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‘The time I met Dean Martin…’ A True Story
01.01.2014
08:17 am

Topics:
Heroes
Pop Culture

Tags:
Dean Martin


 

There is a humorous recipe for “Martin Burgers” that Dean Martin came up with (grill some ground beef, pour a shot of bourbon, done!) that was posted by Letters of Note that reminded me of my own encounter with the legendary entertainer. It also involves hamburgers. And bourbon. It’s one of my favorite stories to tell. Gather ‘round, children…

This event took place in, I think, 1992, when I was 26 years old. I’d recently read Nick Tosches’ excellent biography of Martin, Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, and I was on a Dean Martin “kick” that culminated in me having a professional photo house make me a 6 ft. by 6 ft. photo mural of the above Dean Martin album cover (which Boing Boing’s Mark Fraunenfelder once described in Wired. I still have it, but it’s not hanging up).

I was absolutely fascinated by Dean Martin, the very definition of the devil-may-care roué who truly wasn’t impressed by anything or anyone. Beauty? He had more women than he knew what to do with. Fame? Come on. Money? Please! Dino didn’t care if you were the President of the United States, some hot piece of ass or the head of the Las Vegas Mafia. The man, to paraphrase the Super Furry Animals, simply did not give a fuck. Weltschmerz as an art form! Ennui deluxe! I reckon Dean Martin must’ve been the coolest man ever to live.

Janet Charlton, the Star magazine gossip columnist, seen frequently on Access Hollywood,  ET and similar shows back then, told me that Dean Martin—who was generally thought to be a complete recluse, sitting home drunk in an armchair watching movie westerns, basically—did in fact dine out nearly every night at the Hamburger Hamlet (an upscale LA burger chain) on Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills.

A few weeks after she told me this, Mike and Roni, two pals of mine from New York, arrived on my doorstep unannounced. They seemed quite amused by my gigantic Dean Martin album cover and when I told them that he was a regular at the Doheny Drive Hamburger Hamlet, we all three enthusiastically agreed that this was where we’d dine that evening. And we brought a camera.

I generally like the Hamburger Hamlet chain, but the one in Beverly Hills has got to be THE restaurant in LA with the oldest clientele, hands down. It’s the sort of place where grandparents take their grandchildren out to eat and the grandchildren are in their seventies. I’m talking OLD. Palm Springs old. Miami Beach old. A few of the faces seemed extremely familiar from sixties television, character actors who might have been on The Beverly Hillbillies, Bonanza or Green Acres, but who I could not place exactly due to the passing of years. What made walking into this place seem even more surreal is that it is merely a block away from all the rock clubs on the Sunset Strip.

So we get there and valet the car. I asked the maître d’, who must’ve been all of 19, if we could be seated near Dean Martin’s table. He took the money I put into his hand and looked at me like I was an idiot. Not a stalker mind you, but a complete idiot. “Oookay,” he whistled dismissively and rolled his eyes.

Martin was not there, he told us, but they did expect him. So we sat in the lobby and we waited. And waited. And waited. After looking at the grub the waiters were serving up, we decided he wasn’t going to show up and split to grab a steak at Dan Tana’s. As the valet handed me my car keys I asked him, “We heard that Dean Martin eats here all the time. When is a good day to see him?” He replied “Mr Martin? Oh, his chauffeur just phoned ahead, he’ll be here any minute.”

I tossed my keys back to him and we returned inside and were seated in the back section of the restaurant. Within a few minutes, the sultan of suave, secret agent Matt Helm, the roast-master general hisself, Dean Martin stumbled in, completely shit-faced. His eyes were bloodshot red and he looked old and he looked drunk. Very drunk. It was probably a very good thing that he could afford to employ a full-time driver, let’s just say…

As soon as he took his seat, the waiter slammed down several shots of bourbon and two beers in front of him. Dino downed two shots immediately and two more were placed in front of him in a flash.

We made our move before they brought his food out. Roni got her camera ready and asked politely, “Mr. Martin, can I get a picture of you with these guys? They’re big fans of yours!”

He looked at us like “Yeah, right” and replied quietly “Most of my fans these days are old broads.”

I told him about my giant 6 ft. mural of his album cover and that I was born and raised in Wheeling, WV, just across the Ohio River from Martin’s hometown of Steubenville, OH. He softened a bit and said “I remember Wheeling, WV. I used to swim there and mess around and hang out there when I was a boy.” (No matter how slowly I ask you to imagine this sentence being said, you’re going to make it faster in your mind than he spoke it. Pause after each word as if there is a period… or a wheeze).

Today Steubenville has dozens of things named after Dean Martin (they also hold a yearly Dean Martin festival). I asked him when was the last time he’d visited his hometown and he just snickered.

“Do you mind if we get a picture?” Roni asked again.

“I don’t think they allow that here,” he demurred, trying to avoid it.

“Who’s gonna stop us? Let’s just do it,” she replied.

Martin shook his head and exhaled with undisguised annoyance, parted his lips and clicked on a a very fake smile. Through his gritted teeth he said “Go ahead, I don’t give a shit.” Something about his manner let Mike and I know that he meant NOW, so we squatted beside his chair.

After the flash went off, his smile vanished, he looked down at his drink and completely ignored us. We knew this was our cue to leave and we took it. Outside his limo was waiting. It sported a vanity plate reading “DRUNKY.”

The story doesn’t end there: Two weeks later I get a package of two big prints of the photo and several smaller ones from Roni. I laughed my ass off, DELIGHTED at seeing this memento of our loopy encounter with Dino. I left them out on the kitchen counter and every time I walked past them I grinned and marveled at the fact that a photo existed with Dean Martin and ME in it.

Then the phone rang. It was Roni asking had I gotten the package. I was looking down at the picture when she asked me: “Did you notice that his…”

No, I hadn’t noticed it, but I did then: His pants had been unfastened and un-zipped old man-style so his gut could hang out and the camera had caught this!

The photo I had been admiring all day became a million times better before my very eyes.

But the story doesn’t end there, either: At the time, I was in the middle of writing a script with Kramer (he of Bongwater and Shimmy-Disc fame) and I gave him one of the larger prints, which he hung in his Noise New Jersey studio. Around this time, he and Penn Jillette had formed a band called Captain Howdy and they were doing a bit of recording. Apparently Penn asked Kramer who the old guy in the photo was, but he refused to believe it when told that it was Dean Martin. Eventually he relented, and the Captain Howdy song “Dino’s Head” was apparently inspired in part by the below photo (and Penn getting to use Dean Martin’s “special” German shower head when Penn & Teller were performing in Las Vegas, as is explained in the song).
 

Click on photo to view larger image.
 

 

It doesn’t end there, either. Last month, HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher used the Dino photo in a bit comparing JFK to Reagan, as seen below

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Woody Allen: stand-up comedian, film director, comic strip character
12.24.2013
06:32 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Media

Tags:
Woody Allen

woodycomic
 
This irrational and improbable thing actually happened: a comic strip titled Inside Woody Allen - starring the man himself - was syndicated by King Features from 1976 to 1984. Created and drawn by Stuart Hample of later Children’s Letters to God fame, the strip was based on Allen’s familiar persona—the angsty, neurotic, Jewish everyman if every man was a cripplingly overanalytical disaster—and it still got printed in daily newspapers for eight years!

Hample recalled the process of working with Allen in the anthology Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip, excerpted in 2009 by The Guardian:

I had a lightbulb epiphany. It occurred to me that Woody might make a terrific comic strip. But how would he – 39 and by now wildly successful – react? I ran a test scene in my head. Me: “Woody, I have an idea for a comic strip based on you. Possible?” Woody: “Sorry. Up to my neck writing a movie, editing another movie. Writing a piece for The New Yorker. Don’t need the money. Try me next year.”

So I asked him in person. Woody was intrigued enough to say: “Show me some sketches.” I based my drawings on how he looked in his late 20s, when we’d first met. He OK’d the Woody cartoon character (he even had it animated for a sequence in Annie Hall) and said: “What about the jokes?” I brought jokes. He looked through them. “Maybe,” he said, “I could help you with the jokes.”

Assuming he was offering to write them, I wanted to shout: “My saviour!” Instead, I said: “OK.” Which was more appropriate, since his help turned out to be dozens of pages of jokes from his standup years. Some were mere shards, such as “tied me to Jewish star – uncomfortable crucifixion”. Others were even more minimal: “bull fighting”, “astrology” (Woody occasionally translated these hieroglyphs).

But there were longer notations: “Sketch – man breaking up with female ape after his evolution.” And there were little playlets: “Freud could not order blintzes. He was ashamed to say the word. He’d go into an appetiser store and say, ‘Let me have some of those crepes with cheese in the middle.’ And the grocer would say, ‘Do you mean blintzes, Herr Professor?’ And Freud would turn all red and run out through the streets of Vienna, his cape flying. Furious, he founded psychoanalysis and made sure it wouldn’t work.”

A newspaper syndicate agreed to publish the feature. They requested six weeks of sample strips. I went each Saturday to Woody’s Fifth Avenue penthouse, where he judged the material and offered suggestions on how to develop characters and pace gags, and pleaded with me to maintain high standards. On 4 October 1976, the strip was launched. Woody, the pen-and-ink protagonist, was angst-ridden, flawed, fearful, insecure, inadequate, pessimistic, urban, single, lustful, rejected by women. He was cowed by mechanical objects, and a touch misanthropic. He was also at odds with his antagonistic parents; committed his existential panic to a journal; had regular sessions with his passive-aggressive psychotherapist; was threatened by large, often armed, men; and employed his modest size to communicate physical impotence the way Chaplin, in the guise of the Little Tramp, suffered humiliation.

I often wondered why Woody gave the concept a green light. In 1977, he related the following anecdote. He had cast the actress Mary Beth Hurt in his movie Interiors. Hurt regularly phoned her mother in Iowa to reassure her that she was safe and happy. During one of those calls, she proudly announced that she was going to play Diane Keaton’s sister in a movie “by somebody you probably haven’t heard of, a director named Woody Allen”. “I know about him,” said her mother, “he’s in the funny pages.” Woody’s manager figured it was no bad thing if his image was disseminated daily out in the heartland.

 
woody1
 
woody2
 
woody3
 
woody4
 
woody5
 
Read those again, and check out this small online gallery of strips, keeping in mind that these ran in the daily funnies. Children in the late 1970s and early 1980s were seeing gags about the dead bluebird of happiness alongside Marmaduke and The Family Circus. There are plenty of reasons that Gen X turned out so messed up, but might this strip be in that mix? Could this have been a contributor to our baffling consumption of shitty angst-rock and Fruitopia?

That’s probably an overreach, sure, but still, that’s pretty damn advanced matter for the funnypapers.

Much of that angst was attributable to Allen’s participation - and was of course necessitated by obeisance to his stand-up persona - but the most notable gag writer for the strip was David Weinberger, who later went on to a career as an online marketing guru, best known for his Cluetrain Manifesto and Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Interesting how Hample and Weinberger, the auteurs behind arguably the most openly neurotic and fussily intellectual daily comic strip ever syndicated in the United States went on to greater fame for such square stuff! I suppose angst is a less reliable cash generator than cute kids and formulae for success. So it goes.

Upon the 2009 release of Dread and Superficiality (not the only anthology of the strip, by the way, just the only one widely available presently), Hample appeared with Dick Cavett to talk about Allen and the strip at the fantastic NYC bookstore The Strand. There’s video, in five parts. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.

For another amusing sample of Allen in an unexpected medium, check out this footage of him appearing opposite Nancy Sinatra on the game show Password in 1965.
 

 
More Woody and Nancy after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
The Art of Parties: New York’s legendary 80s nightclub, AREA
12.20.2013
06:43 pm

Topics:
Art
Books
History

Tags:
nightclubs
AREA


 
There was, for slightly better than a decade, a “golden era” of insanely decadent, yet terribly smart and sophisticated New York City nightlife. For sake of argument, let’s say it began with Studio 54 opening in 1977 and ended in the late 80s due to several factors, including AIDS, the invasion of the “club kids” and the general financial difficulties of operating anything requiring significant amounts of space in such an expensive city. Some (arguably most) of it happened before my time, but I did get to personally experience a lot of it. When I was younger, I went out just about every single night. I felt like if I stayed in, I might miss something. At the time, this was most certainly true and I made it a point to try to cram in as many crazy experiences as I could. Quite successfully, I might add…

Although I can’t say that it was personally my favorite nightclub (the Danceteria was more what I was into, with hot girls my own age), I would have to say that AREA was probably the best or greatest New York club of the 80s, at least in my experience. Every six weeks, a team of about 30 artists and carpenters would work around the clock to ready the club for the opening of a new and quite elaborate artistic “theme” like “Red” or “Confinement” or “Suburbia.” To get across what a spectacularly mind-bending and magical place it was, here’s what I saw there, with my own eyes, coincidentally on my very, very first night as a “real” New Yorker:

I arrived in New York City in late November of 1984. After setting myself up in a (surprisingly decent) $50 a night hotel, I scanned the Village Voice for something fun to do, before deciding to go to the Danceteria. Not quite understanding what was the appropriate time to show up at a Manhattan hot spot at that age (I had just turned 19 and was in fact too young to even be there legally) I arrived too early, before practically anyone else had shown up. I sat on a couch and watched Soft Cell videos as the bar staff set up for the evening. Soon I was joined by a couple about my age—a sharp-dressed black guy and his blonde Swedish girlfriend. We struck up a friendly conversation and he revealed to me that he had cocaine—about a kilo’s worth—and did I want any? The answer to that was a resounding “Yes!” and he used a NyQuil cup to scoop out at least an eight-ball from a big ZipLoc bag and just handed it to me.

So this is New York, huh? I think I like it already!

Soon we were joined by another pair of early birds, future “club kid murderer” Michael Alig—then a first year student at Fordham University in the Bronx—and a female friend. They, too, were offered some a lot of coke, accepted gladly, and Michael (who was later played by Macaulay Culkin in Party Monster) asked if we were planning to attend the opening night of AREA‘s “Faith” theme later?
 

 
I’d just gotten to town and had never even heard of the place. He insisted that he had the pull to get us all in for free, and that it was going to be amazing, so around midnight, we hopped into a cab to 157 Hudson Street, just below Canal, and disembarked into a teeming throng of people waiting to get in, waving their arms at the doormen, Day of the Locust style. True to his word, the sea of people parted and Michael got us all in for free (we were dressed weird so that helped), but as I was between the taxi and the door, I could see that there was a procession coming down the street, carrying a man on a cross with arrows—in my mind they were flaming arrows—in his stomach, like St. Sebastian. It was attention grabbing, I can assure you.
 

 
As you entered AREA, there was an impressive castle-like stone hallway, with windows on the right-hand side like you might see in a department store, but with works of art, displays, people, animals, performance art and all manner of things going on inside them. Soon the crucified guy was being carried down the hallway before he was ultimately deposited upright into a shark pool in the lounge. AREA‘s “Faith” theme saw the entire nightclub transformed into a gigantic gallery of campy religious iconography and spiritual irreverence (The bathrooms, notoriously unisex, I recall having video monitors with the Pope, Jim Jones and Jerry Falwell over the urinals at eye-level).
 

 
Utterly astonishing to me, Andy Warhol was there. Michael asked “Oh, do you want to meet Andy?” I said “Sure!” and he promptly pushed me at the great artist, from behind, as HARD as he could, with both arms. So hard that I nearly knocked Andy Warhol on his ass. (Luckily for me, Warhol had seen what had happened and directed his annoyance at Michael and not at me, so I was able to slink away, mortified, and move to another part of the club.)
 

 
The crowd AREA attracted was eclectic, to say the least. You had the freaks, the beautiful people, the up-and-comers, the semi-famous, the very famous, the very wealthy, fashionistas, artists, gallerists, professional liggers and hanger-oners, art students, rich Europeans, frat boy Wall Street-types (the ones who actually paid to get in and for their drinks) and just about any type of human being you can imagine, really. It was the sort of place where you could look around the room and see Joan Rivers, the B-52s, Boy George, Allen Ginsberg, Billy Idol, members of the Psychedelic Furs or Duran Duran, John Waters, John Sex, Ann Magnuson, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Byrne, Malcolm McClaren, Lauren Hutton, Matt Dillon, Federico Fellini, Barbara Walters, Peter Beard, Michael Anderson (the dwarf from Twin Peaks), Nile Rodgers, Stephen Sprouse, Steven Meisel, transsexual model Teri Toye, Calvin Klein, Sting,  etc, etc, etc, all potentially on the very same night. Their opening parties, especially, were not to be missed under any circumstances. Everyone in attendance knew there was no cooler place to be that night anywhere else in all of Manhattan, if not the entire planet.
 

 
It was an extraordinary nightclub for an extraordinary time in New York’s history. The city was a wild, creative and dangerous (define that how you will) place then. AREA was a reflection of the best of what the city had to offer, a place where uptown wealth met downtown chic. It’s one of the longest-running, most brilliantly realized art projects—one pulled off by a small army of weirdos (many of AREA‘s hardworking artists were junkies), visionaries and money men—probably, I don’t know… ever. That they were able to sustain it for so long, night after night, theme after theme at such a high level creatively and then go out while they were on top makes it seem all the more remarkable.
 

 
But as an art form, a party, no matter how legendary it becomes in the minds of the people who were there, is still a very ephemeral thing. Aside from memories, there are only photographs, videos and mementos left (AREA was well-known for their elaborate invitations. How I wish I’d have kept mine!). The multi-leveled social/artistic/business genius that was AREA has now been commemorated in what I’d rank as perhaps the very best art/art history book of the year. If you were there, Abrams’s AREA: 1983-1987 is a must and chances are that you already own it. If you weren’t there, it’s fascinating record of an amazing, once in a lifetime scene that will hopefully inspire some new crew to take on something this elaborate again one day. It’s a book with a cult audience, to be sure, but a cult audience that will absolutely treasure it.
 

 
Put together by AREA‘s Eric and Jennifer Goode, with an introduction by Glenn O’Brien, principal text by Stephen Saban (beyond a doubt the very best person for the job) and the photography of Volker Hinz, Ben Buchanan, Patrick McMullan, Wolfgang Wesener, Michael Halsband, Dana Buckley and others. On every level, I’d rate this publication a perfect 100/100, as a book (in literary, historical sense) and as a beautifully designed object.

More photos of AREA here.

Below, this John Sex video, “Hustle With My Muscle,” directed by the late Tom Rubnitz, is one of the few examples I can find of inside AREA on YouTube. The theme at this time would have been “American Highway” in 1986. Sadly, you really can’t get a sense of the size of the club from what you see here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Exclusive interview with ‘Solaris’ and ‘Drive’ composer Cliff Martinez


 
When it comes to modern film scores, there are very few that stand out, to my mind, as being classics. The kind that stand out not just for helping to define a film’s aesthetic, often in such an integral way that you couldn’t imagine the film existing without the music, but that then take on a life of their own separate from, while still acknowledging, the film itself.

If I had to name some classic modern film scores, though, top of that list would be the music for Nicolas Winding Refn’s noir thriller Drive, and Steven Soderbergh’s 2003 remake of Solaris. I managed to see both these films when they were first on theatrical release, and both soundtracks had the incredible effect of standing out from the usual homogenized Hollywood fare, creating their own highly unique sound worlds, so much that they actually helped shape the aesthetic of the film, and, in turn, made the cinema-going experience even more immersive.

That’s quite a feat, but most impressive of all, these two wildly different soundtracks came from the mind of just one composer, Cliff Martinez. A well-respected music industry veteran, Martinez started out drumming for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the early 1980s, but tired of the live-band lifestyle and decided to apply his love of making music to other media, namely films. With the British label Invada having recently re-released the Solaris score on deluxe 180 gm vinyl picture disc (which our readers have a chance of winning, at the bottom of this interview) I took the chance to speak to Martinez about his work on both these films, their respective directors, and his past life as a drumming Chili Pepper:

Dangerous Minds: Before you started scoring films you were drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. How did you make the move into full-time soundtrack work?

Cliff Martinez: Well, I had a fascination with music tech in the mid/late 80s. I had one of the first samplers, the Prophet 2000, and the very first hardware sequencer, the MSQ200 by Roland. These new tools allowed you to think about music in different ways, plus, being primarily a drummer and percussionist, the technology allowed people who didn’t have composition training to write and create music.

So I wrote a lot of strange musical sound-effect collages, and I was looking for an outlet. The band I was in wasn’t really appropriate for experimental electronic music. One day I stumbled across Pee Wee’s Playhouse on TV. On paper this was a children’s show, but it was actually a very subversive adult comedy, too. They had a lot of innovative composers involved, like The Residents, Danny Elfman and Mark Mothersbaugh. I happened to know the director at the time so I gave him a cassette of my sound collage stuff, I got hired to do one episode, and I just fell in love with the process of putting music to picture. I also felt that soundtracks allowed for a more experimental approach to composing, as opposed to straightforward songwriting. After that I had a credit to my name, and through a mutual friend I was introduced to Steven Soderbergh and scored his first film. And of course, that was very successful.

DM: Indeed it was! Did anyone involved in the making of Sex Lies & Videotape have an inkling of how successful it would be?

Cliff Martinez: I don’t think anyone involved could have guessed the success of that film. We all knew it was a quality picture, but I guess we just didn’t know what to expect. It was very different, it was very independent minded film, and indie films were not that popular at the time. I was at Sundance for the second screening, and there was already a big buzz about it after the first screening. It was a bit like driving a rocket ship, I mean it took me by surprise! I knew it was a good film but I thought the sexual content made it uncommercial. Also, there wasn’t a precedent for independent films becoming hits back then. We all knew Steven was very talented and would go on to make great films, but I didn’t realize the commercial potential of these very personal films.

DM: I remember seeing Solaris in the cinema when it was released and thinking I had never heard a film score quite like it. It chimed very much with that kind of “chill-out” music popular at the time. What were the influences for that particular score, and what is your process in general when working on a film?

Cliff Martinez: As with most films the director has a big impact. They cut the film before I ever see it, and in most cases they put in temporary music that can have a big impact. Especially Steven, who makes some very interesting choices. Steven has always liked to make ambient music whenever appropriate, and he wanted something like that for Solaris, but has also wanted the sound of the orchestra, which is unusual because he generally prefers an electronic sound. So I had to approach it as an ambient score, but not ambient electronic, an ambient, minimalist, orchestral score. My philosophy is that if you model yourself on another composer too closely, it becomes plagiarism, but if you take from two different composers and combine them that can make for something original. At the time I was fascinated with the baritone steel drums I had bought and put in my living room, so I was adamant about using them in the film. At the same time Steven was cutting to a lot of different types of music, he was really jumping around. And the two things I really fell in love with that he had used were the work of Giorgi Ligeti and the music of Tangerine Dream, which was very rhythmic. Those two things were the biggest influences, so I would throw them together and add the baritone steel drums and some other bell-type percussion instruments. It ended up coming together really well, Solaris is one of my favourite scores.
 

 
DM: Was Tangerine Dream a big influence on the 80s/analog-electronic score for Drive?

Cliff Martinez: Oddly enough not really, the film I did right before Drive was Soderbergh’s Contagion. Steven went through different phases of influences for the score; the first one was All The President’s Men, The French Connection, these 70’s scores, sort of conspiracy films, but then he threw that out and used some Tangerine Dream. It was the second time he’d used this kind of rhythmic synth stuff as an influence, and then he also scrapped that too, and started using more contemporary rhythmic, electronic music.

So for Drive, it was really a combination of all of those influences; the retro 70s stuff, a retro 80s synth pop thing, and tried to make it contemporary sounding and rhythmic. Tangerine Dream was an influence on Contagion but I wouldn’t say so much with Drive, although there was an 80s synth pop aesthetic. That was set up by the songs being used, and I felt obligated to incorporate that into the score as well.

DM: And as with Sex, Lies & Videotape, did you have any inkling of what a success Drive would become?

Cliff Martinez: Again, I knew it was an indie film made for not a lot of money, so I didn’t think it would be marketed aggressively with commercials or a big campaign. But I knew it was good. But I underestimated that one too. For some reason I thought it was a very male movie, I underestimated the star power of Ryan Gosling. So I thought it would be an underground movie for men, ha ha!  And the success of the soundtrack shocked me too, because while I knew the sales were driven by the songs, the songs had all been previously released and hadn’t been big hits. And certainly dramatic underscore is rarely a popular hit. So the fact that it did so well as a soundtrack would shock anybody! Usually you don’t hear the word “hit” and the word “soundtrack” in the same sentence. Ever.

DM: So, surely the songs Refn had already chosen to use in the film had an influence on your score? Do you usually take into account a film’s incidental music when composing its soundtrack?

Cliff Martinez: Usually for me the song and the score go their separate ways. That’s usually because the selection of songs is not as focused as it was on Drive, it’s more eclectic, so it’s hard to define what the style of a score is. With The Lincoln Lawyer, for example, I don’t know what you would call it, it’s kind of a mixture of urban contemporary and hip-hop, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was but I knew that I couldn’t work out a way to accompany that style so I didn’t try. But with Drive it was five songs, and four of them sounded like they could have been composed by the same artist. So it was a very narrow style which was an homage to the 80s. So I thought “Ok.” At the time all the rage in software was vintage synth sounds, so it was a very easy style to incorporate. But usually I don’t [take influence form a film’s songs], though it depends to a degree on the importance of the songs. Sometime, like Contagion only had one song, a U2 song at the end. and I don’t feel much of an obligation to accommodate that in the score. But in the case of Drive with that pink fog at the opening, and that song over the titles, it felt like the songs played a very important role in defining the style of the film. So in that case I decided to try and go in that direction, which turned out to be a good idea. It was the synergy of all the different elements that made Drive work: the music, the cinematography, the locations, the performances of course. And the sound design! That was the only thing that got an Oscar nomination and it was important as well. All those things seemed to work really well together, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole in the end. You know I wish I knew what the recipe for a successful film and score is because I would love to repeat the experience!

DM: What is your own favorite score you have written? If you had to choose one of your own works to place in a time capsule, which one would it be?

Cliff Martinez: Solaris, that’s always been my favorite and it still is. I wish I could roll out of bed every day and write something like that. Sometimes the force is with you, and I think in part it was also the film, it had some interesting themes like existence and love and some far out existential concepts. I also had the backing of a big film studio, which I normally don’t have, I don’t have the financial wherewithal to hire a 90 piece orchestra, so that made a huge difference. The music wasn’t initially intended to be emotional, so this kind of cold and austere music had a life to it that I didn’t really expect. It wasn’t until I heard it on the Fox studio stage that I realized the music had been transformed by this orchestra. For some reason, it’s the one score I can still stand to listen to! Usually I know every molecule of a score and I’m sick and tired of it when I am finished, but Solaris seems to have a life of its own, which for me is rare. I can’t pinpoint what makes it time capsule-worthy, but if I had to stick one in that would be it.

DM: OK, last question. You started out as drummer, if there was any one band you could drum for, who would it be?

Cliff Martinez: I wouldn’t wanna drum for anyone at all, ha ha! You know I gave it up because I started to have hearing loss issues. I didn’t like the touring lifestyle and I didn’t like the idea of repeating the same material night after night. If I sound like a sourpuss, I guess I am. Being a drummer is great in your 20s, but I much prefer being a composer and writing music than drumming live, though I guess in my heyday, if I had the ability to be a really great jazz drummer, I would have loved to have played with Miles Davis in the 70s.

DM: Thanks Cliff!

As mentioned above, Invada records are giving one lucky Dangerous Minds reader a chance to win each of the Solaris vinyl pressings; black vinyl, white vinyl and picture disc. For a chance of winning simply send your name and address to info@invada.co.uk. The winner will be notified by email.
 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
‘Genesis Breyer P-Orridge,’ the life of a radical and uncompromising artist, in pictures


 
One Sunday morning, probably about fifteen years ago, I got a call from Genesis P-Orridge inviting me over to help him sort through his archives, which were then kept safely in a locked room in the basement of the Brooklyn brownstone Gen shared with his late wife, Lady Jaye (or Jackie as I knew her).

As one of the world’s most ardent Throbbing Gristle fans—I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Gen’s influence during my formative years—this was not an opportunity I was going to turn down. We sorted through art work (the tampon sculptures from the notorious “Prostitution” exhibit, for instance), press clippings, several boxes containing hundreds of different Psychic TV tee-shirt printings of which one example of each was kept, 16mm film canisters, photographs, letters from people like William S. Burroughs, items from the “Mail Art” movement, videotapes, albums, posters, cassettes, CDs and so forth. It was big fun for me and naturally I got a private sort of “gallery tour” with the artist, albeit in a moldy-smelling basement with washing machines and stuff, as we sorted through the boxes and cataloged what was in them.

At one point, the conversation turned to the recent so-called “Beat Auction” at Sotheby’s—we’d gone together—where the personal effects of Allen Ginsberg were sold to the highest bidder, as well as artifacts related to, or that once belonged to, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Harry Smith, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others. The cataloging of his past seemed almost wearying to Genesis that afternoon, and his attitude seemed to be “Oh, who’s going to care about all this old stuff?
 

 
Whereas Genesis was not optimistic regarding the future value of his archive, I on the other hand, a book publisher, saw a potential goldmine from where I was standing. “Are you kidding me? Other than Patti Smith or Kenneth Anger [and Lawrence Ferlinghetti] you’re practically the last living link to the Beat Generation. Within no time at all, you’re going to be having museum retrospectives and people flying you all over the world to have you lecture. I can think of a gazillion ways to monetize the ephemera in this room. Books, documentaries, DVDs of these concert videos, CDs of the unreleased cassettes, all kinds of things. I mean, come on! The annuities that will support you in your dotage are in this room.

Gen, being Gen, took this in world-weary stride, but of course I was right. Just this summer The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh held a three-month long retrospective of Gen’s art. There’s Thee Psychick Bible anthology of Gen’s writings on magick. Now London-based First Third have published a beautiful new high quality monograph coffee table book retrospective of Gen’s life with the title Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, as Gen—who these days prefers the feminine gender assignation “she”—has re-dubbed herself in honor of her late wife, Jackie Breyer.
 

Photo: Marti Wilkerson

There are two variants on the Genesis Breyer P-Orridge publication, a numbered “standard edition” limited to 990 copies worldwide and a “deluxe edition” of 333 signed books with a linen bound Japanese-inspired presentation box with a cut-out PTV logo and several other extras including an art catalog, three 45rpm records and a 51cm square poster of the erotic Polaroids taken by Gen and Lady Jaye (“not for the easily-shocked” according to the press materials.)

First Third‘s publications are slick, beautiful, heavy objects that look rather fetching on a coffee table. (I reviewed their—excellent—book of Sheila Rock’s punk era photographs here). They were kind enough to send me a review copy of the standard edition of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and as a longtime fan—forget that we’re pals—I must say that it’s quite a superb volume, offering a highly intimate glimpse into the public and private life of one of the most uncompromising artists of the past one hundred years, if not ever. (How many artists can YOU name who can boast of a worldwide occult network/cult? The entire idea of a cult band (Psychic TV) with an actual cult of followers (Thee Temple of Psychic Youth) is one of the greatest prolonged performance art pieces—one that scared the piss out of the British establishment, of course—ever in history. One day there will be serious sociological books and PhD dissertations written on the topic, mark my words.)
 

Photo: Sheila Rock

To be clear, this is not a cataloging of the life and work of Genesis P-Orridge, just the life part (the work slips in, too, in context, but it’s not the point). Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is an idiosyncratically themed, nearly purely visual autobiography—there is a very good interview by Mark Paytress that I wish I could read more of, but nearly all of the book’s 323 pages are devoted to photographs.

I’ve seen some of these shots before, but many of them are new to me, and they’re often quite illuminating or revelatory. Contradicting what I wrote above, seeing these photographs arranged in this way—there’s a definite art to it—the lifelong modus operandi of P-Orridge the artist, the man and now the woman, becomes much, much clearer. From the hippie gross-out performance art of COUM Transmissions through Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Gen’s influence on the piercing, body art and tattooing subcultures, to the elaborate plastic surgery of the Gilbert & George meet Orlan pandrogeny experiment with Lady Jaye, a very definite narrative emerges. The reader (more the beholder, I suppose) also gets more than an eyeful of Breyer P-Orridge’s sex magick rituals, which are interesting, to say the least.

Some of the shots are just priceless. I love the ones of Gen as an incredibly mischievous looking kid and the one of him with FRANK ZAPPA. I’ve never seen someone—especially someone as loquacious as Genesis is—express themselves or “write” their autobiography so successfully in scrapbook form like this. It’s a unique and interesting publishing experiment on so many levels. (It’s also interesting to see who is pointedly missing from the book, but I’m not about to step into that one.)

My guesstimate of the potential worldwide buyers for Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is about 6000 people, but there are just 1323 copies. This book could make a boffo (certainly unexpected) Christmas present for “a certain person” on your list, or if you’re that certain person yourself, don’t snooze and lose because once these are sold, they’re gone.

You can order Genesis Breyer P-Orridge at www.firstthirdbooks.com.

Below, the mesmerizing and beautifully evil long version of Cerith Wyn Evans’ video for Psychic TV’s “Unclean.”
 

 
A 2009 interview that I conducted with Genesis upon the publication of Thee Psychick Bible. Part 2 is here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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