Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sex, Drugs, and New Wave

By the time Live Aid rolled around in July 1985, my pubescent obsession with Duran Duran had mostly faded. You know who else was over it? Andy Taylor. Watch this clip from Duran Duran’s set below, and you’ll notice that Simon Le Bon’s badly squawked note (at approximately 2:54 on the video) is punctuated by Andy’s subsequent reaction—the body language equivalent to a disgusted sigh.

So sets the scene in the prologue to Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran, the autobiography by the band’s former guitarist so misguidedly referred to as “the ugly one” by gazillions of girls way back when. From Duran Duran’s early days at the Rum Runner to meeting Princess Diana, from the intraband power struggles to striking out on a solo career, Andy traces all the highs and lows of achieving global superstardom at a tender age.

The funniest parts are the little digs Andy takes at Nick Rhodes, like about his lack of interest in “traditional music skills,” pointing out that he would play only the black keys on the keyboard; how he changed his real last name, Bates, after Andy kept calling him “Master Bates”; and how nobody cared much for his American girlfriend/wife, Julie Ann Friedman, which is especially satisfying since Nick was my favorite when I was a young Duranie (portending a lifelong weakness for femmey keyboard boys). On the other hand, Andy’s account of Nick as a bossy and condescending bandmate was eye-opening.

The chapter on making their music videos is full of great stuff, for example, about getting stared down by thousands of Buddhist monks during the “Save a Prayer” shoot, how uncomfortable the boys were about a supposedly homoerotic scene where an elephant sprays water all over John Taylor’s bare chest, and how terrible they all thought the “New Moon on Monday” video was. As for “Wild Boys,” Andy takes credit for introducing the “ripped-jeans look” to the world!

There are all the outrageous hotel antics, booze binges, and coke scandals typical of any good tell-all. John especially is painted as quite the mess, to the point of unintentionally bloodying himself while totally blitzed on more than one occasion. More surprising is the shortage of post–Rum Runner sluttiness. Andy was married at 21 and has stuck it out for a quarter century at this point, so I can understand his not divulging trysts of his own, if there were any. But he also doesn’t include many juicy bits regarding other members, save for the occasional rivalry between John and Simon over some model or other. He actually asserts that nobody ever hooked up with a groupie on tour. Really?? (If you have firsthand knowledge otherwise, e-mail Ooh La La!)

Since Andy officially split from the band soon after the Live Aid debacle, we are conveniently spared from details of the “lesser” D-squared discography. His solitary remark about that era is that “Simon and Nick had carried on together in a watered-down version of Duran Duran during the nineties with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo.” Anyway, even the post–Fab Five chapters are enjoyable, with some amusing anecdotes about working with Rod Stewart and Steve Jones and nice tributes to Robert Palmer and Bernard Edwards.

Cut to the new millennium: Bygones are bygones, and the aging pop idols decide “if we don’t do it now it will never happen because we are all either forty or well on our way to being forty.” The first round of reunion concerts in ’03 was actually motivated by the fact that the band members had run out of money working on a new album and it became apparent they could generate a pile of cash in ticket sales. I wish Andy had gone into more depth about the process of making Astronaut, which is actually pretty good.

It’s generally assumed that Andy quit the second time in protest over the direction the band was headed in working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake for what would become 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre. But interestingly, it was Andy (according to him, at least) who first brought up the idea of working with Justin when the two chatted after the Brit Awards in 2004. Andy also mentions in passing that the band had originally signed up Youth as the producer—that is, the bassist from Killing Joke who’s worked with the Verve and Primal Scream, not to mention Paul McCartney. What a missed opportunity.

The book’s conversational tone and liberal use of exclamation points, italics, and ellipses make Wild Boy a really entertaining and super fast read. And it reaffirms for me that the real Duran Duran is Simon, Nick, John, Roger, AND Andy. Now if only the other members would each pen a memoir of his own, we could collect them all.

Friday, May 2, 2008

from the archives: KENNEDY EXPOSED

Now based in London and with a new album coming out on Warner Music France, Kennedy, as Ooh La La predicted, is ready for international superstardom. Don't miss two ultra rare appearances in Los Angeles: Monday, May 5th, at the Viper Room and Wednesday, May 7th, at the Silverlake Lounge. Here's the fall 2003 interview from Ooh La La no. 1.

It was infatuation at first sight when, a little over a year ago, I happened to catch Kennedy slaying the guitar with LA indie rock outfit Silversun Pickups. As bassist and frontman of his own self-referential band, Kennedy mines everything from British Invasion to arena rock to psychedelic pop to create irresistibly absurd anthems about necrophilia and TV dinners. The skinny, bespectacled, mop-headed boy from the Valley may not be the likeliest of heartthrobs, but, like one-named counterparts Cher, Madonna, and Charo, someday Kennedy just might take over the world.

Ooh La La: What’s a rock star like you doing in Burbank?
Kennedy: Hanging out in Silverlake and Echo Park, you constantly get hassled by fans. I wanted to seek the quietness of Burbank. It’s also cheaper, and I can make a little bit of noise with music and stuff and not get bothered too much. It would be nice to live closer to, like, a cool bar. There's not much to do around here. There’s a Pavilions that’s pretty nice and there’s a Starbucks, and that’s about it.

So you end up drunk driving a lot.
Yeah, basically. There’s one bar I can walk to called the Blue Room. It’s actually the bar from Memento –- this one scene where they’re in the bar and like the guy spits in his drink, and he like forgets that he spits in the drink anyway. It’s that bar. And then there’s a gay bar next to it called Raspberries. If you ask the bartender to show you her boobs she pulls her dress up and shows you her boobs.

Where’d did the hickey come from?
I don’t remember who gave me the hickey.

Didn’t this just happen last night?
No ... Oh yeah, it did happen last night. But last night was a really long evening and it involved some roofies. I woke up with a spork in my ass. Wait, that’s off the record.

OK, I won’t print that. Tell me about the first hickey you ever got.
I think the first hickey I ever got was when I was in like 5th grade. I used to go up to Santa Cruz to visit this friend of mine. We met some of his friends who were girls and we like made out and, like, gave each other hickeys but it was really scientific. It was like, “OK, give me a hickey.” And then like, “No wait, that’s not dark enough!”

Do you remember who it was?
I don’t remember the girl’s name but I think she was like a little chubby 12-year-old. Oh, you know what? I think her name was Ruby, because we kept calling her “Booby.”

So did you give her a hickey too?
Yeah. And I think her parents got really upset. I was on vacation -- I think I had left and come back home to LA, then my friend who lived up there, his dad got a phone call from the mom that was like, “What did you do?”

How did you learn about hickeys?
I think from watching Grease. I think there’s a part where he has like a hickey. But I’m not that into hickeys. They’re kind of childish, I got over that like 10 years ago.

I guess I do like hickeys, they're kinda funny. Like walking into work -- I have a total corporate job -- it's like, it says something. It says: “I got some action last night and none of you suckers did.”

Were you popular in high school?
No. When I go back to my hometown I’ll see people that were in my high school and I’ll be like, “Hey! We went to high school together!” And they’ll be like, “I don’t remember you.” People don’t really remember me from school, I was just kinda like ... I had friends and stuff but all of us were kinda like, I don’t know, not like outcasts, like people didn’t like hate us or make fun of us but we were just kinda not really there, you know? Except for once -– I had a band in high school, and we all took pictures in our underwear, and then I left the picture in the copy machine in the library and it got found by like this skinhead guy who, like, hated fags, like, “I hate faggots.” And he found it, of all the people who’d find it he found it, and he comes up to me and he holds up the picture and he’s like, “Is that you?” I was like, “Yeah, can I have that back?” He said no.

Did the band score you some chicks?
Not really. Maybe like one in the whole two years of being in it. Not that I ever had a problem scoring babes on my own, but it was never the result of my being in a band. I mean, now that’s all changed.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently? Like ask a girl to the prom that you didn’t ask before?
I didn’t get to go to prom, unfortunately. This sounds like the stupidest thing ever but it was sold out. When it was time for me to get tickets, they were like, “Sorry, there’s no more tickets available.” So I didn’t get to go. Then a couple years later, when I was like a couple years out of high school, there was a girl in high school who I was friends with, and apparently she invited me to go to prom with her. I was like, great, that’ll be my chance to go to prom. And then I went on tour and totally forgot about it. And I got all these phone messages on my answering machine when I got home. It was like, “You are the biggest asshole I’ve ever met, you promised me you’d go to prom with me, you didn’t even show up, I had to go with my brother.”

Did you ever hear from her again?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Review: The Mae Shi Terrorbird (5RC)

By Mom and Dad

Dad: I'm in the Iraq War! Sounds like gunshots, machine guns. Go go go go go! Fire! Shoot!
Mom: This music sounds like metal chopsticks.
Dad: Is this music? I don't hear music. It's kind of noise. All kind of street noise put together, including the battlefield.... This [part] sounds like chanting from a mosque. Like Buddhist.
Mom: Not Buddhist. What were the ones we saw? Hare Krishna.
Dad: Same thing. It doesn't irritate my ears, but I wouldn't pay for listening.
Mom: Does he have a sore throat? It's like he had a tonsilectomy.
Dad: That is a very famous voice. Started by Louis Armstrong. Have you heard of Louis Armstrong?
Mom: Yes, but that was his real voice. This guy is faking.
Dad: Maybe imitating.
Mom: Is he in dire pain or something?
Dad: He is catching a cat.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Confessions of an Indie Rock Groupie


I was obsessed with this band — let's just call them Merge Over Hill. They had been on the indie scene for years but things had just blown wide open for them, with a song featured on a hit movie soundtrack and their then-current album getting really good reviews from major music publications. But they were still playing fairly small clubs and second-tier college towns to support the record, and it was on this tour that I had my brief brush with groupiedom.

Some friends and I made an event of their show and got dressed up. I think I wore a red floor-length slip as a dress, borrowed silver thrift-store sandals and a suede jacket trimmed with faux fur, topped with a feather boa. We stood in the front row and danced up a storm. After the show, some of our group split but my friend Claire* and I hung around by the bar to finish our drinks while her boyfriend Pete* went to get the car. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later Merge Over Hill came out and made a beeline for the bar. The singer pretended not to notice us and the guitarist (who seemed like the shy type) genuinely didn't notice us, but as soon as the drummer saw us, he came straight towards us and to our shock, invited us to come to their hotel room later. As cool as we could be, we said "sure."

"Bring some booze," the drummer said.

Pete was incredulous when we told him what had just happened. I think he was more excited than we were; he was like this band's superfan. We wanted to make a good impression, so we went to Pete's apartment, scrounged up a bottle of red wine, dug a roach out of an ashtray, then drove to their hotel, which was more like a motor lodge built around a crumbly concrete pool. The drummer let us into the room he was sharing with the singer, who with his girlfriend glared at us from one of the double beds, watched TV, and didn't say two words to us the entire time. The drummer had immediately launched into a monologue about LA, celebrities, tabloid TV shows and I don't remember what else but after 5 minutes it became really boring. We were there for about an hour, listening to this guy drone on about Jackie Onassis or Cher or somebody and then we finally split. It was a total anti-climax. These people that we had idolized had turned out to be dull, shallow and rude and I wish we had just gone home after the show.

But as it turned out there is some justice in the world: Merge Over Hill's follow-up album laid a huge stinky turd, they were dropped from their label, the crazy celeb-obsessed drummer became a junkie and the band faded back into obscurity whence they came.

*not their real names

Are you an indie rock groupie? Confess to oohlalazine@gmail.com

email: oohlalazine@gmail.com

Monday, March 10, 2008

Teacher Comforts

Remember when you farted in seventh grade and looked around to see if anyone—student or teacher—noticed? Your teacher did. We always do. And then we laugh about it in the staff lounge at lunch. Don't feel violated. Getting comic relief at your expense is a small perk of a frustrating and underpaid job. Teaching at a junior high is the prime spot for this kind of professional recreation. We witness the best of the worst of 13-year-old lives. And we champion kids for enduring the shittiest possible time. WORDS AND PHOTO BY MRS. P

I am always looking for a Sam from Freaks and Geeks, the best show ever. My current Sam is pictured here, proudly modeling his Halloween costume. That is his real hair. As you can see he has the most amazing mullet, which he meticulously cultivates and grooms. It's like corn silk. In sixth-grade drama he stuffed a pillow up his shirt and tucked his pants into his white socks and waddled across the stage as an Oompa Loompa. It looked humiliating. He is one of dozens of red-faced students I have had over the years.

The other day a girl sincerely told this boy, "You're cute. You look like this model that is on a poster outside the gay bar near my house." He panicked, yelling, "I'm not gay! I'm not gay!" so loud that everyone turned to look. Of course he happens to be kind of effeminate with a high but delicate voice.

Another recent favorite was when I had to tell a girl that her big, thick maxipad was sticking up out of the back of her lowrider jeans. Have you ever seen a girl trying to pull her miniature Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt down over her pants? And then when it's too small to do the job, stuff two inches of her big ol' winged maxi back down into her jeans before running to the bathroom?

And of course there's the boy with the huge, spit-trapping overbite, bizarre bowl haircut and really large, jiggly man-boobs. He was in a meeting with his teachers and counselor during lunch. He was disappointed with the amount of cheese on his school burger so he began to layer squeeze packet upon squeeze packet of mayonnaise on it to lube it up and carefully spread it around with his index finger, which he then loudly licked. It was barfworthy. Later the same boy actually skipped (picture the jiggly boobs) through my room and said, "I just can't help but feel that this is going to be a wonderful day!" Sometimes I get confused. Am I feeling heartbreak or suppressing laughter? Or totally inspired by inexplicable optimism?

Teaching sex ed can also be fun. You realize what you are in for when someone asks how a woman can go pee, wear a tampon AND have a baby all at the same time. What a feat! I swear to you the girl who asked that question was pregnant one year later. Her mom took her to the doctor when she had a stomachache that just wouldn't quit. That's when they found out she was in labor. She was a bigger girl so no one noticed, including me, and she sure didn't know. I guess I'm a crappy sex ed teacher. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that her mom told me how she always waited for Jesus to tell her what to do while raising the girl and they also had live chickens running around inside their apartment. While teaching a different group of kids I put the reproductive anatomy diagrams on the overhead. A boy called out, "Can I just c all it the clit?" Oh sure! And another wanted to know, "Hey, is that the ball sack?" Of course, I call it the ball sack all the time.

email: oohlalazine@gmail.com

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Film School in Focus

I met Greg Bertens in 1996, when I was an assistant at Wired magazine in San Francisco and he was a Web coder at its online offshoot, Hotwired, as it was known at the time. Greg had started a band called Film School, which at its inception was just him on guitar, keyboard, and vocals and his friend Paige on drums. They played understated pop songs that were sad and pretty, and I loved it instantly. Since then, through various lineups and collaborations that have included members of Pavement, Fuck, and others, Film School’s sound evolved into lushly layered atmospheric rock, catching the attention of Beggars Banquet in 2005. Hideout, the band’s latest album and second for Beggars, is full of rich textures and shimmering melodies and features guest appearances by members of My Bloody Valentine, Snow Patrol, and Timonium. The following is compiled from various interviews conducted over the past few years with Greg, who now lives in Los Angeles.

Ooh La La: What do you miss most about LA when you’re on tour?
Greg: When we’re in the Midwest, I miss the warm weather. Last night [in Chicago] it was in the 30s. I’m such a wimp. I get so cold. Everybody [in the band] always makes fun of me anyway, ’cause everyone else is from either Seattle or the Northeast. If it drops below 60, I start whining. I also miss some of the vegan food. There’s a lot of good vegan and vegetarian restaurants in LA.

Is eating on the road tough for you as a vegetarian?
In New York it wasn’t a problem, but you know, it’s still kind of a problem. Like last night in Chicago I got this veggie burrito — the only thing on the menu that was vegetarian.

Getting any kind of burrito in the Midwest is probably not a good idea in general.
It was wrong in so many ways. But it’s like my mom would say about our cats, when we’d try to feed the cats new food and they wouldn’t eat it, she’d say, “Well, when they get hungry enough, they’ll eat it.”

On your last tour, someone stole your van by driving it through the gate of a parking lot. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on the road this time?
This tour has not had as many crazy tragic incidences as the last one, thank God.

Then what’s this I hear about the Mounties?
Oh... The cops were sent to look for some people some of our band members were out with after the show [in Toronto]. They kinda were banging on the door at 7 in the morning looking for someone that was “possibly lost or kidnapped.”

What? Was this person underage or something?
The mother called the cops and said she was underage, but she wasn’t. Supposedly she showed proof of age to the cops and they left. It was a group of people — not just like one of our bandmates and some 14-year-old girl. After our show, a bunch of people went out and partied and woke up to cops pounding on the door searching for a “lost or kidnapped teen.” I think she was like 19, but she wasn’t underage!

You’ve been sober for the past year and a half. What’s that like being on tour and in the whole indie rock environment in general?
I always had assumed — for some reason I bought into this idea of like this “fucked-up artist” idea, like drinking or drugs or whatever it is. I feel that like, being clear, I have a lot more energy and I feel way more connected to the music and the art of it all than when I was, like...

... a fucked-up artist?
Yeah, when I was partying and stuff like that. It’s such a more potent experience being clearheaded and experiencing all the feelings that go along with performing songs and the live environment. I feel more passionate about the whole thing. There is a little bit of sort of anxiety sometimes, and drugs take a little bit of that anxiety off, or drinking, you know. That can be a little bit challenging at times, but once you get through it, the experience overall is much more fulfilling.

What is it like having Danzig as a neighbor?
It’s pretty uneventful — the guy is never around. As exciting as it might seem, the house always seems either vacant or abandoned. There’s very little activity, and believe me, I know.

Have you ever actually seen him come out of the house?
Yeah — that was after making a point to go by his house daily and kind of walk slowly. He was in a trenchcoat. It was like 85 degrees and he was in a trenchcoat. He’s an interesting dude, but I don’t see enough of him.

Have you ever worn makeup?
I used to wear a lot of eyeliner in high school. Not a lot. I experimented with eyeliner. It went pretty well with the egg in my hair, the egg I used to make my hair stick up.

Speaking of eyeliner and big hair, I heard you have other things in common with some legendary LA hair metal bands.
We used a kick drum from Poison on most of the record. We didn’t know it until we were halfway through the record. The guy at the studio was like, “That’s a great-sounding kick drum, huh? That was Poison’s kick drum!” Then we moved into the rehearsal space that used to be occupied by LA Guns. I guess psychedelic shoegazey rock is the new hair metal.

Well [guitarist] Dave Dupuis has some pretty amazing hair. Maybe you could do something with that.

email: oohlalazine@gmail.com