Friday, 27 February 2009

Watch out!

Review of Watch Out a film by Steve Balderson

Disturbing comedy about loveless self obsessed narcissist who is looking for work as a lecturer at a small town college, it features a hilarious scene where he tapes a picture of his own face on a blow up doll then fucks it. The subject is compelling enough and the dialogue somewhat intriguing, but the film is mostly comprised of "shocking" yet tedious sequences showing the protagonist masturbating. The violent ending is somewhat predictable but quite satisfying; I think the whole film could do with being cut down by ditching a few of the numerous wanking scenes. The subject of a cold, almost inhuman narcissist who reads German philosophy and hates humanity is somehow appealing, but not enough to endure this rather boring film.

The Unseen Buddy Holly

Fifty Years after his death and a new exhibition of photographs is helping Buddy Holly not fade away.

Besides his permanent musical legacy all that remains of Buddy Holly is a gravestone in the city of Lubbock’s cemetery with a Fender Stratocaster carved into it. Scores of die hard fans and musicians who have been influenced by him have gained no new insight into the character of one of the most significant musicians of the twentieth century since his untimely death in 1959. The tragic airplane crash which killed him cut short an already remarkable career, widowed Holly’s pregnant wife after only six months of marriage, possibly causing her miscarriage soon after and also took the lives of fellow rockers Big Bopper and Richie Valens.

The 50th anniversary of this tragic day in rock and roll’s history will be marked by the opening of an exhibition at proud galleries, London. Buddy Holly: The Making of an American Legend runs from 29th January to 26th April 2009. The exhibition boasts the greatest collection of Buddy Holly photographs ever compiled. The images are being shown exclusively at Proud galleries and will not tour after the exhibition closes. Holly’s iconic image has been emulated almost as much as his music, while The Beatles and The Rolling Stones sighted him as an influence, Nirvana and Weezer would incorporate his style into the music videos for ‘In Bloom’ and ‘Buddy Holly’ respectively. It’s been said he was the man who made it ok for pop stars to wear glasses, perhaps the innovator of geek chic, his instantly recognizable thick rimmed glasses are now worn by indie style whores everywhere.

Some of the less formal images capture a rarely seen side of the star. The gallery includes work from photographers including Bill Francis, Lewis Allen and Britain’s leading showbiz photographer during the rock and roll era, Harry Hammond, who also captured the images of Jerry lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran and Johnny Ray in their prime. Hammond’s images, amongst others, are compelling visual exerts from musical history that will appeal not only to Buddy Holly fans but to anyone with an interest in portraiture and photography.

Published: The Stool Pigeon, March 2009

Gadget lovers X-mas list

Celebrate the birth of Jesus! By giving, Christians believe they are fulfilling the wishes of an omnipotent being, who in return offers them unconditional love. In reality, the legacy of Jesus Christ is that each winter, bespectacled social rejects are temporarily enticed away from their habitual masturbation marathons by the allure of man’s most divine creation. Noisy little gadgets to piss off your parents/ girlfriend/ fellow bus passengers. These are the must have stocking fillers for Christmas 2008. Without them, you will be shunned by your peers and will endure emotionally crippling flashbacks of that day in the playground when you were victimised, for still playing on a Master-System, when everybody else had a Mega-drive.

1. DID's Virtual Piano - $130 -

Ray Charles didn't need sight to feel his way around a piano’s keys. But he would have been shit at playing DID’s portable virtual piano which uses, "a red semiconductor laser module and holographic optical element." To project, "a 25-key, 2-octave keyboard onto the surface in front of it." This is what the pianists of the future will play. It can project the hologram onto any surface. Invisible lasers detect what keys you press and the sound is emitted from the in-built speaker system in the style of your choice; piano, organ, pipe organ or harpsichord. All that is required is that you are able to see the keys. On your bike Raymond.

2.AU design project - Turn that phone into a Trombone

How does one deal with the insolent young brat on the train, playing his speed garage on full volume through his mobile phone's tinny speakers? Avoid criminal convictions or the humiliation of having a child kick your head in by shaming the swine with these musical instrument phone attachments!

Japanese phone company KDDI cell and Yamaha have joined forces; to create music based concept handsets that can be transformed, by the insertion of a plug-in accessory into the musical instrument of your choice. The Selection includes; the trombone, trumpet, guitar, bass, synthesizer, harmonica and best of all, a two piece set with motion sensor sticks for air drumming! How soon before someone starts a band using only mobile phone accessories? Not soon enough! One particular concept handset is nothing short of revolutionary. The screen folds up to unleash ten pluckable guitar strings. Now you can serenade that attractive girl on the Tesco fags counter who you’ve never had the courage to speak to.

3. Finis SwiMP3 - £99,

This waterproof mp3 headset helps you to endure the monotony of aquatic exercise by listening to your choice of water related music. My recommendations include the Tornadoes’ 'Stingray' and Howard Serratt’s 'Troublesome Waters'. If you don’t like my suggestions, fear not, for you can fill the 1GB of storage with plenty of the worthless noise of your choosing. The sound quality is clear and loud above the din of splashing water, but there are no headphones. Instead, you attach panels to your ears with a tight strap and the music is pummelled into your head by way of vibrations conducted through the bones in your skull. No deaths have occurred so far from using it. Although, if you’ve ever worn an undersized hat for a prolonged amount of time, you will understand the discomfort that pressure on the skull causes. Incidentally, sharks are attracted to vibrations, so be sure to exercise caution when listening to your music in warm seas, particularly if you are listening to Morrissey. They have no sympathy for his vegetarian bleating.

4. Acoustic Energy Bluetooth Speaker. - £80- Available now -

Unused speakers accumulate like cobwebs, due largely to the fact you couldn’t be arsed to sort out the unsightly wires that attach all the different devices to the same speaker system. Not to mention the irritation of re-connecting your laptop to the hi-fi every time you return from work. Those Ipod cradle things are about as versatile as...Well, as any other Apple product, in the sense that they’re totally incompatible with anything that isn’t made by Apple. All these irritating problems and others you’ve never previously considered are all solved with this amplifier. It has detachable speakers that will play music from your PC, Mp3 player, portable gaming system or whatever. All will bow before the versatility of this product. Best of all, the Acoustic Energy system can play music via Bluetooth streaming from your phone or laptop, thus saving you from hanging yourself by the neck on Boxing day with the mess of wires that have accumulated in your home as a result of your technological obsession.

5. Guitar Hero - Air Guitar Rocker- £17 - available now

You’ve wasted the past two years of your life thrashing away feverishly at a little kid’s plastic toy guitar, under the misguided impression that you can call yourself a guitar hero. You’ve lost your job, your girlfriend and you’ve been kicked out of your band. How do you make people realise that you are a guitar hero, when no-one will come near your stinking pit of self loathing and empty pot noodle cups? This is how. An air guitar belt buckle-pick up churns out riffs through your wearable amplifier with a mere wave of a special pick. The speed you strum the plectrum, in front of your skull adorned plastic belt buckle, dictates the tempo of the classic rock track. Track selections come from the likes of Sabbath, Motorhead and Boston but you can buy an expansion pack for extra songs. With the amp on your side, your guitar hero belt buckle slung provocatively low and your battery operated pick raised to the heavens, finally, you can start to get your life back on track.

6. Plantronics' Discovery 925 ‘Jewel’ headset- £50,000 -

If you’re stupid enough to walk the streets wearing the white headphones that came with your Ipod, you deserve to get shanked up good. It’s a criminal magnet. So get yourself something a bit more understated. Like the Discovery 925 ‘Jewel’ blue tooth headset from Plantronics. Phoebe Coleman designed the 18k gold head set, encrusted with 40 diamonds and 31 natural pearls. If you want to listen to your music or have a phone conversation in the street, without being bothered by criminals, these are perfect for your stocking. Just as long as Father Christmas doesn’t get jacked on his way to your house.

Published: The Stool Pigeon, December 2008

Terry Lynn

Like Grace Jones, but with guns and machetes.

A young woman slings a revolver over her shoulder while yardies brandishing blood-soaked machetes kick and stab at pigs in an abattoir. The girl is Terry Lynn, the most recent addition to Jamaica’s long history of musical exports and the shocking scene is taken from the music video to System - an electro-ragga stomp in which Lynn approaches the subject of police brutality. But despite flaunting violent imagery and posing with guns for promotional shoots, Lynn, as she informs me, is in fact a pacifist. "If you see me in a photo with a gun, it raises a platform to allow me to ask you the question: why guns? Why does Kingston have the highest murder rate per capita in the world?"

Fair enough, but is it necessary to show those pigs being slaughtered in a music video? "Crime and violence is too often not being investigated in a sensible manner," she argues, "it's as uncomfortable as watching animals being led to slaughter."

Terry Lynn's electro-house sound has a refreshing lack of the stereotypical chill out vibe common to Jamaican music, which isn't surprising, as she’s pretty critical of her contemporaries, with one notable exception – Grace Jones.

"There's so much mayhem going on in the local music scene, no direction, sense of purpose," Lynn laments. "But Grace Jones, to me she was the fore-bearer of this journey that I'm on. Life is a journey and the baton which she carried is a golden one."

Deep. Balls deep. Lynn is genuinely trying to engage with difficult issues that affect the people of her country. Her lyrics attack gangs, police, consumerism, politicians and the divide between rich and poor. With such political content you could be forgiven for mistaking her for an activist but Lynn does not see herself that way, she is more interested in her people than her government.

"I can tell you first hand that the change should come from the people," she intones seriously. "The greatest resource of any country is its people."

Published: The Stool Pigeon, March 2009

Crass antics for Desalvo

Desalvo’s first record, Mood Poisoner, is a barrage of ferocious metal-core noise. Their tattooed, shaven headed behemoth of a singer, named simply P6, is an intimidating sight to behold. Taking these facts into consideration, you could be forgiven for not believing that his articulate Glaswegian speaking voice could possibly belong to the same person who produces the desperate screams and depraved behaviour that P6 is renowned for.

Their deafening aural assault is complimented at their live shows by a healthy dose of juvenile silliness, as P6 explains, “There’s usually five or six maniacs who’ve brought their own Mexican wrestling masks and are having a party.” Their camp and somewhat theatrical performance, combined with the audience’s childish tomfoolery might seem like the kind of thing that would alienate the veterans of the Scottish metal scene. But, P6 assures us, this is not the case, “I was once lap dancing for a Hell’s Angel when we played a show in Aberdeen. He loved it!”

Desalvo have an element of the ridiculous about them, with song titles like ‘Cock Swastika’. “Using a title like that is about castration and deconstructing masculinity.” He explains. “I try and subvert that through the shows. I’m a big gay man; I’m perverse and threatening but also quite disgusting.” Taking an 18 stone man in a pig mask seriously is difficult, particularly if he is wielding the porcelain head of a moustachioed chef on stage. An unusual mascot for a metal band, with an appropriately unusual story. “I was at a party, getting it on with this guy and his Mother was really into the idea and was watching us.” He reminisces, “It was pretty Oedipal and strange. On the way home I found that chef’s head. I kept it as a memento of that Freudian nightmare scenario.”

The band draw musical comparisons with the likes of Mastadon and Converge, although they are not as fast or energetic. Their sound Ranges from the laying down of slow grunge like grooves, to building up an almost impenetrable steel wall of down tuned riffs, through which occasional snatches of emotion laden, melodic guitar seep through. The sound is not original but does fill an aching gap between the legs of the whore that is the modern metal scene. “There are so many haircut bands around, a 43 year old man rutting and fucking a monitor at the front of the stage is gonna look a bit different to somebody who has styled their hair in 14 different directions, then got their neck tattooed, so they look as pretty but as hardcore as possible.” P6 is happy for his band to remain on the fringes of the metal scene, stressing the importance of a DIY mentality. “Our points of reference go back 25 years to the DIY ethic of Crass, Amebix, Antisect and a lot of the crusty punk bands and the independence of that.” Perhaps it is for this reason they claim to have no interest in pleasing the fans of commercialised modern metal. “We get people at our gigs who say, ‘I shouldn’t be into this type of music. I’m not even particularly into rock music. I’m into nonsense pop, but that was amazing!’ That is the biggest compliment we can get.”

Published: The Stool Pigeon, December 2008

Empire Buildings

How fashion and architecture have always been synonymous with one another.

When the earliest Cro-Magnon fashion designers bashed their thick skulls against those of the first architects their primitive minds may have realised that their respective professions were destined to be interwoven for eternity. The same fur, feathers and vegetation used to shelter bodies from the elements whilst also providing them with ornamental aesthetic compliment served the same functions in the form of the primitive structures our ancestors used as habitation. When the architects of Europe sought to reach to the heavens with the highest possible church spires so too did the ladies of France adorn their crowns with tall cone shaped hats. When modernism brought about the simplification of all creative art forms, it affected these two companions in the realm of human creation in equal measure.

Both of these mathematically inclined art forms cater for the limitations and requirements of the human body and share the same aspects of creative exploration space, volume and movement. Each can also be used as a form of cultural and artistic expression. The two mediums share basic concepts and techniques of construction, each starting with a skeletal framework from which additional matter can be supported, suspended or draped. The geometry of fashion design and the industry’s obsession with strong silhouettes and lines to accentuate form borrows from that of the architectural design process. Gareth Pugh’s use of rectangular segmented structures would not look out of place in a cityscape, Viktor and Rolf’s show in which each model was attached to their own lighting rigs and sound systems allowed for innovative experimentation with the conventional framework of the human body. New Designer Mikio Sakabe’s more subtle incorporation of architectural aesthetics into fashion is accessible and understated enough to be worn off the catwalk and integrated with the urban architecture it emulates.

published: Dazed and Confused Vol II #66 October 2008

Bling My Bell

When historians of the future analyze the ancient golden artefacts of the 20th century such as Lil’ Jon’s “Diamond and fancy yellow diamond and gold – CRUNK AINT DEAD” pendant and necklace, they will probably liken the illuminated hip hop idols of our age to the pharaohs of Egypt, and will have as much difficulty deciphering the meaning of their symbols and language. If you want to own a part of modern history or if you are a disciple of the church of hip hop and have always dreamed of owning Slick Rick’s Diamond encrusted multi-colour eye patch, then your opportunity to look like the cycloptic pirate of bling has arrived. Just make sure you have $200,000 handy before you show up at the Crown Jewels of Hip Hop auction to be held by Phillips De Pury & Company in New York on the 1st October. Hip Hop history will be made as jewellery owned by the likes of Tupac and Biggie is sold for ‘big money’, an unspecified portion of which will be donated to Rush Community Affairs. What better way to demonstrate how in touch you are with the American underclass than to sport Missy Elliot’s gold moving turntable ring worth $8,500? That is keeping it real.

published: Dazed and Confused Vol II #66 October 2008

Gavin Watson

Photographer Gavin Watson returns to a turbulent youth of skins and violence.

Gavin Watson’s first book Skins remains the definitive visual record of the skinhead movement. It was used by director Shane Meadows to help him secure a deal for This is England; a film which Gavin admits had him in tears, evoking mixed emotions and memories of his troubled youth as a skinhead in High Wycombe, where he photographed his friends.

“I wasn’t thinking: ‘I’m photographing skinheads’,” Watson says as he discusses his latest publication, Skins and Punks. “I was thinking: ‘I’m photographing my mates.’ It’s only now in retrospect that I realise it wasn’t as mundane as I thought it was.”

Skins and Punks is a far more personal and moving collection of images than anything Watson has previously produced. Unflinching at times, it nonetheless portrays images of misspent youth with sympathy and understanding.

“It’s humanitarian,” he explains. “When you open the book, you see human beings, not the clothes that they’re wearing.”

While some photos illustrate the fun and innocence of youth, others are a window into the world of frustration and emotional pain of growing up on a violent council estate. One of the subjects Gavin captured, for example, was his friend Stuart, who killed his wife and sister in law before finally committing suicide himself.

“He was a fucking wild dog but I liked Stuart,” Watson reminisces. “Although he was damaged, he was intelligent and funny. When I found out about the murders, I knew I came from that violence; I’d come from that route and that’s where it ended.”

Growing up starved of culture and artistic guidance, and being too insecure to enjoy other photographers’ work which he saw as: “a message to say I would never make it”, comics became a source of inspiration.

“I was mainly into 2000 AD, Conan and Judge Dredd,” he explains. “It was that bold, stark lighting I think I liked. It must have been subconscious, because I didn’t set out to do it.”

After a difficult period of self-reflection, Gavin has quit drinking and now works in contemporary music photography. He also has plans to release another book, in collaboration with his brother, this time documenting the birth of the nineties rave-scene, as well as a film depicting the humour of the skinhead lifestyle.

Having acquired his approach to photography through personal relationships with his subjects, Watson’s style is virtually inimitable, whilst also being highly influential “I always tell college kids, if you can’t make your own environment epic, then you’re not gonna find anything else out there!” The intimate atmosphere of the book is what sets it apart from similar collections “I just love the fact that these are all my friends and that they’ve been immortalised. That’s more important to me than anything else, really.”

published: Dazed and Confused Vol II #67 November 2008

Nan Goldin

Original shoot for NY Times
article for metavisual photography blog

Dazed Digital Interviews

Interview with O Children

London Airwaves Festival

Floris Kaayk

Dutch Artist Floris Kaayk's Bio-mechanical documentaries get under your skin.

Those of you who have ever had to keep a paranoid eye on household electrical items, - lest they should be first to strike in a potential war between man and machine - will be relieved to discover that Kaayk’s realistic documentaries about the evolution of machines are in fact fictional.

Floris Kaayk’s work appears to be from the school of Spinal Tap-esque satire. Loaded with humour (albeit of a darker and more surreal sort than the aforementioned mockumentary), Metalosis Maligna describes how artificial implants in the human body can grow and begin to replace the flesh.

“People associate documentaries with scientific correctness,” Kaayk suggests. “Most of the events in Metalosis Maligna are far from reality, but strangely enough there are people who sincerely believe it. For me, that manipulative power is very attractive”

Having won the St Joost Academy’s gold medal prize of 2006 for Metalosis Maligna, he has also received awards for his previous film The Order Electrus; a nature documentary about robotic insects. This recurrent theme of biomechanics runs parallel to his production method of combining live action footage with computer animation, as Floris explains.

“It gives my work a strange feeling, and at the same time something very believable,” he says, while digressing on the topic of the inspiration for his monsters. “Rusty cranes or old fashioned machines always remind me of gigantic insects or other primitive life forms. In my imagination, insects have a lot in common with industrial machines, concerning their behavior and the way they move. Both represent an enormous cold feeling,”

Yet no matter how convincing Kaayks’s special effects might look, they have thus far been created on a shoe-string budget, which is why he’ so enthusiastic about his next feature, which is funded by the Dutch Film foundation,

“Now I finally have the budget, it feels like getting my creative freedom back and not having to justify every choice against a committee,” Floris says of his new film which strays from the documentary format and depicts a post-apocalyptic world where human remains collaborate to form new organisms “it is a visualization of how the world could look after a big disaster or a horrible war. I use this subject as the basis, from which I start researching how the human body would function without a brain. Perfect collaboration without agreements only exists in the insect world. This concept produces a lot of possibilities and interesting visuals for a short animated film.”

Find out more about the new film at the official Floris Kaayk site

published: Dazed and Confused Vol II #67 November 2008