Friday, 28 December 2007

Great interview with Capcom art director Daigo Ikeno


Sorry I don't post anymore for my two readers, but I've been writing for a bunch of other sites, namely Metal Lungies but also another blog I recently joined as a writer, the great Bounce/oz.
But yeah, I saw this on 1up and just had to share.
When I was really young, I wanted to be an artist. Later on that dream was refined into a desire to be a character designer/artist for a videogame company.
This guy is living my dream.
I always find character design fascinating, and interviews with people in charge of character design give insight into the process by which characters come to be.
This interview with Capcom art director Daigo Ikeno goes into topics like staying true to Street Fighter characters' personalities and thigh thickness among female characters in the series (really.) It's billed as part of 1UP.com's preview for the upcoming Street Fighter 4, but it's interesting on its own.
These are some great sketches by Ikeno throughout the article, including the one posted at the top of this post.
It's definitely a worthwhile read.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Friday, 30 November 2007

Dave Bidini Interview


Holy crap, I just finished talking to musician & writer Dave Bidini ,formerly of the legendary Canadian indie rock band The Rheostatics, for the Carleton student newspaper the Charlatan.
I interviewed him about his new book, Around the World in 57 1/2 Gigs. It's a travel diary of his first solo tour across the world, with chapters separated into countries. It's by turns, sweet, affecting & melancholy. I recommend it even if you've never heard the Rheostatics before.
Link to my article forthcoming. Watch this space.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Where I Write Now: Metal Lungies

Metal Lungies is a collaborative blog that mainly covers hip hop and random pop culture that I've starting reading a few months ago.
After commenting on the blog quite a bit, the blog's creator Dj01 asked me to do a link swap. We ended up chatting on Google Talk on a regular basis and he mentioned he was having trouble finding time to write for the blog. I offered to write a guest post and he asked me to join. I'm now an official contributor for ML.
You can click the title link to see the 7 posts I put up in the last week.
I'll still be posting here occasionally but mostly I'll be using it to upload full versions of the interviews I write for The Sound of Young America's blog.
Thanks for reading so far. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

An Interview with Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie


Meredith Gran is the Brooklyn-based comic artist and animator behind the webcomics “Skirting Danger” and her current comic “Octopus Pie”, launched in April 16 of this year.
“Octopus Pie” follows Eve and Hanna, 2 young women living in Brooklyn, New York.
When I asked Meredith to describe the comic in one sentence, she replied, “It's a Brooklyn drama about a girl's comedic life.”
She recently self-published a collection of the first four storylines of “Octopus Pie” and just began the sixth storyline of the comic.
I chatted with Meredith about her influences, elements of autobiography in her comics, and the similarities between telenovelas and webcomics.


AM: First off, how are you?
Meredith: Phew…Busier than ever. But good.
AM: Good to hear.
So I wanted to start off talking about your education a bit. I know you're a graduate of the School of Visual Arts [fine and graphic art school in New York City]. What other education have you had in terms of art, both post and pre-secondary?
Meredith: I received most of my animation training from SVA. I did start taking figure drawing classes in high school, and have been doing so outside of school ever since. The majority of my post-school education has come from firsthand job experience.
AM: You work as an animator for [Adult Swim show] Assy McGee now, right?
Meredith: Yeah. It's a ridiculous, low-budget show I can work on from home. Really an ideal job for me, at this point.
AM: I was just curious, what other jobs have you worked to support your cartooning?
Meredith: Last year I was at MTV, working on a show called Friday: The Animated Series. It was pretty fun, but didn't exactly make a splash on TV. It was my first full-time animation gig. Since then I've done a bit of supplemental freelance, in between the long-term stuff.
AM: When did you first consider cartooning specifically as a career, as opposed to art? You started writing Skirting Danger when you were about 16, if I remember correctly.
Meredith: Yeah, I was a teenager. At the time I didn't really see it as anything more than a hobby. I only began thinking about comics as a career in the past year or so, after working out of school for a bit. Seeing how other professional cartoonists operate.
AM: That's really interesting to hear, actually. Could you expand a bit on what it was like writing a reasonably popular and well-regarded webcomic at that age?
Meredith: At the time I was very excited to have that storytelling outlet. Looking back, I'm actually shocked at how well-received it was. At the time, I figured a handful of people, a lot of my friends, enjoyed it. People ask me about it all the time and it seems so long ago. It's very strange.
AM: Could you tell me a bit about your influences, both artistic and humorous?
Meredith: At the core I'm influenced by Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, all the classic animators of the Looney Tunes age. They were artists, comedians, and actors all rolled into one. I absorb most of my humor from observation; it's hard to pinpoint a source.
AM: I definitely see that golden age of animation as a big influence.
I was going to ask, on the topic of observation, how much of Octopus Pie is autobiographical? It's definitely very Brooklyn-centric and much of it, particularly the more serious storylines, feels authentic and lived-in.
Meredith: None of the stories are true, per-se, but a lot of the themes are taken directly from experience. Eve has definitely gone through a few of my internal struggles. In a recent storyline she's faced with the prospect of forging her identity out of a lucrative career - or lack thereof. In my post-college years, I've asked myself many of the same questions Eve has to work through.
AM: I think it comes through really well, too.
What would you say are the benefits of internet distribution as opposed to syndication?
Meredith: Well, first and foremost - and any online cartoonist will tell you this - you own everything. You're in control of your ideas. And there's no middleman between your work and the audience, so you can distribute the comic to them directly. Online cartoonists have the advantage of playing host to their own community -- they can interact directly with readers, get instant feedback, and sell merchandise they've printed themselves. Sure, it's a greater investment, but you don't need to share any of your earnings or intellectual properties. The choice is easy.
AM: Have you ever considering syndicating Octopus Pie? A few of your contemporaries, namely Diesel Sweeties and Dinosaur Comics have been syndicated in some smaller press papers.
Meredith: It hasn't crossed my mind. The comic isn't much of a daily strip; there's too much context to understand if you miss a day. If you can't press the "back" button with my stories, a lot of the effect is lost. Plus syndication just doesn't seem all that lucrative for a comic my size.
AM: I know what you mean. In a lot of ways, the form fits the content really well, at least in terms of having the entire storyline up to that point as accessible.
Meredith: Webcomics are kind of similar to telenovelas in that way.
AM: What are your favourite mediums to work in and why?
Meredith: I love to work digitally these days. Ever since I bought a Cintiq [tablet device for digital drawing], it's been my weapon of choice. I still enjoy thumbnailing comics with a sharpie in a sketchbook, though.
AM: When do you think you'll be able to live off your cartooning without having a job on the side? How are merchandise and book sales right now?
Meredith: For such a young comic, sales have been quite good. My timeframe has been mostly internal, but I estimate it'll take at least another year to see a livable wage from it.
AM: One last question to wrap things up: describe Octopus Pie in one sentence.
Meredith: Haha, this one is hard.
AM: Don't rush it. This is crucial.
Meredith: It's a Brooklyn drama about a girl's comedic life.
AM: Thanks so much, Meredith. It was a pleasure.
Meredith: Likewise. Thanks for the challenge!

Octopus Pie is published three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It can be read here.
Watch video of Meredith drawing the comic here.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Your Face: Aaron (Face 145)




Your Face: Aaron (Face 145)

My face, as imagined by artist Damien Weighill. Send him a photo of your face and he'll do the same!
Go check it out here.
Based on the photo of me holding a small alligator on the bottom right

Monday, 15 October 2007

The Sound of Young America: Interview: Paul & Storm by Aaron Matthews

The Sound of Young America: Interview: Paul & Storm by Aaron Matthews
Here's the edited version of the interview.

My Interview with Paul & Storm Interview (Unedited)




I interviewed Paul & Storm for the blog of the radio show, the Sound of Young America a few weeks ago. It just got published today, albeit in an edited version. Here's the full interview, unedited.

An Interview With Paul Sabourin and Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo of Paul & Storm


Together Paul Sabourin and Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo are professional singing persons Paul & Storm, who comprised ½ of comedic acapella group Da Vinci’s Notebook.
Da Vinci’s Notebook has been on hiatus since 2004 but still occasionally reunite for corporate events. Paul & Storm are currently on tour with noted troubadour and TSOYA guest Jonathan Coulton. Their latest album, Gumbo Pants, was released online on August 26. I corresponded with Paul and Greg via email and asked them some questions.


A: What made you want to get into the lucrative genre of musical comedy? You've listed influences on your MySpace page ranging from Tom Lehrer & Weird Al to Gilbert & Sullivan.

PAUL: The short answer: it was the only thing we were really good at.

The somewhat longer answer: we started out back in 1994 in an a cappella
group called Da Vinci's Notebook, which started as a little hobby group
that only did covers. The songs that seemed to be the most fun and get
the best audience response were songs by another a cappella group called
the Bobs, who did a lot of funny originals. So we drifted towards that,
and Storm and I fell into a writing partnership, as we have similar
backgrounds (children of the '80s and lovers of all pop culture) and
compatible senses of humor; so we started writing songs in a similar vein.
Before we knew it, we were the main writers for what had evolved into a
full-time comedy a cappella group.

When that group stopped performing back in 2004, Storm and I desperately
wanted to avoid getting real jobs, so we tried performing as a duo, and
with a good degree of adjustment (like getting comfortable with playing an
instrument and singing at the same time), it worked pretty well.

A: What's your writing process like?


STORM: We don't have a single set process. Sometimes an idea will strike
one of us out of the blue and the other will have just a few tweaks, or
add what Lennon and McCartney called "the middle eight". But more often
it's comparable to two people working a potter's wheel together. Generally
one of us will drop down the initial lump of clay (usually a comic hook,
song style, and/or a few lines), the brain wheels spin, and we shape it
until it's just right, adding more clay as necessary. Sometimes both of
our hands are on the clay, sometimes we alternate, and a lot of the time
the pot doesn't make it to glazing (chord structure/melody) or the kiln
(recording phase) at all.

P: Sometimes it's demand-side-based ("We gotta write a song this
week"); and sometimes it's supply-side ("Wow, we should totally write a
song about this awesome topic/idea/thing I just thought of/had/saw"). And
sometimes they can feed off each other. For example, we were going to be
on the "Bob and Tom Show" (a nationally-syndicated morning radio program)
a couple months back, and wanted to come up with one more new song the
night before. While noodling, Storm started doing his (awesome) James
Taylor impression; so we tried to find a way to make a relatively lame
thing (impressions in general) somewhat more interesting, so we thought,
"well, what if he were...I dunno, on fire?" Which led to our song "If
James Taylor Were on Fire", which in turn led to a bunch of other "If"
songs ("If Bob Dylan Were Hiding at the Bottom of a Well", "If They Might
Be Giants Were the Ice Cream Man", etc.). So the demand side ("We need a
new song for radio tomorrow") dovetailed nicely with the supply side ("We
do some impressions; how can we use them in a not-crappy way?").

S: Our process is definitely influenced (and helped) by Modern
Technology(tm). While we work fastest when in the same room together,
we've learned how to collaborate from our respective homes (Paul near
Philly and Storm near DC). We do a new song every couple of weeks for the
"Bob and Tom Show", something that wouldn't have been possible before
cheap broadband and unlimited cell phone/long distance minutes.
P: Well, it would have been *possible*, but it would either have to be
recorded/played over the phone, or one person would have to do all the
heavy lifting, recording-wise.

S: We'll send song draft e-mails back and forth with throughout the
day, and then discuss specifics of sound production over the phone.

Once it's 70-80% there lyrically, one of us will put down a skeletal guide
track (in general Paul if it's keyboard/vocal-based, Storm if
guitar/band). From that point we're both able to work on our vocal and
instrumental parts concurrently, with whoever laid down the guide tracks
acting as the traffic controller, adding the parts into the master and
mixing it down.

There's no way we could have worked this way even five years ago, and we
still get a "gee whiz" rush from it: after writing and recording a brand
new song inside of one day, finishing at 2 a.m., it's aired across the
country only a few hours later.
P: So follow that exact template and you too can write hit songs for
syndicated morning radio.


A: How did you end up doing "The Ballad of the Sneak" for Homestar Runner?
Was that the start of the two of you writing and performing apart from the group? I know that you & Storm composed & performed the "The Ballad of the Sneak", though it was credited to Da Vinci's Notebook.


P: DVN had all become fans of Homestar Runner quite early in their
evolution, and tracked down Mike and Matt Chapman (the creators) via the
Netterwebs (I have mad stalker skills), to tell them how much we dug their
work. Luckily, this was early enough in their career that they were more
flattered than creeped out, and we struck up a friendship, they came to
some of our shows, and such. Eventually they offered that, if we ever
wanted to write something for the site, they'd be happy to use it,
assuming it didn't suck. This was right around the time someone had
submitted a theme song for the Cheat (a character on the site), so Storm
and I went with an old-timey variation on that idea (in keeping with the
series of old-timey cartoon versions of the characters that they'd been
doing). Storm and I put together a demo of it and went a little nuts
over-producing it, because it was so much fun to do. We sent it off to
them, intending to eventually add the other two DVN guys to the mix, but
the Chaps loved the demo and decided to use it as is.

So while it was technically the first Paul and Storm "solo creation," Paul
and Storm didn't exist then; plus, it worked to our promotional advantage
to credit it to the group. (i.e., people would hear about the song, look
for DVN, and buy our CDs) At that point, Paul and Storm was still just a
thing we thought we might try if/when DVN ever broke up, but not something
we actively pursued.

A: What would you say are the benefits of distributing your music independently through online stores? Have either of you been approached by any labels since DVN or considered signing to one?


S: We feel that for relatively small-time artists like us, independent
online distribution is the way to go. We haven't been approached by any
labels (yet) as Paul and Storm, but in DVN we were, and it just didn't
make much sense for us.

In theory, signing with a label gives you wider exposure from the "push"
that an established presence can bring. The upside is that more people
will know who you are so that you can draw large numbers of people to your
live shows, be on the cover of magazines, and otherwise live the
rock 'n' roll dream. That's all fine, but you give up making money on your
actual music, and it means that to really make a living you have to be on
the road all the time. And while we're by no means geezers, we like being
home and not waking up every morning in a hotel room
wondering what city we're in.

So while we're not philosophically opposed to working with a label, we
haven't yet seen a structure that makes sense for us. The current record
deals are more a star system, interested in creating famous "brands" that
will generate torrents of cash. But in the dream world we're steadily
building, we'll have a nice-sized fan base that's large enough that we can
go out and work one or two weekends every month, write a new song every
week or two to keep people tuned in, release a new product every year, and
generally make a decent living from it. No pesky fame (fans excepted), but
just enough notoriety that every once in a while someone we run into in
Costco will recognize something we've done.

P: Labels have been historically good at three things: advancing you
cash to get a recording done, putting your record in stores, and
coordinating PR. But a) recording technology, home studios and such have
made getting a quality recording far more affordable than in decades past;
b) retail may not have been made completely obsolete by the Internet, but
it's getting damn near close; and c) you can hire a PR person
independently as you care to (since you'd be paying for the PR at a label
anyway). So it's far less necessary to be "signed" to achieve a reasonable
degree of success. We don't have an unquenchable ambition to be
ridiculously famous, so for us, the trade-off is worth it.

S: And while we are technically "independent", there are certainly a
lot of people and organizations we have relationships with that make the
P&S Machine run. We do have an agent, a physical product distributor, and
even an informal network of lackeys, toadies and well-wishers. I guess
it's a lot like when the Hollywood studio system collapsed--all of the
components that made the business work were still out there, but they were
no longer under the same roof.

A: Do either of you have a favourite song you wrote or performed?


P: I don't know if I have a favorite--you write a song you like a lot,
and then sing it a few hundred times, and the appeal kind of wanes. That
said, some songs I still find quite satisfying. "Opening Band" sucked,
really sucked, for a long time while we were writing it, until we finally
found the right combination of music and concept, so once that finally
came together, I was thrilled, and it seems to resonate well with crowds.
I think my current favorite to perform is "Nugget Man". It tells a nice
story, it's not something you've heard 3,000 times before, and while it's
not a belly-laugh-every-12-seconds kind of song, the big payoff at the end
("and to place his remains into small cardoard coffins/and bury the
pieces/six at a time") is worth the wait, and always goes over huge at
shows. I think it's also one of our most appealing songs, musically
speaking. I haven't tired of hearing it or singing it. (Yet.)

S: In general my favorite song in live performance is whatever our newest
"ace up the sleeve" song happens to be--the one that was most recently
written, that we know is funny, and that we haven't done one hundred
times. We're not like a "regular" band or singer-songwriter in that
we're primarily aiming to make people laugh, and once people know the
punchline, there's not a lot of reason to return to some of our
material. So we have to constantly add new songs to keep the set
interesting for both the audience and ourselves. If I absolutely had to
narrow it down to one song I enjoy most in live performance, it would be
"The Captain's Wife's Lament". Not because it's the funniest song we've
ever written, but because there's a lot of room in it to work the
audience. It's basically a sea shanty/jig based around a horrible/crude
pun (seamen/semen), but it's a good excuse to make the crowd talk like
pirates, which they really seem to enjoy doing. Even if they've heard
the song before.

That being said, as far as writing goes I'm most proud of our songs that
have meat to them beyond the jokes. A good example of that would be
"Nugget Man", written mostly based on the obituary of the man who
invented the salient technologies behind the chicken nugget (among other
foods). While it does go for laughs, I think there really is an
emotional genuineness that underpins the song, making it more evergreen.

A: Of your three albums, Gumbo Pants is probably your most cohesive album. It lacks alternate versions of songs and the songs are sequenced by topic for a better listen. Do you feel any need as musical comedians to try to construct an album-length statement or is it more of a "throw a bunch of songs you think are funny and well-written" in order?

P: Interesting question. Our first CD, Opening Band, was very much a
result of our wanting to put out a full-length disc as soon as it was
feasible (without completely ripping people off); so we threw everything
we had onto it, and tried to add other material (like directors'
commentaries, which we thought was a funny/interesting idea for an audio
CD) to help make it more appealing, and truth be told, pad the length out
a bit more.

The second CD, News to Us, is a compilation of songs we wrote for Bob &
Tom, and we used a lot of the on-air audio for that one. Now, the Bob &
Tom cast laugh during songs a lot--partly, I think, because it creates a
bit more of a friendly, party-like atmosphere, and also because theft is
rampant in morning radio, and "marking your territory" with laughs like
that helps prevent others from using your show's stuff. Now, some people
find the laughing annoying (according to some emails we've gotten,
incredibly so); but others seem to really appreciate it. So we tried to
cater somewhat to both crowds, by including "clean" (non-laughing)
versions of some of the songs (the ones we thought had the most widespread
appeal). So that one's a tad disjointed, but it was intended mostly for a
specific audience--Bob & Tom listeners--so we don't feel too badly about
it.

With "Gumbo Pants", while we didn't have a specific overall cohesive
"vision" for it, we did go into it wanting to put only stuff we really
thought deserved to go on a record, as opposed to just shoving out
everything we'd written in the past 9-12 months and hoping for the best.
And I think for the most part, we've succeded; its certainly the disc I'm
proudest of so far.

Plus, we as an act don't have a particular "thing" or hook to build
around--like, say, God's Pottery (lampooning over-earnest Christian
music), or Tenacious D (delusional acoustic rocking), or Richard Cheese
(swing versions of rock and rap songs). So there's no particular vision to
remain true to (other than to try to be as funny as possible), which to me
is almost a relief. I can respect someone's commitment to a concept or
vision--for example, Luther Wright and the Wrongs did a song-for-song
country version of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" that holds up far, far longer
than one might think it would--but in the end, if it's just not very
funny, then to me it's failing at the main purpose of what you're doing in
the first place.

S: Your second question really melds into the first for me; it all feeds
into how we do or can hook people with our humor and music. We really
don't have an overarching thread or theme to our comedy, and that's
definitely reflected in the piecemeal nature of our albums. Part of the
reason is that we are very consciously and constantly trying to write
songs that Bob and Tom, podcasters or the Internets at large will play
(the closest thing these days to a "novelty hit"). We also enjoy trying
new musical styles and hate repeating ourselves, which keeps things
fresh but does make it more difficult to have a defined sound or style.
Long ago we did talked about creating fictional stage personas (like
Flight of the Conchords), but realized that it wasn't something we
really wanted to do (and that we may not be capable of doing). We've
also discussed doing a Fireside Theater or Monty Python-style recorded
project, but have passed it by for the same reasons.

So to answer your ACTUAL question: yes our albums really are just
collections of funny and well written songs; yes, I feel that we'd be
more marketable (both for albums and as an act) if we had a "thing",
"hook" or "concept", and; no, I have no idea how to make that happen in
a way that would be natural for us. Yet.

Special thanks to Jesse for setting me up for the interview and to Alex Erde for the photo.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Ann Coulter on the Jews: "We Want Jews To Be Perfected"

I'm not normally an angry person or a hateful person but I will say this: I would like Ann Coulter to go away, very far away. I don't want her to die, I just never want to hear from her or about her again. My God, the amount of ignorance here is staggering.
Props to Hip Hop Is Read for the tipping me off to this.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Minesweeper-The Movie

From the always brilliant Elephant Larry:

Special thanks to the Sound of Young America to informing me about these guys.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Music Taste According To Race

I started at university about a month ago and I'm just starting to get into the swing of things. I've become fast friends with my neighbour. Nick is a freelance illustrator and loves his comics. Eventually we got to talking about music. He was telling about the band he used to be in, a hardcore/reggae band in Calgary. Nick told he how he had gotten into hip hop lately, stuff like "Sage Francis, Atmosphere especially." I nodded politely and told him I hadn't heard too much of either of the artists' material. His face lit up with excitement. "I have to show you something," he said. Nick picked up a Sage Francis DVD and told me I had to watch it. I went along with it to be polite and we watched it on my laptop. After watching for about 15 minutes, peppered with Nick's delighted commentary, I told him that "honestly, this guy does nothing for me. Sorry."
He looked a little sad but I think he understood.
Now, before I go any further, know that Sage Francis is a white guy, almost defiantly so. But he does clearly love hip-hop, I'll give him that.
And my dislike for him has nothing to do with his race. I mean, I'm a white Jew. It's never been about race in music for me. I don't care what colour you are as long as you're dope.
It goes like that for any genre.
In soul, for example: Eddie Hinton is one of the most soulful singers ever to grace the microphone. I thought he was black when I heard him sing. But when I found he wasn't, it didn't change my opinion of the music. Hinton played in the famous Muscle Shoals rhythm section. Do you think Wilson Pickett cared about his race when they did sessions together?


I think it's important for one to be able to listen without prejudice, even when it's hard. There are many musical artists whose backgrounds are important to their music. So it's important to the music to understand the background and persona of the musician, but you shouldn't judge music based solely on those qualifiers.
Take K'naan, for example. He's a Somalian refugee who moved from New York to Ontario, Canada.
Would a song like "What's Hardcore?" means as much coming from a Canadian native who's never had to leave his country because of war? What about a white guy not from Somalia?
You tell me.

Here's the lyrics:
I put a pen to the paper,
this time as visual as possible,
guns blast at the hospital,
the walls are white washed with tin rooftops,
to show love you lick two shots,
it's dangerous man,
journalists hire gunmen there's violent women,
kids trust no one cause fire burnt them,
refugees die in boats, headed for peace,
is anyone scared of death here' Not in the least,
I walk by the old lady selling coconuts under the tree,
life is cheap here but wisdom is free,
the beach boys hang on the side, leaning with pride,
scam artists and gangsters fiendin to fight,
I walk with three kids that can't wait to meet God
lately, that's Bucktooth, Mohamed and Crybaby,
what they do everyday just to eat lord have mercy,
strapped with an AK and they blood thirsty...

So what's hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.
So what's hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.

We begin our day by the way of the gun,
rocket propelled grenades blow you away if you front,
we got no police ambulance or fire fighters,
we start riots by burning car tires,
they looting, and everybody start shooting,
bullshit politicians talking bout solutions, but it's all talk,
you can't go half a block with a road block,
you don't pay at the road block you get your throat shot,
and each road block is set up by these gangsters,
and different gangsters go by different standards,
for example, the evening is a no go,
unless you wanna wear a bullet like a logo,
in the day you should never take the alleyway,
the only thing that validates you is the AK,
they chew on Jad it's sorta like coco leafs,
and there ain't no police...

So what's hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.
So what's hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.

I'm a spit these verses cause I feel annoyed,
and I'm not gonna quit till I fill the void,
if I rhyme about home and got descriptive,
I'd make Fifty Cent look like Limp Biskit,
it's true, and don't make me rhyme about you,
I'm from where the kids is addicted to glue,
get ready, he got a good grip on the machete,
make rappers say they do it for love like R-Kelly,
it's HARD, harder than Harlem and Compton intertwined,
harder than harboring Bin Laden and rewind,
"to that earlier part when I was kinda like"
we begin our day by the way of the gun,
rocket propelled grenades blow you away if you front,
we got no police ambulances or fire fighters,
we start riots by burning car tires,
they looting, and everybody starting shooting...

So what's hardcore? Really, are you hardcore?Hmm.
So what's hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Termanology-So Amazing


Seriously one of my favourite rappers out right now. Term is out of Boston and seems to be getting some good press lately. In fact, I found out about the video for this track from Nah Right. DJ Premier is my favourite producer.
Dope producer+talented rapper=awesome track (Most of the time. Math is not my speciality.)

Go buy his latest mixtape here, it's great:
http://www.amazon.com/Hood-Politics-V-Termanology/dp/B000TXZ2CE

And another great Term/DJ Premier collabo:



(full disclosure: Termanology is managed by my first cousin- that's how I heard about him)

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

My Favourite Webcomics







Here's a few things you should be reading if you aren't.



American Elf: http://www.americanelf.com/
James Kochalka has been doing these autobiographical daily strips since 1998. It costs a dollar or so to browse the older comics, but check it daily. The small revelations of daily life are complemented by the simple, colourful drawings.

Octopus Pie: http://www.octopuspie.com/
Hilarious plotlines and engaging characters go with Meredith's cartoony, expressive linework. Go get on the bandwagon now while it's still pretty new!

Perry Bible Fellowship: http://pbfcomics.com/
Fuckin' hilarious three panel gag strips. Nicholas Gurwitch is incredibly versatile, able to imitate Edward Gorey in one comic and do pixel art in the next. Very inspired by the Far Side, but with an even more warped sense of humour.

The Putrid Pal: http://putridpal.com/
Delightful (there's no other word, really) all-ages comic, rendered beautifully by talented illustrator Michael Fleming (a.k.a. Tweedlebop). Something you can read with your kids too.
Go check his Flickr too, the guy's tremendously talented.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Kontroll is great


I think everyone should know about this fantastic movie.
Kontroll is a movie about a group of underground subway ticket inspectors in Budapest, Hungary.
The movie is entirely fictitious, yet it leaves an impression on you that makes you think it could be real.
The main charactor Bulcsú(Sándor Csányi)and his fellow "Kontrollers" live in the subway system, chasing down graffiti artists and insuring people have their tickets.
There are several different plotlines running throughout the 2 hour 15 minute
The film came out in 2003 but feels very 1999, in its Matrix-inspired actions sequences and its excellent Run Lola Run-sounding soundtrack.
Also it's satisfying to see a degree of realism in the film's refusal to dress anything up; Bulcsú gets injured several times throughout the movie and retains all his injuries until the movie ends.
I don't want to spoil anything for anyone but I will list 4 reasons this movie is awesome.
1. Features a cute girl in a bear suit in a prominent role.
2. Has repeat appearances by a pimp travelling with a harem of girls, who doesn't have a ticket but offers Bulcsú "the small girl for the night if you leave me alone."
3. Has a protagonist who resembles a slimmer Eugene Mirman.
4. Is directed by a man named Nimród Antal.
It's alternate parts funny, scary and sweet. Go rent it. Seriously.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Reasons Why I'm Proud To Be Canadian

Not that bullshit commercial. Some genuine shit. In no particular order:
-poutine
-beaver tails
-SCTV
-Kids In The Hall
-Leonard Cohen
-Bryan Lee O'Malley
-Wolf Parade
-Seth
-Rufus Wainwright
-Atom Egoyan
-The Band
-fresh maple syrup
-Rick Mercer
-Michael Cera (suggested by Red Circle Line-thanks!)
-The New Pornographers
-Canadian summers
-politeness
-the healthcare system
-our refusal for the most part, to be involved in wars

I'm sure there's more, I just can't think of them off the top of my head.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Irony


Irony has led to things like this.

Whoo! Haven't posted in a while, so sorry for the two people who read this.

I was thinking about irony the other day. Here's my problem with it: It's a joke. The joke is that you're pretending to like something.
Not terrible funny, is it?

So it's sort of an insincere move. But that's not even the problem.
My main objection is this: for every hipster jokingly singing along to Bon Jovi's "Living On A Prayer", there are about five people who genuinely consider it their favourite song.
And you're mocking them by enjoying it ironically.
Just be sincere and honest with yourself: it's just easier.

When a 2003 Great White (an 80s era heavy/pop metal band) concert in Rhode Island was interrupted by a enormous fire, about 100 people died.
They went to that concert because they genuinely liked Great White but people actually made jokes about how they deserved to die in a fire if they went to a Great White concert in 2003.
Give it some thought, that's all.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Two Great Documentaries I've Seen Recently

In the last 2 weeks, I've seen two really great music documentaries.

The first is Standing in the Shadows of Motown and it's about the Funk Brothers, the house band for Motown who played on all Motown records from the 60s to the 70s but were never credited for their contributions. The band also played on many great records of the time outside Motown as well, like Jackie Wilson's "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher & Higher)". The film is centred around a tribute concert featuring an assortment of singers covering songs that the Brothers played on, backed by the surviving members of the band.It is inter cut with a series of interviews with the members of the band, who are fascinating and astoundingly modest about their ground breaking work. What is most refreshing about this is that the film never resorts to the old documentary standby- talking heads. Instead, the artists performing in the concert have conversations with the band members, and are genuinely interested and respectful of their work.
The performers include Meshell Ndegeocello, Montell Jordan, Bootsy Collins, Chaka Khan and Joan Osborne. In between the interviews and performances, director Paul Justman includes archival photos, unearthed video clips and surprisingly well-done dramatizations, in what could be a first for the genre.
Here's its IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0314725/
It's a really excellent watch.
Also: Worth seeing for:
-Bootsy belting out "Cool Jerk" in a shiny pink wig and his trademark star shades
-Joan Osborne, (yeah, the one who sang "One of Us") who delivers the best performance in the concert with her jawdropping takes on Martha & the Vandella's "Dancing in the Streets" & "Heat Wave". She actually put out a soul album in 2002 but apparently didn't include any of these covers for some reason.
Here's a clip of her performing Heat Wave:

The second is Scratch, a documentary by Doug Pray about DJs and turntablism and their role in hip hop culture. Pray rounds up innovators and luminaries in the field like Grand Wizard Theodore, (inventor of the scratch), DJ Premier, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Qbert and DJ Shadow to discuss the DJ's rise to glory and its cultural importance. The film is informative without being dull and is relentlessly about upbeat and optimistic about the future of the DJ. Bonus points for parts where the film's audio is scratched and looped like a record by Qbert. I can't recommend it enough, whether you're a DJ or simply interested.
Here's the movie's website:
http://www.scratchworldwidemedia.com/scratch.html
Here's some amazing scratching from DJ Roc Raida:


Also you can watch and download the entire movie here. Still, I recommend picking up the DVD for its excellent bonus features.:



http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7085594575841814301&hl=en-GB

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Cave Story


Sorry I haven't updated in a while, guys.
This post is about the amazing freeware game, Cave Story. This Japanese guy named Pixel (no one knows his real name) worked for 5 years on this game, even creating his own music. It's reminiscent of free roaming exploration games like Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night without being completely derivative of them.
You control a robot who lands in a mysterious cave with no memory of who he is. The story is great, I don't want to ruin it.
Cave Story has an pixelated graphical style and wonderful blippy, 8-bit music. And they're both fantastic and perfectly suited to the game.
The game is about 4-6 hours long, but it has lots of replay value(3 different endings!) and a lot of depth.

I'll be frank: if you don't enjoy videogames, this won't be your bag. But if you've played one in your life, download this. There's a link at the end of the post.
It's one of the few games you'll play where everything is how the creator intended it. Cave Story is a labour of love and above all, it's damn fun to play.

http://homepage2.nifty.com/rochet/storage/dou_1006.zip

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Hip Hop


So I thought I could talk about how a Jewish kid growing up in the suburbs got interested in hip hop.
It wasn't through my brother, who wrote for lots of hip hop magazines (and still does) and received dozens of demo tapes in the mail.
And my parents were terrified of my the genre, and seemingly black music in general (except for my dad's weird admiration for Eminem, all based on watching 8 Mile. As my dad says, "I like that Eminem. He's VERY talented.")
It was my now friend Ari Zilnik. He was friends with a bunch of my friends. I had heard he was a DJ, so I thought it'd be cool to share some of my parent's old records with him.
He came over with my friend Josh and we went crate digging in my basement. I kept bringing Ari records at school, and we became fast friends. I had heard an RJD2/ Aceyalone song on a blog and told Ari about it.
Ari burnt me the entire Magnificent City album it came from, which was my first hip hop album. I actually don't love that album so much now, but it was the shit at the time.
My tastes got more voracious. As I started to be aware of the rap on the radio, I realized how shitty it was, for the most part. So I started acquainting myself with golden age hip hop from the late 80s and early 90s.
And that's where I'm at now.
I think it's the samples. When I was younger, I used to mess with voice recording software and YakBaks. I find it endlessly fascinating how producers and DJs can manipulate a sample to make it utterly unrecognizable. Ex: Jay Dee using a 60s folk record and making it sound like an old soul record for Jaylib's "The Red". "Shine on, straight arrow" became "All night long" in his capable hands.
Rest in peace, Dilla.
(for those unacquainted with the YakBak:
http://www.optigan.com/yakbak.html)

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Spike Jonze's Music Videos

I went a bit of a binge the other night.
I sat and watched Spike Jonze music videos for about an hour on Monday when I was supposed to be working.
As much as I like some of his movies (Adaptation didn't really click with me, but Being John Malkovich was intriguely bizarre.
Jonze suffers from a problem I think a lot of music video director-turned-movie directors suffer from. (I make no excuses for McG, however. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McG)
Their ideas are brilliantly creative and delightful in the framing of a short-form music video, but feel strained and willfully quirky over the course of an entire movie.
Michel Gondry is another example of this, as well. I enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but the whole thing would have worked better as a short film.
But enough criticism. Watch Jonze's video for Biggie's "Sky's The Limit".
It's a brilliant take on Bugsy Malone but for the rap community. The attention to detail is astounding: one scene shows Puffy (now Diddy, of course) watching a preschool aged Busta Rhymes's music video.
Also: predates the vid for Three Six Mafia's "Poppin' My Collar" by several years!



Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Can we talk about Axe Body Spray ads?


I frickin' hate these things.
Way to reverse years of female achievement. Yeah, I get it. You spray this skunk-smelling dreck all over yourself, hired models find you attractive (for $1000/hour).
Evidently, women can't control themselves when they smell it. At first, I thought it was just the usual boneheaded American, Abercrombie & Fitch wearing fratboy mentality, but they've been producing these ads worldwide since 2003 or so, and they keep getting worse.
Current ad: Thousands of girls chase man spraying Axe on self at beach.

Allow me to share some current slogans for the product:
  • The current advertising tagline for Axe (Lynx) in the UK is "Spray more. Get more."
  • The current advertising tagline for Axe in South Africa is "Get a girlfriend."(From Wikipedia)
I hope one day we can market to men without being chauvinist, misogynist assholes. I just pray no female advertising employees brainstormed those.
Because they're still making less than the men.

Try spending more than a second on this site without vomiting:
http://www.theaxeeffect.com/flash.html

Naturally, there are now ads for Tag body spray that rip off the Axe ads.
Yeah, the loading screen says "Mojo loading". Good Lord.

p.s. Read this for a laugh:
http://www.thetripe.com/axe.htm

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Bryan Lee O'Malley and I


Bryan Lee O'Malley and I, originally uploaded by Aaron_M.

Me and Bryan pulling faces. I look ready to kill.
He's the author of Scott Pilgrim and Lost At Sea.
From a reading at the North York Central Library.
Totally a nice guy. Signed my books, I'll upload the drawings as well.

He's posing with my Scott Pilgrim iPod Nano: www.flickr.com/photos/amatthews/353339426/
www.flickr.com/photos/amatthews/353339427/

Scott Pilgrim is a really excellent comic. It's about a 23-year old Canadian guy who meets a really great girl. Unfortunately, he has to defeat her 7 evil ex-boyfriends in combat.
It's inspired by manga, videogames, and general awesomeness.
Pick it up at your local comic book store.
See previews of the book here:
http://www.scottpilgrim.com/

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Fandom Cont'd...

Well, I think I figured it uot.
Fandom is just something that people use to fill up a gap in their lives.

Sorry for the gap in posts.
I'll try to keep it consistent.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Why does fandom exist?

This really makes me think.
Why do people become obsessed with certain things? Celebrities, movies, brands...
Why do we as human beings feel obligated to devote our lives to someone or something that may not even be aware of our existence?
Particularly interesting is the following in technology and videogames.
Why do things like this exist? http://www.tuaw.com/2007/02/12/blast-from-the-past-apple-ii-users-guide-and-owners-manual/

I should now also explain that I have no particular allegiance to an videogame company or computer system.
But it perplexes me.
I think one could claim that it's filling a void in an otherwise empty life and allows people to find kinship with others who share an equal devotion to (insert object of fandom here).
But does that really explain it completely?
There even exists an entire chain of "______ Fanboy" blogs under the Weblogs Inc. Network blogs banner , devoted to every piece of news that emerges for the object of obsession.
Look for more about this in the future. I'm still confused by it myself.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Psychosocial Funnies


Psychosocial Funnies, originally uploaded by Aaron_M.

I did this for a project a while ago.
I'm really happy how well it turned out.
Lettering by Shirley:
http://hs.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1667220274&hiq=shirley

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Electroplankton


I found this game at an EB Games miraculously after reading about it a lot when it came out, 2 years ago.
It's made by this Japanese mixed media artist: Toshio Iwai.

Right now, he's working on this: http://www.global.yamaha.com/design/tenori-on/

Basically, you mess with these little aquatic creatures using the stylus to make music.
There's no way to save your compositions, but you can hook up a mic to your DS to record audio.
Although I'm not totally sure how.

It's really weird and wonderful, if you can find a copy.
Pictured to the left is the beatnes electroplankton, which allows you to make music with NES noises and sound effects.



Check out some videos here:

Electroplankton

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

My Interview with musician & director Ari Zilnik

A Conversation With Ari Zilnik

Conducted by Aaron Matthews

Ari Zilnik is best known as DJ Fizix, who, at 14, was the youngest DJ ever to participate in the DMC (*Disco Mix Club) DJ competition. He won the fourth place position. He has also been a member of such local Richmond Hill bands as Other and the I Heart Randy's. You may also know him as one half of short-lived turntablism duo INF, a collaboration with Marty Rotenberg (infamous for breaking up after a single show.) He also gained notoriety for being sued by Whitby, Ontario rapper K-os after remixing one of his songs without permission.

Today, we sit down with Mr. Zilnik to learn about his latest project, The Velcro Theory, for the first part in a two-part interview series.

AM: Hello, Ari. How are you?

AZ: I'm doing good, man.

AM: So tell me about INF. I attended that show, I loved it, personally. You guys were doing something utterly different from all the other Led Zeppelin tribute bands there. What happened?

AZ: Love, man. I don't want to talk about it.

AM: Okay, can you tell me about your DJing career?

AZ: DJ Fizix? I don't have time to DJ much anymore, I wish I did. I've been kind of busy. (looks out window)

AM: But you were in that competition, weren't you?

AZ: The DMC Competition? Yeah, I was the youngest person there. I think I was actually the youngest DJ ever to enter.

AM: What about Kid Koala? Wasn't he pretty young at the time?

AZ: No, I don't think he was that young.

AM: He just looks like he's 7.

AZ: (laughs) Yeah, totally. I think you're thinking of A-Trak , actually (* Toronto-born DJ, at 15, youngest DJ to ever win a DJ-battling world championship.)

AM: How old were you, then?

AZ: 14.

AM: Wow. How did you do?

AZ: 4th place or something.

AM: That's actually very impressive.

AZ: Yeah, I guess it's kinda cool.

AM: So the new project is called the Velcro Theory. What is it, exactly?

AZ: It's just me expanding into a solo project, just like every other artist out there. I'm also doing a yet-unnamed project... A bit of a competition.

AM: Who are you competing against?

AZ: Marty Rotenberg, actually. We each have to make four tracks, and collectively decide whose is better.

AM: These are all instrumental, right?

AZ: Yeah, I'm going for kind of a MSTRKRFT feel. (* Jesse Keeler's new electronica side-project)

AM: Can you tell me about some of your other influences?

AZ: Other than MSTRKRFT, I'd have to say RJD2.

AM: You heard he's dropping out of hip-hop, right?

AZ: Yeah, but I'm still sort of denying it (laughs) I really liked Since We Last Spoke. But I don't think he should sing, he's a bad singer.

AM: So where did the name The Velcro Theory come from?

AZ: I don't know. Well, actually, I just thought it was kind of a cool name. The Velcro Theory, you know? (laughs)

AM: What are you hoping to achieve with this other unnamed project?

AZ: We're gonna do one show in some dingy club in Paris; and we'd like to get a write-up in one of those like four sentence reviews at the back of magazines.

AM: Well, you know, that's where Daft Punk got their name. They released a single as a group called Darling, and they got reviewed as being "daft punk."

AZ: Really?

AM: Yeah, I read it on allmusic. Or maybe 10 years from now you'll be featured in one of those British music magazines as being a lost classic.

AZ: (laughs) You mean like Q [magazine] Yeah, just release one single, and break up.

AM: Well, INF only played one show.

AZ: (laughs) Yeah, that's the best way to do it. Don't even release anything.

AM: Also apparently Daft Punk never appear in public without masks on or something.

AZ: Yeah, like in the video, that guy wears a dog mask.

AM: The Spike Jonze video?

AZ: Yeah, that's the one. They also dress as robots, right?

AM: For concerts, usually.

AZ: You know, I actually have a robot suit at home.

AM: You mean like in the Around the World video? (* directed by Michel Gondry. Features dancers wearing outfits representing different instruments in the song. The robots represent vocoders.)

AZ: Yeah, sometimes when I'm at home, I just do this. (imitates the robots in the video)

AM: (laughs) That's great.

AZ: Hey, I got to go. Let's pick this up later.

AM: Alright, thanks, Ari.

AZ: Later, man.

AM: Bye.

Aaron Matthews is a critic, artist, and amateur filmmaker. He is currently working on his first film, Puppy Bohemia. His work has been published in Access Magazine, and been repeatedly rejected by McSweeney's. He can be reached at aaron.shadescythe@gmail.com.

Ari Zilnik, in addition to his musical career, is also an aspiring filmmaker. Watch his music video for RJD2's Since We Last Spoke at the following address.

Since We Last Spoke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a-i-pEDw9I

You can also see The Velcro Theory's Myspace at this address:

http://www.myspace.com/velcrotheory

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