Sunday, Public Fiction, 8pm, L.A.: TRINIE DALTON, RON REGÉ, JR. and CATHERINE TAFT

PRESS RELEASE TEXTAGE

RAINBOWS, CAPRICORNS, VIRGOS & ALCHEMY…
This Sunday March 13th please join us for a series of events at THE FREE CHURCH:

Beginning promptly at 8pm:
A lecture about rainbows by TRINIE DALTON:
Trinie will give a slide-talk about rainbows what they are, how they’re formed, and their roles in the history of art, spiritualism, mythology, and color theory.

at 8:45pm
A video screening curated by CATHERINE TAFT:
Catherine Taft presents a Capricorn/Virgo-inspired selection of videos by Dale Hoyt, Lauren Lavitt and Andrew Steinmetz

and at 9:30pm
RON REGÉ, JR. will read (and project!) comics from The Cartoon Utopia concerning the basic tenants of Alchemy and Hermetic Philosophy in Fairy Tale.”

This event will be situated in LUX, an installation by Maureen Keaveny

come!

Public Fiction in Highland Park
749 Avenue 50, 90042
http://www.publicfiction.org/

NOT A KOOK: Trinie Dalton interviews HENRY DARGER doc filmmaker Jessica Yu (Arthur No. 15/March 2005)

Not a Kook
Filmmaker Jessica Yu explores the life and work of mysterious artist Henry Darger in an innovative new documentary.
By Trinie Dalton

Originally published in Arthur No. 15 (March 2005)

In the Realms of the Unreal opens with shots of artist Henry Darger’s dusty homemade books and scrappy art supplies, with actress Dakota Fanning relating how Darger sought solace in art after a childhood as an abused orphan. This bit of biography prepares audiences for Darger’s own summary, narrated by actor Larry Pine, of his life work—a cryptic 15,000-page epic novel detailing a war waged over child slavery—at first illustrated onscreen by stills of Darger’s startling art. But it’s when one of his drawings comes to life—a girl flaps her butterfly wings and flies away—that you realize director Jessica Yu has taken biographical documentary to a new level.

Using animation constructed from Darger’s artwork, Yu opens a door into Darger’s hermetic world of evil, adult Glandelinians and their captive Vivian Girls—cute, Shirley Temple-ish girls who sometimes sport horns, wings, tails and penises. Lightning flashes in stormy skies, soldiers fire guns, and monsters called Blengins circle through the clouds. These nightmarish scenes, it turns out, harken directly back to Darger’s own past: nuns, mean teachers, and childhood enemies from his early life reappear as Confederate army members, often slaughtered on the page as a way to recoup his mental losses. (One especially cruel bully morphs into General John Manley, head of the opposing regime.)

Henry Darger grew up in asylums for feeble-minded children, and spent his adult years as a recluse. A self-taught artist who made a living as a janitor, he lived in a small apartment in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, secretly recording the war between the Glandelinians and Vivian Girls, down to the last casualties and debts accrued. Incredibly, no one knew of his prodigious artistic talents until his landlords discovered Darger’s work upon his death in 1973 and began to share it with the public. Countless articles and several books have since been published on Darger, but never has his art been actively portrayed as it is here, embellished by a storytelling voice that sounds the way Darger’s voice may have sounded: gentle but curt, impassioned but matter-of-fact. Add in several interviews with neighbors, including one with Kiyoko Lerner, and you get a fascinating—if necessarily speculative—picture of Darger inhabiting his strange fantasies.

Animating someone else’s art is a controversial proposition, doubly so with Darger. His sincere, exacting artistic approach required that he dedicate every second of free time to perfecting his techniques. The boxes of pencil nubs, tall stacks of visual reference and piles of used watercolors that Yu’s camera scans across demonstrate that Darger was his own harshest teacher and critic. Fortunately, Yu’s animators kept the special effects to a minimum, going more for an old-fashioned, paper-doll like style rather than the gaudy Pixar look. The animation is charming and loyal to the work.

Yu’s last two films—the Academy Award-winning Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of John O’Brien and The Living Museum—also documented artists who overcame physical and mental challenges. She’s friendly and open, making it obvious that she’s doing what she loves. I interviewed her at her home in Los Angeles, as she was preparing to travel to Chicago, Darger’s hometown, for the film’s opening festivities.

In the Realms of the Unreal is screening in select theatres across North America through April.

Arthur: How did this film come to be?
Jessica Yu: I was giving a talk about my last film, The Living Museum, about a group of artists in a psychiatric center in New York. A reporter in the audience knew the Lerners [Darger’s landlords], and he asked me if I’d heard of Darger. The next day he took me to Kiyoko Lerner’s house. Kiyoko showed me some paintings, then she let me go up to his room by myself. Before this, Darger had been an abstraction to me. But I felt such a strong sense of his presence in his room. Everything in there said something about him. I wanted to tie together the feeling of that room with some comprehensible look at the work, so that we might get a sense of who this person was.

There’s so much great footage of his room in the film. Did you shoot that footage on your first visit?
No, I went back to ask Kiyoko about making a documentary. She was open, but cautious. She doesn’t want people to exploit Darger’s work. I wanted the room to substitute for Darger himself. To do this, I tried to get movement in all the shots, and we shot a lot from where he sat at the desk. I imagined how he might have looked at the room. He had his central point, gazing up at the stained glass window of the dove, sitting at the table surrounded by his work. It gives you a sense of how he lived.

Was your fascination rooted in a love for Darger’s artwork or with his tragic story? Or both? Continue reading

"Dizzying Heights": Animal Collective interviewed by Trinie Dalton (Arthur No. 19/Nov. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 19 (Nov. 2005)

Dizzying Heights
How do the four humble critters that are Animal Collective make such wildly beautiful and beguiling sounds?
By Trinie Dalton

As pathetic as this sounds, I originally started listening to Animal Collective because they were an “animal band,” and I make a point of hearing all new animal bands because I’m obsessed with animals. There are so many animal bands these days, especially lupine ones: Wolf Eyes, Wolf Parade, Wolfmother…I figure anyone who names their band after animals must like animals too, so we have something in common, and maybe they’re also into classic animal bands, like The Animals and The Turtles. So far, this theory for checking out new bands has worked, and I like most animal bands. But Animal Collective are by far the best. They’re King of the Jungle.

This is an especially lame confession because the members of Animal Collective barely even like having a name; they’d much prefer to be individuals who come together in various combos and in various locations to make intriguingly titled albums, like Danse Manatee, Campfire Songs, or Here Comes the Indian, sans band name. That’s one refreshing thing about Animal Collective: they aren’t glory hogs. In animal terms, they’re like prairie dogs, bees, or penguins—humble critters that understand the definition of teamwork. In the beginning, Animal Collective often wore masks and costumes hiding their individual identities, and they’ve always used nicknames to keep alive the secret society element of what they do: Dave Portner is Avey Tare, Brian Weitz is Geologist, Josh Dibbs is Deakin, and Noah Lennox is Panda Bear. Having a band name is too traditional, they say; they only have one because record labels have told them that listeners need to identify the group as a cohesive, named unit.

Which is important, because Animal Collective are one of those rare bands who sound completely different live and on record. Sung Tongs, their last full-length album, is infused with psychedelic wall-of-sound production, Brian Wilson-style. Sung Tongs is so classic it gives me chills. I imagine Sung Tongs on the cover of that Arthur issue 50 years from now featuring the best albums of the past century. The cool part is, I’ll recall how I nearly went deaf hearing tweaky live versions of harmonious tunes like “Leaf House” and “Kids On Holiday.” On headphones, certain Animal Collective songs sound sleepy and hypnotic, while live those same songs make the club’s floor vibrate from heavy bass and guitar distortion. Hearing Animal Collective live is nearly my favorite pastime. Recently, while living in Berlin, I was so dying to see them that I almost flew hundreds of miles to southern France to catch their gig. Getting a grip, I reminded myself that this was a little extreme, not to mention expensive. Each show is different, though: live versions of songs render them unrecognizable or mutate into new songs, so you can’t say, I’ll just stay home and listen to the album.

Feels, Animal Collective’s new release, is heavily injected with sentiment without being sappy. Dedicated to such lofty romantic themes as Love, Purple (the color of passion) and (they say) “synchronicity, or connections between people,” Feels is highly emotive. As opposed to Sung Tongs’ choral vocal layerings and druggy nods to Smiley Smile, Feels contains fewer vocal harmonies but compensates with an abundance of rock-out moments balanced by a “warm hum” of instruments. I can’t wait to see these songs performed live, since the instrumentation on Feels is so elusive. This new record also further distinguishes Animal Collective from the Freakfolk bands they’ve sometimes been lumped together with. I never thought they sounded even remotely folky; Feels instead sounds a lot more influenced by their early inspirations, My Bloody Valentine and Pavement.

Animal Collective are childhood friends. Noah and Josh met in second grade in their hometown, Baltimore. In 1996, Josh hooked up with Brian and Dave, who were also high school buddies from Maryland. They all hung out sporadically throughout college, and by 2000, they were all living in New York, where they recorded and released Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, which gave them their first taste of success. Since then, they’ve made several albums and started a record label, Paw Tracks, home to artists like Ariel Pink and The Peppermints. Prospect Hummer, their last record, is testament to all the European touring they’ve done; they met and recruited Vashti Bunyan in England for vocals on it. Three of the band left New York years ago—Noah for Lisbon, Brian for D.C., and Dave for Europe—so Animal Collective functions via satellite, in a way, until they convene for recording sessions and tours. Even interviewing them was a feat—I received four separate phone calls from around the world—although I really enjoyed it because Animal Collective were so friendly. Each man spoke highly of the others, discussing how the group sound has evolved instead of geeking out on who plays what. They gave uncannily similar answers, and Brian confessed that Animal Collective may know each other “too well.” I had this feeling before, but I know it now—Animal Collective are four best friends committed to experimenting and having fun.
Continue reading

"So Righteous to Love": Devendra Banhart, interviewed by Trinie Dalton (Arthur No. 10/May 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 10 (May 2004)

So Righteous to Love
Devendra Banhart is here and he plays folk music. Trinie Dalton finds out where he’s coming from.

A few months ago I hiked high on mushrooms in the Redwoods, and Devendra Banhart’s first album served as my bridge between fantasy and reality. His music isn’t about tripping out on drugs—I’m not belittling it that way—but its soothing quality makes one feel peaceful in any state of mind. As I interviewed him over the phone in late February about a myriad of topics, Devendra often returned to talking about folk music’s universality, about how one of its most noble purposes is to make listeners feel comfortable.

Hearing 23-year-old Devendra talk like this reminded me of how closely related late-1960s psychedelic rock bands were, in spirit and sense of idealism, to the folk singers Devendra loves so much from the same period: their considerations for listening to and hearing music were at the forefront of their playing. But Devendra’s tastes extend into the present, and there appears to be just as many neo-psychedelic musicians playing today as there are neo-folk rockers. Is it due to the current abominable political state? I don’t know. I didn’t care to discuss politics with Devendra because I was more fascinated by his reverence for nature—by his belief that music can bring one closer to not only self-understanding but also learning about one’s place in the environment, whether it be forested or urban.

Devendra’s new album Rejoicing in the Hands cultivates this respect for life under the auspices of yet another new hybrid-Banhart sound, this time combining old-time blues with the troubadour-ish balladry, psychedelic rock and acoustic guitar traditions of folk. The sound of this record is both familiar and absolutely unique, although Banhart’s singing does gets compared in the press to Marc Bolan’s and Billie Holiday’s to an unfortunate, almost annoying degree. Rejoicing in the Hands is perhaps his best work—it’s hard to say that, cuz they’re all so great—in that the guitar playing achieves more complexity, at times becoming as strong a force as the vocals. Not that his first two releases, 2002’s Oh Me Oh My album (Young God), and 2003’s The Black Babies EP (Young God), didn’t feature some fantastic guitar sounds, but until Rejoicing, I’d heard Devendra’s guitar as more a complement to his vocals than having its own individual drive.

I figured this increased guitar-playing skill must mean his shows are getting better and better, so I started our talk by asking him about performing live. His speaking voice became more melodic and animated when he talked of things he felt passionately about. When he began to talk about his favorite types of venues to play, things got interesting…

Arthur: You prefer to play galleries and churches…
Trinie Dalton: I try…I don’t entirely like playing rock clubs and bars because it doesn’t lend itself too well to the kind of music we’re playing. When I play a church, the acoustics are so wonderful. You have to play an environment that suits what you’re doing, and churches are built to have incredible acoustics. Some Aztec churches, the acoustics are built so wildly, they’re so psychedelically manipulative, that if you clap into a certain passageway, it responds like the sound of a sacred bird that the Aztecs worshipped. They really thought about it. It makes sense for people who play non-electric music, or quieter music to play in a place that augments that instead of in a place that drowns it completely out. Those people that are used to dealing with 8000 amps and four drum sets, the whole building [a rock club] is built to suck in the sound.

It gives your music a richer sound, or has a more spiritual atmosphere or something…or there’s more than just sound going on, with the other senses too.
There’s a vibe.

I think of your music as a mixture of folk and psychedelic. I read up on your big influences, but you didn’t mention psychedelic bands, more of the folky psychedelic rock, like Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention. Do you listen to that kind of music?
I really do. “Psychedelic,” to me, just means a sharp awareness of your surroundings, and a heightened aesthetic sense, and a sensitivity…it’s like this ultra-sensual state. Psychedelic words bring out that state in objects that might be considered mundane. Usually they’re in nature, because usually you’re not going to find psychedelic qualities in a stapler, you know? But a tree, you feel it. It’s like a magic spell, or alchemy, using certain words to bring out the psychedelic life and energy, the core, god’s vein, the blood of the gods.

Back to the music, I’m so easily influenced and affected by music. I love Incredible String Band. But I’m not as big a fan of them as I am Clive Palmer, the guy who started them. He played on the first record. The real song to me, on that one, is Clive’s song… “You know my ____ friends/ Singing baby…” [starts singing it] I like Robin Williamson’s solo records, they’re incredible, and I like Mike Heron’s solo records. It’s unbelievable to think that they’re both fucking Scientologists now. Some of these records are just getting re-released, so they won’t just be available on bootleg anymore. Like Clive’s Original Band, and Clive’s Famous Jug Band. As far as British psychedelic stuff, Fairport Convention has never been too psychedelic, they’re more like rock-folk. Then there’s Trader Horne…Currently, I’ve been getting into more current psychedelic stuff, via my friend, Steve Krakow, who goes by the name Plastic Crimewave. He has a magazine devoted to all things psychedelic, that he hand draws and hand writes, called Galactic Zoo Dossier. He also has a band called Plastic Crimewave…he’s a scholar of the psychedelic ways, he’s an incredible person. It’s a good road to go down. A band that I recently saw that was the awesomest epitome of bar psychedelia, is Comets on Fire, they get everybody grooving. Continue reading

ZIPLOCKED: RTX’s Jennifer Herrema talks with Trinie Dalton (No. 12, Sept 2004)

Ziplocked
Royal Trux are gone, but RTX lives on. Jennifer Herrema talks with Trinie Dalton about chasing that airtight classic rock sound.

Originally published in Arthur No. 12 (September, 2004)

Jennifer Herrema has spent the last 18 years establishing her reputation as a rocker through Royal Trux, her partnership with singer-guitarist Neil Haggerty. Described (or dismissed) by critics as “conceptual acid-punk,” “hate-fueled rock,” and “dissonant junkie” music, Royal Trux found a home at Chicago’s start-up indie rock label Drag City in the late-‘80s, where they released several albums before—and after—scoring a lucrative three-record deal with Virgin Records in the go-go mid-‘90s in the wake of Nirvana’s success. Today, Royal Trux are split in two: Neil records solo albums as Neil Michael Haggerty and Jennifer has started a new band, RTX, whose debut full-length, Transmaniacon, arrives in September.

Recorded with guitarist Nadav Eisenman and bassist Jaimo Welch, Transmaniacon is a wildly produced album that has the feel, scope and drive of the classic ‘70s rock—Rolling Stones, Kiss, Rush, etc.—that Herrema admires. The album fucking rocks, a powerful growling 11-song reminder that Herrema can stand on her own as a singer/songwriter in the traditions of not only great female rockers like Joan Jett, but also among those male icons who dominate Classic Rock World.

After years living at the Royal Trux stronghold in the hills of West Virginia, Jennifer now lives in Southern California, where she’s taken up longboard surfing. Her tan is insane, especially accentuated by her platinum blonde hair and eyebrows. She looks healthy, and I can’t help but think that her new So-Cal beach house has influenced her music; Classic Rock and the beach go hand in hand. Her inimitable sense of fashion is strong as always—remember, this is the woman who virtually defined “heroin chic,” for better or worse—and she’s just finished modeling local designer Henry Duarte’s new line of denim jeans.

Breaking from our interview, she plays me her new song “Kitty Grommet,” which will accompany a denim wetsuit she designed for a show at Tokyo’s MoMA in honor of Hello Kitty’s 30th anniversary. Kitty Grommet cruises the waves looking cute, but Jennifer’s raspy vocals undermine the tune’s Pokemon-ish superhero theme-song tendency by dishing out some death metal growls. Herrema says she’s been perfecting her growl since Royal Trux required her to invent vocals for songs that “weren’t classically pop, where the vocals had to present themselves more as an instrument.” All her new projects are a mature culmination of past experiences with music and pop culture. She discussed her ambitions and sense of accomplishment with both Royal Trux and RTX over cookies and beer, after answering the big questions: How did RTX come to be? And, what motivated the break-up of two of rock’s most notorious musicians?

Arthur: So, you stopped touring with Royal Trux, your dad got sick, and you were dealing with other things in your life. Were you writing these new songs during that time?
Jennifer Herrema: Yeah. We cancelled that last tour, and within a year I knew what I wanted this record to sound like. I got the sound in my head. I just let it be a sound, kind of an amorphous blob. I didn’t want to nail it in too soon or else I’d be over it by the time I got my shit together. So I just kept it in my head. A year went by. Jaimo and Nadav were sending me things. I was listening to Nadav’s engineering and production stuff. I flew them out to meet me, and we all got along really well. They’re awesome, totally inspired.

The bass playing kicks ass on this album.
Yeah, Jaimo’s psycho. He’s only 22 or something. He’s got this energy. He’s amazing. Very different guitar player than Neil, but at some point he will be as good as what it is he does. I felt like I hadn’t met someone [since Neil] who could nail what it is they do so well. He takes direction really well. There’s no need to reference things. I’ll be on piano or start humming the riffs and he’ll do it. Part of it was learning a language, how to communicate. I had a real rapport with Neil. It was intuitive. But Jaimo and I have that communication.

What happened with Neil? I know he’s busy doing solo albums…
Well, we’ve been together since I was 15. We email each other all the time. We just needed to separate, to have time to fill the holes. When you compliment each other so well there’s all these deficiencies that occur because you’re always pleasing somebody else, and vice versa. We’ll be much stronger people [for going out on our own], like two wholes. That way, whether or not we play together again, it’ll be a benefit.

Royal Trux was clearly collaborative, but did you feel like ideas of yours weren’t happening because of the other influence? Of course, that probably goes both ways…
Yeah, that’s true. I mean, I love all of Neil’s solo stuff. But it’s different than what I want to work on. So it’s just like, break it off into two entities. I want to nail something solid, not that that stuff wasn’t solid. I just want to simplify.

“Simplified” is a good word to describe these new songs. They strive to be perfect, as if you’re trying to make the rock song a perfect thing.
Yeah, distill it and put it in a jar. That’s why live they’re going to have so much room to open the fuck up. They’re such a studio creation. I wanted them to be all tight. Ziplocked, all the air taken out of them.

RTX makes me reconsider classic rock. Classic Rock has such a clichéd image. But the great bands became classic by trying to invent the perfect song. Achieving that loud sound. What you’re doing is an extension of that.
Definitely.

It sounds new too, though.
It’s not retro. There’s a checklist in my head, like where the guitar sits in the mix, how the kick sounds.

Every era has its Classic Rock. I can hear different eras in your songs. There’s the 80’s metal sound, Def Leppard or Motley Crüe, then the 70’s arena rock thing, and the female punk heritage, the Runaways or Plasmatics. Suzi Quatro.
Yeah, Suzi Quatro. The songwriting, I wanted it to be really tight.

I guess you’ve been influenced by all different sounds, since you wrote these songs over a long period of time.
But that’s where the subconscious comes in. You’re not trying to find something, you just keep playing until you’ve got what you need. That’s the subconscious bringing back all the things you love. I love that sound, and it was implanted somewhere back there a long time ago. I love millions of sounds. But I had to put parameters on the record. I didn’t want it to be all over the map.

One thing that’s different [from Royal Trux] about RTX is the vocals. In terms of ugly music—ugly as beautiful, disharmonic—this album seems less in that aesthetic vein.
There was never a period when there was a conscious aesthetic. We were never trying to coax a lesson. It was what it was, it was never trying to be ugly. And to put tons of reverb on it—going back to Royal Trux—it didn’t make sense musically to do that now. Singing with Neil, the song’s keys were different.

You sang a lot lower?
Yeah, I had to. Neil has such a high voice. I can go high, but in order for us to sing together I had to take a place. It was cool, I had to stretch. I forced my voice to do things that didn’t come naturally.

You have more range now, I can hear your voice more on this album.
Oh yeah, these songs were easy. The melody line is very natural. I probably won’t lose my voice as often. I don’t really abuse my voice that much. It was more live, wanting to hear myself. Royal Trux would have two guitar players, two drummers, bass, and Neil’s got lungs. I have to push. People say I don’t have to push, we can hear you, but it’s like, “This isn’t about you out there, it’s about me having fun, so shut up.” That can get rough on your voice. But that was rare. People tell me to stop smoking but I love smoking.

Did you get the name for your album from the Blue Oyster Cult song?
Well there’s the BOC song, but that’s with the MC motorcycle club thing. It’s a fictitious word and the alliteration of it sounded like the album to me. I mean, when pronounced correctly. Trans-man-I-acon. But there’s also this Japanese video game called Transmaniacon in which a book is buried under NYC. And there’s a science fiction book. So it’s not just one thing.

The sci-fi reference puts that song “Psychic Self-Defense” in a different context.
Yeah, the album needed a space there. The album’s supposed to be like a book, to be read through. Of course, each song should stand on its own. But lyrically, there’s a sense the songs make. The sequencing came really quickly, and usually it’s really hard. Usually, it’s like playing Tetris. Nadav and I were talking about sequences, and we used the first sequence we burned. We were like, “That’s it, don’t fuck with it.”

Sequencing is a crucial element on my favorite Classic Rock albums. Brian Eno is so good at sequencing, but he’s not Classic Rock.
I love Brian Eno. I read this article about him years ago and he was talking about metal. He said it was the first ambient music. That made sense to me, because it’s so compressed. The reins are so tight, so it sails.

Maybe he was talking about Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, all that experimental stuff, Tony Conrad. Have you been listening to the new bands doing that droney metal now? Like Sunn0)))?
A little bit. Joe Preston, of Thrones, he toured with us a lot. And he’s doing something with Sunn0))). I like Thrones and I really like Joe a lot. He’s such an awesome dude. When he toured with us he brought his cat.

I love how the song “PB & J” sounds like a boy band song, all robotic.
We used a harmonizer on that. It breaks your voice into different octaves.

You employ a good blend of classic instrumentation with effects and machinery.
Oh yeah, we use effects. I’ve worked with so many engineers, and they’re a different breed. Not to say they’re all alike. But they use effects to make songs seamless. Sometimes that’s cool, but other times it’s like, “No, this is an effect and let’s fuckin’ hear the effect.”

When you use a harmonizer, for example, I think of corporate bands, bands who are totally manufactured. You seem so against that but then you exploit the possibilities.
It’s a balance. I don’t know what the hell’s going on. But I love Kid Rock. I love his production. He’s such a good producer.

Production is what saves your songs from being retro. Each song is produced in a new way. “Heavy Gator” is also really good, it sounds like a warped record. How did you do that? Did you fuck with the speed of the vocal track?
It’s not fucked with. There’s no real vocal effects. I think I quadruple- tracked my vocals and the way they went against each other, it sounds a little warped. That was a cool accident.

Some parts are muted and some parts are loud.
That’s a production thing. A volume thing. The way it’s canned.

Did you record on all different machines?
ProTools. We use tons of great preamps and stuff, but I’m so into ProTools. I’m not against analog or anything, but dude. You’ve got great gear and you’re getting the sounds you want. I love the sound of digital. Digital distortion. I love the sound of analog distortion, the thickness and warmth. Digital distortion is this whole other beast. You can just fuckin’ go in, you don’t have to power up. We’ve got tons of rack effects, we’ve got all these plug-ins, and it’s all right there. So you can walk in the room and try something really quick, boom, it’s the ease of it. With analog, it’s a ritual, the tape, how hard you’re hitting tape. But digital, it’s just different.

You must be a distortion expert by now. Who are your distortion heroes?
I don’t know man, there’s a lot of them.

You came out of a tradition of distortion—Sonic Youth…
Yeah, there was a lot of that going on but they were a whole generation ahead of us. There was this place on Long Island called L’Amours, and you could go see Skid Row, or Ratt. In New York, I saw a lot of those bands that you’re mentioning, but it was incidental. The punk rock shit, Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, I loved that shit. I saw the Bad Brains a lot. I liked GBH a lot. I like Metallica, but I love Megadeth. I like Rush a lot, I just saw them last week. Kiss, I love them. I went and saw them three weeks ago. The songs are fuckin’ great.

Do you keep up on new east coast noise bands? A lot of it seems more electronic. Have you heard Black Dice?
I like Black Dice. I saw Neil play last summer with Dead Meadow. I thought they were good, but after 20 minutes, I thought, “This is great, now wrap it up.” Loved it, but then I wanted it to be done. Or else I wanted something drastic to occur.

Do you think they’re the new Led Zeppelin?
Fuck no. That’s blasphemous. Don’t even go there. I totally dig Zeppelin. How can you not? I mean, this is the problem: Zeppelin is Zeppelin. There will be no new Led Zeppelin, and if there is, it’s gonna suck, just by the nature of trying to replicate something that’s bad to the bone. So the new Led Zeppelin has to be that good at what it is. It can be fuckin’ polka, I don’t care. If you try to be be the next Rolling Stones, you’ve already lost. Because the Rolling Stones kick your ass. If you want to be number two, go for it. It’s all good and fun, but fuck it.

Trinie Dalton on COCOROSIE (Arthur No. 10/May 2004)

This article was originally published, with photography by Melanie Pullen and page layout by W.T. Nelson, in Arthur No. 10/May 2004 (available from the Arthur Store)…

Glitter and Gleam
The two sisters who are CocoRosie have made an astonishing, haunting debut album. Trinie Dalton finds out how they did it.

CocoRosie’s debut La Maison de Mon Rêve capitalizes on its sexy feminine allure to seduce the listener into a dream state, one that’s half bliss, half nightmare. CocoRosie’s two singers and sole band members, Bianca and Sierra Casady, could be compared to sirens if their wailing was deeper instead of high-pitched and tweaky like Billie Holiday’s on 45rpm. Listening to La Maison gives you an opiated sense of well-being; here are two beautiful young ladies singing sweet harmonies together, their lyrics about Skittles and diamond rings and other things being disturbed by an undertow of discontent. CocoRosie songs put old folk tunes into new perspective; take the sardonic lyrics that critique Christianity in their cover of “Jesus Loves Me”: “Jesus loves me/but not my wife/not my nigger friends/or their nigger lives/but Jesus loves me/that’s for sure/‘cause the Bible tells me so.” The last song on the album, “Lyla,” is about a child prostitute sold into slavery who “ate McDonalds all day/ and never had a chance to play.” Toys, penny whistles, Casios, and thrift store drum machines keep the beats: they’re reminders of sinister deeds. The magic of childhood is built up then trashed like a sandcastle.

The acts of reminiscing, relishing and examining childhood were a natural place to start for two sisters who hadn’t seen each other in years. Bianca was living in the U.S. while Sierra studied music in Paris. Once Bianca decided to move to France, they found their interests finally overlapping, as Bianca had just begun to write songs…

Q: Sierra studied gospel and opera. Did you study music too?

A: Not at all. I didn’t even start singing really until over a year ago. I used to read poetry out a lot but there was something unsatisfying about it. Then I wrote a small series of songs that weren’t very typical, they didn’t have choruses or anything, and I did a show where I sang them a capella. I felt really good singing. That was right before I went to Paris. I had never sung in front of an audience.

Q:Was it scary when you first started performing?

A: Yes, it was. It was scary but it was a wonderful high simultaneously. I got sort of addicted to it. It was way more intense. I think that my writing is more accessible through music, or more enjoyable. Sierra has been singing most of her life. She always sang. In junior high she was in a choir, she got really into choral music, had a special teacher who encouraged her. Immediately her teachers saw that she had an operatic soprano voice and pushed her into that. She just went for it. So she spent the last five years in music school. She did really well, got many accolades, won awards…she was told that she should go for it. But it takes 100%. Not just of your time, but you can’t want anything else. It’s a thing that’s so hard to succeed in, that you can’t even lie to yourself, you have to want it all, and she didn’t. It was creatively stifling. They didn’t encourage her to compose, or try other types of music. It’s as if that’s your only job in life.

Continue reading

Trinie Dalton on DELIA GONZALEZ AND GAVIN RUSSOM (Arthur No. 21/March 2006)

Mind-Melders
At home, at work and at play with visionary artist-musician duo Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom

by Trinie Dalton

My boyfriend Matt and I arrived on our bikes to this chic Berlin restaurant that had no sign, and I wouldn’t have known we were at the right place had there not been a long dinner table set outside where a Stevie Nicks-ish redhead sporting a ’70s military jacket sat next to a semi-crusty, spaced out guy with really long hair and a beard that looked matted as if he had just gone scuba diving; his locks looked like they were caked with sea salt. I hope we’re eating with them, I thought, in awe of their awesome style. I also immediately liked them because we were gathered to visit mutual friend, artist AVAF, a.k.a. assume vivid astro focus, a.k.a. Eli Sudbrack, and friends of Eli’s are all jovial and talented. Eli had just come from Brazil via London and was in Berlin for two days before going to Barcelona, or something. Next to him was artist (and also, like Matt and me, summer Berlin resident) Terrence Koh, wearing a buckled-up Michael Jackson leather jacket. Then there was gallerist Javier Peres, the ultimate host, who’d just flown in from somewhere like Greece, England, or the U.S., and was stopping through before a trip to Estonia to pick up travel partner and permanent Berlin resident, Danish artist Kirstine Roepstorff. The other ten people at the table were French or Spanish DJs.

I locked up my bike, sat down, ordered some champagne and a bowl of white asparagus soup, and introduced myself to Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom, the most stylish couple in the world. They looked like a couple I could relate to: same age as me, creative, but with a way advanced fashion sense. I chatted with them while I waited two hours for the waitress to come out and tell me they were out of soup, and it was now too late to order more food since the kitchen was closed. Oh well, I enjoyed more champagne and listened to Delia talk about horoscopes and her visit to a highly-skilled psychic. It was a summery night and Delia and Gavin had only spent a few months thus far in their new Berlin apartment, where they moved to escape the New York art world and high cost of living. They met eight years ago in New York. Matt and I enjoyed discussing the beauty of discovering a new city with them. I felt a bond with Delia and Gavin, a sense of expatriate camaraderie, which imbued the rest of my stay in Germany with the comforting knowledge that other youngish American artists were living only blocks away. Even if I didn’t get to hang out with them, since they had an intense traveling schedule, they were still there, making the city cooler. Delia and Gavin made Berlin feel less foreign to me.

Therefore, I first met Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom as visual artists. They’ve worked as a pair for the past seven years, used to be a couple but aren’t anymore, and live separately, sharing each others’ apartments; Delia’s house is the art studio and Gavin’s is the music space. I’d seen their sculptures, knew they were represented by Daniel Reich, and seen another piece of theirs in a catalog for a group show in Austria. Their sculptures look like minimalist architecture, gleaming and pristine, hypnotically formal, and are either covered in cowrie shells or sequins. Sometimes they’re laquered or gold-leafed. They have a sort of punk-new age spirit, if one could mention the two together without extreme cheesiness. Their artwork’s punk glamour is cross-pollinated by a fascination with the occult. The sculptures are inspired by Art Deco, the golden age of Disco, and 70s Italian horror movie sets; some pieces have religious undertones, referencing Latin-American and African ceremonial totems and shrines, and illuminated manuscripts. Human-sized cubes and cones get cowrie shell eyes and mouths, transforming simple geometric shapes into magical talisman. Most of their sculptures are soundtracked by Delia and Gavin’s trance-inducing disco.

But Delia and Gavin didn’t begin as a collaborative sculpture team. Delia, originally from Miami, moved to New York in the mid-’90s to dance in troupes like Fancypants. Gavin, from Providence, was hosting magic shows under the name The Mystic Satin when the two met at a loft party. At first, Delia joined The Mystic Satin, while her and Gavin tinkered with prop making, set design and several varieties of modern dance. Since then, they’ve made videos, starring themselves, about zombies who wander Times Square; performed live magic acts dressed as a ballerina (Delia) and a warlock (Gavin); danced in their troupe called Black Leotard Front, and played in a heavy metal band, Fight Evil With Evil. Their first 7” single (and straight-up music project) “El Monte,” came out in 2004. Last October, hip electronic label, DFA (home of LCD Soundsystem and The Juan Maclean) released Delia and Gavin’s first full-length album, The Days of Mars. They’ll be playing some U.S. gigs while here for their art opening at Peres Projects Los Angeles in April. They’ll also be promoting the release of their single and video, “Relevee,” out this month.

Days of Mars is like Brian Eno, Goblin, and Kraftwerk combined into four long synthesizer tracks that are ambient but layered with pulsating rhythm. Gavin makes their analog synthesizers. When you listen to it you feel like you’re traveling to well, Mars. But their music is really more about life on Earth, Delia and Gavin each told me separately over the phone from Berlin. I spoke with them both as they passed their phone back and forth. Their wide range of interests reflect how limitless the idea of making art is to them. Genres don’t matter. Music, video, dance, magic show, sculpture, drawing: they love it all.
Continue reading