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FEELS LIKE...

Ladies and gentlemen, FEELS II is in the books. Much love and many thanks to all the folks involved in bringing our first art and music festival to reality. Bringing together a host of musical artists, from Kool A.D., Teebs and Kreayshawn, to visual artists like Ryan Rocha, Bud Snow and more, FEELS II was one to remember.

CLASS ACT

Chris Myers on making it with acting in The Big Apple

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Most people don’t know that I’m a former future thespian. At the age of seven, I was the third lead in the stage production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, put on by St. George’s School in Cologne, Germany. Yes, that St. George’s School in Cologne, Germany. About 33 pairs of parents saw me do my thing, and I rocked their worlds. I then moved to the outskirts of Los Angeles, where every girl between the ages of eight and thirteen wanted to be the next Jennifer Love Hewitt. I did improv classes and took acting as an elective at the very exclusive public school of Placerita Junior High in Newhall, California. Eventually, high school started and I got distracted by French class and Craig David. I never pursued acting again, but watching other people do it well, especially on stage, has always made me feel good.

Enter Christopher Myers, an actor who enthralled me in the highly acclaimed play Honky last month. The play tells the story of the marriage between advertising, basketball shoes, and race. Chris played several characters, but it was his rendition of Frederick Douglass that had me in stitches. Written by Greg Kalleres, the play was highly acclaimed, garnerning write-ups in prestigious newspapers like The New York Times. At 24-years-old, Chris is still freshly out of school and navigating the world of acting on one of the world’s biggest stages, New York City. He made some time for us after a long night of rehearsal to share his thoughts about the art of theater, his experiences at Juilliard, K-holes, K-pop, and more.

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IMAGINAL CELLS

Catching up with mixed-media master Jesse Draxler

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Jesse Draxler

There’s a sense of experimentation that makes Jesse Draxler‘s work particularly fun to take in. From project to project, and series to series, Jesse takes subtle, but substantial steps into new stylistic territory, and yet still maintains an undeniable tone. Occasionally dark, eerie and moody, but just as often elegant, and playfully subversive. Over the course of the last year-plus, we’ve been keeping up with his work from collection to collection, from the handful of collage pieces featured in our Black & White showcase last year, to our feature interview late last year.

More recently, Drax has been prolific as usual, creating an eclectic array of collage work, doing great interviews, and opening up his own solo show, When The Target is as Big as Everything at Minneapolis’ highly fashionable HAUS Salon. Aside from that, he’s even moved into a new studio space, a meticulous and sparsely decorated, white-walled oasis of creation. The work coming out of that studio, of course, is quality, signature shit: mysterious floating objects set against cloudy skies, beautiful women’s faces morphing into geological clusters and diamonds, and even a particularly angsty Kristen Stewart, chopped and screwed and cleverly repurposed. Somewhere in between all that, Drax even found a moment to lend us a little insight on the ideas and the process behind it all. We asked him to provide a few impromptu explanations for each of his new series, off the top of the dome. Here’s what he came up with.

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STING LIKE A BEE

Post-Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali affirms his greatness

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Muhammad Ali Rumble in the Jungle

Excerpt from I Am King: A Photographic Biography of Muhammad Ali:

Immediately after knocking out George Foreman, the ‘Heavyweight Champion of the Whole Planet Earth’ speaks…

“I kept telling him he has no power, I kept telling him he don’t hit hard, and guess what he did in the end? He started fighting dirty. But I’m smart, I’m a pro see? I was good wasn’t I? I was talking to him throughout the fight too. Ain’t I the greatest of all time?

I proved that Allah is God, Elijah is his messenger. I have faith in him that regardless of the world and the pressure, I made it an easy fight, because Allah has power over all things. If you believe in him, even George Foreman gonna look like a baby. It wasn’t a close fight was it?

Let everybody stop talking now – Attention! I told you, all my critics, I told you all that I was the greatest of all time when I beat Sonny Liston. I’m still the greatest of all time. Never again say that I’m going to be defeated. Never again make me the underdog. Until I’m about 50, then you might get me.”

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ZONGO JUNCTION – “THE VAN THAT GOT AWAY”

Hypnotic, horn-heavy afrobeat, straight outta Brooklyn

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Zongo Junction

To really get a feel for what Zongo Junction is about, you might just have to see them in person. It sometime late in 2010 when I first got a chance to experience it. Ten or eleven deep, and backed by a tidal wave of brass, Zongo ripped through a powerful, hypnotic repertoire of sprawling afrobeat jams, from Fela covers to their own originals. For that hour or so, a sizable chunk of the crowd was transformed into a sweaty, vibrating mass, situated squarely in the palm of Zongo’s proverbial hand. A few years later, the Brooklyn-by-Berkeley outfit is still moving crowds in BK and beyond, most recently, taking their show on the road with Souljazz Orchestra, and locking down a residency at Bowery Electric in the East Village.

Aside from that though, Zongo has spent the last few years honing their studio sound, chanelling the raw power of their live set into sleek, richly layered slices of modern afrobeat, ready for home/summer BBQ/block party consumption. A year plus on the heels of their debut Thieves, Zongo dropped off maybe their most impressive, immersive song yet with “The Van That Got Away”, released earlier this year as a 7″ vinyl single (coppable here). Like all the holy grail classics by Fela or Tony Allen, “The Van” rides a steady, driving groove past the six-minute mark, snaking its way through different moods and textures along the way–from blaring horns, to lush, contemplative atmospherics, to climax. By the time the whole thing comes back down, they’re locked back into the same groove they started in, and we’re grooving right along with them. For all intents and purposes, they might as well be playing ten feet in front of our faces.


Download: Zongo Junction – “The Van That Got Away”

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NOT A KID ANYMORE

Catching up with Los Angeles based filmmaker Jason Madison

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Fresh off of the debut screening of his latest film I’m Not A Kid Anymore, we find Jason Madison between projects. Planning more screening events while continuing to develop ideas, Jason’s years spent in his beloved city of Los Angeles have provided him with more than enough inspiration for his visual works. Over the course of the last half decade, his knack for channeling the city’s sun-drenched aesthetic has served him well, making him a go-to director for L.A. hip-hop mainstays like Dom Kennedy, Pac Div and Nipsey Hussle, whose lives and music provided the backdrop his short film debut, L.A. Is My Playground two years ago.

“I always believe in my cast more than anything,” Jason told us, in regards to his latest. And why shouldn’t he? After all, I’m Not a Kid Anymore finds the filmmaker stepping out from behind the camera, and starring, directing, and in a sense, even scoring his own coming of age story. Taking time to touch on the origins of his work, ’90s inspiration, and his early love affair with Home Alone, our check-in with Jason catches the director on his way to big things.

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STEP TO MY GIRL

Tracing the latest from Vampire Weekend back to a long-lost Bay hip-hop gem, and beyond

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Souls of Mischief

“Step” is a song born of an obsession with age. It starts innocently enough, somewhere around Ezra Koenig’s adolescence, right around the time we all start spongeing up things from the abundant reservoirs of culture waiting for us outside the little bubbles we’ve been sealed off in. I imagine that it was for Ezra, as it was for me, a time when a not-yet-crossover indie band like Modest Mouse or a psychedelic slice of dusty ’90s boom-bap like “’93 Til Infinity” could bust your world wide the fuck open. For me, the journey started with wonder, segued into years of ravenous geeking out, and took more than a few detours into pretentiousness and posturing along the way. The only constant though, has been that sense of revelation–that phenomenon where a record you never knew existed shatters what felt like a legitimate, well-founded perspective on capital-M Music, just when you thought you had it all figured it out. It takes a while to realize that, while that feeling might become increasingly rare, it sure as hell doesn’t stop happening.

Broadly speaking, “Step” is about big ideas. The conclusions Koenig reaches at the end are towering, concise pieces of poetry: “Wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth. Age is an honor, it’s still not the truth”. But on the way to those affirmations, Koenig covers a lot of specific autobiographical ground: “Back back way back I used to front like Angkor Wat, Mechanicsburg, Achorage and Dar Es Salaam…”. For the folks playing at home, yes, they’re all “fronts”. It’s a line so stacked with Ivy League-trivia-pun goodness, it hardly needs to identify itself as self-implicating jab at the kind of reference-heavy subtext that’s long been a staple of Koenig’s songwriting. Certain Vampire Weekend songs feel like they should come accompanied an extra page of footnotes, and god knows they’ve caught plenty of shit from people who like to throw the word “pretentious” around.

But “Step” is unflinchingly self-aware, proof that the guys can make fun of themselves while sticking to their guns, and simultaneously making a hell of a case for their greatness as a band. In terms of its sheer construction, it’s emblematic of so many of the things they do so well–a gorgeous, insightful thinkpiece built on an unlikely amalgamation of source material, starting with a long-lost gem from a few Bay hip-hop heroes.


Download: Vampire Weekend – “Step”

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FAR FUCKIN’ OUT

Isis Aquarius remembers her days inside the early 70's spiritual commune known as The Source Family

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The year was 1970. The chaos, freedom, turmoil and liberation of the ‘60s had yet to subside, seeping into a new decade that had yet to be defined. In the midst of war abroad and the struggle for civil rights at home, American society was in flux, with many left searching for answers.

Out of this landscape, The Source Family was born. Founded on a synthesis of spiritual beliefs and ancient religions, the Family was the brainchild of one man; his name was Jim Baker. A World War II veteran, turned martial arts expert, turned restaurant entrepreneur, Jim Baker the man was both famous and infamous. After being acquitted of murder for killing a man with his bare hands after an altercation with a neighbor turned physical, the onetime bodybuilding champion turned to health food, establishing one of Los Angeles’ premier organic, vegetarian dining destinations in the form of The Source Family Restaurant. From the health-conscious ethos that characterized Baker’s eatery, The Source Family was spawned.

Embarking upon a spiritual quest that consumed him for years, Jim Baker immersed himself in the metaphysical world, studying the teachings of any and every known Western and Eastern tradition, secret society, or metaphysical source he could find. After numerous encounters with the known spiritual leader Yogi Bhajan, Jim Baker found a new pursuit that would not only consume him, but transform him forever, into what many considered to be a spiritually enlightened being in human form. Following this transformation, Jim Baker was no more, and in his place was Father Yod. Birthing The Source Family soon after his transformation, he would go on to create his own self-sustaining commune; wholly spiritual, unwaveringly loving, and unimaginably wealthy.

The Source Family grew quickly, attracting those searching for answers while garnering widespread acclaim for their forward thinking restaurant and idiosyncratic leader. One woman at the center of the family was Charlene Peters, better known as Isis Aquarius, who served as the family’s chief historian and archivist. Collecting numerous artifacts from the family’s archives, she remains one of the prevailing individuals still preserving The Source Family’s legacy. As one of Father Yod’s 13 wives, she was intimate with the leader, digesting much of his guidance and teachings. On the heels of the release of The Source Family’s feature length documentary, we spoke with Isis about her experience in the family, shedding light on one of the ’70s most legendary spiritual communes.

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THE CONSEQUENCE OF FILTER BUBBLES

How the internet shows us what it thinks we want to see

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Filter Bubbles

It was back in 2011 when Twill first introduced me to the influence of Filter Bubbles. And it was internet activist and web enthusiast Eli Pariser who introduced the idea to him, through a TED talk based on his bestselling book The Filter Bubble. When we first spoke on the topic my pops said it was the most important issue we’ve ever touched on, yet for many, the consequences of Filter Bubbles have yet to be acknowledged.

Although the advent of the internet has provided us with unprecedented access to information, for many, personalized filters placed upon what we see, and don’t see, have changed the internet in a very drastic way. Perhaps we should start with Google, or shall I say, God. The all-knowing, omnipotent entity that I go to for nearly any question I have about the world. While we’re led to believe that the search results we receive for any topic are the same, no matter who, or where we are, this unfortunately couldn’t be further from the truth.

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SEE AS YOU SEE

Photographer Alexis Vasilikos invites us to escape the ego

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Alexis Vasilikos

“There is a seeing which doesn’t see objects. It doesn’t see thisness and thatness. It is pure. It doesn’t come from thought or intention. This is why it has the power to bypass the mind, and speak directly into the heart of being.”

It’s not every photographer I’ve interviewed that elects to send over a collection of personal, philosophical meditations with his work. The longest of the bunch is above, but most of the brief notes Alexis Vasilikos supplied were no longer than a line or two, taking on the air of a tossed-off poetic observation, and yet gesturing toward the kind of question you could sit and contemplate for years. His photography can feel the same way. Alexis’ images capture these subtly serendipitous moments, fragmentary glimpses of everyday life that seem to hint at something bigger: a funny juxtaposition, an expression, maybe just the way a shadow strikes an object.

There’s something very deliberate in Alexis’ presentation too. His website consists of ten collections, pristinely laid out and accompanied only by vague, open-ended titles like swimming in the wind or back to nothing. No artist bio, no background info, nothing to take in but the images themselves. It’s that sense of mystery that gives the photographs so much power. Free from outside context, Alexis’ work allows your imagination to wander, to ruminate on whatever feeling you pull out of the image itself, rather than searching for something external to it. Later on, Alexis gave me a bit more context–about places he’d been, and things he’d learned in his seventeen years behind the lens. Whether the context is necessary is still up for debate, and given what you know already, I’d suggest digging in to Alex’s archives here first. At the very least though, our conversation offered a chance to dig a bit beyond the surface of those gorgeous shots.

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WELCOME TO WILDCAT

Kahlil Joseph's FlyLo-scored short film explores a little known pocket of American culture

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Wildcat

“Wildcat is a state of mind; an experiment inspired by the composition and performance of jazz music. The characters that populate this world are actual–cowboys; and envisioned–angels. The town they all inhabit is real–Grayson, Oklahoma.”

It seems like there are still a precious few places in America where it feels like time stands still. I haven’t been to too many of them, but it’s an eerie feeling when you find one. And somehow, those lively urban centers where I’ve spent most of my days don’t always feel quite so full of possibility. It gives me this real sense of wonder about those isolated pockets of culture –that feeling of mystery that used to be such an essential feature of exploring unfamiliar parts of the country.

For Wildcat, Kahlil Joseph zeroes in on a subculture not often documented. Grayson, Oklahoma (known once upon a time as Wildcat), boasted a population of 134 at the time of the last census, and is home to a time-honored black rodeo tradition. Following the pattern of his short film work with Shabazz Palaces and Flying Lotus, Wildcat is steeped in surrealist beauty, pairing documentary footage with a gorgeous, dreamlike soundtrack from FlyLo himself. The seven-minute short is the latest in a string of phenomenal, meditative work from Joseph, and another reminder of his promising vision. Simply put, Joseph’s films take you somewhere else.

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Fuck Yeah Namio Harukawa

Some feelings about rape and "femdom erotica"

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Namio Harukawa

First of all, fuck rape. I feel like rape cases have been getting a lot of press lately. So fuck the controversy but seriously, fuck the concept. Fuck the fact that somewhere down the line, man realized that they could physically dominate and sexually force themselves upon their own kind. Fuck the systems in play, be they familial or otherwise, that don’t have the mechanisms or strategies to teach our young men to respect others, or young women to respect themselves. Fuck power-tripping neighbors, uncles, and teachers. Fuck that all my friends have to carry pepper spray. Fuck creepers at the gym. Fuck it all. And fuck that I can’t do anything about it. But, fortunately, because I’m so damn self realized, and don’t just stick my dick into any passed out shit at a frat party because I feel insecure, I take this anger and use it productively. I use it to feel proud of being a woman. I use it to love women, love sex, and love myself, fervently and as best I can.

Now, I don’t know if that’s what Namio Harukawa has in mind when he creates his pieces, but that’s how they make me feel. The Japanese “femdom erotica” artist is best known for his drawings of thick ass women dominating the fuck out of small ass dudes. Harukawa’s images feature consensual sexual acts in which he typically depicts large women sitting on the faces of their petite male counterparts, looking incredibly indifferent. Though Harukawa illustrates women of all races, his subjects are predominantly Asian as represented through their facial features and physical props. And I don’t know if this is his intention either, but I love the fact that Harukawa is seriously flipping the female Asian stereotype on its head here. Where Asian women, too often unfairly and grossly characterized by small frames and a docile nature, are devouring dudes with their massive cakes. Harukawa’s work depicts men in submissive roles as subjects of dominatrix play, and therefore I don’t find that the pieces evoke a sentiment of rape. And I also don’t feel that the injustices of the world would be righted if things were just reversed. Simply put, seeing an image of a huge woman getting her ass ate with the utmost devotion while she apathetically smokes a cigarette just soothes my angry heart. Maybe you’ll disagree. Take a look.

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THUNDERCAT – “OH SHIET IT’S X”

An unreasonably groovy ode to having fun synthetically

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Thundercat

I think I sweat through everything I had on the first time I saw Thundercat. I know I accidentally knocked D Nash on her ass on the way in. Okay, so I was faded, but that shit was groovy. Like a magic in the air, this feels important kind of night. When Steven Bruner, now known across the indie universe as Thundercat, strolled out of The Echo–decked out in skintight, glossy gold pants and his trademark headdress–he looked a litte dazed, overwhelmed even. It was, after all, one of his first solo gigs–an album release party-turned-mindfucking, complete with Badu and FlyLo DJ sets, insane bass noodling, and a healthy dose of space age funk.

A year and a half later, The Golden Age of Apocalypse has long sinced graduated to mainstay status in my collection, soundtracking both contemplative moments and all out jam seshes. In the meantime, though, TC’s had time to craft his Brainfeeder followup, due out . If lead single “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” falls into the former category, “Oh Shiet It’s X”, is likely to fall into the latter, chronicling a night spent ingesting, and promptly rolling balls. “X” is vintage, squelchy funk turned ravey, a kaleidoscopic trip built firmly on irresistable groove. Pop a pill to it. Don’t. Dance yourself clean. Do what you want. But do hit play, and see what happens to your seratonin levels.


Download: Thundercat – “Oh Sheit It’s X”

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HUNTING HONEY

Eric Valli travels to Nepal to capture honey hunters 15,000 feet into the air

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Eric Valli Honey Hunters
Photography by Eric Valli

In 1987, French photographer and cultural documentarian Eric Valli traveled to the cliffs of the Himalayas to capture the Himalayan Gurung men’s harrowing journey to gather honey. Nestled high up in the foothills of this mountain locale lies the habitat of the rarified Himalayan honey bee, the world’s largest bee, and the producer of Asia’s most highly sought-after honey. Building their nests anywhere from 8,200 to 15,000 feet into the air, each nest can contain as much as 130 pounds of honey, with different types available at varying altitudes.

Making use of rope ladders and baskets, the men climb into the cliffs to gather honey that sells for five times the amount of other honeys throughout Asia. The hunters then secure ladders at the top of the cliff, before dropping down ropes to a lower base where a fire is lit to smoke the bees out of their nests. Once deserted, the hunters descend upon the nests, cutting away the honeycomb in chunks. Capturing a time-honored tradition in Nepal, Eric’s photographs offer a fascinating glimpse of a practice that’s supported Nepalese communities for generations.

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