Ralph Steadman [Interview]

For literary, political, and/or drug related resource, we all know we can turn the magical pages of the work of the legendary Hunter S. Thompson.  He was a enraged yet compassionate genius who touched everyone from philosophy scholars, right on down to pot smoking Bob Marley poster having philosophy scholars.  And it is almost entirely possible to envision Hunter and his distinct work with another name we all know and love.  No, I’m not talking about Johnny Depp.  Although he is dreamy in his own way.  No, our hero of the hour is the very Ralph Steadman.

When Hunter S. Thompson teamed up with Ralph Steadman over 40 years ago, the world would never be the same.  Gonzo was born.  What is Gonzo?  Well, if you think you can describe it, you most likely have no God damned clue.  Lest it be said, those who truly understand Gonzo, are probably the most fascinating creatures and bastards of this world.  The only people who truly understand the world and the trite yet mystical piece of shit it can be.  And if you think you truly understand it, you probably don’t.  You egotistical bastard.

But, I digress.  Ralph Steadman’s fascinating drawings and artwork for the likes of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Deprived, Curs of the Lono, etc. have become synonymous with the world and work of the late Thompson.  An accomplishment in his own right.  But, his work has not stopped with the Gonzo world.  He’s done work for almost any damn periodical you can think of.  He’s penned his own books.  He’s contributed art for anything from Alice in Wonderland adaptations, to album artwork, to Vonnegut tributes.  The very art school he once failed out of now has even celebrated his life’s work.  His work speaks for himself.  But, I thought it would be fun to let him speak for himself as well with a few questions for one of the greatest artists of the last century.  So, that being said, here are a few words with the legendary Ralph Steadman.  Enjoy!

If you weren’t an esteemed artist and writer, what on earth do you think you would be doing?

Trying to solve Grossenheimer’s Laws of Adiabatic Masses!!

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

Nothing vicarious! Good down to earth wet ink! It creates the surprises because I never make ‘roughs’ first….

Did your time served in the Royal Air Force shape you into the person you became in any way?

Only that I failed to make it as a Pilot! I would have loved to be one of those- and I never liked Factory life making the damn things!! Though I used to make model Airplanes- ad infinitum!

If you were to create a soundtrack of music to represent your creation of and in experience with Gonzo art, what sort of music would we hear?

I think it would be something like- Bob Dylan’s ‘Somethin’ is happening- but you don’t know what it is- Do you- Mr. Jones….??

On the topic of music, you are known to have done some pretty amazing cover art for some amazing acts… Are there any artists out there you would like to do some art for that you haven’t already?

I have just done something for SLASH.  And if the Kinks ever do anything else- that would be a plus!

Your illustrations of Alice In Wonderland, Animal Farm, and Treasure Island were absolutely phenomenal.  Can we expect any other revised visuals of classic material? 

I have recently done Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451- that looks OK!

Do you have a defense against naysayers for the obvious ideals that cartoonists and caricaturist artists can have the same fortitude and importance as, say, more straight laced or classic artists?

I am not accepted as a ‘real’ artist ‘cos I do cartoons!! FUCK those people!!!

What would you say is your finest non-artistic accomplishment in your life?

Swimming every day I am at home- in my own pool- whatever the weather!!!

from the Fahrenheit 451 collection

What can we expect from Ralph Steadman in the remainder of 2012?

I have just completed the drawings for a book of ‘Extinct Birds/Boids’- with an excellent text by Ceri Levy.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Watching my grandsons Ollie and Toby bouncing up and down on their trampoline this morning in the garden!

Learn more about Ralph Steadman, including art for sale, when you will see him again, and his thoughts of carp, America, and all that is eternally sad with the world, at his website.  Also check out his company’s site where you can drop some cash for some amazing art.

Ember Schrag: The Sewing Room [Album]

Her voice is as gentle as summer’s rain, yet her words burn through your heart like a burning match in the moonlight.  Who might this be?  Obviously it has to be the midwest based darling of the folk world, Ember Schrag.  Being one of today’s most immaculate singer/songwriters to emerge since Neko Case went solo.  She rights with the pain of an oil soaked sea lion, yet sings with the softness of a gentle bird resting on a willow tree.  Her latest release, The Sewing Room, is merely a continuation of the sort of triumph we should have come to expect from this lovely curator of persuasive and angelic masterpieces.

Just as she did on her 2009 debut album A Cruel, Cruel Woman and her 2010 follow-up EP Jephthah’s Daughter, Ember Schrag demonstrates just why exactly she is one of the finest artists strumming and singing beautiful tunes today.  Harrowing and humbling are tunes like “La Maria” and “In The Alley” from her latest release, The Sewing Room.  There is a bit of religious overture within her songs, but only in the sense that she believes in something beyond her own self.  Even if that something is simply another human soul.  She begs to be understood.  But, like so many fabulous artists over the years, it is the mystery of their soul and what they aspire to feel that will always be the most appealing.  The ability to self interpret as we see fit is a gift we should all cater to, and be thankful for a wonderful songstress such as Ember Schrag for allowing us the opportunity to feel something, anything, everything.

Photo by R. Clark

Ember Schrag’s sophomore full length release, The Sewing Room, drops on June 30th courtesy of Philadelphia based labels Edible Onion Records and Single Girl Married Girl Records.  If you act quick during the pre-order phase, you can receive your copy of this fantastic album with a hand-bound illustrated lyrics book.  But be quick!  Only the first 100 buyers will receive this gem, and they might have very well already been snagged up.  Never too late to try.

And be sure to look out for Ember on tour.  She is constantly moving around, playing wherever you may be as well.  Check out her Website for pre-order and tour information.

The Memorials: Delirium [Album]

The wild and ready Viveca Hawkins and prodigal son Thomas Pridgen are back for more this year!  It’s hard to believe, or even consider the idea, that they were due for another release already.  No dust has fallen upon the cover of my own copy of their debut album.  I still find myself in a frenzied stir of rock and roll dreams as I indulge in their perpetually well-mannered form of rock and roll anarchy.  But, alas, the cherry on the top has arrived.  The Memorials are back in a strangely different, and actually far superior way.  I didn’t believe it to be possible either, but you have to hear this album.

The sophomore effort from The Memorials is not just a collection of spastic, well timed tracks for our amusement.  No, Delirium is nothing short of a rock and roll opus.  The tracks are extensive in length, which will leave you spinning out of control, and even after 9 minutes or so you will be clenching your teeth while you beg for more.  The spirit of Delirium is intense to say the least.  This album is the soundtrack to a high paced taxi ride through Times Square with a driver tripping balls on benzidrine and cocaine, all the while telling you his feelings.  The guitar work is exasperating sound, leaving you drenched to the bone in sweat and jealousy of how shitty you play guitar yourself.  And, as could only be expected, Pridgen’s drum work is phenomenal and rightfully overexemplified which leads to us getting to hear Thomas at the highest point of his career.   The final track of the album, ‘Mr. Entitled” also features some absolutely mind blowing saxophone and flute work that will definitely surprise you ears and senses.  And of course this said track is fronted by Hawkins’s dubiously beautiful vocal chords that battle the likes of Jill Scott or Keyshia Cole.  Only badass!

Yes, these cats are absolutely incredible.  It was staggering to hear at first, as I just could not imagine such improvement and drastic change in a group that I have come to know and love so whole heartedly.  It is becoming bloody obvious that The Memorials are going to have a time spanning career that will constantly be filled with the pressures of constantly out doing their last turnout.  But, I am willing to believe that they are up to the task, and we the listeners shall never be let down.  Tough job for them, but awesome deal for us!  Just as a memorial should do, this a band that will stand as a true testament of what could be, but rarely is, done to rock and roll in this day and age.

The Memorial’s sophomore album, Delirium, drops on June 5th.  Check out the bands website for more details.  Also check out this great mention of the band on NPR’s All Things Considered.  If you can’t take my word for it, you have to believe NPR, right?

Bloomsday 2012 [Playlist]

Tomorrow (Sunday May 6th) is Bloomsday!  A day when 50,000 plus insanely driven Spokanites and visitors will hit the streets for one of the biggest 12K races in the world.  7.46 miles of moderate intensity that boosts a painfully unavoidable hill of magnanimous proportion frightfully known to locals as “Doomsday Hill”.  And yes, I am running it.

I am not exactly the most fit and/or healthy person in the world.  I do tend to run whenever I can, as George W. Bush once suggested, to “purge my system of poisons”.  Whatever bouts of debauchery that can not be burned out through morning coffee usually seems to find its way out through my pores as a stride through the downtown streets of Spokane, often ending with a leisurely stroll through just a few of the hundred acres plus that is Riverside Park.  But, alas, I have once again decided to partake in the most holiest of holy running events in Eastern Washington.  It really isn’t as bad as some people could make it out to be.

And with said running, must come music.  I don’t fancy myself one of those people who sincerely claim that they “must have music” when they run.  They are wrong.  And ridiculous.  In fact, ear buds are not actually allowed to be used during Bloomsday.  Why you might miss one of the few locally driven bands playing along the course that you don’t care about, and probably aren’t actually worth the cost of the 30 seconds of listening you had to endear as you passed on by.  But, this is no deterrent from bending rules that were meant to be completely broken.  While I don’t believe I “must have music”, I want to.  And that is good enough for me.  It gives me a chance to dig into some more exciting songs that I wouldn’t normally listen to at home in my ratty pajama bottoms and the morning paper & coffee/bourbon.  Yes, this is my time to get loud.  I like my running music upbeat.  Is there really any other sort of way?

And I seem to be having a stream of illustrious fortitude for very loud music lately (my latest music show goings being seeing TacocaT and Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children Macnuggits).  So, I thought it would be nice to let everyone know what will be illegally blistering my ears for the (hopefully) fulfilling 7 1/2 miles I plan to endure.  Below is a list of 30 tracks that will guide me along this self righteous passage.  And the next time you find yourself yearning to sweat out the previous night’s over indulgence, think of all these great tunes, and get your self righteous out on the streets.  Let’s begin:

(Note: Many of these tracks will be highlighted with links to sites where you can stream/buy/love the songs themselves.  Enjoy!)

TacocaT

TacocaT – Volcano

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling – First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen cover)

Walk Off The Earth – Somebody I Used To Know (Gotye cover)

Fun. – All The Pretty Girls

The Ascetic Junkies – Jenny, Don’t Do That!

Soul Distraction – Not Gonna Sing About You Anymore

Nas – Black Zombies

Axemunkee – Acid Django

The Fenbi International Superstars – Two Miles From Home

Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children Macnuggits

The Memorials – Flourescent’s Unforgiving

Atmosphere – American Disgrace

Hosannas – When We Were Young

Jared Mees & The Grown Children – W.W.J.B.D.

Iron Maiden – Run For The Hills

Tyga – Rack City

Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children Macnuggits – Sandwiches & Ammunition

Mother Love Bone – This Is Shangrila

The Illness – Lengua De La Muerte

Flying Spiders – Fadism

Golden Bloom

Blitzen Trapper – Fletcher

Portugal. The Man – So American

Golden Bloom – Rhyme The Reason

Rush – Tom Sawyer

Kanye West (featuring Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, & Bon Iver) – Monster

Strength – Metal

Corey Chisel & The Wandering Sons – Born Again

Trick Trick (featuring Eminem) – Welcome 2 Detroit City

Sleater Kinney – Entertain

The Dandy Warhols – Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth

The Jesus Rehab – Holiday