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Skinnie Entertainment Magazine - November 2009

  Scott Weiland
Merging Fashion, Music, and Life
words by: Patrick Douglas
photo by: Michael Vincent

Transforming himself into a walking tribute to David Bowie every night, you’ll find more than just visual comparisons linking Scott Weiland and the former Ziggy Stardust. There’s the attention to style and fashion, the ability to mesmerize an audience with unequaled charisma and the ability to channel alter egos at will. Perhaps the most important comparison should come with the disclaimer “not intended for all audiences” as both men were able to overcome the devil, drugs and the vices that have pulled many a musician to an early grave. “I know who I am now,” says Weiland. “I know what I wanna do and I need to do and I have to do.”

Fifteen years ago, it was unclear what the future would hold for Weiland. Balancing a seemingly successful run with Stone Temple Pilots with a torrid drug addiction, the singer was anything but stable and unpredictable to say the least. Today, you’ll find Weiland touring with STP, wrapping up a sixth studio record with his original band (due out in 2010), finishing up his autobiography (also due next year), traveling with his solo band and showcasing his latest line of clothing through English Laundry. It’s a busy life, and more importantly, a clean one. He’s so busy, in fact, that Weiland hopes to be able to turn it down a notch in the near future to be able to spend more time with his two children. “One day, it would be nice if some of those businesses were successful so I wouldn’t have to be a slave to the road because I have two young kids at home who miss me when I’m gone and I miss them terribly and I’d like to spend more time with them,” he said.

Weiland has the distinction of fronting not one, but two of the premiere, Grammy-winning rock bands of the past 20 years. Stone Temple Pilots sold millions and Velvet Revolver had a massive following thanks to the mixture of Weiland and the castoff musicians from the glory days of Guns ‘N’ Roses. The on-again, off-again relationship between Weiland and his STP buddies has always been comparable to a group of brothers who don’t quite get along for long periods of time. The door is always open, Weiland says, despite the reasons behind their numerous splits. “It had been a long time coming,” said the singer about the latest reunion. “When we were in STP together before we broke up, we weren’t getting along very good at all. Now we get along much, much better. A band’s like a family, you go through growing pains together with each other. There are times where you have issues and you just work ‘em out like a family does. I’ve known these guys a huge chunk of my entire life. My whole adulthood really.”
While Weiland compared reuniting with STP with coming home, there’s not as much hope of reconciliation riding on the Velvet Revolver front. A much publicized rift between Weiland and certain members of VR not only left the group searching for a new vocalist, but left Weiland having to defend himself against accusations of being a difficult frontman. “I’m not a difficult frontman at all,” said Weiland. “No. I actually was in the band with those guys and we had a great time until the end when we didn’t have a great time, then I knew it was time to bail out. I heard a lot of stories about a certain singer (Axl Rose, maybe?) who everyone knows about and sometimes I wonder if all those stories are all true or maybe there’s another point of view.”

Off the stage, the years since STP erupted with their 1992 debut “Core,” have been somewhat unkind to Weiland. Drug addiction, violence, stints in jail and rehab and personal problems have mounted leaving the man in a constant position of having to pick himself up and learn from his mistakes. “I always get back on my feet and keep charging ahead,” he said. It’s been hard to avoid being another rock star gone before his time, but Weiland is quick to point out that he’s not the only one who has managed to pull it together before it was too late. “Keith Richards has outlived all of us and he’s done it. David Bowie’s done it. The first icons out there,” said Weiland. “A lot of musicians have been able to do it. Not to downplay anything that I may have achieved. Life’s a roller coaster ride. It’s a path. That’s one thing I’ve learned about success too is that it’s not just the destination or else I would’ve arrived a long time ago. It’s a continuous thing and it ebbs and it flows but once you’re in that place where you’re secure in the ebb and flow, that’s when you have established yourself as an artist who can leave an imprint for music. That was always the goal, really.”

Things have definitely changed for the better in Weiland’s world both on stage and off it. For instance, it’s no longer about getting crazy and brandishing a devil-may-care attitude behind the scenes. “I don’t act on tour the way I acted when I was in my 20’s. I’m not out every night looking for some sort of trouble,” he said. “I just don’t go out to clubs and act a fool. I’m single now but I still don’t go out to clubs looking for girls and trying to meet women. I stay home most of the time and I work every day.” The most important thing to pull off on the road these days, he says, is finding the motivation night in and night out. “My life is pretty average really except when I’m on the road. It’s definitely not your average lifestyle. It’s hard and you’ve gotta get yourself up for the show every night. To do a nearly two-hour show, even when you’re not feeling well or if you’re not necessarily in the mood because you’ve been playing the same song, you can’t let the audience know that,” he continued. “You have to put on your game face and push on through.”

You have to go back to a stint in college to find the roots of Scott Weiland’s music career. It was a crossroads decision between going after a higher education or taking a chance on sheer talent which marked the beginning of an era. It goes without saying, which path was taken. “My best friends (and I) formed a band in high school and we played back yard parties. That’s when the dream began really. After going to college for a couple of years, I made the decision that I was gonna go full on towards music. I just didn’t want to give myself a (reason) to not excel at either one,” said Weiland of his early days. The original incarnation of STP was called Mighty Joe Young and eventually Shirley Temple’s Pussy. “I wanted to put a hundred percent at one thing or the other so I asked my parents if I could take a year off and they let me and we got further and I asked them if I could take one more year off and then within that time period, we ended up getting a deal.” And Stone Temple Pilots was born.
Being back with STP and currently touring with his longtime friends is something Weiland takes seriously and is grateful for. “STP is a big thing. It’s a big four-headed monster. It brings in a lot of income and I’d say the best times I have are when we’re making records. I love touring too. Doing a show, performance is fun,” he said. It’s definitely a different world than it was in the early ‘90s when the band was striking a chord with rock starved music fans. Today, every little movement made by the rock star is chronicled, sometimes falsely, by makeshift rumor mills and bloggers who fancy themselves as journalists. “I think we live in a world with too much information and too much misinformation,” said Weiland. “Everybody thinks of themselves as a blogger. Just because you have a computer you have the ability to put information out there, which I don’t think is necessarily good, really. It’s a little disturbing, I find.” Weiland plans on telling his story first hand in an upcoming book and admits that his biggest hurdle came in remembering everything that happened. His ex-wife Mary Forsberg has just released her own autobiography detailing her days with Weiland. Instead of feeling jilted, he is happy to offer praise of her novel, saying “I’ve read excerpts from her book. It’s a good book.”

Weiland is celebrating the recent release of his own clothing line through English Laundry (www.englishlaundry.com), and is finding out first hand the correlation between writing a good song and designing a memorable wardrobe. “Making this line is like making an album,” explained Weiland the designer. “It’s going back and forth with different designs. It’s like you go back and forth with writing a song and producing a song. To see it finally come out to the point where we’re doing shows, it is very gratifying ‘cause it took a long time to get all the pieces together from all the shirts, which have a lot of detail and are all hand sewn and very English looking. Right down to the ties, to the patterns of the suits, the patterns of the vests. In a way, it was kind of like making a record. I think all art is basically the same process really.” His inspirations come from, well, himself. Asking the question “What would Scott wear?” the designs were born quite organically. “We go through swatches and swatches of fabric and I give them pieces of clothing that I like. Stuff from my wardrobe and we kind of work together on designing suits and ties that look like stuff that I would wear,” he said. “It’s all based on late ‘60s, early ‘70s sort of Savile Row but with a rock and roll edge. Kind of what the Stones or David Bowie would’ve worn.”

What if you took away the clothing line or stopped a tour cycle or nixed the upcoming book? Do you think you’d find Weiland kicking back on the sofa watching football? Not likely. “I’d be able to spend more time painting. I’d be able to spend more time producing other artists because I own my own recording studio. I’d be able to spend more time writing solo stuff,” said the ever busy artist.

It’s rare to find stand out rock frontmen who have hit the scene in recent years. It’s a dying commodity, replaced by the constant need for instant gratification. “A lot of it has to do with the Internet. If someone’s in a new, hot band, people these days want information so fast that as soon as there’s a new hot band, then there’s another hot band hot on their heels. The band that was so hot isn’t so hot anymore and then they are kind of left on the wayside,” he continued. “The record industry has changed so much. They’re not really into building careers. They’re into building singles. When we came out at the same time as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nirvana, they were about building careers. It was a different mentality back then, but that was before the whole entire Facebook generation.”

As he continues to celebrate the release of his latest solo record, “Happy in Galoshes,” and looks forward to unleashing a new STP album on fans, Weiland looks to his idol, David Bowie and sees hope. “The way he’s grown and how he’s aged so gracefully. He still makes great music. He still looks amazing. His eye for style is still amazing. He’s just an icon. All those faces and now is a very eloquent and classic rock star.”

It’s often said that what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. In the case of Scott Weiland, you better believe that his experiences with hitting rock bottom have helped him to become a stronger person. “I think it’s given me a lot more intestinal fortitude and I know myself and my limits. Earlier decades when I was in my 30’s, I was searching. I didn’t know at all who I was in my 20’s. I was just a kid. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m about to turn 42, I know who I am now (but) it doesn’t say that the journey’s over.”

All wardrobe furnished by English Laundry.
To view the enitre Weiland Collection, visit:
www.englishlaundry.com

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IN THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Baby AKA Birdman and the Story So Far

words by: Lacy Ottenson 
photos by:  NLPG Photography

“I look back now and think ‘fuck, how did I make it?’ To come out of that-where a majority of my boys have died or gone to the penitentiary-and I survived…just goes to show that God has a plan for all of us.”

New Orleans isn’t any different than any dangerous borough of New York or LA ghetto. No less vicious in its violence or indiscriminate in its killings. And Bryan “Baby/Birdman” Williams was bred right in the thick of it; raised up hard and resilient, not only did he survive the experience-he thrived off it.

Rapper, CEO, producer, and entrepreneur, Birdman has had a natural knack for the music business since he was a kid. He got in the game early: at 18 years old he graduated high school and began his record label Cash Money Records, which became official in 1990. His goal was to become rich and famous, a dream he’s had since he can remember, “I always had a vision that I would be rich and have elevators in my house and shit. I’m talking like a lot of money!”

Armed with nothing more than his ambition and skill to shape raw talent, Birdman soon began earning a name for himself around the block and eventually became the internationally-known rap superstar he is today. “Really I got into this to make rappers somebody. Someone who could take a young man and make him into something big,” Baby explains. No stranger to adversity, Birdman faced some struggles of his own when shortly after establishing Cash Money, he was sent to jail, for what he chalks up to as “just young, wild shit. Being young and dumb you know.” Baby had another brief run in with the law in 2007 when he was allegedly busted with over two ounces of weed in his possession; a case which was later thrown out.

After serving some time early on, Birdman didn’t miss a heartbeat when he was released and immediately jumped right back in the game of developing his artists and label, eventually attracting the attention of record labels from all over the US, each one clamoring over each other to hand him deals. But Birdman wasn’t about to stand by and make a bad business move by signing over half his company to some record company executive who had no part of his struggle, oh no on the contrary, an adamant Birdman explains ‘I came in with this attitude about not letting no one take nothing from us. See we were already making a couple of million dollars by this time, so I wasn’t hurting by any means. And some of these labels came in talking ‘bout this 50-50 bullshit and we’d be like fuck ya’ll. If somebody was comin to play with us, we were going to keep things the way I wanted them to be.” 

After a brief period of shopping deals, Birdman eventually signed Cash Money with Universal Records negotiating a deal of a lifetime; one which Birdman isn’t afraid to boast about “Now when we did this deal, I made sure that I kept 100% of the company  because the way I looked at it back then was that all the homies, friends, and family and shit that died I felt like we were doing this for them; and I couldn’t just let all our hard work and their lives go to some suit in a corporate office somewhere and get it all. Fuck no. So I own 100% of Cash Money. It’s basically just a P&D (Press and Distribute) deal,” he continues “I make more than any artist ever will right now because we own 100%. We get 80-90% of the profits our label makes (which includes music from breakthrough rap superstar Lil Wayne). I really am blessed to have Universal though because we’ve got a wonderful working relationship. We understand each other better now.”

Birdman attributes his keen business acumen to his father who owned several businesses himself; as well as to the slinging he’d done in his early days, saying what he learned then about business taught him what he needed to know when running his company later in life. “I think it was just one of my blessings being commonly born with business sense like my daddy. You know you see all these new labels come and go and a lot of it has to do with the way they run their business,” he expands on the point, “In business you have to know how to manage, budget, and spend-something I learned from hustling.”

One thing is for sure; Birdman doesn’t waste any time waiting around for someone else to make his dreams come true. When asked what he thought about President Obama’s abrupt and controversial visit to his still devastated city, he pauses for a second then thoughtfully answers back “He’s got a million other things on his plate right now. I’m sure we’re low on that list. Besides, we just had a different President in office who could’ve done a lot more for us but instead, our neighborhoods look like a third world country still. And to me, you can’t live off of hopes and dreams-that ain’t gonna do nothing for you. We gotta live each morning and go get it. Like if he (Obama) wants to do something for us, great, but if not, then we gotta do it ourselves anyway. You can’t live life waiting for others to come through for you; you gotta go out and do shit yourself.”

Having accomplished so much in his 21 years in the business, you’d think Birdman might want to take a vacation or chill out for a bit, but not this man. This man is always working. His new album “Pricele$$” drops Nov 24 and the new single “Always Strapped” featuring Lil Wayne and Mac Maine is climbing the charts and getting heavy airplay. Birdman is clearly overjoyed with the new album and tells Skinnie “This is my best album yet. Everything about us changed yet we’re still the same. The music has grown; it’s different and we’re reaching a different listener with this one but we’re still true to our base. I’m definitely excited about this album. It’s just a different feeling. I wrote this you know from the bottom; from the motherfucking concrete.” Indeed the sound of his latest single “Always Strapped” is fresh and heavy, and at times straddles the genres of rock and rap with its distorted guitars and driving beats-it’s obvious that Birdman and his crew have transcended to a new level of superstardom.

“The sound has definitely changed; it’s more… different;” Birdman looks for the right words then finally says “it ain’t one way, its everyway. We rockstars.”

It appears that neither Cash Money Records nor its CEO are ready to retire. In fact, Birdman expressed his desire to continue to expand his label into other genres like R&B and Pop, while working on a possible publishing company in the near future. Birdman is an American success story for the underdog, the underprivileged, and the street-educated, who succeeded above his wildest dreams and who overcame every obstacle thrown his way; always driven by the pursuit of happiness, this is truly a man who controls the outcome of his own dreams.

So what does the future hold for Birdman and his crew? “Baby you know what we gotta do-just keep reaching for the stars you know?” We do.

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Brett Rogers
A reason to root for the underdog                         
words by: Ramon Gonzales  
photo by: Zog Cottonbee

Among the MMA elite, the Heavyweight division has been clouded with some of the same names that have remained in place for the last few years. On June 6th, of 2009, it took all of :22 seconds for Brett Roger’s name to be added to the fold of the division’s most dangerous competitors. Considering the numbers of Rogers’ MMA career thus far, the math shakes out like this: 10 fights, 0 loses. Of those 10 fights, just 2 have gone beyond the 1st round. Of those same 10 fights, half of them haven’t gone more than 2 minutes and 9 of them have ended with highlight reel knockouts that have left the arena stunned. His most recent victory was also his most credible. Flattening Andre Arlovski with a flurry of leather came with the sweetened bonus of knowing that few MMA analysts expected things to work out that way.

Rogers went into his June bout as the underdog. In fact, Rogers has been on the short end of the stick with regards to expectations and ironically remains convincingly undefeated. As Rogers gears up for what is undoubtedly his most important match-up with arguably the number one heavyweight in the world, Fedor Emeliananko, once again Rogers finds himself faced with little expectation for a win. When asked how he feels about that, he pauses, looks directly and calmly says, “I love it. I honestly do. Being the underdog just gives me more to look forward to. I love making people’s jaws drop. You have to have the lovers as much as you need the haters.”
The haters Rogers is referring to are likely the bloggers, analysts, and MMA insiders who have commented on what they feel is a gimme for Fedor. With just 10 professional fights under his belt, the disparity in experience was enough to raise some eyebrows. After the initial controversy surrounding Emeliananko’s signing with Strikeforce, there were grumbles of a lack of competition for Fedor in the organization. Despite the criticism, Rogers takes it all in stride, “I wouldn’t try as hard as I do if I didn’t feel that I could be considered the best in the world as well. I wouldn’t be much of a MMA fighter if I paid attention to all the magazines and bloggers who have negative shit to say. I don’t take any of that serious… Fedor is just a man like I am.”

Referred to as “humble and hungry” following his dismantling of Arlovski, the description only resonates more in a discussion with the 27 year old. Behind his menacing Mohawk and hands that look more like catchers’ mitts, the soft spoken Minnesota native bears the kind of poise that couples every good underdog story. A fresh face in the heavyweight division, Rogers spent a healthy portion of his professional career balancing his passion and his need to survive. “Everyone knows my past. I mean, I worked at Sam’s Club. I would go from these big fights to punching a time clock at work. I felt like I had a double life, like I was a super hero. But from the second I started MMA I was hooked. I’ve always been an athlete, always been competitive. Once I started MMA, I knew this was for me.” Brett’s blue-collar appeal coupled with his quick assimilation into the sport has resulted in his becoming a household name in a relatively short amount of time. Realizing the value of an entertaining fight, Rogers is an MMA fighter who is not afraid to trade punches. In fact, it remains his bread and butter. “I’d like to end this with an uppercut and drop him (Fedor). You have to be well-rounded, but I’m the type to stand and bang.”

While his experience might leave some to question, Rogers has not only dismissed his opponents quickly, but has dropped some notable figures in the division. Connecting on the UK’s James Thompson, Rogers proved he was no joke. In his Strikeforce debut, Rogers displayed his Muy Thai development and versatility by destroying Abongo Humphrey in the early minutes of the 2nd round with his clinch and a brutal assault of knees to the face. Considering the streak Rogers was stacking, his match-up with Fedor could arguably be called premature, but likely inevitable in the very same breath. “The thing is…not to sound cocky and conceited, but if I connect (looks down at his hands), it’s business as usual. In this sport anyone can fall.” November 7th, with a national television audience on the CBS network, another true underdog story just may have the kind of ending that movies are made of. For Rogers, being the underdog might be business as usual, but then again, so is raising his fist in victory.

Watch Fedor Vs. Rogers on CBS November 7th

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Glassjaw
Always Keeping It Real
words by: David Yllescas

Emerging from the label latent era of all things hardcore, New York’s Glassjaw pulverized a scene that had become stale with the same sound. Touted by other established artists, the band’s propensity to remain elusive could arguably be one of the reasons the band remains a sold-out draw some five years after their last release. Amid rumors of the band’s resurfacing from a long hiatus with a new record, Skinnie caught up with founding member Justin Beck to discuss the future. Sarcasm included.  

So what’s the deal with new material? Is the album done?
JB: There is much material done, but release format and medium is undetermined at the time.

Is there a projected release date or a name for the release?
JB: We wish there was, but there are some factors outside of our immediate nuclease dictating certain uncertainties.

Glassjaw has been relatively inactive for almost 5 years with members constantly in and out. Are there plans to fully bring back the band on a more consistent basis?
JB: We plan to release as much music possible, we plan to tour as much as possible and the possibilities are endless. The generic “cycle” is too predictable and antiquated at this point and compromises art and spontaneity. We want things to happen because it feels right not because we need to be in sync with industry standards, expectations and templates.

You started the online company Merch Direct. Can you fill us in on what made you venture out into that business and how the company stands out from others?
JB: Company was started out of a necessity for Glassjaw and our immediate collective of fellow musicians for  a simple and fair solution that didn’t exist 10 years ago.The company stands out because we are made up of Artists and Musicians who actually create and manufacturer the product vs suits and spreadsheets whom never toured in a band nor created any art in their entire lives.  We get it.

Glassjaw is doing a mini 3-date Cali tour in November. You guys feeling the West Coast?
JB: Hispanic people love Glassjaw and the state of California is 36.6% Hispanic. That means there are 13,452,940 possible Glassjaw fans out there for us to play to.

It is known that Ross Robinson “discovered” Glassjaw, will he be returning for the third straight album and what is the relationship with him nowadays?
JB: Ross will probably not be doing the next Glassjaw album. We haven’t spoke in a while but hope he is well.

You and Daryl always seem to be rockin’ some fly sneakers. Are you a collector and do you have a special pair that you’re proud of?
JB: We are all collectors of fine foot apparel Daryl is proud of his Jordan collection as I am a fan of my collection of filthy work boots.

Any contemporary bands you diggin’ nowadays?
JB: We’ll let you know soon.

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Dashboard confessional
The Balance Between Artistry and Integrity                        
words by: Alex Mendoza

Ten years ago a native of Boca Raton, Florida made his musical debut with Swiss Army Romance.  It was a small collection of achingly beautiful acoustic songs, chronicling the melancholy narratives of nameless lovers dealing with unexpected loss.  It was a mere glimpse of this young man’s innate talent, displaying hints of heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics coupled with raw acoustic figures that did not simply tug at the heartstrings - It snapped them in half.  The following year he would return with The Places You’ve Come to Fear The Most, a heart-rending LP that catapulted Chris Carrabba as the crowned king of the misunderstood and broken hearted.

The term “Emo” manifested somewhere along the way, generalizing his audience as depressed adolescents/young adults lamenting over trivial matters.  Regardless of the negative categorization of Dashboard’s music, the accolades continued to grow when A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar brought forth Carrabba’s acoustic sensibilities merged with musical accomplices.  While the acoustic intimacy had disappeared, the euphoria and energy from the band’s overall contributions was undeniable.  Dusk and Summer and The Shade of Poison Trees would continue to make their indelible mark on the national stage with television, radio and film.

For most fans of the band this is old news, but it’s critical to observe the past of certain groups; especially that of a band wrongfully boxed into the narrow-minded perceptions of genres and so forth.  With Alter the Ending, Carrabba and his immensely talented entourage unveil another series of emotionally charged songs that encompass a deep level of maturity, emotionally and musically.  The stories may contain universal feelings, dare we even say clichés, but their melodic structure and tightly-wound pop rhythms find the band continuing to hit its stride.

“One of the things about this album was the numerous changes that came about.  I wrote lots of songs.  And I really mean LOTS of songs.  We would be recording these songs and there was always something I could change or make better.  Then there’s that worry you’re never wholly satisfied, but for me as an artist I have to be true to myself.  I know it’s something lots of people say, but I hold true to that ideal.  After all you’re making this music and if you’re going to try to force yourself to like something you’re not fully devoted to then chances are your fans will feel the same way,” Chris explains.

The band’s songs deal with what may be deemed as saccharine, but opposed to several Indie outfits, or even mainstream ones at that, there are no perceptions of “forced” emotion for the sake of creating emotion.  The music for Alter the Ending is organic, incorporating lush instrumentation and powerful melodies to create a profound sense of hope in the midst of despair.  The parts work in perfect harmony (literally and figuratively) and the result is an album that represents a step in the right direction without betraying the band’s attention to these varying tales and their subjects.

“I could never just act like everything’s OK if I didn’t feel it,” Chris says.  “But that’s not to say there’s a greater depth now.  I have different filters if you will in regards to what I’m singing about.  When I first received public recognition, the songs that I wrote at that point in time were from a different place.  There’s something about youth that makes you feel that all these terrible emotions are bottomless.  That there’s no end, but I like to look at things now with a broad stroke of emotions.  Not just one.  You see the various layers and I think that lifts you up, even when things aren’t so great.  It’s just a sign of growing up.”

Another primary draw for the band is Chris’ humble, laid back attitude and interaction with his fanbase.  His MTV Unplugged performance remains as one of the most memorable of the series, but when considering what artists give to their fans for their support Chris is a cut above the rest.  For Alter the Ending Chris provides the option of the full band album version, but also a deluxe version that features the songs in their acoustic format.

“When I’m writing these songs I always write them acoustically,” Chris says regarding his songwriting process.  “Then if I’m sitting around and if there’s a spark I’ll hear the music of the entire band in my head.  And I think it’s important to look at that because it helps people see these songs in a different light and its all on the basis of presentation.  So we threw caution to the wind and just ran with it.”

Yet for a person who often bares the hearts of his nameless subjects, Chris does not unveil his personal life under the media microscope in the same light as some other individuals in the business.   During the recording of Alter the Ending, however, Chris faced a harsh reality that proved as a professional and spiritual challenge – his sister was involved in a car accident and as a result she entered a coma.

“We had just finished the record about two weeks earlier before it happened,” Chris recalls.  “They had just listened to it and they loved it, but mentioned there was no single.  At that time I wanted to turn inward and not have to worry about making a record.  I wanted to be with my family and I’m not in the same position like the people I look up to.  People like John Mayer and Dave Matthews Band.  That’s not to say I’m not thankful we’ve been able to make a career out of this, but there was a still a job to do.  As a result I probably wrote another twelve songs loosely in search of this single, because I can never just write one out.  It has to happen by accident, so I write, I write and write.”

There’s a momentary pause.  It becomes clear this is a difficult subject to discuss, but moreover this is one of those moments you wish the dissenters and the naysayers can listen to the manner in which Chris recites his words, or his commitment to music and the stories he tells in these songs.  It’s not because it’s an image forced upon him, but a testament to personal life experience and his infallible ability to turn these personal narratives into songs everyone can comprehend. 

“So one day I sat in front of the piano and I wrote Belle of the Boulevard.  I don’t know if it was because if I needed to, or if because I was ready, or if I got lucky.  I’m not even sure it will work, but with time we’ll see and if anything it’s made one guy happy and that’s the one it happened to.  But regardless life doesn’t stop and you can’t stop living.  And there it is.  That’s where I was at.”

Often times it’s a clear-cut sign most bands – or singer-songwriters – are looking to cash in a quick buck.  For Chris Carrabba, though, it’s about sharing stories to give people hope.  It transcends the profits and the sales; something he acknowledges as pure luck to this day, but there is no doubt that his music is more than just his catalyst.  It is a gift he is eager to share with the world.

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 GENTLEMAN JARED HESS
Not Digging The Typical.
words by: Gretchen Meier
photo by: Jeff Farsai

Writer and director Jared Hess, who brought the painfully awkward Napolean Dynamite and Nacho Libre to the big screen has just released his latest cinematic endeavor Gentlemen Broncos.  Co-written by his wife Jerusha, Hess once again delves into the socially peculiar. The story focuses on an aspiring sci-fi writer and home-schooled teenager, Benjamin, who meets his science fiction idol, Dr. Ronald Chevalier.  Chevalier not only fails to meet Benjamin’s expectations, but steals his novel and publishes it word-for-word save for changing the main character’s name “and turning him into a tranny.” Incorporating real experiences into his body of work, Hess has crafted a career in highlighting the kinds of people Hollywood never thought to include. For Hess, it all just comes naturally.  

Why do your films seem to embrace the awkward of society?  Do you purposely have silence during the most awkward of the conversations to emphasize the feeling or do you like seeing some of your audience squirm?
JH: I guess being awkward is something I know very well first hand.  Growing up I was very awkward.

So do you feel like you’ve grown out of that now?
JH: I’ve grown out of it a little bit, at least I hope…probably not though.  I’ve been forced to be a little more social.  In my own memory, the awkward moments always stand out though.  For example, the hand massage scene (in Gentlemen Broncos, Benjamin is asked to uncomfortably massage the hand of peer on a bus), really happened.  I was going to a Shakespeare theatre festival and some kids made friends with me and I was asked to give the girl a hand massage, complete with the awkward sounds and blowing in the ear.

Do you think the characters (not the actors) would realize how funny the audience finds them?
JH: They would be unaware that anyone finds them funny.  Any creative person always takes their art very seriously, no matter what it is, and no matter whether they intend for it to be funny or not, they understand what it is and that’s all that matters.  All of the characters in this movie are involved in some form of creative expression: the mom with her modest nightgowns, Benjamin with his stories, Lonny with his movies.  Everyone has something to offer and share with society.

All your films have a twinge of “80’s” flair. Is that just the environment you feel comfortable in or are they all actually set in the 80’s?

JH: We like to think of it as not really 80s, but rather “rocky mountain couture.”  You know, its all functional, things that you can wear on your land, while working on your land….or in a fire I guess (laughs).  Both Jerusha and I come from big families, mine has six boys and Jerusha has seven brothers so we’re both used to hand me downs.  The feel of the films just ends up with what we’re used to.  Not so much 80’s as “timeless Inner Mountain West clothes” (smiles).

What about all the supporting characters?  Do you just walk the streets of your city or are you inspired from people in your past for them too?
JH:  I went to high school with the Lonny character who made soap opera thrillers.  He actually asked me to a bedroom scene and I was like, “I don’t if I’m allowed to be doing this....” very similar to one of the scenes (in Gentlemen Broncos).  It was weird.

What do you think would happen if your characters were dropped off in a big, metropolitan city? Would they survive?
JH: I think they would, they all dream big, so I think they can live big.  People from small towns always have that quality and survive.  They try to live up to those dreams and survive.

At the screening, someone asked “why do you use only ugly people in your films?”  It seemed offensive, but are you confronted with that question often?
JH: You’re right. I found it extremely offensive.  I’ve actually never had that question before.  It’s sad that person decided to judge everything on appearance.  We like to not use super models.  We have something to learn from everyone.  However small their stories are, everyone has something to offer society.

What’s the likelihood of you ever using any big name actors in a future film or does that go against your sense of creativity?  Do you think since you draw heavily from personal experiences for your characters, a big name would ruin that?
JH: We love working with anyone that can bring life to the character.  There are just some people who are so big and carry so much baggage, that it becomes about them in the movie and not about the character.  I am about working with people who are willing to embrace their onscreen roles, no matter who it is.

Do you see yourself keeping the same type of movies with the same outsider characters or do you think this style will pigeon hole you?
JH: (Laughs at the term pigeon hole).  Everyone just has to stay true to what inspires them and this is what inspires me.  I would like to make a western someday because that’s always been a dream of mine since I was little.  I love westerns.

What’s your favorite western then?
I really like Clint Eastwood.  Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. That’s a classic western.

If you wrote your own sci fi novel, would there be combat deers and Cyclops?
JH: Definitely, this was my 14-year-old dream coming through on film.  Battle stags are a must.

Your movies are gaining more attention with each subsequent film.  How involved are you with the marketing?
JH: I actually had a lot of fun with this one.  We were able to shoot and record things specifically for online.  The Internet has just sort of opened up all these opportunities for us.  We were able to do a lot of scenes that may not have necessarily worked on film, but worked great on the Internet.

The humor of this recent film is rated “PG-13” for “crude humor.”  Napolean Dynamite didn’t have jars of “‘nads” being thrown around.  Have you avoided this designation up to this point or did it just sort of happen?
JH: (Laughs) Really?  We do a lot of cloning humor.

And what exactly is “cloning humor?”
JH: I would define it as humor referring to parts of the body required for cloning and leave it at that.  We never have tried to get a certain rating, it just ended up that way.  I think it ended up with PG-13 considering the sci-fi aspect, probably, with all the gags….and the snake poo. 

Would you let your kids watch this movie?
JH: (Laughs a little) My 6-year-old has seen it.

If you had to convince someone to go see this movie in ten seconds or less, what would you say?
JH: Come see Gentlemen Broncos.  Watch battle stags do battle. How does that sound?  I feel weird trying to convince people to come see my movie.  It’s like, hey I’m great, come see it!


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