Friday, October 28, 2005

Men of a thousand faces, and as many talents...

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Paul Slavens and Lon Chaney

I'm slowly emerging from my zombie-like haze and it feels very nice. I've been getting out and socializing more and more, like last nights trip to The Dallas museum of Art, and a couple of other spots. Mark Sharon (who happens to have been my college roommate) and I went to the DMA for a showing of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME starring Lon Chaney, but with the added bonus of having a live soundtrack performed by a group of local musicians. This film was originally silent and the new score written by the versatile Paul Slavens made the already amazing even more so. Paul played piano, and did some vocal sound-effects I believe while backed by a "super-group" of primarily Denton-related musicians that are mostly known for their work in various punk/rock/indie/experimentalish bands that I have seen many times over the years. Bands represented include Baboon, Mission Giant, Ten Hands, The Dooms U.K., March Arc, Brutal Juice, The Banes, and others I might be unaware of. The added touch of a talented female vocalist that employed the subtle use of an effects processor along with other analog keyboards, and equipment complimented the piano and rock-oriented instrumentation. I'd love to see this kind of thing catch on.

Lon Chaney has always been somewhat of a hero to me and this might be his masterpiece. I had never actually seen the film but I knew the stories of Chaney suffering the 40-pound hump strapped to his back while performing his own death-defying stunts. Sure he's an amazing stuntman, and special effects make-up artist but you don't hear much about his acting ability. He somehow managed to take what could be a very one-dimensional cartoon of a character and make him multi-faceted, and likeable despite his gruesome appearance. He actually gets you to empathise with the deformed, and surreal hunchback primarily through the use of body language and facial expression. I don't think I could ever watch this again without some type of musical accompaniment and that would still never come close to the soundtrack I heard last night.

I was coerced into going to The Tom Tom Noodle house in the West Village, which is a part of town I usually avoid like the plague for a late meal after the show. The lure was 1$ sushi and we missed the mark by a couple of hours but still managed to avoid doing the dishes in lieu of payment. Though it was chilly on the patio the warm sake and excellent food worked together to keep us happy. I had an amazing dish that is supposedly the most popular dish in Malaysia called Beef Rendang. It was basically a curried-beef dish served over a large portion of jasmine rice and garnished with bits of mango. I highly recommend it. I even managed to run by Stout on Greenville Avenue to catch a few songs by my friend Jeff Hill's band The Sutcliffe's. Jeff was rocking the key-tar(keyboard worn like a guitar), vocals, harmonica, washboard, and Fisher-Price xylophone in fine form. I slept eventually...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Saturday, October 22, 2005

...Latest victim of "art" filters.

Mimus is one of the first, if not the first character that my best friend and I created together. Colin and I met when we were just about to enter junior high. We bonded over a love of rock and roll, comic books, movies, and general lunacy. We both had older brothers that were quite influential to our interests but when we got together those interests grew exponentially. We were both aspiring artists of roughly the same ability, but Colin was also quickly becoming an accomplished guitar-player. Even before we began to create our own comics we were in the habit of creating characters for as yet unnamed projects. I remember many a conversation that began, "We could have a guy that...", and went on to describe some unusual character. The concepts discussed were often visual in nature so it's only natural that we both gravitated to being cartoonists. Ironically the first project we ever worked on together was a "film" entitled THE BATTLE OF ZENON, which was named by Scott Franzke, who along with his brother Bobby, Colin and myself comprised the film crew. We never got further than the creation of a miniature set which was comprised of dirt, and Star Wars toys painted to reflect battle scars all placed on a card table.

Colin and I progressed as artists, and unintentionally as writers as well. Encouraged by local small-press publishers, and cartoonists we met at The Dallas Fantasy Fair we created Milk Vampire Babies which was a magazine sized, and fairly ambitious project for a couple of teenagers. The final product, which was put together with help from my brother Andy under the Permanent Press imprint, was a bit rough but the experience gained was indispensable. Next we did the mini-comic MIMUS which got published by Starhead Graphics in Seattle. Starhead was a small-press comics label that was started by a couple of guys that used to live in Dallas, and I've since forgotten how we hooked up with them. As cool as that seems now we decided that we could easily self-publish our own stuff in exisiting formats we became familiar with through the mini-comics scene and so Permenant Press was reborn. We got reviewed in a few related publications and began to get orders from all over the country to our amazement. This was by no means a lot of interest but to us it was the coolest thing in the world.

Colin and I started doing more comics on our own, as opposed to as a team, but we continued to record our silly, and sometimes disturbing music under the name THE SONS OF GRAVITY. The name is laughable now, but to my addled teenage mind it was perfectly appropriate. As time went by Colin went away to college at The University of North Texas in Denton, while I stayed at home to complete my senior year in high school before going to North Texas after two years of community college. We rarely spoke during this period, and by the time we met again we had changed in unexpected ways. I had grown up a bit and become invloved in a serious, but ill-fated relationship, all the while partying with old high school friends. Colin had immersed himself in bohemian college life with all that comes with it. Without going into too much detail, Colin had a mysterious, life-changing experience that would permanently alter his behavior and life. It was years before we had a "normal" conversation but we eventually began to speak farily regularly.

Recently Colin has been putting together a new mini-comic called PERMANENT PRESS PRESENTS, which showcases many of our characters in new stories, some old sketchbook pages, and other loosely related comics. He has asked me to contribute but up until now I have been extremely lazy about producing artwork. The reasons for this are numerous but I am attempting to break the cycle. It's not much, but the drawing of Mimus is one sketch on a page I'm working on of our old characters. This is just the beginning.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

These guys are cooler than we'll ever be. Posted by Picasa


If you've been living under a rock for awhile you may not have heard that the incredible Gang of Four are back together and playing shows, in addition to putting out a new record of re-recorded versions of their classics. To this you might say, "Yeah, and...?", and I would in turn reply with the order, "Go see them play live immediately!". Seriously, if you have any kind of appreciation for live music, do yourself a big favor and check 'em out if you can. I dragged Bob along to the show, and even though he was unfamiliar with the songs, he enjoyed it quite a bit, and that says a lot. You know, the kind of show where after the first few notes, or beats of a new song the venue is littered with groups of friends giving each other the "Dude, it's this one!" look.

I'm going to rip-off some other reviewer of this particular tour and say that Andy Gill prowled the stage like a panther, or some sh*t, and was the first to take the stage, staring with a convincingly menacing look into the crowd. He did this as he played the first few jagged notes to one of their best songs. You'll have to take my word for that as I can't for the life of me remember which one it was. I CAN say that it's on Entertainment, and if you like I can try to recall which ones I'm sure it wasn't. That's easy because nearly all the songs they played where from that album, which is rightfully considered to be their best work, with Solid Gold right behind it.

Aside from being really tight, really rocking, really punk, and really funky these elder statemen of punk( sorry, I hate that phrase too...forget it ever happened.) were suprisingly hip, and energetic too. Vocalist John King prowled the stage like...uh, ran all over the place, did a lot of "hands in the air" disco contortions, did the crouching-froggy sideways leaping thing, and generally sang his ass off while often glaring over the upturned lights under each microphone. This dramatic lighting was among many of the effective elements forming the minimal aesthetic of the stage presentation that would go un-noticed if you didn't really pay attention. In an odd, couple of psychic moments Bob and I each got flashes of both Bauhaus, and Cheap Trick which surprises me in more ways than I can describe. And since they are so integral to the sound of the band I have to mention bass-player Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham. They were cool too...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Drawing with a dried-up Sharpie kinda sucks! Posted by Picasa

Zee moment of truth...

Who knew that the hardest part of the whole "seat-of-my-pants" recording project I've been yammering about would be deciding which mix to use?....And it's dri-ving me cray-zee! Matt sent me two final mixes to choose from, and in the simplest terms one of them is kind of rough, and the other is a bit overblown. I was ready to go with the latter until I played it for my friend Bob and he preferred the stripped-down version. I'm usually all for a less is more aesthetic when it comes to music and many other things but somehow this case is different. Maybe it's because I can't really look at the song objectively any more, who knows? I'm sure you've had the experience of being so close to a project that you can't get back far enough to look at it, well that's what I'm going through here. So what did I go and do? I sent both versions of the song to 5 friends and/or relatives to get their opinions. This accomplishes two things: I get to show off, or perhaps show how truly stupid I can be, as well as getting the feedback I need from a group whose opinons on music I respect.

It's going to be really interesting to see what kind of a response I get. Not only from the folks I've mentioned but from other friends, family, and fellow contributors to this project. I can't wait to see my parents faces when they hear this thing. My Dad listens to light alternative or something on the radio, while my Mother is into horrible young country, Celine Dion and other mind-rot. They won't really have a context to judge this in so it could go in any direction. Most likely they will smile, and nod with some sort of vaguely positive, obligatory response. I'm looking forward to hearing what my nephew has to say. Jonathan is a very cool fifteen year old with good taste in music. He's also an aspiring musician amongst many other talents.

The best thing is that I'm finally starting to feel like I'm using my creativity again. In addition to the music thing I've been slowly getting back into working on my more natural aptitude; drawing. I've been completing a two-page story I did most of a few years back for a comic my old friend Colin is putting together. Colin is an extremely talented artist and guitar-player, as well as being very influential to me in my youth, which I'm almost completely in favor of. It's like a Garagepunk forum dork-out month around here but I wanted to mention that the image above is what I drew today to label the excellent cd I recieved from rontokyo a few months back. Yeah, I'm kinda slow...