Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sia Furler: We Are Born

For her forthcoming release, We Are Born, the darling of downtempo, Sia Furler, hits a distinctly upbeat groove. Indeed, the six tracks we've heard so far are decidedly funky. Just don't, whatever you do, use the F-word in the singer/songwriter's presence - it's very likely to irk her.

Having come to the attention of the KCRW-listening, latte-sipping music intelligentsia thanks to her turns with English post-trip-hop outfit Zero 7, for a while Sia was inadvertently defined by what was initially intended as a very limited, no-strings-attached guest spot with the lush lounge combo. Thanks to the success of Zero 7's debut album Simple Things (2001), and their follow up release, When It Falls (2004), and the numerous international tours that followed, Sia's personal brand became synonymous with the downtempo pigeonhole Zero 7 prominently occupied.

Seeking to capitalize on Sia's credentials in the 90 bpm & under department, record label execs understandably pressurized her to continue in a similar vein with her solo work, despite a personal preference for something a little less languid. It was therefore no surprise when Sia's evocative track "Breathe Me," became her first breakout solo song, thanks to its prominent use at the end of the final episode of Six Feet Under. Indeed the inspired TV license earned Colour The Small One, the album on which the song was originally featured, a long overdue release in the US in 2006 (the CD was released in the UK 2 years earlier). And while her next solo album, Some People Have Real Problems, helped bridge the gap between the music Sia was expected to make and the music she wanted to make, it's her latest offering, We Are Born, that has finally allowed the Australian born (but currently New York based) artist to come into her own.

I caught up with Sia by phone to find out how she got her groove back, and to get the 411 on her aversion to the F-word.

Read my exclusive interview with Sia Furler at

Friday, March 19, 2010

Floria Sigismondi: The Runaways

Floria Sigismondi is the director of one of the most anticipated rock biopics in recent memory: The Runaways, which stars Kristen Stewart (as vocalist/guitarist Joan Jett) and Dakota Fanning (as frontwoman Cherie Currie). Known for her trademark hyper-surreal style (as seen in the music videos she’s directed for Marilyn Manson, Fiona Apple, David Bowie, Christina Aguilera, and The White Stripes), the challenge for Floria with The Runaways was to create an authentic representation of the trailblazing all-girl band and the era they exploded (and imploded) in. Though a seasoned photographer and video director, this is the first time Floria has helmed a feature film project. It’s also the first time she’s worked as a writer, having taken on the formidable task of transforming Cherie’s excellent biography, Neon Angel, a definitive account of the life (and death) of the band into a screenplay.

During a press day held at a Los Angeles hotel, I sat down with Floria to find out how she set about capturing the essence of The Runaways on film.

Read my interview with Floria Sigismondi on

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cherie Currie: The Runaways

You can't always control the situations you find yourself in, but you can control how you react to them. This is a lesson that Runaways frontwoman, singer and rock & roll icon Cherie Currie learned the hard way.

After a chance meeting with vocalist/guitarist Joan Jett and demented pop n' rock Svengali Kim Fowley (a producer whose credits at the time included the novelty hit "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa"), Currie found herself at the eye of the storm that was The Runaways at age fifteen. The year was 1975, and the male-dominated industry was keen to dismiss the fledgling Los Angeles-based all-girl quintet (which, during Currie's tenure with the group, featured Lita Ford on lead guitar, Jackie Fox on bass, and the late Sandy West on drums).

Under the guidance (or, it could be argued, misguidance) of Fowley, who was a formidable taskmaster, the girls relentlessly rehearsed until they were a beyond tight unit and a force to be reckoned with. Creatively and musically, Fowley's berating and bullying - his primary motivational tactics - paid off. Over the course of the next two very hectic years The Runaways would leave an indelible mark on the music industry, smashing the misconceptions of those who ever doubted that women could rock.

Though Jett thrived on the challenges laid down by Fowley, his abrasive divide and conquer management style took an emotional toll on the more vulnerable Currie, who had never sung before and was the product of a recently very broken home. Ultimately the band was torn apart by the festering resentment fostered by Fowley; the tragedy of The Runaways' considerable legacy being that they stopped far short of their true potential.

Post-Runaways Currie's career was like a leaf blowing in the wind, succumbing to forces beyond her influence. Fowley shaped her first unfulfilling solo album, and pressure exacted by her father turned the second into an ill-fated family affair, with Currie's unseasoned twin sister Marie sharing vocal duties - and creative input.

While recording this second album, Currie also bagged her first acting role, starring opposite Jodie Foster in a film called Foxes. Though not a huge commercial success, Foxes, Foster - and Currie - received very favorable reviews. However accomplishment in this one area was not enough to save Currie from herself. Mourning the loss of her rock & roll dreams, Currie, who had been a casual cocaine user, sought solace in drink and highs from freebase.

Her addiction killed her career and threatened to do the same to her being. After hitting rock bottom, Currie fought to get her life back on track. Having learned how to make healthier choices on her road to recovery, Currie turned addiction on its head and became a drug counselor. Continuing the healing process, she subsequently wrote a book about her experiences with The Runaways, and her journey to the edge and back. Published in 1989, Neon Angel was considered to be an instant classic in the rock biography genre.

Over two decades later, the book serves as the backbone to the highly anticipated biopic about The Runaways, which stars Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie. However the film is far from the final word on Currie's story. The original version of Neon Angel was published by a family-orientated company looking for a vehicle to launch a new young adult literary division. Though well received, the nature of the teen orientated book meant Currie had to skip several key chapters in her own story. As a companion to The Runaways film Currie is therefore releasing a more definitive, completely revised and re-written version of Neon Angel. In it, among other things, she talks for the first time about a childhood rape and a harrowing knifepoint kidnap ordeal that happened several years later.

Currie has taken on many roles during her dramatic and varied life - trailblazing woman of rock, actress, drug addict, drug counselor, author, chainsaw artist, wife and mother - but perhaps the most important of all is that of survivor. I caught up with Currie at a recent film junket for a one-on-one chat about The Runaways, redemption, and forgiveness.

Read the exclusive interview with Cherie Currie at

Saturday, March 13, 2010

SuicideGirls Must Die Premiere

SuicideGirls premiered their groundbreaking reality horror movie last night at the Downtown Independent, in DTLA. Those who came out to witness the sexy fun/terror of Suicide Girls Must Die included members of the cast and crew, alongside We Live In Public director Ondi Timoner and Jeremy “Wizard of Gore” Kasten.

Suicide Girls Must Die is unabashedly documentary in its lowest (and funnest) form. When SuicideGirls co-founder Missy and photographer / filmmaker Sawa invited 12 of their favorite Suicide Girls to a remote cabin in Maine to shoot a calendar video, none of the girls had any idea they were going to be a part of SuicideGirl’s first feature length horror movie.

When models Bailey Suicide and Evan Suicide go missing, the idyllic working vacation quickly degenerates into a chaotic nightmare for the calendar girls. As more girls vanish, those who remain wonder who’ll be the next to disappear – and if their calendar shots will come out OK.

Suicide Girls Must Die is the ultimate feel-good horror movie. After this, all other horror movies will seem way too overdressed!

SuicideGirls Top 10 Life lessons from Suicide Girls Must Die

1. Best misunderestimation:
“Nothing can go wrong.”

2. Most debatable statement:
“Humans are a bit more important than a calendar.”

3. Best health advice:
“An apple [bong] a day keeps the doctor away.”

4. Best model advice:
“Make the blow job face – you know what I’m talking about.”

5. Best fashion/face furniture advice on what not to wear when you accidentally find yourself in the middle of a real-life horror movie:
“It’s always the cute girl with glasses that gets axe-murdered.”

6. Most positive job performance assessment under adverse circumstances:
“All I have to do is make sure the models are happy. They’re all happy, they’re just lost.”

7. Best offer you’ve had all day:
“Let’s have some champagne, get drunk, and I’ll make out with you in the Jacuzzi later.”

8. Ultimate self-preservation evaluation:
“I’m not missing. I don’t give a shit.”

9. Best rallying advice after 80% of your friends have gone missing:
“Do you wanna sit and mope all night?”

10. Famous last words:
“I’m not going to fucking die.”

No Suicide Girls were harmed in the making of this movie.

Check out the HD trailer at

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Massive Attack: Heligoland

'You're only paranoid if they're not out to get you,' is an adage that's self-evidently true. With that as a given, Massive Attack mainstay 3D (a.k.a. Robert Del Naja) has every right to feel more than a little suspicious and mistrustful, especially when it comes to matters of internet privacy, security and surveillance.

After the FBI passed on a list of 7,300 UK credit card numbers associated with various porn sites (some legal and some of an illicit nature) to UK authorities, 3D was swept up in the excessively wide net of an indiscriminate police sting in 2003. Though allegations of any wrongdoing were unfounded, the repercussions were severe for the outspoken graffiti artist, vocalist and music producer. His home was raided, and all his computers and hard drives were confiscated for several months. To compound the situation, despite the fact that no charges directly relating to the police operation were ever filed, the furor that surrounded the investigation and baseless accusations (which were leaked and sensationally reported by a tabloid newspaper) meant that touring plans to promote Massive Attack's fourth studio album 100th Window had to be put on hold. The situation was all the more ironic considering the title of that album referred to a book that exposed the flaws in computer security and the rampant misuse of information in the internet age.

That unfortunate episode however was not the only incident that might have put 3D on the various "person of interest" lists around the world. He has been extremely open and vocal about his disapproval of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, going as far as designing and funding a series of anti-war ads which were published in the NME (with cohort Damon Albarn). Furthermore, having made several forays to the Middle East with the band, 3D has frequently voiced his concern for the plight of the Palestinian people, and in 2007 put the issue at the top of Massive Attack's political agenda with a series of sold out benefit concerts for the Hoping Foundation (an organization which aids children of the troubled state).

These distractions coupled with increasing demand from filmmakers for scores and soundtracks, meant that a new full-length Massive Attack release took a little longer than expected to manifest. However the wait - and the adversity - has paid off. Original band member Daddy G (a.k.a. Grant Marshall), who'd been absent from the project for several years, came back into the fold, and the resulting fifth studio album, Heligoland (released last month), debuted at #46 on the Billboard Top 200, giving Massive Attack their highest US chart position to date.

I caught up with 3D while he was in LA on a brief promotional trip ahead of Massive Attack's first North American tour in 4 years. During our phone conversation, he spoke about the new CD (which features contributions from Damon Albarn, Hope Sandoval, Martina Topley-Bird, and longtime Massive Attack collaborator Horace Andy, among others), and shared his thoughts on the increasingly pointless posturing of British and American party politics, the inherent dangers of our heavily surveilled states, and the futility of exporting such a culture to the Middle East.

Read the full interview with Massive Attack's 3D on

Monday, March 8, 2010

Manifesting Equality

Was Manifesting Equality on Saturday night.

Hope it works!

Can't believe anyone can be pro-Prop H8te in 2010.

That kind of philosophy is so last century, never mind last decade.

It's about time primitive minds evolved.

Thanks to Jon Stern for the images.

Down The Rabbit Hole With Camille Rose Garcia And Robin Williams

I caught up with artist Camille Rose Garcia at the opening of Down The Rabbit Hole, an exhibition of the original art from her latest project, a reimagining of the illustrations that accompany the text of Lewis Carroll's classic children's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Though the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse were unable to attend the party at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles on Saturday night in person, Hollywood funnyman Robin Williams did make a somewhat unexpected appearance.

Earlier, I'd spoken with Garcia for an in-depth interview which can be found at After talking about the visual vocabulary and inspirations behind her Alice illustrations, our conversation turned to a core SuicideGirls topic: body art.

Here is a previously unpublished outtake from this interview in which Garcia talks about her own tattoos and her art as it appears on other people's body parts.