black and white.  Most of the troops there are reservists or National Guard because, after the Cold War ended, the active military cut back so extensively.  I feel for those people because I don’t think when they signed up that they expected to have to go to war.  In any case, after I decided I would like to write something about the wars, it was hard to come up with something that didn’t seem cheesy.  I was actually watching a Peanuts episode with my son where they ended up in Normandy, and then in Flanders, where Linus then recited the poem “In Flander’s Fields,”  I cried, and immediately knew that was it.  I then sat down and wrote the lyrics like a mantra so that they repeated over and over again in the song.  It was important for me to have this repetition because of the déjà vu of “history repeating itself” or what you could even call “neverending story.”

Rick’s Listgeeks lists
Glacier Store

Listgeeks Feature #10 – Kathleen Hanna

Kathleen Hanna is an influential NYC-based musician, writer, and activist. Both through her work in the bands Le Tigre and Bikini Kill, and as a vital voice in the punk/DIY-infused Riot Grrl movement in the early/mid-90s, Kathleen has played an important role in shaping a feminist dialogue that continues to inspire, empower and educate. Last year she donated much of her archive, including a significant portion of her own personal writing/journals/zines, to the Fales Collection (housed at New York University’s Bobst Library), for a collection they’re curating which chronicles the Riot Grrrl movement.  At the moment, Kathleen and her new band, The Julie Ruin, are recording a full-length album (they hope to release a 12″ in August) and Oscilloscope Laboratories has just released the DVD “Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour,” which chronicles Le Tigre’s 2004/2005 international tour. We’re really happy that Kathleen agreed to answer some questions from Derick Rhodes, one of the Listgeeks co-founders (and a huge fan of her work).  After you read through the below, be sure to check out her lists!

Derick Rhodes/Listgeeks: I’ve been thinking about the impact of your work, and concepts like “nostalgia” and “legacy,” and I wonder if, for you, it feels like the issues you and others were addressing have changed significantly, or if you feel we’re still dealing with the same fundamental problems/tensions?  In the recent NYTimes piece, there’s a sense of looking back on the riot grrrl days almost as if a set of conclusions were reached collectively, somehow, but it also feels like the work resonates today as much as it did at the time, and that there’s still such a long way to go.

Kathleen Hanna: I think RG stuff IS really resonating for girls/women today in a way it didn’t five years ago. I am guessing it has something to do with kidz being into “the 90’s” and that opening up the Riot Grrrl door to a new audience. I am happy when people get interested in feminism however that happens, nostalgia style or whatever. I am most excited about these girls who’ve been doing this project called International Girl Gang Underground because they are trying to use RG stuff as a platform to build something new for their generation that is smarter and better than what we did, rather than just fetishizing our clothes or our records. I do feel like things have changed, especially when I go to shows and it seems normal to see women on stage and in the audience.


Bikini Kill – “Rebel Girl”

DR/LG: As a father to two young girls, I spend a lot of time thinking about their exposure to different models/potential sources of inspiration.  I feel like they experience a broad range of positive female influences, from all-girl teen pop/punk bands like Care Bears on Fire to compelling, DIY artists like Robyn and Khaela Maricich (The Blow), but at the same time they’re also clearly drawn to more manufactured pop music/singers (Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, etc.).  It’s a little disorienting at times, because I want to both support their interests/expose them to a wide range of things and encourage them toward things that feel more healthy (especially in terms of body image/sexuality) at the same time.  I realize you’re not an advice columnist, but . . . any thoughts?

KH:  I played with Barbies till I was 15 and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. What damaged me most was not being able to tell the adults in my life the creepy shit that neighborhood boys/older men did and said to me. I think the important thing is having your kids trust you and want to tell you when they are happy/angry/upset because they know you are interested in what happens in their lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. To me having good communication with them is way more important than what music they listen to. I mean if they like Katy Perry that’s what they like, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. But I played with Barbies till I was 15 so do you really want to listen to me?

Le Tigre

DR/LG: Oscilloscope Laboratories released “Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour” (directed by Kerthy Fix), which chronicles Le Tigre’s 2004/2005 international tour just last week, and at the moment you’re making your first post-Le Tigre album with your band The Julie Ruin.  How far along are you in the recording process at this point?  Could you describe some of the differences between how it felt to work/perform with Le Tigre and how it feels to work/perform (so far) with The Julie Ruin? Are you enjoying being back in the studio again?

KH: We have the basic instrumental tracks to like 13 songs done and one song has vocals on it and is almost all the way done. We might put a 12″ out with the new Oscilloscope Laboratories record label in August, which is super exciting. It’ll be one song and hopefully a remix. We still need to do final vocals, mix and record maybe 3-4 new songs from scratch. It’s really easy for us to write songs together which is a blessing and curse because we really could just keep writing into oblivion. It feels great to be singing with live drums again and I really like how Carmine, our drummer, plays. He is always ready with a snare roll to let me know when I am supposed to jump into the song. It’s different from Le Tigre because Le Tigre didn’t “jam,” we were electronic, which meant a lot of singing into a computer, which is super fun but a different animal. The main difference is that when we play live now we can change the songs in the moment, create longer intros etc…whereas in Le Tigre we played with backing tracks so you couldn’t just change things on the fly.

DR/LG: How does this version of The Julie Ruin relate to the earlier album you did on your own in 1998, which eventually led to getting Le Tigre together?

KH: The Julie Ruin solo record I made in ’98 sounds more like demos or sketches for songs than a complete album to me. So I guess what we are doing with this record is fleshing things out a bit. I’m writing from the same personal place and starting with loops and melodies just like the first record and then we work together to fill out and expound upon the ideas.

Le Tigre started because Johanna and I wanted to play the Julie songs live and we just ended up writing new songs. This band started in a similar way. We learned how to play almost the entire Julie Ruin album and then started writing the follow up. Transforming the original songs into arrangements for a 5 piece band really showed me how much this project could open up my songwriting. Hearing a new take on the songs I wrote solo style in my apartment so long ago was a revelation! They became brand new things but with the same basic ideas in tact. I think that’s what the album in turning into, it’s like each song starts as an empty room and then we decorate it as a team. Sexy rockabilly guitar is figured prominently, which makes me pretty happy!

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Listgeeks Feature #9 – Emily Keegin

Emily Keegin is a fantastically compelling, Brooklyn-based photographer who grew up in San Francisco and studied in Vermont (at Bennington College) and in London (at the Royal College of Art, where she earned an MA in 2009).  While the focus of her work has shifted greatly since she first started taking pictures, a few threads recur consistently: the spaces between public and private realms, the quiet elements and artifacts of domestic life (and the secrets they reveal), and the ongoing complexities of American girlhood.  Emily’s work has recently appeared in the “Humble Arts Collectors Guide” (Chelsea Museum) and in the “Women in Art Photography UK” exhibition (Taschen Book Store, London UK).  After you’ve read her interview and checked out her website (note: features potentially NSFW artful nakedness) be sure to take a look at her lists.  Otherwise, we’re thrilled that Emily has allowed us to show three brand new/untitled images for the first time! They’re the last three in the below article:

Emily Keegin – “Dallas”

Listgeeks: What first inspired you to take pictures?

Emily Keegin: My parents were fantastically rigid in their whole-grain anti-pop aesthetic.  As a reaction, I became obsessed with American cheese and fast art.  The camera is the world’s greatest tool for making pop art.  It’s forever linked to its other role as a lowly household appliance, and yet: SO SHINY! And – as it happens – I’m a terrible draftsman.  Those who can’t draw take pictures.

Listgeeks: What was your first camera?

Emily Keegin: A 1987 purple 110 Vivitar, which I got at age 7.  Vivitar is a terrible gateway drug.

LG:  It seems like much of your early (pre-MFA) work revolved around mostly domestic themes – people and places close to you, perhaps – but that you were also mostly interested in depicting their less obvious aspects. Does that make sense?

EK: Photography was invented to capture the moment between moments, to stretch the human second and preserve the otherwise overlooked.  Even though much of my work (then and now) is staged – or at least “still”- I remain linked to the intrinsic nature of of the medium.  Also, it’s true: I’m a snoop.  I like the stuff that’s under the bed.

LG:  In the “Homeland” series, which was part of your MFA program at The Royal College of Art, you incorporate and juxtapose typically American and typically unAmerican things.  How did being in London while you were making those images shape how they turned out?

EK: Working outside of the united states was crucial for the construction of “Homeland.”  The newness of London forced me to take aesthetic risks I wouldn’t dared to otherwise, and the physical distance allowed for a distillation of the American culture I was so keen on analyzing. I am easily overwhelmed by the largeness of things.  Being outside of the states allowed me to deal with it in small, digestible pieces.

Emily Keegin – “Bless This Mess”

LG: Does the newer, post-London work you’re currently featuring on your site deal with some of the same themes as “Homeland?”

EK: Totally. I’m still working through the same ideas I was in “Homeland”- the fame, failure & aging of American girlhood – but am now using a slightly different vocabulary.  I think this is due primarily to a very short haircut I gave myself right before leaving London. With short hair, the self portraits I had come to use as totems in my work didn’t have the same zing.  In their stead, I began working in still life and the occasional sculpture.

Emily Keegin – New/Untitled

LG: On your blog you document a seriously wide range of images and projects that seem to inspire you in one way or another.  Are there specific photographers or artists who have been especially important to you lately?

EK: I love the work of Liz Deschenes – though finding her images online is not so easy.  Lucas Blalock and the rest of the common language guys are excellent tightrope walkers (commercial meets art meets meats).  Viviane Sassen makes perfect portraits.  Walead Beshty makes art that’s good in all ways.  Always and forever: Ed.

Emily Keegin – New/Untitled

LG: Finally, your images (both from “Homeland,” so far) have adorned two vinyl singles covers from the NYC-based band Cookies (fronted by Ben Sterling, formerly of Mobius Band).  Does relating them to music give you a different sense of what the images are about?  Is the feedback to them in that context very different from the kind of feedback you’d get in a traditional gallery setting?

EK: Strangely, the boombox image was created in the midst of a body of work about pop music and memory.  The photograph was in every way an accident/a slow Saturday messing around in my studio/a film-test-gone-interesting/the kind of accident that you pray for.  It was through the creation of this photograph that I began to shift away from music and toward a larger discussion of pop media and femininity.  It seems very tidy that the subsequent body of work has found its home on album covers.

Emily Keegin – New/Untitled

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Listgeeks Feature #8 – Ezekiel Honig

Ezekiel Honig, an NYC-based musician and label manager (for Microcosm and Anticipate Recordings) has developed a unique and compelling brand of electronic/acoustic music over the past few years. Oscillating between muted, downtempo techno and warm, organic-sounding experimental ambient, Ezekiel’s music has evolved over the course of the six albums (in addition to numerous EPs and singles) he’s released to date.  His most recent release – and also his most accomplished – “Folding In On Itself,” just came out on the prestigious Type Records label.

Honig draws from a rich palette of field recording samples, acoustic instruments (including piano, horns and guitars), Rhodes pianos, and subtle percussion to keep his deeply textured sound moving forward. Sparse, heartbeat-like rhythms, mixed with washed out and decayed micro-melodies and drones, evoke a sense of intimacy crafted for late nights or early mornings.

Ezekiel Honig – “Between Bridges”We’re happy Ezekiel took the time to answer a few questions about his work for Listgeeks.  After you’ve read the interview, be sure to check out his lists.

Listgeeks: Listening to your albums makes me wonder about your recording process. Not so much from a technical perspective, but more in terms of the question: Where do you start? It seems that the field recording elements have increasingly become a major part of your music and of your signature sound. Would you say they are also a key component when getting started on crafting a track, or is it rather that you start off with more of a “musical” idea and then add those elements later?

Ezekiel Honig: I don’t have a standard way of beginning necessarily, but one thing which is standard for me is that all the elements need to be working together for most of the process. The rhythm that feels a little off suddenly makes sense once there is a melodic tone added to it. The melody line which sounds close, but not quite there, can suddenly make perfect sense once some texture is added, etc. It all begins with a sound, or a handful of sounds, and wanting to turn that into something that feels like a complete thought, but that beginning point can be anything.

LG: As for your field-recordings, do you actively go out hunting for specific sounds, or do you just draw inspiration from whatever surrounds you at a given time?

EH: I never go out looking for something specific. For me it’s about finding the gem in the middle of a recording, searching for that series of moments that I didn’t know I was wanting until I found them. I choose where I go to record, but that is almost incidental. Finding what happens in the middle of the recording is the thing which excites me and drives the process. The accidental nature of it is where I focus.

LG: Not unlike photographs, field recordings generally capture a fleeting moment in time, inevitably hinting at past events and evoking a feeling of nostalgia. Is that something you would say you consciously play with, that feeling of nostalgia?

EH: What I like about recordings in relation to photographs is that the frame is much bigger. Anything within the range of the microphone is there, as opposed to a photo, where you know that so much was happening just a foot away from what is seen.  I’ve been thinking a lot, especially with this album, about how much is not intended in an overt way, yet comes out and is threaded together after the fact. What I’m conscious of is the sound itself and how it makes me feel while working on it. Instinct plays a large role in these decisions and other things come out of that naturally. For example, I wasn’t aiming to play with a sense of nostalgia, but inevitably with recordings of places, that feeling is on the verge of being evoked. After finishing the record I was a bit more aware that I was exploring past experiences, including some that involved the recordings themselves, as well as using certain sounds to touch on those ideas, those memories, reframing them and re-editing them. My hope is that it’s more about how a sense of the past relates to the present and the future. How we remember is important for right now because it steers our behavior in the day-to-day.

LG: A lot of the street scene noises and other atmospheric sounds you are using seem to capture an auditory experience that we rarely take notice of on a daily basis. Our brains ignore the background hiss. Interestingly enough, once these sounds are played back to you on a recording, they instantly evoke an emotional response, transferring the listener to a different place and time, yet there aren’t many artists using these types of sounds in a compelling, creative context. Do you feel like the art of field recording is neglected, if there is such a thing?

EH: My hope is that there’s an emotional response. I think it’s important to listen to the world around you in general –  to take note of your surroundings – if for no other reason than to train yourself to pay attention. It can translate in a lot of ways that are helpful, if not meaningful. I’m actually less interested in field recording itself than in manipulating those recordings. The recordings are fodder to be edited. So, for me, field recording is just a step, and not the end in itself. I’m making something with it to inject some of that real-world incidentalness into structured musical pieces, to have that element which I want to hear, to tell a story of sorts, without actually telling it.

There is a sharp, perceived division between music, sound art, meditation, environmental sounds…but these are all the same thing. We have fallen into a trap of thinking they need to be different categories but they’re on a fluid continuum.

LG: On your earlier recordings, your approach seemed to be more deeply rooted in minimal techno/dance music. Is club culture still something that you draw inspiration from?

Ezekiel Honig – “Past Tense Kitchen Movement”

EH: Absolutely, but increasingly the inspiration comes more from past experiences getting funneled and filtered forward to the present. Once something becomes part of your language it is just part of your language and you begin to make it your own. It is meaningful to know where it originated but it can move out of that context and begins to be used differently, to become part of a new system. Sometimes I hear a new techno/house track that gets me excited to play with that structure again, but it inevitably turns into something else, getting buried and muted in the mix because that’s just what I want to hear. I have always been more interested in things that hint at something which they aren’t, that nod towards an interest without wanting to completely be that thing. Yes, dance music of various kinds is a big influence, translated through my distance from it.

LG: Is the album format something you consider important in regard to your musical output?

EH: I have thought about this so much, and in fact, with almost every album I’ve made there has been a moment in the process when I thought I would just do an EP or a mini-album, and then reconsidered and pushed forward. It’s funny because I do it every time and I never remember that it’s part of my process.

I wrote a post about this question a year ago or so on my site, thinking about the importance of and need for the album, especially in light of the changes of the music industry landscape, the way things are contained and sold. At the end, I think the album format is essential for me because it allows a more developed statement to be communicated, a more nuanced story to be told. If I made tracks that were club hits or ‘singles’ in some sense then the album would be unnecessary, but that isn’t the case. An album (or something longer) gives me the room to write pieces that are meant to specifically not stand alone, but to add a touch to the whole. As examples, the final track on this album and on my previous one – both make more sense in context and in the sequence in which I laid them out. They are scenes within a broader work, and that is one of my favorite aspects of producing an album, that means of communicating differently.

LG: Finally, are there any future projects or releases (whether your own or music you release through your labels) you want to point out?

EH: I’m working on a handful of projects which I’m not quite ready to talk about because they’re in such an early stage. On the label side, Anticipate is going to release a 12” with a track by a duo from Philadelphia, Bunnies + Bats, with remixes by myself, David Last, and Nicholas Sauser, followed by a massive CD/DVD by Offthesky, entitled Geometry of Echoes. Those will both be out later in 2011, probably late summer and fall.

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Listgeeks Feature #7 – Erik Spiekermann

Erik Spiekermann is a highly accomplished, Berlin-based designer, typographer, educator and information architect.  As the founder of both MetaDesign (1979) and Edenspiekermann (2007) Erik has worked on large-scale branding projects for a host of high profile international clients over the years, including Audi, Deutsche Bahn, Nokia and The Economist (he completely redesigned the magazine in 2001).  In 1988 he founded FontShop (with Joan Spiekermann and Neville Brody) in order to facilitate the production and distribution of digital typefaces.   Though he’s won numerous prestigious awards for his work, including – most recently – a Life­time Achieve­ment Award from the Ger­man Design Coun­cil, and could easily rest on his laurels, Erik remains fully engaged with both emerging technologies and, more importantly, the many younger designers and typographers who continue to be inspired by his dedication, focus and artistry.  The Bauhaus Archive/Museum of Design in Berlin is currently running, “erik spiekermann. the face of type,” (through June 6th, 2011) and Erik will be MCing at the upcoming Typo London (October 20th-22nd, 2011), among other engagements.  After you’ve read the below interview, be sure to check out Erik’s Listgeeks lists.

Listgeeks: As a result of your success, you’re involved with numerous conferences, the subject of countless student projects (and, as a result, queries), and of course called upon to deal with a wide variety of very different types of clients through your company, Edenspiekermann.  In the midst of all the action, how do you manage to stay inspired and excited about design and typography?

Erik Spiekermann: If it were down to me, I’d simply collapse and read all day, and especially at weekends.  But I have never learned to say “no,” so I have to find the time to answer questions from students, prepare for lectures, travel there, write columns for magazines, write forewords for all my friend’s books, etc.  All this next to my “normal” work, which is running a design firm with some 40 people.  The only way I can do this is by avoiding it until the pressure is too much to bear, until I run out of excuses or until my friends become desperate because they, in turn, might have promised my involvement to a third party.  Like these few questions: I put off answering them for 3 months now, where it would have only taken half an hour to do so in February.  But there were always other people who gave me more grief. . .

"My Car Amongst the Windows" - Erik Spiekermann (via Twitpic, May 7, 2011)

LG: Whether type-design-related or brand/identity-oriented projects (Audi, Nokia, Deutsche Bahn, BVG) for clients, it seems that if there’s a consistent emphasis, in your work over the years, on openness and accessibility.  Would you say that the drive to communicate as transparently as possible is the single greatest motivator behind what you do?

ES: Yes. Simply because, like other designers, I am also a consumer and user of things and services.  I presume that, if things annoy me because they don’t work or are ugly or (usually) both, then they’ll annoy other people as well.

Erik Spiekermann's FF Meta in use (Photo by Stephen Coles)

LG:  Do you feel that design, as an increasingly web-oriented activity, is in danger of becoming too uniform, internationally?  In other words, is our visual sensibility merging at the expense of more local (or regional) innovation/variation that may have been prized in the past?

ES: Yes and no.  For every service or website that thinks it has to communicate in international bad English, there are lots of activities that celebrate the local and regional.  It’s just that, by definition, you would only be aware of them if you were part of that group.  If you only travel the etherspace looking for stuff in your own language, that is what you’ll get. Learning languages is the key to other cultures, and they certainly exist. The more things get globalized, the more there will be local activities, expressed in a specific style.  And if all of us knew about them, they wouldn’t be local anymore.

LG: Finally, what parallels would you draw, if any, between the emergence/application of web fonts in the last year or two and the early days of FontShop International, when you first started digitizing and licensing typefaces?

1992 Olympics Stamps for The Netherlands by Erik Spiekermann

ES: Then, as now, we were ahead of the curve.  The WOFF standard was co-developed by Erik van Blokland who interned with me before FontShop was even started and who has been on our TypeBoard ever since.  And FSI was the first major foundry to work with Typekit because we believe that easy access is the key to working with new typefaces.  I have always been active as a graphic designer in a studio full of designers, so – perhaps unlike some colleagues who only ever design typefaces or produce fonts – I have always known how they use fonts.  Hardly anybody will spend much time looking; if it isn’t on their hard drive or on the server, they won’t use it.  The foundries have to make it as painless as possible for users to find, download and pay for fonts.  We’re beginning to get there with webfont services and standards like WOFF (except Safari), and the web is beginning to look better for it.  There must be human need for variety, whether it is in art, music, literature or design.  Technical constraints are never there to stay.  Except perhaps gravity.

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Listgeeks Feature #5 – Jason Forrest

Jason Forrest is a Berlin-based American electronic musician who also runs two record labels (Nightshifters and Cock Rock Disco) and recently launched a fantastic Web-based television network called, appropriately, Network Awesome.  His new album, “The Everything,” representing a bold move into increasingly less sample-based/mash-up territory from that on his previous full-lengths (including his most recent, “Shamelessly Exciting,” in 2005), was released in Europe on April 15th (Staatsakt), and comes out the first week of May everywhere else. Be sure to check out Jason’s Listgeeks lists after you’ve read the below interview.

Listgeeks: Let’s start with your most recent non-music action: How did Network Awesome come about?  

Jason Forrest: Network Awesome began as a way for me to “get involved with TV.”  I researched and conceived it over a 8 month period last year.  I connected with my partner Greg Sadetsky in late November and 10 days later we had a working version.  Two weeks later we launched the site – that was on Jan 1, 2011.  In many ways Network Awesome is a way to enjoy watching TV again!  So much mainstream media has corroded over time and yet there is so much amazing content that the mainstream seems uninterested in.  Everyday we work our hardest to share what we think is amazing stuff to watch and – oh yeah – Network Awesome is free and you can watch it everywhere in the world.

LG: Which three or four shows/films that you’ve featured so far best embody the concept of the network, from your perspective?


JF
: Last week we had an AMAZING live blues show from West German TV in the mid-60s. The producers placed incredible blues musicians in a train-station-as-stage-set surrounded by a few thousand mod Germans having the time of their lives. Super incredible stuff.  Earlier in that week we had Pete Dev/Null collect this great and very fun collection of early 90s Rave videos.  And we are deeply, deeply obsessed with The Prisoner.  Easily the weirdest TV series ever on air, it set the bar higher than shows like “Lost” could ever get to. It’s totally mod, incredibly well written and just captivating on so many levels.

LG: A recent Pitchfork review (of the Utopia EP) suggested that, on the musical front, you might be moving towards, “something resembling maturity.” Do you think the new album (listen to a stream here) reflects a shift along these lines?

JF: Yeah, I think that Utopia review was actually amazing because the writer really got where I was coming from. “The Everything” is most definitely a more mature version of what I did in the past, but that said, it’s still fun! It took me about 6 years to finally pull it together, and in the process I was inspired by a lot of different things like Morricone and Noise Rock. You can kind of hear a 50s vibe in some of the tracks too. It goes all over the place but still holds together, somehow.

LG: It feels like “Raunchy” kinda meshes your past obsessions with something a little darker, sonically.  How much of the composition of your recent stuff is sampled Vs. self-generated?

JF: Yeah, that’s a great question. Basically I use samples a ton still but the sample size has shrunk over the years. Now, instead of sampling a whole hook or few bars I just sample one note.  It’s allowed me to compose the songs more freely and they shed a bit of context in the process. It’s pretty much just all “me” at this point.

LG: You’re one of those rare people who seems to be able to juggle 4,000 things at the same time: running two record labels, making your own music, playing shows, collaborating on videos, promoting art/music, and now working on your network.  How do you find the time to do so many things so well at once?  Do you think living in Berlin helps to make it all possible?

JF: Yeah, I’m a busy guy for sure!  What I’ve developed over the past two years is more confidence in doing something the first time directly.  For example, I do the design work and a lot of the commercials for Network Awesome, and most of the time I do them very quickly and rely on my gut. I think it’s actually made the work more creative.  I do think Berlin helps in an abstract way. It’s relatively inexpensive and the quality of life here supports creative types in a way that NYC never did. That said, they are just really, really different places.

LG: What are you most excited about in terms of technological development?  Which tools/apps created in the last few years have most inspired your work?

JF: Two years ago I actually made an innovative iPhone music app, which I am still proud of, but I actually have become a bit skeptical of the iOS lately. I think touchscreens are the way to go but the existing iOS and app structure has become too large and restrictive of late.  I’m not that excited by hand-held devices, in fact I use my iPhone less and less. To me content has taken more precedence than technology this past year.  If anything, what I am the MOST excited about is the amazing generosity of people as it relates to technology.  I mean, every second you have millions of people sharing their videos, images, and music online for people to enjoy. While “The Internet” has become many horrible things, it also has become a very giving place, too.

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