Monday, December 19, 2011

Occupy Los Angeles Update #7 - OWS

Red, White and Black by JLALA

"The illusion of freedom in America will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater."

-Frank Zappa

On December 17th members of Occupy Los Angeles gathered to protest the continuing imprisonment and torture of Bradley Manning, the Army soldier and whistle blower who is currently on trial for his actions. 

During the protest, Steven Releford was arrested by LAPD and reportedly beaten, jailed, and is currently being charged with a felony and held for an absurdly high bail. A short while ago I interviewed Mr. Releford at Occupy LA, so of course I'm worried about him.

Ruth Fowler, the independent journalist who has been extensively covering Occupy LA and Occupy WS so much her work was been mentioned on several major media outlets, including the major news organization, RT, has an article here about Mr. Releford's arrest.


I can't help but feel that there is a very real, very organized, very intentional silencing of the Occupy protests and 99% Movement that has been going on since they first started. 

The big media blackout, the corporate and militarized police force collusion that has operated to crack down on the protests, the beatings of journalists trying to cover the Occupy protests, etc., it's all going on because let's face it, everything Occupy represents scares the hell out of the corrupt people at the top that know the villagers are finally angry, and are storming the castle with pitchforks and torches blazing.

I'm not trying to be dramatic or instigate violent revolution. The Occupy movement is working. Lawmakers and politicians, either because they are scared of losing their jobs or because they are emboldened by the political enlightenment that has been illuminating the people of America, are going after the corrupt forces at work that truly deserve the long arm of the law.

All rhetoric, sturm and drang aside, here is my interview with Mr. Opamago Casciani, a Cornell law student and media representative for the Occupy movement. This interview was a few days before the crackdown on the Occupy L.A. camp.


Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me. What is your name?

My name is Odamago Casciani. I’m a law student at Cornell. I’m from New York. I’m actually part of Anonymous. I’m helping to coordinate things, here. I’ve been at Occupy Wall Street and in Zucotti Park, before I came here.

Is this a legal eviction?

No. This is the city of LA enforcing laws they weren’t enforcing, before.

Is there still a chance that Occupy L.A. can perform some sort of legal action to be allowed to stay here, or is that unnecessary because you already, legally have permission to be here?

Well, they have no responsibility to give us our rights. It’s up to us. But there are legal actions we could take. First thing I would do? An injunction. First, to hold off everything. Just stop moving. We’re not moving, they’re not moving. Just stop.


Once we have that injunction, we go before a judge. Then, a judge has to evict us, which a judge can do, or a judge can tell the city council to come up with a new resolution, which would redact the previous resolution.
Since a city council resolution allows us to stay here, that’s the law. That means that you can’t just decide that the grass is dying so we have to leave.

So the city claims that in order to maintain the park, the camp has to go? 

Yes. Their whole reason is that it’s unsanitary, first of all.

That seems to always be the reason.


Yeah, every single Occupy. They also claim that it’s because of public safety.


Did anyone provide evidence for this, or was it something they just decided to do?

I don’t know what’s being said during the meetings with the mayor behind closed doors, but I personally think it’s a political maneuver.

The mayor believes, since LA has been peaceful, if he can find a way to get us to leave peacefully it will look great for him politically, without violence or chaose, it will look good on him politically.


Why do the camps have to exist? Why should you stay here?


Well, my thing is…I was actually in the strategy room when they came up with the idea for tents. The tents would stand for freedom of speech. I think it’s good symbolism. If money is considered freedom of speech, so are tents. Because if corporations can say that money is freedom of speech, then why in the hell can I not say that my tent is freedom of speech?


So on that level, I believe that the tents and the Occupations themselves are signature to the movement, because without them we are just like every regular non-profit organization out there.

Do you feel that previous demonstrations have not been effective?

Do you mean, like previous demonstrations like the End the Fed March?


Like that, but also during the entire Bush Adminstration, when there were huge protests against the war in Iraq the media would just show the crowd for about thirty seconds and nothing would happen. It felt like that no matter how big a protect could get, it could just get ignored. 

Exactly. I go back to Ghandi. They won because of publicity. They were so controversial, the things they were doing at the time, that the media had a story.


A march, well, that’s people with signs, walking. But no one has ever seen tents outside City Hall. Now the media is all over it. We have caused people to look at us.

That’s why I believe tents are the signature of the whole Occupation. To get people aware. To get them to look and ask, “What are they talking about?” And then once people are asking those questions, they can look for the answers or come over here and find out about it.

Do you think Occupy has had an impact on politics in America?

I’m going to say this with a little salt, but I think that we could have had an impact if we were more organized. But I will say that we’ve had an impact because we’ve changed the perception of the public.


Because, before Occupy, we knew what the issues were. You were either scared of them, so you didn’t go in to deep, or you just didn’t care. Because of the Occupy movement we have forced people to really look at the issues. The mainstream media is actually looking at the issues.

Before Occupy, it was all about, “Bail outs, give the banks more money, why do the banks have so much money?” Now, they are talking about how the whole Federal Reserve is messed up. Henry Paulson…what was he doing? Timothy Geitner, what was he doing?


Before all this, nobody cared if anyone was even prosecuted. Now, the majority of us are calling for them to be prosecuted. So on think that on that level, we have affected the public paradigm.

Do you think that anything is actually going to happen tonight? What is next for Occupy? If this camp is shut down, how do we keep getting the message out?

I believe that, yes, for the camp, they are going to come in and do what they need to do. Although it is illegal, we could sue them for this, and I’m a law student saying this, but it’s a good thing. It’s going to force us to organize. It’s going to force us to come back.


Maybe it’s just my New York state of mind. When you knock us down in New York, we just get back up, and we’re stronger, because people see what’s being done to us and think, “What’s going on? Look what’s being done to those people. We don’t even know what they are fighting about, but let’s go joing them, because what’s being done to them is just wrong.”

That guy over there right now, speaking to the crowd, I don’t even know him. He’s just some guy who heard that they were going to shut us down, so he came out with a megaphone to give a speech. That just goes to show that being shut down is going to make us stronger.


So the next time, are things going to be more surgical? Because as much as I hope that nothing bad happens tonight, it seems like when anything bad happens, you guys get noticed, more. 

Because it proves the whole point. Our rights as a people have continuously been downplayed. We can be in a public park. This is called a “public” park. You’re telling me I can’t be at a public park?

People may not agree with the individual idealogies that are in the camp, but they’ll join us. Just the fact that they are doing what they are doing proves that we live in a police state. So if you can’t have camps anymore, what can you do to get the message out?


I believe that we can bring the same strategy we have up in New York here to LA, I think that’s what’s going to be born out of them coming in and shutting this camp down. I believe that a lot of the people that aren’t here for the movement will fizzle out.

We could shut down the Staples Center. I call it, “Causing constructive chaos. It’s chaos, for the city, but very constructive for the people.


Sure, we shut down that Bank of America the other day, but it doesn’t matter, because everything is happening electronically. You haven’t shut it down, because they are still conducting business.

But we could all enter a Bank of America, act like we were going to start an account, and then tell everyone working there real statistics about how they are screwing people, in front of all of the customers.


Right now, everyone here is peaceful. But we’re all very angry. President Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." We’re not at that stage, yet, but they don’t know that when they keep trying to shut us down, it’s only bringing more of us out.



Here's how you can help to bring real participating democracy back to the American government. Money, letters of support, showing up to protest...everything counts.

You can donate to Occupy Wall Street, here.

Here's a link to the Occupy Los Angeles website and forums.

You can find more images for Occupy Los Angeles, here. Here's their Facebook page

You can contact Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa about Occupy L.A. right here.

If you support the Occupy movement, let Governor Jerry Brown know about it by writing him a letter to thank him for the support.

Since most of the government stopped caring about the civil rights of Americans back in the late 90's, we're lucky we have groups like the National Lawyers Guild to defend the few we have left. You can support them here.

A letter to the LAPD in support of the demonstrations and a big donation to the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation will help the movement. Remember, cops are also the 99%.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lionize - Music



Nate Bergman is the guitarist and vocalist for Lionize, a band that plays music that’s hard to define but easy to enjoy. The group’s songs feature elements of stoner rock and hard metal, guided by a reggae/funk spirit that leads the listener into groovy realms previous groups have never tried to go to, challenging the listener’s preconceived notions.

This original sound is possible because of the band’s independence from the mainstream, which has served it well throughout its career. Left to its own compass, the band has journeyed far, touring the world with similarly exotic groups like Ozomatli and CKY, and playing and recording in Kingston, Jamaica, a locus of reggae culture. Lionize will be making a stop at the Fox Theater in Pomona this week supporting Streetlight Manifesto and Reel Big Fish.

Guitarist-vocalist Nate Bergman is having a good time on the tour. “It’s been great. We just got finished playing a show in New Orleans last night. That place is one of our favorite cities.” After the performance, the group enjoyed the town’s legendary night life.

“It was great to go out and enjoy the scene. It seems like the place has really started to come back from the hurricane.”


Not afraid of the eclectic, the band’s latest album is called Superczar and the Vulture. Bergman explains the title. “The name really stems from some lyrics in the record which deal with kind of a larger-than-life group of characters. It’s a fantasy, like pulp fiction.”

“At the time Henry [Upton], our bass player, wrote a lot of the lyrics and he was really into politicians like Vladimir Putin, and how wild foreign politics can be with these larger-than-life heads of states.”

While the title, Superczar and the Vulture, is wacky, Bergman assures me it’s only a title. “It’s just a fantasy piece, there’s no message behind it.”

Lionize recorded its latest album in a different manner than usual. First, the band composed the songs and spent months rehearsing before going into the studio to record the album. The polishing and perfecting paid off . . . the final creation has an organic energy technology can’t replace.

“It took about 10 days to record,” Bergman says. “We just got a bunch of takes of us playing. It’s very organic. It’s a great representation of our live show. If you see us play live and listen to our record, it’s the same. There’s no Auto-Tuning or digital enhancement.”

Lionize did a lot of homework to make sure the album is all-natural, something Bergman believes every musician should aspire to.

“I think artists really need to get away from everything being processed and compressed. You see a band play live and they don’t live up to their recording.”


Playing and recording in Jamaica will always be a very high point for Lionize.

“It was overwhelming in a positive way,” Bergman says. “Everything down there revolves around music and family. Everything we take advantage of up here, down there it’s all they have. It was such a positive experience.”

With so many angles to the band’s music, it doesn’t always fit in, but for Lionize being that original is the perfect fit. Bergman is certainly enjoying it all.

“I think we are always the odd band out. People will pick up on how we’re doing reggae and funk, but then we go on a ska tour and we seem very metal and rock. Wherever we go, we’re a sore thumb.”

Lionize with Streetlight Manifesto, Reel Big Fish and Rodeo Ruby Love at the Fox Theater, 301 S. Garey Ave., Pomona, (909) 784-3671; www.foxpomona.com; www.lionizemusic.com. Thurs, Dec. 22. 7PM. $22.75-$25.



Monday, December 12, 2011

Kottonmouth Kings - Music


It's difficult to describe how significant it felt to be able to interview Kottonmouth Kings for Culture magazine. I had been listening to the band since back when I first began writing for Skinnie Entertainment Magazine, and really enjoyed their music. 

The magazine's staff had a very high opinion of the band, and knew them not only as incredibly cool party monsters, but also as serious musicians who were about as independent as an artist could get without being Henry Darger

Back then the idea of interviewing a band as cool as Kottonmouth Kings would have felt daunting. I was still new to the game, and my first couple of interviews were lackluster.

When I interviewed Kottonmouth Kings they let me hear their new album, Sunrise Sessions, back to front in their studio before it was available to the general public. The entire band was there, and all of them were very genuine, friendly guys who were still very much dedicated to the scene, their fans, and their music.

It was a great day to talk to the guys, and I'm supposed to hang out with them again in the near future after they get back from their latest tour. They were cool, very real, funny people who saw their music as an art and a responsibility. I've talked to a lot of musicians who were nearly as positive, but they were the best.

By they way, I wasn't worried about meeting up with the Kottonmouth Kings, which was more than a year ago. After talking to more artists, politicians, personalities, comedians and actors than I can solidly recollect over the last decade, interviewing people is something I'm pretty fucking good at.
...
It’s a brand new day for the Kottonmouth Kings and Sunrise Sessions

No other independent hip-hop rock band has had a career as vast and victorious as Kottonmouth Kings. The first album, Royal Highness, won over listeners with aggressive songs about rocking the good life, but scared away the mainstream with street-real lyrics about cannabis and the smoking thereof.

Sunrise Sessions marks Kottonmouth Kings’ 18th studio album. The band sweated its brains out over this one, knowing that past, present and future fans are going to expect the very best the Kings can bring.

The band is amped over releasing its latest masterpiece. Far from being jaded rock stars, Kottonmouth Kings are more excited about Sunrise Sessions than many other brand-new groups who are cutting their very first record.

Not only is the band at the very top of their game, it is reveling in it, and the adrenaline high is infectious. Daddy X, D-Loc, Johnny Richter and Lou Dog met Culture in their Burbank studio to talk about the magic that makes their reign so glorious.


Let’s talk about your latest album, Sunrise Sessions. I like the title. It’s very positive.

Daddy X: The sunrise represents the beginning of a new day. We wanted to say that every day you have a chance to change your life. The sunrise represents new sounds and new ideas. 

Initially it was going to be an acoustic, organic record. But as we recorded more songs and everybody brought something original to the table, we looked up and had over 60 songs to choose from.

D-Loc: I don’t think people understand how many thousands of hours we put into this record.

Daddy X: The full-length album drops in July, and then later on in the year we are going to release an EP which will be a variation of Sunrise Sessions

Best Buy is going to have a special bonus disc, iTunes will have specially selected songs that will be released with them, so overall you can expect nearly 30 new songs floating around in July.

You experimented with a lot of new sounds on this album.

Daddy X: We used a lot of reggae, but that’s always been a big part of our sound. You’ll notice a lot of bluegrass influence, especially with the use of the slide guitar. I always liked dubstep, especially the sonic influence of dubstep. The bass lines really worked well with the Kottonmouth Kings and the way we create our music.

Johnny Richter: For me it was a chance to really get into a style of music I had never messed with before. Once I got a hold of some dubstep, I couldn’t wait to put some of it in the album. I’d get to the studio and say, “Yo, this shit is crazy, you gotta hear this.” It’s what we love to do and the beats are as bangin‘ as hell.

Daddy X: The bluegrass influence is what you are going to hear in the slide guitar, the B3 organs and the other acoustic sounds on the album.

D-Loc: You never know how fans are going to react, though. You work as hard as you can on a record and then you just have to let it go. Of course, by the time we release Sunrise Sessions, we’ll already be working on our next album.

Considering your past success, is the pressure on to outdo your previous accomplishments?

Johnny Richter: We don’t really think about trying to beat something we’ve done before. We just want to do the work and make a damn good album.

Daddy X: Because we are an independent operation, the real pressure comes with meeting deadlines and staying within our budget. We’re not like other bands that can just blow $5 million on advertising. We have to make every dollar count.

Has it always been a big challenge for your band to stay independent?

Johnny Richter: It forced us to show a lot of ingenuity, to make use of the Internet and to go out and really meet people. Artists who work for big labels don’t know how to get out there and grind like we do. But now with so many independent artists and so much music on the Internet, you really have to do something that lets you stand out from the rest.

D-Loc: Fans really want to know you. People are more a part of your life when you are an artist. There’s a constant communication going on, with all of us posting and Tweeting. You don’t make a song and release it in six months. 

Now, people are making music and it goes up online that day. Instant gratification, instant communication—that’s what we did back in the day. So, we’ve been embracing the new ways of doing it, but at the same time we try to stay on the edge no matter how we can.

Daddy X: Independent labels are suffering right now, too. Sure, some big artists like Lady Gaga can have multimillion dollar record deals and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on recording an album, but for the rest of us that’s all gone.

Let’s talk about Stonetown.

D-Loc: It’s a Disneyland for stoners. It’s a website that our fans can explore, and it’s based on the album art from Sunrise Sessions. We have a lot of different areas based on getting high and everything associated with it, the munchies, etc.

Daddy X: There are different characters that pop up and we have free things like, “The Nug of the Week.” It can be a free song, a new release, something you can download—whatever we can think of—but it’s to keep people coming back to the website to find something new. 

We know that it’s a tough economy and a lot of people are broke, so we try to put in something extra as a present to our fans.

D-Loc: The characters are like Pluto, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and all that, but instead we have the Bong Guy, the 420 Clock Guy, a talking joint—just silly stuff to make people laugh.

Daddy X: We always try to come up with a new way for our fans to reach us. We already had a website but it was time to go outside the box. We wanted the site to have new information, to be fun, but also tie into our plans for the future. 

Even if you are just coming to the site to see a new video, instead of watching it on YouTube there’s a whole presentation with curtains and popcorn and all sorts of animation. But our thought behind Stonetown is that it’s never going to end. We are going to keep changing it and adding to it to keep people interested.


Are you going to keep developing Stonetown with every new album?

Daddy X: We have a big discography, so when you go to the site you’ll be able to explore every phase of the band as a new section. When you click on an album, all of the images and pictures from that album will pop up. It’s a good way for new fans to learn about the history of the band and to explore our different time periods.

Since the very beginning, Kottonmouth Kings have been huge supporters for the cause of cannabis. Now that so much time has passed and so much has happened, what do you guys think about the issue, now?

Daddy X: Well, I would love to see nature’s laws prevail. Let the plant grow. I really just want to see marijuana just decriminalized.

D-Loc: I think we’ve come a long way, but the prohibition has got to end. It’s just common sense. It’s 2011 now, and people want it.

Lou Dog: I want to see more people freed. There are so many people in prison who don’t need to be there.

Johnny Richter: With the vote in California it just got so close to actually being legalized. We’re lucky, though, because it seems like there’s finally going to be a changing of the guard. There’s a younger generation of voters now. It’s going to take a few more decades, but once the good old boy network goes away we will have real change. I think the new generation of voters is much more independent, and they want to make their own decisions.

D-Loc: It’s not like before, though. I think new voters want to have the choice. When we started this band, there was no such thing as legal weed. There was no such thing as a dispensary. There was no Proposition 215, it was just 420 and that was it. Now there [are] more weed shops than Starbucks in L.A.

Daddy X: I have a medical marijuana card, but it’s just insurance. We all smoke for a lot of reasons, from pain to insomnia.

Johnny Richter: Weed has so many medical benefits. You always see commercials for new drugs that have horrible side effects, and you never hear about how cannabis can replace so many of them. Part of the reason weed is illegal is because of the pharmaceutical companies. That’s the biggest racket.

D-Loc: I personally feel that weed helps me more spiritually than physically, though.

Daddy X: Because of the Internet people can look up a lot more information now.

Johnny Richter: It’s a great thing that there is so much information out there and people can hear the truth instead of listening to a lot of government propaganda. It’s so weird that it’s so long after the ’60s and ’70s and it’s still illegal. I can’t believe cannabis still has that stigma attached to it.

Do you think that because of the Internet at least now the average person has a much better chance of making an honest decision about smoking cannabis?

D-Loc: I think that what’s important is that no matter what, a week from now, a hundred years from now, no matter where, people should have the freedom to make that choice, and we don’t have that right now.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Steampunk, Chap-hop and Professor Elemental - Music



Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction characterized by a lot of different elements, depending on what you're looking at. 

With Robocop, it's ultraviolence, a future dripping with dystopia, urban sprawls with hordes of oppressed poor dominated by inhumanely rich CEO's, rabid consumerism and the harsh effects of technology on humanity's soul.

In the film Blade Runner, it's the bleeding edge between humanity and science against the dark vista of an acid rain-drenched megacity where technology is oppressive and humanity's future is as grim as it is gruesome. 

Cyberpunk also conjures the image of a swaggering, gun-wielding, kung-fu capable ultrastylish superhero who rules the sprawl like a cybernetic ronin. Eyes glowing with digital targeters, his metal fist holds a monokatana that serves the highest bidder, but usually it's to fight the Man in the name of The Street.


So what if that guy rapped about his life?

The primary authors of cyberpunk, including Roger Zelazny, Michael Moorcock, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, all work with cyberpunk in their own ways. Above all they displayed the effects of future shock on the culture of human civilization, future or present.


Steampunk is also about the interstitial subspace between humanity and technology, but in steampunk, technology is anachronistic, zany, and just plain works. My robot runs on steam. My time machine is propelled by ether. My pistol fires glass bullets, infused with small charges of life-killing electricity.

With steampunk, the science is more fantasy than fiction, but the end result is still the same. Human culture and civilization is affected. If a person invented a working steam computer based on the original design by Charles Babbage, what would happen to Victorian England? More importantly, what would happen to the way people live their lives?

Hip-hop is all about language. The musicians who work in the genre work with rhymes, metaphors, allegories and everything in the environment around them to create modern poetry containing euphemisms that has given us words and expressions even the most square members of the mainstream eventually wield: gat, bust a cap in yo' ass, ho, word, fo shizzle, the po-po, etc. 


Referencing the culture and language of the era, chap-hop is rap from a whole new angle. Imagine a dis song composed by Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea about the land dwellers that he hated so much, or if Sherlock Holmes composed a rhyme about his weekend.

With the language of the Victorian Era, and the fact that you suddenly can't rap about 40 oz. bottles of booze or 9mm pistols or crack, the familiar becomes exotic and hip-hop is changed for the awesome. Chap-hop is hip-hop, old-skool British-style, but with an emphasis on the most extreme upper-middle class caricatures you think of when you imagine posh English gentleman rhyming about scones, tea time or cricket. 


Paul Alborough is Professor Elemental, a time-traveling British scientist who raps about his adventures using language you probably won't get the first time around. A lot of suburban white kids didn't understand everything N.W.A. was talking about, but the music rocked just the same.

Professor Elemental's brilliant single, "Fighting Trousers," is an Internet sensation with good reason. Aside from being a kick-ass song about getting ready to kick some ass (like a gentleman, of course) it's also a serious tune that eschews electric guitar, synthetic keyboards or modern samples for oboes, violins and brass instruments.

You can find Professor Elemental's album, The Indifference Engine, here

Professor Elemental

How long have you been performing music?


I have been emceeing about ten years, but only the last five in my current guise. There’s a very small market out there for a white, middle-class, happy UK rapper- but a rather more exciting one when you are a Steampunk mad professor with a monkey butler and fondness for sticking different wild animals together.

Where did chap-hop come from? Did you come up with it, or was it developed by another artist?

I have no idea where it came from. It just sort of arrived on hip-hop’s doorstep one day, like an eccentric uncle who says he is just popping round for tea, but ends up moving into the attic.

How did you come up with the concept for Professor Elemental?

Mushrooms. A documentary on Vivian Stanshall. Tom Caruana’s inspirational music. A night spent up a tree. The details are sketchy, but all of those ingredients were definitely involved.


In the video for "Fighting Trousers," it's amazing how you incorporate all of the factors you usually find in a dis song, but translate it all to a time period that comes across as visually striking because of it's authentic language, costumes and instrumentals. Where did you get the idea for such a cool music video?

I have to say, the concept of the video comes entirely from Moog, the director of both that and ‘cup of brown joy’. Everything you see in that video was his idea. The man is a genius, A GENIUS I tell you! He can be found at www.peculiana.com.

What other chap-hop artists are worth mentioning?

Are there any others? I think it’s just me. That isn’t arrogance. I just don’t think there are any more out there, apart from that fellow with the Ukeleyle and the moustache of course.

Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer

We have a whole genre, all to ourselves.

I've noticed that in a lot of your songs, from "Splendid" to "Fighting Trousers," you make use of a lot of truly authentic British argot. What time period do you borrow your wordplay from?

Hang on, let me just go and look up what ‘argot’ means. Ah yes, ‘the special language used by a particular group of people’, I rather like that. I shall use argot more often now. ‘Argot’, the more you say it, the better it sounds.

Anyway. What were we talking about? Ah yes. Erm, well, I do have a fondness for old expressions that need a good airing. Things like ‘codswallop’ and ’fiddle sitcks’ are ripe to be brought back into circulation- but generally the language I use on the tracks is the same that I use in every day conversation. Particularly when I am excited.

When you are incorporating the old-skool British slang into your songs, does the specific style of the language inspire you, or can putting it all together be a challenge, especially when you are dealing with some words and expressions that, let's face it, are not often used in modern English?

Ooh no, not a challenge, quite the opposite. The key to a good, memorable rhyme is using words and phrases that aren’t over used. That’s why an emcee like MF DOOM is so great, he has a superb voice and puts together phrases that you don’t associate with each other. One of the things that I teach on my rap workshops is to never use the first rhyme word that comes into your head. And that’s much easier if you are already using a quite distinctive voice or unusual slang.


I've noticed that the instrumentals in your music also seem authentic to the period. Is that the case? Was that intentional?


Again, I can’t take any credit at all for the music- that’s all the work of Producer Tom Caruana. His beats are incredible, both in the range and the originality of the stuff that he puts out. There’s no one quite like him. Amazingly, he puts out lots of free projects too, you can find them at www.teasearecords.net.

Have you been approached by any directors or producers about starring in a Professor Elemental film or cable television series? The concept really is cool, and shows like Doctor Who and the recent Sherlock Holmes films have certainly proved to be popular.


Funny you should mention it, we are just working on a pilot now. The script is being written and we are aiming for shooting early next year… watch this space, or at least www.professorelemental.com for more details.

What's next for Professor Elemental?


Everything and anything. I have quit my day job so to concentrate on this full time- so next year I am touring the world (well, some of the nice bits of it anyway) and getting a brand new album out for the Summer. We are also working on a comic.. Which is a dream come true. My ambition is to be at least 50% fictional before the end of 2012.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dave Ross and Holy Fuck, Part II - Comedy


This is part II of an interview with stand-up comic Dave Ross, who's the host of Holy Fuck, a free comedy show you can find at the Downtown Independent theater. You can read part I of the interview right here.

Aside from Facebook, your show has also gotten popular because of standard-issue, O.G. word-of-mouth communication. Is that easier, now that so many people know about it and you don’t have to promote the show as much as when you first started?

It’s really nice. The two-year anniversay was so big. We had Maria Bamford, Nick Kroll, Jesse Case, Cornell Reid and the show was hosted by Jeff Waughner. People were telling me, “Wow, that lineup is insane, I can’t wait to see it!”

Having Jesse Case there was amazing. He’s one of my best friends. He’s been at it for five years. He’s done Last Comic Standing, and he's also a road comic.

Jesse Case

Maria and Nick and the rest have some heat behind them, too, and during the show all of them just murdered in front of an audience of nearly three hundred people.

For Holy Fuck’s second anniversary there were people standing on the side on the hallway and there were people sitting Indian-style on the ground. It was way more than I could ask for.

What was that show like, compared to your very first one?

Fifty people came out the first night. I was lucky to get that. It’s just hard to get people to go to any show in L.A. I was lucky because I had just started comedy, and although I was going up every night I wasn’t so obsessed with working at the time that I wasn’t hanging out with my friends.

I’ve interviewed a lot of professional comics, and they always mention how lonely it can get because of the work schedule.

That’s how it is. You get obsessed with working all the time and then your friends stop showing up to see you. I had lived in California for ten years, and back then my friends all came out to support my show.

I was really worried about the first Holy Fuck. I didn’t want to take the show to the Downtown Independent theater at first because it has 220 seats. I felt that any crowd would feel tiny, but about 60 people showed up on the first night. That really helped get the ball rolling.

Offering a free stand up comedy show while the recession is still raging is a very cool thing to do.

I’m escastic we could help with that. There are a wealth of great comedy shows in this town. There is another show downtown called Hand Clown. They are celebrating their one-year anniversary, and it’s on the last Thursday of every month.

Jake Weisman hosts a show at the Park Restauraunt every other Monday. Maria Bamford goes up there every show, too. Weisman also runs a story-telling comedy show with me called Two-Headed Beast.


Barbara Gray puts on another show called Space Boners that’s free. She also runs a show called One-Two Punch that’s totally free. Mark Maron has peformed there, along with some other huge names.

There are a lot of great free shows in this town. Comedy has to be the cheapest type of entertainment. You could name any day of the week, and I could tell you where to go to see comedy and get drunk for $10.

There are just so many shows. We all just want stage time. For every show that costs money, there are three or four free shows that you can see for free, and they are all amazing.

Have there ever been some bad shows that just didn’t work out?

At one show there were twenty people, and that felt like no one was there. That was the seventh or eighth show that Mark Maron came to. It was raining, and I just felt so horrible because I look up to him immensely. I just felt like I had shit on one of my idols. Cut to a week later, we had a sold-out crowd.

Mark Maron

There have been tough nights. The one thing about running a free show where you can’t pay the comics is that when you are booking big names, if they get a gig that pays them money, I can’t get upset if they have to drop out. On some days they’ve dropped out and I have to tell the audience at the last moment.

What’s amazing is that pretty much every single time the audience just stays, and the lineups are always good. There’s always a few stragglers who get up and leave, but most of the time they stay.

Didn’t you have the show on the roof, once?

That was a really tough night which turned out to be our best show. I ran the show twice a month up until July of 2011 I started running the show with two co-producers, Jessica Ruiz and Jeff Swatthoffer, which allowed me to put on the show once a week.

Because it was going weekly we were concerned. We had been getting good crowds, but we were afraid that putting on the show that much would thin out the crowds. We focused on making sure the first six shows were huge.

So one night the show is at 9 pm and I get a call at 7 pm from the house manager at the theater. She tells me there was a calendar mishap. There was an event going on at the theater that was booked months ago from 7 pm to 11 pm, and they had paid a bunch of money.


We had promoted the hell out of the show, too. So I got to the theater and tried to talk to the guy, but he was not helpful. He had paid money and I hadn’t so he was on his high horse about it. Abbey Londer was going to be on that night, too. The woman who manages the building suggested that we throw the show on the roof, but we had no chairs.

So all of us thought it over, and at 8 pm we finally decided to throw it on the roof. Before I even started to try it all just figured itself out. The audience started showing up and helping us out. We got some folding chairs from a place down the street, and then we went into the gym next door and got a construction light for a $30 deposit.

A couple of other people set up the stage and the sound. Two hundred people came out and watched the show on the roof. I’ve never seen a crowd of people so positive…so into it. They were totally on board. We were under the night sky and every comic killed that night. We had a blast, that and it felt like a community. Everyone pitched in. It was just like making lemons into lemonade.

We’ll never do it again, though. There was just too much stress.

I know that you are very busy performing on the road right now, so thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add before you go?

I’ve already said it, there are so many cheap or free shows… the comedy scene out here is huge. All you have to do is show up. Holy Fuck is quite literally the most satisfying thing I’ve ever been a part of. If you are looking for entertainment and great people to hang out with, go to any comedy show.

Meltdown Comics

My favorite show right now is Meldown, at Meltdown Comics. Pretty much everything that happens there is amazing.

If you send me a message on Facebook, I’ll tell you where I’m going that night. There’s so much and it’s so diverse. No one should ever think they can’t afford to go out for comedy.

Holy Fuck, 9 pm every Tuesday at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Ozomatli - Music



Ozomatli’s multicultural message crosses all boundaries

Ozomatli is a band native to Los Angeles, and the music they make is the sound and soul of the city: reggae, funk, jazz, salsa, hip-hop, rock, cumbia and the blues. The group’s musical everything-but-the-kitchen-sink arsenal is impressive: guitars, saxophone, bass, tabla, cajon, a trumpet and a marimbula. Established in 1995, Ozomatli continues to travel the world, delivering a message of activism, unity and celebration.

The group became widely known for being outspoken about social justice and progressive politics. Ozomatli performed at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in front of thousands of protesters.

They went on to release their sophomore record (Embrace the Chaos) on Sept. 11, 2001 and toured shortly after when most bands cancelled or postponed show dates. Over the years Ozomatli has gained widespread recognition for its political and diverse music stylings, winning three Grammy Awards along the way.

CityBeat recently spoke with percussionist for the band, Jiro Yamaguchi. Ozomatli recently performed its family-friendly “Ozokids” show last month at The Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana. A children’s album is in the works for release later this year.

What inspired the band’s name?

Originally, we had another name. We weren’t feeling that name, so our original drummer Anton suggested “Ozomatli.” It was actually his birth sign. When we researched the name, we loved what it meant. Ozomatli is the god of dance and music. He’s also a trickster, so it was a perfect fit.

Does the band’s strong political messages ever lead to difficulties?

Right after 9/11 we got into a little trouble because we were against the hate. People asked us why we were touring a few weeks after 9/11 when we played in New York City, but we had so many New Yorkers thanks us for coming out and performing. A lot of hate mail was sent to the New York Post because we were against the war. As time went on, more Americans feel how we felt back then, so it’s different now.

What was it like playing for President Obama?

It was cool. There was a lot of security and Secret Service people, but when we met him, he was down to Earth, very cool. Under the Bush administration, we were asked to be cultural ambassadors to other countries. It was a hard decision to make, but we decided it was better to go out in the world and mingle with people and represent the U.S. and ourselves in a good light.


From what I understand, your band has performed for people all across the globe, including China, South America and Mongolia. What was that like?

We were able to help break down stereotypes on both sides and meet some people all around the world, including Palestine, China, Myanmar . . . We spoke to people who lived in the ghettos of Argentina and New Delhi. No matter where you go, though, people are people wherever you go. That’s a universal theme.

We’ve met musicians all over, and I’ve been inspired by all of the people we’ve met around the world. It doesn’t matter where they come from, I’ve noticed that all children respond the same way to our music, no matter where they come from.

What was the inspiration for a children's album?


We’re recording the album right now. We’ve already done some “Ozokids” tours in San Francisco and Los Angeles. We toured in San Francisco [and] we had a lot of parents thank us for having a show they could bring their shows to, which was encouraging.

Children have always been a big part of our audience. We’ve played for kids all around the world, but now we intend to write lyrics for children with this album. Our music is very interactive. We include the audience in our performance. Our approach is that everyone is part of the experience. The audience is part of the show.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dave Ross and Holy Fuck, Part I - Comedy


Dave Ross is a hardworking comedian in a city where the stand-up comics that don’t keep going just go nowhere. To Hollywood, it’s a gold mine of comedic talent to choose from, and the talent that makes it can make it can make it big…but until then for the performer who just wants a stage to play on it can feel like they are just another shiny rock in a big, dark hole.

Ross spends most of his waking life touring around L.A. and across the country as a professional comic. In addition to all that, he hosts and organizes Holy Fuck at the Downtown Independent theater, a show that draws some of the hottest names in comedy without charging a dollar at the door. 


Usually, if you want to play in L.A. you have to pay in L.A., but for fans of real stand-up comedy, there are hidden hideouts where you can find free entertainment. 

While that’s enough good news to get any unemployed, underemployed or underpaid adventurer out of their apartment, Holy Fuck actually has free parking on the street if you get there early enough, in addition to not charging you at the door to get in since there’s a concession stand inside where the house makes all it’s money.

Every night at Holy Fuck is like waking up in the morning and finding your stockings stuffed by mysterious goodies from Santa Claus. A veteran of the scene, Ross knows good comics and great ones, so for the price of a bottle of Corona Extra you can see A-list comedians like Matt Braugner, Aziz Ansari, Dimitre Martin and Nick Kroll, to name just a few.

Ross was able to take time from a work schedule that would kill a decent-sized bear to talk about surviving in the business, performing on the top of a roof under the open sky, and how he has been able to keep the faith for the last two years with Holy Fuck.

How long have you been organizing Holy Fuck?

The two year anniversary was on Tuesday, November 17th. The first show was in 2009.

How did you get the idea for Holy Fuck?

It has always been a work in progress. When first I started I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to help my friends perform. I was doing a lot of open mics at the time, and I met a few people who had an art gallery in downtown L.A. and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights they’d put on shows and illegally sell booze. 

It made you feel cool…you’d get an email with an invite and a password. You’d pay the cover, walk inside and there’d be bands playing and everything when you got in. It was just regular folks hanging out all night long. 

The Downtown Independent theater

But they ended up getting busted. When that happened they couldn’t do it anymore, but they still had the lease to the place. At first we were going to put the show on there, but then they lost their lease. I met the owners of the Downtown Independent theater at the last moment. They wanted me to put on a show with new comics and they asked me to run it. It was a chance to help my buddies who were looking for stage time, so I told them I’d do it.

What was the first show like?

The headliner was Matt Braunger. I really loved the guy as a comic and as a person. I was so new at comedy at the time and I couldn’t believe I was talking to the guy.

It was supposed to be, “Holy Fuck BYOB Comedy  At the Downtown Independent” but I changed the name. They were just going to make money charging for beer, and I wanted to make the show cheap. The stage time was enough for me. 

Aside from Matt Braunger, what are some of the other big names who have shown up at  Holy Fuck?

Aziz Ansari did the third show. It was nuts. He was just getting big at the time. A month later his album came out, and it was on every fucking billboard in the city. There have been so many other comics, like Louis C.K., Margaret Cho, Todd Glass, Ron Lynch…Louis C.K. was such a big name to have.

Damn, that’s cool. I’ve noticed that that there’s a whole community based on Holy Fuck because of you. Isn't that a lot of work to put together?

There’s so much to it. I get to help my friends get stage time, I get to put on a free show...I mostly just like entertaining people. Like I said, we’re all broke, and there are so many things that cost too much, and the ability to help everyone be in a room for a whole night for nothing and we’re all just laughing and getting drunk is worth the work.

Considering how popular the show is getting, have you thought of ever charging people to get in?

People tell me all the time that I should start charing. I don’t want people to think the show has no value even though we don’t get paid for performing. But I don’t want to be a producer. I want to get paid for my stand up and for performing. My goal isn’t to be a comedy producer. 

You’d rather be a professional performer instead of being a big producer?

That is what we are all going for. Getting good stage time is impossible in L.A. There are so many comedians out here. We are all trying to get better out here and the travel comics still want to practice their new jokes, so for them L.A. is a gym. For the rest of us, it’s also a gym, but the battle for us is actually getting good stage time before you can get paid for stage time at the big clubs.


Holy Fuck, 9 pm every Tuesday at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Paperplanes - Music


Paperplanes Continue to Fly With Country Rock for Everyone

Paperplanes creates hard-working rock that speaks of love, pain, the good times and the bad. The band’s music roars across southern landscapes like steam trains in a storm. They’re best heard loud and seen live someplace at night where the beer flows.

Micah Panzich plays guitar and sings for the band. I ask him how he would describe his music to someone who had never heard it before. “Our sound is like country and rock and roll. I try to describe it as early Rolling Stones with a country twang.”

Pete Tavera also sings vocals and plays guitar. His opinion is parallel with Panzich’s. “We’re primarily play rock with some country. We have songs that are more or less straight country, straight rock, or a mixture of both.”

Jon Husak sings and plays drums. Like many artists I know, being asked what box the music he makes should be placed in only prompts him to remark that his band isn’t merely just a list of descriptors.

“The music we play is not definable. We’re not rock-a-billy. But it’s not like we only play a certain type of music. We’re not going to say we don’t play pop or rock. We generally make the kind of music we’d want to hear.”


Panzich reminds me, though, that all labels aside they just really enjoy playing. “It’s great to play any type of music. Tex-mex, blues, bluegrass, etc.” When I ask them if they get a big response playing in the southern United States, he says, “Yes!”

“We had a great time the last time we were in the south.” Panzich says. “They just have a better understanding of the country side of our music.”

Husak adds, “There’s more of a familiarity with country rock over there. It’s a lot of fun for us. They’re very passionate. They just don’t look jaded.”

Their last album, Rhinestone Republic, got big reviews from all the magazines that know great music. With such an accomplishment in their rearview mirror, looking forward to their next album doesn’t seem to difficult for them. What’s the secret?

To Panzich, it’s knowing what you want listeners to hear. “You just have to be honest about your writing. Write with conviction and write the song that you feel. We’re too old to worry about impressing people, so we just work on making great records.”

“We started recording our new album in August of last year, but we had to get a new studio.” Tavera says. ”It has lot more rock. It’s a lot heavier. It sounds more ‘live’ and It’s a lot more raw.”


The band always aims for better sound quality while recording. The hardest part is capturing a sound that’s so much better live. Creating an album representative of what countless live performances has given the band can be difficult, given their limited budget.

“We’ve had a lot of recording lessons. Fine tuning the performance to fit the recording is what we’ve certainly improved on.” Panzich says. Tavera adds, “We’ve played a lot more, we’ve had a lot more experience.”

“We travel a little in our personal life and as a band, so of course that experience is going to go into the songs. We play a lot tighter. We have a lot confidence in our performance.”

For Husak, there’s a moment when their magic is ready, whether it’s for the studio or a live performance. “When we can rehearse a song over and over again and get to the point where we’re laughing and having a good time, we know we are doing it right.”

video

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Potluck - Music



Potluck Brings Something Tasty to the Party with Rhymes & Resin

1 Ton and UnderRated are Potluck, an independent underground rap group operating straight out of Humboldt County, California. June 21st, 2011 marks the release date for their latest album, Rhymes & Resin. This album features imaginative beats, countless collaborations and ice-cool lyrics about the delights of cannabis, the reality of hard times and life in the Emerald Triangle.

Potluck has always been an independent band. You even have your own private studio. How has this affected your music?

1 Ton: Being on Independent Noise is great because they really give us a lot of support. If we were on a major label they would just pick the songs they wanted us to play and we’d have to do what they wanted.  Instead we are lucky enough to have a record label that lets us do what we want. For instance, they’ll give us a big budget for a video and not even know what song we want to do.

UnderRated: We have a hand in everything that happens. Last night we were up working until 4 am getting our album ready for the Internet. You have to make sure you are on top of everything, the way we do it, but that’s why we’re so original.


Let’s talk about Rhymes & Resin. What went into it and what didn’t?

UnderRated: This CD we wanted to work with different people we had never worked with. We worked with Tech N9ne, Murs, Mistah FAB, King Gordy, Glasses Malone, and a whole lot of others. We got so many other artists because we wanted this album to go into new directions with new perspectives.

1 Ton: At the same time UnderRated and I went over every song and made it 100% ours. That means making the beats hit harder and seeing that the album goes to the next level.

How do you honestly feel about the issue of cannabis legalization?

UnderRated: Out here, we don’t want it to be legal. I mean, we don’t grow it but we have friends who do. Up here we don’t have any idea what will happen if it becomes legal, so we get nervous about legalizing it.

1 Ton: My thoughts are, money rules the world. I just find that every decision in life, governments, whatever...it all comes down to money. I know that enough rich people are just going to realize they can make a lot of money and so weed is going to get legalized. But in our hometown it’s such a part of the local economy, and their biggest fear is that everything they worked for will be gone, and governments and corporations will take over.

Is cannabis such a big part of Potluck because you are both from Humboldt County?

UnderRated: I would assume that’s the reason. It’s been in our family, all around us. The type of music is based on what we see. If we grew up in Compton or New York there’d be a different vibe.

1 Ton: We are what we are. If you try to be something you are not people know that. If you are real, if you know who you are, you have endless material. We come from Humboldt so that’s reflected in our music.