Category Archives: Books

Everybody Loves Our Town

mark yarm

I’m a 90s child, or better said a 90s teenager. It’s impossible that someone who is acquainted with me has any doubt about it. Not that I got stuck in this decade, but in many ways it was the most defining in terms of music and personality. 2000 could be acknowledged as the settlement time, of what I started experiencing and discovering in the nineties.

This been said, you should also know by now, I’m deep into 90’s music. Not all the genres, that’s for sure, as it’s impossible, at least for me, to cover all the styles, and also because there was lots of crap too. I never dug into industrial music, although I’m currently interested in NIN, and enjoyed Marilyn Manson lots, but Fear Factory and other currents never caught my interest, same as nu metal and those guys in Adidas trackies. Never cared about The Deftones or Korn, and BritPop was something I was punished to listen to with when I was working at the laundry factory in Essex, so even though I enjoy listening to Suede nowadays, I wasn’t a diehard fan of Pulp, Oasis or Blur.

Anyway, I don’t think at this point I have to justify and give explanations on why I don’t have any CDs of this or that band. You just can’t cope with everything if you have a “normal” life.

What I do reckon is that grunge, I prefer to call it Seattle sound even though isn’t still very accurate, crossed my life when I was 14-15, and hundreds of stories of bands immediately were part of my life. Thus, when I heard of Mark Yarm’s Seattle oral history was available, I knew I had to read it as soon as I had the chance. Thanks Mr Benavides for discovering this treasure to me.

This book is a compilation of interviews the author made to around 200 people: musicians, producers, sound engineers, managers, record companies A&Rs… basically people who had been involved with the several bands which propelled the ignored Northwest area of the States, and Seattle in particular, to be a huge worldwide attraction, thanks to the scene created  throughout the years, since the early 80s to late 90s. It’d be a huge mistake if only the most prominent bands, you know, Nirvana, Pearl Jam Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, would have been covered, but luckily all the different bands previous to those, and many other such as Melvins, Mudhoney, TAD, 7-Year Bitch or even Candlebox, are also included.

Seattle scene

Many stories, different confronted opinions, and people’s feelings are reflected, respecting a very well structured timeline, showing a family tree whose branches extend to many bands with different projection and fate. Of course, there are certain key figures which are never to be forgotten, which are pillars, or even breaking points at certain times, to situations and changes of events, such as the deaths of Andrew Wood, Mia Zapata, Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley. Addictions and substance abuse are too present, excess and delusions of grandeur can be found in many stories, ambition, friendship, hard work, love, disasters and drama, and most of all talent, are part of this big cocktail, and lots of stories, I used to listen thanks to overseas magazines and the damned MTV, are now told in first person.

For all these reasons and more, Everybody Loves Our Town, immediately has become a must read for all the music lovers, and those who used to wear flannel and Doc Martens, no mattered what their parents or people at their high schools could think of their appearance, trying to emulate their music heroes, which in the end were human beings.

One last thing, not trying to spoil anything: COURTNEY LOVE is even more asshole than I thought.

Black Hole

Comics. What wonderful universe I’m so ignorant about!

I’ve always loved this way of telling stories making such a visual impact, however I’ve never been a great follower nor expert. Used to buy a magazine when I was 8 one of these  weekly girly magazines named Jana, following all the stories, but I found really frustrating to spend most of the time waiting for the next issue while it was taking me so few to devour it, so I wasn’t good at collecting at all. Never been a good collector at anything, to be honest, so after that I was buying spare issues of comics just for fun, and Spiderman and Batman stories.

I consume volumes. Not that I buy many, but I’ve been getting acquainted with great works such as The Killing Joke, From Hell, Frank Miller’s The Dark Night Returns or Sin City, The Preacher recently, and the last weird discovery, thanks to my friend Mich, Charles Burns’ Black Hole.

black hole

I got so hooked I read it in just a couple of nights. Sick, twisted and totally uncomfortable. It’s so weird it’s really difficult to define what Black Hole is, and I reckon a second read is absolutely necessary, to get more meaning. For this reason I immediately related it to any of the early Cronenberg’s films. They were so shocking I had to watch them several times to really enjoy them. In this sense Black Hole could be equal to Videodrome. You feel irresistibly attracted to it at first, but you don’t really know what’s going on nor why, and have to dig deeper and deeper to make sense.

The plot is set in Seattle, in the 1970s. it mainly deals with a couple of teenage characters, Keith and Chris, who barely know each other from highschool but they somehow empathize. There’s a bug, a sexual transmitted disease which causes mutations among youngsters even though the origin is not explained. Some of them suffer really awful mutations which immediately turn them into outcasts, and they tend to isolate from society, in order to avoid rejection, torture and punishment, and some others manage to deal with it. Chris, the girl, gets infected when hanging out with Rob Fancincani, due to a misunderstanding, and from that moment she feels compelled to get away. Keith gets hooked with Eliza, who’s grown up a tail, but, unlike Chris, he can handle the situation in a better way. And then, there’s Dave, who’s a total freak, in love with Chris, whose actions will make a huge impact on these people.

keith chris

There are lots of drugs and sex, both subjects I find totally appealing, there are lots of interesting music references, and plenty of dreamy stuff. The imagery is absolutely great, even though I was so stuck to the story man things passed by without me noticing them. Visually it’s overwhelming, with this thick and heavy black ink, which makes the cartoons so powerful.

All the constant references to this spreading decease made me think of AIDS. First, for being sexually transmitted, and also because of all this social barrier created around. I remember the first days of AIDS, when it was officially recognized, and we all felt threatened (well, perhaps not me, I was a little girl after all), not so sure of the ways to be infected, and even though we were all told to be close and supportive to the people suffering from it, how society was giving its back to the illness. I also remember the first time I heard some acquaintance who had passed away was infected, and this panic around me increasing, with thousands of questions involved. “Was I to close to him?” “why didn’t he tell us?” Have I been too exposed?”, “What if anyone knows I am friend f this person?”It was really awkward, and scary, and I remember it freshly.

eliza

It also made me think of Larry Clark’s Kids movie, which also dealt with a crazy and out of control teenage society, and AIDS, and the way youngsters were jeopardizing their lives for the sake of having a sexual encounter, without pounding the consequences. All very fucked up.

Again, what is Black Hole? Is it the story of mutants, a portrait of a disease, the troubles of a teenager to fit or to get away, the reflection of social confusion, or just a weird and heavy acid trip?

Perhaps I didn’t understand anything or different readings can be pulled out of it, but the only thing I’m sure of is that Black Hole is perturbing and fascinating all the same.

What came first, the music or the misery?

With this question Rob Gordon starts telling us his story of music and love failures.

I hadn’t watched High Fidelity in at least 5 years, I can’t believe it took me so much time to recover this jewel. Yep, I like it. I’m not much into romantic comedies, in fact I try to avoid most of them, but this one’s got something special which make it irresistible. At least to me.

Rob Gordon is a music freak who owns an impressive vinyl collection at home, and a super cool record store in some kinky neighborhood. He’s such a wreck in terms of love relationships he can even elaborate a top 5 list of the hardest break ups he’s gone through. Rob used to dj at a club and would love living with a musician.

Not that I’m as immature as him (I’m not such a cunt either), and thank God not so many people has broken my heart throughout these years (oh shit! Yes, I can write my own list!), but there are quite evident similarities between him and me which make me feel kind of reflected on this character.

High Fidelity vinyl

When I read Nick Hornby’s novel I was in London, and Championship Vinyl was located where my ex used to rehearse, in the north. I don’t know if it happens to you, but I love knowing the locations in films and books because they help me to get into the story even better. Anyway, I loved Rob and the story, and I started feeling quite related to the main character, even though I was still in the earlier stages of the development of my passion for music. My vinyl collection is still ridiculous comparing to others’ because I’ve been investing in CDs most of these years (I didn’t have a tuner for 15 years), and at the end of 1990s I had less than 100 CDs. Guess it’s quality rather than quantity what really matters in this case.

15 years after I read the book and about 5-6 years since the last time I watched the film this afternoon seemed to be the perfect time to bring Rob Gordon Cusack (what an adorable man!) to The Hellhouse, and I’ve enjoyed the viewing a lot.

And of course I still love Rob and the resemblances between us are more evident now, as I’ve grown up and music’s been my loyal companion all these years and I’m positive it will be till the end of my days. I particularly love the way he relates everything to music, and the constant top 5 lists for every occasion. I love top 5’ing and writing lists all the time. and I still believe in the power of a compilation tape/CD or a playlist for impressing someone, or at least calling his attention. It’s been ages since I don’t receive any, and nowadays personalized playlists I do, living aside the dj’n sessions, have to do with bands “best ofs” for friends.

compilation

Compilations whose consignee is someone you like are to be taken seriously and imply an extra  effort as you don’t have to fail. That person must like 100% of its content, and at the same time you have to add a subtle message, but still noticeable, but avoiding something too obvious like “I love you” or “I’m gonna fuck you like animal” kind of songs. The story changes when you deal with a playlist for a friend or someone you have to impress in order to get a night at a club booked or your knowledge is put into a test.

I reckon it’s hard living with a guy like Rob, or even with me nowadays. I’m turning into a loner and most of the activities I perform are accompanied by music: cooking, reading, writing, cleaning, having a shower…and it doesn’t matter if I went out the night before and hangover is unbearable. I will play some record for breakfast. My best friend was both surprised and terrified when he discovered this. I used to hate when my ex was playing music all the time, but now I understand the reason why I was so upset was because I never had the chance to choose the music. I don’t think there are many people capable of bearing this lifestyle, and the older we get the harder is to surrender and change.

But hey! High Fidelity is a love story and Laura gets back to Rob, which means there might be someone out there who will understand my concern and stress when writing my top 5 or top 10 albums of the year and won’t mind I play a record when I wake up every morning. There’s still hope! And yes, we must admit sometimes we need happy endings to recover some illusion, don’t you think?

I will leave my top 5 break ups for later, if you allow me 😉

JAMES DEEN, A REBEL WITH A STICK ;-)

When I wrote about my porn world, I told you I wasn’t, and still am not, a regular consumer. Nevertheless I think girls should be more acquainted with this industry and be more interested in the guys’ input concerning the subject, so being update you more or less also get to know their tastes. It should happen the other way round, of course, but I think girls are more into iconic and platonic love with actors, characters and musicians, this is, everything is more innocent, still close to our early teenage years, if you know what I mean: Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender (I gotta admit I have a nasty fascination towards this perfect guy, and I surprise myself thinking the dirtiest shit you can imagine…), John Hamm, Christian Bale, George Clooney… And we don’t hide our ideal guys tastes.

Girls who don’t interact with men at the same level and in confidence, seldom know who Stoya, Sasha Grey, Rachel Roxxx, Remi La Croix… there are hundreds your friends can tell you about, just ask.

Since I told you I like Stoya as one of the hottest porn actresses currently in bizz, and a personal favorite, watching some scenes and seeing the million gifs available on the net, I started wondering who was the guy who is banging her most often in front of the cameras. Not huge, not super muscle guy, not super hairy, and with a decent but not overwhelming size of his dick. But definitely he’s got something…yeah, for the first time a porn actor who is attractive! Can’t believe it!

On the other hand, all the story and news related to 50 Shades of Grey big screen adaptation project has been detailed tweeted by Bret Easton Ellis, Patrick Bateman’s dad, as he was meant to write the script but eventually was kicked out from the project. He was telling about the possible candidates for the role of Christian Grey, the eccentric millionaire who wants the girl to be his sexual slave. I don’t want to focus on the story right now. One of the actors named was Ian Somerhalder, who was dismissed after his recently discovered homosexual condition. He’s an actor but all things considered, nobody would believe him nor taking him serious as Grey. The second name strongly rumored was James Deen, yep, with double E.

I didn’t know who he was till one day I decided to search in Google, and Oh! Surprise! James Deen was Stoya’s banger, and the guy who is turning me on lately. So now I have a face and his name, and he’s about to jump into mainstream film business with The Canyons, written by Bret Easton Ellis. This is getting interesting.

Checking his bio, Deen is said to be only 26 years old and is probably the best paid porn actor nowadays. He started acting in 2008, when he was 18, and has received some porn industry awards. He’s also film director, focusing on female-friendly pornography.

Someone said he was rough, and sure he is, but if you think about it, you don’t look for tenderness in a porn movie, do you? I kinda like his smooth but dominant attitude, and I don’t feel ashamed admitting it. I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, but according to the spoilers spread related to Christian Grey’s character, I think Deen had to ruin the performance badly to change my opinion of him as the perfect candidate for the character. He can be loving, but dominant, sadistic and despicable at the same time. He’d be the right choice.

So, seems that I’ve arrived late again, but I’ve still caught him before he becomes the next big thing. Sasha Grey jumped into conventional films thanks to Soderbergh, although se preferred to be back in porn. What will happen with Deen? We’ll have to wait and see. I know positive I’m not gonna miss any progress in his career 😉

BATMAN ANALYZED BY A SHRINK

On Friday the last chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, was finally being released, I couldn’t delay it so I went to the cinema on my own to watch it. I enjoyed it a lot, leaving aside this questioning of Nolan’s qualities as a director.

You know I’m not very into comics, but Spiderman has been the exception, and the alter ego of Peter Parker has always been my favorite hero. I somehow relate to him because the real character is, at the end of the day, a loser, an average guy who doesn’t enjoy any sort of privilege nor advantage, and whose life is pretty much alike the others’. Unfortunately I got pretty disappointed with the films related. Sam Reimi didn’t fulfill my expectations at all, and I don’t think The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb will earn my heart either.

I reckon Batman adaptations into big screen have been more successful for many reasons, starting from aesthetics, Bat devices, very impressive especially when you are a kid, the directors managing the projects, Burton and Nolan (sorry Schumacher, I don’t even know why I’m mentioning you here, your parts were crap), Gotham City as another important personified character, and over all, the villains.

I adore the villains Batman has to defeat to keep Gotham safe: The Joker no doubt is the best, pure charm and attitude, but  others such as Cat Woman, Ra’s Al Ghoul and his daughter Talia, The Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Two-Face, Bane…aren’t to be ignored nor despised. Basically, these villains rock.

The passing of years and the deeper knowledge of the dark knight, have eventually made me fall in love with Batman.

The ultimate reason for reaffirming my crush on Batman and Bruce Wayne was the reading of a book that fell onto my hands more than 10 years ago. Batman Visto por un Psiquiatra, whose translation would be Batman Analyzed by a Psychiatrist, was a work written by a Spanish psychiatrist, Dr. J.A Ramos Brieva. The initial idea, was to write a comment on a famous fiction character, classic and universal, to submit to a contest, whose prize would be economic, and the distribution of the paper among people related to this medical field. The result wasn’t suitable for the contest purposes, and luckily he managed to have his work fully developed, published by an editorial company. Unfortunately I haven’t found any edition of this study in English, thus I’m summing up the most relevant details in this post.

According to the doctor, on one hand, the hero and the human being could be compared to Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and should be clearly separated, although it’s true at some point the dark knight finally devours the millionaire.

Batman is a creature of the night that represents all the dark features of the human beings. He is related to the dark, the evil and the perverse. His mask, an essential element, implies the trespassing of the rules and the law without being identified, which also means acting with complete impunity detached from the establishment.

There’s an instinctive part of the hero which represents what is forbidden: aggressiveness and sex, both feared and fascinating. Batman is so popular and adored because at the end of the day he behaves in the way the rest of us, subjected to rules, cannot do. He’s useful and necessary for many of us. Dr Ramos comes to the conclusion, after some research, that regardless the complexity of Batman, most of women agree we’d love to have a Batman in our lives. No need to say I agree, especially if personified by Christian Bale. Ha!

Bruce Wayne is introduced as a wonder boy, with an outstanding intelligence, who manages to cope with society in a balanced way, although the creation of the Batman, shows issues in terms of adapting to society. Moral and justice are his main concerns, however these cause him anxiety, as he’s unable to develop emotionally. Let’s say he suffered from a post traumatic stress disorder not in average terms, perhaps due to his social condition and education among other reasons.

 Wayne does not suffer a personality disorder, but, according to this study, has a pre depressive personality, this is, he’s a melancholic. Among other characteristics, a the melancholic personality features responsibility, a strong sense of obligation, and accuracy in acts, implying the anticipation element, in order to avoid any possible surprises, reduce the uncertainty and eradicate the unexpected. Thus, Batman MUSTN’T make  mistakes.

When saying that his is a pre-depressive personality is because there are two aspects which could push Wayne into depression: the remaining and the including. This last one has to do with the impossibility of performing beyond certain limit. The extreme effort cannot be increased when new demands are brought out. Thus, the melancholic type falls into depression due to this non accomplishment. The remaining aspect which might lead to the pathology makes reference to the constant feeling of the subject being in permanent debt with society.

All this been said, doubt, guilt and anxiety define Bruce Wayne. Not too cool, huh? The poor rich boy is self tormented unable to overcome his parents’ loss in a normal way, and despite his fortune and comfortable life, is not able to be in peace after all.

The study also goes on with the evolution of Wayne’s traumas with the passing of years, and Dr Ramos, as the specialist, dares to analyze what would be the most suitable treatment for our hero. At this point, dreaming of being Batman’s shrink is quite an ego trip, which makes sense though. We all wish Wayne the best, but the question is, at any cost?

In the times of Prozac, psychotherapy, psychology and the tendency to label any state of mind under a recognized and recorded pathology, we don’t want The Vigilante disappearing due to any successful and affordable treatment.

It’s great to be acquainted with what’s going on under the bat mask, so we can understand the character better, but the way he manages his traumas is useful for Gotham City, is the source of our amusement, and his trespassing symbol is what many of us praise.

Now if you excuse me, I have some business with Dr Ramos Brieva, in case you need to contact him, I suggest you call Arkham Asylum. He’s dangerous.

1982, THE YEAR OF BLADE RUNNER

1982 was one of these years, with the passing of time, we should celebrate, at least regarding film releases. From Annie, to Creepshow or Porky’s, 1982 also rewarded us with The Thing, First Blood and 48h, among many others.

But it’s Blade Runner I want to talk about now. Last week it was the 30th anniversary of its release, and I’m particularly fond of this film as I grew up with Deckard and Nexus 6 close.

Sure my parents didn’t take me to the cinema to see this sci-fi film, probably for the same reason they didn’t buy me Star Wars toys. For many years, and still nowadays, sci-fi has been a male genre, as if girls couldn’t dream of being astronauts, heroines nor fighters. Well, as far back as my childhood memories reach, I’ve been fond of stuff related to this portrait of the future, dark, sinister and even hopeless.

You already know the classic Star Wars saga is essential in my existence, and I accomplish certain rituals every year which have to do with it. Well, Blade Runner is actually my second all time favorite movie, and I also have to watch it once or twice a year. I need it.

Ridley Scott’s free adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, shocked the world in 1982. Although I’m not sure the exact time I watched the film for the first time, I still have the moment fresh in my mind. The same guy who gave me my favorite childhood toys, the space Airgam Boys, when I was 5, and videotaped me the Star Wars saga and the first Muppet Movie, he played me Blade Runner to keep me entertained while he, his girlfriend and my parents were playing card at his house in the Pyrenees. Hi son was off with his ex wife, thus, movies will be the perfect babysitters for me.

If you are acquainted with the plot, you can imagine at 7-8, I barely managed to comprehend 10-15% of the film, yet there were many visual things which made me fall in love with the film. On one hand, Han Solo was now Rick Deckard, the image of the Japanese geisha taking a contraceptive pill was something which settled in my mind immediately, J.F Sebastian’s toys at his huge apartment, the origami figures made by Gaff, and the enhancing device to observe the tiniest details of the picture Deckard found at Leon’s flat. No need to say violent scenes were very intense and welcome.

Have you ever thought of the amount of violence we used to swallow when we were kids? Damn, we were allowed to watch action films and nothing happened. Blood, shoot-to-kill prosecutions, executions, beatings, rapes…anything. Think of Robocop, The Terminator, Rocky, Conan… I don’t have any regrets and don’t think it as wrong, I haven’t suffered from any side effects.

Anyway, sorry for this off-remark. I was fascinated by the aesthetics and the imagery, and my love for the film was increasing and becoming stronger and full of sense, as I was growing up and developing my own vision of the story. When I started understanding about the replicants Nexus 6, the actual task of the Blade Runner as a shoot-to-kill cop hunting them in order to carry out their retirement, the need for memories, and the Voight-Kampff test, an amazing fictitious world was there open to me, the Future, and this film became another source of endless thinking and dreaming.

Your vision on certain aspects in the film changes as you grow old. You used to think Deckard was a cool cop, but in the end you realize he’s a total tortured loser who strongly believes Rachael feels and is in love with him, but she’s actually obeying and fulfilling his desires, it’s not love but submission. And the Replicants are not evil, they’ve just fighting for survival!

Slavery, feelings, memories, survival, humanity, morality… Blade Runner conveys all these features and make you think. It’s not just another sci-fi story, it reaches levels of social criticism.

The more developed and technologically advanced we are, the more valididy Dick’s message has. For this and more, Blade Runner will be in my top 5 for good.

NEAL CASAL BROUGHT ME RYAN ADAMS & THE CARDINALS TO THE HELLHOUSE

I haven’t talked about live music photography yet, and to be honest, if I had to choose a field to develop my poor skills in, or focus my work onto, live performances and street art would be my main targets.

I find really difficult to capture those intense moments coming from the spontaneity of the band members, the feelings, the passion, and the workspace  is usually terrible. Lights, shades, angles, jacks, annoying mic stands, and even these mobile video units. Now I’m thinking of a picture of Nicke Royale with Imperial State Electric, which could have been awesome but it was completely ruined because of this huge  video mobile arm. It was one of these “Fuck My Life” moments, believe me.

I will refer to outstanding photographers covering this field very soon, but now I’d like to talk about something more special and intimate, Neal Casal achieved through hundreds of pictures, many of them included in his book Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: A View of Other Windows.

This compilation of pictures means trespassing the threshold into the inner world of one of my favorite artists, Ryan Adams, and the band he formed and fronted for approximately 5 years, The Cardinals, which Neal Casal joined in 2005.

Their world, including the writing and recording processes and methods, the band on the road, the relationship among members, the good and bad moments, from happiness to exhaustion, euphoria and solitude, is beautifully reflected here, in a humble way, with no ambitious aspirations but to catch and keep part of their lives and experiences for good.

I’ve always thought Neal Casal is a very emotional artist, with a taste for the beauty in a discrete manner. Whenever I listen to his solo stuff it evokes me some kind of peace. The tandem formed between Neal and Ryan is really complementary, as if the second provided the passion and the guitarist was there to balance and keep things under control.

The fans know by know about Adams’ shyness and mood swings, he’s quite a borderline personality, in my opinion essential to be the genius he is. Casal, seems to be the witness of all his extreme behavior, close enough as not to disturb him either, which hasn’t to be very easy.

The relationship among the members of the band is also interesting. So far, so close, everything changes depending on the circumstances. Being part of a band which spends long time on the road must be rough and strenuous. We have no idea of what two hours show means in terms of effort, work and sacrifice. It’s like a family but implying a responsibility towards a different audience every night, and bread on your table. Your working day doesn’t mean 8h at the office, or the factory, but playing eating, travelling, sleeping…

Adams appreciated the talent of Casal right away, and the covers of Easy Tiger and Follow the Lights Ep are credited to him, together with the albums artwork featuring some of the pictures.

I have to remark another personal issue which makes this book more special, and it’s the fact that there are plenty of pix referring to the European tour in 2007. I was lucky to attend to one of the shows in November 2007, a thrilling and absolutely wonderful night, in which I signed not only a peace agreement with Adams, my filthy hair boy, but also my unconditional love for the rest of my life.

Ryan Adams and The Cardinals split ways in 2009, for many reasons, among others, Adams’ retirement announcement caused by the Ménière’s disease, and later on,  the loss of the bassist Chris Feinstein.

Neal Casal has just released a beautiful album named Sweeten the Distance, keeps on taking pictures which have been published in many established magazines, and nowadays he’s part of Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood. Let’s cross fingers and wait if he manages to let us into this family through his lens.