Posts Tagged ‘life’

Art and ‘zines with Austin McManus

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

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Austin McManus, the man behind the San Francisco ‘zine company The Flop Box knows how to stay busy. He recently started curating monthly art shows at FREEGOLDWATCH in San Francisco, and managed to churn out two new ‘zines recently despite also preparing for a split show and joint ‘zine project with close friend Brandon Chuesy, as well as a solo photography show in Japan at the end of summer. Woah. For what Austin refers to as “seven foggy years,” The Flop Box has been putting out ‘zines filled with photographs, graffiti and artwork from his Bay Area friends and acquaintances. He recently took the time to tell me a little bit more about how he juggles everything.

AM: First off, tell me a little about yourself.

AMM: I am tall. I’ve been an occupant of planet Earth for 29 years. The seven most recent years were spent residing in San Francisco. I quit college several credits away from graduating. I am currently a freelance photographer, graphic designer, publisher, and curator. I haven’t had a “real job” in three years and feel fortunate to not have a structured schedule. I spent five months of 2009 bedridden, wondering if I was gonna live the rest of my life in horrifying pain. I like grainy black and white film and dislike bulky cameras. I ride a bike every day of the week and want to wear a new pair of socks for the rest of my life.

AM: When did you start making ‘zines?

AMM: I have been making ‘zines for six or seven years now. Seeing older kids making punk rock and graffiti ‘zines when I was younger in Los Angeles probably had a large impact on me. My brother used to mail me these obscure conceptual graphic design ‘zines he was making in the early 90′s as well. It wasn’t until I moved to the Bay, though, that I got obsessed with them. My friend Pez has had a huge influence on me. One day he came over to my house and gave me a stack of ‘zines from his archives, and I knew I had my work cut out for me. My love for independent publishing grows stronger everyday as the power of Internet photo sharing becomes more commonplace. You don’t have to work for your advertisers and anyone can do it. I suggest you go make one right now. I’m waiting.

AM: What materials do you use?

AMM: Anything that I can get my hands on. Offset printers, photocopy machines, home printers, long arm staplers, industrial paper cutters, stencils, silkscreen presses, Gocco printers, etc.

AM: How long does it typically tell you to assemble a ‘zine?

AMM: Anywhere from one day to one year, depending if there are other artists involved or if it’s just a personal ‘zine. Supplies are currently acquired through a generous barter system.

AM: How do you select the artists you work with?

AMM: All the artist who have had ‘zines on The Flopbox are San Francisco artists and personal friends. The original idea for the site was to utilize the Internet and offer something of tangible value, giving access to people outside of San Francisco.

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AM: What has been the most fun one for you to put together?

AMM: They have all been very enjoyable. The ABC #2 ‘zine was great, though. I gave each artist different direction and some absolutely none. Everyone who contributed to that ‘zine sent me top-notch sketches. It was really interesting to see how far the artist would take a single letter of the alphabet. After twelve months of harassing people to give me drawings, it became an exercise in patience. There were many writers that I wish would have contributed and that I asked to be in it. But, some people are too cool for school sometimes and you know how artists tend to be…flakey.

AM: How difficult was it for you to get your materials stocked in stores – do you rely solely on online sales? Does it end up being cost-effective for you or just something you enjoy doing?

AMM: In S.F. it’s easy. I walk into the store, hand them ‘zines, they hand me money, and we thank each other. That’s San Francisco though, they know me here, and are willing to support local folk making things. As far as other cities and countries, it’s difficult. There is this worthless middleman called a distributor. Cut the middleman out if you’re not producing large quantities of product. I was in Japan recently and brought a large box of ‘zines with me. Not only my own, but ‘zines from several different artists. I had generous Japanese friends take me around to stores where they knew shop owners for meet and greets. The same scenario always arises. They tell me I need to have a distributor. People say “Oh, we would love to carry these and want to, but, we only really deal with distributors.” Even if I’m standing there with ten different products, from ten different artists, right in front of the buyer. I’m still trying to figure out what the difference is between what I do versus a distributor. They would suggest to go all the way back to the U.S. and sell it to a distributor for practically nothing, so it can get shipped all the way back over, so they can be charged more than I’m charging?. This is bad business practice in my eyes, and so impersonal.

I would say 75% of the ‘zines sell over the web, though. The demand over the Internet is high enough now that I don’t really have to deal with stores to much. Profits are minimal and the craft, rewarding.

AM: What other ‘zines from the past did enjoy the most?

AMM: Finding a good ‘zine is a real treasure hunt. I think every ‘zine in my collection is my favorite. The more limited and smaller pressing they are, the luckier I feel to have gotten my hands on them. I have run out of space on the shelves, I’m starting to fill boxes.

To order zines and find out more, visit The Flop Box

Other Music: A State of Affairs

Monday, April 26th, 2010

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Do you want to hear some thoughts on the ongoing collapse of the music industry from the perspective of one of the few indie retailers left (in our home town of New York City, and in your town too I’ll bet, great record stores have been closing in droves over the past couple of years)? Other Music has been selling great underground music in New York City for close to 15 years, and we’ve seen a lot happen in that time.

The indie revolution happened on our watch, and the economics of our business have seen boom and bust – once we were buoyed by the dot-com bubble and the wealthy creative types is fostered, back at a time when successful web-savvy young people actually spent good money on CDs and LPs! Now we are on the rocks of the current web reality, as most avid music consumers of a certain (young) age rarely if ever spend real dollars on real albums.

So what can we say for ourselves? Not much really. How we consume our music, from performances intimate or grand to recordings from wax cylinders or 78s to WAV and FLAC files or streaming technologies, is an organically morphing process that has been in flux for centuries. Clearly there are many advantages for both consumers and artists that come with advancing technologies and how simple they make the delivery of music, no matter how esoteric, breaking down barriers between music makers and fans in any remote corner of the world. That there are disadvantages seems obvious too, and many will mourn the disappearance of great independent record stores from our landscape, even those who have never been in one, because at their core, these shops foster a different, inherently deeper way of connecting to music.

But there was something lost when we moved on from the horse and buggy too – I’m certain of it, though I’ve never taken a three-day journey by buggy, and never will. Progress is rarely all upside, but the world marches on – and now it can access the entire recorded history of marching music for inspiration, from any mobile device, anywhere!

What is a record shop to do in the face of all this? Well, for sure we try to throw ourselves in the path of progress – someone has to – and we try to keep up with the times too. It’s not even about hedging our bets, it’s just all we know how to do. The only good reason there ever was to be in record retailing was for the love of it – the thrill of changing someone’s day (and maybe life) with the best music they never heard is all we have here – the money was never any good, really, and the perks of the job – free tickets, occasional vip access, and a good employee discount – only goes so far.

We are here because of our passion, and that will not die with any outdated format like the CD (or aforementioned wax cylinder). So old record store clerks never die, they just… well I’m not sure what they do, why don’t you tell us – you can complete that sentence in the comments section!

Visit your local Record Store! And if your living in or visiting NYC, be sure to head into Other Music.

Jason Lewis’ Sensory Pleasures: Smell with Kaya Sorhaindo

Monday, April 12th, 2010

I met Kaya Sorhaindo for the first time in Tokyo a few days before Halloween last year. I was in Shibuya with a close mutual friend while he and his comrades were busy traveling the world introducing the Series Two product launch for his company Six Scents. We were all ready for adventure, and Kaya went above and beyond to facilitate that.

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I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining guy, in addition to being “good people” Kaya was an overseas conduit to great food, new and interesting friends and some pretty wild parties. It wasn’t difficult to imagine him in his work element, collaborating with visionaries and enabling new and exciting projects.

Kaya Sorhaindo is the Founder & Creative Director of The Metaproject, a creative agency based in New York City. By working collaboratively through an international network of artists, designers, curators, writers, architects, and scholars, Metaproject operates as a creative mediator between brands and artists, inventing new models of communications through its work.

In 2008 Kaya (Metaproject) and Seven New York’s Joseph Quartana introduced a series of six limited edition fragrances by a distinct group of six designers and perfumers. Through the designers’ concepts and the perfumers’ knowledge of fine fragrance, two artistic disciplines were interwoven to explore new perfume compositions. The collection represents a global gamut of contemporary views on creativity, culture, consciousness and collectivity.

Kaya and Six Scents have continued into 2009/10 with six additional designers. Kaya’s collaborator Aramique described their partnership: “Exploring the idea of nature as muse, we created Series Two as a multimedia and multi-sensory collection to spread environmental awareness and preservation through experiences of nature as a symbol and source of all creativity.” Each fragrance will be offered in a limited quantity of 2,000 bottles and a percentage of the net proceeds will go toward Pro-Natura in support of their environmental sustainability programs.

I spent some time with Kaya at Metaprojects’ new offices last week to get some shots and discuss his latest endeavor.

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Why perfume?

KS: The art of perfumery is a creative discipline that I was always fascinated and inspired by, with my first introduction to the perfumer Serge Lutens. I loved the way that he approached perfume and before Six Scents I was in touch with him in regards to developing a multi-sensory exhibition that captured the experience behind his fragrance but in a curated museum space. I was first drawn towards exploring ways in which a perfume could be presented in a gallery/museum context and in collaboration with artists, but after working on the i-Dentity exhibition and conversations with Symrise for Series One, I began to investigate the idea of applying this approach to creating an actual fragrance collection.

What’s the story behind Six Scents? How did you end up with your other collaborators?

KS: I developed the concept of Six Scents initially as a marketing and Research/Development program for a client that is a global fragrance producer responsible for many of the fragrance products you see on the market today. The idea was to develop a collection of fragrances that would be released annually that worked totally opposite of their commercial / client fragrance projects and to give young designers who normally would not have an opportunity to create a fragrance a chance to apply their ideas to a totally different artistic realm. This means, putting the fragrance in the spot light alongside the designer, positioning the fragrance closer to the arts than fashion and beauty, producing small quantities as a opposed to developing a product for the masses, creating an environment where the perfumer and designer would work one-on-one to realize a fragrance concept and giving part of the proceeds to charity. The ultimate goal was to inspire the perfumers, present a project that occupied a very unique space in the fragrance market that my client could own, present fragrances in places where people do not normally engage with perfume, educate the average person that is not connected to the perfume industry about the cliet, gather data that they can present and eventually apply to their client commercial projects and challenge the ways in which people perceive, interpret and engage with fragrance.

The loved the concept, but did not have the budget to produce the entire project and pay my agency creative fees, so we decided that we would own Six Scents and just asked Symrise to become an in-kind sponsor where they provide us with the best perfumers and produce the fragrances. I than asked my friend Joseph from Seven New York to come on board as a partner to handle the curation of the designers for Six Scents.

Who and/or what inspires you? Does the fact that you’re originally from Antigua inspire anything you do?

KS: I am inspired by a wide range of people. I guess the thing that these individuals have in common for me is the way in which they respectively approached their different artistic disciplines… with emphasis on interdisciplinary collaborations, interaction or viewer engagement /participation and posing questions with their work that ultimately transferred the fields in which they worked in.

As for Antigua, I never give this much that (smile) thought. I traditionally like black and white, simply because of the power of the opposition of both colors, but Antigua is very colorful. I appreciate color. Small bursts of it when put alongside things that are very dark. As for my work, maybe with the way I like to make things more communal and collaborative. Will have to give this some more thought.

What’s next for Six Scents?

KS: We are launching Series Three in October 2010 with a new group of designers and artists.

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What scent evokes happiness for you?

KS: Hmm…my mother’s fragrance (I know, such a mommy’s boy) or the smell of fresh mint makes me happy and a wide range of spices (Anise Seed, Rosemary, etc.)

What scent makes you sad?

KS: when you are unable to experience scent or smell at all. Or gutters in a small village.

What other projects are you involved in? Future projects?

KS: My agency metaproject is working with the Scope Art Fair to develop a show within the fair that is called ‘Markt’. It is a collaboration with Diane Pernet that presents unique fashion objects alongside contemporary art pieces. I am in the process of working on a new performance art / dance project with a prominent choreographer, and we also have a sound project in the works this year that is quite interesting. In February 2010, we release a project called Relics of the Now Forgotten ‘Transgressions Redemption’. I am collaborating with my friend from the V Group on a annual book project called ‘00’, Volume One to be released in September. Aside from that a mix of client and installation projects, and we will bring on two new Niche Perfume clients to mange their creative positioning and marketing. Six Scents Parfums as a company (outside of the annual collection) will begin to work with designers directly in developing their own perfume.

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Is there a Kaya Sorhaindo theme song?
Probably this tune.

How did I smell last time we hung out?

KS: Haha. Hard at work. But in a good way.

Check out more of Jay’s photo’s, thoughts, and blog posts.

Hanging with Moe Pope and Headnodic

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

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What were your different musical influences growing up?

Moe: For me personally, when I was younger, I was blessed to be in an era when MTV was huge on videos. I would come home from school and just melt into the music, whether it was head-bangers ball or Yo! MTV Raps. I ate it up … I honestly can say I love punk and old school hip-hop equally. As far as lyrics and vocals go, hip-hop ten plus years ago had a greater focus on making sense, being coherent and wowing the listener with how clever it could be. Not that today’s rappers aren’t trying to blow minds, it’s just that it’s not a requirement to blow minds anymore. For me having grown up listening to the pre-eminent rappers from New York, I’m not satisfied until I feel like the lyrics are worthy!

Headnodic: I grew up listening to everything as well. I was a bass player first so I was into every genre of music in an effort to learn how to play better, and understand music more. I feel like whatever we convey on the album is just what landed on tape for those particular songs. When we do the next record you’ll probably hear a whole new set of influences and feels. We both enjoy trying to do what we haven’t done yet.

How do you think your different styles contribute to an overall unique sound?

Moe: I don’t think me and Headnod’s styles are that different. I think having made music together for so many years helps us to understand the other in a way were he knows what I like and vice versa.

Headnodic: Yeah, for instance, I might sample an old soul song, with full knowledge that it will make Moe turn it into something aggressive, as opposed to crooning an old soul song over it. I’m very into flipping the context on samples. I geek off taking something that most people would think is lame, and flipping into something aggressive or soulful. I assume it’s a subconscious need to show everyone that all music is amazing. It’s my own little musical “Hands Across America.”

What is your songwriting process like?

Moe: Smoke-filled rooms, beats, a pen and a pad and the belief that something special is gonna happen!

Headnodic: I usually come with the beat, and Moe sits and writes. On that song Danger Danger, Moe had the beat in his head, and he coached it out of me. And sometimes Moe will say he wants some sort of mood so I’ll start digging for a loop or starting point that fits it, then flush it out with him. I like Moe’s work ethic a lot. I like that he wakes up and is tapping his fingers until we start, then it’s an all day affair til’ we have something dope (or several dope songs). It’s not often that I work with anyone as hell-bent on creating as I am.

You guys have lived all over the country. How do you think being a part of different scenes in different cities has affected your sound?

Moe: I’m in Boston and its cold. I definitely think it adds a grittier texture to the music. I feel a lot more smooth in Cali.

Headnodic: We’ve both lived on both coasts so it’s just more experience to add to the stew. But more important than that, when Moe comes to record an album with me, he’s not on his coast, and there’s no day-to-day grind or home distractions. I live in Oakland, but my sound comes from me living in the Bay, and keeping Wisconsin, Boston, New Jersey in the stew. Add to that Paris and Tokyo and NYC and Reykjavik, Iceland and all the other places we’ve had the chance to experience.

What are your thoughts on the state of hip-hop today?

Moe: Honestly, I love music so I’m gonna find something positive in almost all music, but I feel like hip-hop is not doing what it needs to and these major record labels are putting out sub-par quality. We know their product is garbage but we adapt. When I was coming up there was more variety. That’s missing from the airwaves now; everyone sounds alike and wears the same rap outfit. There are diamonds in the rough but mostly there is way too much rap-pop out there. This must be what grunge rockers felt like during the ‘90s. Yeah, that’s what I am. Grunge rap.

Headnodic: Yeah, I feel the same. Even the crap is fun every now and then though. I don’t listen to the radio, and I don’t have television, so I’m not bombarded with the same songs over and over, so when I hear a pop hit once or twice I can appreciate it as a good little commercial ditty. Most of the hip-hop out there holds the same weight as pop in that regard. But, the internet allows a listener to dig and find the music he/she really wants. So kill your television, and music is healthy again. It’s as simple as that.

For more information on Moe Pope and Headnodic visit www.moepopeandheadnodic.com

Life on Tour: Soft Cushy Floor

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

It’s not always easy to get a great picture that sums up a concert’s atmosphere from the front of the stage, or even from the stage itself. On the last Modest Mouse tour the band played a concert in a field house in Boulder, Colorado. This place was different; it had a brilliant high ceiling and a running track in front of the stage. The floor had the texture of a hardened sponge, meaning the venue could double as a great place to see a show while getting a decent work-out in at the same time.

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Modest Mouse took to the stage with their usual power. I positioned my self front and center in the pit at the front of the stage. Earlier on in the day I had taken a bunch of photos of the stage and lights coming through the windows and I really wanted to get that same feeling but with the band in the shot.

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Being in between the crowd and the band, I could sense the excitement and anticipation of both, but it was way too dark for me to get any usable shots. I decided to stick around for a bit anyway; even photographers get lost in the music sometimes, so I just listened.

At one point Isaac asked the crowd if there were any runners in the audience. A few hands shot up. He then invited a guy up on stage to do some running while the band played a song. The guy didn’t look like a runner but he gave it his all as Isacc yelled “JOG! JOG!,” into the microphone, in perfect unison with the music. The crowd, at Isaac’s insistence joined in some chanting: “Soft cushy floor! Soft cushy floor!” The rest of the band played away brilliantly as usual.

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I took this opportunity to grab some great shots. I hiked around the crowd, up some stairs, and through some doors, flashing my AA pass at security guards until I eventually made it to the back of the running track. Looking out it was like I was at an alien landing sight, with silhouettes and bright warm lights blasting from the center point.

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I was blocked off from the back-centre of the room, which is where I really wanted to be. So I hopped over a chain and found my self in the perfect spot, surrounded by piles of twelve-foot high gymnastic mats. If I could bounce on these and get a good angle, I was sure I would get a phenomenal shot. If only.

I managed to climb up on to the mats and stabilize my camera with elbows to get the shot at the perfect angle. I got my picture of Modest Mouse giving an out-of-this-world performance as they always do, sprawled out on a makeshift gymnastic practice set. All in a day’s work.

PS: Pat’s first book of photography, ‘Silent Pictures,’ was released through NYC’s Akashic Books and can be ordered from www.patgraham.org. His second book, ‘Instrument,’ is being published by Chronicle Books and is due for release in Spring 2011.

Boldaslove: Thoughts on black rock

Friday, January 8th, 2010

“Black rock, Afro-Punk, and black alternative music.”

That’s my response when people ask me what kind of music I cover on my blog, Boldaslove.us. For nearly three years, this has been my beat. It’s been my attempt to chronicle the cultural shift that I think we’re all experiencing: Black rock, or Afro-Punk, if you will, once confined to the fringes of music culture, is now making it’s way towards the mainstream. It’s still got a ways to go, to be sure. But, as we head into 2010, there’s never been a more exciting time to understand the origins of music that’s reshaping the urban cultural landscape.

First, let’s use this definition: When I say “black rock” I’m not talking about black men and women simply doing whatever you might currently understand to be rock music. And I’m not trying to suggest a separate, but equal new genre. No, I’m using as a term that describes music by black artists that synthesizes a broad range of influences and interests. Some examples can be found at www.boldaslove.us/listening_post/

We don’t have to go all the way back to the Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock in order to see a burgeoning aesthetic at play. While it’s not unusual these days to see black kids adopting styles that are direct nods to punk rock, you also see mohawks (frohawks!) on folks who you know have never seen the inside of a mosh pit. And when you see R&B singers posing on album covers with guitars slung rakishly over their shoulders, it’s a clear sign that something in black culture is shifting. Used to be that rock was considered “white” music and something that, as a black person, you didn’t cop to unless you didn’t mind others questioning your cred. In fact, once hip hop went global, it was hard to be black and not swear allegiance to it. Folks all over the world used hip hop as a yardstick for what was “authentically” black. Unfortunately, that authenticity was tied up in stereotypes.
But something happened on the way through the 21st century. People started abandoning commercial black music—the music industry term for the hip hop and R&B you hear on the radio—because too much of it sucked. It seemed to be the same five producers programming flavor of the month beats for sad variations on three basic themes: Getting’ paid, hittin’ the club and falling in and out of love.

Tired, right?

These days, a movement that was started by the Black Rock Coalition (which celebrates its 25 anniversary in 2010) is gaining momentum thanks to word of mouth from friends and social networks on Facebook and more focused sites such as Afro-Punk. The Internet makes it easy for people of all persuasions to now find music that they like. This is a boon for black artists who defy convention and refuse to have their work put into a narrow box.

The shift is also benefiting from the transition between generations. The fact is, the boomer generation stayed onstage far too long. But now, people in their 20s are in positions to make decisions about culture and to that task, you all bring vastly different notions about race, class, gender and sexuality. Ideas that we long held back are now bubbling to the surface.

And, in my mind, the most important thing about this moment in which black rock is growing in importance: It’s sparking the imagination of audiences, black and white. Not only are white audiences getting more used to black artists who are more than MC’s, but black artists and audiences are finally beginning to realize that their creative potential is limitless.

Rob Fields writes about black rock, Afro-Punk and black alternative music and culture on his blog www.boldaslove.us

Confessions of a Traveler: Tyson Meade

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

The famed feathered boa was gone.

As were the crazy on-stage antics.

But I knew it was him.

What he was doing on a dusty Shanghai street wasn’t clear.

But I was about to come face-to-face with Tyson Meade.

Formerly of the band, The Chainsaw Kittens.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s okay.

Because it does to most bands you listen to.

He, like many famed singer/songwriters before him probably was enjoying a country where fans didn’t follow him around.

But this was a guy who had launched the ‘alternative’ music scene 3 years before any of those other names synonymous with breaking the scene.

And there was no way I was not going to talk to him.
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What, in the world, are you doing in China?

TM: “I stopped drinking a few months before I came to China. I was living in NYC which is maybe the bar capital of the world or at least of the States. I suppose I wanted some sort of new adventure. When I drank, I drank for the adventure of it, the not knowing where you would land of it or who you would land there with of it. I suppose I looked at China as a bender without the alcohol.”

You’ve often been credited as being the ‘Godfather of Alternative Music’ – how true is this?

TM: “I hate to try to credit myself for something that I may or may not have created. At the time, I was fed up with everything going on in music. If you were alive in the 80’s you know to what music and bands I am referring. The music that was happening was in no way speaking to me. Furthermore, life in general seemed so restricted. When I started writing music, I was not satisfied with the two choices that were given to me as an 18 year old. The first choice was go to college in order to work your life away at an office. The other choice was to be a townie and work at a machine shop or restaurant in my hometown. I wanted something different that did not entail a new couch, a new car, a new dining room set. Fortunately, I met a like-minded soul in my hometown and we innocently and haphazardly went about putting together a band. This whole process was a head banging one; that is, a banging my head against the wall one. I soon learned, no clubs would book a band that played original songs. Clubs only booked cover bands at that time in the early and mid-80s. So, we played house parties and VFW halls. If we made 20 bucks we were happy, not 20 bucks apiece but altogether. There were a few other bands that were not hardcore punk doing the same thing but not very many. And, I wrote songs about my life and my inner-struggles and all of that sort of stuff that you have going on when you are in your late teens and early 20s. We rammed 50s guitar licks into 60s power pop colliding into 70s glam and punk and more glam and then pureed it in a blender and we had our sound. Soon after, a hoard of other bands did the same and called it grunge or alternative rock. It then became a big business. I never made any money; I have been paid in fan letters, which is really what I set out to do. I set out to make some sort of change. And I feel as if I did. So, I guess I am one of the alterna-Forefathers. I am a starving alterna-Forefather.”

You weren’t overly pleased with how music was shaping up at the time then?

TM: “When I started making music, music had landed in the toilet in the shape of corporate rock, palatable dribble for housewives who looked as music as one might look at an ironing board.”

You lived somewhere, in seclusion, writing stories next to a creek and an apple orchard – aside from the obvious, why?

TM: “I grew up next to a creek [in Bartlesville, OK]. We had an apple orchard and in the summer I picked apples to earn money to buy records. At that time, I bought records for their covers so naturally I was attracted to a lot of the more outré offerings. Of course, I learned later that the stuff that I was digging as a freaky pubescent was selling massively in Britain. In my mind, I suppose, I still go to that apple orchard to write songs to the 12 year old me. And, at times, I do look back and say ‘Wow, I did it.”

Which you did – and that leads me to my next question: having achieved every kid’s dream of being a bonafide rock star – what’s it really like splitting time between stage/studio/bus/the occasional party?

TM: “I loved it until I didn’t and then when I didn’t I knew that I had to have a change. At one point, the whole thing started to become a grind like clocking into a job. I had told myself when that happened I would quit so I quit. There came a time when it was no longer the creative endeavor that it was when I started. I had worked so hard for so long and eventually I was just tired. There are those great moments of playing in front of thousands but then there are those not so great moments of playing in front of the bar staff in some dive bar in Michigan or Arizona. At a certain point, you get older and sleeping on couches and having all night parties and doing loads of drinking and drugs is not as appealing as it was. You also start being thankful that you survived what countless others did not, some of them friends, some acquaintances. But still, every time you hear about a contemporary dying and you know that you have been down that same road – and in that same mode – you say a little prayer. When I was young and it happened, it seemed like it was just happening to someone else in this abstract way but then when people that you know OD or crash and burn you start to wander how you emerged unscathed.”

“There was this crazy turning point for me where I realized what a gift life is. I suppose I stepped out of myself for half a second and I thought about the genocide in Rwanda and how in so many parts of the world people have to struggle to even eat. I realized how spoiled I was. And from that day on, I decided to approach life differently. Somehow, this realization brought me to Shanghai where I lead an almost monastic existence but I love it. Every day is a gift.”

Finally, a rock star worth looking up to.

Check out Tyson’s new album at www.tysonmeade.com
To follow Aric’s bold and beautiful adventures, keep your eye on www.aricwithana.com

Confessions of a Traveler: Cain's Ballroom

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Dear [Members of the Band],

I am so sorry I blanked on your name.

You were right there backstage, waiting to hear your thousand-plus fans go crazy on that famed spring-loaded dance floor, and instead, the guy bringing you on blanks on your name.

I’m really sorry.

I know you probably couldn’t see me, but I did somehow managed to stretch both arms out to the audience and act as if I wanted them to introduce you, and a few of them shouted “Yeahhhhhhh!!!!” But the sick look on my pale face probably gave me away.

It’s not like I didn’t know who you were – you guys were good.

What you weren’t were a band I should have forgotten the name to.

But I did.

Because of where I was standing.

And I’m sorry.

But I was onstage at Cain’s Ballroom.

THE Cain’s Ballroom.

And this was downtown Tulsa.

Does that mean anything to you? Probably not.

See, when you grow up in a place like Oklahoma, the thought of ever catching a gig at CBGB’s in New York City or The Fillmore West in San Francisco seems downright impossible, but what Cain’s did was go to those places and then bring them to us.

It became our enabler, our secret, our teacher – the location we loved going to but not one we wanted to talk about to just anyone less it become mainstream. It was the Aunt that buys you cake and let’s you stay up late watching scary movies, but only if you promise not to tell you parents.

See, it was there I had seen bands frowned upon by my strict upbringing.

It was there where a mowhawked bass-playing punk from England put his hand through a wall.

It was there where a nicely dressed quirky tall man introduced us all to something called ‘New Wave’.

It was there where we first head about the tragic death of a musical visionary.

It was there where we watched another Englishman, this one immaculately dressed, who seemed to moan in all of his songs, but we didn’t care.

And it was there when I realized I wanted to become a radio disc jockey, so that I could come here for free and maybe even meet the bands.

So you can understand why I might have blanked.

I’m still really sorry.

I just didn’t know if you knew what a historical place they were playing in.

And even if you did, I still thought you’d be pissed at me for forgetting your name.

But this was Cain’s Ballroom!

Did the tour manager tell you about this place?

We’re talking a place that goes back to 1924 – 1924!!

It has been everything from an old speakeasy to a dance hall.

Even during the depression, the old floors would see more than a thousand pair of boots in one night.

To hear of bands, just like you, going hours out of out their way to play one night was normal.

And to us kids, growing up with tall moral fences and limited choice in entertainment, it was THE place to be.

Even when we were too young to get in, we’d sit across the street and strain our necks and ears every time that big front door would open.

This place is what rescued me from an adolescence of boredom.

This place was where I took Kate, a girl who I had a crush on all through high school, to a show and she kissed me.

[She ended up dumping me for a jock, but it was still a great kiss.]

This place was the gateway to all things happening in the world for us.

And this is why I temporarily forgot your name.

And I’m really sorry about that.

But hopefully, now, you can kind of understand.

Where in the world is Aric? To find out, check out www.aricwithana.com

Confessions of a Traveler: Bauhaus

Friday, January 1st, 2010

There’s nothing worse than someone talking about art.

I’m serious – nothing worse.

Having said that, I’d like to talk about art.

Not because I think it will impress you.

Or that you’ll someday invite me to your nice dinner party.

But there are some things you should know about.

And one of those is Bauhaus.

Now, if the name immediately makes you think of dark jeans and dark eyeliner and dark clubs with dark conversations about dark music, then it’s the wrong Bauhaus.

We’re talking about the Bauhaus – the art-meets-socialist movement, one that began 90 years ago in Germany.

One you see every day, everywhere – be it in fashion, art, music and design.

It is also arguably one of the most important artistic movements to our generation.

Now, remembering that there’s nothing worse than someone talking about art, I’ll leave the dates and details out of this – if you’re really interested in it, you can find out more on your own.

But Bauhaus, in the most simplistic terms, is minimalism.

Accessibility.

Dependability.

“Bauhaus was an all-encompassing school of thought, of design,” says Lori Fradella, owner of the L7 Gallery in Los Angeles, one famed for it’s collection of Bauhaus lighting. “I suppose the simplicity of utilizing materials that were less expensive and easy to acquire especially after the war had something to do with it – concrete, steel [metals], glass…all contributing to a cleaner more pure form and accessible to a great many more people.”

Basically – it was stylish design made available to everyone.

The budget airlines of an art movement.

Less clutter. Less mess.

More space.

And you see it everywhere.

For example, the black tee and blue jeans number you wear is a derivative of Bauhaus.

The bright Swedish do-it-yourself home furnishings giant is an offshoot as well.

And music? Think about the ‘minimal’ genre, which was an offshoot of techno, which was started by…you got it, German electro.

Quality vs. Quantity.

But…in a discipline as much as production.

Sort of.

See? [Nothing worse than someone talking about art.]

But hang on.

Think of it as rather having 5 good friends at a party, rather than 50 acquaintances. These friends can be counted on to offer more by being less and therein is the beauty. They buy you a birthday gift that has something to do with something you said once, instead of the 50 who would bring you a bottle of wine. But then those other 50 start seeing how much better your life becomes for that and they start stripping down their invite list – and before you know it, circles are better, they mean more, the basic definition of ‘friendship’ grows stronger by eliminating the fancy edges.

This is Bauhaus – sort of.

I’m kind of confused myself now.

So I asked my friend Robin about it, because one time I saw her get teary-eyed while watching a documentary on it. She said:

“I remember hearing that it has been considered a natural human reaction to the social and economic conditions of the day, but to me it was absolutely brilliant… in my mind, it absolutely is the source of all thoughtful design and art. The Bauhaus workshop was a lifestyle maker, and we are living it. I couldn’t tell you which came first, my love of simplicity in my surroundings or my admiration of great design, because Bauhaus presents it to me in one package. I don’t believe you can be an architect or engineer without channeling Bauhaus, all the time.”

Yes. Exactly what she said. I think.

I mean…basically, just do this – next time someone comments on something that hints of minimal, throw out the word ‘Bauhaus’ and watch your street-cred just skyrocket.

Unless they ask you “Oh? Why do you think that?” Because then you’re on your own.

Because, well…oh, never mind.

For something that preaches the basics, I think I’ve made a mess of this.

See – people talking about art.

There’s nothing worse.

To follow Aric on his travels, head to www.aricwithana.com

Confessions of a Traveler: Flashpacking

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Don’t let the old-looking military backpack fool you – it’s padded.

Padded for all of my things, my toys.

A laptop.

A big digital camera.

A small digital camera.

An MP3 player with enough songs for 73.4 days of travel.

Some nice headphones to go with that.

A paper-thin electronic reading device that needs no paper – and in that, I have dozens of accommodation guides of cheap hostels to stay at along the way.

Thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of tech and toys.

But I’m looking for a five-dollar-a-night room – hot water not necessary.

Paradoxical? Sure.

But this is quickly becoming the norm.

See, ‘backpacking’ makes you think about hippies on the Northern Thai border trading food for patchouli-smelling songs on their ukulele – and that ain’t me.

And to prove that, I’ll come clean about having to spell-check patchouli.

So we’ve established that I’m not a ‘backpacker’.

I also don’t fit in on the other end of the spectrum.

I’m also not able to shell out $100 plus a night for a room – and to be honest, I’m not able to shell out $40, for that matter.

Nice foreign dinners do not equal travel – they represent a nice dinner with a different background.

Anyone who carries a tuxedo with them is the first to get voted off of the island – even if we’re landlocked.

So I’m anything but a ‘jet-setter’.

Because sometimes I stink.

And that might be from the buses.

Or maybe it’s just from not fancying a shower that consists of a garbage can full of cold water.

I’m a budget traveler, but one that is able to nightly log on to the internet and post the hi-res photos and HD video I shot earlier that day – all edited while I ate my instant noodles that I bargained for.

I find the 12-hour bus ride excruciating, but have enough digitized DVD’s to keep me occupied.

If I meet someone, I’ll quickly become his or her social networking buddy.

And if they don’t have a social networking profile, then I’ll help them set one up.

And if that doesn’t interest them, there’s a good chance I’ll mention them once or twice upon my return, but not keep in touch.

I am, as they say, a flashpacker.

“But wait!” you shout, “how in the world can you immerse yourself in a strange culture when your head and hands are full of technology?!”

Because photos and pictures are bigger catalysts for travel than stories.

“But wait!” you holler, “many of those before you went with nothing more than a diary and a pencil!”

Until I point out that those tools were, in fact, technologies at one time.

“But wait!” you cry, “you’re ruining the experience of true travel!”

Maybe.

But is it really traveling when you have no online fodder for future nostalgia?

Like Aric’s writing as much as we do? Then check out www.aricwithana.com