Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Stu Graham

If you can skate Livi you can pretty much skate anywhere. The park - and its parties - are bigger, rougher, faster and gnarlier than photographs or video could ever show. Having been raised next to its hallowed concrete waves, Stu Graham now shralps parks all over the world with the grace and finesse of an out-of-control cannonball after two bottles of Buckfast, except twice as fast and ten times as dangerous. Obviously we needed to know what music is fueling his on-going rampage...

What's your favourite skate video, music-wise?
Probably Wheels of Fire. I was only about six or seven maybe, when I saw it. I just remember it being really American, really Californian.

Have you got a favourite section track?
Ah, man... There's so many. Hundreds. Recently, I really liked the tune from Arto Saari's part in Mind Field. Fuck, who was it? I cannae think.

I know. I'm hungover. It was one of those bands all the Americans were into at the time.

Aye. I'm just baked right now, and I cannae remember shit. (It was 'Atlas', by Battles)

What's your favourite album of all time?
Holy shit. Haha! I'm sitting with my mate just now and he just said "That's a big fucking question!" I'm into the craziest genres of music, I listen to hella bluegrass... There's so much, just endless amounts. Flatt and Scruggs probably!

What was the first album you bought with your own money?
It was a Public Enemy album! What one was it again... Shit, I cannae remember! I need to remember.

What was on the cover?
It was a really fuckin' dark cover, and Flav had a white clock. All of them are dressed in black as well. Everybody's dressed in black but Flav has this white clock.

Yo! Bum Rush The Show?
Aye. I remember buying it because I only had one black mate when I was a wee guy, and he was with me when I bought it. Haha! At that time he'd been showing me loads of hip-hop. That's what got me into it. He took me down and showed me some shit! I think I was ten, or maybe eleven. It was way before high school anyway!

Have you got favourite album artwork?
Probably (Metallica's) Ride The Lightning, man!

Cool. Have you got any songs that you play to get yourself psyched to try something?

Fuck, man! I listen to hella bluegrass when I skate, cos it's really fast. The pickin' and the bass is usually really fast so it's usually bluegrass I skate to nowadays. Maybe Ricky Skaggs, Flatt and Scruggs again, or Chet Atkins. Loads of stuff.

What was the first gig you went to?

Aaahhh... This is totally gay. It was the Manic Street fuckin' Preachers. I was only 14 man, it was when they very first came out! It wasn't recent or anything! It was when the Forum was in Livi, remember that? That's where they had all the big gigs. In fact, I saw the Prodigy there as well. That was after, but that was some shit! It was the first time I got intae some drugs, I think!

So you play music then?
I've not got a band or anything, I just like to play myself. Just pickin' away myself. I'm not that good. I can play with the guy I'm with just now, if we sit down and talk about what it is we're gonna do we can get something going, but I cannae just jam with folk yet.
Basically, I came back from the States - to Livi - and a guy I knew all through school was playing the guitar and doing lessons, and I pretty much just started learning off him. Within the last four years I've learned to play guitar, bass and banjo. Pretty hyped.

What's the best gig you've seen?
Definitely Hank Williams III. It was down in Manchester at Tez Robinson's stag night. It was quality. Something that Cubic set up. It was pretty rad!

What was the last music you acquired?

Lynyrd Skynyrd. Loads of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I've been looking out a bunch of that shit. That 'Simple Man' tune, I've been trying to learn how to play that.

How do you choose the music for you sections?

They usually just tell me! They're like "We've edited your part, and it goes good to this tune. What do you think?" Haha! Saying that, with that Osiris part, I did have a wee bit of say in that.

The Pogues.
Aye, 'The Boys From County Hell'. With that tune, I can play the start of it, and I've always been super hyped on it. My da was really into the Pogues, and it's just a tune I can remember from being a wee guy, y'know? That's why I used that.

Are there any companies you think use really shitty music in their videos?
Aw... This is pretty harsh, isn't it? It's like "How much do you want to hate on somebody right now?" Haha! This is probably gonna make you laugh, but you know what I absolutely hate the most? Div and all those guys in the States have even been talking about it too. You know Shralp Ya Bass (Scottish video blog), all those wee clips that Dickson's been putting up? Dude, I love the clips, I love the skating, I cannae get enough of Colin man, I love watching them! But see the way... There'll be like a rock fakie and everybody's like "YEEAAAAHHH!!!" And it's like, "Dude, will you all just shut the fuck up so I can watch this?!" Honestly, I hope you put that in because I've said to Dickson. If they were doing something pretty sick then it's fair enough, but will yous all just shut the fuck up so I can watch this clip?

I'm wearing an SYB t-shirt right now. I'll pass that on.

Classic. Yes! It's just that it's rad as fuck, because Scotland's never had anything, and it's rad that Dickson and they guys are actually doing it, but it's like Kerr and all they goons just shout all the time. I'm like "Dude, will you just shut up man? These dudes are smashing it and yous are just blowin' it by shouting in the clips". It's fuckin' bullshit! Haha!

Stu's up at 5:40, but you should really watch all of this.

What are your plans for 2012 then?
I'm still trying to get my green card stuff organised. If that ever happens I'll be fuckin' out of here as fast as I can fuckin' get out! I've got a video part coming out too, in this new Creature video they're bringing out. I haven't even started filming for it yet... They're sending over a filmer, he should be here in February.

A Livi section in a Creature video then?
There'll be some Livi in it, but they've got some crazy-ass ideas! We're not even gonna be in the UK much!

Once again, so much good stuff here - Stu's at 4:50

Friday, 6 April 2012

Jennifer Herrema

She formed influential gutter sleaze-punk metal outfit Royal Trux when she was fifteen, went on to lead the gilt-edged trash of 70s-rock 'themed' RTX (Rad Times Xpress), spent time modelling for Calvin Klein (simultaneously, it is said, bringing 'heroin chic' to the mainstream) and now Jennifer Herrema returns with the totally righteous Black Bananas - the new old rock sound of a denim and leather bar-room brawl between Mötley Crüe and the Stooges in a paralleL.A. She makes music, designs clothes for Volcom, surfs and hangs out. Time I spoke to her.

Is Black Bananas more than just a name change? What demanded the creation of Black Bananas?
It hasn't really changed... It's the same people, but we've been working on the record for a while, and as time went on we just noticed that we were adding a lot more elements to it and using more diverse instrumentation. Right when we finished the record I was like "This definitely has aspects of RTX, and me and the stuff we've done before, but it's totally taken to another level", so we just decided to re-christen it. Just give it another name. It wasn't until after the whole record was done that we decided that it had a personality of its own, and demanded a new identity... As it were.

So it's a step beyond a RTX album?

Yeah, yeah. I mean... When I listen to it, I can tell it's us, but I can also tell that we've taken it a lot further and threw a lot more into the kettle, y'know?

How long did it take to get the album together?
Well the thing is, whenever we're recording it's not like we stop... We don't work on stuff and then be like "Ok, it's time to make a record" and then just jump in and do it. I mean I don't work! I just do music and surf and hang around... Basically we're working on stuff every day. It's been, like, three years since the last RTX album and we had already started... Like 'TV Trouble', that song, I wrote that like a month after the last record came out. But it was figuring out how I wanted to incorporate it on a record. So for three years we've just been fuckin' around y'know, buying new gear and experimenting and exploring Ableton. I set up the whole stereo system at the studio. Before that we didn't have a stereo over there so we never really listened to music because we were always in the process of making music, but we had such a long drawn-out time, and we wanted to take our time and enjoy ourselves. I've got this huge vinyl collection and we've all been listening to the same stuff - like stuff from when I was a kid - so over the past three years we've really gelled into a separate identity. I just feel like it's time that we take RTX out of the equation because stuff seems to always be overshadowed by that name, unfortunately. I never wanted to capitulate, because I consider anything that I do to be part of my body of work, which has always been - since I was fifteen - RTX. It doesn't mean that I can't name something different and bring myself to it.

So what were you listening to when you were growing up? Most people I know didn't come to your music through Ratt, or Mötley Crüe or whoever; they came to it through indie rock or something.
When I was a kid growing up, I would go with my older cousin to see Mötley Crüe, you know, all that kind of stuff. Those were the big stadium shows, and I was exposed to that music very early on, as well as punk rock, which had all-ages shows where I could go and see the Bad Brains when I was like twelve. So there's a Bad Brains influence in there too, but also, I was the only white kid in my entire neighbourhood. For miles and miles. It was all go-go, and rap, and funk, and that's the kind of stuff I'd hear day to day. Like, we'd be out in the alley hearing that doing Double Dutch. There were no white people. Funkadelic is one of my all-time favourites, and you've got Zapp, the Garbage Can Band, the Go-Go Band and then you've got Experience Unlimited, Rare Essence... Just a lot of cool DC funk, but not just DC - there was a huge prevalence. But that was the music that I grew up with in my neighbourhood. But then all my older cousins, they weren't from my 'hood at all so I was exposed to a lot of different music. I'm really lucky that I have an appreciation for all different types of music. I felt like, early on by introducing stuff that was so hugely exciting to me as a kid, like fuckin' Mötley Crüe or whoever, that people who liked 'college rock' or 'art rock' or whatever would like those things too if they were allowed. If somebody were to tell them that it's ok, that it's not not cool to listen to some of these sounds.

Is there anything new you're listening to?

Well, I just listened to the new Sleigh Bells track. I just got it this morning. I thought that was pretty cool. We're gonna go on tour with them. They wrote me, they were really inspired by Royal Trux, so I think it's gonna be fun. There's this other band called Nü Sensae, they're Canadian and they're a two piece. I listened to a couple of their songs and I'm into it. I haven't listened to a whole lot of new stuff, I'm just starting to, because we've just finished the record. When we were listening to music in the studio we weren't listening to Pitchfork top-twenty shit, y'know? We were listening to old stuff. I know there's stuff out there... Fuck, what's going on? Are you into anything in particular I should check out?

The Peaking Lights record was really good, it's this dubbed-out analogue psychedelia. You'd like it. And there's an amazing remix version of it out now too. You should check that out. What non-musical things influence you?

Visuals, TV, the news, parties...

The visual stuff for Black Bananas looks really good. I saw a really cool one earlier today with all this found footage of explosions and car chases and shit.
The Rad Times Xpress promo video? That one was this guy, he's a fan, and we met him once years ago when we were playing in New York. He's been following my music for ever. Like, since back in early Royal Trux days. So he's got a great insight into the whole pastiche, the collage aspect, of what Royal Trux grew out of and what I've always tried to keep as a central theme of what I do. It's never just one thing, it's always a mish-mash of shit I love, and am influenced by and stuff. He really nailed it. He wrote saying he wanted to do it, and asking about the different images and stuff, and I was just "Dude, do it!" I did not have anything to do with the making of that but the music is what inspired him - and his intense knowledge of what I've done in the past - and I think he's done a great job! I'm way into it.

What's happening with Volcom just now?

I got Kim Gordon hooked up with them so she's gonna put out a bunch of t-shirts with them. That's coming out pretty soon. I just spoke to her this morning, so we're gonna do an interview with her to help market that. I have a new denim line that's coming out for Fall 2012 that I'm just starting to see the samples for, and then for for Holiday 2012 I've got a jewellery collaboration with this jeweller Pamela Love. She's awesome, she's a sick designer. She and I are doing a jewellery collaboration for Volcom. There's this sick illustrator who's illustrated various t-shirts of me and Pamela in these psychedelic situations, and that t-shirt line will come out in Holiday too.

That's a while away.
Yeah! I'm also really excited about Fuct, you know the dude that runs Fuct?

Eric something.
Yeah, Eric Brunetti! I'm meeting him and his wife at the end of the month, and we're gonna do like a solid amber natural perfume collaboration. We're going to start working on that before I go on tour, so that's gonna be exciting.

How does working with companies like Volcom and Fuct compare to working with somebody like Calvin Klein?
They're awesome. They don't take themselves too seriously, and it's not just all 'business business' all the time. There's a lot of people who have been there since the very beginning that just grew with the company and just learned as they went along, so they're not just straight out of business college or something. They're actual real people. I admire them for keeping on the real people.

I admire them for employing Michael Sieben...
Ah, yeah, Michael Sieben's awesome! And then the stuff that they just did with John Baldessari and the stuff that they're doing with Kim Gordon. Black Bananas have been doing music with (artists) Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman, and we just did this performance for the MOCA - the Museum of Contemporary Art - and these dudes are just sick. They're making a video with our music, but we've kind of been incorporated into their art, and they're going to do some artist t-shirts. I hooked them up with Volcom. Their t-shirts will be super sick. I can't wait to see the finished ones. You should check those ones out, you'll like 'em.

Are you planning to tour Europe with this Black Bananas record?

We want to! People are asking us. We've had so many different booking agents over there... The idea was to come over early Fall, but we will see. Drag City can handle all that shit. Dates and times, and who's handling what.

Have you been surfing much lately?
No. I've been really sick. Not sick like... You know. Haha! But I went in about a month ago and it was the worst, I had a terrible ear infection. It happens sometimes. I had to have shots of antibiotics, my ears were so infected. I'm not much into surfing in the cold, so I'm not missing it right now.

Are you around skateboarding much?
Kurt, my boyfriend, skates all the time. I haven't skateboarded since I was 19. I had to have both of my knees drained with needles, I had water on the knee. My knees suck so bad. I've jumped on one and gone down the street, but that's about it. All those dudes over at Volcom skate every day. Every day.

Cool, well, I think I've got everything. Unless there's anything I've missed?
I dunno. Haha! Make something up if you need more.

So what's that, you're in love with me?
There you go! Stick that in. We can start some whole rumour shit! Haha!


Back in 1995, Wu-Tang founding member GZA became responsible for arguably the Clan's finest solo album - Liquid Swords - and rather than leaving it at that, he's been writing, collaborating and touring ever since. Bite My Wire caught up with him while he was in the UK promoting the forthcoming (RZA produced!) Liquid Swords II - The Return of the Shadowboxer.

You've been speaking to scientists to seek inspiration for the new album. What are you hoping to learn this time?
I'm not looking to learn anything specific. At MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and anywhere else I try to expand my knowledge to inspire me as a person, which impacts my writing. Back in December I met specifically with geneticists, quantum physicists and marine biologists as well as my homeboy, author Junot Diaz.

There's often been an apocalyptic vibe to your music, and 2012 has long been considered to be bringing the end of the world with it. Is this a theme in the new album?
The apocalypse is not a theme of my new album. I can't discuss what it's about yet. However, it's going to be amazing. Like me on facebook.com/thegza or follow me on Twitter @TheRealGZA for the most timely and accurate updates.
You were the first of the Wu to sign a solo deal. How did it feel, did it freak you out? 
Short of my family or myself being in danger, nothing really "freaks me out", it's just not in my DNA. It felt great to know that all my hard work was going to be heard on a large scale.

There was a massive shift in how hip-hop sounded, looked and worked when the Wu went global. Do you feel comfortable knowing you're still ahead of the game, or does the responsibility you have with each release freak you out? 
I've never considered myself to be "ahead of the game". I simply do my best at every outing. If that puts me in a certain strata, I'm grateful, but I don't feel like I'm in some kind of race.

Nowadays everybody has every piece of music ever recorded available to them, a few mouse clicks away. Does it affect how you make and promote your music? And how you get paid?
Creatively, I think the democratization of the music industry is a good thing. However I, like all artists - of course - suffered economically with the advent of digitization. It doesn't change how I make music but it does influence how I market it.

Technology seems to have pushed out a lot of the dirt in hip-hop. Do you still aim for a rawness?
I'm not sure that technology and rawness are mutually exclusive. But I aim for excellence, sometimes that's raw, sometimes that's polished. Depends on the song.

There's some pretty crazy 'evolution' happening in hip-hop just now. Is there any new stuff there you're digging?
When I'm in writing mode, which I am now, I don't listen to much current stuff.

Whole-album tours seem to be happening more and more now. Was it fun for you to tour Liquid Swords, playing it in its entirety?
It was - and still is - humbling and amazing to be able to perform an album that was released 16 years ago.

Your words are complex. Do you every write lyrics with just single meanings? Should we be looking for message and meaning underneath the surface of all your jams?
My lyrics can have single meanings but that doesn't make them any less complex. I don't like to tell my audience how to listen to my music. Everyone brings their own experience to any given situation so if they choose to seek deeper meaning, so be it. If not, there are many levels at which to enjoy any piece of art, be it a book, painting, film, sculpture or anything else.

Do you think chess skills can help a person live their life? Like how to weigh up a situation, look at options, examine the risk... Would it be wise to think like that?
Chess has become a part of my life in the same way that people say martial arts is a part of their lives. It's like a philosophy, life guide, mental discipline, all rolled into one. That being said, integrating the game's philosophies and strategies into your life is only as useful as the skill and mental discipline of the player.