Saturday, September 29, 2007
Go to Mexico City, and you're going to hear this sweet little ditty in the Zona Rosa gay bars/clubs: "Baila Mi Corazon" by Belanova.
And how awesome is it that you can find all their albums on iTunes in the USA?
May I also plug the indie pop band ZOE? Their album is totally fab, and also on iTunes and in record stores' Latin sections.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Where is Cher? Isn't she doing anything to upstage Britney for a couple of days? Come out, Cher! I had the chance to interview her - during a period where I started to become the diva interviewer du jour of the gay regional press - when she released a self-written album that nobody listens to today. She was HUGE at the time. And when she called me from her cell phone, en route to the Hollywood Bowl for some rehearsal, it was pretty exciting. I wasn't even much of a fan, especially when held up some friends of mine, but I did like "Believe" and was curious to see what she was made of. I love that she felt one of my questions was completely absurd (it was!). Anyways, Cher fans enjoy this full version, and likely unseen until now, of the Cher interview!
PS - I just learned that eccentric ol' Vincent Gallo is selling copies of the issue of HX Magazine in which I interviewed him for $75 or more, autographed. So I'm gonna post the never seen big fat Gallo piece with some details about his going eccentric on me (well, his film's distributor at least) circa Brown Bunny. For the record, he's a pretty great conversationalist, and uses a lot of superlatives. It's a shame he goes all eccentric on people.
By Lawrence Ferber
We believe in life after love, love after sex (well, so long as his breath doesn’t stink) and CHER. And because she knows we’re hungry while awaiting the official March 2001 follow-up to Believe, the diva’s decided to share an intimate set of pre-vocoder recordings: not.com.mercial.
not.com.mercial’s creation began in 1994, when Cher absconded to Miles Copleand’s castle outside Bordeaux for one of his bi-annual songwriters’ conference/collaborations. There, having always scribed poetry, the never-aging diva learned to set her writings to music. And after collaborating with songwriter Bruce Roberts, Timbuk 3’s Pat MacDonald, and Letterman’s band, she had an album’s worth of songs which touched on her WWII vet grandfather (“Fit to Fly”), a period during her infancy spent in a Catholic orphanage (“Sisters of Mercy”), one of her daughter’s ex-girlfriends (“Disaster Cake”), and the tragic loss of Kurt Cobain (“(The Fall) Kurt’s Blues”).
Dance fans take note, however: Believe it’s not. Instead, think Joni Mitchell, with plenty of guitar strumming and campfire spirit, not to mention a personal and impassioned Cher we’ve not heard before. In fact, it’s such a Cher we’ve not heard that Warner Brothers wouldn’t touch it, so Cher’s selling the disc herself through her official online store/site - www.cher.com – and ARTISTdirect Network’s www.cherdirect.com. And she believes that…. Well, you can read below for that, as it was with great pleasure that Cher gave yours truly a call (keeping a “troop of 70 people waiting” while doing so) to discuss her album, her acting, and love.
Tell me about not.com.mercial in a way you haven’t told anyone else.
CHER: “I was actually listening to it and what I realized is that I’m not so sure it’s a very good album. It’s kind of like stories that are song instead of stories that are told. I’m just not sure how musically important it is. I just think the stories are very interesting and worthwhile, but I’m just not sure like if I were a critic, I’m not so sure how I would critique it… We did the whole thing in 2 days with the guys from the Letterman band – we were just making demo. And it was kind of like a garage thing, you know what I mean? It was a studio but it was very do it yourself kind of deal.”
Did you write the poem to the song?
“I actually wrote the bodies and the ideas pretty much before we put them to music and then while we were doing the music sometimes I would have to change them… mostly the essence and majority of them, like ‘(The Fall) Kurt’s Blues’ is exactly the way I wrote it. ‘Sisters of Mercy’ is pretty much exactly the way, and a lot of them are pretty much exactly the way I wrote them.”
What sorts of poems and feelings and thoughts and stories didn’t make it to the album?
“There was one, a really great one but we never finally finished it. It was called ‘Obviously Caucasian’ that I wrote about my son. Because he’s running around like some guy from East LA and yet he’s this blonde haired, green eyed, palest person you ever saw, so I just wrote this song about him with this really cool guy named Bink who was at the castle, but we never really got it together. There’s another song I wrote about myself called ‘Phoenix’ that I got the words, but never quite could pay enough attention to get it into real song form.”
Tell me about “Disaster Cake.”
“[Chastity’s ex-girlfriend] Heidi was in a really bad place and she was staying at my house – this is after they broke up and she was staying with me and just headed for a really bad situation, so I wrote ‘Disaster Cake’ about Heidi. She heard it when I first did it – she thought it was funny.”
I guess it is kind of flattering, isn’t it?
“The words weren’t things I hadn’t already told her exactly. We did this whole thing – she said ‘what could you possibly know? You’ve never even seen the Grateful Dead!’ I just thought that was very amusing, so all the things I told her were things I had told her – they just weren’t rhyming.”
Sisters of Mercy is about growing up in an orphanage with nuns?
“Well, I didn’t grow up there. I spent some time there, I’m not exactly sure [how long] because my mother doesn’t really like to talk about it too much, it might have been anywhere from three months to 6 months to 8 months. I’m not sure.”
Were there lesbian nuns?
“I have no idea – I was a baby.”
Are any of the songs dedicated to Sonny?
“The last one he wrote – ‘Classified A.’ In 1970.”
I read that Believe was “repaying” gay fans by being such a dancey, high energy album. Who is not.com.mercial repaying?
“Actually, that was a portion of it. And the truth is not.com.mercial is not really for anybody specifically – it’s for myself. One thing that I’ve noticed about myself, and gay people that have been my friends, is that we’ve both been through emotional turmoil in our life and so I think that they can quickly access emotional values.”
What sort of relationship do you have with Chastity now? I understand it’s close, but do you approve who’s she dating?
“We’ll, it’s none of my business. I actually happen to like Stacey a lot because I think she’s really good for Chaste, I think she’s a really nice girl, but my mother couldn’t tell me what to do, I can’t tell either one of my children what to do.”
Who has better taste in girlfriends? Elijah or your daughter?
“Oh God. (pause) I’m trying to think, it’s kind of hard because Elijah is into quantity right now, so it’s very difficult to pin him down with girls, and Chaste is very monogamous.”
What about your own taste in relationships?
“You know, I don’t have taste in relationships, I just like people and think that you come in contact with people you’re supposed to be with and you learn something from them if it’s a moment or ten years.”
Are you dating?
“No, I’m working. Not that I’m not going to – very soon! – but right now I start at about eight o’clock in the morning and I finish about ten o’clock at night and that’s kind of the way my life has been.”
Are you more of a romantic or a sleaze?
“Oh, I’m much more of a romantic.”
What to you is a romantic night?
“Oh. (pause) The movies always play some part in it. Cristal, the movies, popcorn, M&Ms and sex.”
Who’s been the best kisser in your films?
How did Nick Cage fare?
“I guess Nicky was OK. I don’t remember.”
Did you kiss Meryl in Silkwood?
“Meryl and I never had any relations because she was in love with Kurt so I was always kind of rebuffed.”
Was that upsetting? Could you get into that feeling?
“No, because truth was I was kind of like the little sister to both of them. My character was very non-sexual in a strange way. I had a girlfriend in the movie but all I ever did was get made up.”
Would you rather marry a gay man or another woman?
“Oh my god, that’s the most absurd question I’ve ever heard. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the human being. It has nothing to do with the title, it has to do with the person.”
Have you fallen in love with women?
“No. I’ve had great best friends that I adore and love but no.”
Definitely a man’s woman.
“Definitely, yeah. I mean I love women and admire them and think they’re brilliant, but I’m definitely a man’s woman, or woman’s man or whatever.”
Have you been pursued by gay men or women?
“Not really so you’d notice. I’ve got so many gay friends, I’m always hanging out with them, we’re all very close, and I’ve got… every kind of friend you’d imagine.”
I’ve heard several people make the joking remark ‘after the nuclear holocaust there will only be cockroaches and Cher.’ Your response?
“I just think it’s adorable. It made me laugh so hard the first time I heard it. I think it’s great.”
Is Cher indestructible?
“Not really, but don’t tell anybody.”
What’s happening with the acting career right now, Cher? I heard something about a film called Breakers you were up for.
“It was a movie I was gonna do with Jennifer Aniston but neither of us liked the way the script came out so we both just walked away from it. Actually, I’m going to direct and star in a movie in the fall called The Enchanted Cottage. It’s about when you love someone, no matter what you look like, you’re beautiful to the other person and it’s kind of a fairy tale.”
How do you feel about your writing now that you’ve put songs to tape, and how will that attitude affect your follow-up to Believe?
“It really won’t affect it in any way because, look, I wrote the second verse to ‘Believe’ so it’s not like I don’t do it, it’s just not the main focus of my life. I rewrite all the movies I’m in – there’s moments in every movie that I’ve had to be able to change or readdress because I have kind of a strange speaking pattern. By luck or whatever people always allow me to make changes and stuff.”
Do you consider yourself a control freak?
“Oh… not really.”
So it’s more like customizing things to your capabilities?
“Yeah, I know when I really can’t say or do something. I’ve got limitations, I know that.”
Is there any recent creative conflict that comes to mind?
“The last conflict I can remember was on ‘Believe’ where they didn’t like the vocoder thing and I kind of said ‘you can change this over my dead body,’ basically. They were afraid people wouldn’t know who I was but I said eventually they will know who I am.”
Now everybody’s using that darned thing. I think they should rename it the ‘Divocoder.’
“Well, in England they call it the ‘Cher effect.’ I heard [Madonna use it on Music], I thought it was kinda cool.”
What was it like to have no conflict?
“It was pretty exciting.”
Did it spoil you?
“No, it was a one time deal, but I like conflict.”
It’s part of the artistic process.
“Yeah. Art is so in conflict, it’s like telling an oyster not to be in conflict – well, then you don’t get the pearl, do you?”
Another absurd question. Did you design the finale of your last concert – the big Believe number – to be the gayest moment in concert history, which it was? That’s going to be looked back on in 1000 years.
“(laughs hysterically) No, I never even think about that kind of stuff.”
Is the rumor true that you’re planning another tour?
“Well, I don’t know. I’m going to the Forum right now to rehearse the show, but then I go to London in November to finish my album and might do a small tour in June or July. [Right now] I’ve got a couple of concerts, and I’m doing this thing for the President in New York at Roseland on the 25th.”
Oh, the election. It’s looking scary. Your feelings?
“I almost would leave the country if Bush won.”
Me too. And the final cliché: do you believe in life after love?
“I absolutely do.”
No elaboration on that?
“No. It’s just simple.”
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I interviewed Courtney some years ago about her solo disc, America's Sweetheart... and I think it speaks for itself. It was done via e-mailed questions which were delivered back to me, although it's unclear whether Courtney sat there typing herself of dictating to a someone or other. All I know is I was NOT disappointed with what came back to me.
In fact, here is the Q&A response, and then the (coherent) feature I turned it into.
Love the love!!!
Love the 'uuugggg'!
1) Was this a "passion album?" How much of it is personal versus fictional or inspired by other people's experiences?
“That's a ‘process’ question - I have never answered a ‘process’ question in my life. I gossip, my process is nobody's business - figure it out!”
2) Did any of these songs begin as Hole songs, or were they conceived exclusively for America's Sweetheart?
“All the songs were conceived exclusively for America's Sweetheart. I didn't write a song for years. I sat home and tried to copy Radiohead’s [album], ‘The Bends,’ then I finally wrote ‘Hold On To Me’ and then I just kept writing.”
3) What did you get to do in solo mode that was different or special than Hole?
“I didn't have to pretend to be in a democracy, even though I do it anyway. I am a people pleaser - uugggg! I gave myself an alter ego for this record, her name is Dirty Baby (she wrote ‘Life Despite God’ - AKA ‘The Plague,’ with Linda)
5) Uncool - what is uncool? Like the anti-gay marriage initiatives President Bush backs up?
“(laughs) No uncool for me. Well, it’s very hard for me to write a straight-up relationship song, probably because it’s hard for me to have a straight-up relationship. There was a time when I snapped at my band Hole. We were in a cubicle at the Billboard Awards and Garth Brooks was in the cubicle next to us, he was grateful to be there, without being ass kissy, and I snapped. I didn't want to be so cool about being on TV, I didn't want to pretend. SELL OUT means one thing - there are no more tickets to my show at Madison Square Gardens [because] I sold it out!!!! It is about Honesty - and if Neil [Young] can do it with ‘Heart of Gold’... Anyway, I want to be on the Top 40, there is no reason for me to have to lie about my demons, I am not living a lie. There is a young artist I know - at the very least she is bisexual - and she wanted to do a duet with me and I said ‘YOU HAVE TO COME OUT’ - at least as a bisexual - and she wouldn't. I do not know why. There is a reason actresses lie about it or just don't comment on it, but I just don't see why a musical star or an executive has to do it. I have tried to come out but nobody believes I am a lesbian - but nobody believes me - it is like I have COCK written on my forehead.”
6) Is your Hole all closed up, or just relaxing after so much action?
“Considering that the #1 plastic surgery in America is tightening the hole, I am just doing my kegel exercises. There will ALWAYS be fire in the hole.”
7) There are dashes of Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks on this album (The Plague and Never Gonna Be The Same, respectively), both being very quintessential rock star gals. How do you compare to those two? And are they your influences?
“That is OUTRAGEOUS – ‘The Plague’ aka Life despite God is a BLUES song - it was 3 hours long, about being left in a whorehouse alone. Get new ears - put your new ears on - DREAM ON!!!! Maybe Janis copying Sonhouse MAYBE or copying Bessie. In that song Linda and I are white woman stuck in a whorehouse - we drank tequila...and that song was born.”
9) There's a lot of actor/singers out there, but they generally have one public image/persona. You have two - the brash rock star, the demure and glamorous actress. Are there two Courtneys? Discuss how you reconcile these two people.
“I never used my sexuality to sell records. I am feeing single, frisky and pretty. I have always wanted to be pretty. As I get older I get prettier. I go between tee shirts and jeans to a person who takes good care of herself. The idea I didn't wax for years freaks me out. I am so big physically - ultra feminine stuff has always attracted me - more than masculine stuff - I am so big I love feeling petite.”
12) Who would be your dream lesbian affair?[
“Somebody really tall and bigger than me and Italian, really dominant - she would have to be 6’2” and have way bigger tits than me and she has to shove me up against a wall!”
15) Which songs did you do with Linda Perry, and how did you like working with her?
“Linda Perry is what I have been waiting for most of my life and when we were in San Francisco at the same time - she is secretly mad at me for us not hooking up at that time - she started rock star. I watched her do these things - watched some fail, some succeed - most successful positive experience of my life. We walk in the room and write songs together. I asked ‘where do you get these magical powers? She has a big black girl tattoo - that may be it - but I am her spirit guide for rock. There is the photo of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick kissing in Linda's studio and when I saw that, I just knew I was home. She bellows, I am flat a lot - we compensate for each other - she doesn't knock into me with the lyric thing. When Linda contributed lyrics (like the first line in ‘Sunset Strip’) she really contributed. I NEVER let anyone in my lyric box, but when I let Linda in, well, it was worth it and she made a difference and she never overstayed her welcome. And Bernie Taupin shares lyrics with me on one song on this album, but he is Bernie and that is different.”
16) Pink told me that Linda has a way or dragging one's demons out and into a record. Did she do the same to you?
“No no no no no. Pink and Linda have a very unique relationship. My job is to drag Linda's demons out. I’m not knocking her ‘clients’ but she drags the ‘clients’ demons out, and I had to wait until the ‘clients’ were done. Then we proceeded to the land of Led Zep and then we would drag out Linda's demons and she helps temper my demons. Like ‘Uncool’ didn't have enough demons, then I made it full of demons, and then it sucked so we tempered it. We write in a very John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] way and sometimes I get to be the John, which is GREAT!”
17) If so, what was her technique?
“I hold everyone down and I let Linda go nuts.”
18) And how was working with Bernie Taupin? Did he share any Elton John gossip?
“Elton John is my friend, a really good friend of mine. He saved my ass on a few occasions. Don't tell anyone, but I once had to sit in a jailhouse for saying the word ‘fuck’ to a stewardess and I guess everyone said to take me off the bill for the show and Elton and I think Peter O’Toole said ‘no way - she is in.’ At one pause when I was on his piano and singing ‘Bitch is Back’ and I looked at Elton and said ‘you're really good in bed’ and he said ‘yeah.’ I was supposed to sing ‘Don't Let the sun go Down On Me,’ which I did, but there was only photos of me in the duck suit. John Galliano loaned me this amazing beautiful dress, which was the greatest thing and no one saw photos - they only saw the duck costume. The Galliano dress was pure perfection. He is Bernie Taupin - it is funny, brilliant and he is a professional. I grew up on Bernie Taupin lyrics, I felt like a 4th grader. There are very obvious NOT ME lyrics, it feels REALLY WEIRD to sing them. I was nominated for a Grammy for my song ‘Malibu’ and Bernie Taupin and Van Dyke Parks had a discussion about the composition of Malibu in the LA TIMES. It was the only piece of press I would save. They seriously discussed the very complicated composition of that song, they got the way I write and it was really neat.”
19) There's plenty of drugs mentioned on this album. Could you talk about that
“Do you want me to censure myself - I try replacing [drugs] with ‘love’ but it sounds lame.”
THE FINAL FEATURE
The Nature of LOVE: Courtney Love Speaks Out!
By Lawrence Ferber
“SELL OUT means one thing - there are no more tickets to my show at Madison Square Garden [because] I sold it out!” proclaims singer/songwriter/actress Courtney Love. Indeed. Never one to mince words or compromise her thoughts – and, often famously, actions – Love’s debut solo album, America’s Sweetheart (Virgin), betrays the same fearlessness, honesty, brashness, outrageousness and passion we’ve come to expect from her. It ain’t always pretty, but that’s the nature of Love.
“I want to be on the Top 40, but there is no reason for me to have to lie about my demons - I am not living a lie,” Love continues, adding that she expects her collaborators to be equally outright, much like pro-gay late husband Kurt Cobain. “There’s a young artist I know, at the very least she is bisexual, and she wanted to do a duet with me. I said ‘YOU HAVE TO COME OUT,’ at least as a bisexual. And she wouldn't. I do not know why. There’s a reason actresses lie about it or just don't comment on it, but I just don't see why a musical star or an executive has to do it. I’ve tried to come out but nobody believes I’m a lesbian – it’s like I have ‘COCK’ written on my forehead.”
The last we heard from Love – musically, that is – was on Hole’s Grammy Award-nominated, platinum-certified 1998 album, Celebrity Skin. Formed in 1989, the alt-rock outfit (which included lesbian drummer Patty Schemel) also made waves with 1991 debut Pretty on the Inside and 1994’s Live Through This. America’s Sweetheart marks Love’s first departure from the band… and its group dynamic.
“I didn't have to pretend to be in a democracy, even though I do it anyway,” she notes. “I’m a people pleaser - uugggg! I gave myself an alter-ego for this record, her name is Dirty Baby. She wrote ‘Life Despite God,’ AKA ‘The Plague,’ with Linda Perry.”
Out lesbian Perry, who recently worked on Pink’s Try This, was one of a handful of Love’s collaborators on America’s Sweetheart, including studio powerhouses Josh Abraham (Staind), James Barber (Ryan Adams), Matt Serletic (Grammy Winner/Virgin Records chairman), and songwriter Bernie Taupin.
“I NEVER let anyone into my lyric box, but when I let Linda in, well, it was worth it,” attests Love. “There’s the photo of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick kissing in Linda's studio and when I saw that, I just knew I was home. She made a difference and she never overstayed her welcome. I asked ‘where do you get these magical powers?’ She has a big black girl tattoo - that may be it - but I am her spirit guide for rock. And Bernie Taupin shares lyrics with me on one song on this album, ‘Uncool.’ I grew up on Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, I felt like a 4th grader [working with him].”
The process of creating America’s Sweetheart started off slowly, says Love, who hadn’t written any songs for years. “I sat at home and tried to copy Radiohead’s [album], ‘The Bends,’” she admits. “Then I finally wrote ‘Hold On To Me’ and I just kept writing.” On the album’s first single, “Mono,” a fiery and fierce Love blasts assured shouts of “I’m so much better than him!” over 80’s-style power rock guitar grinding. “Hello” is also pretty rocking, with sassy boasts like “I’m about to tell you about the difference you will never make.” “Zeplin Song” humorously razzes someone’s overplaying a tune by the legendary rock band (“Why does the song remain the same?” she queries).
Love also comes clean on the album, so to speak, about her chemical addictions. In October of 2003, following an arrest for attempting to break into an ex-boyfriend’s home and an overdose daughter Frances Bean Cobain witnessed, Bean was removed from Love’s custody by authorities (the 11-year-old currently resides with Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor). Love then checked into rehab but her erratic behavior – most recently a three-hour nude jaunt around a rehab center – continues.
Drugs take the fore on songs like “All The Drugs” and “Sunset Strip,” one of the most powerful tunes both lyrically and musically. “Rock star, pop star, everybody dies… I got pills ‘cause I am the worst and best dressed… I got pills for my coochie because baby I’m sore… take all these stupid pills away” she sings. Asked to elaborate upon these lyrics, Love proffers “Do you want me to censure myself? I try replacing [drugs] with ‘love’ but it sounds lame.”
“The Plague,” meanwhile, is anything but lame: it’s boiling with emotional turmoil (“you shoulda loved me baby!”). Just don’t tell Love it’s got dashes of Janis Joplin as well. “That is OUTRAGEOUS,” she gags at the comparison. “‘The Plague,’ aka ‘Life Despite God,’ is a BLUES song! Get new ears - put your new ears on!! It was three hours long. In that song Linda and I are white women stuck in a whorehouse, we drank tequila and that song was born.”
Pink has credited Perry with an ability to drag one’s demons out. However, Love insists that wasn’t the case in these here parts. “Pink and Linda have a very unique relationship,” Love proffers. “I’m not knocking Linda’s ‘clients’ but she drags the ‘clients’ demons out, and I had to wait until the ‘clients’ were done. Then we proceeded to the land of Led Zep and then we would drag out Linda's demons, and she helped temper my demons. Like ‘Uncool’ didn't have enough demons, then I made it full of demons, and then it sucked so we tempered it. We write in a very John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] way and sometimes I get to be the John, which is GREAT!”
Speaking of Johns, Love originally wrote “Uncool” with Elton John’s oft-collaborator Bernie Taupin. Love credits Elton John with having “saved my ass” on occasion. “Don't tell anyone, but I once had to sit in a jailhouse for saying the word ‘fuck’ to a stewardess and I guess everyone said to take me off the bill for the show,” Love recalls, referring to her arrest for causing a disturbance on an airplane prior to a scheduled appearance at a star-studded benefit gig for London’s Old Vic theater. “Elton and I think Peter O’Toole said ‘no way, she is in.’” Love made media headlines again that night by showing up in a Donald Duck costume (Elton did much the same in the 70’s), although “John Galliano loaned me this amazing beautiful dress, which was the greatest thing, and no one saw photos - they only saw the duck costume.”
Of course, the world’s vision of Love has included an active artists’ rights activist and the glamorous Hollywood actress who was nominated for a 1996 Golden Globe for her turn in Milos Forman’s The People Vs. Larry Flynt. “I go between t-shirts and jeans to a person who takes good care of herself,” Love says of her dichotomous rocker/glamazon personas. “The idea I didn't wax for years freaks me out. I am so big physically, ultra feminine stuff has always attracted me, more than masculine stuff. I am so big I love feeling petite.”
Love made her big screen bow in 1986’s Sid and Nancy, and appeared in other biopics like 1996’s Basquiat and 1999’s Man on the Moon. In 2001, she played a New Jersey housewife who has a lesbian affair with Lili Taylor in a feature called Julie Johnson. The film’s US distributor, The Shooting Gallery, went bankrupt prior to release, so it remains shelved. According to Taylor, Love would play Mazzy Star while shooting their love scenes.
As for what sort of lady would be Love’s dream lesbian lover offscreen, she muses “somebody really tall and bigger than me and Italian, really dominant! She would have to be 6’2” and have way bigger tits than me and she has to shove me up against a wall!”
Interestingly, Love explores all flavors of sexuality in “Princess Ai,” a series of manga (Japanese comic book) she developed with DJ Milky and Japanese manga artist Ai Yazawa (who was responsible for the queer-inclusive “Paradise Kiss” series). Publisher Tokyopop describes Love’s manga alter-ego as “a smart and talented, yet controversial young woman who utilizes the public stage not only for self-expression but also to hide from her assailants. She is the princess of a mysterious, unknown land, who has escaped to our world and is now taking refuge in the bustling nightclubs of Kabushiki-cho.”
Speaking of nightclubs, Love is planning to put together an all-girl band to tour for America’s Sweetheart. Does this additional solo step mean her Hole is, er, closed up for good? Or just relaxing after a lot of action?
“Considering that the #1 plastic surgery in America is tightening the hole, I’m just doing my Kegel exercises,” Love laughs. “There will ALWAYS be fire in the hole.”
America’s Sweetheart was released February 10th. For more info, go to www.courtneylove.com.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Germany enters the fray with "Military Drums" by Hubert Kah. Love the music. Loathe the video. How lame is the Annie Lennox reject? And the expressionist set? Yeah, we know it's Germany but does everything have to be expressionist? Or maybe it's just the New Wave. I'm being judgmental, huh?
Friday, September 21, 2007
Bjork is playing New York's Madison Square Garden this coming Monday, so to mark the occasion I'm posting this interview with one of her new album's guests, Antony. I LOVE Antony, and although I haven't seen him for a while now - last time was at a little birthday shindig for LD Beghtol in the East Village that Stephin Merritt was DJing, as I recall - I'm really loving his frequent guest appearances on other artists' albums.
That's enough of that - now to the interview. I may post the other interviews as well down the line...
Swing Out, Sister
By Lawrence Ferber
“I think I present a fairly vulnerable depiction of what I would consider my true state of gender,” says Antony, openly queer frontsman of stunning chamber pop troupe Antony and The Johnsons. “Which is quite ambiguous.” Antony’s second full-length LP, I Am A Bird Now (Secretly Canadian), negotiates and explores the many shades of gender and celebrates the liberation of those who feel they are something “other.” On “For Today I Am a Boy,” he sings “One day I’ll grow up and be a beautiful woman/ one day I’ll grow up and be a beautiful girl/ But for today I am a child/ for today I am a boy.” And on the beauteous, “Bird Gehrl,” the singer yearns for wings because “the bird gehrls can fly.”
“For me, the title I Am A Bird Now suggests something between an achievement, a longing for and a freedom from a kind of imprisonment,” Antony adds. “It speaks also about the picture on the cover, of Candy Darling in the hospital right before she dies. But the title draws from many sources. Personal, sort of like a bouquet of ideas.”
Dishing up more of his trademark, immensely moving piano and strings-blessed torch songs, this time Antony adds splashes of influences and genres like Otis Redding soul, jazz, and in the case of “I Hope There’s Someone,” a profoundly haunting, Philip Glass-esque piano/choral swell. Some impressive guests add to the bouquet: Rufus Wainwright contributes lead vocals on “What Can I Do?” “Rufus did such a job of it, brought so much elegance and form to it,” Antony reports. “Rufus and I are friends and I did some vocals on Want Two’s ‘Old Whore’s Diet,’ We’re both guesting on each other’s records, which is nice. One time we did a show together and sang that song "Baby Mine" from "Dumbo." It was like I died and went to heaven. He’s got such a lovely sense of harmony.”
Velvet Underground legend Lou Reed, who brought Antony along on his 2003 international tour, appears on “Fistful of Love.” And sister in spirit Boy George duets on “You Are My Sister.” “George was the first reflection of myself I saw in the world,” Antony admits. “When I was 12 years old and I saw an image of him it was the first time I had seen or heard of a person who reflected my own sense of myself and really, I think, helped determine I would become a singer.”
I first heard of Antony in 2000, when he performed a song called "Cripple and the Starfish" at NYC's Wigstock festival. His singing entailed a shuddering, beautiful warble, unlike anything I'd heard (although when pressed, Tiny Tim meets Brian Ferry was my pithy summation). Up there on stage he looked so frail, so delicate, one thin layer of skin from being completely exposed to the world and its harsh elements. Was this a persona, or a real person? Some time later I met Antony at a West Village café. He struck me as a completely genuine person and, when I asked whether the Antony I saw onstage was an alter-ego or the real 24/7 deal, he plainly told me: "I don't really think of it as a persona - I'm just a performer."
Hailing from the South of England (Chichester), Antony spent much of a colorful, sometimes difficult childhood moving from place to place (including Amsterdam, Minnesota, and California). Son of an engineer and photographer, he started performing early: a lip-sync to Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ when he was seven years old. At 12 he told his mother he was gay. “Let’s just say I was never in the closet,” he notes. “I was the kind of child where it was never possible for me to be in the closet. The issue for me as a child was being a sissy, of having feminine and creative interests.”
As a young teenager, Antony found his first role models - glammy queer performers like Boy George, Klaus Nomi and Marc Almond (“Marc really verbalized something which I would later really internalize, which is this idea of ‘don’t put anything into it unless you feel it.”). But it was thanks to a performance by Nomi’s former partner, Joey Arias, in the film Mondo New York, that Antony experienced a life-changing epiphany (or, as he characterizes it, “the last straw”).
“Arias lip-synched ‘Hard Day’s Night’ as Billie Holiday and I was so overwhelmed I knew that was the city I had to live in,” he recalls. So Antony picked up and settled down in NYC. He actually performed with Arias years later, at a Klaus Nomi tribute.
Between 1990 and 1997, Antony took part in “experimental afterhours” theater with a troupe called Black Lips. They appeared in Manhattan East Village nightclubs, staging plays like “The Birth of Anne Frank and the Ascension of March P. Johnson,” and what he terms “transvestite debacles,” the majority of which featured a show-stopping song. Many of those songs ended up on Antony and The Johnson’s first eponymous album and a single, “I Fell In Love With a Dead Boy,” both released on an experimental UK label run by artist David Tibet. Backed by a small orchestra, decked out in gender-bending outfits and a light coating of makeup, Antony’s sublime concert performances helped build an impressive audience and fans like Laurie Anderson, Steve Buscemi, and Lou Reed. Buscemi enlisted Antony to appear and sing in his 2000 film, Animal Factory.
Reed, who guested at one of Antony’s live performances, invited Antony to return the favor and perform with him on his international 2003 tour. “Not enough can be said about the singer Reed has brought on this tour who simply goes by Antony,” reads a Billboard review. Antony’s show stopping rendition of “Candy Says,” a gorgeously melancholy ode to Candy Darling, can be found on Reed’s live Animal CD. The pair continue to perform together occasionally.
Antony admits that I Am a Bird Now heralds a new direction for him musically – its songs were written as songs unto themselves, for an album, rather than to be incorporated into a scripted or semi-scripted theatrical production. “I’m sort of segueing into a different type of a platform,” he says. “As opposed to being a theater tableau that people listen to as a piece, I wanted it to be something that invites the listener close. Also in terms of the delivery of the songs I would say it’s very personal. An internal landscape. The first album is like a world-view in a way, my perception of the world around me. This is more of an internal view.”
The CD’s booklet helps complement the intimate nature and themes. Inside is a striking, stylized Josef Astor photo of a woman named Page, to whose memory the album is dedicated. Antony describes Page as the Candy Darling of his generation, a muse for many in the East Village scene of the 1990s. “She was a performance artist, very avant-garde transsexual,” he notes. “Punk isn’t really the right word. More like a surrealist. Very forward-thinking in a lot of ways, very wild. She was in a lot of my shows over the years at Pyramid and PS 122. I’d usually have her sing one of my songs. She had this really beguiling, bizarre vocal delivery. Always enchanted the audience. And she was very hardcore. She had that Leigh Bowery/ Divine type edge in terms of how far she’d be willing to take things. She was also a good-hearted person underneath all of her outrageousness. She died 2 years ago of a drug overdose, so the album is dedicated to her.”
Something of a collector of “found” items, Antony includes a few choice items in the booklet including a “spooked out” page from a calendar he found in an abandoned prison cell while shooting Animal Factory, and a cryptic letter taken from a medical journal on sex reassignment and hermaphrodism. Written in a child’s scrawl, the letter reads: “Father, I got to b a boy, Mother, I got 2 b a boy.”
“Those letters are from the 60s, I think - it was a boy born with androgynous genitals, features, or a kid, and they were requesting sex reassignment in a certain direction,” Antony explains. “Until recently and even to this day, kids born hermaphroditic were sexually reassigned as infants. Sometimes that would backfire because they would assign the wrong gender. To assign any gender to a hermaphroditic child limits their options. Now there’s a movement toward embracing oneself as an intersexed person as opposed to trying to segue into one box or the other. A more modern way of thinking about that.”
Boy George is one person Antony always saw as a “sister,” so he invited the pop music legend to duet on “You Are My Sister.” “I love his delivery so much,” Antony admits. “It’s so passionate, like a mixture between Jimmy Scott and Marianne Faithful. More world-weary, something very experienced. I love that song because it operates on so many levels. A sister can be so many things. It can be between queens or a person in the family. Someone you want to protect or wish well for. I love that song because it seems to speak to all those things simultaneously. George is singing so beautifully on it I think it’s a revelation to hear him.”
Besides touring his new album this winter/spring, Antony appears in the upcoming French film “Wild Side,” directed by Sebastien Lifshitz. In his scene, Antony sings to a room full of real Parisian, transsexual prostitutes. “The opportunity to sing for all those girls I couldn’t really turn down,” he says. “I’m not an actor so if there’s something real happening in the room I can connect with it. Animal Factory was a similar situation. I was performing for a bunch of real people, in that case it was prisoners. Both times it was like a very heightened live performance but captured on film.”
For someone who creates such passionate music, how does Antony’s love life compare? He bristles when the topic comes up and expediently begs it away. However, he does admit that some fans are quite anxious to share their love – sometimes expressed in unusual forms - with him. “I guess there’s a couple,” he says. “Some are sexy. Some are a little bit… (pause) wild. I did have someone send me some, what she termed ‘cat pizza’ I was terrified at first it was going to find pizza made out of pets. It ended up just being catnip pizza, which my cat actually thoroughly enjoyed.”
See www.antonyandthejohnsons.com for more information.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
When I'm traveling, and someone asks me about which celebrities I have interviewed, Madonna is one of the first names I mention. That's because EVERYBODY know who Madonna is. And they generally go "really?" or "no way" or "holy goddamned wow-wow-wow!"
So why not slap this unedited version of the Madonna piece I wrote - following the roundtable interview I partook of while she promoted The Next Best Thing. It wasn't too crowded, maybe a dozen of us at the table, and I got in several questions... She seemed forthcoming. And she really does have an aura, a presence. You felt her coming before she entered the room. It was amazing.
Bummer the movie sucked so darned hard. And she was doing that accent!
Madonna’s Next Thing
Madonna can vogue. She can also Shanti, geisha, pray, writhe, get unconscious, kiss and tell, keep it together… you know the drill, the looks, the fads often imitated by millions. But in The Next Best Thing, directed by John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy), she takes on her most laudable, politically-minded, mature, and socially conscious project yet. The story of a gay man and straight woman who have a baby and face parting when one gets involved with another man, Madonna both acts and spits out two new tunes, including the surprisingly tasty, danceable (!!), William Orbit-produced remake of Don Maclean’s “American Pie.” Whether the kids don what she wears in the film or try out her new, inexplicable “international” accent in casual conversation, however, isn’t the reason she did it, though… or anything else. “What goes through my mind is much more selfish,” she explained. “I always approach every project I do from at first, ‘what am I going to get out of it, learn from it, will it challenge me, is it going to take me to another place, am I going to grow from it?’ It always starts there. I don’t think you can begin being creative by thinking how it’s going to affect other people because that waters it down. Ultimately, the impulse has to come from a pure place.”
In The Next Best Thing, Madonna plays lovelorn Abbie, a yoga-instructing professional who can’t find a decent man. As it happens, she HAS found one – tall, dark, and handsome Robert (Rupert Everett) – but he’s a big ol’ fag. So the two are content to be best friends until, one night, a drunk frolic lands Abbie with a lump in her womb. What’s a fag and his knocked-up hag to do? Well, they decide to raise the wee one, Sam (Malcolm Stumpf), together, co-habitating, until one day the right man does arrive (Benjamin Bratt) and inevitably must break the family up. Unfortunately, that happens sooner than later when Abbie, threatened by Robert’s unwillingness to negotiate on custody issues, slinks away with their kid in tow, and an ugly legal battle transpires. Enter a few folks from the periphery – like Abbie’s loathsome ex-boyfriend Kevin (Michael Vartan) and Robert’s PWA buddy David (all-grown-up “Doogie Howser” Neil Patrick Harris) – and you’ve a roller coaster of drama, gay parental issues, and Mo’.
Obviously, The Next Best Thing is a project close to the heart of openly gay Everett, a driving force behind its production and promotion. For one thing, he nudged Madonna to cover “American Pie” (“There was a minute there where I thought it was too corny for words,” Madonna quips of her remake which Everett contributes backing vocals to, “but everybody else seemed to like it – I kind of went with the flow.”), pushed its issue of gay parenting, reshaped its story, and even arranged a commendable – and possibly one of the first – gay press junket in South Beach, Miami.
At that junket, held at the Uberdeco, super lush Delano Hotel, Everett told of The Next Best Thing’s jaw-droppingly ludicrous sounding initial incarnation, when it was the tale of a “flubbery” gay man obsessed with food, his child-hungry best female friend, and their mutual effort to sprout a wee one. In downright Vaudevillian attempts to get the gal pregnant (more crudely, the gay guy excited enough to slip it in and spill some seeds), the slapstick pair would dollop whipped cream and other confections on her body for him to slurp up and smoosh about in. Worse, the original story’s Abbie and Robert WERE set on spawning a child, so when it came time for Abbie to flee the nest for greener hetero pastures with their kid, she came across as a downright calculated villain, unlike the merely confused and desperate Abbie Madonna plays. So let’s give a hand to uncle Rupert!
“He’s always bossing me around,” smiled Madonna, looking absolutely gorgeous at her all-press New York junket. “He’s like a big bully. He is tall, he is stronger than me, he can wrestle me down to the ground.”
But would she “fall” for him like Abbie falls for Robert?
“Eventually, yeah. I adore him. I love him. I’m sure if he was straight things would be different.”
Speaking of different, in many ways, Abbie is a more different, dangerous and difficult role than Evita or even that killer slag Madonna played in that forgettable Willem Dafoe flick from however many years ago. After all, Abbie’s NOT the most likeable character (at least to gay men rooting for Everett), and at the same time must come across as vulnerable, human, and wounded in her history with love and men. “Well, I do have some things in common with Abbie,” Madonna admitted. “I’ve made some mistakes definitely. I think I’ve passed some pretty incredible people by because I’m really selfish. Whatever. Live and learn, right? I’m still kicking myself.”
But what about commitment and marriage NOW?
“Possibly,” she volunteered with a pause. “Next question!”
Back to her character, regardless of her snatching Sam away and forcing Robert to pursue legal action, both Everett and Madonna see Abbie as sympathetic. Said the latter, “I think she’s a really nice person and did the very best thing she could do. I think she made mistakes, made some silly choices in the end, things that perhaps I wouldn’t have done, but in the end I have a lot of compassion for her and think she behaved in a very humane way. But the way she chose to have the baby and raise the baby, I probably wouldn’t have done those things – in fact I’m sure I wouldn’t have.”
And as for Everett, he sees his Robert as sympathetic, although he admitted not being ready to wear a parent’s shoes himself just yet.
“Well, I think a lot of gay men truly are interested in raising families and being parents,” Madonna opined on the subject of gay parenting. “I think people take that really seriously, so I hope it changes that misconception. I think that Rupert is a fantastic gay role model because he doesn’t really fit into middle Amercia’s pre-conceived notion… that kind of manly queeny gay personality. I think he kind of defies all of that – he’s actually quite butch and very hetero-seeming!”
By the same token, The Next Best Thing defies any predictable narrative path, weaving comic and cute adventures with Kramer Versus Kramer courtroom drama. Admittedly, this results in tonal and storytelling inconsistencies, but for Madonna this wasn’t a major point of concern. “Only that it flowed effortlessly and that the audience took the ride with you,” she explained. “I do think it is very reflective of life. It started out kind of happy… I wouldn’t say carefree but I don’t think Rupert’s or my character really thought things out further down the line. I think we were very much in the moment and I think what happened to them in the movie happens to a lot of people in real life – certainly with couples who fall in love, marry, and have children never thinking things may not work out down the line and what happens as a result of that?”
Of course, who Madonna is today has happened as a result of decisions made by her parents, most importantly, religion. After all, where would she be without the burning crosses of “Like a Prayer”? Or any other aspects of her art which an Italian Catholic upbringing wrought? Now that she’s a mother herself, one might ask how will she raise Lourdes in the spiritual sense? “That is a conundrum,” Madonna admitted. “I don’t know. I’m very conflicted about that. I talk about God with my daughter and we say prayers every night before she goes to bed, and she was baptized a Catholic. But I’m not really sure how I feel about the concept of organized religion. So I don’t know exactly how I’m going to introduce that into her life.”
Showbiz is another issue Madonna seems conflicted about regarding Lourdes, and stresses it will be Lourdes’ call when she’s old enough to decide on a career. “The climate of the entertainment business changes from decade to decade,” she explained, “so who knows what it’s gonna be like when she gets older. But I do think you have to be pretty thick skinned to survive in the business and understand it is about the big picture and not the small one…. And be prepared for the rejection and do it for the right reasons.”
As for her own future, Madonna expressed plans to pursue writing (“I don’t know what shape that would take… whether it would be a screenplay, but I think I’d like to do that more.”) and further film projects (“I’m really picky about stuff so nothing really specific yet.”), so long as nothing interferes with Lourdes seeing her father (Madonna has turned down world tours so Lourdes and daddy can be close). And while Madonna confesses “mixed feelings” for The Next Best Thing, she feels she’s come a long way since those days of Shanghai Surprise. “I feel a lot more comfortable with myself as an actress now, that’s for sure,” she admitted, “but I don’t really think about the audience. I think ‘do I love this part?,’ and ‘I’m gonna do the best job I can possibly do because that’s the only insurance I’m gonna have when it comes to an audience reaction.’”
That’s our lady with an attitude!
Saturday, September 01, 2007
I remember an article back in the 80s that mulled over the question of why the UK had so many pop bands, and why they were so good at producing 7" confections. It seems the dole - unemployment - and the huge amount of teens-to-early-twenties on it, with little else to do but learn instruments and pursue the dream of being a pop star, was the answer. Blue Zoo was one of these bands, and looking back at their videos, boy were they GAY.
In the video for the single "Cry Boy Cry," the lead singer, Andy O, looks like Jake Shears a little bit, doesn't he? And how gay is this video with the band members molesting him, all boyish and shirtless? Hmmm.
I have a lot of UK pop band vinyl, and thanks to ol' YouTube, the videos are out there for all to see, and for me to send you to via this blog.
Now... back to the pressing matter of the day. How retarded is this video, and how high should it rank?
Oh Canada, we know you're ashamed of this video for Strange Advance's "We Run." Instantly contagious song with irresistible keyboard programming, and an absolutely ludicrous video featuring a mannequin, a lonely woman, a lead singer who looks a little like Alan Thicke and, well, someone please explain to me what the hell the drummer is doing. Seriously - watch the video a few times, and focus on the drummer during one of those. Frustrated theater school dropout or what?
This is officially a series of 80s videos postings, representing many countries, in part with the hopes we can come to a consensus of which first world country is responsible for the most horrific war crimes tribunal worthy 80s pop videos. Will it be England? Or the USA? Or France? So many offenders, so many postings to come. Please do feel free to comment and vote on each!