marcopantella

———– Writer / Music re-views / inter-views / and my points of view ———– The GROUND Magazine / HungerTV

A Conversation with LIARS – a MESS on a mission / The GROUND Magazine

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

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Endless choices lead to endless possibilities and while for some people this condition may result in anxiety and paranoia, Liars apply these side effects at the basis of their creativity and drive. They always manage to take unexpected turns with every release, miles away from their previous work and yet without compromising their identity. From punk-funk, garage rock, dance-punk and even modified drum sounds on 2006′s Drum’s Not Dead Liars’ attempt to experiment with electronic music created the introspective and self-analytical 2012′s WIXIW. Ahed of the release of their seventh album Mess, The Ground spoke to band member Angus Andrew who explains to us what it means to “not only face fear but chewing it up and spitting it back out in all its technicolor glory”. This is the new schizophrenic sound of Liars, aiming for the first time to create a beautiful and colorful mess out of the doubts and fears of our real, yet very fictional, existence.

“It is beautiful here in LA” Angus tells me as soon as I get on the phone with him, but it’s not another ordinary sunny morning in LA, it is the day after the Oscars. “All the celebrities left town” he remarks sounding relieved about it even tough Mess is the band’s third album recorded in the City Of Angels. 2010′s Sisterworld focused on the struggle of finding your own space and identity in  a city like LA while WIXIW saw them intentionally retire into an isolated cabin in the wood to completely remove themselves from the ephemeral and plastic reality of the city. The recording sessions, aimed to analyze their internal anxieties, gave life to a beautifully crafted electronic piece of work. In line with their drastic musical shifts, Mess hides a new intention, to finally attack fear, and music, from a different angle in the same city where false promises and discarded dreams can turn out to be a source of inspiration or at least reflection. “LA can be enticing and it’s difficult to navigate away from that. I was living in Berlin before and that was perfect for avoiding all of this. I felt really nicely isolated because I didn’t speak German and it felt like being in a little bubble. I could cocentrate on my own work with no distractions but in LA is the exact opposite, I’m constantly defending myself from the onslaught of media and things trying to grab my attention. It’s difficult but at the same time possibly inspiring too”.

I think about how schizophrenic LA can be since the day before, as I was listening to Mess for the first time, I felt like I was being assaulted by the analogue synths and electric drum pads. It sounds intense and it literally leaves you breathless track after track, as you witness a direct moment of pure instinct and purposeful abandon. Unlike WIXIW this album doesn’t give you time to stop and think, starting with the opening track Mask Maker. “Generally with the whole record I just wanted to have a lot more fun. WIXIW was a great experience but it was very heavy and quite dark. It was a really tough record to make and it took us a really long time and I wanted this one to be the exact opposite. It had to be spontaneous and immediate to kind of get back to the idea of having fun with making music rather than struggling. The reason why I wanted it to be the first track is because it exemplifies this concept. When I did that vocals that you hear at the start, I spent a few hours in my studio kind of talking to myself in that voice and recording it. It got stranger and stranger as I kept going but I loved the feeling and spontaneity of it. If I had been in the mindset I was when we made WIXIW I propably would have thought about it for a month and then decided that maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do. Instead with this record I was like that’s it, that’s what we are doing, let’s just live with it! It is a good track to start.”

The doubts Liars always had about human conditions and relationships were the same they experienced with electronic music but in Mess they are almost nonexistent, at least the ones about electronic. “I always wondered how to rid myself of doubt” he sings in Voc D.E.D and questioning everything may just be the reason of their distinctive sound. “Particularly with WIXIW we where making a record for the first time with electronic instruments and what that meant is that we had a manual open all the time, trying to figure out how to use everything. It was very uncertain to me but part of that was a good thing because being in a mood of questioning everything brought out an interesting sort of sensitivity to the music. On the other hand it is also a bit of a plague and with Mess I wanted to avoid that and the best thing to do was just to work faster. It really helped to get rid of that doubt”.

It’s interesting that despite more than ten years in the music business, Liars’s journey has never been a process of reinvention or a strategy plan to keep their sound fresh all the time. Their journey may be defined as an anthropological one, a study on identity and the culture of our generation: anxiety. “I think this idea of too many choices which leads to a certain amount of paranoia and fear is a very common idea for a lot of people today. The song Dress Walker is about this kind of modern situation you may find yourself in. You are overwhelmed by all the possibilities, the amount of media that we get bombarded with everyday and all the choices you have in terms of life itself. Everything isn’t that compartmentalized as it used to be, even in music. You were a rock band or a jazz musician and now every rock band is an electronic artist and vice versa, everything is very mixed up in a  way. Obviously it is a great thing but it’s also paralyzing. I personally feel overwhelmed with choices in every part of my life and it is not an easy thing to deal with. Sometimes what I try to do is to block everything out or say to myself I’m not going to turn on the TV or the radio, I’m just going to focus on these books that I have. Also having a walk somewhere where there are no billboards can help. Most people have strong feelings inside about what they really want to do and achieve but the problem is that they get pushed around by all these other stuff going on. For example, it is difficult for me to listen to pop radio because I know what I want to make musically but if I listen to a new Gaga song, suddenly I’m like Oh my God I really like that , but it’s really not what I wanna be doing.”

The universe of Liars, just like LA, is an endless dichotomy but when it comes to music their challenge is to produce uncommon sounds with common tools. Technological progress is ever-growing and this definitely contributes to Angus’ anxiety and his way of making music. He actually talks about the insanity of progress in the song Pro Anti Anti but not because he’s a traditional guy. “It’s just admitting that it is hard to keep up with technology. There are artists who embrace technology just like a photographer who is really up on all the new equipments and saves his money to buy the latest lens or camera but there are also the ones who just want to shoot images with their crappy old camera. It’s the same with music but I don’t love the idea of keeping track of the new trends, instruments and programs. I wish I was more technologically advanced but at the same time I don’t want to use the apps on the iPad to make music, it is not interisting to me. I see how it could be and I love that Björk is into that for example but it’s not me”.

Mess On A Mission is the first single off the album and despite its immediacy, it raises the problem of what is real and what is not. In the song, Angus almost commands the listeners to “trash the book the film’s half based on” but if life is a film, on which book is it based on for him? “I just have to go with my gut reaction and that would be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just because ever since I was a kid I really connected with the character of Charlie Bucket. He’s a very poor kid but with big dreams. The whole movie kind of speaks interestingly about society, greed and the way people take advantage of each other. Groundhog Day with Bill Murray could be another option”. It also seems necessary to mention and remind oneself that “facts are facts and fiction’s fiction” no matter how near of far we live from the Hollywood hills. Angus tells me “the most basic fact to live by is that you gotta be honest, with yourself most of all. That’s where our band’s name kind of comes from because we’re really trying to be honest. The biggest fiction is success, money, popularity and all these things that make for a good life. I think that’s just bullshit. The most important thing is to be happy with what you do yourself, that’s the key to living a good life”.

Julian Gross, the drummer of the band, is also the maker of the artwork for Mess and the long colorful thread that we have been seeing in the album’s trailers. Inspired by contemporary artist Urs Fischer and conceptual artist John Baldessari, Liars wanted to manipulate something in a live setting, as to express their uneasiness towards life in a fucked up, but most importantly vibrant way. “I love contemporary art, particularly conceptual art, that’s where I get a lot of inspiration from. The simple idea that the idea itself is the most important thing rather than the product and end result fascinates me. I love that because it removes this emphasis on technical skills. I like the idea that anyone who has a very interesting idea can put it forward without being a professional painter or musician. The idea of a ‘mess’ is obviously what we where trying to talk about and it is a very personal sort of subjective opinion. If you walked into my bedroom right now you would say that there’s such a mess but ,ayne for me it’s actually really clean. It’s just a way of seeing things differently and I like that about our artwork. One person can look at it and think oh that’s just a pile of strings but another person can realize that it is a very specifically placed and very worked on piece”. Where does he intend to lead his fans following that string in the trailers? “Hopefully it is leading people to think about how they asses what they see in everyday life. To make them think about, or second guess, whether they think what they saw is what it really is”.

Doubt and uncertainty once again. Mess may be a cathartic experience and a way to release some pressure on the subject but sticking to electronic music to finally find some sort of balance doesn’t seem the solution. The more unstable the territory, the more likely is the chance to find Liars there on a mission. “If I had to guess I wouldn’t bet any money at the moment. We spent quite a bit of time now with electronic instruments and I do find myself thinking about how nice it would be to sit in a room with an acoustic guitar and a microphone and just have fun. It is exciting to not know what we are doing next but I’m pretty sure it would be another change. For example I really love that kind of electronic music which uses a lot of acoustic instruments. The Civil War by a band called Matmos made me think a lot about how you could use traditional instruments in a way that was taking advantege of the modern technology and tools. Liars approach music in lots of different ways when making an album; you can be conceptual about it, focus on a particular idea and experiment in a way that you are pretty confident that you’ll end up being uncertain about what you are doing. All of these approaches end up giving you a different but interesting result”.

I can almost picture the trio in the studio dealing with this intricate net of sounds and possibilities but at least for this album they didn’t question too much what they were doing and part of that was in the better understanding of the tools they were using. Mess is a manipulation meant to create fun and color. It was necessary as Angus explains to me “you spend a year or two working on an album and then you go on tour for about a year and that whole time your mind and expression is based around that album. When we get past that point it always makes us want to try something different to experiment with and I think that’s really the way it works. I love the idea of being a band like The Ramones and being able to make a record over and over and make it sound awesome. I also admire people who can be great guitar players for example and choose to keep on playing the same instrument in order to get better at it but as you said before maybe I’m too schizophrenic for that!”

As the album comes to an end, Liars tastefully place Left Speaker Blown as the closing track. It is the quiet moment after a party or a concert. The moment where your mind is still while your ears are buzzing. Every intense experience needs to end like this and despite singing “I hope you never learn how to play music” this is a personal moment of reflection as you finally allow yourself to take a deep breath. “What I was trying to talk about is the idea that when you play music and write songs you express yourself in a way that sometimes could be a little hard for people to swallow. You are constantly putting yourself out there into the world with quite personal feelings more than a lot of people do. As a musician I do it on a regular basis so it makes you very vulnerable. The idea of what it is to be a musician is evolving so much just like technology and you feel certain obligations to keep up with it. Obviously nowadays it has so much more to do with everything except the music but I’m always very interested in the visual aspects. Nevertheless, if you just compare the different mediums of being an artist, the ones who really put themselves out there the most are songwriters. A visual artist or a painter certainly do the same but not in such a direct way of expression. Not even an actor could do that. Songwriters talk about themselves putting words to music and are really speaking directly from their souls”.


The world may be evolving too fast and forcing us to adapt and synchronize our personalities as easily as we do with our iPhones but isn’t this the endless conditions every human being faces over and over? LA, life, and a piece of work from a contemporary artist can be so full of nonsense and meaning at the same time and instead of looking for an answer, Liars let their sensibilities float on this beautiful mess; the only way to create music that never lies. “All I know is that there is an equal chance that what we are doing next is moving to Fiji or making a jazz record. The opportunities are wide open and that’s the only thing I can be confident about”.

Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction.

 

MESS is released on March 24th (25th USA) – Mute Records

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Website: http://liarsliarsliars.com/
Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/liarsliarsliars
Store: http://liars.sandbaghq.com/

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Francesca Belmonte / Interview on HungerTV

Read it on HUNGER

Photography / Fabio Esposito

Location / Rough Luxe Hotel

For the past five years Francesca Belmonte has been the lead singer for trip hop legend Tricky, co-writing and performing on his latest album ‘False Idols’ and the critically acclaimed ‘Mixed Race’.

Born in London, to an Irish mother and Italian father, Francesca was raised in Ireland surrounded by music and poetry, elements that shaped her future approach to making music. ‘Anima’ (meaning ‘soul’ in Italian) is not only the working title of her album but also reflects her soulful, gentle, introspective and somehow esoteric music and persona. Entirely produced by Tricky and also featuring eclectic rapper Mykki Blanco on one track, the album fuses melancholia with electronic and, just like a poem by a poète maudit, it feels intense, layered and organic even when a heavy bass or a twisted 70s vibe kicks in. In Ahead of the release we caught up with Francesca to talk Patti Smith, Carl Jung and why creativity needs to be handled with care.

Listen + Free Download of ‘I Could’ here

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WHEN ASKED ABOUT YOU, TRICKY ONCE SAID: “SHE’S VERY YOUNG BUT OLD SCHOOL. SHE MANAGES TO MAKE SOULFUL MUSIC IN HER OWN AUTHENTIC WAY. SHE’S A SOUL, BLUES SINGER”. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS STATEMENT?

That’s a wicked thing to have said about you by someone like Tricky who is one of the most authentic artists out there. I would say that I am a soul and blues singer but not necessarily in the style of music. It’s not the kind of Joss Stone’s modern soul for example but lots of my melodies are blues. I think he was referring to the way I deliver vocally. If you are not sharing something and if you haven’t got a bit of ‘soul’ then what is the point, right? Some singers out there have got the most incredible voice, technically very good, but sometimes you just can’t feel it, even though they are doing really well. I really believe you always have to go through something in life in order to be authentic.

HOW DIFFERENT WAS IT TO WORK WITH TRICKY AS A PRODUCER COMPARED TO WORKING FOR HIM AS A VOCALIST?

Tricky is Tricky whether you are on stage with him or in the studio. You can always feel a high level of energy just being around him. When I work with him I usually listen to the music and I write whatever he needs, from a verse to a chorus.

For my album I chose a lot of the instruments, the lyrics, melodies and the sound that I wanted, so in that respect I felt like I had more freedom. Tricky would still kind of have the last word though but it’s fine because we have a strong chemistry and we know how we work by now. It pretty much always starts with the music. I brought to him some tracks and he would ‘take them apart’ and put them back together kind of wrong. That’s what he does in a way but that’s how you get Tricky’s sound!

I love the album and I’m very proud of it, especially the lyrics. I wrote about real experiences and ideas I have about people and everything. I’ve started writing poetry when I was nine so I have lots of books where I wrote down many lyrics, poems or simply something in a stream of consciousness. Lyrics are already there somehow, and depending on the music or instrument I would be flicking through my books as a reference. A whole new song could come from a sentence so there are no set ways of working. Sometimes I think that all of the songs I have ever written were just floating in the ether, without sounding wanky, and I sort of channeled them. Tricky writes a lot like that, he pays attention to what the music is trying to tell him rather than thinking “what shall I put here?”

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“I COULD” IS THE FIRST SONG THAT YOU ARE RELEASING. DOES IT HAVE ANY SPECIAL MEANING TO YOU?

I adore the music on it, every time I hear it the violins get me. It is quite airy and yet so strong. There is also a story behind the first verse of the song, it is actually Tricky’s lyrics. I’d only known him for about two months and we were on tour. Before a show in Estonia we started writing and making music when he told me “why don’t you try this over that?”. My answer was that I was not sure if that was going to work and the moment I said that the whole session stopped! “You completely killed the vibe, you have to try things out but do not bother now, it’s gone” I remember him saying. I thought that he hated me already and that I was going to lose my job because of my negative vibe. I didn’t see him anymore until half an hour before the show. He handed me a piece of paper with the first verse of ‘I Could’ written on it, “My Spirit hangs on a piece of thread, don’t wear me down with a heavy head” and to me it is about the fragility of his creativity and how it needs to be handled with care. I’ve learnt a lot from that and I realized I was just feeling the same. It was a turning point, I wish I wasn’t that emotional but I am.

DURING THE ALBUM LISTENING YOU SAID THAT ONE SONG WAS ABOUT “A SUBCONSCIOUS PLAY OF GETTING AWAY FROM TRICKY”. WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED AND SCARED ABOUT IN THIS VERY MOMENT?

I am really excited to go on my own after five years. I learned a lot from him spiritually, creatively and musically. It’s cool to perform with him but he’s my boss in the end of the day so I’m ready to call the shots for a little bit and grow as Francesca on stage. It is a great feeling to choose your own setlist and band.  I suppose I’m a little scared, but not of failure, there is no such a thing, all the best people have failed. Failing for me would be not being able to keep touring and working on my music. I will be happy as long as I can do that.

THERE IS AN OVERALL MELANCHOLIC ATMOSPHERE IN YOUR MUSIC, WHY ARE YOU DRAWN TO THIS VIBE?

I have been singing inside of Tricky’s music and atmosphere for so long and it definitely influenced me. He can also be hugely uplifting at times but always with a dark and sad under edge. I think I’ve also been subconsciously influenced by Martina Topley-Bird and Costanza Francavilla because they were there before me and I’ve been singing their words on stage. I had to find my own voice. I have always been drawn to sad music or extremely hard music with a rumbling base, in fact a few tracks on my album feature strong drums. I suppose I can’t stand the middle of the road because it doesn’t make me feel anything. The album is also quite melancholic because many sad things happened in my life. My brother nearly died in a horrible accident and that put a huge strain on my family. He’s fine now but after three years I still feel the repercussions of it so I haven’t really been in a constant happy mood, let’s say.

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DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT APPROACH WHEN WRITING MORE UPLIFTING TRACKS?

No, not at all. I never sit down and think about what I’m going to write. I am not a planner who tries to get the most out of a day in the studio. If I can’t write something to an instrumental then I’ll just move on and come back to it, I never really change my writing style. I do feel like I have to work harder though when I’m writing more uplifting stuff, definitely. It doesn’t come as naturally but that happens to everyone who doesn’t plan like me. Everything has to be fluid for me, in fact it took only four weeks to have the album done. I’m really looking forward to the next one already!

MYKKI BLANCO AND YOUR 10-YEAR-OLD GODDAUGHTER MAKE AN APPEARANCE ON YOUR ALBUM, TELL US ABOUT IT!

We were playing in Berlin and Mykki was supporting us. I was in my dressing room doing my makeup and this six foot black guy came in wearing a mini skirt and blue lipstick. Let’s say he doesn’t go unnoticed! We watched the show and it blew us away, he’s incredible. Tricky was really taken by him as well, we started watching his videos and they ended up talking about a collaboration in the dressing room, it was a mutual thing. When asked about doing something on my record, Mykki was up for it and so it happened.

My granddaughter Daisy sings in one of my favourite tracks, it is very haunting and moving. She spoke to Tricky over the phone to thank him for a pair of trainers he gave her as a present and he was so impressed by her husky voice with that thick cockney accent. We brought her to the studio one day to sing a little rap and the result was fantastic. She sings “Look at you shop, look at you spend. Watch them rob, look at you lend. Love me now and I will grow. I’ll let you swim, you’ll let me row” and it has a lot of sense when sung from a child because you think that maybe her generation will look like that. It will be left picking up the pieces or at least continuing to deal with all the shit going on in the world.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE ALBUM TITLE ‘ANIMA’?

It is only a working title but it came to me because I’ve just started reading more into psychology and what people think, why they behave in certain ways and their body language. I came across the word ‘anima’ while I was reading the work of Carl Jung. Everyone has a male and female part in their psyche, within their brain, and Jung basically refers to the female psyche within a male brain as ‘anima’. I was intrigued by this concept since I have been a singer for a male artist, it just felt right and there is also the Italian connection.

01

YOU GREW UP IN A VERY CREATIVE FAMILY, I GUESS THIS SHAPED YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?

I had a very chilled environment back home and there were always materials to paint, draw and sculpt. My dad loves music and he is also a photographer while my mother had a modeling career for many years. It is difficult to talk about artistic vision because it goes across many boards. My vision at the moment is to be very natural but at the same time I definitely want to experiment with the character within me. I think you need to keep exercising your brain more than your image and think about what you want to say. Nevertheless the ‘character’ has the right to do what she feels like doing and believes in artistically. In the end it comes down to the individual. Who can say what art is? It is hard to define. I see it as a growing process but I know myself well enough to say that you are never going to see me on stage wearing a thong and a foam finger for example.

WHAT’S AN ALBUM, A BOOK, AND A FILM THAT YOU’LL ALWAYS GO BACK TO…

Angel-A by Luc Besson is a beautiful black and white film I always love to watch. The music is amazing and every time I see it I notice something new. Also the visual is everything in that film.

A book would be The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis. Bowie played in the film adaptation but I thought it was crap because the relationship between the alien and the girl in the book is not sexual at all, and for a specific reason. There is a lot of significance into that and this is why the film pissed me off. I don’t think I even watched the end.

An album would have to be Patti Smith’s “Horses”, I simply love her. I always strive and look up to her because I know I’ll never be like Patti! As a little girl I was more interested in the voices rather than the sound or style of music. Mary Weiss from The Shangri-Las, Carole King, Ronnie from The Ronettes, but also Van Morrison, Roy Orbison and all of those really thick soulful vocals. I wasn’t really into Patti Smith for the voice at first but now I love it. It was more about the lyrics and that fuck off attitude she has. Listening to her makes you feel free, she kind of gives you the permission to relax and that is strange, at least that’s what it does to me. Her lyrics are beautiful and cryptic at times, I still don’t know what she’s banging on about on most of them!

06

WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?

I suppose I’m hungry for everything that’s happening, I really am! I am hungry for saying something and using this opportunity to make a bit of a difference. I know how it comes across when people read these things but I suppose that making a difference is what all artists hope for. I’m hungry to keep working, learning and also for a glass of Merlot right now!

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Follow Francesca Belmonte on Facebook and Twitter

An interview with Amanda Lear / The GROUND Magazine Issue IV

Trying to put a label on Amanda Lear is an epic and arduous battle, lost from the very beginning. From her mysterious origins and date of birth to the labyrinth of turns her career has taken, the LGBT idol and musical artist has proven herself hard to pin down.

During a conversation in Paris at the iconic Hotel Meurice, Lear defined herself by her accomplishments. She has been a mouthpiece for the gay community. Her music from the Munich disco scene conquered the world, and she never slowed down after many decades in the show business (model, actress, writer, painter and TV presenter). I am curious to find out more about her flamboyant life, her latest adventure in theatre, and how she managed to defy time without being afraid to take on different roles.

By Marco Pantella

Photography / Fabio Esposito

Location / Le Meurice Hotel, Paris

01

London’s Swinging Sixties are over, Andy Warhol’s dead, and Studio 54 had shut his doors, but Amanda Lear is a woman with a strong and charismatic personality that never loses her focus and integrity. She may have been Salvador Dalí’s muse and had dated David Bowie, but she never lived in anyone’s shadow; she is the ultimate storyteller of her own life and an inspiring, self-made woman who can only be labeled with one word: Amanda.

Talking with a unique, deep, trademark voice that makes her songs strangely ambiguous and exciting, the first thing I notice about Lear is her enchanting smile, her pink birkin Hermès bag, and how incredibly fun she is. Sipping coffee and eating macaroons, she tells me her explicit video for “La Bete et la Belle” was shot in the same room where Salvador Dalí used to stay in when in Paris. She was excited to tell me how theatre recently filled her artistic career and after touring extensively with “Lady Oscar,” Amanda is now rehearsing for her upcoming show “Divina,” a comedy with costumes designed by her friend, Jean Paul Gaultier.

“It all started three years ago,” she says, “and it was love at first sight. My life will be on stage from now on and I hope to bring my show over to Italy and the UK as well, where, unfortunately, people still think of me solely as a singer.”

In her previous show, Amanda describes her role as “this hateful character just like Anna Wintour; did you see me on the catwalk for Gaultier? Doing it in front of her, Grace Coddington, and all those mean, fashion ladies has been a personal vendetta for me.” As outspoken as I expected her to be, this time around, she will play a successful TV presenter whose career is endangered. As the real Amanda, she will find her way back on top, reinventing herself. Amada as, “singing or hosting a TV show are just other ways to act. I never had a voice like Barbra Streisand; in fact, my career as a singer was more about acting than anything else.”

When she talks about theatre, she does it with passion, but also with real commitment and respect. She says, “people need comedy at the moment. It is such a tragic, historical period so they pay to laugh, but I would love to play something more serious like Tennessee Williams as soon as my reputation as an actress grows.”

“When I act, I like to be someone else,” Amanda says, but also in terms of music, she changes her demeanor frequently. “There has always been music in my life. In France, they always put this label on me – ‘disco queen’ – and it bothers me because after so many albums, I would like to change and sing more melodic songs. People always like to shake their boots on the dance floor and that’s okay, but I titled my album, ‘I Don’t Like Disco’ for this reason.”

 

To my surprise, she nonchalantly opens up about her new project, the first-ever Elvis Presley cover album recorded by a woman. I unexpectedly notice that she refers to herself in third person, just like Salvador Dalí used to do, and the conversation skips from music to her modeling career when I mention the song, “I Am a Photograph” and a vibe of glamour travels across our Louis XVI-style suite.

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“It is one of the first songs I have ever written; when you do that job, photographers are always telling you what to do, and I felt frustrated because I like to express myself and you are nothing more than a piece of paper. David Bowie actually fell in love with me because of my picture on the cover of ‘Roxy Music,’ not with who Amanda really is. It is an awful job but you know, I was young and skinny,” Amanda says as she laughs with pleasure while recalling those New York City memories. “I was introduced to Diane Vreeland [columnist]. We talked business, but Vogue was only paying $15-$20 [per photo]. Lingerie pictures after 6 P.M., on the other hand, were paid double, so I said, ‘I go for it!’ I did not have this snobbish American mentality where everyone wanted to be featured in Vogue; I didn’t give a damn!” Besides, she was partying every night with Andy Warhol and friends at Max’s Kansas City, a gathering spot for musicians, poets, artists, and politicians. “Do you even think I could have been ready and spotless by 8 A.M. as they wanted me to be?”

Every part of Amanda’s life opens up a world of its own; but where did it all start? Ambiguity is a thick layer she has always worn and played with, but before even trying to remove it from our conversation, she honestly tells me about all these not-a- chance meetings. “Some people plan their career. I didn’t. Everything happened out of destiny. Des- tiny sent me Dalí, Bowie, Brian Ferry, Berlusconi back in Italy, do you see what I mean? I let destiny play its part without forcing anything. Thanks to Dalí, I met Warhol, Maria Callas, Rostropovich, people I’ve never dreamt I could meet.”

Amanda lived for 16 years with Dalí and Gala, and it was a perfect triangle. Dalí was in love with Gala. Amanda recalls, “They always say that I am Dalí’s widow but I am not! I am just the only survivor who is not dead or in prison to tell people about him.” As we laugh again, I try to understand who was “Le Dalí d’Amanda,” a book she wrote about her personal experience with the painter. Amanda says, “I met him when I was young, and he profoundly affected my life. He taught me how to provoke the media and make people talk about me. He was crazy all the time, and he looked like a rock star.” Amanda also clears something up on being his muse: “People do not understand that being a muse is a matter of being physically present. It is not about posing all day; it’s about sharing everyday life. He truly believed he was the best painter on earth, I told him I loved Picasso many times but he did not care, you know?” Could there possibly be anyone else she would have loved to meet? Amanda answers, “Leonardo da Vinci of course – he was such a mysterious and fascinating character like [Johannes] Vermeer. His life is a dark question mark. And inventors like Einstein.”

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Living a surreal life can make one want to change reality, and Amanda does it when she holds a brush. Her first real and constant love is painting. Recently, she had been involved in the exhibition on Salvador Dalí in Paris at the Centre Pompidou, and during the summer, “Visions”, was a retrospective of her own work at Milan’s Art Gallery. “It [paintings] never paid the rent,” she remarks sadly, “For me, it is like psychotherapy. Some people drink, others use drugs, and I paint. It helps me [in] dealing with my inner world, my rage, and my dreams and in order for me to keep a balanced life, I need to paint.”

I can almost picture her with Andy Warhol, discussing lithographic reproductions and Jeff Koons. She says, “He [Jeff Koons] does not even make one fucking drawing. Everything is so industrial at the moment and this is not art in my opinion. At least, Andy had an idea behind it. Painting is a very physical work, a long ritual, and I love it because you have to be alone in front of the white canvas. Show business, on the other hand, is all about teamwork.” What is Amanda’s favorite color? “Joachim Patinir’s blue. It drives me mad!”

Despite witnessing many changes in society, Amanda is not surprised by today’s obsession for youth and perfection, teenagers asking for a new nose on their birthdays, and even Madonna’s new pair of cheekbones. People heat up for news like Jodie Foster’s coming out.

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“Many girls only care about the spotlight. They are manipulated and don’t want to take risks or deal with failure. This is why they all end up making the same music,” Amanda says. What does it feels like for a woman in a man’s world? “People always want you to stay the same way for the rest of your life. Why do we have to choose? Jean Cocteau was a director, a poet and a painter, but when I try to say this, people tell me ‘oh that’s different. He was a genius!’ It is frustrating when they limit you and this is why I titled one of my books, ‘I Am Not What You Think I Am,’” Amanda explains.

Would things be different in the next lifetime? She doubts it: “If I could choose, I would be a man. Women are still slaves in certain countries. For the next few centuries, I’d rather live as a man.” After joking about reincarnating into David Beckham, she continues, “Men though, do not understand that even a powerful woman has to be reassured and protected. We always feel unsafe, and this condition is terrifying.”

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Childhood is an off-limits topic. “Nobody cares about it!” Amanda exclaims, “Am I 60? 70? It doesn’t matter. I don’t even celebrate my birthdays; it is a psychological thing pretending that age does not exist, but believe me it works.” Maybe absolute certainty is the reason why she emanates a bright energy that makes me feel like everything is possible. “I would have never believed it if someone told me that one day I’d sell millions of records. Can you imagine [that] with my voice? When I started on Italian TV, I couldn’t even speak Italian properly. It was ridiculous, and yet, it worked out. Now it is the same with theatre, but you never know in life. Maybe one day I will be a famous chef.”

I ask her how she would install an exhibition to represent herself. She says it would include one of her paintings, which is a huge self-portrait similar to the ones seen in royal castles. Amanda adds, “I hold a microphone in my hand as I wanted to say, ‘here is the disco queen you are talking about!’” It would also include a song, ‘The Sphinx,’ where Amanda sings about the desire to remain a mystery.

Sometimes, a closer look into an artist’s body of work can reveal the most intimate, 360-degree view of the artist’s mind, life, feelings, and identity. Most of the time, it happens while paying attention to a song that may not have been a global success, but it means the world to the performer. Amanda still remains as a mystery, “a conversa- tion piece, a woman, a priest or a point of view” as the lyrics of “The Sphinx” indicate. However, there is nothing ambiguous about Amanda’s intentions when she looks into a person’s eyes and declares what really excites her is what tomorrow will bring.

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Follow Amanda Lear on Facebook and Twitter

Her New Album “My Happiness” a tribute to Elvis Presley with symphonic arrangements is Out 17/03/14

The GROUND Magazine Issue IV – Globalization and Empowering Women / Buy Online and Stockists here

The Salvador Dalí Theater and Museum / The GROUND Magazine Issue IV

BREAKING BOUNDARIES

An interview with Montse Aguer, Director of Dalinian studies at The Dalí Theater-Museum in Figueres.

By Marco Pantella

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image courtesy Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali, Figueres, 2014, all rights reserved

When André Breton first defined Surrealism in 1924 (a “pure psychic automatism”), little did he know that Salvador Dalí would take his words to an extreme extent, by not only introducing a revolutionary way of painting, but also changing the interaction between the artist and the world.

Dalí’s genius lied in ceaseless exploration of the world he lived in. Instead of homologating his identity, he unleashed his genius, creating an unconventional and provoking character that managed to challenge the important role of the media in society. There is no question that he redefined the meaning and the role of the artist, who might be unafraid to experiment with all art, from painting to fashion. He created a unified field in a fragmented world with his versatility and his thirst for modernity. Dalí continues shake us free from our fears and limitations to connect us with our “genius-gene.”

The indisputable genius of Salvador Dalí comes down to the exaltation of the self, combined with a raw talent that defies logic, creating a body of work that goes beyond a mere painting. You don’t become a genius by playing it safe; you have to understand the world you live in before turning it upside down. You also have to be misunderstood as you embody the revolutionary ideas that are provoking and shaking up tradition.

There was a time where Sigmund Freud was playing with something the masses didn’t know they already knew: the unconscious. At a time when painting was an academic matter, mass culture was about to invade us and fashion started setting trends. As tradition was faltering, Dalí grew his flamboyant mustache, influenced by Spanish master painter, Diego Velázquez, and Dalí’s history was made in front of the media. Dalí became a pioneer in using and manipulating the media to achieve global acclaim for his utterly intimate work. Dalí’s inspirations are found in the most remote corner of the mind where the unconscious floats, fears lurk, residues of dreams remain, and talent and personality are unleashed. This is why anyone can connect with Dalí’s mind and yet, the only place where we can try to find more answers is at The Dalí Theater and Museum in Figueres, Spain, the place where he is now buried in a crypt and where his essence is more palpable than in any other museum. Director of Dalinian Studies, Montse Aguer, invites us to play the game that Salvador Dalí left for us to play with and that only an artist like him could conceive.

“Instead of being mere spectators of the museum, Dalí suggests us to discover all the enigmas hidden within it, to look deeply at his works and discover another reality, a double image. He provokes us and raises questions. He amuses and even disturbs us. This is the atmosphere he wanted in creating this museum.”

– Montse Aguer

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Photo by Josep Algans

Visiting the Dalí Museum is a real and surreal experience. The museum used to house the town’s theater when he was a child. It was bombed during the Spanish Civil War and it was finally inaugurated in 1974. “I like the museum as a whole,” Ms. Aguer said, “the fact that it is meant to be a complete work of art conceived and created by the artist himself to express the totality of his life and artistic career is extraordinary.”

Ms. Aguer was offered to become the director for Dalinian studies in 2004 during the celebration of Salvador Dalí’s centenary, and this task turned out to be as challenging as looking at one of his paintings. “You enter a new dimension. Whenever you believe you mastered a certain area of his life, a new document comes out and you have to question everything again from the start. It takes me to a permanent state of expectation and awareness.”

How did Dalí become a genius? Dalí said that he wanted to be a cook when he was six years old, Napoleon when he was seven years old, and the parallelism is striking when you think that Surrealism was born like a revolution that Dalí, like the French emperor, transformed into an empire reigned by his wild personality. He proclaimed himself as “El Salvador” (the savior) of painting from the dangers of Abstract Art, Academic Surrealism, Dadaism, and all of the anarchic “isms,” a statement that only an expert like him can express. “He knew art history extremely well and all of its different techniques,” Ms. Aguer said, “He knew the Italian Renaissance and found Raphael’s and Michelangelo’s treatment of perspective and colors fascinating but also… avant-garde. His style is to be found somewhere between tradition and… absolute modernity with the incorporation of the latest scientific progresses and discoveries such as stereoscopy or holography.” With his archetypal eyes wide open, Dali’s investigations shifted from art to the mysteries of the mind.

“Each morning when I awake, I experienceagain a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí.”

“The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.”

Dalí had one-time encountered Sigmund Freud in London and to prove that he was Freud’s most ardent pupil. It was then that Dalí showed Freud the painting, “Metamorphosis of Narcissus.” The drawers of the unconscious discussed by the Viennese professor work as much as the ones portrayed by Dalí. It was a way to state that psychoanalysis was able to shed some light on the unconscious, but what was he looking for in the psyche, dreams, and sexuality of the human being? “I think he was looking for answers, but at the same time he reflected on his obsessions and tried to break free from them.”

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image courtesy Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali, Figueres, 2014, all rights reserved

At the age of 17, his mother died. His homage, “The Enigma of Desire” couldn’t be more complex. Dalí’s mother never actually appeared in his paintings. However, in this work, she takes the shape of a monstrous womb, resembling the weather-beaten rocks along the Cadaqués coast, a place Dalí loved which became a source of inspiration for his fantasies. “His relationship with women used to be quite complicated and he actually speaks very little of his mother,” Ms. Aguer commented.

The only female presence that became the absolute love of his life was Gala. Dalí asked her, “what do you want me to do with you?” and she replied, “kill me.” She became his muse and set the machine behind his success in motion. “There is no Dalí without Gala,” he once said, and, in fact, she acts like a manager; she looked for the best frames and materials, and she negotiated with galleries for Dalí. She was the ultimate cure for his madness and a fundamental presence. Absolute despair was what he felt after her death, a strange feeling for someone who never gave up even when he was expelled from The Academy of Fine Arts and from the Surrealist movement.

“It’s obvious that other worlds exist. That’s certain; but, they are inside ours [our world]. They reside in the earth and precisely at the center dome of the Dalí Museum, which contains the new, unsuspecting and hallucinatory world of Surrealism.”

There are a couple reasons why Dalí wanted his most extravagant work to endure in his own town. The former Municipal Theater was the perfect place for someone who thought of himself or herself as a theatrical painter; it stands right opposite the church where he was baptized and where his first exhibition was held. After ample experimentation, Surrealism was the movement where he found his religion. Ms. Aguer remarked, “It is very important in Dalí’s career as he represents irrationality in a realistic way. There’s a moment when he defines his painting as hand-painted photography. In fact, his canvases are often almost hyper-realistic, but always with references to the unconscious. The mastery and control of technique, his passion and obsession for knowledge and ultimately his insatiable curiosity are all elements that contributed to his success.”

After the Nazi occupation of Paris, Dalí moved to the U.S. and during this period, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, a very important autobiography, was published in America. Ms. Aguer said, “I would recommend it to anyone interested in his life. Dalí was a great writer and used to read a lot. He himself, once declared that he was a better writer than a painter.” As the world started yearning to see what he would come up with, Dalí fed his image and talent to the media, succeeding in different collaborations: Walt Disney’s “Destino,” Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” Madame Chanel, and Elsa Schiaparelli.

“A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others.”

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

Think of Alexander McQueen’s fashion shows, Lady Gaga with a lobster on her head and Björk’s music videos. The presence of surrealistic elements is very persistent even today; it is noticeable from the way art is evolving to the way certain pop stars try to create their image to shock the media. When Dalí painted one of his most famous and recognized works of art, “The Persistence on Memory,” people were led to believe that it was inspired by Einstein’s The theory of relativity, but when asked about the comparison, Dalí replied that his iconic melting watches came to existence from the perception of Camembert cheese melting under the sun. Is this the truth or just another of his many provoking statements? Nevertheless, his originality lies in translating something as real as the discovery of the relativity of space and time through art. Ms. Aguer, thinking about how Dalí would respond to modern technology, said that Dalí “would master computers and everything that new technologies and scientific discoveries are offering us.” When asked what Dali would find surreal in our society, Ms. Aguer answered quickly with “Reality itself!” as if it had been a rhetorical question.

Maybe this is still the only way to create meaningful art nowadays: learning to imitate our modern world and creating a new one that would resonate with us more than the reality we live in. Just think about what Salvador Dalí could achieve in experimenting with graphic design and what contemporary artists could create if they would break free from the dogmas we are still dealing with.

“I am not strange. I am just not normal.”

How does a genius see himself? The answer might be seen through an artist’s most personal statement on himself or herself: a self-portrait. Dalí’s self-portrait, “Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon,” portrays the artist’s face as a melting bronze mask supported by mini crutches, another obsession from his childhood, something to lean on during life and, at the same time, something to push death away. He wanted it to be an “anti-psychological self-portrait,” to paint the outside instead of the soul, or as he called it, “the glove of myself.” There is also a piece of bacon and ants in the portrait, to symbolize his generosity in offering himself to be eaten by the media, and to act as inspirational “food” that succulently nourishes our time. Are the props and supports in the portrait a way to express a hint of insecurity? “The private Dalí was very friendly, but he was aware that he had created a character. In meetings with friends, if journalists or a camera appeared, he would immediately say, ‘I’m going to play Dalí.’” Thus, it is not surprising that Dalí painted his self-portrait in the U.S. during a period “when he clearly connects with mass culture” and with icons such as Marilyn Monroe, who were also “playing” their characters.

“People love mystery, and that is why they love my paintings.”

No matter what walks of life we are coming from, to stand in front of Dalí’s works is like watching an endless enigma, something that sets our mind in motion with no limitation. “We already know a lot about him, but we need to keep some mystery,” concluded Ms. Aguer. She may be right, as a continuous thirst for knowledge can drive us mad just like with Friedrich Nietzsche, the only person, according to Dalí, who could be on Dalí’s level. “My equal will not be found in other centuries either. My painting proves it,” Dalí said.

Delirious? Mad? Arrogant? Self-righteous? Still, nobody came along to leave a mark like Salvador Dalí did with his art as Dalí manifests our inner worlds, showing us the way we feel about our existence. He portrayed our irrational fears, the things we only see in our dreams, and the magnificence of the human mind with its fantasies, perversions, and endless possibilities. A genius maybe be granted the power to say anything he or she wants. Ms. Aguer shared her personal favorite Dalí quote from memory:

“Do not waste time trying to be modern. Unfortunately, it’s the only thing that, whatever you do, you cannot avoid being.”

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Visit the Dalí Theater-Museum here

The GROUND Magazine Issue IV – Globalization and Empowering Women / Buy Online and Stockists here

A Conversation with Leon Else / The GROUND Magazine

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

© Leon Else, The GROUND

The GROUND met with 24 year old British musician Leon Else to find out more about this young man who from seating in his room making music appeared in the front row seats of all the majors show during the latest Milan’s Fashion Week alongside Kanye West. He also had an exclusive with Givenchy, making of him the only new musician ever recognized by the fashion house. Life has been an intense journey started with a MySpace account and leading up to the first contacts with producers and the music industry but this is the same kind of intensity that we hear in his warm and soulful voice. His recent release Protocol displays an innate passion that combined with his outspoken attitude promises to produce a debut album that will sound honest and sincere, “I’m not into making things up when I’m writing because to me if it’s not real then your song isn’t real” he tells us. GQ Magazine UK already named him No. 1 most stylish man of the Fashion Week and as he prepares to take his seat at both Paris and London Fashion Weeks, we have a feeling that his music won’t be just a seasonal trend.

From your very first music attempts on your MacBook Pro and Garage Band to signing your first deal, how do you feel about your musical journey so far?

I feel exhausted! It has been  a journey of self discovery both musically and personally. I got to learn more about the business and hone my craft as a songwriter. There were times when I felt bitter or angry about my musical journey but I see and hear things in different ways now and I feel good about this journey, I come from a small working class town called Margate and now I’m in between London, Paris, Milan, LA so my world has totally changed. I’m very much one of those persons who likes to look ahead though; I’m always looking for new opportunities and doors to open. However, before my first gig in London I spoke to a friend of mine and when she mentioned how far I had come I thought… fuck! I can’t believe I’ve been on this journey and now I also see those many dark periods as something worth going through.

What was the first thing you loved about working in a proper studio?

My first proper studio was at the Universal Music Publishing in Fulham, London. When I was walking up the road to it my heart was pounding, I’m not lying! I stood outside looking at this building with the famous sign of Universal and the only way I can describe it is that I felt like Charlie Bucket looking in awe at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I was standing in front of a place that could make your dreams come true. Obviously Willy Wonka didn’t come back flipping out of the studios but the first thing I loved was actually the recording booth, the place were you actually put yourself on the track. You see it in films and on the TV but I remember thinking that the mic looked more like a bomb than a microphone!

Your lyrics are pretty straightforward, what does inspire your writing process? 

I always write from my own personal experience, opinions and thoughts. I am a very direct person in life so if I have something to say then I will just say it. Inspiration comes from my past, my present and my hopes and fears for the future. I’m not into making things up when I’m writing because to me if it’s not real then your song isn’t real. I have been through a lot in my life so I use this as my fuel.

What about the girl you sing about in “My Money, Your Body” ?

She is one of my closest childhood friends and to this day we are still really close. She is someone that works in the adult entertainment industry all over the world and in all different kind of establishments. I have seen first hand the effects of this, both positive and negative. I have seen it all from her perspective and it somehow changed my own way of thinking about it. The world we live in today is so judgmental and people are so quick to label each other that I wanted to write a song and create a video that made you think. You never know the person sitting next to you, you don’t know their journey and how they came to be who they are and what kind of job they do, so maybe we should stop and think just for a second before being nasty and judgmental.


 

You have been photographed alongside Riccardo Tisci and Anna Dello Russo during the Fashion Week in Milan. As a fashion lover what did you enjoy the most about attending the event? Any must have item in your radar?

 I am a massive lover of art and fashion and I can relate to designers because they express through fashion what I express through songs.Being invited to sit front row at shows like Salvatore Ferragamo and Givenchy was amazing and I felt really honored to be meeting Riccard Tisci, Giorgio Armani, Dean and Dan Caten, and Anna Dello Russo to name a few. It was a real privilege and I love building relationships and making new connections with people from different backgrounds and cultures. I met so many amazing people and everyone was amazingly nice and kind. I loved the buzz and build up to the shows, they last for ten minutes and then everybody runs to the next, it’s crazy! The highlight was to see from the front row the amazing collections and the details of the design. It was also amazing to be dressed by everyone! The must-have item was the Givenchy outfit I wore for the show in Paris. It was insane, from the shoes to the printed shirt and the simplicity of the suit jacket.

We can see you covering Sia’s ‘Titanium’ and Adele’s ‘Skyfall’ on your YouTube channel. What do you like about these two artist? Who would you like to duet with if you could choose?

Sia is incredible! I have been a fan of hers for a very long time since her first two albums and I was sold. I thought her writing was so unique and yet so amazing. I used to always think why isn’t she bigger? Why isn’t she getting the recomigtion she deserves? When Titanium came out I immediately knew it was her singing it and I was really happy. My management pushed me into doing some covers so I thought it had to be Sia and she actually tweeted me saying holy shit dude… This is amazing it’s the best cover of Titanium, so I was freaking beaming! She’s a big inspiration to me. Adele is someone I just want to go and get drunk with! She seems like so much fun and her talent is second to none. She’s a huge ambassador for British music, she’s doing her thing staying true to herself in a world that went EDM crazy! She’s a total star that has a voice to die for and a writing ability that makes of her a world class act! I want to do a Bond song one day, the theatrical sounds and cinematic feeling makes me feel like I can conquer the world so that’s why I have covered Skyfall.A duet would be with Prince pleaseeeeeee!

How does your upcoming debut album look like in your head? Describe it in a few words.

My debut album in my head looks like a collage right now. On paper it shouldn’t go together but it actually works, it’s a journey going from RnB to soul, indie, and full pop but then back to experimental; from light to dark. I am not only one thing as a person so my album and music reflects that. I suffer with ADHD so I can change a lot on a daily basis, it’s a beautiful mess but that’s me. It’s my way or the highway, I can’t help what I write, I just do what I feel.

You have only just started and yet in ‘Tomorrow Land’ you sing “we all fall down”. What are we to expect from you in the future and do you have any fear about it?

The biggest killer and danger to this planet we live on is “humans”. We are not only destroying the world we live in but we are ultimately destroying ourselves. It does make me sad that one day there will be no tomorrow, whether I will be here to see it or my children. We are abusers of our position, we are so caught up in our own “intelligence” that it is actually becoming our biggest downfall. We all fall down eventually… Unless we can change…  eventually… I am very passionate about animals, Eco-systems, and the world we live in. I’m not perfect but I try and if we would all try harder, things would be very different.

It is hard to believe but Leon Else likes… ?

Moths. I love them! Also raw jellies and… The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills! That’s my guilty pleasure, Yo!

 

Upcoming UK Live Dates:

Feb. 20 – The Water Rats, London
March 7- Club NME @ Koko, London

www.leonelse.com

https://www.facebook.com/leonelseofficial

https://twitter.com/LeonElse

https://soundcloud.com/leonelse

Boy George / Interview / HungerTV

Read my interview with Boy George on HUNGER TV

Last week we caught up with a boy who recently released his first album in 18 years, but since we are not talking about any old boy but Boy George himself, these years have been everything but a hiatus. As the leader of the 80s Grammy Award winning band Culture Club, the first band since The Beatles to have three Top Ten hits in America from a debut album, Boy George’s impact on culture has been ever present, even during his multifaceted solo career.

The iconic and androgynous performer behind the drag queen make up and countless colourful hats has come a long way to prove that what he does best is entertain. In fact, “This Is What I Do” is the title of his latest album, a little gem that serves as a reminder that this is an artist who always has made us hit the dance floor, and probably always will. Boy George is one of a handful of 80s artists still relevant in today’s music industry and has survived not just the changes ion music but also drug addiction and arrests. But as David Bowie, one of his biggest inspirations used to sing, “boys keep swinging, boys always work it out” and here Boy George tells Hunger TV what it feels like being the “King Of Everything” now that he has finally found a balance in his life and musical reign. In a music business where “pop stars don’t want to bake their own pies anymore”, the perpetual chameleon is ready to reveal all the projects he’s keeping under his hat, including a long-awaited Culture Club reunion and a new version of the stage musical Taboo, inspired by the work of performance artist Leigh Bowery.

“THIS IS WHAT I DO” IS YOUR FIRST OFFICIAL ALBUM IN 18 YEARS BUT YOU HAVE BEEN KEEPING BUSY WITH COLLABORATIONS, DJ SETS, GIGS AND A MUSICAL. WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

I think probably Taboo, the musical, because I was writing and staging my life and those of the people who influenced me and were part of my growing up. I have just rewritten “Taboo” again with the original writer; we spent the last year working on a new script. I think it’s a braver and bolder version of Taboo. I’ve always thought that the best bits of the show were the bravest bits and that Taboo ahead of its time so we’ve put a lot more truth into it and taken more risks. Theatre is one of those things where you can go back; you can’t redo an album or a painting, although you can do it with a painting if you are Banksy! Weirdly there is a performance of Taboo happening in New York in February, a two night’s celebration of the musical and it sold out in an hour which is amazing. Unfortunately the critics in America hated it but on the other hand the Broadway community loved the show and this is the reason why the shows are happening next month, it’s very sweet to me. I think I’ve answered your question but let me also say that when I wrote Taboo, I had that great kind of praise in terms of reviews that I’ve never had in my career. I got possibly one of the greatest write ups about my writing so I’ve always been very proud of this piece of work.

YOU SAID THAT MAKING THIS ALBUM WAS THE “MOST STRESS-FREE RECORDING EXPERIENCE EVER”. IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS ANY DIFFERENT WHEN WORKING IN THIS STATE OF MIND?

I think that what you do is reflect on your condition, whether it is physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental because all of those things play a big part in what you do creatively. Being a little crazy works when you’re 19 but as you get older, people want different things from you and you want different things for yourself. We forgive young beautiful people a lot don’t we? Your ambitions change, your reasons for doing what you do change. Music is a hobby for me, I make my living from DJing and that is my career, music is my passion and something I have to do whether it sells or not, whether it’s popular or unpopular, I just can’t live without it. With this record I didn’t want to sound like I was trying too hard. Classic things really work for me at the moment, classic sounds and…classic tailoring!

THE VIDEO FOR “MY GOD!” IS QUITE ECLECTIC, HOW DID IT COME TOGETHER?

I did the video with Dean Stockings at my house, putting on some backdrops and just literally did it on a shoestring because we spent all the money on the first video for “King of Everything”! So we had to kind of do it ourselves but it was real fun. We messed around with different looks, wigs, hats, and had as much fun as possible which I think really come across in the video.

WE ALSO GET TO SEE YOU WITHOUT A HAT…

Yes and I have been wearing a lot of old things too lately, things I’ve had for thirty years in the cupboard that fit me again! So I have been discovering little gems here and there, I am so glad I kept them because they still work and seem fresh somehow. As for the hat I get a lot of the big ones from A Child of the Jago in Shoreditch, he’s a son of Vivienne Westwood and they do great hats.

IN “BIGGER THAN WAR” YOU SING THAT NO ONE IS BIGGER THAN YOKO ONO AND YOU ALSO COVER HER SONG, “DEATH OF SAMANTHA”. WHAT DO YOU ADMIRE ABOUT YOKO?

She’s a great character and as a woman she’s quite formidable. She has always been very true to herself, and put up with a lot of abuses over the years, but she has always been quite dignified. I love her music most of all, I am a big Yoko fan and that song is beautiful with some great lyrics. When people say she doesn’t sing and that she only screams I would say to them to listen to this song and they’re always surprised. Her version is really beautiful.

A LINE FROM THE SONG SAYS “SOMETHING INSIDE ME DIED THAT DAY”. METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING, WHAT PART OF YOURSELF DIED THAT YOU ARE HAPPY ABOUT?

That is quite extreme! In a way the easiest answer would be my desire and appetite for self-destruction. I look at myself now and the way I do things and I can’t imagine ever being any other way. I can’t imagine being that kind of neurotic, highly drunk that I was in the past and I think, Oh God how did I live like that? How did I have a career?” When you are in the moment you’re just in it and it feels normal to be like that, it is only when you have something to kind of balance it that your perception changes. In a way we are all a work in progress, I don’t think you get older and wiser just because you’re getting older; you have to kind of change. The longer you stick around the smarter you get, you have to change things and say to yourself this is not working anymore”.

IN WHICH WAY WOULD YOU SAY THAT BUDDHISM IS WORKING FOR YOU?

It is a real, basic common sense kind of practice I suppose. The question you ask yourself as a Buddhist is what are you going to do about it?” As a practice it is something you have to do like when someone tells you “I love you” for example. It sounds very nice but you kind of need evidence as well. Buddhism is evidence based so there is a practice you do daily and it changes the energy around you; they refer to the chanting as “polishing your mirror” because you get a more clear vision of what you want to say or be, and chanting Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō is basically saying “I believe in the law of cause and effect” so, everything I do, say, think, and the way I behave makes a difference. In that respect it is a verb, Buddhism is a verb, like love.

“IT’S EASY” IS QUITE A SAD SONG ON YOUR ALBUM ABOUT LOVE. WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING OF LOVE NOW?

I’m not in a relationship right now but it doesn’t mean I am lonely because usually when you say that you are not in a relationship everybody goes “Oooh”. At this point I am not somebody who has to be in a relationship, I want quality not quantity. For someone to come along and interrupt my schedule… Well they have to be pretty damn spectacular! As you get older it becomes harder because you are much more set in your ways and less flexible, when you are 20 you want to change people around and you have the energy for that but right now, oh fuck off! I am kind of relieved that I don’t have that kind of panic that I used to have about finding a boyfriend. In this day and age there may be a lot of ways to find a boyfriend but finding a good quality one is still as hard as it ever was.

WHAT WOULD YOU BRING BACK FROM THE 80S THAT IN YOUR OPINION WOULD BENEFIT TODAY’S MUSIC SCENE?

First of all, in this country we have this kind of attitude that if you are over a certain age you can’t get played on the radio. Everything is like a formula and I want to be able to hear everything, even things that I don’t like! That’s why I love the 70s because it was the craziest decade in music, you had punk, rock, disco, Cliff Richards, and reggae all going on at the same time. Nowadays if you are not 16 and you don’t sound like everybody else they won’t play your record. The downside of technology is that everyone can make a record in their bedroom but nobody is really making anything particularly interesting. I mean there is always great music being made but usually it is from guitar bands. I am more interested in rock bands because pop music is such a formula, even someone like Lady Gaga. What she does is still EDM and if you listen to the new Beyoncé album it is EDM as well so basically everybody wants a piece of the same pie. Nobody wants to bake their own pies anymore! The instinct is still there but I think that what is happening right now is that the industry is run by radio programmers and the artists don’t dictate the art form anymore, they do only in the alternative scene. There are definite rules about how you have to sound in the pop world and I hear lots of people saying oh she’s the new Adele or the new whoever” when she hasn’t even been around for a year and I say, “Hellooo, why do you want a new one already?!” It is a funny time for music, I think the most interesting thing you can be is yourself and you have to work out how you are going to do something without falling into that trap of “I must make a record like this”, or “I must work with this person and dress like this”. Ultimately you just have to do your own thing and as Tom Waits once said, it’s like with prostitutes and monuments, if you stick around long enough you’ll get respected! I love that; I should have that put on my bed in neon lights!

IN A DOCUMENTARY ON YOUR LIFE YOU RECALLED BEING TOLD YOU WERE A ‘FAG’ AT THE AGE OF SIX. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO KIDS WHO ARE STILL GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING?

I think it is not that you want to hear anything. I think as an older man I realize that when you are a kid, almost everything about you is a target like the way you wear glasses or maybe you are a bit fat or not really pretty. Being any kind of kid is very difficult, you hear certain things like “fag” or “puff” and you imagine that you are the only one being called names. I remember kids at school were so vile but a lot of that comes from families. If you grow up in a family where you hear that kind of language then you’re going to repeat it. Kids don’t know what they are saying or meaning so it’s adults’ responsibility to say that something is not acceptable, in the same way they do with racist language for example. We need the same kind of attitude towards any kind of bullying and we just need to be kinder, there is a lot of work to be done and attacking is never the answer. Attacking Putin and making T-shirts with his face wearing makeup on it doesn’t really help, it is a kind of media reaction.

I like Ben Cohen’s anti-bullying campaigns, what he’s doing is brilliant. We need more people like him and straight people to stand up and say “you know what? What is your problem?” that is where the change is going to come from. Gays have been through a huge evolution, we have had AIDS and so many other things to deal with that we are kind of empowered and in the end of the day this is not our problem, it’s their fucking problem! There is nothing wrong with me and I don’t need to adopt or mimic your lifestyle, I don’t need to get married or to be like you, because there is nothing wrong with me anyway. The other thing that I try to explain to people is that being gay takes up about two or three hours of my week, on a good week if I’m lucky! My “gayness” only covers that amount of time in my life because like any other gay person I have other things to do like working and paying bills. Do people think that all we do is just sex? This is the problem with lots of homophobic people; they only focus on the sexual aspect of what gay people do.

IS CULTURE CLUB REALLY HAPPENING IN 2014? WHAT ARE WE TO EXPECT IN THE NEW YEAR?

We’ll start writing together soon but until we’ll get the music right we can’t really decide on how we’re going to do things. Obviously I am concentrating on my record now; it’s coming out in Europe so I will promote but we are also doing a dub version of the album, hopefully it will be ready in June for my birthday, it’s a slightly more indulgent version of “This Is What I Do” called “This Is What I Dub”. I am also doing some shows in April; all of the songs really work live so it’s a pleasure to play them.

WHAT CROSSES YOUR MIND WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR WIPING OFF YOUR MAKE UP AFTER A GIG?

How have I got it all off?! It’s because when you wake up in the morning there is always this bit of black on your eyes, it gets stuck so I try to make sure I’ve done a really good job when I wipe it off. There is nothing worse than going for a coffee at Starbucks and having everyone staring at me. The great thing about makeup is that when I’m not wearing it I can be anonymous and people say “is that him? I don’t know!”  This is why I make sure I get it all off properly.

WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?

Tolerance is something I’m hungry for. Compassion and humor as well. It is incredible how much intolerance there is in the world, it is 2014 and we are still having the same kind of conversations… And food of course! Food is really important, we can’t exist without it and I would probably say that I am almost obsessed with food. I dream about what I’m going to eat next! A raw cheesecake, or bread! But only when I am in Italy though; when I’m there I always think, “He brought me bread so I have to eat it!”

 “My God” the second single from “This is What I Do” is released on the 26th of January and it features a cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games”

Info and Tickets for the upcoming UK Tour on http://www.boygeorgeuk.com/

 

The (R)evolution of a Gypsy Philosopher / Gogol Bordello

Read the Cover story on The GROUND Magazine

“Gogol Bordello’s task is to provoke audience out of post-modern aesthetic swamp onto a neo-optimistic communal movement towards new sources of authentic energy.

With acts of music, theatre, chaos and sorcery Gogol Bordello confronts the jaded and irony-diseased. Our treatment of traditional material is freewillous, but is not irony driven and thus real. Our theatre is chaotic and spontaneous and because of that is alarming and response provoking.

From where we stand it is clear that world’s cultures contain material for endless art-possibilities and new mind-stretching combinations, raw joy and survival energy. We chose to work with Gypsy, Cabaret and Punk traditions. It’s what we know and feel. And many more are possible that can make the beloved statement of post-modernism “everything is been done” sound as an intellectual error.

The troubadours of neo-authentics are coming as a trans-global Art syndicate family that has never been witnessed before. PARTY!”

– Hütz  and GB

Reading Gogol Bordello‘s Artist’s Statement you can’t help but feel the intellectual energy behind their work. I’m using the word “intellectual” because this energy is not a power deriving from mere knowledge, but rather a mental stimulation that has been nurtured by years of traveling and has always been revealed with no filters through a musical odyssey that one could define as a gypsy-punk cabaret.

“I wrote that in ten minutes as I was asked to do it by The Whitney Museum Biennial. Do you seriously think I sat down to write a manifesto?” tells me the eclectic Gogol Bordello’s leader Eugene Hütz  with his calm and distinctive voice. I get to talk to him during a break in the band’s sound check in Paris as they’re on the road, again, to promote “Pura Vida Conspiracy” an album about human potential and a universal flow of energy called  “conspiracy” that ironically only wants to help human kind achieving the impossible.

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“Sometimes the stress of needing something done in 10 minutes brings out universal truths” he adds, and coming from someone who has been a universal traveller all of his life and experimented with music, acting, and DJing without ever settling down, I know I can take his words seriously and that some universal truths will eventually come out in our conversation.

“Pura Vida” means “Pure Life” and fuses Goran Bregovic’s contagious folklore, Yann Tiersen’s sensibility, and Emir Kusturica’s cinematography. Eugene’s rebellious voice and Sergey Riabtsev frenetic violin produce yet another ambitious piece of art, more sensible than ever and opening the way to a new philosophical symposium. Did I forget to mention that Eugene is most of all a philosopher?

Before we get philosophical though, Eugene tells me how life on tour is a combat, “an artistic party combat, there’s no any other way to look at it otherwise you’re not gonna make it through. You’re gonna die on tour.” Attending a GB’s concert may look like a limitless celebration where sweat and energy rise at the same pace but in reality, it is a crusade, “Bruce Lee said that you gain the condition and then in a battle you spend it”. People enjoy their gigs because they lose their identity for one night, this is what Eugene promises and explains that “people who are so concerned with their identity are still in a kind of in brio stage of development because it is crucial for them to have that big facade. If u have a lot of things going on inside then this identity issue kind of deals away or is not taken so seriously any longer”. When talking with that unmistakable accent, Eugene is very attentive to what he’s saying but also very straightforward and fun. I ask him about how the identity of the band has changed throughout the years and he has laugh saying “I don’t really analyze these things, there are people who are given good money to analyze and write about it” and after ironising on 70’s band  Emerson, Lake & Palmer he continues “For me it is a stage of evolution and all stages are necessary. At this point the band can do anything. I really love this band”.

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Maybe I should not analyze things too much as everything is pretty self-explanatory with Eugene, just like the artwork on the cover of “Pura Vida”, an hour-glass smashed by a bullet. “That image is the visual for the saying Fuck the time before time fucks you. There is no urgency behind it, it’s more about liberation because the hourglass signifies the past and the future and people who are too busy living in the past or in the future worrying about it, they are missing out  and inept of “Pura Vida Conspiracy”. They can’t feel that life is happening now and now only and that there is no any other life besides now. There never was any as well”. I immediately understand how Eugene’s vision is rooted in the joy of living life in the moment, a fragment of time that, like going on tour, turns out to be a crusade “the world itself and living in the now is already difficult so it is even harder to convey the meaning of it. Some artists are pretty good in bringing this message forward through actions and not words. They have a tremendous power and our band has that power. It simply demands your attention to the now and now only. Western countries are locked up with their shit”.

It is no coincidence that the album is profoundly influenced by a side of the world that is not locked up with any shit, at least when it comes to living life at its fullest: South America. Eugene has been living in Brazil for a while and this Latino vibe is not that different at its core from the Eastern European’s raw and colorful tradition. Can Gogol Bordello be any more global than they have ever been? “Malandrino” sounds so Italian with its Sicilian appeal, “I Just Realized” feels like an Eastern European samba, and as the album unfolds you can’t help but imagine yourself in Mexico, more precisely on a boat along the river of  Xochimilco, where the Mariachi entertain people with their music. “Mexicans and Italians for example are liberated from their schedule” he remarks, but what is the most important and universal thing in his life at the moment? “The feeling of unbounded love on all and every level. Music is just one of the ways to express it. The feeling doesn’t come natural at all, you have to cultivate it. For millions of years have been wandering around just to survive, like machines. The feeling of cultivating our positive sides is only coming out now in this time of evolution”.

Eugene’s evolution has never followed a straight line though. From playing gypsy music at Russian weddings to earning a solid following amongst New York’s downtown hipsters, he then became a celebrity in the downtown scene thanks to his Thursday night DJ gigs at Bulgarian club Mehanata. The steps of his journey actually took unexpected turns when he started acting in films like 2005’s “Everything Is Illuminated” starring Elijah Wood and Madonna’s directorial debut “Filth And Wisdom” back in 2008 where he was the main character. You may remember Eugene and Sergey joining Madonna on stage at Wembley Stadium during the Live Earth in 2007 for a completely reinvented and mesmerizing version of her classic “La Isla Bonita” arranged on the notes of “Pala Tute”, but when it comes to dealing with popularity and the music business Eugene doesn’t seems interested nor bothered. “I don’t know I didn’t notice that. I don’t really care and to me the worst thing is to spend my energy on something that I’m expected to do. Maybe I was blessed because from the very beginning I’ve never experienced any kind of external pressure besides my own. No one with commercial pressure ever came about and this is the Chinese philosophy that all ideas will fit and end up where they started. Every journey ends where it started so I’m not surprised that people with commercial tasted did not contact me”.

Eugene and the band have come a long way, and though he admits that traveling around the world is much easier now compared to when they “used to have massive luggages, miss every plane, it was chaos” the concept of traveling always remains a spiritual journey for him. He tells me an old saying that expresses the whole concept behind the film Filth And Wisdom “every man has to go through his hell to get to his heaven”. This is why he would not change a thing, “that would be cheating, you’ve got to do your homeworks before you get good. Every man, woman, and the whole human kind in general have to. There is nothing to change!”. In the same film Eugene featured the band’s song “Wonderlust King” where he sings “And presidents, and billionaires, and generals, they’ll never know what I have owned!” and this is why a journey through your own hell or around the world has nothing to do with discovery or conquering but it has got to do with appreciation. “I think the most precious thing in my life is the joy of being. As simple as it sounds that is the feeling you really don’t wanna ever let go. People prioritize completely insane shit over it like pride and career and I mean they’re suffering and they think it is meaningful but it is fucking meaningless actually. All the good energy in life is rooted into the joy of being and if you are disconnected from it, everything else is worthless”.

I understand how “Pura Vida Conspiracy” is a simple celebration of something we all give for granted: being here no matter what happens around us. “Revolution is internal, Evolution isn’t over” as he sings in “Raise The Knowledge” from their previous album “Trans-Continental Hustle”. Politic is not in Eugene’s vocabulary and the rebellious side of the band has always been directed towards a humanitarian sphere. “I hate politics, sometimes I make fun of it in my work but I am a humanitarian musician, all my lyrics have always been incredibly personal to me. I think we are overestimating the power of people who are in power. They barely have any power, do you understand this? It is like people who have to go and swipe the streets and some other people who have to fucking clean the toilets. Some people have to fucking go and run the country but there’s nothing amazing about it, they are barely holding it together” I think it is a good way to look at nowadays situation sand Eugene remarks “politics doesn’t interest me at all, if you want to get more into this subject you should read more about progressive evolutionary science, Bruce Lipton or something like that. Modern biochemistry, quantum physics and buddhisim when put together they pretty much explain the whole situation from a much more liberating perspective”.

 

The greatest obstacle standing between us and endless fulfillment is not time, money, or politicians but simply our mentality. In “We Rise Again” the gypsy elements of life, joy, and sadness are explored to lead us to the awareness that life in not about “how long you can last” but the question is “can you start over after all that you have already done?”. This should be the real mentality to have in life as it “already has a lot of power as it is. Sometimes you just need to get the fuck out-of-the-way to make things happen. You have to be one with your life, without spinning the wheel the other way”.

 

My time with Eugene is ironically running out but I’m glad I got to tap into his philosopher’s mentality and that introspective look at the world that only a modern nomad can develop throughout a lifetime. Not accidentally I ask him what would be his most famous quote if he was a philosopher. Eugene doesn’t seem surprised “I am a philosopher!” he proudly tells me and he seems to be picking up and continuing Roman philosopher Seneca’s doctrine of time. Seneca used to say that life itself is time, something that we ourselves chose, or not, to spend in a full state of consciousness. Cotidie enim demitur aliqua pars vitae, et tunc quoque cum crescimus vita decrescit (every day we die, every day a part of our life decreases and even when we are growing up, in reality life decreases). The purpose of Gogol Bordello’s music is to wake people up, to go the extra mile as far as to “The Other Side Of Rainbow” to discover that “it was black and white”, a metaphor for going too far as Eugene explains. Their purpose is to resonate with the universe and its universal laws and truths, a task that the Wonderlust King feels like he has been facing in one of his previous lifetimes. “I think I’ve been a woman in a previous lifetime, we all have been. Pretty sure I was like… who was I? I’m trying to remember! I think I was the first woman in space! That was me!”

 

“Malandrino” is someone who always “gets away with it”, a sort of street-smart, screwball type of brother. In Italian it means more or less the same but it is also used to describe a very cheeky and astute kid. In a world where innocence is lost, Eugene Hütz tries to maintain a curious gaze like a child and to remove through his music all the superfluous ways of thinking that keep up from evolving. The spirit of the revolution burns into our souls but the gipsy philosopher warns me, and enlightens me at the same time, with his most famous quote:

 

“Fuck the time before time fucks you”

He goes back to the soundcheck leaving me thinking… Hoptzalutly!

Hudson Taylor / FIASCO Magazine

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My interview with Hudson Taylor is out now on FIASCO Magazine Issue 24

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The French House in Soho may be atypical for it only serves beer in half-pints but it is also quite distinctive for people like General Charles De Gaulle, who is believed to have written the “À tous les Français” speech in here, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud have been regulars over the years. I am not meeting up with a psychological nor with an Irish-born British figurative painter but I wonder if this Irish-born duo of brothers, Harry, 20 and Alfie, 18 will eventually make it into the list of the famous persons who hung out in this pub.

Hudson Taylor is a phenomena born on the streets, sensationally spread all over YouTube and making its way into a music business that recently has been welcoming to artists like Jake Bugg, whom they are supported during his UK tour, The Lumineers and Mumford And Sons. What is magical about these brothers is how their breakthrough happened purely as a result of word-of-mouth, from busking on the streets to number 1 on iTunes Ireland with their debut EP “Battles”.

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We all have a half-pint of Guinness, of course, and Harry, with his guitar under the seat, opens up about taking the road of busking instead of talent shows, apparently the key to fame for their generation. “At the beginning it was a way to take the load off our parents. A lot of people would move to New York, L.A. or London, and if it doesn’t work out, they have people telling them you can always come back home. For me it is not a nice thing to say, you should encourage people to face challenges. We are lucky to have each other to get through the hard times. Even if we were living on 30 pounds a week when we moved here, it didn’t make it any less enjoyable. We did not make it, this is just a start”. Being Irish also seemed to help during the big move, “any country you go people receive you well, nobody hates Irish, every country in the world has an Irish pub” and we cheer to that as Alfie, with his chunky green trainers and oversized jacket, remarks “I tried the accent technique when I moved to London and everything worked out”.

Talking like very humble young men for their age, Hudson Taylor know quite well that they are seizing a once in a lifetime opportunity and they are doing so by simply living out their passion: music, a constant in their lives as their dad brought them up with classics like The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Simon And Garfunkel, “I still turn on those records, I have my road trip album, walking through London album, most of them are 50’s, 60’s, 70’s stuff. That was a time in music where people were expressing themselves in a similar way me and Alfie do. I grew up on the White Stripes as well, I like an independent feel to music”. For Alfie it is more like a chill out experience, “I listen to a wide variety of music but when I am cooking and I am clean in my head I still listen to those oldies”.

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Being brothers also means arguing over a can of soup, yes they did, but when it comes to creating music Alfie has no doubts, “We know each other so well so it helps the song writing. We have a lot of songs written by us for the album, it keeps on changing but we are gonna stick to the simplicity and writing about being grateful for what it is happening. We don’t have time to think about what is going on and when you are so busy you risk taking things for granted. We are just excited about everything being so positive at the moment”.

Songs like “Drop Of Smoke”, aka London, and “Care” are just about those relatable feelings accompanying us when we move away from our families, certainties and securities. Being young and popular turned out pretty badly for some pop stars but Harry seems confident in discerning what is real from what is not, “I am very thankful that my family and parents are very supportive of what we do. It is not the most secure journey and only a small percentage of people actually succeed and it is hard for a parent to accept it. I never got into this business to become famous or to be on the front page of magazines and tabloids. I do recognize that it comes with the package but you have to work for it. We have been working for 4 years and we just started it as a full-time career in the last 2 years. Relationships and friendships will get tougher but if you have real true friends I think you don’t have to see them all the time, you might see them after a year and you can start off where you left”.

Their sweet, harmonising vocals fuse classic and contemporary influences to create a raw, folk-melodic pop, at times stomping and spirited, at others stripped back to only acoustic guitars. I want to ask them what does make their specific kind of music so successful at the moment and Harry goes straight to the point, “When music is played on traditional instruments it resonates with people because it is a lot more accessible and they can try to play it. You can go on the beach and entertain people with a guitar basically. You can’t go with your DJ deck and speakers cause you need a table, a power supply and at the end of the day if there was no electricity, I am sorry Calvin Harris but you wouldn’t be able to do anything. People with the guitar would be able to do an acoustic version of your songs and that is invaluable”.

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They are a living proof that talent and passion can get you from, literally, the streets to a full-time job that you actually love. “It is very important to know what you want and be passionate about it, no matter what people say, just take it on board and figure it out for yourself. Music is not an easy route but it is not impossible. You do it because you love it and this is the only reason, not because you seek fame and fortune”. This applies for any kind of career, according to Alfie, “if you want to do something and you think that you are good at it just keep practicing and work at it. Your passion could get you to a stage where you could live on it”. Cheesy philosophy? They agree it may sound like that but I think that wisdom does not have to be complicated and if they will manage to keep their sane balance between family and career as they did so far, there is nothing they cannot achieve as musicians and songwriters.

 

M.P.

An Interview with CLAIRE / A shiny rough diamond

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

Munich has always been a hub for new underground music to blossom and be heard. There is a certain kind of vibe and openness that few places in Europe has and five-piece band Claire could not come from anywhere else. Lead by the melancholic yet intriguing vocals of Josie Claire Burkle, Claire’s musical direction does not aim for an easy ride. This is why they are already in the lineage of artists such as James Blake, Bastille, and their debut EP “Broken Promise Land” is a colourful and eclectic mix of synths and orchestrations not quite easy to categorize.

In a music business where the word “pop” starts being feared and everyone tries too hard to be different, Claire tells The GROUND why there is nothing wrong about being put in a box… As long as it is filled with a brand new kind of originality.

In terms of creativity how does it feel to be the only woman in the group?

I’m a bit of a Tomboy and the guys treat me like a guy so actually there isn’t any difference especially if we are just talking about creativity. We started the band and we noticed that being creative works best for the band when we do things together.

You have all met, and made your first song, thanks to one of your friends who was working on a short film. What kind of films inspire you and would you ever like to work on a soundtrack for a film in the future?

We all have different tastes when it comes to creative things but often we agree on how a music video is absolutely great, for example “Iron” by Woodkid just to name one. Working on a soundtrack for a film would be something really great to do. Good music always takes the film to a new level, “Drive” for example is a great film with a stunning soundtrack. It was definitely an inspiring film for us.

Claire came about quite spontaneously and yet your music is hard to put in a box. How would you explain this?

Before we found each others for “Claire”, we all listened to different genres of music. Messel and Nepi are quite into the electronic stuff but they really grew up listening to hip-hop mainly. Fridl and Flo listen to a lot of metal & hardcore, they even played in the same band at some stage. Flo is also really into indie and Josie grew up with a lot of singer songwriter stuff but in fact, the one thing that bring us together is good music. In the end we never end up listening to one genre and maybe that makes it so hard to put us in one particular box, so we made our own box and called it “Neon-pop”.

The video for “Pioneers” looks like a fashion film, how did this project come together and what is the meaning of the diamond?

The video for “Pioneers” looks like a fashion film, how did this project come together and what is the meaning of the diamond?
It actually is a “fashion film” from our good friend Christoph Schaller who also got us together in the beginning. He and a few other friends wanted to do a new so once again they took our music and also got us giving a bit of inputs like the flag with our diamond on it and Josie being the opening and closing shot. We wanted some kind of symbol that people could relate to us and so we got the diamond in the video as well. We are planning to go further with it, like incorporating it on stage and stuff like that but until now the time and money are missing.

WILD EYES X CLAIRE / PIONEERS

The title-track, “Broken Promise Land” has a strong 80′s vibe to it, what do you like about that era?

As we use many synthesizers, we automatically come across the 80’s and its completely own sound and vibe. We bought some old synths from the early 80’s and started to use them. They naturally made their way onto our songs. “Broken Promise” Land is a track that we started with our sweet Juno 60 so with a start like that you can’t get rid of that 80’s touch.

“Games” on the other hand has a feel-good and pop vibe to it. Where do you think pop music should be heading to?

Over the last few years pop music has changed a bit because you can make pop music and mix it up with all sorts of genres and this is a really great development already. Now you don’t have to be ashamed of saying you do pop because there are so many creative young musicians taking this genre and making it colorful. Pop is getting really versatile in its definition.

CLAIRE / GAMES

How does the “making of” a Claire’s song look like?

Nepi, Messel or Flo start to mess around with an instrument. This goes on for about 5 hours, where 8 to 16 bars are recorded. Then the one who started quits because he’s sure that what he’s doing is bullshit so he would go into the kitchen feeling frustrated. Now the other two guys continue working on this raw idea until the one who started it comes back in and hopefully likes, what happened to his first idea. After spending hours taking turns on the computer as the others are complaining or sleeping on our studio sofa, an instrumental version is ready. Josie then comes into the studio and we all listen to it collecting all the images that come to our minds in order to get them all into one reasonable text and start to check out melodies. Josie sings into a microphone and here you go, a new Claire track is born. Truth to be told, it’s never that easy!

How did Munich shape you and inspire you as musician?

We think that in our case it wouldn’t matter were we would make music as long as we are working together in this constellation, the sound would stay the same. Munich is a very cosy and quiet city so if you want to take a break from work, you can do that without having too much distraction but above all it means home for us.

CLAIRE / BROKEN PROMISE LAND

Matthias and Nepomuk are the band members in charge of your synths driven sonority. How did you start playing synths?

On stage, we had to divide tasks, so Nepi and Messel play the synths and Flo plays the guitar. In the studio though everyone plays everything. Nepi is the only one who knows how to play the piano properly. It’s probably the fact that you have endless possibilities with synths that fascinates us, it’s more about which sounds you can create rather than how good you can play them. We started using synthesizers out of our computers but we really discovered the magic of old analog synthesizers. It’s the imperfections of these old instruments that make them so personal. We spend hours and days just pressing one key and changing the position of every single knob. It is quite an obsession.

Josie, as a woman and a singer, what do you think an artist should try to achieve?

Bringing people together.
You recently played NYC’s CMJ Music Marathon, what do we have to expect from Claire in the next year?
We are planning to release our debut album in the US and actually our goal is to play live as much as we can! The guys are also fired up about writing new stuff and we hope we’ll get the chance to come to the US a second time, that would be really awesome!

CLAIRE @ MELT!-FESTIVAL 2013

Claire are:

Josie Claire Burkle- vocals

Florian Kiermaier- guitar

Fidolin Achten- drums

Matthias Hauck- synths

Nepomuk Heller- synths

http://www.claireofficial.com/

Madonna #SECRETPROJECTREVOLUTION

Read it on Hunger TV

Long time partners in crime Madonna and Steven Klein join forces again for one of the most talked about hashtags of the year #SecretProjectRevolution

After months of rumors on the nature of this project, the Queen of Pop unveiled this 17 minute black and white short film, directed by Klein with one ambitious intention: to start a revolution of love.

 

A few minutes into the film, we see Madonna brutally imprisoned by some guards, and a quote from French director Jean-Luc Godard appears,

“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl”

As we see Madonna walking through her tour dancers, shooting each one of them in cold blood along the notes of the sumptuous “Satin Birds” by Abel Korzeniowski, who composed the music for her last directorial effort “W.E”, there is a very honest and necessary moment of revelation. “I want to start a revolution but no one is taking me seriously. Instead I am a woman, I am blond, and I have an insatiable desire to be noticed”.

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A claustrophobic scene is set before our very eyes where her body is scrutinized as she does what people want her to do: being provocative and obscene. “Show us your ass” is heard in the background, and it is vital for the integrity of the film to make this statement: she doesn’t care what we think of her, she never did after all, but this time it is important to listen to what she has to say. Madonna makes herself vulnerable and reachable, showing her bare naked soul, resulting more outrageous than the times when she was simulating masturbation on stage in the 90′s, performing “Live To Tell” on a cross like Jesus Christ during her Confessions Tour, or showing her ass during last year MDNA Tour. Yes, she did all of these things and many more but… “still… I want to start a revolution”.

During one of her most in-depth interview in years with Vice, who curated with Madonna the global digital Art For Freedom initiative, she explained how the Secret Project is not something she wanted to do but a manifesto that needed to be divulged. She started noticing how the world was collapsing and things that went against the rights of human beings and artists – “I can’t separate the two of them by the way”.

Israel was about to bomb Iran as soon as her last tour started, Pussy Riot was sentenced, and 87 people were arrested by the police during her show in St. Petersburg for being gay. In France, far-right politician Marie Le Pen sent skinhead to boycott her concert, and while young Malala was shot simply for wanting to go to school, in America people live in a state of complacency, “What is a life and death situation in other countries is taken for granted in America”. By the time the tour arrived in South America Madonna was on fire, outraged and decided to shoot with Steven a series of shots where dancers were expressing themselves and their interior struggle improvising dance moves. The rest was added later on as the project shaped, born from a pure, unorganised stream of consciousness.

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Madonna aims to represent herself not only an artist but a human being imprisoned by people who are afraid of anyone who is different. There is a dark and sinister atmosphere in the film with Klein’s unmistakable style and enhanced by the music that guides us through a world of violence for no reason. A lingering possibility of redemption is also present though and is up to us to grab it because “the enemy is not out there, the enemy is within”.

“I used to think I had a thick skin but now I feel like I’ve been skinned alive”, says Madonna’s narrating voice to metaphorically portray the death of an artist and of creativity in this world of branding. The most moving part is an androgynous looking and almost naked dancer, flowing along the sublime notes of the exquisite “Evgeni’s Waltz”, dancing for his life under the eyes of the guards.

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At this year’s Billboard Awards she said “I have the best dancers” and this is true, they defy gravity and the limit of dance styles’ definitions. This scene is inspired by a controversial 1974 art film by Italian director Liliana Cavani, The Night Porter Madonna explains, “Nazis allowed Jews to stay alive if they had a talent. They wanted to be entertained” and this is why dancer Chaz Buzan is fighting with its own, rare, unique art as the guards watch intrigued, amazed and repulsed at the same time. He dances with no labels or limits and Madonna singing the American National Anthem in this scenario may just be the biggest provocation of her career.

A baby carriage is burning, reminding of the iconic scene of the baby in the carriage falling down the Odessa Steps in the film Battleship Potemkin, a prisoner is beaten up and Madonna is crying before hiding under her cell bed. Even the most famous, successful woman and icon of our times is afraid. “Why did I let doubt into my belief system? WHY?” she sorrowfully asks herself. Parts of speeches given on stage during the tour are playing from the speakers, “We can change this, we have the power, you cannot use religion or God’s name to treat other people badly!” This revolution is not about religion, politics, or taxes and it is not going to be an app on our iPhones. It is a revolution to affirm our right to be who we are, someone unique, rare, and fearless without seeking approval from anyone.

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There is no happy ending; the revolution is on, and for real. The Secret Project has been premiered where a revolution is supposed to happen: on the streets. Madonna always managed to make people come together with her music and always promoted freedom of expression during her shows. We can easily say that her whole career stands for this and like her or not, her voice is always strong.

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Four screenings of the film took place during the same day in London, LA, Rome, Berlin, Tel Aviv and many other cities in the world giving a true and straightforward feel of urgency about this serious cause. The Queen of the revolution was in NYC at the Gagosian Gallery introducing this project as “the most important thing in my life, aside from my children” and singing a mesmerising rendition of Elliot Smith’s 1977 song “Between The Bars” while her son Rocco was dancing besides her. Is her new music going to be influenced by this state of mind? We hope so.

“Incarceration of any kind makes you want to fight for your freedom and I am attracted to that”, Madonna continues in the interview. She has always been inspired by revolutionary women, and artists, like painter Frida Kahlo, dancer Martha Graham and poetess Anne Sexton since her childhood. She is a freedom fighter right now and the photo posted on Instagram of the golden grillz she has been wearing recently, laying on the map of the world, means that she is ready to conquer the world all over again. Other artists will be invited to this movement but everyone can and must share their experiences through videos, music, poetry and photography on the Art For Freedom website or by tagging their posts #artforfreedom. Innocence has been lost, civilization has lost empathy, and this is an emotional revolution to make people understand that they have a voice and someone who will fight for them. “I’m in this for real, I will fight and go as far as I have to go” is Madonna’s promise, pleasure, and pain.

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you” Jean Paul Sartre

“Are you with me?” and “What does freedom mean to you?” are Madonna’s and Steven Klein’s questions. Join the revolution by sharing your view and who you are through your art, even if you haven’t been directly persecuted.

To take part, visit ArtForFreedom