Category Archives: Interview

Director Q and A: Roar Uthaug for THE WAVE

In many respects, Norwegian director Roar Uthaug’s film is a Hollywood disaster movie of the first order: You have your embattled protagonist who sees the danger coming long before anyone else does, but has a hard time getting anyone to believe him; his wonderful family and number of other innocent people put in peril by conservative bureaucrats; an epic environmental disaster – a massive, 80 meter, lake-bound tsunami brought about by the instable mountains of Storfjorden, a tourist destination whose main town, Geirenger, is directly in the path of the water’s fury, brought to convincing life via CGI that threatens to destroy everything in its path; and a harrowing climax that finds our protagonist fighting for the lives of his family members under extreme physical duress.

What sets it apart, however, from such big, desultory over-the-top action spectacles such as San Andreas and 2012, are all the ways it subtly subverts the genre: The hero, played by Kristoffer Joner, is anything but a Rock-like action hero, he looks like the sort of chap who brews his own beer and reads books about physics. His wife (Ane Dahl Torp), is the far more practical, capable one, and whose quick-thinking saves herself and her son after they are trapped in the hotel in which she works.

Like Jaws, a film Uthaug cites as a particular influence, the film is very careful about its slow-building tension. Midway through, you begin to fret about the oncoming danger, wondering just how it will first manifest itself, and when it will make its appearance on the deck of the boat, so to speak. Uthaug spoke to us via phone on the topics of the film’s careful execution, the ways he co-opted the genre, and the very real environmental apocalypse it portrays.

You have said that Jaws was a big influence on your film, and I can especially see that in the way it carefully withholds us from seeing the “monster” for so long.
You kind of get to know the family and the characters and you take your time with that and not just rush into it the destruction of man. We also tried to keep the shore and the mountains there in the background to keep them present throughout to kind of build that tension and that ease of not knowing when it’s going to hit.

It got to the point where the camera would linger on certain shots and I would think ‘Okay, we’re going to start seeing some tremors now’ or ‘We’ll see some rocks falling in the background’ and still nothing was happening. I assume that was entirely by design.
That, and also choosing the locations, and of course how we shot and placed some things.

What’s genuinely spooky about the whole premise is, not only is it not farfetched in the least, there is actually little to no chance of this cataclysmic event NOT happening, right? The film’s impending disaster is entirely factual.
Yeah, everything in the movie, in Geiranger, was based on facts and research from over here. I think here in Norway we create a lot of awareness for situations. And hopefully that will lead to more funding of monitoring these places even better.

I assume the locals who live year-round in Geiranger are well informed of this situation?
They are very aware of that but they also actually feel very safe there because of all the information that is being shared by the geologists monitoring it. They trust those guys and the politicians, and feel safe in that environment. I think also the geologists believe that they won’t ever be in that situation because the place will be evacuated weeks before that will happen, but then, again it’s nature and you never know.

Just out of curiosity, is ten minutes from when the actual mountain crumbles to when the tsunami hits the town a realistic timeline?
Yeah, that’s accurate.

Yikes.
We shot the movie in Geiranger, the actual place that will be hit, and the extras running for their lives up the hill, were all local people living in that area. After the shoot, they came up to me and said they had the time of their lives and thanked us for being able to be a part of it, so hopefully we didn’t give them nightmares.

You mentioned that this is a real place. In Jaws, they had to make up “Amity Island” because, understandably, no real location wanted to be associated with wild shark attacks. Was the town at all concerned about what this film might do to their tourist industry?
We have a lot of tourists going there. There are only about 300 people living there [year-round] but there are almost a million tourists going through there each year. When the news first broke that we were making this movie, there were some [negative] reactions from the local community, local politicians, but as soon as we started talking to them, explaining to them our take on this, I think we won them over to our side. They helped us during production. We arranged a screening of the movie before the nationwide premiere, we had a local screening there for the people who lived there and they enjoyed the movie very much.

To make one more comparison to San Andreas, the leading man is Dwayne Johnson, who is built like a gladiator superhero. Your lead, Kristoffer Joner, by contrast, is remarkably human looking. Even the way he labors when he runs, you can kind of feel the effort. That had to have been by design.
We wanted someone that felt like a real human being. I think Kristoffer is just one of the absolute finest actors here in Norway, so I was very happy he wanted to do this. And we had to put him through a boot camp to train him for mountain climbing. He also trained with a free-diving instructor so he could [stay] under water for a long time. I think his record in the end was three minutes holding his breath.

Some of the stunt work must have been grueling.
Yeah, there were times it was ten hours in and under water. That was a rough time for everyone. I think it shows in the movie the intensity of it. So, I’m very happy we put them through it.

I greatly enjoyed the way you made Idun, his wife, played by Ane Dahl Torp, so capable and strong. Is it fair to say this is something of a feminist action movie?
I’ve always been a fan of strong female characters in all my movies. I think it’s something that I gravitate towards.

She’s so strong, I think Hollywood would be afraid she’d end up eclipsing the male hero.
I guess we are more free in our handling of those kinds of things in Europe, in our most recent cinema, than you are over there. [laughs]

First Look. “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis” at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

You may be unfamiliar with his journey, let alone the name of artist Norman Lewis. Lewis was an incredible spirit. An African-American man born in New York, fond of world travel, challenged and inspired by learning, teaching, and searching throughout his lifetime and artwork. Lewis specialized in Abstract Expressionism and is recognized for his precise color selection, all the while channeling his life experiences and interactions into various forms — including oil on canvas, crayons on paper, and water colors.

A man of dignity, Lewis expressed his interpretations surrounding morals and values that pertain to humanity and nature. He depicted work that represented the plights of African-Americans in America during the Harlem renaissance and Civil Rights Movement. In addition to his activism, Lewis created poignant works that reflected on his travels through Europe and United States.

Now on display until April 3rd, 2016, PROCESSION: THE ART OF NORMAN LEWIS, opened for viewing at PAFA’s Fisher Brooks Gallery, Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building — just north of City Hall on Broad St.


PAFA is offering FREE museum admission for Procession, every Sunday for the duration of the exhibit.

Hours by day:
Tuesday, Thursday & Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m
Wednesday, 10 a.m – 9 p.m
Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m
Closed Mondays and legal holidays


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Curran Lewis, in front of Norman Lewis’ painting, “Title Unknown” (c. 1960), Oil on Canvas.
Photo © Aran Hart

Combined with the paintings, this exhibit displays a unique and touching collection of personal effects, notes, quotes, a video interview, and diverse library that shine light onto the man who devoted his life to his artistic passion and culture. The collection is set up to appreciate thematically rather than chronologically, guiding one through In the City, Visual Sound, Rhythm of Nature, Ritual, Civil Rights, and Summation.


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Norman Lewis (pictured), Photo © Estate of Norman W. Lewis

Lewis was born in Harlem in 1909 and died in Harlem in 1979. During the infancy of Lewis’ professional career, he focused on the “New Negro Movement” as well as African Art. Although he started here, this is not where he would finish. The content of Lewis’ art shifted from African and African-American Art to a more global perception. During the mid 1940s, Lewis altered his subject matter and developed his style. Lewis began his Pure Abstractionism journey that developed to include Naturalist content.

Walking between the rooms and admiring different pieces, we chatted with Philadelphia artist Moe Brooker, who explained that Lewis “kept searching” in an authentic spirit of endless development, “continuing to find inspiration for form and he continues to deal with nature.”


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Artist, Moe Brooker. Standing in front of “Fantasy” (c. 1936), Oil and Ink on Canvas.
Photo © Aran Hart

As he moved forward in his explorations, Lewis was often overlooked and/or discredited because the nature of his work was deemed as both inappropriate and unimaginable for an artist of color. Brooker noted Lewis’ work was debunked in a time when the perception was that “it was not a possibility that one of color could do abstraction”. As is the case with many men and women of color,  Lewis did not receive the accolades he deserved  until over a decade after his death, during the 1990s —  perhaps not even yet today.

Curator Ruth Fine shared that “Norman Lewis is not a very well known painter due to lack of visibility rooting to racism, but also because his was a style that is not readily categorized… and people tend to get to know people that they can put in categories. Lewis is a complicated painter.”


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In the City: Looking at Life. Photo © Aran Hart

To put together Procession, Fine stated she “traveled to various collections over the past few years, and chose those works that would best convey the range of his art and the ideas that permeated the themes that then organized the exhibit.” Fine added she aimed to “give a sense of who the man was as well as the art.” Thus, the exhibition walls and short video tell a story through quotations and conversation that represent Lewis’ philosophy. “Abstraction offers a chance for each person, from a broad range of backgrounds, to bring their own experiences to the paintings… and take away what they want. I think that’s what Lewis wanted.”




Joint contribution from Curran Lewis and Aran Hart.

For more exclusive coverage, ticket giveaways, features, and live updates follow @215mag on twitter, and Instagram.

Featured cover photo: Norman Lewis, “March on Washington” courtesy of PAFA.org


Circling Back With Circa Waves: Discussing the Future of Releasing Music, their Musical Influences, Touring, and more

Liverpool quartet Circa Waves recently released their debut album titled Young Chasers which features their lead single, “T-Shirt Weather,” which has over 10 million streams on Spotify. They are currently on a U.S. tour run before heading back to the UK for a string of sold out shows across Europe. Over the past few months, Circa Waves has performed at Glastonbury, Lollapalooza and on Conan as well. Recently, guest contributor Ryan Quint sat down with the group at their show with MS MR at Union Transfer to discuss the future of releasing music, their musical influences, touring and much more.

Back in March we had interviewed Circa Waves, just a few days before their debut album release, click here to read up on it.


Circa Waves are: Kieran Shudall (guitar / vocals), Joe Falconer (guitar), Sam Rourke (bass) & Colin Jones (drums).


Ryan: Last time we spoke was about 7 months, you guys only had the EP out. Now we have a full-length album. Young Chasers was just released a few weeks ago on September 18. So I’d first like to congratulate you on of all of the recent success.

Kieran: Thank you very much.

Ryan: Speaking of EPs and Albums, I heard an interview you guys recently did where Kieran said that he felt that with how the music industry is going, artists are going to only drop EPs and give out “little bursts of ideas” instead of full-length albums. Can you explain that thought process and why you feel you that way?

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Kieran: I mean the album thing will always exist for certain artists but just because of how fast everything moves; I think that EP’s are a more efficient way of releasing music.

Sam: I can see that happening. Albums, as a concept, came around because of the technology. From vinyl. That’s how many songs you could fill on a record so they would. I think that right now technology is changing and people’s listening habits are changing as well. Maybe the regular format of releasing music won’t be albums anymore. I still love albums. We buy vinyl all the time but I could definitely see artists just releasing 1 or 2 EP’s every year instead.

Kieran: It’s quicker. It’s more efficient. Kind of like a half album.

Sam: It also allows for more freedom as well. 2 EP’s can be completely different but if you’re doing a bunch of tracks under 1 large umbrella of an album, it has to be a lot more consistent. It may be good for artists to challenge themselves on a more regular basis by releasing more projects.
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Ryan: I think its really cool that each of you have sort of your own musical style whether its Kieran with the indie rock and old folk sound or Sam with Hip-Hop. How do these different styles help create the Circa Waves sound we hear on Young Chasers?

Kieran: It definitely influences the way we play our music or how we approach certain parts of songs. I’m not going to write a guitar part from a Dr. Dre record, I’ll write it to a sound that better pleases me. It just works in that way.

Sam: I definitely agree. Part of the sounds of how things worked out relate to our personal styles of music. Joe has this scrappy guitar style which comes from what he listens to.

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Ryan
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(to Sam) And would you be the Dr. Dre listener?

Sam: I don’t condone or endorse Dr. Dre but I suppose some of the bass lines that I’ve written have a Hip-Hop sensibility in some ways. It’s definitely an influence but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it is.

Ryan: LA Daily News had very high praise for the album. Do you ever read reviews and see how the critics feel about your music or is it mainly your fans reaction and opinion that you care about?

Kieran: I read some reviews. If it’s a good review, I’ll read it. I don’t tend to go out of my way to read reviews anymore. Not because we get loads of bad reviews its just that there’s almost no point. We play shows in front of loads of people every night and that’s enough gratification for us.

Sam: It can go down two roads. You can either become incredibly self-obsessed because you have a larger world of things relating to you or you can go down the route of completely shutting it off and think that’s what we’ve done.

Kieran: Also, the more successful you get, the more people are going to dislike you. It’s fine with me. Music is made to separate people. 

Ryan: Kieran, you mentioned that a lot of the album is inspired by early adolescence. Can you explain this more in-depth and did you have any specific moments that you recalled when creating this album?

Kieran: I’ve always wanted to capture that moment and period of time in my life and other people’s lives when I was writing. I just think it’s really interesting. That part from 16 to 25 is just so fucking mental.

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Ryan
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I’m smack in the middle of that right now.

Kieran: Yeah. It’s fucking weird right? I always loved the first Arctic Monkeys record, the first Strokes record. They’re all talking about their experiences of growing up and you can’t write about that forever. The 2nd record won’t be about that. It was just something I wanted to get out of my system.

Ryan: And its still fresh in your memory

Kieran: Yeah, it’s still fresh. I’m not that old yet. I’m getting further away from that time but it’s cool to think about it like a diary of what happened during those years of my life.

Ryan: I saw you were in Philadelphia yesterday morning. Did you spend a full off day here?

Kieran: We did the Radio 104.5 thing in the morning then we had to drive up to Albany for a show. It would’ve been nice if we had a day off here though. We were supposed to have a day off but as usual, it got cancelled.

Ryan: How was Albany then?

Kieran: It was great. Very good show.

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Ryan: Was it your first time to upstate New York?

Kieran: Yeah. Not that we actually saw any of Albany but the venue was really cool. The drive up was very nice. We also just discovered Serial Podcast. It’s massive but it completely blew past us but it’s this woman investigating a murder case and each episode is her digging further into the case. So we just smashed through that the whole drive. It’s based on a real murder that happened in Baltimore and we drove past Baltimore while we were listening to it and I wanted to hide.

Ryan: Do you guys know The Wire? That will make you want to hide even more.

Sam: Yeah, it’s amazing. That was the first thing I thought of when we drove past Baltimore.

Ryan: Moving on, your current US Tour is coming to a close. You’re about head back to the UK and the rest of Europe. What has been the most enjoyable part about tour so far?

Kieran: It’s been really good. I’d say the highlight would be the day we were in LA. We did Conan in the morning and then went straight to The Troubadour and did an amazing show. That was a fucking great day.

Sam: Very stressful day.

Kieran: We also went through the Gilmore Girls town on the Warner Bros lot. Three great things that happened in one day.

Sam: and the Batman steps as well. It was a good day. We got to do the biggest TV show we’ve ever done.

Kieran: Also, America doesn’t feel like one country, it feels like 50 different little countries. We’ve seen bits of Seattle, bits of San Fran and just getting a little bit of the culture from everywhere is very enjoyable. It’s cool seeing how different each place is and how everywhere has its own proper identity.

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Ryan
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You guys were doing Festivals all summer, including Glastonbury and Lollapalooza, now that you’re back in clubs and theaters, which do you prefer?

Sam: I really like the way that it all works out. By the end of summer, we’re really ready to do the headline tour and then towards March we’re anxious to start festival season again. What I love is the balance between the two. We did about 30 festivals this year and by the end it’s just tiring.

Kieran: Festivals are also very low pressure. They have a party vibe and there’s shit loads of bands, people aren’t there to just see us. People are going to have a good time regardless. The pressure is off but you also try to win over a crowd. Where as headline shows, you’ve won straight away. The crowd has come to see you. You get applauded just from walking on the stage. That doesn’t happen at many festivals.

Ryan: I heard you guys had one of the best sets at Glastonbury

Sam: Apparently. According the polls. Was it the best set ever?

Kieran: Yeah we had the best set ever.

Ryan: I’m not sure but we’ll call it that.

Kieran: Just kidding but that was nice. We had played Glastonbury the year before but we were just starting out so no one knew who we were. It was good to be there but this year was our “arrival” at Glastonbury.

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Ryan
:
I saw you were recently out at a karaoke bar with Ms. Mr recently – it seems like you guys are getting along on these run of shows.

Kieran: Yeah. We just met on this tour. They’ve been one of the most welcoming bands we’ve ever toured with. They give us free shit and they’re just really nice.

Ryan: Free shit is always a good thing. Last time we spoke, “Stuck in My Teeth” was your favorite song from the new album to play live, has that changed at all?

Kieran: It’s not. I fucking hate it (laughs). No, I don’t mind playing it. It is quite difficult for me to sing it though. But in the UK it’s always a big shout moment. The kids love that line in it (“I’m a little too young with not enough time”). Right now I really enjoy playing this track called “Talking Out Loud.” People don’t lose their shit to it but they do really so to enjoy it.

Sam: It’s a great break in the set.

Kieran: If it were the 80’s, we’d all light up cigarettes and play while smoking. It gives us a chance to regroup.

Ryan: You guys played “Stuck in My Teeth” as well as “T-Shirt Weather” on Conan. How was that experience?

Sam: It was really cool. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t realize how long the day was though. I just thought you rock’ed up and played and then left but we were there for about 7 hours. It was amazing though. We love Conan and his work on The Simpsons.

Ryan: He’s tall isn’t he?

Sam: He’s fucking huge. Normally, I feel out of place in photographs for being the tall one but not this time.

Kieran: He seems like this huge giant but he was really nice to us. You never really know with those people because they have to have that personality all the time. I would really love to just have a cup of tea with him but it was good. Doing Conan felt like one of those landmarks in this lifestyle where it’s something terrifying but then you overcome it and, to me, it was the most terrifying thing we’ve done. I’m not sure what will be next, hopefully something bigger but that was a huge achievement for us.

Ryan: Speaking of T-Shirt Weather, it has over 10 million streams on Spotify. Why do you think fans have connected most with that song so far?

Kieran: It’s quite hard to pinpoint why certain songs get a reaction like that because I would try to make more if I knew the answer. Maybe because people can relate to it because the content is about things that everyone remembers like what it was like when you were younger. It’s also one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever written so maybe its just that and the fact that it’s just “T-Shirt Weather” it’s a title that can easily stick in people’s minds. Who knows?

Sam: (to Kieran) You should get Owen Pallett to do a musical review of it. From Arcade Fire. He did a few pieces analyzing Beyoncé songs and it was really cool.

Kieran: For me, it’s all better to not break songs down too much. Otherwise, I’ll try and make some formula every time I write a new song.

Ryan: Lastly, you guys are nominated for Best New Act at this years Q Awards. Former winners of that award include Sam Smith, Django Django & Corinne Bailey Rae among many others. Are you honored knowing that you were just nominated for that award or are accolades only important to you if you win them?

Kieran: I already feel quite satisfied. I think that we’re the best out of all of the people on there but I don’t know if everyone does. It’s up to the people to decide. It is good to know that we’re on that level of the artists nominated though.

Sam: Is it cash if we win? Because if it is then I’m well up for it. If we did win it would be our first accolade ever, alongside the apparent “Best Act at Glastonbury” (Laughs)

Ryan: Thank you guys. Good luck with the rest of your tour.


Catch more of Circa Waves through their social media accounts.

WEBSITE – FACEBOOK TWITTERINSTAGRAM


For more exclusive coverage, ticket giveaways, features, and live updates follow @215mag on twitter, and Instagram.

215mag Exclusive: ZZ Ward talks Philadelphia homecoming, tour life, and more

ZZ Ward has flourished as a unique figure in the rock and blues music world since her 2012 debut album, Til The Casket Drops, was released. The singer/songwriter/guitarist was born in Abington, Pennsylvania and relocated to Roseburg, Oregon at the age of 8. Since then, she has collaborated with artists like Kendrick Lamar and has opened for Eric Clapton on his 2014 tour. Ward is currently on her Love and War tour in support of her new EP, Love & War. Her 2nd full length album, This Means War, is due out in early 2016. Ryan Quint talked with ZZ Ward on behalf of 215mag.


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Conversation with ZZ Ward
ZZ Ward talks Philadelphia homecoming, tour life, and more


Ryan Quint: Both of your parents are from the Philly area — Your mom is from Germantown and your dad is from Richboro. I know you moved to Oregon at a pretty young age but I want to know what impact Philadelphia has had on your music career and even though you moved at such a young age, do you still consider this a homecoming show for you?

ZZ Ward: Yeah, in some ways I do. I feel like where I moved to, I was definitely the oddball out. Especially for my brother, who was 16. He had a very hard East Coast accent and I always felt like I was little bold. I had that chutzpah. I think I got that from my parents being from this area. We’re strong and confident and I definitely think I stuck out from that because of where I moved to. A lot of my family’s history is from Philadelphia too. My dad used to hang out at TLA all the time.

Do you have any lasting memories from your time in Philadelphia?

Yeah, my family was from Bucks County so we would go to the reservoir there all the time. Also, I went to Holland Elementary and my brother went to Council Rock. I went back to my old house (in Bucks County), the owners let me in and they showed me the house and it was so much smaller than I remembered (laughing) because I was a little kid. They still had the board in it where my parents would write down our height in the basement, it was crazy.

You’re about half way through the tour, how has it been going so far and for people who have never been to a ZZ Ward show, what can people expect to see?

Awesomeness. It’s been going really well. The turnouts have been better than I ever expected because I’ve been away for over a year working on my album so to come out and have people so, so excited about my music has felt really rewarding. It’s been an amazing tour so far. And we are halfway through it, I had a little break in New York. I did Fashion Week for the first time which was such a different world than what I’m doing right now being on tour so it was a really cool juxtaposition.


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You’ve performed at huge festivals like Made in America, Coachella, Bonnaroo and even opened up for Eric Clapton. How do those huge shows compare to your solo tours and which do you prefer?

Yeah, it’s very different but sometimes festivals can be really magical moments also. We played Firefly Festival in Delaware and that was the most people I’ve ever played for. I think it was about 15,000 or something. When I went to soundcheck, no one was out there and I was hoping that people would come but then when I walked on stage to perform, I started to realize that more and more people were showing up and I actually had a moment where I got really nervous. So festivals like that can be really exciting but obviously club shows are just my fans so there’s a lot of love there too. It is fun at festivals though because I get to see other bands and artists and get inspired by them which is cool.

So I just read the story about how you pretty much found out you were Jewish when you were 27? Please tell me more about that story because I think its fascinating…

So, my grandmother’s last name is Friedman, which made it pretty obvious but she hid it her whole life because she lived through the Holocaust. She was actually in a line to go to the concentration camps when she escaped. And I actually found out when I met my manager because he’s Jewish and he was curious about me. I told him my grandmother’s last name and he said “well then you’re Jewish.” So I kept asking my grandmother about it and finally she said that she had been a Catholic for a certain amount of years that didn’t add up to her age (laughing). She had converted to save her family. It’s very interesting. I go to Temple for holidays and I’m still learning about all of it. I’m doing Passover and Rosh Hashanah for the first time and a fan of mine got me a Shofar which was fun. I’m proud of it, it’s exciting.

I have to mention your Fedora and how it has become a signature look for you — when did you start wearing fedoras and did you know from the beginning that it’d be a huge part of you look?

I was just trying to be like blues artists that I grew up listening to. I was scared to get on stage when I was little so I just wanted to be like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and they always had fedoras on. So I have always tried to embody that and now I feel like it would be really strange if I went on stage without it. Plus, people don’t really get excited if I don’t have my hat on. Literally, I was outside of the tour bus before and fans were asking for pictures and I didn’t have my hat on and they would come back after the show and ask me to take another picture with my hat on.

It’s pretty similar to James Bay’s situation and how he has become associated with always wearing a fedora.

It’s so funny. I brought James on his first U.S. tour. He opened for me and he’s really taken off, I’m so proud of him.


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Your songs have been in TONS of TV shows and movies including Pretty Little Liars, Shameless, Awkward, Degrassi, The View, Veronica Mars, We’re the Millers soundtrack & tons more — Sync deals are often overlooked in music, did you or your team specifically target sync deals with your music or did it happen naturally?

It just happened! I never would have expected to get so many of my songs in movies and tv shows. A lot of people have heard my music through Pretty Little Liars or through Were The Millers. There’s so many shows that have used my music, it’s really been amazing. It’s just exciting to go to the movies and hear your songs there.

You’ve worked with Current rappers like Kendrick Lamar & Freddie Gibbs, legendary producers like Pete Rock and Ali Shaheed Muhammad and upcoming rappers like Pell, who Im a huge fan of. You’re dad was also in a blues band. Did this love for Hip-Hop come from your father and his musical background?

Actually, no. My love for Hip-Hop came from my big brother. He used to blast Jay-Z and Nas in his bedroom and my parents never used to let me listen to it so naturally I would take his CD’s and I just fell in love with their passion for the lyrics and music.


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I know one of your dream collaborations is with Pharrell, who else in the Hip-Hop community would be on that wish list?

Well Pharrell is definitely still on that list but I actually got to work with S1 who has produced with Kanye before. He produced “Power” by Kanye! It was so inspiring working with him and just seeing how dedicated he was. So I guess if I had to pick anyone else for a dream collaboration it would be Kanye.

I’ve read a lot of comparisons about your Hip-Hop and Blues influences to Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly — do you feel as though that’s a fair comparison?

Yeah, I mean Kendrick is incredible. What I really love about Kendrick is that he does what he wants to do musically. I think his fans appreciate that about him too. People had some negative opinions about the album, which they always do, but he did what every artist dreams of doing which was creating an album that reflected who he was and what his musical vision was.

Lastly, the Love & War EP came out in August, your 2nd full-length LP is due out this upcoming March — How do you feel this new LP is different sonically than the first album?

So many people related to my first album and for that to happen, it made me feel even more confident to go further into my artistry. To, again, go and talk about what’s happening in my life and ask myself what moment in time am I at right now? So I feel like I really captured that on the new album. I’ve gone further into the blues and further into Hip-Hop on my 2nd album so I’m really proud of it.



ZZ Ward Socials:
https://twitter.com/zzward
https://www.facebook.com/ZZWard
https://instagram.com/zzward/

Remaining Love and War Tour Dates at www.zzward.com

Purest Passion: Exclusive Q+A with Tarrus Riley

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Stopped to think recently when someone said: “You never get someone who is going to solve your life by loving you, until you’ve solved your life. Love is a reward. It’s not a solution.”

And what a wonderful reward it is.

Ce la vie, there is no turn key solution for those, say, looking for love. There are hints and bits of advice, suggested paths, et al (i.e. we know not to go looking in all the wrong places) but of course most facets of loving yourself/another remain an evolving mystery. One way to maybe step forth in the right direction is to bring a ready willingness and strong passion to a given situation.

One man practicing this in life and in song is none other than Tarrus Riley. Raising the bar for this generation of true vocalists hailing from Jamaica, and infusing fortified energy into what is sorely lost and needed to be found — Rock Steady/Lover’s Rock. From his earliest of recordings to his latest album Love Situation (2014), Tarrus Riley has shown us the way — weaving together the numerous fibers of love one can witness in the world, and stirring up a passion for more, using his music to uplift and inspire rather than chant down and burden with general’s orders.ReggaeInThePark2015

Perhaps sensing the times are ripe for folks to come together — as Stevie Wonder said last week at Dilworth Park: “Love needs love, ya’ll.” — Tarrus is embarking on a multi-city Catch A Fire Tour alongside artists including Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Morgan Heritage, special guests Jo Mersa, Black Am I, Skip Marley and Jamere Morgan. Coming up next weekend this fire will burn right here in Philly for Reggae in the Park 2015 at The Mann Center (Tickets HERE).




Purest Passion: Exclusive Q & A with Tarrus Riley
I had the pleasure to talk with Tarrus about, among other things, his passion for his craft and how he has succeeded in reaching a diverse audience.


Photo courtesy of Tarrus Riley | Facebook
Photo courtesy of Tarrus Riley | Facebook

Aran Hart: Talk about the increasing fusion of reggae music with other genres and what you think while you’re observing the world’s music scene right now?

Tarrus Riley: Well first of all, as far as what’s happening in the music business…everything is seen nowadays because of social media. So things that used to happen in private now are in everybody’s face. The good thing is the unity part, and ya know, music inspires music. Within reggae music there are of course different influences. And it’s not only happening in music… it’s happening in fashion, in art, in movies. It’s happening in all these creative situations where people are mixing and blending. Everyone is trying to just share their country and how they see what’s going on. Everyone is everyone… like the last time I checked… everything is everything.

In any conversation you find those so called purists who want things forever to be how they once were, saying “Now it isn’t real like the past, etc.” Do you feel that reggae maybe has an unfair extra level of this critique?

Well first, because it’s blended doesn’t mean it’s not pure. I mean people like what people like. There’s a man who likes what he likes, all day everyday… And there’s another man who likes another thing, all day everyday. One man wears jeans and another man wears khaki suits. And then there’s a girl who wears shorts and there’s a girl who wears a church dress. And that doesn’t mean they’re not pure. They have their own different kind of style. And you’re allowed to have your style, and you’re allowed to like what you like, in my opinion.

I understand the concept of purists wanting things to be a certian way, but we’re not going back in time. We’re going forward in time and it’s funny, ya know — the more things change the more they stay the same. So if you just look, I mean purists don’t have to worry because there are fundamental things that cannot go anywhere. You have to understand that and allow the music to grow and evolve.

Many folks mention how you are able to stay rooted in traditional sounds of reggae but are also able to sound remarkably contemporary… Do you agree with that and is there a conscious effort to do so?

Well, music is my best friend. So I just listen to what my friend tells me. I make Reggae music and rock steady music. Recently you saw me on a song “Powerful” with Ellie Goulding and Major Lazer. Call it what you want, I make music. I’m not musically prejudice… I’m not prejudice of any kind. Regardless of how rooted I am in my beliefs, like I said it’s certain fundamental things I don’t change… such as I don’t change the content of my music. But you may hear the beats change.



In my bio they try to put me older than I really am. I’m an 80’s baby, man. I grew up on different kinds of music and have different musical influences: from Tupac and Biggie to Shabba and Super Cat, and many R&B people too. So it’s unfair to my creative mind to do one kind of thing. I just reflect who I am.

Given the themes of your music and the topics you cover is it safe to assume you had a strong network of people, family and community that you soaked up this knowledge from and now you’re expressing through your music?

You can say that, I mean it’s all love man. It’s all just love. I don’t want my music to be a burden to people. I want my music to be something to make people think positive, enjoy themselves and feel good. The world is a very stressful place and I think music should be comforting. When you feel down you listen to your favorite song and try to feel better… or you listen to something and try to learn from the music. So that’s what I want to be for people and why I make my music. For example I have a song called “My Day” and the words I sing are “It’s my day to do anything I want.” That’s what I want people to feel. I want people to know that it’s your day today to express yourself freely and do what you want.

That’s freedom…

Yeah that’s what we’re about. So I can talk about freedom without sounding like a dictionary or without sounding like I’m trying to force it down your throat. I can speak about it in a cool way. Go ahead and call it you want but I’m still giving you conscious music. I’m just not doing it like I’m bashing you with it.



We still definitely see the themes of struggle, rights, social injustice and culture, (these pillars of reggae music and its beliefs) in today’s music.  But take your most recent album with “Love Situation”, which surrounds to me what is perhaps the most abandoned topic of today’s reggae music… love. Where do you think the love has gone and why did you have this album choose “it” being love as the focus?

First thing about the album, is it’s “Rock Steady” music. Rock Steady being the era before reggae that gave birth to reggae and hip-hop. A lot of people call that music lover’s rock but it’s Rock Steady. And there are different kinds of subjects like on “Burning Desire” — which is a marijuana song, but I wrote it like a love song. So I mean there’s different kinds of love situations that have double meanings. And as far as the love being lost somewhere… A lot people are trying to act too much like tough guys, and they don’t know that the real tough person is not afraid to love you. A lot of people try to act rough and cool like them some killers and real bad man ting. Nah man, like c’mon, there’s a time and place for everything. There’s nothing wrong with love.

I recently heard your version of Gregory Isaacs’ classic song “Front Door.” How did that song recording come to be?

With love and respect, first of all. Dean Fraser is the reason why we did that. He was doing a tribute to Gregory Isaacs. So the whole thing was just to say respect and I think he called it “We Remember Gregory,” because we don’t ever want to forget Gregory. So, ya have a whole heap of young artists, paying tribute to the legend.



It’s great, I had never heard the version before, and it definitely made me smile…

Yea, and I knew Gregory Issacs. He was my father’s friend, so it was somebody that I used to see. That’s the cool thing about it, and the cool about having a father being a musician… I got to see a lot of cool people around the house, man.

I can only imagine! Speaking of your family, you just mentioned your father [Jimmy Riley], and I know your mother has been very involved with your career as well. But just because your parents were music pros/lovers didn’t necessarily mean that you were going to make music. So, why is music the perfect way for you to express your experiences?

My mother’s a nurse and she loved music. My daddy’s a singer and ya know, every youth in Jamaica wants to be like their father. When we say youth in Jamaica we’re talking about a son, ya know, and every young boy wants to be like his father. So maybe it was admiration for my father, but I didn’t want to do his kind of music. I wanted to do the music that I liked when I was growing up. I was introduced at an early age and by being around music I think it just created a love for it.

I have other relatives who sing also, but maybe don’t have the same passion like I do. I love exercise, I love sports, I love cooking. But I love music more than everything!

Photo courtesy of Tarrus Riley | Facebook
Photo courtesy of Tarrus Riley | Facebook

How do you know that a song/album is ready for release, and what’s that feeling like to release the music?

Well, you never know. Half of it’s following your gut feeling. You just follow your feelings. You just do it and see what happens, you go off of your instincts. You put your best efforts out, but then after a while ya just got to know that “Alright, I did my best!

And they can’t take that away from you…

Aaaaah right!

What is some great advice and/or criticism you received at some point during your career?

Hmmm, I would say, it wouldn’t necessarily be somebody telling me something… it would more be me looking at the people that I admire and seeing the mistakes they made and seeing the great things that they’ve done. Like, I’ll see some people do some great things and I’ll be like, “ok that’s really how you do it” ya know… And I would see some people make some mistakes and be like, “ok, don’t do that”. That’s the kind of stuff that really stands out. Understand me?

I think you just gave everyone some great advice on discipline and choosing role models…

Yah mon! So that was my advice because Jamaicans are not really into telling ya things… I’m not gonna tell you what to do now, rather just show you. And you just be around and keep people around to show you. Cuz if you don’t pick up then that’s your bad because ‘dem showing you…



Do you consider yourself a rebel with a cause?

I see myself as someone who rebels for a cause, whenever it’s necessary… But I don’t want to see myself as a nuisance. I’m making some music to enlighten people, and I’m rebelling against stereotypes and prejudice. I’m rebelling against people that try to put you in a box. I’m an advocator of free thinking, so…. I’m a rebel when needs be. Some people rebel just because — and I’m not a rebel just because. And I make music to share my feelings and my experiences, and to also speak for other people.

Finally, talk about the opportunity that you have as a voice, no pun intended, and a songwriter to reach the younger generation in particular… who it seems it’s harder and harder to hold their attention these days…

That’s why I spoke about the contemporary sound and things. I find cool ways of getting their attention and I move quick. Everybody’s attention moves quickly because of this whole internet and social media thing. It’s even hard to learn anything new because by the time you learn it, it’s gone tomorrow. Simple thing like a phone, the minute you get used to your phone, the phone company makes a new one. So things are moving so fast. You have to find your way and how you can communicate because it’s not easy. And no disrespect to the internet, it’s helping to make the world good, but bad happens in the space too… that’s the truth.

Anything else you’re working on right now that you wanted to highlight and any signing off message for your fans?

The Catch A Fire tour is something I’m really excited about right now. I mentioned the new song and video for “Powerful” with Ellie Goudling. Just tell the people who support my music, thank you very much. I really want you to write that… Just tell them that I never take for granted the support I get from people and I’m just getting started. I’m a serious musician, serious in the sense that I want to give them good quality music. I try to represent Jamaica in fine style from the world of music. I’m not here to be any kind of superman or anything… I just hope people can find comfort in my music.

Thank you so much for your time. We look forward to seeing you at Reggae in the Park and best wishes on your upcoming tour and beyond.

Yeah mon! Respect, thanks.



::::::: See and Listen to more from Tarrus Riley :::::::
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Exclusive: Kamasi Washington | Grand on the Musical Scale

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In a world of increasingly quick, fast, now, next… we can and easily do lose sight of some things that last longer and delve deeper. Many move on to the next before really appreciating the now. Theoretically, it seems something extraordinary will just simply rise to the top against lesser competition. But it often tends to be the opposite — with a distracted and perhaps media-exhausted audience.

Just look at how we find new music – blended in with a seemingly endless list of others one click or swipe away; as opposed to sitting down for a listen to one album by one artist, for a dedicated period of time. Let alone if music doesn’t follow a traditional 4/4 format and verse/chorus/bridge in a clean 3.5 min package. That is what for many of our ears we’ve perhaps accepted as comfort.

But for the likes of saxophone extraordinaire Kamasi Washington, no bother. He has succeeded in growing his talent immensely since a young age, and now pioneering an impressive career while doing what may be exactly the key: Not really paying attention to what conventional wisdom would say – rather making strides to explore and hone his craft the way his art form and fellow musicians inspire him to do so. And letting the track run on a little longer [10 + min at times], where he may come across a new found groove that would’ve remained caged and tethered. Ahhh, let freedom reign!

This approach, whether directly intentional or not, has frequently landed Kamasi in recording studios and on stages with many of music’s brightest stars, save no genre — including Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, and Broken Bells just to name a recent few.

Now in 2015, he has proudly presented his momentous effort, the critically acclaimed and aptly entitled album, “The Epic.” Take for example that Kamasi — and his crew “The Next Step or The West Coast Get Down” (who have been playing together since high school) have spent nearly five years putting together this album — which is a close to three-hour collection featuring  full choirs and string sections. 

I talked with Kamasi ahead of his upcoming show at World Café Live 8/27 (tix HERE) about The Epic, some experiences that have in turn formed his approach, and much more.


CONVERSATION WITH KAMASI WASHINGTON


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Aran Hart: What do you think it is in your musical education, exploration, or maybe just in your natural ear for music that lends itself to successfully trying out different varieties/forms of music?

Kamasi Washington: It’s probably mix of all that, my personality combined with how I like to live. I kind of get obsessed with whatever I’m doing. I was also an Ethnopsychology major (the psychology of races and peoples) in school. I studied jazz music growing up and got my first gig with Snoop Dogg… so it’s always been a mixture of things bringing me to where I am today.

AH: With a lot of music that listeners are exposed to today, there is a safe format/structure that many have come to expect when they press play… How does your approach and style differ? How do find a groove and bring all the moving parts together into what can be a track/song/album ?

KW: In my approach to music I didn’t ever really take to those conventions. With my career I spent so much time playing for other people and immersing myself into whatever their music was.  It was great for me because I learned and absorbed a lot from them, but it became hard to express my own thoughts, ideas, and concepts.

When I started into my own process, I was able to be much more uncompromising. It’s like a dog that’s lived in the yard for so long and you open the gate — it wants to run. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to run, I wanted to go, I didn’t want to really pay attention to other people. I was by myself and there were no rules…  no time punching … I could just make the music the way that it naturally came. It happens so often that musicians feel as if they don’t follow those conventions, that no one listen to their music, that no one will play their music, or no one will like their music. So they follow those guidelines because they think that’s what they need to do. I didn’t care. I was going to express myself how I wanted to express myself and not be so concerned about the outcome.



AH: I know you just talked about how you focused inward for your own music. Could you also talk about the importance of playing with other musicians — that collaborative process — and for you in particular how it has helped you learn and grow as a musician…

KW: It’s very important in general, not just in music, but in life… in order to expand your horizons. For me when I play music with someone else I try to totally immerse myself in their philosophy, and take that information and that philosophy back to my music. I often learn something new about my music by looking at it in a new way I didn’t know was there.

I remember in the band we had together with Snoop, people were seeing that they had this super detailed and different approach to hearing music and playing music… For example, there were different frequencies and tones people felt were relevant to them. Not just what key you were playing but what part of the beat you were playing on. We weren’t just talking about notes… we were talking about frequencies, and life organisms (haha). And really they were all related to what everyone else knew about each other. It gets deep…

AH: Given your music’s format and style, how closely does the live version of your music resemble its recording?

KW: Every time I play it’s completely different. Even if I tried to make it the same it would be completely different. When I was putting together my album we had a full choir, a full band, and we had all these plans. It’s a difficult thing but it’s a beautiful thing about the guys that I play with… We’re all really  tuned in to each other. And when you’re tuned in like that your spirit changes not just day to day, but even hour to hour. It won’t be the same tempo, won’t be the same place. So, the music is dictating for us to go different places. The slightest little change in feeling or space might, and usually does, totally change what you end up playing.

In terms of live versions — we just finished our first two weeks of our first tour [dates] — and basically every single night has been completely different. It’s cool though because it ends up being relevant to where we are. I don’t try to force it in any one direction… just flow with it, and we’re all open to responding and reacting to what it is, not what it was.


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AH: Are you superstitious or ritualistic about any part of playing your music? Any kind of must haves or must do’s that you can share?

KW: No, not exactly. If anything I really try to clear my mind and relax by taking a moment or two to day dream. I’m around a bunch of musicians that all are pretty spacey and all over the place [haha]. So I find myself wrangling all the personalities to I guess … keep the chaos in order — but really the chaos is the order. I think I try not to do any one thing because there’s an energy and a spirit that you get from being free and you can’t really be free and do the same thing every time. I try to let myself be open to whatever’s going to happen at that moment.

AH: You have an impressive list of features and appearances where you’ve played with a lot of different people and sat in on studio sessions etc… Discuss the difference in the creative process for you now being the “leader” of your own project(s)?

KW: For someone else’s project you are figuring out what that other person or people have in mind as their vision — and what they want. And you know, sometimes it’s challenging and sometimes it’s not. Some people are articulate and can tell you want they want and some people can’t.

Making music for yourself is more trying to create that vision, which is a different feel and different process — it’s more introspective. It’s like looking in versus looking out. When I was making The Epic, it was very clear to me what the vision of this album was and what I was going to be trying to capture. There was a sound and an approach I knew that we as a group had been working on for a while.

As a listener, you kind of just listen. With this, I could really feel all the changes, the push and pull of what was happening. I was in it. Everything felt amplified, and bigger, and slower in a way. For me it became very contextual and I could see it the different colors and different textures, if you will.



AH: Two part question: Your music being mainly instrumental seems to  allow the listener to interpret a scene, rather than lyrics driving a topic… Do you see any movie scores or soundtracks in your future? And also, talk about the power of instrumental music compared to music that is lyric driven…

KW: As far as the movie score, yea that would be awesome. When I came up with the concept of The Epic I was definitely thinking about epic in the sense of “the story,” not “the size.” What inspired the whole album to be what it is, was that I had this vague kind of dream, which turns into this “wow story.” That story really encompasses what all the songs are about.

In regards to instrumental music… Music to me is a universal form of expression and to a degree sometimes words can get in the way of expression. Of course also sometimes lyrics can capture what the music is expressing. I feel like music in general doesn’t come from us, it comes through us. It comes to us as a seed and depending on what you do to it, it grows. So in that aspect, music is left in the hands of the writer and in the musician.

That’s why great songs differ from good songs, and good songs differ from bad songs. It’s like listeners all think, “Did the composer capture the essence of the music? And if so, how exactly did they capture that essence?” Basically, that’s going to dictate to the listener if they like the song.

Words add another layer — but also another opportunity to mess it up. Instrumental music is the purest form of expression. Once you bring words into the mix it can really amplify an expression — by either having your words match that expression, or you can mess it up by having words that don’t match.

With instrumental music you just feel it. It’s telling you something. You’re learning something. You’re feeling something and absorbing it. You’re communicating something without words… rather with a pure emotional connection.


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AH: Lastly, where would one most likely find you in your hometown of LA? 

KW: I’m all over the place. I live in Inglewood so maybe catch me somewhere like Leimert Park. We have an ongoing residency at Piano Bar in Hollywood. Honestly, I’m a pretty active person, not a home body, so I’m all over the place… So wherever there’s something happening, there’s a good possibility I’m there!



::::::: See/Listen/Feel more from Kamasi Washington :::::::
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** Photos courtesy of Mike Park

The Pikolinos Maasai Project: 215 Feature

Do you believe ‘The world is at your fingertips’ ?? This belief may be showing its truth more and more every day. Your ability to reach the world through travel and the internet has afforded many opportunities that many would never image. The individual from a small rural part of the world now has the ability to touch those in large cities like New York and Tokyo. Which brings us to an unlikely pairing on paper but in today’s ever changing market, more common than not. How does a leather goods company from Spain connect with a Maasai Chief from Kenya? This is where opportunity and preparation meet.

Pikolinos is a Spanish shoe brand that forms part of the Pikolinos Group, a company whose activities range from tanning leather to having their own shops. Their story…


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From: maasai.pikolinos.com

Maasai Tribal Chief Kikanae Ole Pere, or William as he is known in the West, is a Maasai warrior who was declared leader of his community in Kenya after his unwavering efforts to provide for his tribe. William crossed paths with the President of the NGA ADCAM Rosa Escandell and together started a long journey to raise awareness in the Maasai community to inspire them to build for a better future via their own economic resources outside of tourism. Together they created The Maasai Project.

Maasai Project is a design collaboration program with Pikolinos and the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Tanzania where the profits are given back to the Maasai women involved to provide hope and opportunity for a sustainable future through building their own economic resources while empowering women with greater rights and employment.

I had the honor to meet and speak with William at Benjamin Lovell Shoes in Center City.


— Guest contributor: Olumide Yerokun —



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Olumide: How did the collaboration start between yourself and Pikolinos?

William: This all started from a dream I had that one day I’d be able build my own business, travel, and positively affect the people in my community. I was lucky to meet the owners of Pikolinos and present them my ideas and we were able to create the Maasai Project.

How has this project helped the women of the Maasai Tribe?

The project has allowed women to be self-sustaining in an environment that does not always foster a woman’s independence. Through the Maasai Project it was taught women entrepreneurship and allowed them to make wages for themselves feed their families and send their children to school.

Are there any plans or hopes to expand into other fashion areas?

Yes, working with Pikolinos has given us a great opportunity to see how well the woman’s designs are for shoes and since Pikolinos works with leather goods we would love for the women to design more. With this current project the women have been able to create bracelets and necklaces that are great accessories with the shoes.


Photo: maasai.pikolinos.com
Photo: maasai.pikolinos.com

Do you think this will inspire the youth to pursue more projects that allow them to affect their community and the world?

Yes, this was a part of my dream. I wanted my people to be able to have more opportunities to grow and learn. We’ve been able to create programs that help educate children. Through this we hope to expose children to more opportunities and have an interest in what they can do for their community and the world.

How do you think your leadership has changed the tribe for the better?

My leadership has opened the eyes of the community and how we view women. Before women were not as valued as they should be. Entrepreneurship has really allowed women to go above and beyond the Maasai Project and shown the strength and ingenuity of our women.

Do you have a favorite design?

Yes I have a favorite. They are all my favorite (laughs)!



For more info visit:
Pikolinos website – http://www.pikolinos.com/
Maasai Project website – http://maasai.pikolinos.com/

 

Hiatus Kaiyote Exclusive Interview: Kaiyote Beautiful

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Striving as we music lovers do for a new sound that appeals to our palette, it’s not often we come across something that grabs our shortening attention spans… let alone envelops us the further we dig in. That is the bliss — free from ignorance — we hungrily look to feed upon.

When one finds Hiatus Kaiyote it may take a while to realize what is being heard. That wonder is the fuel for interest in wanting to feel and know more. Just as this Melbourne based quartet of musicians challenge themselves (and each other) in creating / performing their music, they invite others into the experience while lending time and space to learn and grow. Accept their invitation and enjoy raw appreciation for the delicately layered and well thought up lyrics which flow over an ensemble of sounds, forming Hiatus’ brand new album, “Choose Your Weapon” (Released May 4, 2015).

That’s when you’ll witness a soaking up of styles from decades past, expressed en vogue — that create an electrically current, even futuristic sound — pushing lyrical limits in an effort to understand our soulful experience in super/natural surroundings. The beauty — and the beast (that ever-present grit and funk), lies in the orchestrated push and pull of different arrangements and interludes that lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Nai Palm fearlessly leads you through.

The album title implores you to make a wise choice, thinking ahead. A key ingredient to any act is the act-ivating. From there the belief that possibilities are endless guides a freeing of the mind — and we know what follows in time.

Below: I talked with Hiatus Kaiyote drummer Perrin Moss about their new album, the dynamic music culture of Melbourne, and more.



Philly! Check out Hiatus Kaiyote this month:
–> Friday May 8th @ Underground Arts ( Tickets )
** w/ Kate Faust and Mr. Sonny James

–> Saturday May 30th @ The Roots Picnic ( Tickets )



_MG_9216-2 Hiatus Kaiyote by Wilk (1)



Aran Hart: What do you think makes Hiatus Kaiyote and its music unique?

Perrin Moss: It’s 4 people that are very strong minded in their opinions. There’s not one person taking charge and telling everyone else what to do. Everyone brings in their own ideas. Even if it is a song that our lead singer Nai has written, we all interject and put in our own stamp on our parts. Then we workshop the fuck out of it to put it together. The input is so broad, not ever sticking too much to one thing.

We’re always challenging ourselves and the listener, but also keeping the music accessible, not going too far overboard. Even if individuals have their own point of reference for a tune, guiding the song in one direction — we’ll pick up on that vibe but not do it so obviously.

I come from a production background so I’m always thinking about how it would sound on the record. So as the drummer, with a drum fill or whatever, I’m like “Alright cool, I might sit back in the pocket a bit on this part because if I was on the record the drums wouldn’t be all in your face.” So we feel it out that way and I guess it expresses our uniqueness.

Is there a tempo or type of syncopation your band consciously creates? In particular your arrangements/pauses seem to be very complex and a trademark if you will…

I feel like that’s just what we do and maybe over time it’s become a conscious thing. I used to listen to a lot of this ‘South Asian’ music and now when I hear myself drum I can hear where it’s coming from in that sense — the spacing and phrasing. Once you start playing rhythms over and over again it starts coming out in your subconscious. Now when I hear a straight groove that is completely on time, it doesn’t seem natural to me as a drummer — for what I would play.

My natural thing is to be loose and have a few limbs hit later than the other ones, it’s ingrained in me. I keep getting influenced by other music and players, and influenced by life. So that really constantly redevelops your sound. So those time-signature changes is something now, if it wasn’t in the beginning, very natural to us. We don’t want to be known as a certain signature complex style though… or caught up trying to be any one thing, you know. We also really appreciate the simple forms and styles of music. It’s part of the process of us growing as musicians with our instruments.

You think about a lot of people who start off playing music and they wanna shred and then when they get older they chill out on that and want to hear the space in music. So I feel like we’re on our way with that, while not forgetting the feeling you first have when we started playing music — that excitement.

In the beginning it was really fucking hard to play our songs and all the ideas we came up with. But that’s why we liked it and why we came up with it. It was us developing another skill set on our instruments. Saying, “Hmm, I never felt this before… how all of us are playing this way and linking up with each other in new ways — and thinking, “hey this sounds alright!”


_MG_5818 by Wilk


Were these recording sessions long (in a good way) with a lot of improv… in essence how structured was the recording process? Because the records sound so natural and blended, while intricate and outside the box…

Our recording sessions were very structured. We tend to write a song and play it in loops for quite some time until we play it live (in concert) and then it will change from there. So we have a lot of experience with the songs before actually recording them. And then when it comes to the studio, most of the songs end up being the same length and form, pretty much. Sometimes what we play changes to achieve the sound we’re looking for, and how we want it to be perceived.

One song on the record “Swamp Thing,” we didn’t really have a form properly and we made it up in the studio as we went. That was the most free-moving kind of song that we recorded. We did three versions and did three different outros with a lot of improvisation. When we figured out the mixing of the album, and the structure of the song, the first half was pretty much how we worked out in the studio… While the last part we listened to all 3 takes and put a little bit of this outro, and a little of that one together from what we liked of each. Then we get into overdub land, so yea it gets pretty deep [laughs].

But, we’re not the type of band that just goes into the studio and starts writing songs and record them at the same time. We definitely marinate on the songs for a long time and figure out what feels right by playing them with each other and live at shows to see how people react to them.

What pieces/elements do you need to start/create a song?

It changes every time but I feel like we all like a story within a song. So lyrics have a lot to do with that and are very important. We feel it’s never a full song until there are lyrics involved. We love having that narrative. Also, I’m a drummer and it’s funny because I don’t feel like I can play any beat until I hear some chords. Even if I just hear 3 chords it gives me an emotional connection to feed off. It’s all about an emotional connection first and then whatever feels right in that context. A lot of the time we love to have these dreamy starts and ends, that draw the listener in and then things develop from there.

It’s always important to mix it up. Sometimes the songs will come from a production track I’ve done, then we’ll rework it. Other times Bender will come up with a guitar melody and Nai will write over top of that. Other times Nai will have a whole song — and you could say this was kind of “the birth” of Hiatus: Nai’s material, just acoustic guitar and vocals, with no other elements involved. I don’t know if she was thinking about a band or other elements, more just writing a beautiful song at the time. And then we developed the other elements around that emotion or feeling.

Of course, at times it’s just whatever we’re feeling. Maybe we wanna create this nasty, gritty, weird 60’s hip-hop thing that’s never been heard before, because hip-hop wasn’t around back then but it sounds like it was made in the 60’s. So then you have this weird crossover between this contemporary world and the old school way of making records. We’re always thinking about that kind of stuff.


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Talk about this new album…How did you know this was an album?What makes this collection an album?

A lot of it has to do with the time period. Also, that feeling of, “if we don’t record this song now, we might never record it…” Or we’ve been playing a song live for a while — and maybe it wasn’t quite ready when we did the first album. So, “if we don’t put it in this record, when will it come out?” We put everything in that people had heard, and that was already enough material to not really have to add in anything that new — though we have added a couple new ones too. It’s a documentation of our music and a time period. Capturing those moments and songs on this record.

And the next record will be a totally different thing, that will probably start from now. It will start when we’re on the road because we’ll come up with some random shit in soundcheck that will start developing. Then in a year’s time that will turn into a new song on a new record, just like how much the stuff on this record started before. We’re not very good at keeping secrets with our songs. We like to try them out and see how people react to them, and then we can go and record them.


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Describe something that happened to the band in the last 6 months/year and how it has played out for better or worse…

We always really wanted to work with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson — who did the Suite For Ma Dukes thing: a whole bunch of J Dilla songs that he interpreted with like a 30-piece orchestra. We were all just so amazed when we heard that in Australia.

We all love hip-hop and J Dilla, especially me, and didn’t even know for a long time that a lot of my favorite hip-hop songs were produced by Dilla. I was always after this certain characteristic or sound and then I realized that a lot of the songs were in fact done by the same person.

So, during an interview one day we were asked who in the world we wanted to work with and we all said “Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.” And thank god we got to work with him on this record. One of our only features outside of Australia, who among musicians is a big superstar. He jumped on a track of ours called “The Lung.” It was really beautiful and special for us to work with someone of that high caliber.

Also, collaborating with other musicians in Melbourne as well has allowed us to steer away from always ‘over-laying’ parts over parts for songs. We have been able to sit around in a room together with a couple mics, and do one take we could incorporate into a part of a song. This new process is something that has transformed how we are writing and recording our music and where we want to continue going as a band.

Describe the music culture in Melbourne?

It’s a very multicultural city with a lot of opportunities to see music. It’s also a small city so you get to meet a lot of people in the music community when you go to gigs. A lot of people there delve into a lot of different genres. There’s not a lot of ego there or fighting among musicians for gigs. More of a friendly competitiveness where people are giving each other support. The crew of people that I hang out with are a lot of my favorite musicians in the world and I connect with them so much. It’s not just Hiatus — I feel we could all play in each other’s bands because we come from the same place. I don’t know what is happening there but a lot of people are in the same head space about music and about pushing things — but still being true to yourself. It’s a very supportive network.

How as a band do you define progress/positive growth?

We just really take each day as it comes. Our goal is to become better musicians by continuing to push ourselves, and each other. But I guess we’ll never know if we do become great because it seems no musicians really ever feel like they’re great…ya know? And that’s the main part of what keeps pushing you forward and growing.




For more from Hiatus Kaiyote:
Website | @HiatusKaiyote | Youtube

Hiatus Kaiyote coming LIVE to Philly:

THIS Friday May 8th @ Underground Arts ( Tickets )
–> w/ Kate Faust and Mr. Sonny James

Saturday May 30th @ The Roots Picnic ( Tickets )

SXSW, Spring & Beyond: An Interview with Brandon Potter and ill Fated Natives

Story by Franceska Rouzard | Photos by Saeed Briscoe


The weather is warming up and that means Festival season is upon us. Last week marks the end of South By South West. In Philadelphia, some enjoyed Texas’ biggest festival/conference through social media. Others, like Brandon Potter, of What Scene?and local band, ill Fated Natives, made the pilgrimage to participate in person. I had a conversation with both on the night of their return home. They shared their plans for April, their favorite memories from their trip, and useful information for “indie-prenuers” and indie musicians who’d like to attend the festival in the future.



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I’d never met Brandon Potter before that evening at The Fire, a bar in Northern Liberties cleverly named due to its proximity to a firehouse. It was the night of an Open Mic/ Welcome Home/ pop up performance for ill Fated Natives. The bar was a mix of avid supporters and friendly strangers. Potter, along with his partners of What Scene and in collaboration with RECPhilly, another local event planning company, organized an all Philadelphian artist show for SxSW. Even under the dark red lighting of The Fire, he seemed rested and pleased.

FR: What is What Scene? ?

Brandon Potter: It’s still forming but, right now we focus on events. I started it as a blog in 2010. Then, in 2013 me and some friends, my friend Chance, who rocked with me all the time, and my friend Kurt started the Foxtail Fest. And since then we’ve been doing shows.

FR: Interesting! What made you do SxSW?

Brandon Potter: I’ve always dreamed of going there. I know so many new artists drop new stuff then. They broke in my playing that festival. You know, get signed. It felt like it was necessary that Philly have a presence out there. Us being up and coming in the music, SxSW was just the right fit to make good connections.

FR: How did the show come together?

Brandon Potter: I’ve worked with Dave and Broad Street Music Group years ago on the first Foxtail Festival. They had a stage. We both knew each other was working hard on the scene.. When he reached out to me about a stage at SxSW, I said we have to make this happen.

As far as event planning, each is planned separately. Except for the yearly events. Basically, my friends and I do everything from top to bottom. We book the artists and come up with the concepts everything. Its really hard work.

FR: You’ve worked with well known artists like SZA and A$AP Mob? How did Ill Fated Natives end up on the SxSW bill?
Brandon Potter: Yeah, we worked with A$AP Mob for Foxtail. We were planning on booking A$AP Yams to DJ for SxSW before he passed away. It was crazy. So we regrouped and decided to go with an all Philly line up with Freeway, OCD, and Ground Up.

I’m a huge fan of Ill Fated Natives. I’ve listened to their music and I love their new project but I didn’t personally book them. Our partners RECPhilly booked them for SxSW along with other artists like Voss and Chill Moody.

FR: What was that experience like?

Brandon Potter: It was really packed. It was right on 6th street which is the main street. It was about 300 when it was all said and done. Crazy atmosphere.

FR: What’s next?

Brandon Potter: We have a series of 4/20 friendly series of events coming.

FR: ….What kind?

Brandon Potter: 4/20 friendly. [Chuckles.] Last year we did this festival called Hamsterdam: 4/20 Circus. We had acrobats, DJ Diamond Kutz. We transformed this warehouse into a circus. This year we’re doing a series of smaller events, four days in a row, April 17-20th. Hopefully, a show in New York.



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After talking with Potter, I snuck upstairs to the greenroom (cleverly disguised as an apartment), in hopes of interviewing Ill Fated Natives before their performance. I feared they would be too tired from the festival, five days on the road with several other shows. To my surprise, they were more energetic then I’d ever seen them. Joey Stix, the band’s drummer and Bets Charmelus, the bassist, recounted their very different versions of a story from the road in which Stix asked for breakfast and was attacked by gnats. I was sure the laughter from the reenactments could be heard on the first floor. It’s hard to believe they’d only officially been a band for 2 years. They behave like a family, like brothers. I talked with both and guitarist, Otheni Thompson, about the road, their experience at SxSW, and what’s to come in the spring.

FR: How did you travel? Who went with you?

Joey Stix: It was crazy. Sleep was a get in where you fit in situation in the van. At one point someone was sleeping in the aisle. We went with our friends Ian, Malc, the videographer, Zak Cedarholm, who is awesome.

Bets Charmelus: He’s been responsible for the last couple promotional videos for us. Before that, they were shot by Saeed Jones and edited by our friend Jessica Arce, who both super talented.

FR: So you were on the road for five days? What cities did you visit other than Austin?

Joey Stix: We went to DC and Atlanta to perform. We stopped in Virginia for Waffle House on the way back.

FR: Which city was your favorite? Did I hear you mention metal heads in Atlanta?

Joey Stix: They weren’t metal. They just had a metal vibe. But they sounded like folk. Lots of alternative rock undertones.

Otheni Thompson: They called themselves punk.

FR: I heard a rumor that you raised the money to attend SxSW yourself. Is that true?

Bets Charmelus: It all came from The Fire Ceremony when we released our first project.

FR: For those who are thinking about doing something similar next year, how much was it?
Bets Charmelus: [Chuckles] Enough.

Otheni Thompson: How it came together is that we were at Parkhouse Studios when Dave, from RECPhilly, approached us about SxSW. That propelled everything forward. We had to get out music out. We had to raise money for SxSW. We had to have a crazy release show.

Bets Charmelus: You can’t go to a festival like SxSW empty handed. Everyone became really productive. Normally, we struggle with getting everyone on the same page. Like if O and Joey are motivated, then I’m slacking or vice versa. This time the team was focused and the tribe came around us. Next thing we know we had a site! We had business cards! We had a show popping! Everyone just came around us and felt like we have to do this. We have to make this happen.

Joey Stix: Yeah, we found out about the opportunity like a month before we went. A solid month. It didn’t kick in until about a week before.

FR: How was the reception? Did you feel welcomed?

Otheni Thompson: Oh yeah, for sure.

Joey Stix: We got there at a weird time. We arrived an hour before we were supposed to perform. We rolled out of a 15 passenger van and had to do soundcheck. Just trying to stretch and shit. It was kind of packed when we started. But once we were in the groove, people really started coming around.

Bets Charmelus: There was just so much music happening. Everywhere. If you leaned one way you could hear rap. Lean another way and hear something hardcore. I was like, “What the f- is happening?” It was beautiful.

FR: What was the craziest thing you saw? What stood out to you the most?

Otheni Thompson: We had a near spiritual experience.

Bets Charmelus: Completely spiritual experience.

Otheni Thompson: It was at the OK Africa show.We got there early to lock the front down. The openers were really cool. Everything that happened after that was incredible. Ibeyi was having a lot of technical difficulties so they just rocked out with keys and a beatbox. Ian and Malc met them the night before and had a quick but beautiful exchange. That trickled into the next day and the band recognized them at the show.

Bets Charmelus: Yeah, they were on stage talking to them during the performance.

Otheni Thompson: Then Hiatus Kayote came out and just smashed it. They’re definitely master musicians. All of them. Messing with time and making you move in different ways. That was followed by BadBadNotGood. The entire time, we’re in this corner next to the stage dancing like no one else is there. Thrashing. Then, they brought Jus Blaze and Freeway out.

Bets Charmelus: Us being from Philly, I almost popped a blood vessel. Everyone was like, “Oh wow! This is cool.” We were f-ing wilding out. Joey had one foot on the stage. I’m standing on the chair, screaming. A stage manager comes over and tells me to get down. Immediately, someone else gets up there.

Joey Stix: I was looking at every drummer on stage so intensely. “You need some help? I got you! I. GOT. YOU.”

Bets Charmelus: I really think that experience translated into what happened just now downstairs. I found myself playing things that I normally don’t. Thinking to myself, BadBadNotGood would do something like this. It changed my perspective of everything.

FR: So what’s next?

Joey Stix: We have a ton of shows in April. We have like six. My homie, Mars Parker, has a release party on April 4th. DG Philly is having an event at Pub Webb on April 10th.

Bets Charmelus: There is a band called Galvanize who throw an event called Get Lucid, they’re having a release party on the 17th. We’re opening for them. On the 18th, there is the Marijuana Marathon by What Scene? Then, we’re performing for iNERD on the 23rd.

Other Thompson: And we’re looking to release our first video after that. We recorded that all throughout the trip. Zak had been recording it since The Fire Ceremony.




Story by Franceska Rouzard | @frenchthegypsy
Photos by Saeed Briscoe