Tony Watt [Interview]

Tony WattSometimes, it is great to be weird.  Sometimes it is so much fun to be strange.  But to be weird and strange, that is when shit just gets beautifully complicated.  One of the most wonderful things about the world of film is that it can be a forum for truly talented people to celebrate the weird and the strange.  And I can think of very few filmmakers who have managed to showcase how delightful the deranged and demented can look on film than legendary indie filmmaker Tony Watt.

Tony Watt is a guy who has made some films that would make Lloyd Kaufman seem like Stanley Kaufman, or John Waters seem like Steven Speilberg making another movie with Tom Hanks as yet another lovable asshole.  Watt’s filmography is littered with nothing less than some of the most creative and bizarre scenarios that will leave you wondering:  Is there something wrong with me for really loving this sick shit?  The answer is no.  Celebrate the weird!  Celebrate the strange!  And on that note, I am very happy that we got to ask a few questions from this amazing multi-media mastermind.  Ladies and Gentlemen…..Tony Watt!

So much of your work is build around an obvious love for all things bizarre.  Frankenpimp and Acid Head: The Buzzard Nuts County Slaughter alone sound incredibly strange and awesome just by the title.  Tell us if you would be willing to answer a simple but maybe complex question…..How do you come up with this shit?

-Before the Internet— I wanted to become a rock star, or a cartoonist…. I thought that the miracle of Film-making came like magic, to an elite, lucky few in  Hollywood,  U.S.A. ,from God’s personal blessing  (When film equipment, analog film-editing & analog sfx, was more expensive; pre-YouTube days…) I covered all  this ephemera, in my book Kount Kracula’s Twisted Sinema,available on Amazon, BarnesAndNoble.com..and the finer e-book stores, near you (*Smiles*).

…As movie influences; my mom & Raymond, my Dad; used to throw laundry on top of me and my younger my brother, in the back seat of their car & sneak us into the Jamaican ‘Harbour View’ Movie Drive-In, to see a Mainstream & sometimes Exploitation movies. I remember them gently pushing my & my brother’s head down & telling us to go to sleep, whenever a titty scene came on).

In the late-70s & ’80s  on theToronto-based, Elwy Yost hosted the Magic Shadows public television, movie showcase series [ I viewed such cinematic ephemera, like Mighty Joe Young, ‘Animal Farm & Buster Crabbe’s ‘Flash Gordon..etc..] and regular American tv shows [Like Adam West’s Batman, Redd Foxx’s Sanford & Son, Gabe Kaplan’s Welcome Back, Kotter’Starsky & HurchWhat’s Happenin’, Diff’rent Strokes, The Dukes of Hazard, Elizabeth Montgomery’s Bewitched & Lee Major’s Six Million Dollar Man… Britain’s Red Dwarf and the Monty Python series…etc..], as well as the WUTV Buffalo U.S.A.-based (and Canadian seen) Creature Feature and Sci-Fi Theater’ afternoon Showings of Japan’s Mothra, Godzilla and Gamera-type movies.

Thankfully, in the early 2000’s when I was just starting out in film; I was able to transfer my expensive  analog-based film-making footage efforts to the cheaper digital medium (and to also edit in that electronic medium (as analog film editing took way longer and infinitely more expensive). I think my film-making is an amalgamation of my self-taught, self interest ‘sequential arts’ studies.

Tony Watt2What is it about the bizarro category that intrigues you?

-As a kid-to- teenager in the 70s & 80s ( when an average kid’s meager disposable cash was only able to go so far, towards, say 45 vinyl records..candy & comic-books ), I had a $1.50-$2.50 weekly allowance.Thankfully I wasn’t interested in video games.

And with such a meager allowance; personally going to movies, in the local mall-theaters, was a rarity. So I really wanted to focus become an animator, or cartoonist… moviemaking thoughts were a million miles away…though I fancied acting very much…even took courses….anyhow, lost the plot..where was  I..oh, drawing became my main hobby.

I only needed a pencil and clean paper, to be a happy boy….. But, my art skills then, were OK for impressing my friends with sketchy porno & Hulk drawings…but, as far as being professional , I was far below par. And also, I had many artistic focuses, in music, acting, writing,,drawing… which pissed off my hard-working, blue-collar father to no end.

…But, I could afford comic-books…. kept drawing for years…. trying to create better form.. studying the art books and looking through various comics helped me find my own personal style…… I prowled flea-markets and got a lot of the classics, near classics and non-classics…. My early artistic entertainment mostly came from  comic-book reading (mostly compiled from my mom’s brother: Uncle Charlie who had a lot of Cracked Eerie & Mad magazines, as well as DC, Charlton & Marvel Comics…My mom’s sister Aunt Jill, had a lot of Harvey , Disney & Archie stuff) & I dug  reading Sunday Paper Funnies (a lot of it [the Weekend Newspaper Color Comic Strips] were collected & compiled together and placed inside each other, like a huge ash-can comic, minus staples), gotten from my  Grandma Gwendolyn[aka Precious], who over months, slipped them all into one honkingly huge comic-strip omnibus, and also  , who I credit, as being very  integral in fueling my artistic hunger (as well as being the real creator of the trade‘graphic-novel’) *Laughs*…

…The comic 70′s and 80′s color weekend strip pages were larger, and more colorful than today’s—- & had many, many ‘genres’ in those days. …. not just the funny sitcom stuff.

In the late- 1970s, I had a buddy, in Brampton Ontario, Canada; named Stuart, who’s older brother Collected Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez, & Gilbert Shelton…mostly  ’60s-70′s ‘Underground’ stoner comix…And my mom had her crazy Mickey Spillane & Harold Robbins books… Good times!

.. In school, I also loved reading biographies, Mark Twain, Dickens, Southern USA & West Indian folklore and Norse / Greek mythology books( as well as the epic tales from the King James’ children’s bible) ..so you see, before films: books, t.v. and comics where my main source of entertainment and storytelling influences) …. Even more so, when VCRs came in, in the 1980s…But, I’d say mostly comics…mainly Heavy Metal Magazine..I’d put on a cassette of Zeppelin, Queen , Pink Floyd, or Genesis, or whatever..and slip away.
..Later, as a teen; (in the mid-80s to Early ’90s), before I dropped cartooning,& grew my hair long, to start rock bands, for chicks.  I studied almost every major comic creator (even from old 50’s E.C. & Gold Key Comics), from Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, Carl Banks, Frank Miller, to Engand’s 2000 A.D. Magazine‘s Alan Moore and Alan Davis, to Heavy Metal Magazine‘s Jean Giraud (aka Mœbius), Philippe Druillet, Richard Corben & Simon Bisley…. so, to answer your question about my intrigue, about the bizarro category…. I look at my film  projects as living comic books… Something to take you out of this serious world for an hour and a half..or , in the case of my comic books : 20 minutes, to  half hour,

…When I firmly decided to become a comic ‘creator’, back then (in the late-70s), as a kid; I first looked through a lot of related ‘artist’ books at the local library….Walt Disney, Frank Frazetta, Chester Gould, Al Capp, Walt Kelly, Milt Caniff, Alex Raymond & Burne Hogarth (etc.) stuff was the amongst first  library books that I borrowed, based on art ( I was hooked on the sci-fi fantasy world within the worlds and  works the artists created)…Their fine art, in the comic strip & book  medium (Hogarth and Raymond’s Tarzan & Flash Gordon), really took me to other worlds; that I saw in the movie theater (My mother took me to a lot of Johnny Weissmuller ‘Tarzan’ movies, in a velvet-curtained theater… which was awesome) in the early-mid 70s.

In turn, from these cartoonists’ initial influences (as well as EC/DC/Marvel/Charlton & 60s-70s underground comix), inspiring my late 80s and ’90’s foray into creating  T&A fantasy comics, for various Canadian ‘gentlemen’s’ adult magazines..up to my own recent ’10s indie graphic-novel output..like: Code Name: King, Bird of Steel and also my Space Chick & Nympho:Vampire Warrior Party Girl comix series (all upcoming , or available on Amazon, BarnesAndNoble .com and others of the finer e-book stores near you, Sir, don’cha know!?* laughs*).

I know you are probably sick of explaining this, but I have to ask…..Where does the nickname “Tex” derive from?

– I served in the U.S. AIR FORCE , in Fort Worth Texas, a while back…..and that….

…. So, when I came back to Canada, ‘Tex’ the nick-name stuck…It’s a hell of a lot better than ‘Toronto’, I guess.

What was not so insane, but still strangely brilliant was your 2009 Documentary, Dobbie Dobson: An Interview with Jamaica’s Music Ambassador.  This seems like such a stretch from your normal works.

I believe folklore culture is important in all societies… even the mindless smut I create, takes a lot of personal  research into getting a drift, on anything I’m writing about script wise, and that..

… A lot of the vintage West Indian ‘music scene’ is not documented, very well…Especially seeing from my research & interviews; how a mixture of African Culture and North American culture (both of which I grew up in), can make such a sweet gumbo, of the Jamaican music styles…and how (just like my art was partly influenced by Japanese monster B-movies, that wafted from an American tv station’s airwaves into Canada) these talented West Indian artistes adapted the North American pop music sound, which wafted over from Miami, U.S.A.’s radio-wave signals,  into their own various music sounds and stylings; like Jamaican doo-wop, reggae, ska, lover’s rock,roots rock, rocksteady, toasting (early rap), dancehall and other such delights, Mahn…T-tt! (“Laughs*)

Dobby Dobson records were also a part of my family’s vinyl collection..I especially remember digging the East Indian-looking lady, drinking milkshake with him, on his ‘Sweet Dreams’ album cover picture, when I was 6, or 7…. Very Talented man, that Dobby Dobson… He is a musical amabassador….. In concert he sings in all the Jamaican styles I mentioned, even gospel.  (these days…..google, youtube, , I-tune, or Catch his stuff live, you can…… There’s more than Marley, out there kids.. Yuh bet yuh Bumbo!!..Big Choons , Sah!..Chuss I-yah!… His site is at DobbyMusic.com! (*Laughs*)

 So, how did your manage to hook up with the reggae legend to make this thing happen?

-Dobby & I met in the late 2000s, at one of his Toronto area concerts & he knew I was a filmmaker…
…. so, we chatted & I found out that he wanted his music in my movie (Vixen Highway 2006: It came from Uranus) & I also helped him with his ‘rockumentary’, that you mentioned. Also, by coincidence,  my aunt, Dr.Mavis Burke, a Jamaican educator/author ,  taught Mr. Dobby, in Kingston College, when his was a youngster…. Life is stranger than fiction, man!

Check out the entire documentary, free at IMDB.com.

MV5BMTI5MTk5NTA3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTY1ODc5Mw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_You have worked side by side with your partner, the wonderful Vivita for quite some time. 

-We met on the internet  …now, before you get the wrong idea we found each other in the filmmaker section of Meetup.com and she became my wife a few t.v. shows and movies later.

 What do you believe it is about this relationship that works out so well professionally? 

… I was a filmmaker.t.v. producer looking for a female editor, who could hopefully act ..and she was an actress who just took up editing, right…..

We hooked up to work professionally, and the… well, shit happened, y’know! Not exactly a text book romance though…I came on a bit heavy, on our first meet-up and she told me to agitate the gravel, eh.

So, later, after I was in a major car accident and she stalked…er… visited me… strangely ver-ry often., at the Toronto area St. Michaels Hospital… then love was in the air…..ah, the smell of hospital urine and formaldehyde, must’ve done it… and things grew from there….actually I grew from there…She’ll kill me for saying this, but she once took me, on the hospital bed, behind the screen.. and when we were done..er..communicating… I was back in my sexy blue backless nightgown, literally a few seconds before hospital security showed up, behing my tented casbah— thank God! But, at least it got me released from the hospital, earlier! (*laughs*)

Is there some sort of spirited connection that gives you two the ability to create such great entertainment/art together?

Our mutual lust for glory…..and bread!

Another individual you “work” with is a little somebody named Sophia The Cat.  Who exactly is Sophia The Cat?

-Sophia The Cat?… Sophia The Tabby….Sophia The Super-Bitch Diva?…She owns Vivita and I…We are her ‘humans’…she let’s us (and her little felin- friend, Dino) live with her.

She’s our Pussy Queen.. When she was a kitten, last year…..we were filming a t.v. & online crowd-pledge fundraiser for, our upcoming Pam Grier-influenced ChickRevenge flick Violet Is Blue & Sophie hopped up on the synthesizer keyboards (with an old-time organ sound), which happened to be on at the time and walked across it (the video is on Youtube)..

We then used the tune in Nosferatu vs. Father Pipecock & Sister Funk (in the scene when the hero, Hutter wakes up & checks a second time to see if Count Orlock the shape-changing vampire is still alive, before he ran up to his room, being followed by the demonic, sexually ambiguous,  homicidal bloodsucking aristocrat)…We also got the cats to act in the movie, as well.

Tony Watt4Can you tell us a bit about your latest film Nosferatu vs. Father Pipecock & Sister Funk?

…I re-dubbed, reedited and added scenes to  the original director: M F.W.urnau’s  classic, Nosferatu (1922) movie…… big fan of the original film

 What exactly is this film about?

Well, according to Amazon.com , in Nosferatu Vs. Father Pipecock and Sister Funk (2014)’  the  ‘Original 1922 star: Max Schreck plays  (in newly tinted archive footage, mixed, with new) Count Orlock, a deviant, adulterous, shape-shifting Transylvanian vampire aristocrat & super creep, who is tearing Bremen, a new corn-hole & it’s up to a ‘brotha-in-a-collar’ and a creole nun with a flamin’ gun, to stop him, in this ‘creature-feature’ fang-fest! Co-Starring Canadian Scream Queen: Vivita, with new footage shot in tantalizing Watt-a-Rama & dubbed in Tex-O-Phonic Super-Sound; Nosferatu Vs. Father Pipecock and Sister Funk , kicks ass! ‘…. Basically I added naked tits & rumps…..and some colour sequences…Just like Murnau intended , but, was born 100 years too early…I also sexed up the Count and gave him a few lusty, nublile vamps for his wives…now, the old boy is pimpin’ , necromancin’ and getting some sweet tail!

What would you say is the biggest difference between Tony Watt in 2004, when compared to Tony Watt in 2014?

Older , fatter, & not as smart as I thought I was, as a youth… less starry-eyed …but, I feel more accomplished artistically, and also it so pleases me to be aesthetically satisfying my one, or two fans, out there… and that fact means more to me, than anything else.. other than my marriage to the lovely, infamous, uni-named Vivita, of course (she’ll be reading this, so I’ll be forced to mention that)…. and spending time with Dino & Sophia, the wonder-cats!…And sneaking out junk food, to nosh on!

…Thankfully I can hit the gym to loose the weight, though, when I get the notion…not really interested in getting smarter, or more starry-eyed ..just to get more commercial…and richer, these days; is my main focus, now that I’ve got a few people’s attention…. I definitely smell better … shorter hair and more expensive suits…. just a more conservative a-hole, these days.

What is one project or idea you have yet to had the chance to tackle , that you hope to complete before you are worm food? 

– I’ve pretty well done everything I wanted to do, artistically…..um….After I finish drawing/publishing Space Chick & Nympho: Vampire Warrior Party Girl Comix #2 and my & Vivita’s  ‘Frankenpimp’s Revenge’, ‘Violet is Blue’ & ‘Bird of Steel’ movies  (updates will be on my IMDb.com,or TonyWatt.com pages, by the way)..also,  my wife intends to put me in pumps— and make me work the street-corners; to pay for cat-food….so, I guess shopping for a  couple strong knee pads, work on my fluffer technique….and hopefully work on, or act in a Major Studio movie, with the help of Anik, my new agent.. Oh, and to complete a few more Kount Kracula t.v. show episodes with V. and ‘Jazzy’ Johnny Migliore..seen on  www.Blackflag.tv, of course!

What else does the future hold for you?  Any new projects you would like to pimp out right about now?

My three movies,:  Frankenpimp’s Revenge, Violet is BlueBird of Steel  & also, my upcoming Space Chick & Nympho: Vampire Warrior Party Girl Comix #2 ..all on Amazon and finer e-stores, baby!

What kind of advice would you give to young filmmakers out there looking to break into the underground world of film?

-Quit!!…no, I’d say to you aspiring film-makers….”get rich..get popular, from my sage advice ..Then hire me as an actor and pay me millions of dollars, as a grateful homage.
AND…For God’s sake…. DON’T FORGET my own fucking trailer, you pompous ass-holes!!!..and I need classy, big-boobed hookers, Sirs…and very cle-e-e-an!!!!!” …. Then my humble, kino-matic mission on this planet, is done.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

-That’s very personal…How dare you, Sir!…… but, I’ll tell you…whatever I did…it made my wife smile, also! (*winks & smiles*)

Advertisements

Sadistik: Ultraviolet [Album]

sadistik-ultravioletSo, your favorite indie rocker’s favorite rapper is back!  Already!  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was feeling amazed by 2013’s Flowers For My Father.  And honestly, the album hasn’t really left my regularly scheduled playlists to date.  But, the diligence and constant artistic efforts of Sadistik are impossible to ignore, especially when he releases such an amazing record as Ultraviolet almost directly (well, figuratively directly, anyway) after releasing one of the finest hip hop records I have ever heard.

Ultraviolet has so many high points, it’s almost not fair to point them out individually.  There are a few things missing from the record that I would have loved to see (appearances from Kristoff Kane, Bodi, Cas One, etc.) but I know the back story of this album, and I now that this album was oh-so-carefully constructed in the mind of Cody Foster a.k.a. Sadistik, that I easily set my own bullshit personal wishes aside, and enjoy the beautiful things about this amazing album.  First of all, “In the Night” is by far the most brilliant piece of work I have heard from this fucking guy to date.  I simply can not get enough of it.  Second, we get to hear from Trainwreck’d Society’s 2012 Person of the Year, Anna Lynne Williams, a.k.a. Lotte Kestner, once again on “Chemical Burns”.  Which, oh-so-incredibly, features the late wonderful artist Michael “Eyedea” Larsen, who is also no stranger to the TWS world, and more importantly one of the single greatest hip hop artist to have ever lived, and was taken from us far too quickly.  Finally…. guest appearances from legends like Sticky Fingaz and Tech N9Ne on “Death Warrant”….are you fucking kidding me?  Such brilliance!  Throw a wonderful cameo with Yes Alexander, some return production from Kid Called Computer, and Sadistik continuing to spit his wonderful poetry just as well, if not better than, as he always does, and you may very well have one of the finest records of 2014.  Easily the finest hip hop album of the year, but Sadistik’s music extends beyond the idealism of any sort of genre.  This is indeed hip hop, but more importantly, this is art.

You can stream Ultraviolet now at DJBooth.net.  Official release date is July 1st, and you can pick up a copy for yourself right HERE.

Fred LeBlanc [Interview]

Fred LeBlancSo, there has been this great band I have been listening to for as long as I can possibly remember.  Actually, we just covered their latest release a few days ago.  They are Cowboy Mouth, and they are amazing.  In fact, one of the main reasons I even started this little website that has blossomed into something beautiful was to be able to ask a few questions with certain folks, one of them being the man behind the creation of Cowboy Mouth, the absolutely and incredibly talented Fred LeBlanc.

And now I have finally been able to wrangle up a few words from Master Fred.  Mr. LeBlanc has been the drummer/front man of Cowboy Mouth since their inception, oh so many years ago.  And in the 20+ years he has been rocking stages and stealing hearts, he has never seemed to miss a beat.  Cowboy Mouth music is about as perfect as music can be.  Fred & company great good time vibes through “hell yeah” beats that are reminiscent of the glory days of rock and roll past, but always seem fresh and original.  And most of all, just damn brilliant.  And we are so excited that we were able to ask a few questions from his greatest, the wonderful Fred LeBlanc.  So, throw on your new copy of Go!, and check out this awesome interview from a modern day living legend.  Enjoy!

How did you initially get started in making music?

Apparently, I was a pretty sick kid. Due to a birth defect my tonsils and adenoids were overgrown and blocked my hearing passages for the first three years of my life. And since my lungs were underdeveloped at birth (oh, the irony), the doctors were not able to correct my hearing issues until I was three years old.
Since I couldn’t hear, I did not interact with the world too much. In an effort to draw me out of my shell, my parents would lay my head on the stereo speakers and crank classical or movie showtunes which was what they were listening to the time. The old family story is that I could actually sing before I could talk, belting out “Mary Poppins” at church when I saw other people singing.

All I know is that music has always been my first method of communication. It has always been easier for me to express emotions with music than with conversation. Which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds sometimes…

What were some of your early inspirations?

That’s a pretty far ranging question, but I’ll give it a shot; I’ve always loved classical music as well as the old dirty rock ‘n roll of my youth. One of my first jobs was when I was 11 years old working in a used vinyl record store… Remember those? My job was to alphabetize and catalog approximately 250,000 vinyl albums and singles. Since there was a steady stream of records coming and going, my job that was pretty constant. So I would always pull out whatever looked interesting and play listen to it. Patsy Cline? I’ll listen to it… Howling Wolf? Sounds interesting… And it all just grew from there.

Also, growing up Catholic, I was pretty tired of being told in what was supposed to be a spiritual setting that I was “original sinner” and that there was no hope for me, all the while being gouged for money and intimidated by supposedly well-meaning clergy. I intuitively realized that the church had nothing to do with spirituality and was more of a system of control. Pretty heady stuff to realize at the age of five, but I guess I was a little different than the average kid.

Anyway, there was a local television show that aired right before the Saturday morning cartoons in New Orleans where i grew up of a black Baptist church service that I loved to watch. I those church services, the tangibility of their expression of faith, and it’s cleansing and purifying effect was very hypnotic to me. I saw that that was something that I wanted to do with, and for people. It seemed to me that the folks who got the crappy end of the stick (i.e. the African-American culture at the time) were able to experience a much more clear and cleansing sort of faith that seem to be focused on the soul and its uplifting, as opposed to something that beat down their parishioners in order to just keep them in line. I was really drawn to that on a very primal, emotional level.

Fred LeBlancIn your own personal opinion, what is it about a Cowboy Mouth show that makes it special and unique?

This is something that even most of the people who have been in the band have never understood about it; Cowboy Mouth has never been about the people on stage, it’s always been about the feeling in the audience. It’s that simple. This band is a very real conduit for a vital sort of energy that exists in our shows – the sort of energy that people remember they have within when you ask them to give the very best of themselves in a completely secure and freeing situation. Using that as a foundation, there is no limit to where you can go.

How do you maintain the enthusiasm you are so well known for having during your live performances after so many years? What keeps you motivated?

Enthusiasm, plain and simple. A basic love and appreciation for what I have been blessed to be able to do for my entire adult life. The thing about energy that many people don’t understand is that it all comes from the inside out – not the other way around. With that as your basis, you understand that energy and enthusiasm are actually limitless in supply and scope, so therefore they can be used to move huge groups of people to the point of finding that in themselves if you choose.

So much of today’s world is specifically designed to make people feel “less than.” That is the basis of how many products and services are marketed and sold, albeit very subtly. I’m not one to judge anybody just trying to make a buck, but I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be part of something that would uplift the human spirit as opposed to something that would break it down, no matter how seemingly insignificant my efforts might be. That was a personal decision I made for no one else but me. And it was also a specific, conscious decision I made in putting this band together all those years ago.

One of my all time favorite Cowboy Mouth songs, and one of my favorite songs in general, is “How Do You Tell Someone” from 1994’s It Means Escape. And with that in mind, I have waited 20 years to finally get to ask you…. Is this a very personal song? And what made you want to create such a light hearted gem of a song with such a dark context?

My entire song catalog is pretty much a diary of my life. Some of it is very obvious and outfront while other songs can be obscure or abstract – which may be related to aesthetic/creative decisions or personal ones, depending on the song. You do what you feel is right in the moment to get across the idea and/or emotion that you’re trying to convey. Sometimes you can convey a certain feeling by not being as direct which can involve the listener in a communal experience of a similar journey more than the specific retelling of a certain history. You can actually relate the emotion to the listener by having them relate it to their own experience as opposed to your own. Get it?

“How Do You Tell Someone” is an actual, direct, and true story. The names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. Also, the real story was a good bit darker. The original song was played at a much slower pace in the key of F, which is a much more somber tone. When I started playing it with the band – since I’m a drummer who likes to play fast and the key of G (which is a much more happier sounding chord) is easier to play on guitar than the original F chord (owing to the F barre chord finger formation on guitar which can become quite grueling during a two hour show) – the song’s arrangement just came out sounding a lot more happy and chipper than its lyrical content. Luckily, that makes me sound a lot more clever than I really am!

What do you believe it is about New Orleans, and the entire state of Louisiana that makes it such a happening place for music? What do you love the most about the state?

There is a certain “live and let live” vibe to both the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana that is unique to American culture. I think it’s a generational thing that goes back to the time long before air conditioning when people had nothing to do during the summer but just sit around, be hot, be sweaty, drink, think, create drama out of boredom, and watch the time pass… hence the name, the Big Easy.
It’s a good place to woodshed away from the spotlights of either New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville; the three big musical and cultural centers in the country right now. New Orleans is a place you can try different things until you figure out what works for you and then to decide to present it to the world.

Being born and raised there, as well as my relationship to the state – not just the city – gives me a certain unique look that is linked to the area’s past and present, as well as its future. I have an understanding and love for the state’s history that goes back to my family being involved in state politics throughout the 20th century to my own cultural involvement with the city/state over the years. I was a Louisiana advocate long before it was the trendy thing to do, and I will still love the place long after the cultural carpetbaggers have all cleared out. But I love all the aspects of it, not the ones that are just focused on by the media these days… There’s a large swath of rich heritage and experience there that is purposely ignored by the cultural powers that be. Oh well, their loss. That’s the New Orleans and the Louisiana that I love.

What can fans expect to hear on the latest Cowboy Mouth release, Go!?

This album turned out so much better than I expected, and I expected a lot! It has the same feel of an old album of ours entitled Are You With Me?, but the guitars are heavier and the band is a lot stronger now. But it has that kind of vibe; pop melodies, big beats, and lots of energy and emotion! Sounds like Cowboy Mouth to me…

Fred LeBlanc2Now that Go! is out and available, what does the future hold for you personally and for Cowboy Mouth?

I have a saying that sometimes frustrates our crew. When confronted with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle or problem relating to a show I’ll just smile and say, “I’m Fred, things work out.” Ad they always do.
Every time I try to make plans, God laughs. So I just do what I do and have faith that it will all work out. And it does.

I’m Fred. Things work out.

Who is one living artist that you would love to perform with, but have yet to get the chance to do so?

I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve gotten to play music with many of my heroes; Bo Diddley, Ziggy and George from the Meters, etc… I think it would be fun to play with Mike Mills from REM, a very talented bassist with his own total center and groove… I think Springsteen and Cowboy Mouth could make a fun noise tearing up a barroom…

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This question.

The Verve Pipe: Overboard [Album]

The Verve Pipe - OverboardA couple of summers ago I attended another Pig Out In the Park at Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington just as I had several times throughout my youth and during my 3 year stint living in the city.  But the summer of 2012 was very different.  That year a blast from my past was performing, and I knew I had to be front and center.  The Verve Pipe was there to rock the park like few have done in the past.  And at some point it occurred to me just how surreal it was to be standing in the middle of this park with my wife and three daughters, hearing “Freshman” live and in person, when it seemed like just yesterday that I was rolling around this very city with my old man hearing this wonderful track routinely played on the down extinct Z-Rock, and falling in love with these guys.  For 90’s kids, you won’t be surprised that I used to sit next to the radio, blank cassette tape on deck, just waiting to get a chance record both “Freshman” and “Photograph”.  And of course, saving my allowance to run to the nearest Sam Goody on the Tuesday that Villains dropped.  Remember when we had to do that?  Well it has been quite a few years since Villains, and 13 years since The Verve Pipe dropped their last album, Underneath, but the boys are back!  And I will be hot damned if their latest release doesn’t take me right back to those good old days of Z-Rock and rocking out in Riverfront Park.

The Verve Pipe is a band that you absolutely must see live to truly appreciate it.  But, we all know this isn’t always possible (although they are constantly on tour!), so they have been oh so kind to put their brilliance on wax, and produced an amazing new album with their latest release, Overboard.  Tracks like “Here In the Dark” and “I Want To Bury You” are very reminiscent of their glory days in the 90’s, while “Carry On” brings us back around to 2001 with their signature pop rock sound that is simply delightful.  Whether you are a long time fan of The Verve Pipe, just discovering them, or just like damn good music, Overboard is a brilliant work of art that simply must be admired.

Recently I reviewed the latest release from Cowboy Mouth, and I made a statement about the mixed bag of emotions there is in learning of new releases from some of your favorite artists from the past.  Well, much like Cowboy Mouth, this is yet another band from my youth that is an obvious exception.  These cats simply rock, no matter what decade they are in.  And Overboard is a brilliant album that could forge a brilliant set list on its own, voiding “Freshman” all together.  Although, admittedly, I was a giggling fool when I finally got to hear it live on that beautiful summer day in 2012.  But, times have changed, and a new era is upon us.  And The Verve Pipe are going to be here to usher it all in.  And that is a damn good thing!

Head on over to the band’s WEBSITE to find out how you can pick up a copy of Overboard for yourself.

 

Cowboy Mouth: Go! [Album]

artworks-000081572910-1ra26o-t500x500I have been listening to Cowboy Mouth for just about as long as I can remember…anything at all.  This is a band that has been rocking shows and shaking up worlds for a ridiculous amount of years.  And with each passing year, they are showing no signs of slowing down.  This may be a band that saw its start of success during the happy-go-sadly days of the 90’s, but they have proven time and again that their music is absolutely timeless.  And after a dozen studio albums and countless live shows viewed by millions, their legacy is one that will truly never be forgotten.

Cowboy Mouth’s most recent album, Go!, might seem to be just another simple addition to an already vast and impressive catalog of music.  This wouldn’t be entirely a bad thing, but it would also be false.  Go! might very well be one of the most fun albums these guys have ever released.  It is loud, respectfully abrasive, and just so much damn fun!  If you need an example, check out “My Little Secret”, and try to tell me that these NOLA masters of entertainment don’t know a thing or two about rocking the hell out.  Go!  is indeed very reminiscent of days passed for Cowboy Mouth, but it definitely stands on its own two feet as a beautiful work of art.  Even on a more heart-felt track like “Where’s The Rain”, Fred LeBlanc and crew seem to demand some sort of swaying, emotional body movements.

Being a 90’s kid, it is always a sort of mixed bag of emotions when you see bands you loved 15-20 years ago continue to put out work.  I’m always proud of them, and usually always love the music!  Talent does not die out with trends, it is forever.  But, the downside is in the live performances.  Seeing a band being pigeon-held to certain tracks and moments of their lives that they may have grown apart from, but know damn well they can’t get away with NOT playing that “one song”.  I bring this up here only because Cowboy Mouth seems to definitely be the anti-matter of this theory.  This is a crew that has built their entire success around being energetic, talented, and the masters of a damn good time!  Every Cowboy Mouth show is an experience, and every track is a hit.  Cowboy Mouth is that sort of band that you can put on shuffle in your iTunes, and be damn certain that one of their “good” songs is going to come on next.  This is a band that has broken the stigma that they could have easily fell victim to, and decided to say, “Nah, we’re just going to rock!”  And rock they have, and we should all feel so damn fortunate for their presence, and that after all these years, they can still manage to release one of the finest rock n roll records of the year!

 

Pick up your own copy of Go!, and find out when Cowboy Mouth will be performing in a city near you (chances are that they surely will be!), at the band’s WEBSITE.

Bike Thief: Live @ Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR [05.29.14]

 

Bike Thief6Bike Thief5Bike Thief2Bike Thief1Bike Thief3

 

 

 

 

 

The band has only been in Portland for a couple years, and have been moving along at an incredibly fast clip. It’s been a busy year for Bike Thief as the band has changed some members all while working on a new record that will be out later this coming August. On Thursday, May 29th, I was able to make it down to Doug Fir to see them play their new stuff, and in spite of the date I brought with me, I had a great time.

If you saw Bike Thief last year, you need to see them again. In less than a year they have successfully transformed from the jangling, folky, moody, mostly acoustic sound of their Ghost of Providence EP, to electric and dynamic rock ‘n’ roll…and I love it. Hitting some higher notes this time around, lead singer and songwriter Febian Perez has pushed his voice to another level on these new songs, using falsetto that’s full of vibrato in the spirit of Jeff Buckley. Yes, he does it THAT well. I would never throw around the sacred name of Jeff Buckley if it wasn’t warranted. But that’s what I heard.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Bike Thief still sounds like Bike Thief, just bigger, louder, and more electric. The moody violin/viola of Greg Allen trades off and intermingles perfectly with the new guitar leads that weren’t there on the Ghost of Providence. Greg and Febian are up front and center and harmonize vocally into one mic like Springsteen and Stevie Van Zandt in the “Glory Days” video. Now that I think of it, wasn’t The Boss playing a natural blonde telecaster in that video? And wasn’t Febian Perez playing a natural blonde telecaster May 29th at the Doug Fir? Well, yes he was. There is no way in hell that is just a coincidence. Febian Perez isBike Thief4 the next Bruce Springsteen.

With the debut full length album coming out in August, and decent sized slab of tour dates coming together in the Fall, this could be the year that Bike Thief gains some wingspan and flies out of Portland just as fast as they flew in.

Learn more about Bike Thief, and check out some of their tunes at the following links:

http://bikethief.bandcamp.com/

www.facebook.com/bikethief

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Rosenthal [Interview]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We have spoken with many folks from the world of film here at Trainwreck’d Society.  From Oscar winning screenwriters, to beloved indie writers and filmmakers, we have had many extremely talented folks who have been the masterminds behind some of your favorite films both in the big studio Hollywood world, and the independent film world.  And one job title in particular that has us the most intrigued is that of the screenwriter.  The screenwriter is the man who puts the wheels in place.  Whether he or she is simply a hired hand being paid to bring a millionaire’s dream idea onto the written page, or he/she has developed a story in the screenplay format that he/she has put their heart and soul into to see it make it on the big screen, the writers are some of the most fascinating creatures in the world of film.  Where many writer’s in the world of literature have existed for the simple fact that they fear the public, and simply want to put words to paper to set their mind at ease, this is not a duty of a screenwriter.  While they might very well be reclusive characters at times, the ultimate goal of any screenwriter is to create a story that is going to be manhandled, dismantled, and thrown up on a screen in a visual medium for the world to know.  I could only imagine the first time a screenwriter sees the blood, sweat, and coffee stains thrown up on the screen, either being horrified or delighted, or feeling as though they are simply watching something totally different from what they intended. And all they can do is dry their eyes on moderately sized paychecks, and continue to create and create again.

I do not mean to sound somber in these descriptions, but simply express my love and adoration for the great work that these people do.  And I am extremely honored to announce that we have yet another wonderful screenwriter in the house who has agreed to share a few words with us.  And this time we went all out!  The wonderful and talented Mark Rosenthal has agreed to do our longest interview to date, as I asked our dear friend, Trainwreck’d Society contributor and filmmaker/screenwriter Chris Eaves to throw some questions at this legend of the film world in his own right.  And Mark was a damn trooper and answered them all!  His tale is one of personal triumph that should act as a great source of inspiration to anybody out there looking to accomplish, well, just about anything, let alone becoming a part of the world of film.  This guy has worked on  a plethora of wonderful projects that have been beautiful and diverse.  So please enjoy our interview with the illustrious and brilliant screenwriter, Mark Rosenthal!

For over 30 years you have worked alongside fellow writer Lawrence Konner.  How did this partnership come to life?  And what do you think it is that makes you guys such a great team?

We actually met at the University of Vermont. I was a TA in the English department and Larry was grazing through a pre-med curriculum. We’d scurry across the campus in thin, very Flatlander leather jackets and meet in the UVM Student Union and talk about movies. Mostly to avoid course work. A good strategy for anyone in college who wants to go into the movie business: avoid coursework at all costs!

 

Simply, we tend to fill different ecological niches. I can spend an hour at the keyboard on the right adjective; he’s more a pace and move-it-along type. I’ve found that writing teams often separate this way: ground and canopy, fox and hedgehog. Plus he have the essential personality type of avoiding confrontation so we tend not to sulk over disappointments.

Do you and Lawrence have any type of system when working on a new project? Have there been any large disagreements and if so how were you able to over come them?

This has changed enormously as the kind of films being made have shrunk and TV beckons more. I’ve done a few scripts on my own recently, small stories with lower budgets, trying to find a way to write drama. The truth is jobs are harder to find and that takes precedent over everything.

You have expressed in the past, some of the difficulties you had during the making of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.  But, as you look back today with even more Superman projects coming out and coming to life, how do you feel about your contribution to the legacy?  Why do you think it is important, and how does it feel to be a part of it?

The comforting memory of what turned out to be a sinkhole of a film was getting to hang out with Chris Reeve — a warm, ebullient and passionate guy. We’d stroll through the West Side near his apartment and talk story, gossip, trade stories, watch how kind and unpretentious he was with the public. Really good guy. While there’s an undeniable ‘black comedy cool’ to the fact that we were part of an historic movie madhouse, with an epic cast of Dickensian characters, no writer loves to watch a script that gets a greenlight transmogrified. As Major Clipton says at the end of Bridge on the River Kwai, ‘Madness!’

Mark Rosenthal - All Hail MAD Magazine

“A shot with the ‘villain’ from Jewel of the Nile that MAD Magazine asked us for after Mort Drucker did a parody.” – Mark Rosenthal

You have previously described your childhood as growing up watching movies every Saturday afternoon with your fellow neighborhood kids. Can you tell us more of what that experience was like for you and some of the most memorable films you saw? 

If you lived in a ‘rowhouse’ neighborhood in Philly when I grew up there was always a kids’ matinee on Saturdays around 1:15. Movies in those days were pretty much for grown ups — meaning no Sci Fi, Horror, or Mayhem at night. So they dumped the expanding slate of Baby Boomer films on weekend afternoons. We hardly paid attention to the name of the film — just lined up dutifully and filed in. I was so ‘into’ movies as a little kid that when it was some new state-of-the-art effects film (quite crude by today’s standards) like The Mysterians or The Tingler I’d man-up and watch it with the kids, then have massive, paralyzing nightmares through the night. I still have them. The first house I ever bought was deep in the Vermont woods. Friends would ask me if I feared a criminal breaking in when I was alone out there. I could never tell them, ‘No, I’m not afraid of some psychopath with a gun. But I’m frozen with dread at night that Dracula is hiding in the bathroom when I get up to piss.’

How did your life guide you into screenwriting? Why movies over books or theater?

When I drove myself to L.A. I’d never seen a screenplay. Films course were pretty much ‘appreciation’ courses taught in English departments. Papers never talked about the process and hardly mentioned box office. The movies were as secret as the Masons. I was finishing a doctorate with a concentration in Chaucer. Then in 1976 my brother, who was working for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was killed by terrorists in Istanbul. Waiting with my parents for his body to come back so we could bury him, unable to sleep, I made a vow to at least try to do what I dreamed of doing — I guess to acknowledge what Ian McEwen later called ‘this brief privilege of consciousness’. So I just drove myself to L.A. right after my doctoral defense in a private way to honor my brother. Lived in a garage for a while. Read scripts for Mark Rydell and the new studio Orion Pictures. After a 1000 scripts (he exaggerates, as always!) I thought I understood the form. Then I saw a tiny article in the back of the NY Times about a 15 year old girl named Phoolan Devi who was raped by a group of men and though a poor girl from a low caste instead of keeping quiet went back to avenge herself. And when the police came to arrest her she fled and was hidden by other poor villages. So I sat in a brand new shopping center called The Beverly Center and wrote a script in two weeks that became The Legend of Billie Jean.

Can you elaborate on your first venture into screenwriting with The Legend of Billie Jean. How do you feel about your involvement in the film today? How much, or any, has your opinion on those events changed?

Larry Konner gave our very first script to his agent, Bill Block, and it sold within days. I found out back in Philly in a hospital ICU where my father was having an emergency triple bypass. I was stunned. I think I flew back to L.A. without a plane. The phone was ringing as I entered my apartment — and it was the director saying he’d been put on the project and “I can’t direct things I haven’t written.” He fired us before we even had a chance to get studio notes. It was my baptism-by-fire of a writer’s life. We watched the script simplified and dumbed down, much of the character drama removed. A year later on a rainy night in Westwood we saw some women giving out passes to a test screening — it was for our movie. So we went to the MGM Lot and stood in line with lots of 12 year old girls to watch a rough cut. Took me a year to get over that. But film is a director’s world. Has to be that way. When the film opened poorly I actually sent (as opposed to literally?) a sarcastic note to the producers and one threatened to ‘rip my throat out’ but that’s another story.

 

 

"A drag queen review tribute to Billie jean." - Mark Rosenthal

“A drag queen review tribute to Billie jean.” – Mark Rosenthal

Since The Legend of Billie Jean, do you believe that screenwriting has changed?

Immensely. ‘Indies’ have replaced much of the dramatic studio projects and the competition for high-paying job is furious. Biggest change is that many projects are generated in-house so if there’s not relationship to them already, it’s hard to get in. All the cliches are true: more people trying to get a piece of a smaller pie. TV is more friendly to writers. Etc.

As I cannot number my own favorite films in order, generally, what have been some of your favorite films and could those movies still be made in Hollywood today?

I can only say that I can’t rise above seeing only the things that didn’t go right, the changes I never could palate, or the lost opportunities. So mostly I like other people’s films.

How do you pitch your ideas and what are your thoughts on this process?

The pitch is like stand up comedy with one person in the lounge. Not hard to bomb.

At what point do you decide your script is done?   

When there’s a paycheck! … The truth is, I think most writers can always re-write endlessly. We’re our own Scheherazades!

Would you please talk of your days at Orion and how you became initially a script reader? 

Long story that must be short. I had literally (correctly used here by the way) just finished my doctoral exams. I didn’t know how to get a Reader’s job but someone told me to look in Variety. I saw an announcement about Orion and called the Story Department. Now here’s the first act main beat: I was so stupid and callow I called at lunch time. Everyone was out. But on this particular day Sarah Altschul, the Story Editor, was working through lunch at her desk and grabbed the phone and said, ‘What?’ I fumbled out something about grad school and she just asked if I could be there in 30 minutes. Orion was on the Warner’s Lot and I didn’t know where that was. I didn’t know where to park. Or which gate. I parked somewhere in Burbank and ran sweating profusely into her office very, very late. Again, she should’ve kicked me out but instead gave me a test script to read. I went home and did what I’d been trained to do in Grad School. I wrote a literary essay about it. With Latin literary phrases. And again, when I brought it back, she should’ve kicked me out. Instead she ripped me and teased me but gave me another chance. In a couple months Orion asked me to be an in-house Reader. Then I started reading for Mark Rydell. It kept me alive in my tiny studio apartment till I sold me first screenplay. By the way, today that position would probably be filled by an intern working for free — and maybe I wouldn’t have stayed around long enough to write. Every free internship is a scandal, an exploitation, and should be illegal. The nonsense about ‘but you’re learning’ can be said about anything including the US Congress, studio executives and business affairs. Let’s not pay lawyers congressman or exec’s for their first few years and see how they like it.

 

With works such as the comedy The Beverly Hillbillies, science fiction such as Star Trek IV and Planet of the Apes, as well as the romantic adventure The Jewel of the Nile in your career, how have you managed not to be forced into a specific genre?

It goes back to that kid standing in line at a Philly theater for a matinee. I never asked ‘what genre was playing’ — I just loved them all. Most genres have the same structural challenges. The characters demand the same attention to detail. My feeling is a writer doesn’t look at project in terms of theme or tropes. A writer thinks in terms of ‘hard and easy’ (not that any writing is ever easy!) Plot and dialogue are hard. Comedy the hardest. But whether a character falls in love with an alien or a jet plane rockets forward but never leaves the ground, good writing is the common denominator — and not genre.

Outside of screenwriting and the entertainment industry, how do you spend your time?

Time? You mean, like, ‘free time’, ‘carefree time’ — hmm, I used to know what that was? Like everyone, the world seems to spin faster on its axis. I have college-aged kids which takes management (there is no ’empty nest’ — the nest merely widens and deepens). But my passions are bicycling (everyday!), reading literature (love iBooks), defeating Republicans, plus I’m involved in conservation — particularly with the Center for Great Apes in Wachula, Florida. It’s an amazing sanctuary where many ‘movie, TV, and commercials’ orangutans and chimpanzee’s are rescued from tragic circumstances by a real modern saint named Patti Ragan. Patti re-constitutes their family groups and lets them live in a forest preserve with grand walk-ways through the canopy. She even has some of the apes from my films. Michael Jackson’s Bubbles is there, too. The re-boot of Planets of the Apes has been wonderful because they use CG apes. Because if you see a chimp or orang in any film, TV show or commercial remember it means: first, the ape is pre-adolescent, some parent has been destroyed or hurt to take it, and it will be killed or dumped when it reaches puberty — often into a brutally horrid cage in the dark to live out it’s days immobile and in pain. (Your readers can go to their website to see video of the sanctuary and its apes!).

In your opinion which have your scripts have been your best and/or favorite?

Oh, far too many. Again, I don’t rate scripts from high art to low brow. That to me is a false calibration. Hard and easy. Most recently,  Looper was a great script within its genre, as was The Conjuring. A Serious Man,  and, of course, Social Network were masterful. But these kind of questions, to me, only make sense year by year, country by country, and even based on budget. Topic by topic. That’s why, to me, JC Chandor’s script for Margin Call was infinitely better than Wolf of Wall Street and comparing them a great lesson to a new writer.

Mark Rosenthal - Man + Ape

Bob Krist, senior photogrpaher for National Geographic asked me to do a Planet of the Apes shoot (tongue in cheek).

What has been your proudest moment?

Best moment — that’s easy. It occurred at Leavesden Studios when the very wonderful and gracious Alan Rickman and the director Mike Newell arranged for my kids to be extras in Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire. They actually made it into the final cut (for 3 whole seconds) in a Great Hall scene. That made up for years and years of grumpy producers and directors!

What has been your lowest moment?

Besides waking up and realizing I have to write — I can’t just chatter around a desk and ‘talk’ ideas like executives and actors and directors — I have to sit by myself, alone again, eating M&M’s, locked in solitary confinement with my mind, for life! You mean besides that? Oh, I could say the times I’ve been replaced on various projects but that comes with the job description. That’s when you just tough it out and run home and write ‘FADE IN’ on something new,something that surely this time won’t be botched in the birthing — the writer’s greatest and unique consolation. In some ways it’s when tiny and assorted bon mots you’re dying to see come to life from your script on the screen get cut out instead. In Mona Lisa Smile we had a bit where the Italian teacher (Dominic West) sings the old Italian pop hit Volare (‘Nel blu dipinto di blu’) to the girls at Wellesley — but the producer never heard of it (along with lots of other things like ‘Catcher In The Rye’!) and cut it out. Writers shoot the whole film instead their heads when they’re writing so it’s hard to drop the ‘scene’ just because it never got made!

In a long line of dream accomplishments for most people, do you still have a dream project you have yet completed?

Hundreds. A few scripts I’d still like to see get made. Many, many more I have on the ‘back burner’ hoping to get to. Writers are all creatively promiscuous.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Literally? (Sorry, the novelist Zoe Heller wrote an hysterical piece for The New York Review of Books about the misuse of ‘literally’ — so now I try to live dangerously and use it a lot.) Last night I saw Fault In Our Stars and was charmed by it and the performances (despite of it’s softening of how ugly cancer really is), and the kids in the theater were sobbing so hard, so long, so loud, so deeply, that I smiled because in our increasingly callous world it was wonderful to see a story affect an audience this way. These were not easy, Lifetime channel tears or dopey Disney Family tears –no, wracking, existentially transformative crying. Catharsis! In comes art — out comes, we must believe, better people! You have to smile. There’s still hope!