Few DJs can rock the decks like The Gaslamp Killer. I’ve never bought into the cult of the DJ, but he’s truly incredible at what he does. His own music is fascinating, compelling and intense, as heard on his first full-length solo release, Breakthrough, put out via Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label.
This new video for “In The Dark” is one of the most complete and satisfyingly original visions for electronic dance music that I’ve seen in some time, with Gurdjieffian dervish dancers, ominous worship and stunning cinematography perfectly complimenting the horror movie soundtrack elements of the track. Directed by Hyperballad, the piece was shot in Prague, including scenes inside a 12th century crypt. Everyone involved here knocked the ball right out of the park with this one. This is a work of art.
The (also quite stunning) Hyperballad-directed ad for “Breakthrough”:
On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972 is an interesting short film by Branka Bogdanov primarily documenting the work of ultra-leftist French philosopher Guy Debord, author of the influential post Marxist study of 20th capitalism Society of the Spectacle. The film explores Debord’s influence on the Paris riots of May 1968 and the nihilistic aesthetics of the punk rock era.
Interviewees include Greil Marcus, Malcolm McLaren and Sex Pistols graphic designer Jamie Reid.
A friend described the late, lamented artist, writer, and renowned dandy, Sebastian Horsley as a kind and good man, who didn’t quite always think things through.
One winter, in Edinburgh, Horsley had taken pity on a poor down-and-out, who he invited back to his apartment, which he shared with another. Horsley genuinely wanted to help the man, and offered him food, drink, cigarettes, and a warm night’s sleep in bed. The poor man took to it immediately.
Horsley was rather pleased with his role as a good Samaritan, and was about to retire, when his roommate retuned to find a filthy, foul-smelling, piss-stained inebriate under his covers.
‘Why did you give him my bed?’ his roommate asked.
‘I thought he could do with a night’s sleep,’ Horsley replied.
‘But where am I going to sleep?’
‘O, I hadn’t thought of that.’
Here is Mr. Horsley (dressed in a black sequined suit, “looking half Liberace, half Nazi,”) displaying the charm, wit and honesty that made him such a well-loved man, as he discusses clothes, his ban from entering the U.S.A. (on grounds of “moral turpitude”), his autobiography Dandy in the Underworld, and why we should send “our ships out into uncharted waters—for this is the way we will discover ourselves.”
Malcolm McLaren unleashed the greatest revolution of the last quarter of the 20th century. This was in part because McLaren was really a shop-keeper, a haberdasher, a boutique owner who knew his market and, most importantly, knew how to sell product to the masses.
Unfortunately, when it came to music, the talent was more than just product, and McLaren regularly mis-used and manipulated the musical talent (New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Adam and The Ants/Bow-Wow-Wow) for his own personal gain. It was the behavior of a man who couldn’t and didn’t trust anyone—perhaps because (as he claimed) he had been abandoned by his mother—an act of betrayal he never forgave. There is the story of how years later, McLaren was have said to have traveled on a London Underground train, only to find his mother in the same carriage. The pair sat opposite each other, with neither acknowledging the other’s presence, and each alighting at their separate stops.
McLaren was bewitching, relentless and always on the make. But for all his scams and incredible machinations, little is really known about the man himself. He re-wrote his biography so many times it is almost impossible to know what is the truth. He also carefully edited out those who had helped his success, and fabricated wonderful, picaresque tales of misadventure—-for example, the time he failed to have Nancy Spungen kidnapped, in a bid to remove her insidious influence over Sid Vicious.
In essence, Malcolm’s greatest talent was his own self-promotion—his unique role as a cultural PR man, who changed history. If there is anything to be learned from his particular type of genius, it is to make headlines out of even the worst situation. On his deathbed, Mclaren’s last words were said to have been: “Free Leonard Peltier.” As he had done in his life, McLaren had once again grabbed hold of someone else’s notoriety.
Black Francis scores the classic silent movie—Paul Wegener and Carl Boese’s The Golem: How He Came Into The World.
Often regarded as the height of German expressionism, the silent, black and white film The Golem (also known in it’s German form, Der Golem) was the last of a series of three films by director Paul Wegener and was released in 1920.
Set in the 16th century, The Golem: How He Came Into The World tells the story of the persecution of the Jews of Prague. The towns Rabbi (Rabbi Loew), foreseeing these events, constructs a giant ‘Golem’ out of clay in order to protect his people. Mayhem ensues when the creature rebels and begins to destroy the ghetto. The highly expressionistic imagery seen in the film was captured by legendary cinematographer Karl Freund, who went on to do the classic Metropolis in 1927.
Groundbreaking as it was, the film sat ‘silent’ for nearly 88 years until the San Francisco International Film Festival requested Black Francis score the film and perform it live for their annual film festival in April, 2008. Despite the sold out show at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre (with a line stretching around the block) the score has never been performed live since. However, BF recorded the resulting double album in a matter of days in SF at Hyde Street Studios, with help from longtime collaborator/producer Eric Drew Feldman. The album features Black Francis on vocals/guitar, the late Duane Jarvis on lead guitar, EDF on keys, Joseph Pope on bass, Jason Carter on drums and Ralph Carney on horns.
Redditor jamieleto posted a fun series of classic Disney cartoons where a technique called rotoscoping was used (before computers, natch).
If you’re unfamiliar with rotoscoping, here’s some background information on the subject via Wikipedia:
Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which animators trace over footage, frame by frame, for use in live-action and animated films. Originally, recorded live-action film images were projected onto a frosted glass panel and re-drawn by an animator. This projection equipment is called a rotoscope, although this device was eventually replaced by computers.
In the visual effects industry, the term rotoscoping refers to the technique of manually creating a matte for an element on a live-action plate so it may be composited over another background.
Probably the most famous example of rotoscoping was A-ha’s 1985 music video for “Take on Me.”
Update: There’s some debate as to whether or not the rotoscoping technique was used for these cartoons or if they were just reference shots for the animators.
Patti Smith’s advice to the young (and not-so-young) artists:
“Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned about doing good work. Protect your work and if you build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency. Life is like a roller coaster ride, it is never going to be perfect. It is going to have perfect moments and rough spots, but it’s all worth it”
A recording of author Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) reading his poem “Alexandria.”
Durrell may be slightly out-of-favor these days, in part because he was a writer’s writer—more interested in method and style of writing than plot and narrative—yet, his books can be profound and very enriching reads, in particular The Black Book, The Dark Labyrinth and of course, The Alexandria Quartet, which made him a star when it was first published. There is also The Avignon Quintet, which has its moments but is too often caught up with its own mythology—think Dan Brown, secret organizations, Nazis and the intricacies of love.
Though Durrell will never be considered a truly great poet—he is more A. E. Housman or Robert Browning than T. S. Eliot—there are always cleverly constructed poems to be found in his work, such as this gem, “Alexandria,” which was written during the Second World War.
To the lucky now who have lovers or friends,
Who move to their sweet undiscovered ends,
Or whom the great conspiracy deceives,
I wish these whirling autumn leaves:
Promontories splashed by the salty sea,
Groaned on in darkness by the tram
To horizons of love or good luck or more love -
As for me I now move
Through many negatives to what I am.
Here at the last cold Pharos between Greece
And all I love, the lights confide
A deeper darkness to the rubbing tide;
Doors shut, and we the living are locked inside
Between the shadows and the thoughts of peace:
And so in furnished rooms revise
The index of our lovers and our friends
From gestures possibly forgotten, but the ends
Of longings like unconnected nerves,
And in this quiet rehearsal of their acts
We dream of them and cherish them as Facts.
Now when the sea grows restless as a conscript,
Excited by fresh wind, climbs the sea-wall,
I walk by it and think about you all:
B. with his respect for the Object, and D.
Searching in sex like a great pantry for jars
Marked ‘Plum and apple’; and the small, fell
Figure of Dorian ringing like a muffin-bell —
All indeed whom war or time threw up
On this littoral and tides could not move
Were objects for my study and my love.
And then turning where the last pale
Lighthouse, like a Samson blinded, stands
And turns its huge charred orbit on the sands
I think of you — indeed mostly of you,
In whom a writer would only name and lose
The dented boy’s lip and the close
Archer’s shoulders; but here to rediscover
By tides and faults of weather, by the rain
Which washes everything, the critic and the lover.
At the doors of Africa so many towns founded
Upon a parting could become Alexandria, like
The wife of Lot — a metaphor for tears;
And the queer student in his poky hot
Tenth floor room above the harbour hears
The sirens shaking the tree of his heart,
And shuts his books, while the most
Inexpressible longings like wounds unstitched
Stir in him some girl’s unquiet ghost.
So we, learning to suffer and not condemn
Can only wish you this great pure wind
Condemned by Greece, and turning like a helm
Inland where it smokes the fires of men,
Spins weathercocks on farms or catches
The lovers at their quarrel in the sheets;
Or like a walker in the darkness might,
Knocks and disturbs the artist at his papers
Up there alone, upon the alps of night.
Em’s post about A Certain Ratio reminded me of the above show, a double-billed Psychic TV and ACR gig held at the Hammersmith Town in 1984. I was in attendance, age 18. I still have that flyer as well (note ticket price). In the days before the Internet, you had to truck on down to the Rough Trade Store to buy tickets for a show like this and that’s where I bought mine. I doubt even the biggest ticket sales offices in London were computerized back then.
This was an extremely intense show. I’ve been to some pretty crazy gigs (Einstürzende Neubauten trying to burn The Palladium down and Julian Cope slicing his stomach open onstage at the Hammersmith Palais for two notable examples from that same era), but this show was so insane that (not kidding here) had demons materialized on the stage—or something even weirder happened—I would not have been the least bit surprised.
Let me try to describe the atmosphere to you: First off, I don’t think I have ever, before or since, seen such a degenerate fucking crowd. A fair percentage of the punters looked mentally ill and an equal number looked criminally inclined or overtly sleazy. Diseased in both body and mind, or at least people who cultivated such qualities in the way they presented themselves to the world. I will never forget one lost soul, with her Thorazine-slacked features and one tit hanging out wandering around on her own. She had the blankest look that I have ever seen on a human face, a bottomless pit of psychotic misery in human form. I mean to tell you there were some right fucking weirdos there, and I’m someone who has made a career out of dealing with odd people. The single time I’ve ever been in a weirder scenario was a visit to NYC’s notorious Hellfire Club a few years later, but that’s another story…
There was a seriously dark vibe going on even before Psychic TV started due to the dozen or so television monitors flickering their spinning logo and candles lighting the stage. Then it started to ramp up. The imagery flashing across the monitors was intended to shock and shock it did. Much of it was footage from the First Transmissions and Cerith Wyn Evans’ (amazing) “Unclean” video (with Leigh Bowery), but there was some stuff that made even that level of an assault to the senses seem tame, like a gay S&M porn-style clip with Peter Christopherson having someone stretch his eyelids out as someone else jerked off and ejaculated right into his eyeball. Cheerful, eh?
When the band walked onstage—and this was when Psychic TV were coming off their evil masterpiece Dreams Less Sweet—the “spirits” that were swirling through the hall that night felt so malevolent that my friend and I both opted to back away from where we were standing at the front of the stage. The back of the hall just seemed “safer” in case something, well, something infernal happened.
It’s one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. It completely blew me away. It was actually scary. Have you ever been to a scary concert? I recommend it!
But what of A Certain Ratio? Well… they came on second. It was utterly preposterous to think that anyone could have followed what Psychic TV had done. Most of the dazed and confused audience just got up and left and the ones who stayed on for ACR sat on the floor. I seem to recall that the house lights went up after PTV finished and just stayed up.
When I emailed Em to tell him that I’d seen ACR in London in 1984, and Em, consummate rock snob that he is, sniffed “1984 was also post-Simon Topping for ACR, a very different band.”
Yeah, but I saw Psychic TV, too, motherfucker!
Below, a 1984 Earsay report that shows you just a few fleeting moments from the Hammersmith Town Hall gig. You’ll note that they couldn’t show what was on the monitors and so placed their cameras accordingly. They even say so in the piece.
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favorite distraction.