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Skinnie Entertainment Magazine - November 2008

BLOCK PARTY, Brian Head Welch, Vida Guerra, Jamie Anderson, The Bronx

Skinnie Entertainment Magazine - March 2009

The AGGROLITES
Creating Something Classic.
words by: Ramon Gonzales  
photo courtesy of: Hell Cat Records

The art of creating music walks a fine line that flirts with the trends and the timeless. Of the countless people who pick up instruments and hit record, there are only a select few that could ever outrun the clutch of obscurity to create something unanimously appualded. For the Los Angeles outfit The Aggrolites, creating music has an added caviat. If you have ever had the chance to watch the band take the stage, the fact become resoundingly clear from the second your ears consume anything, the Aggrolites aren’t concerned with any trends. A throwback to a time when music was indeed an escape, an outlet to forget life and embrace whatever the music mad you feel, their concoction of reggae, soul, funk, all with the kind of ‘we are way cooler than you’ swagger is a history lesson sorely needed in music. 

“In lots of interviews the conversation always starts to lean towards politics and what we think about all that stuff. And that’s fine. That is a lot of what punk has come to be for people, but we make feel good music. We make music to try and get away from all that shit.” As voice of The Aggrolites, Jesse Wagner explains just what the band’s motivation behind making music is all about. Releasing IV this spring, the obvious title for the band’s fourth studio effort, the 21-track ode to skinhead reggae is a testament to a time when formula wasn’t even in a musicians vocabulary. “Albums back in the ‘60s all flowed well. Guys like the Funk Brothers down in Motown were cranking out 20 songs a day! I’ve heard people complain that a record is too long. Why would you bitch about that? I mean, we might break up tomorrow or 10 years from now, if you have the music why not give it to the people?”

As the sole reggae band on the infamously punk record label Hellcat, The Aggrolites found a fan in label proprietor Tim Armstrong and since 2005 have been convincing fans worldwide. “Believe it or not it is very punk rock to listen to reggae. The Clash listened to reggae and obviously incorporated that into their sound. But I like the fact that we kind of throw people off. And really, Hellcat is the label we wanted to be on, there was nowhere better for us.”

Perpetually touring, the band emerged triumphant from a run on the punk rock summer camp known as the Warped Tour. Yet as Jesse explains, it was an uphill battle. “It was a little awkward being around all the women’s-jeans wearing guys, but there were a lot of people complaining. The way we saw it was, we have 30 minutes to turn people onto you. Kids are afraid to branch out and be different from the crowd. If you can get just one of those kids staring at you going, ‘What the fuck is this’? to start dancing and say, ‘I don’t care, I like this,’ then the rest fall in line. The best part is when we get a kid who comes up to us and says how we turned him onto Studio One or Sound Dimension. That was how we all got into this and to do that for anyone else is amazing.”

The connection between punk rock music and reggae is storied, but often neglected. Emerging from traditional skinhead culture out of the UK with a heavy Carribean influence, many of the most rooted punk bands held reggae close to their heart. Decades later, Los Angeles gave birth to its own version in The Aggrolites. “You could go your whole life collecting reggae, especially the music released from 1969 to 1972, and still not hear all of it. That is just what came out of Kingston. When we started this thing, no one was doing reggae, no one had even thought to touch skinhead reggae, but it was something we all felt connected to. We loved punk rock, we loved reggae, and it was connecting the dots.”

What began as a backing band for reggae legend Derrick Morgan would result in one of music’ most promising examples of what it is to be timeless. With four albums under their belt, the band’s reach has grown internationally. A recent addition to this year’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, The Aggrolites are in the company of historical figures like Morrissey, The Cure, Booker T. and Paul McCartney. “I remember when my biggest dream was playing a place called The Showcase Theatre near my house. To be able to play on the same bill as Booker T and Paul McCartney is unreal.” More than an affirmation of the band’s efforts, the real story is why the group remains relatively obscure. With a sound that recalls on music’s inventive heyday coupled with a soulful embrace style, The Aggrolites fourth album is another example of how people have missed the boat for way too long.

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The Bra Boys
words by: Joshua Burton

It’s common knowledge for any surfer that a step onto the wrong beach in a surf community can get you into trouble. Locals have a way of making it known when someone isn’t welcome on their beach. It’s called “vibing,” and anyone who manages to ignore being mad-dogged by the resident surfers might be given a more physical lesson in the dirty word of surfing: Localism.

Perhaps no group of surfers is as associated with the concept of localism as the closely-knit fraternity of brawlers known as the Bra Boys. The Bra Boys are known for fiercely protecting their home beach in Australia and producing world-class surfers to boot. Unfortunately, respect and success has come at a price for this brotherhood which has often been referred to, whether true or not, as one of the surfing community’s most notorious gangs.

The Bra Boys (named after Maroubra, their home town) were started by a group of kids from working-class families, united by a mutual love for the ocean and the desire to find something more stable than their families. Among the founders were the Abberton brothers, Jai, Koby and Sunny. The beaches in Australia are beautiful, waves crash onto picturesque and often dangerous cliffs. However, almost in spite of the natural beauty, drugs and crime were often mainstays in families of the area and the Abbertons clan was no exception.

The brothers had to contend with a heroin-addicted mother and her abusive boyfriend. This was likely the origin of the Bra Boy’s longtime stance against drugs. After Koby received a blow to the head with a baseball bat courtesy of the bank robber his mom was dating, the boys left home, never to return. Thus the Bra Boys were born.

In 2008 the elder brother, Sunny, released a documentary about the history of the group, aptly titled Bra Boys. In it, he explores the strong bond the Bra Boys have between each other and their town. As Sunny portrays it, the Bra Boys would always be there to protect and care for each other. The Boys are more than just friends, they became each other’s family. While the Abberton’s grandmother provided a house and a back yard for the growing group to meet in (30 boys under one roof – like containing a hurricane in an egg shell) the ocean provided the ultimate playground.

Sunny’s documentary shows the side of the Bra Boys that most of Australia – and the local law enforcement – was previously not privy to. Action sportsmen have a reputation of courting injury and the Bra Boys are no different. They are known for brawling with unwelcome surfers and, well, engaging in the occasional act of public disturbance. The documentary shows several bloody physical street fights, not to mention a good amount of the group stopping a public bus for an impromptu dance party on its roof.

To offset their unique brand of fun, the brotherhood has also made its mark felt on the face of world sports. Founding member Koby Abberton is probably the best known surfer from the group and has conquered some of the biggest swells in the world and has been victorious in many competitions, most recently the APT Pichilemu World Cup Tow-In Event in Chile.

A duo of world-class National Rugby Players, Reni Maitua and John Sutton, are notable Bra Boys as well. They regularly flash the Bra Boys sign after triumphant scores on the football field (made by putting the arms together, grasping with the hands mid-arm in a mock-up of the Bra Boy handshake). They also sport the signature tattoos of the Bra Boys.

The mark initiation into the fold is approval by elder members to get “Bra Boys” inked onto your body. Many more have the postal code for the area, 2035, proudly shining on their skin. Probably the most notorious tattoo swoops below Koby Abberton’s neck line, drawing a line from shoulder to shoulder across his chest, reading “mybrotherskeeper,” an important theme for the Bra Boys. No one can surf their way into the Bra Boys, as many members point out in the documentary, people need to prove they not only know how to show respect, but how to give it.

That bond isn’t something they take lightly. In order to distribute the Bra Boys documentary in the US, producers Jason Bergh and Sal Masekela spent weeks in Maroubra to convince Sunny and his crew that they cared more about the film than bigger bidders like Universal. “We had to meet with the Bra Boys. These guys have been bastardized by the media. But there’s another side to their story,” Bergh said. “We got fathered in. They’ve become our family, too.”

Despite all of the Bra Boys attempts at public relations, their violent reputation is very well known. The youngest Abberton brother, Jai – a professional surfer in his own right – had to ride through a well-publicized criminal trial after shooting someone to death in self-defense in 2003. He was later set free in 2005 after spending over a year in prison, but Koby still faced charges of hindering the investigation. While Koby got off without having to go to prison, he has had several more brushes with the law, both in and out of Australia – including a short stint in an Hawaii jail after getting into a fight with an off-duty police officer.

Aside from the big-press moments, the group has also been involved with large swells of violent crime around their hometown, such as the 2005 Cronulla race riots in Australia when the Bra Boys had massed in the streets to fend off rioters who threatened to spill into their neighborhood. Even though the Abbertons publicly announced that they helped broker peace between the warring gang factions behind the violence, the media still never warmed up to them.  Nor have the police.  A recent police crack-down on the group has found some members in jail for offenses as minor as public cursing.  As far as much of the Australian public is concerned, the Bra Boys are a gang.

To make the situation more turbulent for the Boys is the fact that many consider localism as unnecessary and perhaps even a dying concept. Localism is at its roots an attempt to maintain control on a home beach. Experienced boarders only vibe newcomers because they know that inexperienced or overly-pushy surfers can be a danger to both themselves and anyone else in the water. The surf is fickle; it can toss a newbie over his board and into someone else in the blink of an eye, reddening the water with injuries. This is never good, especially in the shark-infested waters of Australia.

Surfing is a worldwide sport by now, and localism is seen as nearly impossible. With more people jumping from their surf schools right into the water, it’s harder to control who goes where. As more people vie for more prime surf conditions, local beaches will start to feel the burden of more surfers. Legislation to adopt a sort of “ten commandments” of the beach has been proposed in Australia in order to help preserve the peace and beauty of local coasts, but many know that outsiders tend to show less respect than they should.

The Bra Boys agree, defending their home surf to this day. However they are viewed, either by the media or by their fellow Australians, they continue to stand up for the beach that is their home and the brothers that are their family. Whether their methods are extreme or merely appropriate for their area, the group knows that without a strong local community, life on any home beach would fall apart – like a sand castle caught by the tide.

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Busta Rhymes
words by: Patrick Douglas

Tracking down Busta Rhymes during crunch time on a soon-to-be-released album is akin to getting a sit down with Santa on Christmas Eve.

These days, things are as they’ve always been with Busta. Fresh off an appearance as a villain in the upcoming flick Order of Redemption, Busta is concentrating on finishing his eighth studio album. New music breeds creativity and long hours in the studio, and as he put in his “eleventh hour miracles” on Back on My B.S., Busta was doing what he does best – explaining his point of view.

Just like everyone else, Busta has current events on his mind. War, the shitty economy and the instability of the recording industry are subjects that cannot be ignored, even by a genre of music that has spent the better part of the past decade flaunting excess.

“People can’t live the life and act like they’re not being affected by the times,” said Busta. “We’re all making a conscious effort to kind of contribute to the music in a much more spiritual way. I definitely feel the music is taking a turn and it’s coming back to feel good and quality shit and substantial shit like the golden era used to feel.”
“That’s one of the main reasons why I’m so driven creatively and I’m so inspired,” he said. “I want mo’fuckers to be very clear that I’m gonna do my job when it comes to delivering.”

What would a Busta release be without a bit of controversy? Boasting the biggest mouth in hip hop, Busta spent the last months of 2008 deflecting criticism for his single “Arab Money,” more than four months prior to it being released on a record.

It’s all good, he says. It’s the nature of the business to have the superficial aspects of a song picked apart by the mass media, even if they have it all wrong.

“My concern was primarily to make sure that people got proper understanding of what the intent of the record was,” said Busta of “Arab Money.” “I do my best to try to make everybody happy, but ultimately I don’t lose sleep in knowing that someone has an ulterior motive or some other kind of agenda.”

“The majority of the people and the masses understood what my intention was as well. People are smart. All they need is the opportunity to hear from the horse’s mouth.”

Dismissed by some as an insult to Arabs and Muslims across the globe, “Arab Money” is an ode to a culture that should be emulated and revered, explained Busta.

“I just felt like it was unfair to the Arab community and the Arab culture that they were being targeted in the way that they had been in the last eight years of political agenda,” he said. “They’re a beautiful people and a beautiful culture.”

“I felt [Arabs] were being treated unfairly, just in the same light black people are subjected to shit and have been subjected to shit that no other culture or race has been subjected to,” said Busta. “Since the beginning of time, you’ve never seen a white man get his ass beat on TV as frequently as a black man. You’ve never seen a Spanish man or Indian man or Chinese man or Jewish man, you don’t see it happen to them on TV as much as you see it happening to us. You are seeing it happen now to the Arab people.”

“The one thing that I am particularly a fan of the Arab culture is how they passed their significant values of their financial and economic ideals with the significance of god down to their descendents,” he continued. “It has been successfully implemented in the success of their culture for thousands of years. Unfortunately we don’t do that here. The United States, unfortunately, is a country that has no culture. We take a little bit of everybody’s culture.”

Busta has taken “Arab Money” and made it a statement to anyone who will listen and anyone who is stuck on the idea that being rich simply means rolling in dough and driving fast cars.

“Now is the time to change and this is one of the changes we needed to implement in the infrastructures of our lives and our homes and in our economy and in our societies and in our governments and in our towns and in our cities and that’s to strive to be greater than rich and that’s to be wealthy,” Busta said, sounding like a man with politics in his future. “That’s not just from a financial standpoint, that’s also from a spiritually significant standpoint.”

A veteran of hip hop going back 20 years, Busta has continued to remain relevant to fans of the music as well as others in the industry. It’s a labor of love that stems from his own fanatical following of rap.

“I attribute it to primarily being a fan of this shit,” said Busta of his place in today’s hip hop world. “I like to hear a hot record on the radio. I like to hear a hot record in the club. I like to hear people talk about a hot record on the street and,  a lot of times, I like those records to be mine. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.”

Busta, who appeared on the scene in 1991 as part of Leaders of the New School, made an immediate impact on the track “Scenario,” from A Tribe Called Quest. It was a period of time affectionately referred to as “the golden era of hip hop,” and is a time that Busta remembers with pride.

“Just being able to be around the artists and see the way they valued shit. It was important to have your own thing,” he recalled. “Nobody wanted to sound like nobody else. Nobody wanted to look like nobody else. Nobody wanted to be like nobody else. Everybody had their own shit and they stood alone and they were comfortable in their own skin.”

Just like most genres in music, the culture of hip hop eventually lost its innocence and molded itself into a more diluted hybrid of the early days.

“You go to a record store and you pick up a Tribe album, you didn’t have four other albums on the shelf that sounded like Tribe shit,” he said. “The only place you was gonna get that sound from was from A Tribe Called Quest project. When you got an LL Cool J album, you were only gonna get that shit that you felt from listening to his album.”

“Slick Rick, same shit. Public Enemy, same shit. NWA, Ice Cube, same shit. Everybody had their own lane. Rakim, KRS-One, everybody had their own shit and it all felt right,” he continued. “You never got the opportunity to be exhausted by any one individual because you weren’t getting their shit from a thousand other artists.”

Legends who honed their craft in the golden era were also able to attract fans that may have otherwise ignored hip hop, but were instead drawn to the commonality of the music and lyrical content.

“At that time, you didn’t have a lot of mo’fuckers that was out there lying about the shit that they were presenting themselves to be,” said Busta. “You were able to distinguish the difference between the bullshit and the genuine shit. We weren’t as resourceful with creating the illusion. We kind of had no choice but to be brutally honest about our shit.”

“It allowed the consumer to really see themselves in the artists because they were able to identify closely with the shit that the artists were talking about. You didn’t have a million mo’fuckers talking about how rich they was or how much they had. A lot of times, ego driven songs weren’t based on how much shit that you had from a material standpoint, they was based more so on what you were capable of doing.”

“I think people saw honesty in a lot of that,” he continued. “Nowadays, you’ve got artists that come out and on their first record, they’ve got a bunch of cars and a bunch of jewelry on. A lot of the time, jewelry was not allowed to be borrowed in the golden era of hip hop. Nowadays you can get a jeweler that will lend you jewelry for your video shoot and you can be the brokest motherfucker and be on TV frontin’ like you’ve got a lot of money.”

Don’t misunderstand Busta. He wants people to strive for the stars and bring home as much as they can handle but, at the same time, never forget what it was like to be without.

“You’ve gotta remind people that even though you might have, everybody don’t have. You also, at times, don’t always have,” he said. “Regardless how much you don’t have, that definitely don’t mean that we should be sitting around being broke. I’m in that struggle with you. I am trying to reinstate the energy of the working class citizen on a new level.”

With great struggle, comes great hope and whether you’re talking about the economy or the state of hip hop, Busta has a positive outlook on the future.

“I feel like mo’fuckers is starting to feel inspired to make music again that feels really great,” he said. “Our genre has been drastically depreciated by the bullshit that has come out.”

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Q&A with Jordana Brewster
words by:Alex Mendoza  
photo by: Jonathan Ho

 

Jordana Brewster isn’t your typical Hollywood starlet.  Underneath the beautiful exterior, charming smile and flowing locks of jet-black hair is something viable and substantial – a personality that radiates and eases anyone in its presence.  This would be hard to identify given the saturation of Hollywood divas whose attitude rises above their track record, but even on the “looks-like-it’s-going-to-rain-cats-and-dogs” morning of our interview she never complains or has an air of arrogance about her.  Perhaps it’s her natural sunny disposition? Or maybe because she was born amidst the sun-drenched area of Panama City?  Regardless of whatever charges her positive vibe, she is not concerned with the same fodder that plagues tabloids, or other unimportant issues that tend to serve as literary sustenance for Internet articles.

While her latest movie Fast and Furious is still months away from release, Jordana is following a new career venture by promoting chocolate.  “Guilt-free” chocolate, actually, that actually encourages “naughty” behavior so to speak.

So you have this new chocolate product called Fling and it’s supposed to allow the ladies to eat chocolate without worrying about packing on the extra pounds. Could you tell us a little more about it, why you’re behind it and the entire premise behind this product’s intent?

Well, it’s launching exclusively in California and I’m partnering up with Mars. Basically it’s encouraging women to be naughty, but not that naughty because it’s less than 85 calories.  Women can really indulge and enjoy without feeling too naughty and it’s a really fun product. The campaign is also really flirty and fun.  We have these t-shirts – in fact I’m wearing one right now – that says “It’s not cheating if you don’t feel guilty.” We also have other t-shirts that say “Pleasure yourself.” 

Aside from chocolate, what other guilty pleasures will you allows us to know about?

Let me think: shopping –especially for shoes – and my closet’s pretty full. I like massages and I get pedicures every two weeks. Very girly stuff.

You graduated from Yale, so on top of being ridiculously beautiful you also have brains to boot. Is this something that you tend to look for in potential boyfriend candidates?

You know I don’t think those things are as important as long as someone can make me laugh. With my husband – not to say that he’s dull, because I don’t mean that at all (laughs) – but I think if a guy tries to act too smart then I think that’s kind of a turn-off.  A guy with confidence and a sense of humor is really, really important. Plus I think it’s really great to be able to talk about anything, which is something else I look for in a guy.

Let’s be honest with something here since we’re already on the subject: How come normal guys like us will never be able to date celebrities?
I don’t think that’s true.  I think two actors dating is never a good idea. It usually backfires because there’s too much ego in the equation. My husband is a producer, so that works a little better and he’s from Long Island and he’s more of a regular guy than some of the other guys I’ve dated. For me that’s much better because he’s down-to-earth.

Back onto the subject of academia, you graduated from Yale a few years back. How did you manage to juggle acting and schooling at the same time? Was it difficult to accomplish?

I did The Fast and the Furious and D.E.B.S. while I was in school, but that was over like a summer each. I knew I couldn’t take off a couple of years off school - because I know some actors do that – but I knew I couldn’t do that because once I have the momentum going I need it to stay. Once you learn how to write those papers and juggle everything else you need to stay. I knew that if I left I wouldn’t go back cause it’s really, really hard to get your groove back.

You’ve been involved with TV for quite some time as well.  How is working on a soap opera and then going to something else like Chuck?

On the soap opera set you’re shooting one episode per day, so it’s a lot of work cause you can shoot something like 20 pages of dialogue in one day. On a TV show like Chuck you’re shooting around five pages of dialogue. The pacing is a lot different and the budget is a lot bigger for a show like Chuck and already at that point it feels a little bit like a movie. They’re both a lot of a fun, although the acting style is slightly different. I owe a lot to soap operas, though, because it taught me a lot about acting.

Why don’t soap operas ever end?

Certain people live vicariously through the characters. I think they love watching them and they become invested with the characters and they have their favorite character and their favorite relationship. I relax when I watch a show like House, so I think it’s a way for people to relax. 
You said you’re married and I know some people may think it’s a bit taboo to ask this, but I’m going to anyway: how crazy was your Bachelorette party?

You know, I’m going to be honest with you – I wish my party had been a little crazier. I hate to say it, but I didn’t want my husband to have one, so I didn’t have one. I did throw a fun one, though, for my best friend last year and it was a lot more fun. We went to a club in LA and we had a bungalow and that was a bit crazy. But mine was really, really tame. 

What are your thoughts on the new movie title for Fast and Furious as opposed to the original, which was THE Fast and THE Furious?

(laughs) I think there is a stigma to movies and numbers, especially once it gets around to three or four. They’re keeping it simple and they’re brought the original cast back, so I’m actually happy with it.

So is Vin Diesel a gentle giant or a temper-flaring titan?

No, he’s a gentle giant. He’s a very, very sweet guy. I like him a lot, but he’s definitely got some muscle on him so he can be a bit intimidating. 

We’re living in a world that’s changing – for better or for worse – and it’s interesting to note the perspective of someone in your position, so what’s your stance on everything so far?

I think a lot of it is scary in terms of the economy, so I think people want comfort. Including myself, because the simple things are the ones I tend to gravitate more towards in terms of like great TV and great movies, or delicious chocolate and I really do mean that.

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K’naan
Penning Real Life From War Torn Somalia.words by: Patrick Douglas 

On his new record, “Troubador,” K’Naan proclaims himself to be a “visual stenographer.” Taking into consideration his violent background, the fact that he survived a civil war and immigrated to a strange new world, you’d think his musings would be mostly negative. Not so. In fact, the artist known to his family as Kanaan Warsame, has taken his harrowing experiences, molded them into song and used them to his advantage.

In the states, most 11-year-old kids are in grade school getting an education. At that same age, K’Naan and three friends were pursued by gunman who killed all but one. On another occasion, he mistakenly picked up an explosive on the ground and threw it away, causing heavy damage to a building. It wasn’t gangsta. It was just everyday life. As a teenager trying to find his place in a new world, K’Naan was arrested more than a dozen times and ran the streets in a gang of other Somali refugees. Escaping from the horrors of Somalia, K’Naan would flee to Canada and begin chronicling his experience in song. Emerging as one of the genre’s most promising talents, K’Naan is a breath of fresh air in a scene that has become stale. Enlisting the help of Chubb Rock, Mos Def, Damian Marley and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, K’Naan even slipped by rock legends Metallica and its self-imposed rule against collaborating. Kirk Hammett, who struck up a friendship with K’Naan helped lay down a guitar hook for the song “If Rap Gets Jealous.”

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The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Don’t Call It A ‘Follow’ - Up.
words by:  Alex Mendoza

Worldwide fame, selling millions of records and emerging with a debut most established artists could only dream of tends to serve more as a bane than a blessing.  After all, the stakes are high and the expectations for the next morsel of musical goodness are impossibly high. Terms such as the dreaded “sophomore slump” come to mind, but for a group like The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus these elements have no bearing whatsoever on their creativity. As noted by their high-energy debut, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus are more than just a common collective of Florida natives playing what most people would write off as cookie-cutter music. 

“When it comes to stuff like that, though, we don’t really care about the statistics. We feel fortunate enough with the fact that this is what we’re allowed to do for a living.  We make music, go into a studio, hit record and then call it a day.  Every day is a blessing because we know it’s something that’s surreal and we never take that for granted.  We simply do what we love because we have faith in what we do musically. We never over analyze, or ask ourselves if this is too different or too much of the same thing.  If we dig it and love it then that’s all that really matters,” lead singer Ronnie Winters explains. 

Aside from headlining sold-out shows, RJA has spoken at Capitol Hill to provide information on teen suicide prevention, as well as establish the Guardian Angel foundation to support causes they hold dear in their own hearts.  The list of initiatives is extensive, but among them have been to fight against domestic violence, hyperglycemia research and aiding high school programs in need of funds.  Not exactly typical actions from a group categorized as a pop punk/emo outfit.  Yet, upon listening to their energetic arrangements, or lush ballads, the intricate level of detail RJA incorporates into their music is absolutely stunning.
“In high school I used to be in the band and while I was in college I took college music theory courses and such.  With the new album you can hear those influences still running about because it was a big part of my life and still is. We were fortunate enough to get to work with a guy like Howard Benson because he let us run with whatever ideas that came to mind.  There was never a sense of ‘that can’t be done’.  It was more along lines of ‘how can we use this in our music’? That type encouragement and support was something we definitely needed. It allowed us to pursue a lot of creative outlets that’s led to some great musical moments.”

With their latest album, Lonely Road, the band’s lofty musical aspirations are apparent in every track.  Gospel-tinged choirs, military drum, stirring strings and evocative lyrics are but a handful of elements to expect when listening to their latest musical venture.  The general impression these days is the age-old “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” formula; especially for an industry struggling to gain its footing in a declining economy - something that affected the band before recording even started. Thankfully, RJA embraces change – something that unveils itself through the emotionally charged lyrics and sweeping musical arrangements that teeter along the edge of theatrical, but never edging towards camp or some underlying sense of cheesiness.

“When we started all this people wrote us off as band that sounded and looked like everyone else.  But like our music has shown that’s not what we’re about.  And I think with that we’re moving on the right track to something that makes us happy with what we do.” Confident and not concerned with the weigh of expectation, the same charisma is likely what will propel RJA to familiar success once more.

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Rob Dyrdek & the Fantasy Factory
Everyone would love to have a place where their wildest dreams come true, but for world famous skater and television star, Rob Dyrdek, that fantasy is a reality in his new show, Fantasy Factory.
words by: Eric Bonholtzer   
photos by: Alan Rivera

After making himself a household name with the MTV hit Rob and Big, Dyrdek has once again stepped in front of the camera, but this time he’s showing everyone that he’s not just about having fun, but instead is a serious business man, though rest assured there is plenty of fun involved in his business.   “I’m someone who’s constantly creating and doing so many different things,” Dyrdek explains, “The biggest thing with Rob and Big is that I work so hard and do so many things and I didn’t want to confuse the world to think that I just run around with Big and the dog and the horse.”  He adds, “It’s good to show that I’m creating something, not that I just live some crazy life and someone puts a camera to it. The reason I wrote this show is that I didn’t want it to be compared to Rob and Big,” he says, though MTV still wanted another incarnation of the hit show.  “They started going hard on me saying, ‘we’ll give you an hour.’ I finally was like, ‘I’ll do a show that focuses more on the business side of things, but I’ll produce it and write it in the same way I did Rob and Big,’ and in the end that’s been the ultimate blessing.” 

Fantasy Factory centers on Dyrdek’s business headquarters, a place where giant skate ramps, a zip-line, the world’s largest skateboard and two awesome bulldogs prove to be inspirations for Dyrdek’s entrepreneurial endeavors. “I was looking around for offices and then I randomly looked at this giant building and I was like, ‘this is what I’m going to do.’  The giant warehouse would be my office,” he explains.  “Initially they wanted to call the show Fantasy Life, but then as I was building this place, it was like no holds barred.  I spent all my own money.  I was like, ‘if they’re going to pay me this money I’m going to put it back into the show to make it insane,’” he explains. “My headquarters became like Willy Wonka’s factory, so I wanted to call it Fantasy Factory and the show was born.”

While the show focuses around the Fantasy Factory, Dyrdek doesn’t let his inspiration be confined to his warehouse.  “I don’t know how it sparks, but when I get fixated on something or hear something I run with it,” he says.  “One of the funniest episodes of this season is when I get attacked by a shark.”  The pro skater and TV star explains how it all came about.  “My cousin and I were sitting in a car and wondering how much money it would take to get us in the ocean surrounded by sharks and the next thing you know we’re in the Bahamas.  I couldn’t even be scared because it happens so fast,” he jokes.  “Some things, like Danny Way breaking the world land speed record, came from him calling me one morning and us being like ‘let’s do this.’”  He goes on to explain how the show is filmed, “they’re not scripted, but we have the beginning and the end and the points we want to hit.”  He elaborates by saying, “you put yourself in a situation where you don’t know what will happen and sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.  As we’re filming, so many things happen naturally and we create as we’re going so you can’t really predict where it’s going.”  The spontaneity, coupled with Dyrdek’s concepts, is what makes Fantasy Factory so entertaining.  “Our goal is to make each episode as funny and fun as possible.  It’s not like we shoot it and when it’s done we piece together what we have,” he adds.  “We’ll go back and shoot whole scenes to make it funnier to make the best show possible.”  The attention to detail coupled with Dyrdek’s creativity ensures that the Fantasy Factory will be churning out one great episode after another.

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Selling Skin
Words by Ramon Gonzales  
photos by: Jonathan Ho

Among infamous four-letter words, an argument could be made that it is the least understood: Porn. Depending on what side of the fence you are on, the sheer mention of this four-letter word conjures either instant repulsion or utter delight. What does remain universal is the air of secrecy and the kind of taboo porn has forever been shrouded in. Relegated to being hidden under mattresses and disguised on our computers, the business of skin is above all else, undoubtedly lucrative. Ironically, some of the biggest names in pornography made an emphatic statement about the sad situation of our national economy. Hustler publishing icon Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild eccentric Joe Francis recently requested some $5 Billion in financial bailout funds to be allocated for the porn industry. While the move smells more of an elaborate PR stunt than a legtiment plea for help, the fact that the industry has the sand and the reserves in the bank to crack that kind of a joke while many board up their places of business and call it quits suggest that while times are tough for most, sex, still and forever, will sell.

It would be likely, if not plausible, to assume that the industry is clouded with crippling vices. The stories of drug use, emotional instability and a cast of seedy, sleazy sharks seem to coincide with what the average person tends to believe. However, the truth lends itself more towards the humanity behind the glitz. Actor Chris Cannon, a former Marine from Boston spelled things out very clearly. “Everyone in this industry is fucked up in someway. The difference between us and the rest of the world is that we have a better grip on how to be comfortable with it. There are bad people in any industry. But in my experience there are many more good people than there are bad. For the most part these all good people who figured out a different way to earn a living.”

The epicenter of the industry is located in Southern California. Admittedly, the lack of unity among the business makes precise statistics difficult, but ABC news estimates that adult entertainment generates over $4 billion annually in California alone.  According to findings from Peter R. Kerndt, MD, MPH and director of the Sexually Transmitted Disease Program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, in 2002 in Los Angeles county alone there were over 200 adult production companies that raked in over $3 billion and just over $13 billion statewide. Of the 11,000 films produced in 2002, Los Angeles County had an additional 6,000 gainfully employed taxpayers due to the industry. Only 1,200 were performers.

In 2008, California Assemblyman Charles Calderon began campaigning for an eight-percent tax hike for the adult industry. Adult actor Chris Cannon would later provide a vital piece of information. “The rate of attrition in the industry is something like six to 18 months. People get into the industry thinking this is easy. Then once they get in they realize it wasn’t what they thought. They drop off.” Inevitably, while the business of selling skin on film creates a profound effect on the California economy, Calderon also felt that the industry is taking more than it is giving in form of unemployment and the use of Medicare. The bill caused an expected uproar within the California adult film industry, as producers, actors and countless other employees began to feel singled out. The question would then transition to a question of if Calderon’s soap-boxing was more about fiscal responsibility, or a moral imposition.

On the set of the Penthouse production, Life As A Movie, the impact of the industry is exemplified on a micro level in the West Hills Mansion where cameras are rolling. Director Randy Spears, a former actor himself, heads the production. While naked bodies and incredible graphic sex is happening in front of the lense, the cast of  eight performers is combined with lighting, catering, wardrobe, cameramen, sound and transportation employees running all day long on the set. As the unemployment rate continues to climb toward unprecedented numbers,  it might be safe to say that the state has ignored a swelling industry that exhibits huge potential.

Historically, the government has turned the other cheek when it came to adult entertainment. The 1st Amendment has effectively created a bubble that allowed the industry to function with very little interference. The irony is that the same state that produces the most pornography, now finds itself drowning in debt, and Sacramento is looking for a place to point the finger. Although the numbers are not exact, profits are at the very least, in the billions. The kicker in this sad story is that the deficit in California is also in the billions. Lawmakers are likely coming to the conclusion that morality is difficult to uphold when your economy is treading water. Cannon casually explains, “People like to fuck. It’s a fact that no matter how bad the economy is, booze and sex are always profitable. We are selling a fantasy and there will always be people who want to watch.”

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Site by Jay Grewall