But there was a price to the sustained presence of the greatest piece of '90s pop culture -- The Verge reports that Beats 1 mysteriously went down for half an hour right after the Buffy theme was played three times in a row. Could it be that "unknown error" really means "sorry, we couldn't handle the glory of Jaden and the Buffy theme?" The world may never know -- but some of us have faith.
Breaking: Jaden Smith just called into Beats 1 radio to request the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" theme song to be played worldwide. And it was-- Ross Miller (@ohnorosco) July 1, 2015
CANCER, PISCES, and LEO are all big gun and psychedelics signs, astrologically-speaking, so if u notice that I tell y'all to do psychedelics and shoot, buy, sell, trade or steal guns a lot, that's why. Anyway CANCER, for U in partic, I'd recommend some psychedelic drugs and gun shooting this month. Like more than usual, even.
Maybe take psychedelics and shoot guns with a Cancer. Watch some Italian movies while drinking whiskey with ur signif other. If ur single all this would make a great 1st date.
Take a selfie. Touch ur nose and say the alphabet backwards. Drop and give me twenty push ups. Say "yeah" and then say "hell yeah."
A lot of walking this month. A lot of long, sidewinding conversations about essentially nothing. Spend time around animals and/or children. Buy two TVs with 2 VCRs and a VHS copy of Fresh Prince and a VHS copy of Fraiser and watch them both at the same time. Open a "pop-up" restaurant/art gallery in ur house.
BIG MAMA THORNTON, NINA SIMONE, BILLIE HOLIDAY AND DAWN PENN WALK INTO A BAR, BARTENDER'S LIKE "JAH RASTAFARI ALLAH HU AKBAR CHANGO YEMAYA YEMAYA"
Write and record an album of rock and roll music this month. Literally any idea that pops into ur head, do that. Front me 1 pound of OG Kush.
Drive to the beach. Throw a plum into the ocean and say "YEMAYA." Find a pair of black low top Vans lying right there on the sand. They're ur size. Throw them in a washer/dryer, those puppies come out brand new. Wear them to a BBQ.
Acquire a steel watch. Get high on medicinal grade edible marijuana and listen to the new Snoop album. Buy a lotto ticket.
Steal that date idea from LEO or whatever maybe just focus on work cause it's kinda busy this month. Eat a nectarine. Front me a pound of OG Kush. Naw just playing but if u need a pound of OG Kush, holler at ur boy.
Bruh. BRUH. FRONT ME 1 POUND OF naw just playin. Matterfact U need that loud pack I got that on the low how many plates U thinking. NAW but seriously, the stars are lining up 4 U this month in a major way. Listen to In A Major Way by E-40. Listen to Lightning Hopkins. Apply for that job I feel like u'll get it. If u don't, fuck it, who cares. Take art seriously, especially ur own. Art is at the root of all labor maybe or also whatever who cares. Jah Rastafari, Allah, El Espiritu Santo, Yemaya.
Watch the new Mad Max movie, take a road trip, fire a gun. Watch the Godfather trilogy again. Read Caucasia by Danzy Senna. Listen to the Kinks, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Dr. John and Little Walter. Go to an art museum.
Take hella baths this month. Like 4 or 5 a day even. Fuck "conserving water" man these fuckers should be building ocean desalination plants is what the fuck they should be doing, the earth's like what 90% water or some shit right? So the fuck U mean a drought? Y'all mean to tell me accredited scientists were paid to come up with cappuccino flavored Lay's potato chips but nobody can find the time to take the salt out of saltwater? Fuck outta here. Y'all figure that shit out, meanwhile ima be taking a bath.
That falsetto, after all. 💜
In this case, Danny Boyle is behind the camera, and his love of visual flair shows in images of masses of people anticipating Apple announcements (prescient and also gross) or Seth Rogen's Steve Wozniak confronting his former partner. Watch the trailer for Steve Jobs, which hits theaters October 9, below.
The band's fifth album, Depression Cherry, will be released on August 28th.
Aki Sasamoto at Luxembourg & Dayan
July 1st, 7pm
Freedom Culture at The Journal Gallery
July 1 - August 8
Nothing like a summer group show that gives you all the art you want to see without having to leave the AC of one gallery.Freedom Culturebrings together over 35 of our favorite emerging artists for an exhibition exploring communication through painting and sculpture. Curated by artist Graham Collins, many forms of text-based works will be shown by artists like Eddie Martinez, Peter Sutherland, Sam Moyer, Ted Gahl and more.
Photography Sees the Surface at Higher Pictures
July 1 - August 7
Based off the book Photography Sees the Surface published by photography students at the State School of Graphic Arts in Prague in 1935, this group show, as well as the original book, highlights how photography can both capture and skew the details of an object's surface. The show's organizer, Aspen Mays, has brought together over 20 contemporary photographers (who are also teachers and professors in the medium) as well as historic material, like a photo from Man Ray's teaching journal, to re-explore the many ways of seeing 80 years later.
EVERYTHINGS at Andrea Rosen Gallery
July 2 - August 14
There is zero information about this group show on the Internet, but with a line up like Hayden Dunham (aka QT, the PC Music producer with a pop song and energy drink to her credit, among other releases), the more-is-more net artist Parker Ito, and the futuristic consumerist installations of Timur Si-Qin, how can this show not be amazing? Plus, this GIF got me feelin'EVERYTHINGS.
Summer Show at Petzel Gallery
July 2 - August 7
Three artists, three installations, one gallery. Bringing together the diverse and immersive works of installation artists Jon Pylypchuk, Jorge Pardo, and Dirk Skreber, Petzel's group show is explosive, showing sand-blasted paintings, surreal 3D-printed hanging light fixtures and some highly catastrophic video art of a slow motion car crash.
Anna Glantz at Topless Rockaway
July 4 - July 18
If you're out at Rockaway Beach this Independence Day, bring your beer and hotdogs over to Topless gallery, a summer gallery in a house built in 1912 that was left abandoned after Hurricane Sandy. The gallery shows emerging artists like painter Anna Glantz, which opens July 4th 6-9pm with a series of paintings based on a bizarre story featuring a cast of "fugitives, outcasts, the publicly shamed, and the perpetually bored" who find "no fork in the road, but rather a horse." Sounds fun.
Lindsay Morris at ClampArt
July 9 - August 24
In Lindsay Morris' new photography exhibition You Are You, the artist gives us a unique and compassionate inside look at a weekend at a summer camp for gender-nonconforming children and their families. "I intend to reach beyond the confines of the camp to contribute to a dialogue about the crucial role that support plays," says Morris, whose pictures from the series have been featured in the New York Times Magazine. The collection of photographs are stunning, both in content and in style, exuding that excitement of summer camp that all children share.
Summer Mixer at Joshua Liner Gallery
July 16 - August 21
Jacob Aue Sobol at Yosi Milo
Someone in Michigan found this video on Reddit, hosted by an official Late Show YouTube account. It depicts Stephen Colbert, in a slightly more earnest take on his well-known character (but with many of the same inflections and joke deliveries), hosting a very real public access show in Monroe, Michigan. Yes, it brings to mind Colbert's early "Better Know a District" segment, but it also has much of the same weirdo public access-riffing that's characterized a broad strain of comedy for the past few years. Also, he interview Eminem and gets him to sing several Bob Seger songs.
It's beautiful. Colbert creates his own continuity of references (did you know the river is cresting?), riffs on the purported ignorance and enthusiasm of most talk show hosts -- including an extended bit where he tries to give Eminem advice about how to prepare for retirement -- and sneaks in a great rap joke in which he claims that Will Smith is "street" rap in contrast with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. If this is what Colbert's new show is going to be like, everyone should be beyond excited for the future of late-night.
"I've learned a lot from the start of the album process to the end," Cody Simpson shared with us in our summer issue about his new album, Free. The 18-year-old has struck out on his own in more ways than one -- newly single after splitting from Gigi Hadid, Simpson also left the major label scene in favor of starting his own imprint, Coast House, and self-releasing Free. Talking more about the new album, which we're excited to be exclusively streaming here via the "MTV First" music program presented by Reese's, Simpson says that it "captures a good raw vibration inspired by new found independence and creative freedom" and that ultimately the album is just "some good old summerness for the youth of 2015." Either way, it's just in time to soundtrack your July 4th BBQs.
Listen to the album below.
"Zana Bayne is one of my best friends. She made this hat -- and actually started her collection when she moved into my apartment...I'll attach the dreamcatchers to it, even though that wasn't her intention. She thinks it's just me being ridiculous."
"Zana also made [a pair of white bracelets] specifically for tonight. Our on-going joke is that I'm going to keep asking her for more until I have them in every color. Like, I had her make red ones for a Christmas party."
"I actually used to own a vintage clothing store called 'Now Playing' around here on Havemeyer in like '04, '05. I closed it because it wasn't fun anymore."
"Ladyfag and I met at the Cock, right after she moved here. I remembered seeing her at Room Service, crawling on the floor, dancing, and being like, 'Who is that girl? She is so crazy!'"
"Make-up is hard. I am horrible at make-up. That's why I just do shapes. [My favorite look is] to take circle stickers and paint over it and take it off, so then you get this negative space."
"[My roommate and I] make costumes for a non-profit dance company called Salvatore LaRussa Dance Theatre. This year is their 10 year anniversary, and we've been working with them for 4, 5 years."
"I was always going to parties in Atlanta, since I was a kid...the first party I went to in NYC was Limelight in '93 when I was visiting.
"I actually moved here around 9/11. It happened and I stayed around [Atlanta] a few more days and then drove my U-Haul up a few days later while they were doing recovery around the Towers."
"I love an all-white look, especially in the club because it's dark and everyone else wears black, so you look like a white, ghostly figure snaking through the crowd."
"But sometimes it takes a village."
Should you ever find yourself in Guatemala, be sure to make your way to Antigua, a beautiful colonial-era town an hour or so outside of Guatemala City full of stunning Spanish Baroque architecture, restaurants, shops and bars. And, should you find yourself in Antigua, be sure to make your way to Café No Sé, a speakeasy-cum-mezcal bar-cum bookstore-cum live music venue started by American ex-pat John Rexer in "2003 ish maybe 2002" (his and his team's words) and the home of Ilegal mezcal, a boutique mezcal brand that's quickly making a name for itself in the States as the Mexican spirit gains ground on its more popular tequila cousin. Along with a handful of musicians, bartenders and hospitality industry folk, I had the chance to hang out with the Ilegal team and visit No Sé and sample the smoky mezcal for myself.
The bar, which boasts live music every single night, is perpetually low-lit, giving off debauched nighttime vibes even when it opens at "2PM(ish)" in the afternoon. Off to the side of the main bar is the mezcal bar (which serves the spirit exclusively so don't bother asking for a gin and tonic), accessible only by ducking through a low doorway. In there, you'll find bartenders doling out shots (and throwing back a few themselves) and ex-pats and locals hanging out, playing dice and going back-and-forth between the bar and the main room to catch the music sets. It can feel there like everyone's a character and everyone's got a story to tell about their own reasons for winding up in Antigua -- the perfect setting to forget your day jobs, your relationships and your stresses. Seeing how both No Sé and Ilegal thrive, it's easy to assume that their symbiotic relationship is the kind of thing that was carefully planned, launched and managed. That was...not exactly the case. After spending time with Rexer and talking to him more in a follow-up interview, I learned the strange true story behind how his popular hang-out spot and well-loved mezcal came to be and the reason behind Ilegal's name.
First things first, what prompted you to leave the States and how did you choose Antigua, Guatemala as a place to live in particular?
I've always been a bit of a nomad and always loved Latin America. In 2002, I decided I wanted be on the outside looking in. So, with no particular destination in mind, I went to Mexico and bussed around the country. I ended up in Guatemala quite by mistake. I needed to extend my Mexican visa, so I traveled across the border and fell in love with Lago Atitlan and later Antigua.
Tell us about the origins of No Sé.
No Sé I think had been in my subconscious. It came about pretty randomly. I landed in Antigua broke, and one afternoon there was a vicious downpour of rain. I was a bit drunk and thoroughly drenched. As I walked down the cobbled street I saw a sign on a door that said 'for rent.' I figured, what the hell, maybe I can get out of the rain. I knocked on the door and was greeted by an elderly man. He walked me through the building showing it to me as though I was a prospective tenant. When he asked me what I was thinking of putting in the space I heard come from my lips, "Well, over here I think I would put a bar, and there maybe we'd serve coffee and drinks, and over there maybe a bookstore, and in the front I was thinking of live music." I just said it and all of a sudden it dawned on me I'm renting a place, 1-2-3.
I could see it all very clearly. These were things I kind of wanted ever since I was very young. And then I thought, What am I saying, I know no one in this town and I have $400 to my name. Impulsively I shook the man's hand and said I'd rent it, and somehow in my drunkenness I managed to negotiate 2 months free rent.
What was the bar like when you first opened?
For the first 6 months we operated as a real speakeasy, not out of style or fashion, but out of necessity. I had no money for licenses, a sign, or really anything else.The only cups I had were coffee cups, so we served drinks in them. I built the bar from scraps of wood and metal that were in a pile out back. The light shades we made from used sand paper. I'd close the bar and sleep on the benches in the front room.
We had live music every night for the first year. I always dreamt of having a small live music venue. It was all very word-of-mouth -- musicians just showed up: blues musicians, jazz musicians, latin, a kid with bagpipes, famous classical musicians, a Mexican opera singer, a beautiful artist and friend named Lavon who played an upright bass. The place from the outset attracted the most amazing musicians and storied characters. Over time, I got the place papered up and legal and by about the fifth year in, it began to feel like the bar would be around forever. It kind of took on a life of its own.
When we had the chance to meet in Antigua, you shared a very interesting story about disguising yourself as a priest and illegally smuggle mezcal over the border from Mexico to Guatemala. Can you share more about that story?
Let's not say illegally. I prefer to say I was a bar owner who had a supply problem and got a bit creative. I have a lot of bad ideas and when I've been drinking they seem like great ideas and I do them. Not always the wisest option. The sign outside the office door to my bar reads 'Bad Idea Factory.' So yeah, one day, very early on, I was trying to bring 60 bottles or so across the border under a bus with a friend of mine, and I dressed up like a priest.
It happened like this: My friend is a painter and a musician and a drinker. He's a romantic mad man who looks like a cross between Salvador Dali, Pepe Le Pew and Zorro. He has a pencil mustache twisted at the ends and slicked-back hair. He also has a predilection for porno, which I was unaware of until the day in question. Anyway, we had managed to get the mezcal as far as Tapachula, but now the trick was to get it out of Mexico. It was early in the morning and we had just taken an 11-hour bus ride from Oaxaca. During that ride my friend had imbibed a bit, say a bottle or so of good mezcal. He was a bit sloppy. So I had a drunken Zorro on my hands as my partner in crime transporting mezcal. I was kind of fucked, in other words. We also needed to buy some duffel bags to put the mezcal in and some cheap shirts and rags to wrap around the bottles. So at 7 a.m. we went to the market and bought bags. While there we came across a priest's shirt hanging amidst the used clothing for sale. It's a long story, but to cut to the chase my friend encouraged me to buy the shirt and dress as a priest when crossing the border. The more I thought about it the more it seemed like a good idea. I figured if I got questioned at the border and asked what was in my bags I'd just smile and say "regalos para mis amigos y libros para los niños," which means "gifts for my friends and books for the children."
Leaving Mexico was not a problem, but on the Guatemalan side, things went a bit sideways. My friend, drunk off his ass, looking like Zorro, passed though no problem. I, on the other hand, was stopped. Probably because I had so many duffel bags. The immigration official said, "Padre, que tiene en sus maletas?" ("What do you have in your bags?") I responded with, "Regalos para mis amigos y libros para los niños." He stared me down and said, "Abra su maleta." ("Open your bag.") I opened the bag he was pointing at figuring I'd have no real problem as we stuffed the bags with a lot of clothing and books at the top. Unfortunately, my friend had packed this bag and had placed on top some pretty hardcore porn that he had purchased in Mexico. Actually it was not pretty hardcore it was very hardcore. The official was shocked -- his jaw literally dropped. My legs started shaking and I felt sweat pour down my back. "Que es eso?" ("What is this?"), the Official asked. I repeated, "Regalos para mis amigos y libros para los niños," and then I realized the absurdity of it. I just said the porno was gifts for my friends and books for the children.The official just looked at me. There was this long pause where we looked at each other. "Esta bien?" I asked. He stared at me for another second and said very slowly, "Esta bien, Padre. Esta bien. Pasale. Pasale." He waved me on.
When and how did you make the jump from illegal importation to legal? Was that difficult to negotiate/navigate?
We made the jump in about 2005 or 2006. First we had to find mezcal producers who were certified by the Mexican Government for export. Back when we started those were few and far between. We also had to find certified producers whose mezcal we loved and wanted to work with for a long time. There is a bit of a learning curve in importing and exporting booze. There is a minefield of bureaucracy that will test your resolve. It's not difficult per se, but going legit certainly took some of the romance out of it.
How did you find your mezcal producers in Oaxaca in the first place?
I spent a good deal of time in Oaxaca in the 1990s and knew of a number of regions where you could find mezcal. Initially it was hopping in a pickup and driving out to a palenque and getting to know the producers and taste their mezcal.
But, once we decided to actually create a brand, we then developed a number of criterias for the brand. We'd only work with producers who made mezcal in a traditional fashion, who paid their employees well, who were environmentally conscious and also adaptative, who were fun to work with, and, most importantly, we had to love the mezcal. So it was a process of getting to know the terrain, building friendships and working together to see if we had the same vision.
Can you share more information about the different varieties of Ilegal mezcal you make?
Mezcal is about variety. There are upwards of 40 different kinds of agave that you can work with to make mezcal and each has a distinct taste and each distiller has a distinct production style. With Ilegal we have joven, reposado, and añejo. They are all made with the espadin agave, which is a cultivated agave. They all are agave-forward, which means you get the taste of agave first and everything else is secondary. They are all light smoke mezcals for the same reason.
The joven is unaged and the espadin flavor is dominant with notes of pepper and apple. The reposado is aged in American Oak for four months and has beautiful notes of toffee and bitter orange and vanilla. The añejo is aged for 14 months in American oak and French oak, and has notes of maple, clove and dark chocolate.
Where would you like to see the brand heading in the next 10 years?
In 10 years I'd like to see that Ilegal, as well as other mezcals, have established the category outside of Mexico, and that more people come to know this beautiful spirit. I'd like to see that we've done things in such a way that we did it right, having built in practices for sustainability and caring for the environment. I'd like to see the brand remain connected to music and small music venues, because it's in the small places that the really great stuff happens, and where people take risks. I'd like to see Ilegal fueling more of that good risk.
An incredibly moving documentary by Asif Kapadia concerning the tragic short life of British power house singer Amy Winehouse. With unlimited access to home movies and archival footage one could not imagine a more complete portrait of this talented woman who Tony Bennett (whom she eventually recorded with) called one of the truly great jazz singers. Friends said she was an old soul in a young body and sadly we watch as her co-dependent relationships and wild shoot to superstardom with her song "Rehab" led to her dizzying slide into drug addiction. A heartbreaking moment in the film is a description by her good friend on the night of her big Grammy win when she was dragged aside and Amy confessed: "This is so boring without drugs." But that voice of hers is just astounding in its purity and power.
Best Of Enemies
Excellent, illuminating, documentary by Robert Gordon & Morgan Neville about the infamous televised live debates between conservative firebrand and editor of the National Review, William F. Buckley Jr., and Myra Breckinridge author and staunch liberal, Gore Vidal. In 1968 ABC was the least-watched of the networks so they devised a different approach to covering the Republican and Democrat conventions by airing nightly debates between Vidal & Buckley. It made for great TV particularly after Vidal called Buckley a "crypto Nazi" leading Buckley to lose his effete composure and call Vidal a "queer" and threaten to sock him in his "goddam face." This dust-up haunted each of them (albeit for different reasons) for the rest of their lives. Sadly, the racial unrest and divisive social issues that surrounded the 1968 conventions haven't changed at all. And TV debates now are just angry diatribes preaching to the converted.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
A psychological study through Stanford University led by Professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) was done in the summer of 1971 with 24 male students (paid $15 per day) set in a created prison environment. A toss of a coin decided who would be guards and who would be inmates and within a day the guards were sadistically humiliating and abusing their charges. The always excellent Ezra Miller plays a rebellious prisoner who flips out as things get progressively more intense. Michael Angarano is particularly loathsome as a "guard" nicknamed "John Wayne" even though he was channeling Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke. Even Professor Zimbardo quickly began exhibiting paranoid and messianic behavior. The whole cast is excellent in this upsetting movie. This film re-enactment of the landmark study, well directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, sadly shows how easy it is to lose control of one's self when left unsupervised in an authoritarian situation. Abu Ghraib, anyone?
Listen To Me Marlon
The late, great actor Marlon Brando left scores of audio tapes that he used therapeutically to confess his memories, fears and reflection on his cinematic triumphs like A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, and The Godfather. Not to mention disasters like Candy and Mutiny On The Bounty (where on the upside he fell in love with Tahiti). Director Stevan Riley has edited together an intriguing portrait of this intensely private man, revealing Brando's passion for civil rights and the plight of the Native American; commenting on his marriages, his troubled children, his abusive father and alcoholic mother; and describing uncomfortably how director Bernardo Bertolucci made him reveal way too much of himself in Last Tango In Paris. What emerges is a fascinating glimpse into the dreams, longings and recollection of one of the great film actors of all time.
Bound To Vengeance
Harrowing revenge thriller expertly directed by Jose Manuel Cravioto that refreshingly subverts the usual torture/porn shockers. Tina Ivlev is sensational as Eve, chained in the basement by a monstrous predator, Phil (Two Moon Junction's Richard Tyson). She escapes right at the beginning of the film but needs to keep Phil alive so he can lead her to a series of other women that are imprisoned all over town. They drive around with Phil shackled in a van and each house contains a new unexpected horror. Like a nightmarish Alice In Wonderland, behind every new door Eve finds herself deeper into a world of depravity and madness.
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker
But don't blame yourself for your Smokey ignorance; blame the homophobia of the 1970s music industry. Even though Condon and Emmons had shameless hooks and access to some of the best studios in town, as well as top-flight studio musicians like Rhoads (along with his future Quiet Riot bandmate Kelly Garni... oh, and Stooges guitarist James Williamson and King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew), every record label in town passed on them, unable to see a way to market out-and-proud anthems like "Leather,""Piss Slave" and "Hot Hard & Ready." Smokey kept going as best as they could, forming S&M Records to release their singles, which became widely emulated hits in their home base of Los Angeles. Disheartened at their inability to reach a wider audience, Condon and Emmons eventually went their separate ways. Condon retired from music and Emmons kept working as a producer.
But in these reissue-happy times, it's hard to keep an unheralded punk treasure unknown forever, and last week Chapter Music released the first-ever collection of Smokey's music. How Far Will You Go?: The S&M Recordings, 1973-81 collects all the hits and unreleased material and showcases the group's formidable aesthetic range. To celebrate the occasion, PAPER spoke with Condon and Emmons about how it feels to be rediscovered after getting passed over by every label in town -- and why Van Halen are a bunch of assholes.
How did you two first meet?
Smokey: Well, you wanna tell that, E.J.?
EJ: Sure. We met at the road manager of the Doors' apartment. It had a couple bedrooms and I was renting one of them and had just at that time decided that I'd rather sleep in the drum booth of an unused recording studio that I finally attained. So I wasn't using it anymore, and then Mr. [Vince] Treanor, who was their road manager, invited Smokey out to Hollywood to see what he could do. And then he called me up and said, "I've got this guy and he's staying in your old room, and why don't you come over and meet him and see what you think?" Well, myself and Gordon Alexander did that, and I was pretty stunned. I thought, "Wow, what a good-looking guy. If he can sing, this'll be great." And then we went into the above-mentioned studio and discovered he could [laughs]. And so we did "Leather" and "Miss Ray" with Gordon Alexander's band. Then we moved in together I think within two weeks.
Smokey: Yeah, it was instant. I had space in my apartment and I was more than happy to accept him in because well, I kind of fell in love.
EJ:Andwe were together eight years. And we recorded a lot of songs.
And how did you first know when you really had that artistic connection?
Smokey: EJ has pictures of himself taking apart vacuum cleaners and whatnot since he was a toddler. He's mechanically inclined, he's brilliant when it comes to technical, and all he ever wanted to do was make records, and all I ever wanted to do was sing. So, you know, it was a great combination.
EJ: One person did. You can tell him the Ron Levin story, if you'd like.
Smokey: Well, I don't know. I think you do that one better than I do [laughs].
EJ: We used to play at Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco on Sunset. He was a big supporter. And one night we got a call: some people wanted to meet us, so we went over and we met Bianca Jagger and Paul Morrissey with the Andy Warhol Factory people, and a guy named Ron Levin. And they loved us. And we sat there and got plastered, and then Ron said, "I really want to sign you. We're starting a record label, Rhinestone Records, and it's gonna be with us." So we went over the next day, we signed the contracts for a single and he turned out to be really a big crook. And he finally was the one killed in the Billionaire Boys Club that they made a movie about, but that was the closest we got to a contract. And it took somebody that was free-thinking to see what we were doing. Mercury didn't want us, Capitol didn't want us. We knew Elton John had the 45s on his jukebox, but Rocket Records didn't want us, so. We just kept pluggin' away.
Not even Elton?
Smokey: Not even Elton John.
EJ: We got a beautiful letter! I still have it. [laughs]
As far as the audiences went, you were playing punk clubs and you played with Van Halen and other heavy bands. Did you have to deal with a lot of homophobia back then?
Smokey: People ask that question over and over. It was just a time where people were people. Whether it was the musicians we played with, like Randy Rhoads or James Williamson, they were just musicians. And nobody really fucking cared if we were gay. And when we played out, people went nuts. They loved it, and they would scream out to us to play "Miss Ray," which is a blatant song about a drag queen. They loved it. "Leather" was a semi-big hit in Los Angeles; we sold thousands of the little 45s. No, it wasn't like today where they put a label on it. We were entertainers.
EJ: We played mostly in Hollywood, which was a freer environment to play in anyhow. And when we went into the outlying areas, it was a little bit more uptight. But Hollywood embraced us as far as the audiences were concerned. And as far as selling our little records out of the back of the car -- that worked. Just when we got to the majors, they felt very uncomfortable because it was a "gay band" and you can't have that.
So it's not like you were trying to tour through the Midwest or something.
Smokey: Yeah, right. That would never have worked. We would've been mugged.
I know the band started to taper off in the '80s. When America became a lot more conservative after Ronald Reagan was elected and then the AIDS crisis hit, how did you react to that as musicians?
Smokey: There were reasons. We had really taken it to the max. We had petered out, so to speak. AIDS hit L.A. really, really, really hard and the phobia started coming in. But it was just time.
EJ: And you know, the AIDS crisis happened after we planned to stop doing it anyway, so that didn't actually affect us. It was not our time at that point.
You mentioned "Miss Ray." How did you meet Miss Ray?
Smokey: God, I was a kid in Baltimore. I lived above a nightclub, and I met this guy named Larry, and he was living with this drag queen who, at 16, I thought was a real woman. And so, I moved in with him and her. He and I used to party all night. And she would work at night, on a place called the Block. And she'd turn tricks. And then in the daytime, Larry and I would wake up, usually around 4 in the afternoon, and then we'd go out and buy her clothes and what have you, and do the same thing every night. She kind of just supported us and we'd party and we were her friends.
How do you feel about not getting the recognition you deserved? How did you not get too dispirited about it?
Smokey: Well, when it ended, I did. It took me many years to get over it, because a lot of the bands we played with just kept persevering and got signed and went on to big, big things. It took a long time for me to get over the fact that we didn't make it because my heart was really in the music, and so was E.J.'s. It hurt a lot. I mean, for no money we did incredible recordings. Seriously. No money. And one of the prerequisites when E.J. got a job in a studio was that he get free studio time. So the records sound good because we recorded at Record Plant, MGM, Westlake Audio, the best studios in town. With no money! And these cats that came in and played, like James or Hunt and Tony Sales or Adrian Belew or Randy or whoever. It was before contracts and agents and managers and money, so they came in just to play music and jam. It hurt a lot when we had to say goodbye.
Was there a moment you thought would break through, but then it didn't happen?
Smokey: Yeah, there were lots of moments like that. That's what I'm saying. The night we played with Van Halen, the big song we were pushing was "DTNA." We were supposed to headline and they bullied us into headlining, they had Warner's there to see them. They were unsigned. And the next thing I knew, we showed up at the Whiskey and David Lee Roth had basically the same fucking outfit on that I had on the week before. And the first thing that they came out with was called "Dance the Fuckin' Night Away," and they had never done a song like that. And they didn't do it the night we played with them. And so, that kind of shit kept happening and happening and happening to us.
Smokey: There's a lot of untalented people in the world that cop other people's ideas. Whether it's white punks out there singing "more more more" when I was out there singing, "You're begging for more" on "Leather," whether it was David Bowie singing, "Leather, leather everywhere." And we fucking couldn't get signed. So we knew it was over.
EJ: [Van Halen] were nice when we were there, but in the end we couldn't actually do any business just because we were so gay I guess.
Smokey: They weren't nice at all. I remember they took over the fucking dressing room and our group had to go in the fucking men's room. They weren't nice at all. They were assholes.
Smokey: Once again, we go back to that we couldn't get signed. I felt people were copying some of the things we were doing. We were pissed. I was dating a guy that was into piss and we said, "Let's just go for broke here." And so we did.
When this reissue started happening, were you surprised that there was in interest in the music?
Smokey: We're shocked. [laughs]
Smokey: I'm thankful, because I think it's important to me. I know it's important to EJ, but we're totally blown away. Shocked. I think this is our twelfth interview. And everybody has just really been sweet, and everybody has said it's really good. And I'm just shocked.
Staples was recently on the cover of XXL for their annual Freshman issue, an honor typically reserved for soon-to-be-superstars, and his debut album Summertime '06, out now via Def Jam, has been one of the most anticipated records of the year. His mixtapes and last year's Hell Can Wait EP have established the 21-year-old Long Beach, California resident as one of the most insightful MCs working today, but when asked about his early influences, he couldn't name one rapper who made a strong impact on him.
But he's always been hard to impress. Just ask his ninth grade English teacher, Ms. Brown.
"We were reading The Outsiders, and she asked me if I understood the book and if I read it, and I said 'I didn't read it, but I know what it's about,' and I explained it to her in a way that she was blown away by. And I read the book after and I told her why I didn't like it," he says. He then elaborated on what he found lacking about S. E. Hinton's young-adult classic. "It was fake. I mean, I've been a gang member my whole life. Certain aspects would never happen to me. This isn't the reality of the situation."
Impressed with his natural writing talent, his teacher stayed on his case, even once going to find him in a nearby park "doing things I wasn't supposed to do," to get him to come back to class and stay focused. "Literally the best teacher I've ever had," he says of her. "I kind of got removed from that school, but that class was very important. Shout out to Ms. Brown."
As far as the rappers that inspired him back then? Staples says there weren't any. He gives Snoop Dogg, easily the most famous rapper to make it out of Long Beach, a shout-out, but only because he donated money for a LBC community football team. That meant more to Staples than any music he was hearing. "We were inspired by the things that helped us better ourselves," he says, "because self-worth is something that lacks where I come from."
Staples' father went to prison when he was young, and most of his family was involved in gang life in one way or another. He eventually ended up living in the back of his aunt's house. "My friends, they all had houses. I never wanted anyone to come to my house, because you feel like you're less, you feel like you're not worth as much," he says. "But everyone needs a sense of pride."
By the time he met Ms. Brown, Staples was already deeply involved with the 2N Crips gang. "I started at a very early age. Things people were doing when they were 16, 17, 18 years old, I was doing when I was in the eighth grade," he says. "As far as street life goes, that's been a part of my life ever since I could remember."Summertime '06 is a double-disc exploration of Staples' time in the streets, and his fight for dignity and self-worth.
That summer "was a transition in my life, becoming a different kind of person. Whether we were young or not, we felt like we were adults. I learned a lot in that time period. And I lost a lot in that time period," he says. "That was the first time that consequences became a factor."
"One of my best friends died when we were 15 years old and if you ask people where I'm from, we'll all say that that changed who we were as people," he continues. On "Like It Is," Staples observes that "No matter what we grow into/ we never goin' escape our past," and Summertime '06 is him, now a preternaturally mature adult, looking back on his childhood and making sense of how he got out, "taking those experiences of being 15, 16, and understanding loss, and people dying and dying and dying and you being the one left and that sort of guilt, that sort of regret. You feeling like you're not a good friend because these things are happening around you and just..."
At this point in the interview, Staples began to tear up for a second, before stating, "Love and hate. That's what this album's about."
But Staples isn't one to give easy answers to complicated questions. He lost his friends to violence, but on Summertime '06, he also paints a picture of American gang life as the only option for kids in a broken system with nowhere to turn, refusing to separate the place where he's from and the gang that raised him.
"These are just institutions we have because we don't have a Boys & Girls Club," he says. (Interestingly enough, Staples has a cameo in the new hip-hop-fueled coming of age film Dope, which included a plot line in which a Boys Club is a front for a drug-dealing operation.) "Because of our location, these are the things we have," he says. "I've never really gotten out of gang life because gang life is not criminal life.
"Not everyone that's from a gang is killing people, not everyone that's from a gang is committing crimes," he says. "I'm still very much a part of my community, but I'm not a part of committing any crimes."
Staples details the crimes he committed back then on Summertime '06 -- you can actually read annotations of his lyrics on Genius -- as well as his regret and shame. After his family sent him to live in Atlanta for eight months to live with his sister, Staples decided to go straight. He ended up meeting Syd Tha Kid and Earl Sweatshirt of Odd Future, and rapping on Earl's self-titled debut mixtape. He hadn't planned on becoming a rapper, but he didn't have any other plans and had dropped out of school, and with their encouragement he kept going, eventually forming the group Cutthroat Boyz with his friends Joey Fatts and Aston Matthews.
It was an interesting development in his life since Staples wasn't even a casual hip-hop fan growing up, content to just tune out whatever popular hip-hop was on the radio at the time. He never went through a phase where he was obsessed with Nas or Notorious B.I.G. like many young rap heads -- it was only after discovering that he had this natural talent and his friends pushing him to delve deeper, that he began downloading and studying artists like Wu-Tang Clan and UGK. His homework paid off, as his 2011 debut mixtape Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, released while he was still a teenager, demonstrated this innate ability and his unsentimental take on his experiences. Staples was an immediate hit in mixtape circles and with his peers; both Mac Miller and Schoolboy Q took him out on the road as an opening act, and last year Common featured him on his most recent album, Nobody's Smiling.
Fast forward four years and No I.D., a longtime producer for Common and a one-time mentor to Kanye West, produced most of Summertime '06, an album which largely eschews guest verses or obvious radio hits, and relies on subtle, layered production that demands repeat listens. It's easy to compare Staples to Kendrick Lamar or YG, two other MCs that have offered detailed looks at the day-to-day strife of their hometowns, but Staples has a deliberate, restrained flow that feels distinctly his. He's not in love with the English language or the power of hip-hop. He's not impressed with his natural skill or the trappings of gang life, rap life or anything else you could offer. The only thing Staples seems to truly care about is trying to do right by his community.
Summertime '06 is a double-album, risky for a veteran artist and almost unheard of for a marketplace debut, but Staples says that Def Jam supported his decision to avoid obvious mainstream fair in favor of focusing on "something that can stand the test of time, and get to where these kids can really take something from it and learn something from it, and it'll be with them for a long time in their life." He continues, "let this music be a part of a portion in time they can reflect back on later in their life to help them get through their day.
"Because to me, it's really all about helping them get through their day. And helping them live their lives, because at times, life is a very hard thing to live."
Whether you're stuck in the city or looking for a last-minute (or 24-hour) escape, here's our picks for the best parties, comedy shows, film screenings and more going on in NYC over the July 4th weekend.
Friday, July 3
Rob Stapleton's July 4th Weekend Takeover
If fireworks aren't really your thing, or if you want to kick off the festivities early, comedian Rob Stapleton, who's been featured on Comedy Central and Russell Simmons Def Comedy jam, has your back. Settle in for an evening of Independence Day-themed stand-up from the Bronx's best.
Carolines on Broadway, 1626 Broadway, NY, 10:30pm.
Red, White and Brew Pub Craw
All who think the true purpose of the Fourth of July is to be able to day-drink without being judged -- this one's for you. This three-day boozing extravaganza isn't for the faint of heart, but for a mere $10 you can spend Independence Weekend stumbling through NYC's pubs with a bunch of people who are just as smashed as you are. For those whose livers aren't quite up to the enormity of such a challenge, July 4 day passes are also available for $3.99.
Bar None, 98 3rd Ave, NY, 5pm.
BABËL Presents Sun Scream
If you're trying to escape the hectic city this holiday, head out for a nice weekend trip to Montauk, where BABËL will be hosting their first-annual beachside fête at the recently transformed Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa. With headliner Israeli techno/house DJ Guy Gerber and DJs Orazio Rispo and Behrouz, this pre-Independence Day turn up will give you an energetic start to your long weekend celebrations.
290 Old Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY 11954.
Saturday, July 4
Dassara Pig Roast and Seafood Boil
If you're seeking good food (roasted pig, blue grab), cheap drinks ($5 draughts, $3 PBR) and fun music (vinyl, sets from house DJs Kroba and Ctrl) head over to Gowanus for Dassara Ramen's BBQ celebration. You can buy tickets here for either $12 or $15.
Dassara Ramen, 271 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11231, 1 pm.
Tryna Function x Mixpak
The party series Tryna Function and Brooklyn-based record label, Mixpak, have come together for an after-hours celebration. With sets from house/club DJs Eclair Fifi, DJ Tameil, Jubilee, Nick Hook, Dre Skull and more, you can dance from 10:00pm to 4:00am and drag out Independence Day for as long as possible.
TRANS-PECOS, 915 Wyckoff Avenue, NY, 10 pm.
Bushwick A/V & Soup NYC Independence Day Marathon
Bushwick A/V & Soup NYC is hosting an Independence Day Marathon, a 24-hour celebration from Saturday, 4am to Sunday 4am. Featuring 20 artists, including DJ Spider, Cocoon Recordings' Simon Wish and New York's finest local DJs, this rooftop dance party will be powered on a Subbass Sound System and is going to have some A+ BBQ, two stages and a gorgeous view of the fireworks.
R.S.V.P by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for the secret location and details.
The Cityfox Experience: July 4 at Brooklyn Mirage
This July 4th doesn't just mark the birthday of our country, but also the debut of new outdoor/indoor, day/night event space in East Williamsburg, The Brooklyn Mirage. To kick off the space's grand opening, the party collective Cityfox will be taking over for an Independence Day celebration featuring two Berlin electronic duos, (Tale of Us and M.A.N.D.Y), fine wine and dine, an awesome view of Brooklyn and no people under the age of 21.
East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York 11237, 2pm.
The folks over at the Peoples Improv Theater are bringing together underground acts from all over the country for a day of back-to-back shows and potluck BBQ, so you can see all the improv you've ever wanted for twelve straight hours.
The PIT, 123 E 24th St, NY, 12pm.
Might Get Weird: 4th of July 2015
Head to Bed-Stuy for cheap eats/drinks, music from Brooklyn DJ collective The Deep, and a "surprise" from performance artist and self-declared village idiot Matthew Silver. Trust us -- you'll need the buzz to brave the crowds at the fireworks show later.
Sugar Hill Disco & Restaurant, 609 DeKalb Ave, NY, 12pm.
Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
There's no way to talk about Independence Day in New York without mentioning that pinnacle of American patriotism, the true foundation on which our country stands: the annual hot dog eating contest hosted by Nathan's Famous. Will someone finally break American Joey Chestnut's 8-year winning streak (his record stands at 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes)? Gird your loins -- er, stomach -- and trek out to Coney Island to find out.
1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, 10am.
Coney Island Fourth of July Beach Party
Calling all BYOB types for the third iteration of this day-long bash on Coney Island Beach. Hosted inexplicably by the Salsa Salsa Dance Studio and featuring live music from event mainstays DJ John John BK and DJ Wally, it's the perfect layover between your hot dog consumption at Nathan's Famous and the Coney Island fireworks display later that night.
Coney Island Beach, Surf Ave between W 37th and Brighton 15th St, Brooklyn, 12pm.
Festival of Independence
For a little more family-friendly action, check out the all-day street fest over on South Street Seaport. The drinks flow aplenty, but there's also food stalls, shopping, three stages of live music, and a beautiful waterfront view -- and with the East River skyline visible from Fulton St and Peck Slip, you don't even have to leave to get your Macy's fireworks fix.
South Street Seaport, 199 Water St, NY, 1pm
LIC Flea 4th of July Night Market
You'll find a decent fireworks view without the mad crush of people at LIC Flea's first-ever night market (technically an all-day market -- it starts during the day but is open through 10:30pm). During the day, the market is known to be heavier on food and drink than flea treasures, with a healthy selection of Asian foods from vendors based in nearby Flushing and a beer garden serving up brews from local producers. All signs point to the nighttime hours being the same, which means you can chow down on bibimbap and knock back a pint of Big Alice as the fireworks flare overhead.
5-25 46th Ave, Long Island City, 12pm.
Special Screening: Jaws
Ah, Jaws: the pride and joy of American cinema. The giant shark returns to theaters this July 3 for an undoubtedly appetite-killing lunchtime showing -- which is apparently just how America likes to celebrate its nationhood, considering tickets for the special Independence weekend showing are nearly sold out. Leave it to this country to turn a giant shark into a cultural icon.
Nitehawk Cinema, 136 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, 1:30pm.
Special Screening: 2015 Sundance Shorts
If scarfing down half your body weight in BBQ ribs and Stella in the name of freedom isn't your thing, you can always assert your superiority over the plebeian masses by spending your July 4 watching your way through every award-winning short film shown at Sundance this year. If scarfing down half your body weight in BBQ ribs and Stella in the name of freedom is, in fact, your thing, never fear -- the films are screening through July 9.
IFC Center, 323 6th Ave, NY, 10:20am.
Get Summered: Riis Park Beach Bazaar
If you're looking for a day-to-night party to keep up your Independence Day festivities, head to this free beach party at Riis Park Beach. Hosted by Get Summered, a creative collective that curates parties throughout New York, this two-day bash (July 4, July 5) will includes house and hip-hop heavy DJ sets and live performances. If you RSVP through Flavorpill, you'll get 20% off bus transportation.
Riis Park Beach, 157 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Rockaway Park, 12pm (also happening on Saturday)
Zeitgeist at Sea [Boat Party] at Circle Line Cruises
Take your drinks and music out to sea with Zeitgeist at Sea. Presented by Williamsburg electro-club, Verboten, this summer boat party will feature tropica beats from west coast DJ Goldroom as well as sets from The Golden Pony and Hiyawatha.
Pier 83, West 42nd Street, New York, 3pm.
Bushwick A/V Independence Day Sunday After Afters
If the 24-hour dance marathon wasn't enough, don't worry because Bushwick A/V Independence Day celebration is continuing at a "comfy Sunday loft" (secret location) Picking up when the previous celebration ends at 4am this party will feature more house DJs and will be the final stretch of the holiday weekend.
R.S.V.P by emailing email@example.com for the secret location and details, 4am.
Mister Sunday at Industry City
DJ duo Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter, otherwise known as Mister Sunday, will help you wrap up your weekend with this outdoor day party featuring DJs spinning solely on vinyl, vegan (or not vegan!) burgers and summery sangria and sodas from Brooklyn Soda Works. Bring you kids for free, bring you dogs on a leash and come savor the last of Independence Day in this outdoor courtyard situated between two buildings.
Industry City, 644 2nd Ave, Brooklyn, 3 pm.
"Big Boys," 2015
I guess the easiest place to start is why did you choose to take all these photos after twilight, especially using a medium that’s so dependent on light.
Twilight and nighttime are my favorite times to shoot because of the quality of light. Twilight has a beautiful in-between where the sun has just gone down, the sky is soft and beautiful, and there is a really nice mix of ambient and natural light. Nighttime comes with its own set of artificial lighting that I really love. I like to use the lights from street lamps, car headlights, gas stations, and fluorescents to achieve a certain effect.
Why the homage to Jim Morrison? Can you talk about how exactly his poetry book inspired these images?
When I started this project I knew the images I wanted to make and what I wanted them to look and feel like, but had no idea how to title them. During the same time I was listening to Jim Morrison’s An American Prayer on repeat. There were a few lines...that just kept sticking in my head - they had a feeling to them that I felt related to the photos I was making. I then bought Morrison’s book The American Night and really fell in love with the way he writes. He makes a lot of these dark, strange metaphors that create abstract narrative poems. When I read I always see images - I used to read and literally feel like I was watching a movie because the images were playing out in my head the entire time. While reading Morrison’s writing and listening to his songs, images would pop in to my head for the project.
"Miles (Cactus)," 2014
"Boys (Laundry)," 2015
There’s a distinctly West Coast sort of sensibility to your photos, with what seems to be an emphasis on wide, open spaces and suburban backdrops -- an interesting choice especially since you just moved to LA, right? How does this series differ from the stuff you made while in NY?
I have been living in Los Angeles for two years (to the day, actually). I moved from New York City where I was living for four and a half years. Making pictures in New York was really different - I was so stimulated all the time that I literally could not focus my mind and my camera. Moving to LA, where I had space to create and time to think allowed me to simplify the images I was making and focus on particular subjects that I was interested in. I think that shows in the images themselves.
"Maddie (Moonlight)," 2015
Why exclusively shoot distinctly modern youth? Especially in such an old-school style/medium?
I love the look and feel of film, and the element of chance that it grants me. About a year ago I decided to solely shoot on film because it was giving me the best results for the vision that I had. In terms of the people I choose to shoot, most of them are friends or my peers who I have access to and who are willing to collaborate with me. Modern youth know how to perform for the camera and it’s fun to have a subject who participates in and is invested in the outcome of the photograph. I am really interested in the idea that modern youth are aware of the power of the photograph, and aware of their interaction with the camera. It’s interesting to see how, when you know an image can be replicated and distributed endlessly and to a huge audience, a person will act in front of the camera.
"Gabe (Nightswim)", 2014
"Red Room," 2015
You mentioned these photos explore both public and private spaces.
Part of the idea for this series was taken from my obsession with photographic history. I started to look at the photographers that I believed defined a distinctly American landscape through their work. I really studied what elements made their photographs “American”. I found that there were specific subjects, spaces, and themes that stuck out to me as repeating signifiers of suburban life - shopping malls, grocery stores, cars, and most importantly the home. Part of the American Dream (capitalism and the consumer society) ended in suburban sprawl and the ideal of everyone having their own, personalized things (their own car, driveway, home, computer,…) A lot of American life happens in the public sphere but is experienced in one’s own private bubble (listening to public radio in your own car, eating at a restaurant while staring at a personalized phone, etc.).
"Betsy (2x)," 2015
"Blue Glow (Char and Lili)," 2015
Do you consider these docu-style shots of these kids in their real lives or is it more of a stylized, artistic series?
In one respect this is a world of my own creation, made from my imagination of what scenes from the “American Night” look like. In another sense, I allowed for organic moments to unfold within the space that I created, so they are partly docu-style image.