Author Archives: Marianne Williams
[tlr] is a musical, pizza-skirt wearing elf with sharpie drawings on his toes and magic beans in his pocket. We first met on the street outside of the now defunct Mondo Video after my performance of Ēlektra which involved a kiddy pool full of spaghetti, boys in diapers, and lots of cleaning supplies (props of course, artists never clean). Taylor enjoyed the cacophony and was concerned for my safety after a rowdy “fan” nailed me in the face with an industrial trash bag full of beer bottles.
Charmed, we started emailing each other MP3s from our favorite bands, this quickly morphed into [tlr] sending his demo tracks and song ideas, sometimes new material every day. His drive to write and record was inspiring, and his production skills leaped forward in complexity of sounds and technique. Now his first solo offering, NVR NDR, nears completion, and electroheads, rave nerds and fantasy buffs swoon in unison.
Marianne Williams: What’s your favorite thing about “reality”?
[tlr]: The mystery. No one really knows what is going on, we are all part of this omni-paradox. It’s like a giant question mark floating in the air.
Marianne Williams: I find that making art and music can turn my fantasyland into reality. This is a little disorienting for me, ever have a similar experience?
[tlr]: I’ve always wanted to create my own reality and became obsessed with writing music when I discovered its powerful ability to communicate complex emotions and ideas that are extremely difficult to translate to any other medium. My goal is to forcibly transport the listener to the land of my imagination.
I used to wish that life was more like a fantasy adventure. Now I realize that life is the craziest, most twisted and bizarre adventure that anyone could ever come up with. Fact truly is stranger than fiction. Scarier too.
Marianne Williams: Tell us all about NVR–NDR.
[tlr]: NVR–NDR (pronounced “Never Ender”) is my attempt to portray life as I dream it should be, in a universe of my design. The aesthetics of NVR–NDR are inspired by my love of videogames, anime, and mythology. Musically, I am combining the high energy genres of hardcore rave music, videogame soundtracks, epic fantasy metal, and J-pop. I recently made up a goofy name for my new meta-genre: MAGICORE!
NVR–NDR is an electronic fantasy metal album that tells a story which is intentionally linear, in imitation of side-scrolling video games. The hero [tlr] is incarnated as the ultimate warrior in the realm of NVR–NDR, who has been separated from his eternal love and must battle his way through a variety of enemy entities. My dream is to create animated music videos to every song and re-release the album as a musical film project.
Marianne Williams: Are you collaborating with other musicians?
[tlr]: I am fortunate to be working long distance with an amazing guitar player known as The Illuminist. People who have heard the guitar work he has recorded for NVR–NDR often don’t believe me that it is really a person playing. The album will have a lot of guest performances, including vocals by Ming & Ping, Johan Ess, and Cindergarden.
Marianne Williams: There’s a strong visual element to NVR–NDR, and you also produce visual art.
[tlr]: NVR-NDR’s visual aesthetic borrows from the organic mecha designs of shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion and video games like Megaman X and Xenogears. I am also incorporating several somewhat nonsensical food memes, such as a impenetrable magical armor skirt made of pizza which is being constructed by Insidious Clothing.
I also like to “paint” visions of inter-dimensional beings on pieces of cardboard, usually pizza boxes. I call it painting, but it’s mostly a combination of sharpies, markers, and glitter glue. Then I pour water on them and burn them. Makes some interesting smells too. I am also fond of drawing patterns and symbols all over myself and my clothes with markers. Occasionally I make some digital art as well, I recently did the album cover art for Johan Ess’ “Synergy Latte”.
Marianne Williams: What was it like growing up in Alpine, CA?
[tlr]: I was home schooled with my 5 younger siblings. We were really the only kids in the neighborhood. My main social interaction was the martial arts classes I attended every night for 10 years. Growing up there without any other kids outside my family really instilled in me an appreciation for nature and the power of the imagination.
Marianne Williams: How has religion shaped your world view and creative practice?
[tlr]: My mother is a devout Catholic and my father is sort of an agnostic Jew. I was raised to believe in the invisible world of angels and demons. Mythology and religions were a major influence on my early art work and predisposed me to contemplate the meaning of life and the possibility of powers existing beyond the “real” world.
Marianne Williams: What are your current spiritual beliefs?
[tlr]: The one thing I feel certain of is the idea of infinity. It is my belief that no matter how far you zoom in, there will always be a smaller particle, and vice versa.
Marianne Williams: One thing I love about you and your music is a certain pure, childish energy. Is that intentional or are you totally unaware?
[tlr]: Children have a special connection with their imagination. They haven’t been beaten down by the drudgery and rules of day to day existence. I have always tried to keep that alive within myself. I once read somewhere that being silly actually keeps your brain in a nubile state, ready for more learning! How cool is that?
Marianne Williams: Upcoming shows?
[tlr]: My debut show for the NVR–NDR project will be March 27th at HM157 in Lincoln Heights. I can’t wait! I’ve got a lot of preparation to do still.
Marianne Williams: Do you have any multi-media or special surprises planned for your live set?
[tlr]: The live show will feature beings from the NVR–NDR world manifested in this reality. Hopefully lasers and bubbles and dancing also.
Marianne Williams: Finally, are you willing to explain your secret abbreviations language to the masses?
[tlr]: When I was in high school I started using a form of short hand to take notes faster. I love the aesthetic of not using vowels. I also think of it as a reference to my Hebrew ancestry, as ancient Hebrew writing did not use vowels.
For more info on [tlr] www.nvr-ndr.com
In fact, Amanda Jo Williams’ eyes are hazel and change to colors including green, gray and gold. On this late November day her crackling voice and sparkling green eyes lead our parade-of-sorts through the sun drenched grass in Elysian Park, her baby blond son running swoops around us and rattling a maraca.
On a mission to spread fire and music, Amanda’s driven and infectious songs and honest way have entranced both communities of experimental folk musicians and audiences across Los Angeles. The hook is her vocal style, a cross of country cadence, melodic speaking and baby talk/mom talk that is instantly memorable.
Amanda Jo Williams: I just sing the way I speak. I feel blessed to not have an ordinary beautiful angel voice though I’m sure that style feels really good when the noise is coming out. Also, my daddy’s side of the family has a unique speaking voice, men and women. Kinda shrill and high pitched, witchy.
Marianne Williams: When did you start playing music?
Amanda: I started a band called Horse Play when I was about eight. My first song went, “I work so hard each day…” I don’t know why I came up with those lyrics, they still don’t apply to me. I learned to play open chords on guitar when I was 20, taught to me by Paul McMahon, an amazing artist and father of my twins. I start strumming a chord and the melodies just come from somewhere, as well as lyrics. I don’t try very hard at songwriting.
Marianne: What about the somewhere that melodies and songs come from? I have had a similar experience but I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same thing.
Amanda: Well, instead of the words and melodies being personal, there are those songs from the universe or whatever you call it that we all share. Then there are songs and melodies that come from my unconscious. I feel I’m given songs sometimes from a higher power as gifts. That’s why it’s so important to remain humble. No one really creates alone.
Marianne: So some songs are from the emotional/personal subconcious, while others are from a universal source?
Amanda: Some songs are from universe or the non-local intelligence and some are from our own personal pain or joy. As humans, we all share both those places, and even beyond as we’re all connected. Whatever a song is about, it vibrates along on its road. Some are heavy, some are light. Whatever mood we’re in, we’ll choose to listen to something that’s vibrating on the road we’re traveling at in that moment. The power of sound is amazing. Everything is amazing really (coyote yelp).
Marianne: I know you are from Georgia but I don’t know the whole story. Can you please tell me some bio?
Amanda: Well, I left Georgia when I was 19 to become a model in NYC. It didn’t go well at first so one night I took a bus to Woodstock, NY with friends, got pregnant with my twins soon after, and learned guitar and how to express myself through music. I found out what I wanted to do and what I should do. I modeled again for a while and did pretty well. In 2005 I got married to another singer songwriter Matthew O’Neill and we had a son Jack, and just last year moved to LA.
Marianne: How do kids and music intertwine for you?
Amanda: I have only ever played guitar and wrote songs whilst pregnant or raising kids. I wrote a whole book, Grace Light Warrior, pregnant with Jack. I play my daughter’s guitar now too. I discovered it goes well with my voice so I traded her my telecoustic for it. It’s just a small kid’s guitar, 50 bucks with nylon strings. Also, in a lot of recordings there are background sounds from Jack and the twins. Being a musician mother you have to accept those extra weird noises, and they turn out so cool most of the time. Haunting like, genius weird.
Marianne: I love seeing you play live. When was your favorite show?
Amanda: This past Manimal Fest in the desert. I played with a band that included 5-Track on guitar, Crooked Cowboy on bass, and Feather on percussion. We just let loose and had a great time. Not only are they excellent musicians but they play some weird stuff, experimental. Crooked Cowboy’s bass tone is orgasmic to me, perfect. Feather is great. Youthful energy and gets the songs.
Marianne: What are your tour and release plans for 2010?
Amanda: I may be touring up the west coast in March with Crooked Cowboy and his band. I plan on releasing an album this year too. I think I’ve been saying that for the past 3 years but I want it right and nice. I’d like to play more house parties for their coziness and intimacy.
Marianne: Any chance Jack and the twins will join the band and tour?
Amanda: I would love to play music with my kids. Ginger and Hominy are 8 and very musical. Jack is 2 and 3/4 and pretty good on drums. I can imagine it… the people I love more than anything doing what we all love and doing it together. We’ll see what they want to do as they grow.
Marianne: We are both Williams. Is it possible we are related or is it just a common name?
Amanda: We could be related. I like you. It’s a common name too. I’ve noticed Williams share similar traits. They tend to be bad ass, cool, a little mean spirited but sweet, sharp too. Also natural. See if it isn’t so. Of course, there are exceptions.
Visit Amanda@ myspace.com/amandajowilliamsmusic
Vocalist, poetess, painter, filmmaker, sound artist, and reality experimentalist Emily Lacy finds herself again in Los Angeles with flowers in her hair, inhabiting an apartment above those buzzing arteries of East LA, Sunset and Alvarado. Fourteen self-produced albums deep, Emily lives like a modern gypsy, pleased to sing for strangers in the metro, strum for museum directors and then entertain artists at a treetop soirée all in a given day. Elegant and radical, Emily seems unaffected by social tides or opinions, instead steering her way through successes across many mediums to arrive currently in the midst of a psych-folk revolution.
Marianne Williams: You travel all over the United States playing music.
Emily Lacy: It’s been pretty heavy the last year or so. I’m learning a lot, and I feel that I started touring this heavily because I was seeking out a third kind of education that was different than undergrad, grad, or even playing out several times a week in Los Angeles within the art community here. I felt like I had to play for other people and I had to as much as I could. I wanted it to become physically second nature to get up and play music in front of five people, fifty people, five hundred people.
Music can be so mobile, I like that I can play at the Whitney Biennial and in the same day in the subway, and the next day play at somebody’s house and the same week play at a ballroom. There’s an elasticity about the application of sound and performance. I get really excited about the fact that you can do it anywhere. It’s always going to be different, always site specific, but the kind of sounds that I’m making can work in all of those places.
Marianne: Your live performance have some improvised elements.
Emily: I like doing big, weird, experimental vocal a cappella landscapes as a gateway into a folk song. Hopefully it’s creating a new space for the audience to receive the folk song. Hopefully they go through a psychedelic mind trip of eight dimensions and then they arrive at a folk song.
I’m picturing Emily at the psychedelic gateway, one hand holding the blue rose, the other hand beckoning us to step into the gleaming pool of songs surrounding her. Sadly there’s no time to realize this vision in photos as she has to be at a cookie party around 5 p.m. and is leaving LA tomorrow morning for several months. Instead, we romp through Echo Park hills, and then I photograph Emily while she plays and sings in the hallway of her current apartment located above Machine Gallery, a project space where she has had several residencies.
Emily: Los Angeles and even Machine Project are as close to a home as I have now.
Marianne: What kind of projects have you done here at Machine?
Emily: I started working with Machine a few years ago, doing a lot of shows here, but what’s really cool is that over the last year we’ve gotten into more site specific and conceptual projects. During the winter I played six weeks strait in the window here and recorded almost forty-five hours of improvised material. Most recently, aside from the Dylan thing (a recent show and record release of an album of Bob Dylan covers), there was a party at this art collector’s house who has an incredible tree house. Mark had this idea to have me playing strange music from the tree house all night with Ezra and Laura who were playing from the balcony, while Corey was knitting and drumming in the living room. I’ve been singing out the window of the apartment here, a song every time a passerby rings the bell. Mark raffled a free dental cleaning with musical accompaniment, so I went and played for someone getting their teeth cleaned. Executing all of these ideas creates a context that’s not a DIY music show, it’s not a show in a bar, it’s this other exciting place to play music and do more conceptual things.
Marianne: Like an art family.
Emily: What’s cool about working with Machine is it’s a broader experience for me as an artist than just me. I’m a part of a simultaneous organism, it’s not just about me but about the spectrum of experience I can provide.
Marianne: And the fourteen albums?
Emily: Five or six are cover albums, so that’s a different sort of thing. I have to record as often as I need to, it’s part of the process of evolution for me. At a certain point I just started making albums and decided not to worry about if no one wanted to put them out or if no one was buying them. At album fourteen, I’m past worrying about all that. I just evolve as an artist and the people who want to listen to it, listen to it.
Find Emily’s recordings and tour schedule at http://www.emilylacy.net
“Woo-woo-whoopidy doodles!” The mic cuts in on Romak, leader of electropop band Romak and the Space Pirates (RATSP), in the middle of an impersonation of a woman having a hot flash in a salon.
Sipping coffee in a vintage polyester dress, Romak radiates between Shirley Partridge and Rudolph Valentino, but with better eyebrows than either and a categorical knowledge of modern Southern California culture that is filtered through merciless pop parodies.
When Romak mentions that a friend of theirs recently pledged enough to KPFK to get Henry Rollins to record a personal greeting for his voicemail, I can’t help but ask…
Marianne Williams: Who, of all celebrities, would you choose to record the voicemail message on your mobile phone?
Romak: Maybe Winona Ryder, or the comedian that played Stiffler’s mom. . . anyone would be cool, I guess. My natural instinct is to go for worst yet best, the most “bgood” possible, so I’d probably choose Gilbert Gottfried, like, “HEEEEYYYYY YOU’VE REACHED ROMAK’S VOICEMAIL RRRRRRGGBHHAA”.
Marianne Williams: Maybe he could introduce the band next time you play live.
Romak: Perfect for Romak and the Space Pirates.
Marianne Williams: Besides Gottfried, what are some of the main influences on your sound?
Romak: D Bene, our keyboard player who does most of our programming, is huge into Gabber, 2step and other sub-genres of electronic music. That’s our underlying sound, but I like writing what could be considered pop songs. If it were possible to take an anarchic approach to writing pop songs, that’s what I would say that we do. But, you can’t really be anarchic and write a pop song. How anarchic can you be when you go back to the chorus?
Marianne Williams: How do you write your lyrics?
Romak: I try to write everything down as I think of it, then tie it all together later to music I get from the boys (Tlr, Rogie and D Bene). But sometimes it’s like connecting the dots, or finding pictures in constellations. You’re supposed to see a moose up there, but you have to make it appear yourself. I think the constellations are bullshit.
Marianne Williams: You’re from Southern California. Do you like Disneyland?
Romak: No, I haven’t been in years. I didn’t even go on my birthday.
Marianne Williams: You don’t like it?!
Romak: It’s not that. I was recently informed of this underground group of people via blogs on the internet. These people go on amusement park rides and poo off them for thrills. It’s crazy, they start small with rides that are easy to poo off of, like Pirates of the Caribbean or It’s a Small World, and you go up and up and up until you’re in the big leagues like Splash Mountain. The thrill pooers risk their lives, people have died doing this.
Marianne Williams: Lady Caca’s day at Disneyland?
Romak: I’m sure that people in the thrill pooing community listen to Lady Caca. One day she will play at Tomorrowland.
Marianne Williams: Like Bob Moog in the 60s? Well, I can’t wait for her show in July.
Romak: Yes, she’s doing her debut performance of her one song, the hit internet single “Just Poo” at Monkeybucket’s birthday show in July. I’m really excited for her to play. She’s really raunchy, there’s just no stopping her.
Marianne Williams: You’re quite busy, balancing RATSP and other music projects with beauty school.
Romak: Beauty school has been really dramatic. I’ve traded prescriptions with teachers, once we rode the carousel drunk when we were supposed to be doing an in store makeup gig. One lady strait up had a baby while she was getting her hair done at school. She was trying to conceal it, but I was rolling her perm and she kept grunting. When we stood up to wash her out, the baby just fell out. It was terrifying. I’ve never seen a woman who wanted a perm so bad in my entire life.
Marianne Williams: Drama follows you?
Romak: Our shows, videos, the way I dress… I want everything to be as fantastic as possible, but I also want it to be real. A lot of people still think you need to be grungy to be an artist, that leftover 90s shame about glamor, glitter, and visual persona. I understand both sides. Sometimes I want to collaborate with real, cool designers for show clothes. Sometimes, I want to play a show in an oversize, smelly night shirt.
Marianne Williams: Well, you’ve got to do what you want.
Romak: Then, part of me thinks… “Is this too much? Is it too showy if I wear tampons in my hair?” Maybe you have to become what you hate before you figure out what you like. You have to try to walk in all shoes possible. Flats, heels. Pretty much just flats or heels.
Marianne Williams: Did you watch a lot of TV growing up?
Romak: Since I was a kid, I’ve put celebrities and pop culture icons on the same levels as ghoulies, gremlins, Chupacabra. I believe they exist, and I like big, weird things. I like it when reality and fantasy become blurred. I like seeing the Chupacabra and never letting go of the childhood excitement. When Kathleen Hanna responded to my fan letter, it was so awesome. She’s a real person! Meeting someone like, you know, Weird Al or Emily Haines or something. . . being starstruck is not “cool” but I hope I never lose that excitement.
Marianne Williams: I’ve heard that every time you stop believing, a celebrity dies.
Romak: I believe in the Chupacabra. I believe in dreams coming true. I believe in wishing on a star, and crying when you meeting one.
Find Romak and the Space Pirates at http://www.myspace.com/romakandthespacepirates
Coming off a Saturday night of double parties with an 8am turn in, my first question to Los Angeles noise/performance artist Kawaiietly Please is: What is the perfect rave?
“Oh my gosh, wow, I can’t believe I don’t have this in a little black book already. The perfect rave. Bzzzzzrp… I think the water is boiling. Do you want coffee?”
We drink coffee spiked with honey, cream and mine with whiskey I sly from the Kawaiietly cabinet. Coffee is a staple of this Lolita’s daily and nightly intake, perhaps one could say it’s the fuel of this quaintly packaged raving robot noise machine doll. Unique and convicted, the visual and aural aesthetics of Miss Kawaii continue to clash with, escalate and refine the noisecore/rave resurgence happening in Los Angeles.
Marianne: So… why noise?
Kawaiietly Please: I was playing bass in a lot of bands and became fascinated with small noises, like when you plug a quarter inch cable into an amp that’s turned on. I started playing the end of my cables with my thumbs, making beats out of the sound of the electricity. A few years after that I started doing performances.
Marianne Williams: Watching you perform can be hazardous. Your set is more like a PLURd out punk show than your typical noise event.
Kawaiietly Please: A lot of noise artists hover over their tables, some actually turn away from the audience, but I have to interact with the crowd. I throw stuffed animals or fight people, trying to get everyone to scream with me. Breaking that barrier into the audience opened my understanding of feedback and the possibilities of using the entire room as the sonic space. It started as a way to jump around and get people roudy but it ended up changing my sound.
Marianne Williams: What about Happy Hardcore?
Kawaiietly Please: Shhhhhhhhhhh, yea, that’s probably the biggest influence right now. Happy Gabber and 90s Techno revival, like the sound of a giant trampoline bouncing off at 200bpm.
Marianne Williams: So people still go to raves?
Kawaiietly Please: Rave didn’t die, it just grew a beard and spent too much time in its bedroom for a couple of years. And now, the whole mustache thing- not cool, guys. But, yea, every weekend in LA there is techno going on in warehouses til 5 am. That’s a rave. But, the big raves right now, well, it’s refreshing to go to an event with 7000 people and everyone is dancing. A song like “Sweet Dreams” will come on, a song so saturated in culture that as soon as it hits, 5000 people throw their hands in the air. It’s exciting. Raving is on a decade loop, a cultural loop, but it didn’t really go anywhere.
Marianne Williams: What’s the state of the LA rave?
Kawaiietly Please: Dubstep seems to be everywhere, with more women djs throwing down the hard Drum and Bass. It’s like the boys have done that and chilled out, and the girls are just getting started. Plus, yea, they look cute while throwing down these really mean beats.
Marianne Williams: Has Dubstep influenced your sound?
Kawaiietly Please: I’ve explored some of the ultra low frequencies and the ability to feel the music, instead of just hearing it, but that’s about as far as it goes. I go to a lot of hardcore electronic parties and there’s always this group of deaf guys I run into. In my terrible sign language we manage to tell each other our names, but they go there because they can feel the beat through the low kick drum. The idea of appealing to an audience that can’t even hear, that possibility to a musician is really amazing.
Marianne Williams: You’re from Alaska. Any trace of your upbringing in your current sonic preferences?
Kawaiietly Please: Yea, I was playing my mother all this happy hardcore and she said “Oh that sounds like my drum,” referring to her traditional Tlingit Indian drum. I used to hear the drum played at these native events and I always thought it was too slow. The beat was four on the floor, they had the sound, they just need to speed it up.
Marianne Williams: Your mother is a fantastic tailor and designer, and you have an amazing collection of custom Lolita dresses. How does fashion play into performance and your day to day life?
Kawaiietly Please: I really enjoy being able to take a good hour or so getting ready in the morning. I know some people will vomit at that, but I feel kind of worse if I don’t dress up. A lot of people ask about the noise-lolita cross over. Well, it’s pleasant to look it but it is also like armor, especially one piece outfits. If it’s a skirt and a shirt, there’s a chink in the armor. If it’s one giant piece, it’s like wings at your sides. Definitely Lolita armor.
Marianne Williams: Plans for the future?
Kawaiietly Please: I just did a tour with Vampire Pussy and Birth that was a learning experience about the slippery slope to how circuses get formed. You learn the hard way to start bringing everything you need with you.
Marianne Williams: To make the noiserave more and more perfect?
Kawaiietly Please: If the noise scene stops being a basement scene with 6 or 10 people and starts coming through your town as a giant rainbow rave noise circus, you can blame that on me. There’s a carnival down the street and I see the rides, haunted houses, people playing games and spinning in giant tea cups, and I’m like- why isn’t there happy hardcore and noise going on right here? There’s already bright lights and noisy machines, can’t we update this carnival music?
Find Kawaiietly Please at http://www.myspace.com/kawaiietlyplease