Interview With Will Guthrie

 

Percussionist Will Guthrie, co founder of the Make It Up Club has been living in Nantes France for the last five years or so. A regular improvisor, he is equally adept with junk percussion and contact mics as with a full blown kit, having performed with jazz, flamenco, and African bands as well as improv troupes like Anthony Pateras’ Thymolphthalien.

What prompted your return to the kit?

Even when I was playing more electronics I never stopped playing the drums, but when recording I rarely used the drum kit. I was a little tired and frustrated with what of I was doing with electronics, it was time to change. I also felt a need to try to bring in more ‘pulse’ elements into my music.

And how have your percussive excursions over the last few years informed what you are doing on it now?

For me it all relates, the music I played in various settings (from African bands, to playing with guys from Stasis Duo) somehow all gets mixed up and spat out. ‘Sticks, Stones & Breaking Bones’ did not set out to do a mix of all these things, but after listening back I feel it somehow shows my different backgrounds in music, electronic, acoustic, improvisation, composition, etc …

You speak of wanting to play like a machine yet use the human physical limits as a way to influence where the music goes. Can you talk about this some more and were you surprised by the results?

Yes, the idea for the piece ‘Breaking Bones’ was to push my physical limits, and play repeated patterns at a very high volume until the body can continue no longer, and change happens regardless of a mental decision to change. The idea is that after awhile of pushing the body the mind plays second to the body, so the results can be unexpected and different to what I would normally ‘decide’ to play. It’s almost like a chance piece, but the outside element is my own self.

How did you go about recording the new album?

The new album was recorded live, no overdubs or edits, one take for the first two pieces, the last track took me a little longer, but the whole thing was recorded, mixed and mastered in 2 days.

You moved to France many years ago, how has this affected your playing and development?

I don’t know if being in Europe has affected my playing so much, but it has defiantly given me more opportunities to play in environments where my music is well accepted, and in good conditions for my music to be played in.

I saw you play with Cured Pink at the Melbourne Jazz Festival a few years back and it was one of my favourite sets of the day. Though given how unmusical the sounds he makes are I was really curious about how you’d approach it. Do remember this set and what was going through your mind?

I do remember this set well, and I enjoyed it. I felt it was real ‘improvised music’ !!! As apposed to people playing in a certain ‘style’ of improvised music, be that minimal, free jazz, whatever music, this gig had a real feeling on surprise, spontaneity about it, even danger. I really enjoyed playing with Cured Pink’s very ‘un musical’ sounds, it forced me into trying to make some sort of sense out of what was he was doing.

What should we expect for your show at monkey?

A set maybe slightly similar the new record.

WILL GUTHRIE – solo drums + percussion

MELBOURNE CD / LP LAUNCH

‘Sticks, Stones & Breaking Bones’

AUGUST 12 2012
4PM

MONKEY
181 St Georges Rd
FITZROY NTH
All ages welcome

$7 – gig
$20 – gig + CD
$25 – gig + LP

http://www.will-guthrie.com/

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Fragmented Films – July 2012 (2)

The Yellow Sea (Monster) is one of the stabbiest films you will ever see. It’s a veritable tsunami of chop suey as characters slice and dice with kitchen knives and hatchets, hell even half eaten animal carcasses. Thumbs are sawn off, limbs hacked, arms and legs end up in bags, bodies burn and the celluloid is coated crimson from all the wounds they carry. Goddard once said all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl, yet in the Yellow Sea, the girl is a memory and there’s barely a gun in sight. You feel each body blow, each incision in this man on the run thriller, both physically and metaphorically. Anyone know what Goddard had to say about knives?

South Korean writer-director Na Hong-Jin has previously given us the chilling psychological thriller The Chaser (Eastern Eye), and whilst The Yellow Sea is a frenetic explosion of tension and violence, with frequent knife fights and amazing car chases, it’s not all about visceral thrills. This is intelligent action, grim and brutal, playing upon the desperation of poverty, of ethnic minorities and illegal immigration. Amidst a backdrop of an organized crime war and characters searching for vengeance, there’s an unlikely strain of weary melancholy running through The Yellow Sea, which really elevates the film, managing to subdue it’s more over the top inclinations via not only its gritty nature, but also its willingness to really develop the characters. Hong-Jin expertly weaves this disparate hodge podge of genres together into an incredibly slick, tense and violent thriller.

Staying in South Korea, you can have your ultra sexy heroine who can mix it with the roughest of the boys, alternatively saving the day during an accident on their offshore drilling rig and then later pulling killer monos as she races her more effeminate boyfriend around the rig on trail bikes. You can even call her hardass and give her unresolved father issues that have sent her out into the Korean Strait to relentlessly drill for oil (nudge nudge wink wink).  In fact you’d be willing to give the filmmakers of the monster flick Sector 7 (Eastern Eye) as much latitude as they need, allowing them to drown you in a deluge of clichés, provided they deliver in the monster stakes. Which they almost do, offering up a fearsome looking creature that exists somewhere between Predator, Alien and a diseased worm. Actually that may be part of the problem, the monster looks so good that the filmmakers use every opportunity they have to show it off. Whilst they’ve got the evil scientist, idiots destined to be monster chow, a creature disturbed by human greed and our good honest tough as nails heroine, the one cliché these filmmakers didn’t decide to employ is subtlety when the monster first reveals itself.

And why is it that monsters are always so single mindedly murderous? Once roused all they want to do is slaughter humans. Where’s their pathos? Their back-story? Their relationship turmoil? But alas this monster is strictly one dimensional, aside from the final scene, where it seems to understand not just bullshit macho honour, but also human facial cues.

What Is It? – Westgarth Cinema – Sat 14th of July

 

You might remember Crispin Hellion Glover as Michael J Fox’s dad in Back to The Future, and numerous other creepy characters from films as diverse as Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, The Doors and Charlie’s Angels. We’ve known for a while that he marches to the beat of a different drum, but what we didn’t know was that he was removed from the two Back to The Future sequels. Instead another actor wore prosthetic makeup made from a cast of Glover’s face. Glover attributes the whole episode to questions he was asking at the time that made the filmmakers uncomfortable. After 6 weeks Eric Stoltz was fired and Michael J Fox was brought in. The first scene they shot was the alternative future, where we discover the family are doing much better, living the good life, rich beyond their dreams. Glover objected to the notion that the key to a better future lay in $, as opposed to sentiment expressed in the breakout soundtrack by Huey Lewis and the News: The Power of Love. The director Robert Zemeckis confided to Glover that he’d previously made an art film. It made no money. Now he wanted to get rich. The scene played unchanged.

At 20 years of age, Glover recounts this experience to a packed Westgarth cinema, as a watershed moment. He believed in the propaganda effects of film and felt a certain responsibility to audiences. Over the years he watched the corporations step in and films became stupider, significantly more vanilla.

In 1996 after years in the ‘business’ he used the money he made from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to make his own film. The aim was to ask questions, tackle taboos and challenge audiences. So he cast his film almost entirely with Downs Syndrome actors (playing non Downs Syndrome characters) and made them have sex and strangle each other. What Is It? Is part one of his trilogy, of which only the first two are completed. It’s a surreal at times nonsensical assault on the senses. It’s beautiful, wrong and very very challenging. Shirley Temple appears surrounded by Nazi insignia, snail’s talk, mourn and are murdered with alarming regularity, there’s blackface and obtuse references to Michael Jackson. Actually it’s not all Down syndrome actors, there’s also Steven C Stewart from Glover’s second feature It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. Stewart, who is afflicted with cerebral palsy, appears naked in a giant clamshell and spends much of the film being jacked off by a naked woman with an elephant’s head. Then of course there’s Glover himself, playing a peculiar deity, holding court on a throne, playing racist phonographs and wearing a coat of human skin.

Glover travels with the film vaudeville style, a surreal snake charmer regaling us with his deeply poetic cut up books before the screening, then answering questions afterwards

So if you were ever wondering why Glover, the guy from River’s Edge, Dead Man and Wild at Heart would be appearing in Epic Movie or Hot Tub Time Machine, now you know. It’s not a crack addiction it’s something much worse.

Jason Mewes Interview

When Clerks first appeared in 1994 with it’s wiseass attitude laden convenience store shtick it demonstrated a writer/ director with talent to burn. The script was witty and funny as hell, equally laden with insight and profanity. It was also the first appearance of Jay and Silent Bob. Bob being director Kevin Smith in a non speaking role and Jay being Jason Mewes a young obnoxious foul-mouthed dope dealer with a truly original turn of phrase. Whilst at times the acting in Clerks was questionable, Jay felt truly authentic, rarely had there been such a rough-hewn character on film. He felt real.

Is it weird to you that that Jay & Silent Bob have gotten old?

Myself getting old and Kevin, the whole situation is surreal, being friends for so long and still working together and moving to a different state right down the street from one another. I never want to think about it of course but when people say out loud oh wow it’s been 20 years since we shot the first movie. And now when I wake up in the morning and my back is hurting and I think jesus and thinking about the risks I used to take and the ones I avoid now, not just because I’m getting old but because I have a wife and a house and I have to worry about this and that. The whole process of everything, at the same time it’s amazing. I love what I do and I get to do it with my best best bestest friend and I get to do it with my wife who is partners with Kevin and she travels with me and we work together, the whole process is amazing and its great.

How much of you is in the character of Jay?

Definitely a piece. Because back then it was exactly what I was like. I mean Clerks was an exact replica of things I had said, done and acted like, minus the selling weed. I was very obnoxious and used to speak my mind and do what I wanted to do. As I got older I have to be more aware of what I say because I can get in trouble. I say the wrong thing to the wrong person there’s harassment, sexual harassment. Now I don’t want to influence the younger, a 13 year old back in the day I wouldn’t care if I said F U to someone in front of them, but now I don’t want to influence them. I’d say I’m 30% that Jay, because I’m still obnoxious but now I know when to say something and when not to. I’m 70% Jason Mewes and 30% that Jay.

Yes but Kevin’s daughter introduced you guys when you played in the UK, isn’t it weird her being exposed to your profanity?

She hears some of that stuff. I mean we don’t deliberately be walking down the street and go, ‘you fucking whore,’ to someone. Usually when she announces the shows and you see her at the start, she doesn’t stay in the audience for the whole show. In the beginning we’re not talking about sex stories and stuff it’s usually tweets and stuff. The Fu’s and stuff like that. I have to say she’s a really well mannered good kid.

Does it surprise you the amount of people coming to hear you guys talk shit with each other?

Every time we do a show and we get the attendance of people coming. It’s an interesting thing to me that people will sit down and watch our podcasts or get on itunes and listen to this thing. When I talk to people the reasons I’ve given as to why they listen is the honesty, you’re talking about drug abuse and all the stuff that’s gone on throughout the years, people pull me aside and say ‘my friend is six months sober now and he listened to your podcast and it really inspired him. Kevin talks about shooting movies, and people say I just made my first independent movie because I listened to your podcast. People say that they come because its so honest, from two guys coming from pretty middle class or in my course poor, trying their best and making the best of it. And then trying to through some humour in there as well. Who doesn’t want to hear about someone teabagging someone right? (Big throaty chuckle)

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got a 2,000 seat theatre and we put a show on and it sells out in 10 days, each time I like wow this is amazing. People as far out as Australia are digging the show and ready to come out and see us after all these years.

Has your relationship with Kevin changed much over the years?

Back then I was a young obnoxious teenager, where at 21 he was already writing a script and working everyday and doing his thing. He was definitely more grown up than I was, thinking about going to college, where I wasn’t thinking that. And now I think it’s more levelled out. We were older brother younger brother where now we work together, we’re in business together and we’re friends. Back in the day if he was upset about something he wouldn’t necessarily come to me for advice or vent about something because I was younger and that’s how he saw me, and even when I was older I was irresponsible I was doing drugs and he was trying to help me. Now we work together on a daily basis and we’re in business together, we’re brothers closer in age now.

Fragmented Films July 2012

Antonio Banderas has become little more than an exotic sexpot for middle-aged suburban women living out a delusional Melanie Griffith fantasy of the Latin lover who’ll stick around no matter how bloated and distended they become. Yet one person who doesn’t find Banderas particularly exotic, though may agree he’s suburban lunchmeat is Spanish director Pedro Almovodor. Almovodor gave Banderas his big break, thrusting him into five of his early films during the 80’s, joyfully casting him against type, culminating in 1990’s slightly demented Tie Me Up Tie Me Down.

In his best move since landing in Hollywood Banderas has returned to Spain. But more importantly to Almovodor, for a woozy sexually transgressive Frankenstein’s monster pic The Skin I Live In (Transmission) that is part over the top soap opera and part clinical revenge film.

Banderas plays Dr Robert Ledgard a brilliant plastic surgeon/ mad scientist, experimenting on the impossibly gorgeous Vera (Elena Anaya) whom he observes under lock and key in his isolated mansion. He’s driven by personal tragedy, consumed by his work, letting nothing, including morality get in the way. He’s the kind of man who’d have a special well-organised stainless steel fridge to keep his stool samples in and then notate obsessively about their size and consistency. Creepy, but he creeps clinically and with style.

The Skin I Live In is a celebration of Almovodor’s considerable powers; it’s sleek and minimal, wilfully perverse, unflinchingly provocative and very very clever. The first act is Hitcockian in its setup, subtly luring the viewer in until they’re equally complicit in Ledgard’s voyeurism of Vera. He then inverts the universe, turning the tables savagely, whilst raising questions of identity, sexuality, power and submission, you know, the usual hysterical Almovodor obsessions. The Skin I Live In draws on everything from Douglas Sirk’s Interlude to Frankenstein’s Monster with a hint of Cronenberg, but really it just reeks of Almovodor and to be fair that’s the highest compliment one can give.

Well let’s just say that Alyce (Accent) is a little unstable. During a self-conscious drug and alcohol fuelled night out, her only friend reflects, ‘remember when you used to dress like me? That was a little creepy.” But that’s not half of it, and it barely rates a mention in the creep stakes, compared to say erotically stroking a dead body at a funeral, chucking a human arm that you’ve just hacked off in the microwave to make it softer and easier to strip off the flesh, or squeezing the back acne of a body builder who is attempting to mount you. As a motif back acne is surprisingly potent in a confused film that for the most part is barely a step above a student flick, that is until the blood starts to flow.  There’s nothing like a spot of bloodletting to get your bearings. Whilst slicing and dicing filmmaker Jay Lee finds his film, developing it into a freewheeling self assured descent into madness, brimming with tongue in cheek set ups, or perhaps tongue on linoleum setups and a quirky kind of gallows humour that is impossible not to be swept up in.

Fragmented Frequencies July 2012

If you regularly brave the dust and despair, trawling through op shop record crates you’d be more than familiar with a smiling man bearing an optimistic comb over. If you move beyond the grinning facade you’ll find unremarkable muzak versions of popular film themes. The man is Henry Mancini and the LP you’re holding both secured his success and constrained his development.

His own music is iconic, tunes like Baby Elephant Walk, Peter Gun, The Pink Panther Theme, and Moon River. Short of Ennio Morricone’s theme to The Good the Bad and The Ugly, or John Williams’ Jaws or Star Wars, Henry Mancini is responsible for many of the best known sounds in the history of film music. His ability to combine a light orchestral score, with a compelling melody and a cool West Coast jazz feel – often with a pop vocal, had him pegged in the 1960’s as an easy and popular choice for filmmakers and the public. To some extent his popularity as one of the first superstars of film music has retrospectively worked against him, with history remembering his lighter more commercial fare, not helped by the numerous aforementioned op shops littered with his cheesy orchestral muzak.

Yet in recent years artists like John Zorn via his Naked City project (Covering A Shot in the Dark) and Mike Patton via Fantomas (Covering Charade) or even Patton’s score for a Perfect Place which owes a huge debt to Mancini, have demonstrated the composer’s legacy upon this generation’s more forward thinking composers.

Mancini enjoyed success early suggests John Caps in his biography, Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music  (University of Illinois Press/Footprint), landing at Universal Studios in 1952 as part of a factory of composers. Yet in 6 short years he would be scoring Orson Welles incredible though mercilessly butchered Mexican noir Touch of Evil, and The Glen Miller Story, which is ironic as after the war Miller ignored him when forming his band, yet for this score Mancini won his first Academy award.

Mancini’s breakthrough came through Blake Edwards’ TV show Peter Gunn, beginning a relationship that would continue until his death. In fact it was Mancini’s subsequent scores in the early 60’s, such as Pink Panther and it’s sequel A Shot in the Dark with bright sophisticated jazz scores and a cheeky swinging feel that cemented his reputation. At this time new HiFi record players exploded in lounge rooms across the US, and the public wanting uber cool sophisticated styles, in short they wanted Mancini. His film scores, often with at least a couple of light poppy vocal numbers became huge sellers, bringing further attention to the film.

Desperate to move beyond being ‘that sophisticated jazz guy,’ into more narrative based scoring, and utilise the styles he’d learnt at Universal, Caps uncovers a brief ‘experimental period in the 70’s, when Mancini and Blake Edwards fell out for a decade. Phillip Kaufman’s White Dawn, a Scandinavian thriller called The Night Visitor and Vittorio De Sica’s Sunflower all offered opportunities to play with ethnic styles, darker themes and, avant garde dissonance. Yet ultimately when serious directors requested his services, like De Sica or Hitchcock, who hired him for Frenzy, he was inevitably walking into a battleground between directors and producers. He may have wanted to challenge and stretch himself, yet financial pressures had the money men (and often the director desperate for a hit) wanting something, safe, melodic and Mancini. As a result his Frenzy score was rejected by Hitchcock as too Bernard Herrman.

It’s always the pop stars lament to be taken seriously, yet Caps demonstrates that Mancini had the talent to do so much more, never really grasping the opportunity, and by the early 80’s when former protégé’s like John Williams was helming big symphonic score like Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark it was all too late.

Whilst broadly detailing Mancini’s family life, Caps focuses squarely in his scores, analysing and discussing them in detail with a rare candour, offering a portrait of a man for whom the music flowed easily, yet to some extent became a prisoner of his own success.

Kevin Purdy – Illumination (Soft Records)

In his first album under his full name, the Sydney based artist formerly known as Purdy returns with a new direction. His previous three solo albums, and to some extent his criminally underrated work in Tooth served up a smorgasbord of sun kissed psychedelic exotica, with traces of everything from Komische to electronic pop, yet for Illumination Purdy strips back his ingredients dramatically.

What’s left is an ebow and guitar alongside some synth, as well as field recordings. Interestingly he’s also stripped back his melodic desire for structure. We’re not talking about songs anymore, rather we’re dealing with evocative pieces of sound, large sweeping textures that initially bring to mind the sci fi noir of Vangelis’ Blade Runner score. There’s a density to the music too, with things whirring and bubbling beneath sustained drones and gentle runs of notes, offering a drifting outer space like quality.

The third track, Mountains Dreaming is the only beat based tune, perhaps the closest to his earlier work, yet it’s slow and heavy, and the textures just float on by regardless, almost ignoring the percussion. If anything the beats make it feel even more amorphous, a demonstration of what Purdy hasn’t chosen to anchor his sounds to.

Here Above, In Silence is the best track on the album, highly textural, he delves into gentle childlike melodic sound art, with field recordings of birds, and bizarre unexplained textural sounds, whilst also fiddling with big sweeping lush synth pads.  It provides a fragile sense of wonderment in the sonics and weirdness, yet it’s the finale, Cloud Shadows on Hill that marks Purdy’s greatest departure. It’s an times atonal experimental piece, with scraping strings and creepy close mic’d wordless vocals from guest Amanda Stewart. It’s Purdy at his most experimental, yet also most creative, on an exciting risk taking album that really pushes his artistic and creative boundaries.

Bob Baker Fish

p.s It’s on vinyl.