Friday, December 25, 2009

Brimstone vs. Reaper

Today, I'd just like to take a trip down the proverbial memory lane of television land; just to gripe over the shows of yesteryear, which I thought were really worthwhile; in the sense that were both intelligent enough to be worthy of my coach potato watching time... (as well as my blogging time; otherwise I wouldn't be typing up an article on it, duh!) and were both prematurely canceled before their season finale time; hence my griping. And those two shows, which were awfully very similar, to the point where I could have sworn a potential lawsuit would arise somewhere, somehow just didn't make the cut of the fifteen second attention span that drives this country of ours altogether... sad to say. Of course, they both caught my eye; the latter of course being a near rip (no pun intended) of the first one. But then again, I'm not going to blast the series, for its producer is a favorite director of yours truly; (i.e. Kevin Smith of Clerks, MallRats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, etc. fame) and besides, it did have its moments as well, which made it work. So I'd probably go as far as saying that this show was actually made as a sort of love letter (nah, maybe that's too extreme... let's just say as a hats off, or a highly acknowledged nod) to the first show's creators/writers and what have you. The two shows in question of course (listed here chronologically for all of you youngsters out there that are highly lacking in history) are none other than Brimstone and Reaper.

Brimstone was ahead of its time when it first appeared on all of our cathode ray tubes in the fall of 1998. The series dealt mainly with the topic of the soul's redemption; and by that I mean the redemption of Thirtysomething's very own Peter Horton playing the main character Ezekiel Stone, a cop that was murdered in the line of duty, shortly after taking care of his wife's rapist. What follows next was a little case of temporary misplacement with a mild case of amnesia... or maybe the guy was just hammered out of his wits; who knows? But in the little space between being killed on the job and coming back to walk amongst the living once again fifteen years later, he makes a deal with the devil; playing by Gremlins 2: The New Batch's own Donald Trump parody brought to life and delivered perfectly; John Glover. This deal, of course, involves tracking down some escaped souls that just so happened to vacate their highly sulfuresque habitat while the devil was busy polishing up his pitchfork or something. Must have been on a Sunday... for chances are that he was probably watching a televised evangelical broadcast just counting the hours 'til those souls were his and simply got distracted! Who let the three headed dogs out?!? Who knows?

Brimstone Image
John Glover and Peter Horton
in Brimstone

Anyways, this very same plot device earned the series a highly reputable cult-following/loyal fan status/whatever-else-have-you type of worthwhile notoriety and some pretty nice petitions asking to bring the show back on the air, once it was canceled after just one mere season! However, the executive big wigs wouldn't have anything of it, and so the episodes were doomed to syndication (from time to time) on the Sci-Fi channel, which has now been renamed Sy Fy. Go figure! Idiocracy at its finest, I tells yah! Pretty soon, Fudd Ruckers will be Butt Fuckers, just like in the movie! Of course, never mind that pretty misanthropic tangent of mine, for I'm still on the subject of comparing one show to the other; only to realize that in so doing, I'm wasting my time since these two shows are almost exactly alike!

So after this cutting edge sci-fi drama was over and done with... we were all treated to the pretty tamer, teenybopper-friendly prime time offering of Reaper... which was almost like a mirror image of the former show in many respects, nearly almost a decade later! This time around, the devil was played by the very talented George Hamiltonesque tan-like figure (which was a little off white at times, depending on your tv's contrast/brightness adjustment) of Ray Wise, which some of you may remember as one of the henchmen in the original RoboCop, or as the sexpot senator with a suicide wish that came about as a result of many of his liaisons coming to light in the Sean Connery/Wesley Snipes flick Rising Sun. And all, while his loving on-screen wife was in a wheelchair, if I remember correctly... what a scumbag! Anyways, who better than to play a role such as this?

The thing about this devil, as compared to John Glover's is that he's more comedic, and over-the-top when it comes to toying with the show's main protagonist Sam Oliver, played by Bret Harrison... however, that may be an understatement since Glover's Brimstone interpretation of the devil was wickedly funny in its own right; take the "Lovers" episode for example; one of my favorites, since he offered Ezekiel a beat up car to drive him from point A to point B, whilst taking the long scenic route to point Z... just to spite him. And all the while of course, demanding that he pay him $36.27, which is the exact change that he carries around in his pocket all the time, since it was all the money that he had left on him at the time of his murder. So I guess, you can really take it with you if you have to come back, that is! Anyways, I don't want to spoil the episode for you all, but let's just say that souls don't necessarily have to be living entities like you and I. Enough said...

Anyways, as I was saying before Ray Wise's version is more over the top, and just a tad bit more commercial friendly. Maybe it was just performed this way to attract a wider fan base, and not fall into the pit trap that its predecessor had succumbed to... a one season only treatment courtesy of sheep minded religious groups that probably protested and gave the show way too much unneeded flack. But c'est la vie with any program that's way too intelligent for the American television culture, that would probably prefer watching fake reality shows like "Who Wants to Dance with the World's Top Lawyer Collecting Alimony from the Next Millionaire Bachellor?" or something... Personally, I think that making the main character (i.e. the devil's bounty hunter, so to say) much younger, and in the company of friends whilst he was still alive and not undead was a nice revamp of the initial concept. There were some similarities still intact, such as the character's love interest not being able to know about his new vocation, (i.e. Brimstone's The Mourning After episode, and just about any of the first season's of Reaper episodes where Sam has to repeatedly put off getting into a relationship with his childhood sweetheart Andi, which oddly enough was cast twice; à la the likes of Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future, with Nikki Reed being eventually replaced by Missy Peregrym.

Reaper Image
Bret Harrison and Ray Wise
in Reaper

Another thing that is a constant are the show's side characters, that sometimes wind up stealing the show with their comedic running gags and whatnot. One such character in Brimstone is Lori Petty's quirky and zany character Max always reminding Stone of how out of sync he is with today's technology (i.e. the internet), which only begs the question of just how this show would fare in today's technologically advanced climate which includes just about any and all hi-fi gizmo under the sun out there... all of which can easily be traced by the government's secret surveillance agency; and yet no one was wise enough to figure out that Stone was in fact deceased. Well, except for his first sidekick, which was eventually phased out of the program (actually I think he was executed by one of hell's escapees, if I remember correctly) and replaced by Teri Polo's character Ash, who also wound up being one of the escaped miscreants. Oops! Sorry I forgot to say SPOILER ALERT! here folks... my bad! As a matter of fact, come to think of it, most of the show's characters eventually wound up being terminated by Stone's targets. Had it lasted longer than a year, who knows where it would've gone. Remember, there were only 113 souls that he had to bring back, since I can only guess that that's as many tattoos that the makeup department could successfully etch onto Peter Horton at any given time; whereas in Reaper there was no given number of souls to be brought back (at least not that I can remember off the top of my head) and their manner of execution didn't always rely heavily upon shooting, stabbing, or penetrating their ocular orbits, but rather using a vessel, which was basically an ongoing, random MacGuffin that would change from episode to episode, which would serve as the baddies' extermination device; which would leave both the audience and the main characters to guess as to how it would actually work when the time came to send one of the damned back on a one way trip, all expenses paid ticket back to hell.

What this show essentially would be a blend of was its predecessor Brimstone, with a touch of Ghostbusters, National Lampoon's Animal House (refer to the following line of reasoning for an explanation) and maybe a side of any tween based drama that The CW is notorious for shoving down our throats instead of concentrating on highly more enjoyable/grey matter stimulating wonderful programs such as these two. Another character worthy of an Emmy nod is none other than Tyler Lambine whose brother Bluto Blutarsky-like overtones embodied the character of Bert 'The Sock' Wysocki, which really helped carry the show for the most part with his off-the-wall zany college humor antics (i.e. the kind of dick and fart joke humor that Kevin Smith is notorious for). Rick Gonzales is also noteworthy as the more down to earth anchor for Sock's crass "burp in your face/don't really give a shit as long as I get a burger and a side of fries to go with it!" attitude.

In short, I just want to conclude by saying that comparing one show against the other is not really such a brilliant idea... as a matter of fact, it would be foolish, since both shows function as a whole on their own. Brimstone's just a little darker than the other, since its target audience was intended more for grown up night owls, whereas Reaper was more for the after school geeks. Furthermore, Brimstone came out first, which gives it a solitary reputation as being trey cutting-edge and pushing the envelope of the prime time television landscape at the time; of course don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Reaper didn't do that either, since it successfully combined comedy with live action, that anybody could easily watch and get hooked on in just the tiny scope of just the two seasons that it was on the air. Of course, this is all just another fine example of how one can easily tweak an idea up and repackage it in order to resell it again to the masses. Pretty clever in and of itself, but sometimes the crowd's a little wise to the ratings game and so it gets harder and harder to fool them with something new, when the result is a pretty close facsimile, and that my friends, is the pitfall of any and all instances of modern day entertainment. And yet I still find myself asking the question: why can't they make more shows like these two? Oh well... let's see what happens next, for last I heard they were in the talks of making Reaper a cartoon series. Hopefully it won't go the same route that Clerks: The Animated Series did. And why in the hell did they have to cancel that as well? I'll never know... Oh wait! I forgot, Family Guy didn't have enough momentum yet to challenge the boundaries of the censors yet. So maybe, it could've worked were it on several years after Brian got the shit pounded out of him by Stewie, during the Patriot Games episode, which was basically a nod to Rounders.

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII) playing the part of Sickle and Robair at the TV Tube (AKA: The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog, in other words...)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lego My Ergo...

So, the other day at work while I was trying very desperately to keep from falling asleep at my terminal, I decided to do a little search for some cool computer games, preferably something out of the Lego title line; because it just so happens to be one of my guilty pleasures, and I need some new fix (i.e. monumental waste of time) to keep me going through this terrible economic recession/usury pay off that I'm currently going through.

But first, let me give you a back story as to how I delved into the world of Lego video gaming. It all started about a year or so ago with Lego Star Wars The Original Trilogy; well actually The Sequel... because upon receiving the game, it wouldn't load correctly on my computer. I was running Vista at the time, and wasn't aware of the clever little formatting tweak that one can do to the executable install package using Orca, which I had mentioned in a previous blog entry not too long ago (actually it was quite a while ago, but since I tend to lose track of the time, it's usually hard to remember exactly when it was without referencing it directly, so there you go!).

What appealed to me first and foremost about the game was not only the fact that it was based on my favorite movie from childhood, but because of its straight forward and very easy level of game play; no complicated first person shooters with the thousand or so controls that you'll most likely have to wind up customizing and maybe even sacrificing one or two buttons if your controller doesn't meet the compatibility/number of default button requirements... nothing of that nature; no sir! Sure, I still have to change around the buttons, but at least it's not like I'm programming a friggin' VCR here, folks! Which by the way, I'll have you know, is also very easy in and of itself... but for the sake of comedic continuity, I'll jest.

Another thing that I like about this game is the fact that you have to unlock characters in order to find the secret locations of these special building blocks (i.e. minikits) that will eventually add up to build a vehicle which you can use in the later bonus levels. And of course, the game's not over 'til you collect each and every one of these super blocks in order to build a door which leads into the bonus Lego City level. Sorry if I spoiled the fun for you all, but getting there is really the fun part.

The first time I played this game, I wasn't aware as to how it was exactly that I was supposed to import all the characters that I had unlocked from the previous game (not because I couldn't get the game to work, but because I wasn't exactly clear on whereabouts exactly was it that my game was saved). After doing some searching on this superhighway of intelligent and highly informative infrastructure, hitherto known as the world wide web, I learned that it was simply a matter of looking in my users folder, that is... after making sure that the show hidden folders option was marked off, and then simply checking out the Lucasarts folder located within the local one.

The original trilogy folder, however, was a bit different to locate, since LucasArts apparently didn't have complete control over that game's porting, which explains why it probably stalls every now and again, forcing the know-it-all dweeb of a gamer (like myself) to delete the SWLEGO.BIN file that gets generated and run the game again, thus repeating the process over and over again 'til I'm forced to live in a nursing home whilst starring at an aquarium and wondering why I'm not able to move the goldfish with my joystick controller. To which the nurse says: "But sir! That's not a gamepad that you're moving around... it's your other joystick!" To which I'll say: "Well, no wonder you've had to come in here so often to change my diapers!"

At that time, another company called Giant Interactive was at the helm, doing the programming for this game, which somehow just seemed a little sub par with the games that were developed by Traveller's Tales. Maybe they're both one in the same company, being bought out by a bigger and better empire, who knows? All's I know is that I've never once had an issue with Traveller's Tales games installed on my computer. Well, maybe except for Lego Indiana Jones, (another great game I must say!) which I found out later had some graphics problems due to the fact that I forgot to turn on the Vertical Sync option! Go figure... you'd think they'd tell you about these things!

Anyways, the Original Trilogy (i.e. the first Star Wars Lego game) is located in the Giant folder, which can only be reached by locating the Program Files (x86) folder on your local hard drive. From there, you should be seeing lsw_0, lsw_1, lsw_2, so on and so forth, until you reach 5, since 0-5 makes six, and six are the total number of save games you can save to and load from on these here series of games. Don't ask me why, but I think it has to do with some kinda sick satanic cult thing which is constantly out to sacrifice geek virgins telepathically via the means of cathode tube (or LCD flat screen technology, whichever one you can afford!) governmentally sponsored, privately run, heavily organized and sub-urbanly sponsored, brain washed text messaging/hallucinogenic mind control devices. Of course, their sole purpose is to make us docile so that the visitors from outer space can herd us like the flock of cattle we all really are. So enjoy these fresh cuts of mine, you all mighty Quazark of the Cosmos, generalissimo of Alpha Centauri you!

So, back to the Lego Star Wars II for a moment--- when I first played this game, I played it completely straight through, minus the super story levels, of course, which seem to take like... forever to complete. So after I beat both games, I learned how to successfully import the first collection of unlocked characters from one game onto the other. That was, after several failed attempts, due to the fact that I was only copying the files themselves and placing them in each individual folder. Pretty stupid, I know... but hey! I didn't know it was simply just a matter of copying and pasting the whole folder! So sue me!

Here's a tip for all you die hard gamers... simply play the first level of Episode IV (A New Hope) in order to unlock the other two. And then complete Episode VI (Return of the Jedi) up until chapter 5, which is where you'll get Vader added to your usual lineup. From there on end, it should be smooth sailing, because you'll have a bounty hunter (Leia as Boushh), a dwarf sized character (i.e. Wickett) and a dark forced proned character like Vader, or if you're feeling really cocky (kid), buy yourself The Emperor! Of course, he'll be a bit expensive, so use this advice only at your sole discretion! After that it's simply just a matter of scouting out all the secret minikit locations in free play mode, and saving up to buy your score multipliers, which basically make the whole length of the game fly by overnight!

I have to say that what impressed me the most about this game is the developer's attention to detail. And not detail, as in the landscaped environments which can easily be seen and recognized from the film; even though it's not exactly in the film itself; but it's the little things that draw my attention. For example, C-3PO's adventures on Tatooine calls upon the use of his binary protocol, working with moisture vaporators (remember that from the first film?) to be able to dry up land hazards that'll make continued passage (I mean travel!) possible for the other heroes, to carry on and complete the mission and whatnot. Then there's the womp rats, which we can easily bullseye with either Luke and/or Ben at the helm. Funny, but I just can't imagine the late great Sir Alec Guinness doing somersaults in the air at his age, for some strange reason. So kudos to you Ewan McGregor for bringing it on home! It's the subtle things like this that make me appreciate not only the game, but the movie itself as well. Every time I play these games, it's like that Eskimo mint patty commercial, where I get the urge to watch the film all over again. Don't ask me why... it's just one of those things, I guess!

So, getting back to where this post all started, as I was doing a search for the latest PC Lego games, I was surprised to learn that they finally ported Star Wars: The Complete Saga to the PC as well as the sequel to Indiana Jones, which now features the fourth installment; The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Of course, in this case that title will probably become The Kingdom of the Crystal Stud* Piece, since I just shelled a couple of them out to buy it, along with the Complete Saga just to see what it's like! And being the video game junkie that I am, I'm pretty sure I'll be entertained with them for about a week! I just had to have them anyways, which made for the perfect holiday present for yours truly over here, since everyone usually gets me the usual industry standard gifts like aftershave and cologne. Oh well. It's the thought that counts, but a lot of thought going into something never hurts either... which is why I'd like to share with you all my latest and greatest proposal to the Lego Video Games manufacturer; Traveller's Tales. At least, I think that they're the ones mostly responsible for the product development under the helm of LucasArts and what have you! But at any rate, how about Lego Back to the Future?

Lego Back to the Future Image
Here's a little visual aide for test marketing
packaging purposes, maybe...?

Can't you just picture what a monumental hit this game would be if it were made? Think about it... it already has the essential elements to become the latest Lego port. First off, the movie was a trilogy, which is what these games are normally geared towards. Secondly, it had a cartoon based on the movie, which can easily add to the characters and/or unlockables in the game itself. Third, the movies all had a bitchin' soundtrack, and one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist (or a plutonium smuggling time traveling professor) to easily see the studs being counted and racked at the end of each and every level whilst the opening bars of Huey Lewis' tune The Power of Love plays in the background. That is, if Huey doesn't have anything to say about it, I mean after all... remember that whole business with The Ghostbusters' soundtrack? Yikes indeed!

And if they're really cool, how about an alternate Marty McFly (as portrayed by Eric Stoltz) as the ultimate game unlockable. That would really be something... well, that and probably an easter egg which would include all of his taped footage in the first take of the film (that is, aside from him jumping into the DeLorean in the actual film... yes kids, that's right; that was not Michael J. Fox's stunt double!) Of course, maybe exclusive content is a lot to ask for these days, so we'll just have to wait until the industry decides to release a newly repackaged DVD with all the works. So until then, keep your fingers crossed folks! I know I am...

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII - the computer PC game video geek extraordinaire) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

* Stud, as in a fictional video game monetary units... whatcha think I was talkin' about?!?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Introducing The Top Seven List...

All right people, I'm excited to introduce a new segment to this here blog that'll eventually prove to be a running gag, which will either be a staple for the creative contingent of literary dribble that is the crux of this here blog, or will simply serve as some filler for whenever I'm lacking in really great material. Sorry to do this to you... but at any rate, in the tradition of late night host David Letterman, here's my Top Ten List, or actually Top Seven List because a) I can't think of that many reasons for doing what I do in terms of providing some amusing fodder for an avid reader's digestive intake and b) Contextual imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery, but instead the grounds for a copyright infringement! And since I'm earning slave wages and literally drowning in a sea of debt, here goes...

The Top Seven Signs that You're F*$%ing Off At Work

7) You take one too many needless bathroom breaks... not only during your scheduled lunch hour, but before and after that time. And by needless, I mean; just frequenting the toilet stall to either simply sit down and relax, or to check your hair and/or face to make sure that you haven't accidentally rubbed some correctional fluid all over yourself as you were just wiping your nose after the air conditioned sinuses kicked in... and that's usually after you spot some error on your respective paperwork. You see how that works, boys and girls? It's all rigged, I tells ya!

6) If your idea of perfectly scheduled bio rhythmic office hours include a time frame of about approximately 10:30 in the morning 'til about 5:00 in the afternoon is not coinciding or simply conflicting with just the regular 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM office grind, then chances are that you take the sleep deprivation cake on this one!

5) If you browse the internet constantly, despite the continuous amount of warnings from your network computer specialist who will most likely hold a great amount of passive aggressive contempt for your bored to death ass; simply to buy stuff on eBay, check the stock market to see how your shares are doing, or log in and out of Facebook, Twitter, and/or MySpace (preferably all of them in any given setting, simultaneously with all of your respective browser's tabs open all at same time!) only to ring him up and ask if he can fix your computer because it just "stalled on you unexpectedly" then chances are you deserve a medal for your dedicated work as an evil genius...

4) You order your meal for the day (be it breakfast, brunch, lunch, and maybe even dinner if you expect to work late) from any given restaurant chain out there that provides delivery and charge it to your companies' credit card that your office's accounting department just can't balance out to save their lives with. I mean, it's not like they're really going to figure this petty little $29.95 Chinese food expenditure with the highly generous $50.00 tip right away. After all, they've got miles and miles of paperwork to catch up on. What's that? It's 2009 already?!? We're still on the 2005 time zone. Sorry!

3) If you have your iPod, walk man, or any other portable audio listening device surgically attached to your head with the volume level turned on at full blast while they're paging you on the office intercom and/or your boss is standing approximately less than two feet away trying to get your attention. At times like these, it helps to engage in a handy little tunnel vision effect that requires you to appear as though you're really consumed by whatever it is that you're doing, just so as to give the appearance that you actually care enough about your job, but need just a little fix of decaffeinated heroin to get by your busy and regularly scheduled work day...

2) You've successfully managed to delve into the whole concept of Life Imitating Art Imitating Life by saving an image of the infamous Dunder & Mifflin Paper Company logo from The Office in order to use it as your desktop wallpaper at work, just to illustrate a highly obscure inside-joke-of-a-point as to how much of an incompetent individual you really are for whatever job it is that you may be assigned to be doing; highly efficiently and/or otherwise...

Work Computer Image
Yes indeed, the proof
is in the pudding...

1) You actually have the brass to sit down and type up such a foolish list such as this one while you're bored to death at work... need I say more?

This has been the overtly underachieving inefficiency expert P.S. Elliott or the exceedingly laid back Dr. Gonzo XXVII reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Tru Art of Rob Small

Years ago, I met a fellow contemporary artist who's also a good friend of mine by the name of Rob Small. His art can best be defined as the air that we breathe... meaning that it can be everywhere and anywhere; which pretty much encompasses the fluid nature of his work, which seeps into the literal fabric of the things we wear to the pages of the graphic novels we read. His work runs the gamut from the readily urban and accessibly popular, to the more obscure and lesser known to a specific niche type of references. Whether it be a line borrowed from a movie serving as a new cache phrase à la guerrilla art motif, or a piece of clothing that has been modified and custom made with a word or two borrowed from popular culture, Rob Small's art is Tru (sic) in every sense of the word. I was fortunate enough to share a couple of words with him recently, and this is what he had to say... Enjoy!

PS: What artists, be they visual, literary, musical, etc. would you say have the most profound effect on you as an artist and/or as a whole? (Editor's note: I got a little tongue tied with the word literary, now I know what Barbara Walters must feel like on a bad night!)

RS: Hmmm...Well I would have to say, as far as music goes...I would have to say Portishead, I love that stuff! Kind of dark and melancholy, which is kind of funny 'cause some of my stuff is really colorful and bright, but at the same time... I like to you know; use it as a contrast to when I'm feeling down in the dumps. I listen to some Portishead, some Wu-tang, I like a little gangsta.

Visual... let me see, oh! I would say Shepard Fairey, (he's) very influential. I like the propaganda type of look and feel. If this was a video, you would see the shirt I'm wearing... it looks like a dictator tee! [laughs]

Tru Art Image 1

PS: [laughs] Would you say (that) Shepard Fairey's (brand of) guerrilla art movement has a profound influence on you as an artist?

RS: Hehehe!

PS: I know it's kind of redundant, but...

RS: Yeah, yeah, that's funny... Did you have to think about that?

PS: No, no... it's just that (Editor's note: Apparently I was speaking too fast to decipher exactly what I was saying here, but I think that what was said was basically just a general motioning towards the piece of paper on which the interview questions were on, which Rob just so happen to glance at during the entire course of this interview, which pretty much made everything be downright utterly predictable and not at all spontaneous... note to self: in the future do try to keep the interview questions outside of the field of view from the interviewee in order to maintain the integrity of the random set of questions!)

RS: Yeah, yeah, there you go... Shepard Fairey, very propaganda; know, kind of like...mixing in the guerrilla tactics, like how he used to post up all the stickers all over the place with Andre the Giant that said Obey on it, that was pretty cool. Mmmm hmmm...

PS: How long have you been a commercial artist and what prompted you to venture into this line of work?

RS: Well, I guess I wanted to do this, because... because it's the only thing I know how to do very, very well... [laughs]

PS: [laughs]

RS: ...that I could make money off of, anyway. Um, how long have I been doing it for? Making money off of it... I would say probably like three years, you know... selling little things here and there, doing portraits for people, and starting with the shirts and web design, things of that nature. Ever since I learned web design in college, you know I started to learn, messing with that, and a little graphics here and there; freelancing.

PS: So then... let me get a complete understanding, okay? Aside from you doing the comic books, you do the web design, and you also do like clothing.

RS: Mmmm hmmm...

PS: Which one would you say is your most favorite, you know... particular one to do?

Tru Art Image 2

RS: I would say the clothing, because I like the idea of being able to wear art or being able to present it on an everyday basis. I like art being practical art, instead of it just hanging on the wall for people to enjoy, I like practicality, that's what I like. Another thing is the dynamic to the sneaker culture; I kind of see sneakers as an architectural, artistic combination, and then you can also wear it out and put on your feet; and it's practical and useful...

PS: Okay, what genre would you say best describes the sort of your art that you do; would you say it's mainstream and commercial,underground and obscure, or is it relatively unknown with the potential of becoming popular?

RS: Hmmm... I would say it's relatively unknown style that I use. It's like a...

PS: But it's got potential?

RS: Yeah it has the potential to blow up because... well I like to describe it as very Renaissance; not in the sense of the Renaissance that we know. You know; Michelangelo, and you know those guys--- but Renaissance in the sense of like Renaissance man, like a... or mass appeal. Kind of like you know, just art that you could... you know art that you do rare; meaning that anybody from any culture or genre; you know if you're into Rockabilly stuff, I got some of that; if you're into hip hop I got some stuff like that; urban themes, I got Carribean themes, you know rasta stuff, I got you know...all kinds of stuff. I have a different section called Tru Art Noir Art I could go towards, most towards the dark... you know; emo types, you know---those kinds of people. So it runs the gamut, you know? Which is kind of like a cop out, but it's Tru (sic).

PS: So in that sense you would say that the Renaissance is kind of like a rebirth, you know... so to say? How do you say? A reproach to what's already been done?

RS: Right, right, kind of like a rebirth but in the sense that like uh... you know, the way that things are looking now; culturally in the United States and maybe the world, I would say that things are with a lot of melding, meshing of different cultures. You see, like Christian Dior had this whole rasta thing, you know... and this is high fashion, and he had this whole rasta theme, with the red, gold, and green as the primary colors; so he used that theme, and there's another designer, a fashion designer or fashion house called Etro, and they use a lot of native Indian looks and you know, they mix a lot of different things together, making the old line... that's what I'm into.

PS: And how would you say um... President Obama's you know, taking of the office, if you will... how much has that been an influence?

RS: Obama? Hmmm... well, I would say like uh... that the Obama thing is catching up with me in a sense, [laughs] being that the whole Shepard Fairey thing that you mentioned before, and he actually did a bunch of posters of Obama...

PS: Yeah...

RS: ...and so I was on that vibe a while ago, you know. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to get popular and blow up beforehand, but you know I would say that I was doing the same thing. But influentially, I would say that him being an icon is influential enough for me.

PS: What in your opinion... this one is difficult; defines as a work of art as Tru Art; like what is its characteristic, or continuous theme, if there is one?

RS: I would say that the continuous theme that every piece of art has a message of some kind; it is relaying an idea to you. It's not just art for the sake of art, you know just like pretty colors, pretty shapes, and contours of lines; you know, a lot of people can argue aesthetics...

PS: Mmmm hmmm...

RS: ...and you can say: "Oh! you know... Tru Art is actually just lines, and colors, and shapes!" But for me I would say that Tru Art is something that conveys a message, it conveys a story, almost like a narrative in every design I do... and that's pretty much a narrative; when you look at it, you interpret it, and it's not something that it's like... you don't have to be a major in art to be able to interpret it.

PS: Or appreciate it...

RS: Or appreciate it, exactly...

Well, there you have it everybody, Rob Small; guerrilla artist, graphic novelist, and fashion designer extraordinaire. For more of his artwork, please be sure to visit his MySpace Profile or add him as a friend on Facebook.

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Eye C Beauty - The Photography of John Miller

When you talk about photography, there are those that simply take a picture and stand back to let the image speak for itself... but very rarely does one happen to come across a true photographer in every sense of the word that can easily put a thousand words into one's mind, or one's mind's eye; so to say. And that photographer is none other than John Miller, whom is a very talented professional that I just so happened to meet recently at a live music venue that I very briefly attended (and oddly enough--- even participated in on a few occasions; as evidenced by these photos below).

Gnoyze Live Jam Session Image 1    Gnoyze Live Jam Session Image 2

Shortly a little after these live jam sessions were over, I kept on hearing about just how these photos came out, and I was really eager to see them for myself. Of course, John, being the cool cat that he is simply stated something to the effect of: "There's more coming... you'll see them soon!" Never, for one minute, letting on about how great they all were. So then I started noticing a couple of tagged photos starting to surface all over Facbook, and I was completely amazed (literally just floored) by the fluid sharpness of each of these shots. What really impressed me the most was how he managed to take a near dimly lit stage and use the random colored house lights to his advantage. To put it metaphorically, (or better put; as a simile...) it's like watching a master painter make a masterpiece out of just a few strokes.

Everybody in the business knows that when you're good, you don't need to do a thousand shots before deciding which one is best. John, on the other hand, knows exactly when to aim, shoot, take a breather, and go on to the next shot. He's a brilliant artist, and a master one at that! The mark of a true artist is when they can easily adapt themselves into the likes of any medium, whereas John's medium is the shutter, a roll of film (digital and/or otherwise), and a subject. He takes stills and brings them to life, right before your naked eye. So without any further ado, here's a little Q & A session that I was fortunate enough to do with this remarkably gifted artist. Enjoy!

PS: Where are you originally from, and if you're not originally from Florida, what prompted the move over here?

JM: I'm from Detroit, Michigan. I moved here to pursue photography, the weather, go to the Art Institute and still be within a couple of hours of the family.

PS: What would you say do you like best about the South Florida scene in general?

John Miller Photography Image 1
Dated: November 1st, 2008

JM: What I like best about the South Florida scene is the weather and South Beach.

PS: How did you get into photography?

JM: I had a little camera when I was very young but I really started to read, study and experiment with photography when I was 11 and my dad got a Canon AE-1 and I'm pretty sure that I used it more then he did.

PS: What artists, be they visual, literary, musical, and/or otherwise would you say have the most profound influence on your work as a photographer?

JM: My influences and inspiration have come from my favorite photographers like Helmut Newton, Ansel Adams and Gordon Parks.

PS: Do you feel as though your style of photography is a highly evolved art form, or do you view it more as just a down-to-earth/gun-for-hire type of picture taking?

JM: I feel that my style is highly evolved, since I've been developing it for over thirty years...

PS: Just about every photographer/artist/musician out there has their own style or branding that sets them apart from the rest... what would you say best typifies a John Milleresque type of photograph?

JM: How can you tell it's a John Miller photo? I can photograph the simplest of things and then enhance the color and the beauty. So, it will be rich with color, unless it's a black and white, and beautiful... Simple.

John Miller Photography Image 2
Dated: April 25th, 2008

PS: Which method of photo development would you say that you prefer more? The more traditional type of photo development (i.e. in a darkroom with a sink or tub full of water to develop the picture) or the new era of digital photography where it's just a matter of choosing an effect setting, pointing, and taking the right shot? And can you also give us an explanation as to why you would prefer to use one specific means instead of the other?

JM: Growing up I spent a lot of time in the darkroom, I even built my own in the basement when I was in high school. So, my background is in the traditional method of processing. However, I have become a fan of the speed, convenience and flexibility of the digital age. Instead of shooting, processing the film and then printing the images, you can instantly see if you have the right angle, lighting, composition and overall look your seeking.

PS: Are you of the mindset that vintage photographs fair a lot more on the art market as compared to today's digital age, or would you say that this new technologically influenced genre could in fact compete just as well with more traditional photography? Would it be right to compare the two styles with each other, or would you say they're two entirely different approaches?

JM: It's not really fair to compare the vintage with the technology, they are worlds apart. I believe vintage images to be more valuable since they probably can't be duplicated for whatever reason.

PS: What's your opinion on the art scene down here in Florida? Do you think it's still struggling to establish some worthwhile notoriety, or would you say that it still has a long way to go before it can be on par with say... the scene in New York and/or Los Angeles for that matter?

JM: It seems the Art Scene is growing but it needs more than the once a year Art Basel, which I believe has helped a lot.

PS: And as a follow up to that question, what in your opinion do you think can best be done to raise awareness of the striving arts community down here in Florida?

JM: Raising awareness is a process, another event or two like Art Basel would do the trick.

For more of John Miller's work, please visit his website at WWW.EYECBEAUTY.COM or Check out his work on Facebook.

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Interview with El Topo

Months ago, when I was playing the part of a would be musical events coordinator for a little happening art spot on Calle Ocho (whose name is best left forgotten and compartmentalized in the area of my brain which I'll happily elect to electrocute and donate to science) I was able to put together a pretty decent show, which showcased the talents of The Creature Tweaker Council, which is basically a group of awfully talented laptop music engineering mad scientists from an alternate dimension where raving is as common as walking and having a hell of a time is just a rite of passage. The show featured some of the more common Tweakers (as the folks in the know, refer to them as) but there was a last minute surprise guest that wasn't originally scheduled to appear as part of the lineup for the evening. And this artist was none other than Alex Anico or @nico as his business card reads, going under the stage name of El Topo. What immediately struck me was the nicely polished mix containing very eccentric pieces of pop culture. You could basically hear anything from an old Nintendo 8-bit console video game to popular phrases from b-movie horror flicks. And all I could think of was: "Now that's what I call entertainment!"

So a little later, after the show was over, I carefully examined his business card and noticed that he had several other sites which I started checking out. I was then amazed by the fact that he was also a visual artist. I even went as far as fashioning my new business card after his, making sure to include any and all links that I have up; so I figure I owe a great deal to him for this particularly good instance of inspiration. Anyways, time went by and the whole prospect of hosting shows dried up for yours truly, mostly due to the all the needless stress I was undergoing at the time and then I got the notion to start uploading some of the slide show video presentations that I originally prepared for the local artists that performed live at the aforementioned venue, and eventually this blog came about as a way of putting the words to moving pictures and whatnot. So, as luck would have it, I just so happened to get a hold of Alex (AKA: El Topo) recently, and suggested to him the idea of doing an interview piece for this here blog. He immediately, and so the story goes... ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to present my interview with local laptop beat generator and artist extraordinaire El Topo.

PS: As a fellow artist, musician, and maybe even writer? I'm only guessing on that last title there, mind you... I just have to know what is it like for you to be a Renaissance Man (or two thirds of one at least) in this day and age?

ET: Tiring and stressful, [laughing out loud] but rewarding. It definitely takes a lot of patience but the end result is a satisfaction like no other. The one thing that any "Renaissance Man" (or woman for that matter) must take into consideration is starting off with a good plan of attack in regards to their work. Otherwise nothing gets finished because you spread yourself out too thin.

PS: Do you feel as though that you get more recognition as a performer or as an artist? And which of the two is it exactly that you would much prefer to be remembered for? Art, music, or both?

ET: I don’t do art (music, writing, drawing) primarily for recognition or praise but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t nice receiving it. Artwork is my true love (I mean I didn’t become a Studio Art Major for nothing!) so I’d have to say that, is what I would like to be remembered for. I find creating a drawing is a lot more difficult than creating music.

PS: Do you feel that Miami caters more to DJ's than it does musicians? Or are the two different breeds of musicians all in the same boat, which is paying to play, and generally getting little if no pay whatsoever for what they do?

ET: Miami is such a strange beast. It definitely caters to DJ’s more but that is only because it’s such a tourist town. I don’t believe DJ’s are musicians. If they produce their own music they are producers. There’s nothing special about spinning someone else’s music. It definitely bothers me whenever I meet an upcoming DJ or emcee who complains about not getting paid. I find exposure so much more valuable. Honestly if you want to get paid spin top 40 or get a real job. Do this (DJ or produce) because you love it.

PS: What in your opinion, do you think should be done to improve this situation for local performing artists?

ET: Honestly I don’t think there is much one can do other than bust your ass promoting yourself. Miami isn’t really a city that has FULLY embraced the “local artist” like other cities (i.e. New York or Los Angeles) but it’s definitely trying and getting better at it. To say it doesn’t is a lie though. The TM Sisters are a perfect example of local artists who have been embraced by the community and who bust their ass to improve their situation.

PS: Can you tell us what the creative process is like for you when you're putting together a piece? Like for instance, when do you know it's finished, or more importantly when do you know that it changes or evolves into something else?

ET: Ha ha! I think every artist can agree that a piece is never finished! But I get what you mean. I’m pretty spontaneous when it comes to my artwork but as far as music it definitely stems from being influenced by an outside source (be it film, or an experience). I used to sit on the tables outside an eatery in college and just draw people being people. Everyday life is the best fuel for the creative process. But there is a feeling that is hard to describe but every artist experiences. It’s a voice inside that tells you, "Wow!" when you step back and observe your piece from afar.

PS: And by this same token, would you say that live performances hinder your creativity or actually permit you a chance to test the uncharted soundscapes that exist in your brand of club music?

ET: Oh man... there is nothing like performing live. I mean from the butterflies and the nausea you feel right before you hit the stage to the wave of relief that washes away any fears as you begin to perform. And when you hit that tunnel where everything around you disappears and you’re not even conscious of what is going on but you know its perfect, it’s the ultimate test. You can spend your whole life in your room making incredible music but you’ll never know how good it really is until you see other people smashing their heads together at your sounds. Dino Felipe & Otto are some of the greatest performers I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. The way they completely lose themselves in their music is amazing.

El Topo Image

PS: Would you say that the music that you produce is highly experimental and underground or can it be considered enough to be embraced by the mainstream community? And also, would you welcome that sort of transition or would you prefer to still leave your mark independently, totally devoid of popularity?

ET: My music isn’t really experimental. I grew up listening to break beats, drum and bass, and hip-hop so those are the main genres that I produce. The idea that one’s music can never be embraced by the mainstream is kind of outdated. There is an audience for every genre. And when you say mainstream music I think of top 40 MTV and nowadays there is more hate for that type of music than I’ve ever seen, simply because people are starting to realize that there is actually more music than what Best Buy has to offer.

PS: Tell us a bit about your stage persona... why do you use the masks? Does it have some deep rooted psychological meaning, or is all it just for show?

ET: I love masks. One of the first comic characters I ever created was a demon who was punished by the devil and made to wear 1000 masks. I just feel what people see on stage isn’t the real person who is performing. Plus they tend to remember the mask more than they remember the individual (the mask meaning the alter ego). Every performer/band wears a mask otherwise they would use their real names instead of some pseudonym. (Editor's note: Tell me about it!)

PS: How'd you get or decide on the stage name of El Topo? Can you tell us what it means?

ET: Alejandro Jodorowski is one of my favorite directors and if you know who he is you know of his film El Topo. El Topo means The Mole and a mole spends most of its life underground. Sometimes when the mole rises to the surface too fast it is blinded by the sun. The name El Topo is a reminder to never become full of yourself, otherwise you’ll become blind (not literally) and will be unable to see yourself for who you really are.

PS: Describe your relationship with The Creature Tweaker Council. How long have you been a member, and where do you see this live outfit going in the next couple of years?

ET: I joined CTC about a year and half ago. I’ve been friends with Peasants with Feathers for some time now and when I met Linenoise I was baptized into the organization. I remember at that time CTC was like fifty or something people but they cut it down to only participating members which was a better idea. Now it’s something like fifteen official members as well as a number of honorary members. We are just getting our new label SWAM NOISE off the ground and I believe the next CTC Compilation record should be out soon. Eventually I’d like to see all CTC members on stage at the same time performing in unison.

PS: Can you tell us a bit about your side projects, such as Friends in Square Places and The International Horror Association? Are they just hobbies for you at this point, or do you plan on doing something bigger with those projects of yours sometime in the future?

ET: Actually my music is my real hobby and my comics are my main focuses! [laughing out loud] Friends in Square Places (F.I.S.P.), is a comic series based on my former pets as well as my college experience. I created the main characters Who & Ted back in a chemistry class when I was in high school. It’s a collection of personal experiences, romantic involvements and friends living together and loving life.

International Horror Association (I.H.A.) is a bit different. I’m one of the world’s biggest EC Comics fan. If you don’t know they are responsible for great comics like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, & Crime and Suspenstories to name a few. I.H.A. is a modern take that pays homage to those series. I also started an online "Live-Action" version of I.H.A. last fall where I would dress up as the host of I.H.A., Raymond, and would stream obscure and classic horror films on Justin.TV. But after showing the ultra-violent Flower of Flesh and Blood I was booted off the site, so until I can set up the streaming on the IHA website the live action version is on hold for now. But you can always expect a comic release every Halloween. Right now I’m finishing up the fourth issue of I.H.A. which will be a detective story titled Crimes of Passion.

PS: Is it hard for you to juggle between being a DJ and being an artist?

ET: Oh man, you do not even know how hard! Sometimes I want to just focus on doing comics but then I go out to a show and hear some dope tunes come back to my apartment and jump on the computer and start busting out tracks for like three days straight. I got to a point where I realized I have to compromise. A little time for art a little time for music.

PS: Tell us a bit about producing tracks... your music employs the use of everything from vintage Nintendo music tracks to movie and TV show samples. What frame of mind does one have to be in in order to come up with these eclectic samples? (i.e. Like what crack are you smokin' kid?!? lol Just kidding... but please elaborate anyways)

ET: Well film is a HUGE part of my life. My father owned a video store when I was younger so I was always watching movies. And now that I’m older, my roommate and I are constantly trying to top each other with a better film. You just know when hear the right sample, or line. The track is just born. I recently saw the 70's Horror Sci-Fi movie called The Demon Seed and it literally spawned the next album. Influence is the ultimate creative spark. But it can’t be just any sample, the obscurity is what makes it genuine.

PS: What's your most memorable moment (to date) performing live?

ET: Emceeing for Andy C and Soul Slinger back during WMC (Winter Music Conference) in 2004 was pretty cool, but to be honest I could give three shits about emceeing for some so called "Superstar DJ". Some of the best moments I've had have to be emceeing at Infrastructure (a drum & bass weekly that ran from '04-'06). Loosing yourself with local DJ’s and friends is what’s best in life. I tell you I could have an awesome time jamming with my CTC crew in front of just a handful of people who are actually listening and studying your beats, even more so than in front of a huge crowd who don’t know who you are and are only there to see the headliner.

PS: I ask this question of all the artists I interview... how well would you rate the importance of online social sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc. when it comes to getting the word out about your music?

ET: INDISPENSABLE! The only reason some of us "bedroom producers" get any kind of notice is cause of social networking sites. Although it can be a little overwhelming. It seems like everyday there is new site that you have to join. I said before I absolutely refuse to join Twitter but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up doing so out of necessity.

PS: Do you think it's harder to draw more people to a show by word of mouth than it is vs. getting them to show up through an online announcement through these aforementioned popular networking sites?

ET: It’s actually a combination of the two. You can’t put all your eggs into one basket and rely on just word of mouth or just an online announcement. What really brings the people is hard work, perseverance, and the will to continue even during hard times. If you’re passionate about your craft then you’ll do what it takes to bring them in. If you build it... they will come!

PS: And do you think that these networks cause more of a disconnect between the audience and the performer, like say for example if you were to put up a video of you performing live on YouTube, then how different would that performance be if you were to witness it live firsthand and all versus just staying home and catching a live stream of it somewhere? I guess what I'm saying here is... what can I expect from a live El Topo set?

ET: I only play original music, and rarely play the same songs. There is definitely a difference between seeing someone live as opposed to seeing them on YouTube. The disconnection comes from people who can’t break away from social networking sites. You can always expect something different from an El Topo set.

PS: Finally, where do you see your music heading towards in the next few years?

ET: Right now I’m putting together my first Dubstep LP and I expect a few CTC compilations in the coming months. The sky’s the limit. The only place to go is up and as long as the sun, moon, and earth exist, everything will be fine.

So there you have it folks, an exclusive interview/portrait/or whatever you wish to call this piece with Alex Anico (AKA: El Topo). Below are a few more links of his, so please be sure to check them all out...

The PMCRW Productions Website
- PMCRW on MySpace
Friends In Square Places Online
- Friends in Square Places on MySpace
The International Horror Association on the Web
- The I.H.A. on MySpace
El Topo on MySpace

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Spotlight on Huma Rojo

Hey again people, I recently came across this band through a mutual friend, or actually another band which you may all know and love as Radioboxer, and I just thought I ought to turn the world onto them, because they're a really talented group of individuals that I personally like to listen to, and well... I know you all will too someday, so here's bringing you all a head start! What follows is an interview that I conducted via the web with Dámaris Vicke, lead singer/songwriter/bassist of the band Huma Rojo which are currently working on their debut album, which is due out any day now...

PS: First off, where does the name Huma Rojo mean? And who came up with the band's name?

DV: Huma Rojo is a character from a Spanish movie called Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother) from director Pedro Almodóvar. Huma is a famous actress who is addicted to smoke, and her junky girlfriend. She also imitates Bette Davis (a Broadway 1940’s prima donna/starlet who smokes with abundance) and interprets Blanche DuBois from the classic 1947 flick A Streetcar Named Desire, which I have always loved.

DV: Javier and I came up with this name in 2006 when we started as a duo, since we have always been into films, and directors, and Almodovar is one of our favorite directors so Huma Rojo really touched us, and ever since then, we have been HUMA ROJO and kept this musical waves and vintage idea floating around us…

PS: Can you please let us know how many members are in your band, how did you all form, and how long has the band been together?

DV: We are a four piece. Well, HUMA ROJO as a duo, me and Javier three years nonstop, and with the new line up, (Daniella and Jonathan) I would exactly say a year, so that makes four years of Huma!

PS: From what I've heard, I'd say that the band is influenced by a combination of The Doors, Pink Floyd, and maybe a bit of Daft Punk and/or LadyTron... would I be right in this estimate? And as a follow up, can you please let us know what other artists, be they musical, visual, literary and/or otherwise; have an influence on you all as musicians?

DV: Actually, yes, we like those bands, especially Pink Floyd and The Doors. I just basically write my songs on the acoustic guitar, bass or keys, sometime lyrics and poems come first, so once I feel the song is kind of ready, you know, with a kind of blurry vision I bring the song to rehearsals, and we all begin experimenting and creating whatever sound we feel the song is asking for, we are not influenced by any bands in particular or music, we play whatever our ears want to hear in that moment. We listen to anything; we all have many different styles and tastes. This is what lately we have been around or listening to; there are also a few that have been influences for a while as well...

Reading: Everything from Hermann Hesse, to García Márquez, Octavio Paz, Asimov, bios, terror, etc.

Films: Movies, short films, art films, etc.

Paintings and personalities: Frida Kahlo

Music: Radiohead, Wilco, Granddaddy, Tujiko Noriko, Oddland, Pink Floyd, Santa Sabina, Café Tacuba, Happy Apple, Tosca Tango Orchestra, Caetano Veloso, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Tom Waits, Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius, Xiu Xiu, The Kills, Fiona Apple, Sigur Ros, The Lappetites, The Cure, Autolux, Stars, The Breeders, The Beach Boys, Diamanda Galas, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, John Lennon, Jeff Buckley, One Ring Zero.

PS: Would you say that the style of music you play is ambient rock or psychedelic pop? What in your opinion would be the distinction between these two?

DV: I would say that we have a little bit of both, we have some ambient/experimental, and some psychedelic pop, however, I feel that the difference is not that big. I am a huge fan of John Cage, and I think he was considered an ambient music composer, and gave it the term of “experimental music” I consider ourselves to be a rock band now, even though we do have some elements of psychedelic music.

PS: Who is responsible for the lyrics in this group? Would you say it's a group effort, where each respective member contributes to the overall structure of the song, or does each member bring his or her own idea to the table while the rest of the band supports it?

DV: I compose all the songs and lyrics, I started this project with the purpose of wanting to play and sing my own music. Javier has always helped me from the beginning with arrangements, ideas, and lyrics as well; however, I usually bring the whole song almost finished, then each member contributes with their ideas and we each make arrangements. We all work on the songs until we are satisfied, although, we can never stop thinking of new ideas for the songs, especially now that we are recording our album. And yes, everyone brings ideas to the table, and if it works out and goes with the style, we all work on it together.

Huma Rojo Image

PS: What's your opinion about the local music scene? Do you think it could use some improvement, as far as wages for the bands that perform are concerned, or would you feel that it's normal for a band to pay their dues no matter how popular they get?

DV: I think there's a little bit of truth in both arguments, I have seen bands demanding bands to get paid even though they don’t bring no one to the shows, just as I have seen promoters book bands that fill the venues and pay them their fair share. In my opinion, it's just like everything else in life... where the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The scene in Miami is extremely big, you will find amazing music and musicians if you search carefully, although to me in the end it's all a cottage scene, DJ’s are more admired thanks to the city’s lauded dance club scene, and sometimes bands are not treated the way they are supposed to, so we have to count on our devoted fans. I do feel that there should be more improvement as far as wages are concerned, if you are taking it seriously and being professional about it. And I do feel that it is okay for a band to pay their dues at he beginning of their career.

PS: Where do you see the band Huma Rojo headed years on down the line? Would you say that the band has long staying power, or a very short shelf life?

DV: I think this is just the beginning for all of us, even though we all have been through a lot, we respect each other very much and most important, we enjoy working with each other to the max. We are all very good friends and admire our work, so I say you will have some Huma for a while! [laughs]

PS: Tell us a bit about your new debut album... are you excited about the prospect? Who are you recording the album with at the moment?

DV: Well, it is a beautiful experience! For Daniella and I, it will be our first album ever, although we have both worked with many reputed musicians and recorded in other projects... but this is amazing, we are having a blast and such an awesome time. And we all became really good friends. We are recording our album with Producer and Engineer Doc Wiley, who is an amazing person that has always helped and supported us ever since I started with the idea of recording my solo album, which never happened... [laughs] but is now totally blooming!

PS: Can you explain how the recording process is like? For instance, how do you know when a song is finished versus just your typical run-of-the-mill demo reel?

DV: This is a hard question because music is like the ocean, it has no end, and if you go deeper and deeper, you will find yourself with different physiognomies, so sometimes it is better to give it a rest. Just like Da Vinci said: "Art is never finished, only abandoned."

PS: What's it like for you all as performers? Do you feel more at home experimenting in the studio, or would you say that live performances bring out the best in your prowess as musicians?

DV: I think this is kind a bit like Sophie's Choice, but if I had to choose one, I guess I would go with the studio first, because that’s were you create and ideas are born, is practically the birth place of the song. However, we love playing live. I guess it is really like thirst and hunger, you cannot satisfy either one of the two... the energy you get from the people, is nothing that can be recreated in terms of feeling. Playing live and getting the feedback from the crowd is totally ecstatic!

PS: Do you consider yourselves to be more visual in the band's presentation/live act, or is it all just straight ahead music?

DV: We are all about music, so that is our first priority...however, we do know that there are some visual elements that play a big role on our live performances, so we try to have fun and make it interesting to the audience members. Things like mannequins, flowers, and candles on stage are part of our shows; we feel it helps set the mood, and get a clear visual picture of where we feel the music is leading us.

Well, there you have it folks, Dámaris Vicke, one fourth of the creative element behind the ambient experimental pop rock outfit by the name of Huma Rojo that hails from Miami Beach, Fl. Do yourself a favor and check out this band, for your ears will thank you for it!

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Which One's Pink?

Hey once again, everyone... one of my favorite bands, which I must say have had the biggest influence on me (artistically speaking) has to be none other than the band Pink Floyd. Ever since I heard their monumental Dark Side of the Moon, followed by A Saucerful of Secrets and later on Piper at the Gates of Dawn, I was immediately hooked.

What fascinated me the most was that I took special notice of the band's lineup on the earlier albums liner sheets, and noticed that at one point there was another guitarist by the name of Syd Barrett, which I learned later on, was actually one of the founding members of the outfit. What I was really trying to figure out, however, was in fact who was who on that kaleidoscopic photograph that adorns their first album's cover. And then, of course, the mania began. I had purchased the book A Saucerful of Secrets: A Pink Floyd Odyssey by late biographer Nicholas Schaffner, who passed away very shortly after publishing this very same offering.

What fascinated me the most was the fascinating history of this band, and how much they mirrored The Beatles, and yet still managed to slip in a little under the mainstream's radar in order to establish a very cool and sometimes strange cult following of a reputation amongst their fans worldwide. Well, that's an awfully poetically stupid thing to say, really...especially when you consider at how well their Dark Side of the Moon album release fared on the charts, which at one point was voted as: "One of the Best Albums to Fuck To..." believe it or not. Others claim that you have to be on LSD in order to experience it and truly appreciate it. But I think I'll pass on that, since I like my brains sunny side up instead of scrambled, thank you very much!

Anyways, after hearing many fellow Floydians' (that is one who digs Pink Floyd, just like Beatles fans are called Beatlemaniacs) claims that you needed to be high in order to hear the secret messages jumping out at you on The Dark Side of the Moon record, I figured it would just be easier to crank up the volume and put my headphones on. And sure enough, I got to hear the famous recorded interviews that were all conducted during the course of the recordings to most of the crew, as well as The Abbey Road Studios personnel. "I've been mad for fucking years..." "Yes, absolutely years, every holiday, and night." Sorry if I can't really claim perfect accuracy in that last transcription, but it's the sound effects used in that album that sometimes drown out the speech. Roger Waters is notorious for doing that sort of thing, you know?

I was even surprised to find out that even Paul McCartney was interviewed during this taping process, which involved asking a random set of questions, likened to what I could best describe as a Voight-Kampff test on a Replicant just to see if someone was completely insane at the time! Of course, this track was never used, and basically scrapped for a couple of better probing Q & A behavioral responses. This was yet another thing that Roger Waters is notorious for; according to David Gilmour, which is basically sacrificing a great musical piece in order to make it sound more of a radioesque sort of sound. Again, I'm paraphrasing, since I can't exactly remember what the exact words were that he used to describe this genius sound editing process of Roger's.

But at any rate, it's a pretty far out thing to know that while The (early) Pink Floyd were busy in the studio recording their first offering The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, The Beatles were right next door recording their landmark Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And it also turns out that their engineer Norman Smith also worked with the Beatles! Imagine that!

Norman Smith Image
And here's Norman at the Controls...

Another interesting tidbit is that when the band first started out, they were more geared towards R & B based sounds, and they went through a number of name changes; such as Sigma 6, The Tea Set, Leonard's Lodgers (more on that later...), The Screaming Abdads, The Architectural Abdads, The Abdads, and get this... The Megadeaths! Go figure!

There was even a point where there were five members, just like the Beatles in their early heyday. And this additional member was none other than Bob Klose, who left the music scene to further his studies.  So it's not exactly the same kind of treatment that Pete Best got when the band finally got around to stirring up a great deal of interest from the record label, or anything.  But it's still worth noting here that there were actually two periods that there were five Floyds.

Bob Klose Image
The fifth Floyd... Bob Klose

But then again, it's not really accurate to say that Bob was the fifth Floyd, since there were a few other members and earlier incarnations of the band lineup, and their name around this time was most probably Leonard's Lodgers.  However, it may be correct to say is that he was still a member while the group had donned the name The Pink Floyd Sound, which was an idea of Syd Barrett's, naming it after two of his favorite blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. There is also a story out there, which I can't say for sure if it's accurate or not, that Syd used to feed acid to two of his cats, one of which was named Pink and the other Floyd. Sometimes people think that this is the origin of the band's name. Another thing that pisses me off is the fact that people will refer to Pink Floyd as a person. It's a group, you fools!

The Five Floyds Image
Well... you don't see this everyday, do ya?
The full five member Floyd lineup!
  L to R:
Nick Mason (drums), David Gilmour (guitar),
Roger Waters (bass), Syd Barrett (guitar),
Richard Wright (piano/organ)

Oddly enough, this was yet another joke that's prevalent on the band's personal ode to Syd Barrett, which was one of the first acid casualties of psychedelic rock; the album Wish You Were Here in the song Have a Cigar where the verse "The Band is just fantastic, that is really what I think, oh by the way which one's Pink?" is the epitome of the highly misinformed culture in the music industry. For me, this is basically just about everybody I've tried to engage in a conversation with that have little to no idea of just how important this group really is.

Getting back to the note I made earlier, about the Leonard's Lodgers title of the band. Apparently, this name was influenced by Mike Leonard, who was the band's lighting projectionist. One could easily say that if it wasn't for this inventors' tinkering about with the use of sounds to affect light patterns, well... there wouldn't be such a thing as raver night clubs today! There wouldn't even be a Pink Floyd light show to begin with! And no, I'm not talking about the one at the local science museum, kids! I'm talking about the one that we get to see at during their live performances/tours/etc. Which, by the way, I don't think will ever happen again, now that both Syd Barrett and Richard Wright have each passed away. So God only knows what the future holds for the remaining members.

Hopes were pretty high (permit the pun, there...since one of their songs was called High Hopes and all...) when the band made a special reunion at Live 8. This was technically the last appearance the band ever made together, after the split between Waters and the other two remaining members of the band, David Gilmour and Nick Mason (that is... after Wright was fired by Waters after The Wall).

Which brings me to a cool little tidbit that I picked up, courtesy of The Internet Movie Data Base, which is the best place to find out some pretty cool trivia about one's favorite movies and all. I found out, or better yet... actually proved to my curiosity, for I could have sworn he was in the film, was the fact that Roger Waters was actually in The Wall! It turns out tat at one point, he was considered for the lead role (not in a cage!) but the part was eventually given to Bob Geldof (of The Boomtown Rats fame). Here's some visual proof...

Pink Floyd The Wall Movie Wedding Sequence Image 1
If you blink, you'll miss this...
There's Roger (in red) appearing as the best man
in the very brief wedding scene of the film
during the Mother sequence.

Pink Floyd The Wall Movie Wedding Sequence Image 2
And here he is again, with Bob Geldof (second from right)
looking remarkably a lot like Syd Barrett
in his psychedelic heyday!

Anyways, I just thought I'd share this with all of you out there, the uninitiated, as I like to refer to you all as, and not just the regular lot of assholes that refer to Pink as a he, when they say something to the extent of: "Yeah, I like his music!" or better yet think of them as a strange underground group. I'll never forget a comment that one of my schoolmates told me one time, which was something to the extent of: "Dude, don't you listen to normal music?" Freaking idiot! Oh well...

One more thing I like to add, which has been a highly repeated subject time and time again, in the anals of Floyd fanatic speculation... and that is that most people claim that the last moments off of the bands' Division Bell album is actually a conversation between David and his son Charlie, or something along those lines. There may be some truth to that statement, however, what most people tend to overlook for the most part is that this line is also in the song Astronomy Domine, which is the first song off of Piper; the band's first album. If you listen closely to the heavily distorted megaphone blaring over the crazy diamondesque guitar solo work of Syd (whose name was actually Roger, and whose middle name was Keith) Barrett, you can make out the exact same phrase, which is: "Charie? Is this Charlie... Hello?" It's pretty difficult to hear, since there's a lot of crazy experimentation going on in there, but the fact of the matter is that it's there! Basically, if you look at it from this standpoint, Division Bell was actually a very highly reminiscent album that drew largely from the glory days of the group. If you listen, you could hear the swarms of bees, (or just a lot of buzzing insects...don't know if they're really bees or not) from Granchester Meadows, which was on their Ummagumma album. And you can also hear the bells from the Fat Old Sun, from their Atom Heart Mother album, which at one point was considered to be used as a soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, according to Roger Waters; and not the more common urban legend of how the twenty-five minute long Echoes suite off of Meddle synchronizes up perfectly with the stargate sequence at the end of the film, which is coincidental if not altogether completely sick! I mean, can you imagine what frame of mind you have to be in to figure out this kind of thing?!?

Of course, the crazy line of coincidences doesn't stop there. Let's not forget the whole Dark Side of the Rainbow spectacle! Which is really where all this fanatic Floydian madness originated from in the first place! For those of you that don't know, it's basically playing Dark Side of the Moon at the same time you start watching the Wizard of Oz. You can find out more about this completely far out concept by clicking here.

Anyways, another interesting fascinating little tidbit that I'd like to point out is this video that I like to share every now and again with my friends, who are all musicians in their own right; which is that aside from the unreleased (but heavily bootlegged) Vegetable Man or Scream Thy Last Scream songs which Syd Barrett composed for A Saucerful of Secrets, shortly before his departure from the group, and/or the What Shall We Do Now? and When the Tigers Broke Free numbers which are not on The Wall album (with the lyrics of What Shall We Do Now? still printed on the lyric sleeve!) but are in the film; there also exists a released (eight-track only) version of Pigs on the Wing, from Animals, which bridges the gap between both parts of the song. Both songs, of course, normally appear as bookends (or what I like to call the bread parts of the sonic sandwich) of the album. Of course, this version was actually created as a sort of audition tape for guitarist Snowy White, when they were all in talks for doing a tour together to promote the Animals album. There are many videos of this out there on YouTube, but this one's my favorite... since it's the first on I came across when I was looking for this rare version of the song.

And then, of course, there are other little rare variations here and there that I've stumbled across online... which is the alternate promotional video for Arnold Layne, which was the band's first hit about a kleptomaniacal cross dresser. Both the song and the lyrics are light years ahead of their time, and only go to show how much of a genius Syd Barrett really was. Below is the official promotional film, followed by a lesser known promo (which has somehow virtually disappeared from YouTube - probably due to copyright, fair use, and all that jazz...).  As a bonus, I've also found a true stereo mix of the song as well.

And then, I stumbled upon yet another little gem, which was a slightly different version of Corporal Clegg, off of A Saucerful of Secrets. I was going nuts trying to see if I could spot Syd in this video. Of course, he's not there, but David's reflection in the mirror threw me off. At one point I was thinking that all five members were in this video, but apparently not. Anyways, I like this rarity the best, since the song's ending is completely different, as well as there being some notable differences in the level of the instruments on the track. We don't get to hear the normal military siren followed by mortar fire, but instead a continuous chanting, done in an almost goosestep-like marching beat. My only gripe is that the video wasn't complete, but hey... we can't have it all, I suppose! Here's the alternate version, followed by the full length promotional version...

And finally, there's yet another gem which I found on eBay. It's one of them Japanese mini discs, which are CD's recorded straight from an original vinyl source. The album in question was none other than Piper at the Gates of Dawn. What's cool about this CD is that I believe it was released before the special anniversary edition of the album, which contains both the stereo and mono mixes, along with some third bonus disc, that I still haven't heard! Anyways, this CD contained an earlier acetate of Candy and a Currant Bun, which had some slightly different lyrics. And for those of you that don't know, the BBC in its infinite wisdom decided that the song's original title Let's Roll Another One was definitely not up to standards at the time. And yet, they didn't have any reservations, nor did they object to the verse of "Please just fuck with me!" How do you explain that one?!? Yes, indeed... censors are pretty stupid, but not as stupid as those people that liken the name Pink Floyd to an individual person instead of a group.

All right, well... this includes this portion of Musical Trivia with your host Dr. Gonzo XXVII (or AKA: P.S. Elliott for short!) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

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