Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interview: Ben Ely for Rave Magazine

Lovely guy, great concept and style, lovely venue. This should be a quality exhibit, me thinks. 

Regurgitator’s Ben Ely tells Anna Angel making art gives his ears a break, but just might drive him bonkers.

Most of us start the day with coffee or a shower to perk us up before work. Musician and artist Ben Ely finds himself in the freezing art studio out the back of his Melbourne home before he’s even fully lucid. Ely, best known for his musical projects like Pangaea and Brisbane-born alt-rock mainstay Regurgitator, says that’s when he does his best work. It’s not hard to imagine his paintings as inspired by a dream state, given the bizarre touches he lends even to his bands’ cover art. For his latest exhibition at Fortitude Valley’s Lust for Life, Ely says he’s been painting a life-long obsession: games – both of the computer and board variety.

“The first time I ever saw a Space Invaders machine was in a caravan park in Yamba, and it blew me away that you could move the joystick and the little alien and spaceship would move,” he says.

While there's an identifiable sense of ‘80s nostalgia in the pick of video games inspiring Ely’s new collection (he likes the simplicity of their design and soundtracks) his taste in board games ranges from wacky 18th century creations to strategy classic Risk. That being said, Ely's inspiration to create his own playable art has spurred by more than just Pacman and dice.

 “I had a break up last year, and ‘Game Over!’ is kind of the idea of that as well, how people play games in love and life,” he says.

The only parallel Ely draws between his art and music is a bent toward nostalgia in both, but he says if his paintings were songs they’d be pretty catchy.

 “My art’s pretty low brow; it’s quick and immediate and that’s how I like it,” he says. “Kind of like a pop song you know; short and cheap.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Interview: Cirque Du Soleil's Ovo for Rave Magazine

Roll up, roll up! Cirque are coming back to town. For Rave Magazine.

Ovo, the newest Cirque Du Soleil spectacular to fly into Brisbane, is a light-hearted love story swarming with energy. Artistic director Marjon Van Grunsven tells Anna Angel it’s a bug’s life for the cast and crew.

The sun rises, and an ecosystem of insects begins to stir. Into their midst enters a stranger carrying a large and mysterious egg. So begins this unique production from Montreal’s celebrated Cirque Du Soleil. Ovo might be the 25th production from these masters of contemporary circus, but Brazilian dancer and choreographer Deborah Colker is their first female creator and director. Her production, which opened in 2009, is one of only a few Cirque show to maintain an overarching narrative.
 “It’s very sweet and simple to follow for young children, but also for older people and middle-aged people, and it’s just so pleasant and happy,” Ovo’s artistic director Marjon Van Grunsven says.
The family-friendly story, which sees a ladybug fall in love with a fly, is secondary to the main inspiration for the piece: movement. From the pulsating rhythmic music, to the flexible, adjustable costumes, every aspect of the show celebrates the distinctive and fascinating motion of the insect world.
Ovo has all the breath taking acts you might expect, but each adopts a creepy-crawly persona that befits their style of movement. Foot jugglers become hard-working ants, a team of scarabs perform a Russian swing act, an aerial duo transform into graceful butterflies, crickets leap and bound off an eight-metre vertical wall, and a spider dangles dangerously from a slackwire web.
Under Van Grunsven’s guidance, the performers shed their human mannerisms entirely.
“The way [Deborah Colker] works is very much the way I work as well, which is to inspire each and every individual on that stage to dive into the role of their particular insect,” she says. “Let’s take a cricket; we wanted them to study the movement of the cricket by watching films and photos, and going out in nature and watching them for real.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Article: Anchored in Tradition for Vintage Affair

I wrote a piece on the resurgence of traditional American style tattooing in Australia for the second issue of Vintage Affair magazine last year, and it has now been released!

Step right up and see the incredible tattooed lady! Held captive and tattooed every day for a year, she lives to tell her amazing tale!

Nineteenth century crowds flocked to circus ‘freak shows’ to marvel at the tattooed performers, who often invented fantastical tales to accompany their head-to-toe ink. By the turn of the twentieth century, the ancient practice had already become – in Western cultures and especially across the USA – a rite of passage for servicemen, sailors, jailbirds and circus folk. The style and iconography developed by artists of the era formed the backbone of the emergent tattoo culture up until the 1970s.

Some blame Janis Joplin for inspiring a rebellious generation to go under the gun and seek out designs that spoke to them, not their grandfathers. Forty years on, Kat Von D and her merry crew of reality spin-offs are credited with inciting a new wave of tattoo aficionados. This time around, our society’s infatuation with bygone eras and simpler times has ensured the old guard of tattooing got its own back. 

Traditional American designs were a staple of the Australian tattoo culture when pioneer artists like Melbourne’s John ‘Johnny Dollar’ Entwistle opened up shop, before eventually giving way to Japanese, tribal and contemporary styles. Nowadays, traditional and neo-traditional designs are so highly sought after many artists consider it a fad.  The designs are characterised by thick lines, bold colours and the classic iconography that once graced the walls of tattoo parlours everywhere. While there is a large interest in vintage flash today, these images held a different significance for the original wearers. Sailors earned a bluebird on the chest after 5,000 miles at sea, with the ever-popular mirrored bluebirds reserved for those who had doubled that. A pin-up girl design could keep you company when deployed at war, a flag or memorial would remind you of home.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: Snakeface - Oberon for Rave Magazine

(Arrest Records)

Ensemble cast star in thriller shot in the Blue Mountains

Snakeface is comprised of members from indie bands Jonathan Boulet and Parades, but that doesn’t mean their sound will necessarily please fans of the aforementioned. Oberon, their second album, is grounded in hardcore and punk, but there’s a mess of influences rearing their heads. It’s self-described as ‘weird and evil shit’, which makes me think I’m not supposed to find this half-hour affair as enjoyable as I do. Sorry. Oberon pits short, gritty, politically charged stretches against interludes of composure to foster an effective  (and rare) sense of balance. Lyrics like “occupy and rebel” and “stop pretending this doesn’t exist” are given a savage delivery that sidesteps the regular trap of affected rage for something with actual guts. Oberon was named for the Blue Mountains spot where it was recorded; I like to think of the superbly ineffable final track, Singularity, twanging across the mountaintops and waking far-flung neighbours from their naps.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Interview: Daniel Weetman for Rave Magazine

Ahh, The Black Seeds. So enjoyable - and such nice lads. Read online here.

DANIEL WEETMAN of THE BLACK SEEDS tells ANNA ANGEL that listening to their records doesn’t do them justice.

 New Zealand reggae mainstays The Black Seeds know where their strengths lie.

Even before dropping their fifth studio album Dust And Dirt in April, they’d packed up and shipped out on the mammoth world tour that will soon bring them to Brisbane. If over 140 shows in four months followed by a packed summer festival season seems like a lot, it is. But there’s little chance the boys will be burnt out by the time they touch down on our shores, according to vocalist and percussionist Daniel Weetman.

 “As long as you’re not overindulging too much in things that can make you a little more tired than usual,” Weetman says with a small laugh, “I think you can handle it.”

They could probably get away with a few benders, but the eight-piece know the value of their reputation for consistently high-energy and immersive sets.

“There’s a lot of people still in New Zealand that haven’t heard The Black Seeds, and even people that work for radio stations and media, but I can tell you that if these people came to a show they’d be more impressed by the band, because live, it’s something else,” Weetman says. “The album isn’t the full picture, and we know that. I don’t think we can just go out there and play the sounds; we’re a band that really wants to get people dancing.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

Why I'm still watching Glee, or Review: Glee Graduation Album for Rave Magazine

Published in the latest Rave. My love for Glee is now public for the first time since they totally and utterly jumped the shark. 

Goodbye McKinley High; Auto-Tune forever

When my entire grade willingly formed a ‘circle hug’ to Green Day’s Good Riddance for three inexplicable minutes at the end of our year 12 formal, we didn’t know the shame would bind us forever. If Glee had existed when we left school, their cloying cover would almost certainly have been our first choice. You don’t need Vitamin C’s Graduation at the drama class farewell party when you can sob as Chris Colfer performs vocal gymnastics to the tune of Madonna’s I’ll Remember. Don’t think of this as set of overproduced reprisals of some of the most sentimental ‘life change’ tracks of all time, even though that’s essentially what it is. See it as a wonderfully terrible gift. Give it to the next youth at the bus stop whose faraway eyes suggest they’re in want of a dream. Give it to yourself and laugh scornfully at populist culture until suddenly you’re crying because everything was easy when you were seventeen; for God’s sake get your life together. If you’re still following the shenanigans of Mr Schue and his merry band of fit-togethers – and yes I am, guilt free – you can catch these tracks as they’re tentatively linked into the plot line. A handful of the numbers will come to light in the season finale, but it only takes an amateur sleuth to pick up the musical cues. School’s Out, but It’s Not the End because these kids will be Forever Young. Bless their eager hearts.