Zola Jesus Announces ‘Snow Blood Tour’ + New Album ‘Okovi: Additions’

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Our adoration for Zola Jesus is hardly a secret. Indeed, we emphatically enthused of her 2017 album Okovi that it was “an emotional and sonic tour de force.”

In an interview around the time of its release, she revealed to BlackBook that, “So much of this album was an attempt to cleanse the pain I felt, and cleanse the pain of the people around me. Because it’s the only way I know how.”

So it’s hardly surprising that Nika Roza Danilova – as she’s known to her friends and family – would choose to carry on that catharsis, with the release of the stunning new Okovi: Additions (out April 6 on Sacred Bones), which collects unreleased tracks from the album sessions, together with remixes of the original Okovi songs. Unlike so many projects of this kind, Additions actually feels remarkably cohesive, while both expanding upon, yet noticeably standing apart from its album of origin.



“The songs on Additions traverse a vast amount of sonic ground,” she explains, “but taken together, they cohere remarkably well as an album – all while serving to enrich the experience of Okovi. The four new songs were intended to be on Okovi, and each of them represents a snapshot of my journey in making the record, while also being just as precious to me as the songs that made it onto the final track listing. The remixes are beloved in their own way, as most were born from organic circumstances, and have drawn the original songs into completely new atmospheres.

Her visceral live performances are also not to be missed – and on April 26 (after several European shows earlier in the month) she launches her all-too-brief Snow Blood Tour at Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles. Most of the dates are co-headlining with former Crystal Castles firebrand Alice Glass.



BlackBook Interview: Moby Talks Empathy, Our Broken Humanity & Still Being in Love With Making Music

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Photos by Jonathan Nesvadba


Considering our increasingly divisive day-to-day socio-political reality, it’s hardly surprising that artists have taken to dauntlessly and challengingly exploring catastrophic and apocalyptic themes. Moby, for one, was never shy about taking on the more solemn matters that haunt the human landscape, while ever using his music – and his public platform – as a plea for reconnecting with our waning sense of the spiritual and ineffable. (To wit, he is an outspoken advocate for animal rights – and was kind enough to do an exclusive guide to vegan LA for BlackBook.)

And so it is that with his latest and 15th album, Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt (out this month through Mute), he concerns himself with our possible demise, as viewed from the perch of our current existential precipice. His cover of an old negro spiritual song, “Like a Motherless Child,” is rife with ambiguity – especially at a time when hope for racial harmony seems worryingly fragile; and the mournful but beauteous synth-gothic strains of “Mere Anarchy” come with his enigmatic, tension-filled warning, “Caution of the world you said was over / Caution where we were.”

One of the album’s most striking tracks is the ethereal, hymn-like “This Wild Darkness,” which opens with Moby pronouncing, “Apportioned like madness in season / Breaking all like a breaking of reason,” before launching into an impassioned confession/plea, “I can’t stand on my own anymore / I can’t stand in the stain of the broken and the poor / Please light my way.”

To be sure, Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt is a genuine tour de force, both lyrically and sonically – even if it may indeed be a harbinger of our doom.

As winter turns to spring, with its annual promise of hope and renewal, we caught up with Moby to discuss just why humanity seems so broken, and how we may just be able to fix it.



You did two albums as Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. What made you go back to just recording as Moby?

Hmm, I’m not sure, to be honest. Almost everything about releasing an album, especially as a 52-year-old man who doesn’t tour, in 2018 seems arbitrary. So switching names just seems like another arbitrary facet of the whole arbitrary process.

With your last few albums, there seemed to be a struggle between a search for spirituality and the forces that hinder and oppose that which is considered to be spiritual?

The main force that hinders that which is spiritual is simply our hereditary humanity.  We’re born with ontological amnesia, seemingly unaware of the 15 billion year old quantum crucible from which we’ve arisen. Simply, we know nothing. In a way, we are the void – not that we see the void, we’re just clueless as to the actual nature of the Universe. So we stumble along and make mistakes and assume that we’re doing our best when the truth is that we’re not seeing through a glass darkly…we’re not even seeing.

What was going on in your head and heart when you went in to record the new album?

I love making music, and if I make an album, there’s a chance someone will listen to it. Also music is the perfect way to represent the seemingly ineffable things that can’t be communicated in linear or literal ways.

The first single “Like a Motherless Child” was based on an old negro spiritual song. Do you feel like there is a metaphorical connection to what is going on in America right now?

Yes, or more broadly, with our species. If you look at Adam and Eve being kicked out of Eden as a metaphor it makes sense: we are separated from the Divine, from objective knowledge, from spirit.  We stumble around, scared and vicious and clueless, like motherless children.



The pre-album “inspiration” playlist you created was interesting, in that it was a mix of black icons – like Teddy Pendergrass and Gil Scott Heron – with white artists – Talking Heads, Liquid Liquid, Bowie – that had drawn a lot of inspiration from black music. What does that say about what you are searching for, artistically?

The common thread is songs that are as much about creating sonic worlds in the studio as they are about organic performance. I’m still so in love with a recording studio as a place to create worlds that have never actually existed.

Interesting that you had a couple of early Simple Minds songs in there – not everybody knows they had a period of incredible experimentation before 1985. You’re a fan, obviously?

They lost me around the time they released “Alive & Kicking,” but before that they were phenomenal. Their first four or five albums are some of the most adventurous, nuanced, exciting records ever made. “Theme for Great Cities” is still one of my favorite ever pieces of music.

What are some of the overall themes you’re exploring on the new album?

Pretty much just one theme: humans wandering around in the wilderness and darkness – with me as the subject and narrator – stumbling around in this baffling state of separation.

You’re a vegan and animal rights activist. Do you feel that if we were able to cultivate greater empathy for animals, that it would make us more empathetic to each other as humans?

Without question. And vice versa. One of the biggest challenges facing us as a species is cultivating and extending true empathy and compassion to others, be they human or not. And also extending true empathy and compassion to ourselves. It might sound like spiritual claptrap, but it’s the seat of and the result of our brokenness.



BlackBook Exclusive: The 10 Most Goth Excerpts From the New Book ‘Bauhaus Undead’

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The curious and curiouser thing about goth, is how many of its musical progenitors have felt the need to distance themselves from its lugubrious tenets…even as they mostly clung steadfastly to its aesthetic and stylistic codes (let’s be honest, has Robert Smith ever not looked goth?)

The members of Bauhaus, arguably goth’s cradle of civilization, have generally gone along with it through the years, rewarding the unshakeable loyalty of their dark-hearted minions with dada-esque reunion performances and a steady flow of caliginously packaged re-issues. And now a striking new coffee table book by drummer Kevin Haskins, titled (what else?) Bauhaus Undead: The Visual History and Legacy (out March 16 through Cleopatra), gloriously celebrates the band’s exalted place at the throne of the most steadfast subculture in all of modern history.

A deliciously decadent collection of anecdotes and images, it strikingly serves to remind of Bauhaus’ conceptual and confrontational pretension/brilliance, as well as the visual and intellectual depth of their oeuvre. It all makes for an appropriate sensory overload, a sublimely arranged cataloging of a their unimaginably influential manifesto of the macabre.

Before springtime sunshine arrives and chases the undead back underground, we asked Haskins (who last year formed POPTONE with former bandmate Daniel Ash) to choose ten of the most Bauhaus-y – in other words, “goth” – moments and images from the book.

“The bats have left the bell tower…”


“Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

One of my favorite posters (pictured above) announcing the release of our first single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” This was screen printed by guitarist Daniel Ash and his father, Arthur Ash. Arthur was a sign writer and had a workshop in a shed at the bottom of his garden. I recall driving around in my Morris Minor in the dead of night, surreptitiously plastering up the posters with glue made of flour and water.

The Hearse

We were recording our third LP, The Sky’s Gone Out, at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire, Wales. One day, venturing into the nearby village of Monmouth to stock up on supplies, Daniel and Peter happened upon a hearse that was for sale. This would make a very fine means of convenience for touring, they both thought, and after consulting with David and I, the next day the sale was made. Following the deal, we drove it with great excitement back to the studio and showed it off to the studio owner’s teenage daughters, who immediately asked us to take them for a spin. The girls took up their positions in the back, where normally the coffin would be placed. With Peter at the wheel we all set off with gusto around the narrow country lanes of Wales. Peter decided to test the capacity of the engine for speed and endurance, and as our lives flashed before our eyes, we went careering around the narrow bends and curves, over humpbacked bridges, and on several occasions, ironically, almost meeting our keeper. The poor ladies were being thrown from side to side of the rear compartment, screaming with both fear and delight! Fortunately, we eventually made it back in one piece.


Soiree Vampires

Plan K is an intriguing venue. Housed in an old sugar refinery in Brussels, at six stories high, one had to navigate a maze of floors, rooms and narrow foot bridges to explore its industrial interior. The night that we played there on April 5th, 1980, they named it “Soirée Vampires!” Before we took to the stage, they screened several films from a 16mm projector including: La Fiancée Du Vampire, Le Masque Du Demon and Mensch Und Kunstfigur, the latter being a documentary about Oskar Schlemmer, an artist and teacher associated with the Bauhaus art movement.


Pressure & Strain

Drawing on blank page of our 1983 UK tour itinerary. This was drawn by me only days before Bauhaus first disbanded. One can clearly see that the pressure and strain was finally getting to me.


‘Mask’ Photo Shoot

Picture taken of me during the filming of the video for Mask. After shooting the bulk of the video in an abandoned Victorian shoe factory in our home town, we drove to the middle of the countryside. We each daubed on makeshift makeup and, lit only by car headlights, we completed the filming. It was mid winter and about four degrees below freezing point. This is me adorned with a scarf of brambles after I had just crawled through an icy stagnant pond.


‘Exquisite Corpse’ Game

Exquisite Corpse drawing. A parlour game invented by the Surrealists was one of our favorite ways of dealing with the boredom of life on the road. It’s a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, without viewing what the previous person has written or drawn. Once the last person has finished, then the piece is revealed.


‘The Resurrection’

This was it… After all the telephone calls, meetings, rehearsals, and the huge anticipation, we were about to take the stage again almost two decades after our “final show,” for the first date on The Resurrection Tour. As the opening chords of our first song “Double Dare” rang out, I can clearly remember a great feeling of confidence and invincibility! Bauhaus were back! The passion, vitality and the energy of the band was still intact and, coupled with the fact that three of us had been performing together for the past fifteen years, we could all actually play much better.
Coffin shaped poster by artist Allen Jaeger for The Resurrection Tour.


Hanging Upside Down at Coachella

In 2005 we were asked to play The Coachella Music Festival, and the promoter Paul Tollet asked us to create a spectacular show. Having always had a leaning towards the theatrical, we set about brainstorming our grand entrance. One of the first ideas we had was to release thousands of bats from the stage. On inquiring as to where to obtain said bats, we learned that it would actually be illegal to release them at the time when we would be on stage. A little dismayed we set about brainstorming again. Eventually Peter came up with the brilliant idea of the inverted hanging man, based on the Greek archetype Hermes in connection to alchemy. Peter would be the hanging man, or vampire bat as it was also naturally interpreted.



Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!!!!

The SO36 Club is situated in Kreuzberg, Berlin, in the heart of the Turkish Quarter. During the 70s, it was a squat which morphed into a legendary punk rock venue. David Bowie and Iggy Pop were often seen there during the time they were living in Berlin. Today it has been renovated, but back then it was cold, bare bones, rough and ready. The first time we played there was on the second gig of our first European tour on March 29th, 1980, and it was quite a memorable experience.
Unfortunately, there was a certain element in the crowd who had come only to listen to one of the local support bands, The Giants, who were a Rockabilly band. The Teddy Boys were yelling profanities and threatening the kids who had come to see us.
The dressing room was situated half way down the hall, so to access it one had to walk, or in our case, run through the audience. Well the Teddy Boys knew this, and on our way back there, they attempted to attack us! We managed to arrive relatively intact, along with the promoter and our two-man crew. At the rear of the dressing room was a big stack of wooden chairs. To our surprise, the promoter suddenly began smashing them to bits! Had he gone mad? We soon learned the reason for his bizarre behavior when he gave each of us a chair leg to use as a defensive weapon.
Grabbing the door handle he struck a rather dramatic commando like pose, yelled, “Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier”…and boom! We were now running through the audience towards the exit, wielding our makeshift clubs! Thankfully, the Teds were too alarmed to engage and we made it safely to a waiting mini bus. We endured a rather frigid journey back to our lodgings though, as they had smashed every window on our bus.


Billy’s London

During January and February, 1980, we landed a five night residency at a club called Billy’s in Soho, London. The club stands on the site where King Charles II would visit his mistress, Nell Gwynne, and in the 30s it housed the radical Gargoyle Club, which attracted the likes of Noel Coward, Francis Bacon and Tallulah Bankhead. I guess you could say that we were in good company. As each night progressed at Billy’s, we attracted more and more followers clad in black leather and lace, witnessing the seeds of the Gothic movement beginning to germinate. There we were, standing at the beach head, unwittingly inventing an entirely new genre of music.
On one particular night, as we stormed through our set, I was convinced that I spied Tony Wilson and Ian Curtis at the bar. It transpired that Joy Division were in London recording their second album Closer at Britannia Row in Islington. After our set, we approached Ian who told us that Tony had left early because of his dislike of bands that wear makeup. Ian went on to tell us that he enjoyed our set and was inspired to see us play live after hearing our records.
It came as quite a shock, just three months later, when we learned, with great sadness, that he had taken his own life.



BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Dazzling Kat Robichaud Video ‘Song For David Bowie’

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Photo by Mike Lloyd


Millions got to know Kat Robichaud as a finalist on The Voice in 2013. But in truth, it told very little of the story of her dazzling creative life to come – which has seen her build quite a significant cult following in San Francisco, with her ongoing and decidedly outré club series Misfit Cabaret. That also happens to be the title of her brilliant 2017 album, which is shot through with gloriously ostentatious aesthetic signifiers of her inimitable artistic manifesto.

Perhaps the standout of those is her fervent, impassioned tribute to the two-years-deceased Thin White Duke, the unambiguously titled “Song for David Bowie.” In it she confesses of that fateful last night of this life in January 2016, “The stars woke me up last night / Burning brighter than I ever could remember / And I knew that you were gone.”

In some ways she is – artistically and stylistically – the most perfectly realized “Child of Bowie” – which makes her recollection all the more poignant, nay emotionally piercing. And the video for the song, which BlackBook premieres here, magnificently brings that all to life.

“The night that Bowie died,” she recalls, “I felt a light had gone out somewhere in the universe. The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual put on an emergency show the next day at Slim’s, and we packed the room with people needing a place to mourn. I broke down while singing ‘Five Years,’ the first song of the set. I looked out into the audience and people were sobbing. I think we all just needed a nice big cry. And then the light came back on, brighter than before, because I realized there were so many people on this Earth that would continue to love him and play his music and share him with the new generations. Bowie’s not going anywhere.”


Kat Robichaud’s “Five Most ‘Bowie’ Things About David Bowie”

His Music

I cried the first time I heard “Lady Grinning Soul” and it’s still my favorite. His lyrics paint such a vivid picture; they’re both catty and profound. I’m actually finding it hard to put into words what Bowie’s music means to me. Suffice it to say, I grew up in a small rural town in North Carolina and he made my world a lot less gray.

His Style

The collaborations with Kansai Yamamoto were killer. His hair was amazing.

His Revolution

He wasn’t afraid to push boundaries or to fight against the patriarchy or the rigors of normalcy. He taught me that it was okay to be different.



His Bowie-ness

Jareth the Goblin King = my sexual awakening.

His Influence

I play in a Bowie cult band called The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual in San Francisco. I also play in a Bowie band where we tour the country and play in symphony halls in front of 50-piece orchestras. Playing Bowie songs with fellow musicians just feels good, like we’re spreading happiness into the world, like we’re helping to heal people’s hearts. It’s amazing to look out to a crowd of 500-1000 people and see how they’ve dressed up to pay homage to everyone’s favorite alien. It’s cathartic to sing “Life on Mars” and hear the crowd belt out “SAILORS, FIGHTING IN THE DANCE HALL.” In so many ways, Bowie was the savior of all our broken, weird little hearts.


Photo by Mike Lloyd


BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Exuberant New Fenne Lily Video For ‘On Hold’

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Perhaps it’s something about England’s mystical county of Dorset, with its fossil-rich Jurassic Coast and Norman castles, that instilled in Fenne Lily a sense of the ethereal and quixotic. Yet it was in the venues of nearby Bristol – where a more recent but no less storied (musical) history is virtually embedded in the walls – that she quickly rose to something of a cult level of prominence.

Indeed, still just 20 years old, her transcendent brand of beatific nu-folk has led her to support slots for the likes of KT Tunstall and Marika Hackman, as well as a guest spot on Aldous Harding’s 2017 album Party. Her songs have also completely organically run up more than 20,000,000 streams.

And this April 6, her stunning debut album, On Hold, will at last see release. Track highlights like “Three Oh Nine” and “The Hand You Deal” characterize an album that is hauntingly intimate, confessional and yet somehow otherworldly and ineffable. Think: Joni Mitchell as filtered through 4AD.



In the meantime, BlackBook premieres here the video for the album’s title song – which finds her skating around London (being filmed by a friend on a skateboard), and attempting to spread a bit of joy in a most charming but unusual way.

“‘On Hold’ was written as a thank you for the warmth of the world when I was at my lowest,” she explains, “and I wanted the video that accompanied it to be a raw representation of this gratitude. While I realize that roller-skating through central London giving flowers to strangers isn’t particularly cool, random acts of kindness are – ultimately, being nice is underrated. It makes me smile to watch, and dorky as it is, I feel this video communicates a joy that often goes untold.”

Dorky or not, we couldn’t agree more.

(N.B. Fenne will kick off a 30-date UK and European tour March 23 in Bristol, with a stop at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on April 2.)



BlackBook Exclusive: Aussie Indie Poppers Sheppard Share Their Fave Spots in Brisbane

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You may not yet have heard of Sheppard. But the Aussie sextet’s 2014 debut album Bombs Away, shot them straight to serious stardom Down Under, with a battery of awards and a 5x platinum single, “Geronimo,” which was also a hit in the US. (They actually appeared on Ellen and LIVE with Kelly here, and toured with Meghan Trainor.)

This spring will finally see the release of the follow up, the intriguingly titled Watching the Sky. The first single “Coming Home” is an exuberant, anthemic-pop instant-classic, with its rousing chorus of, “I’m coming home tonight / Meet me in the valley / Where the kids collide into the morning.” It most definitely has us excited for the album.

While we wait for them to return to the States, we caught up for a chat with them and asked them to turn us onto the places they can be found clocking time when they’re back in their hometown of Brisbane. A modern city, which at its coldest (July) averages 70 degrees Farenheit – meaning, you literally don’t need to own a sweater or scarf – Brisbane is known for its world class cultural venues, it’s nearby surfing options and, of course, its music scene. It’s also just an hour-and-a-half flight from Sydney.

Sheppard will be doing a few live dates in Australia during March and April – but they promise to be returning to the States before long.


The new single “Coming Home” just went platinum in Australia. You guys have a pretty big following at home?

Yes we do, we’ve been around in Australia for a few years and we have some pretty loyal fans.

The lyrics seem to be about returning from a long time on the road?

That’s exactly right, the song tries to capture the excitement we feel when we get to come home and see our loved ones again.

There seems to be a hint of U2 in the guitars / mood of the song. What were you listening to / inspired by when recording the new album?

I think we are always inspired by our favorite band Coldplay, and the catchy guitar parts and solos in their songs.

What can we expect from Watching the Sky, musically and lyrically?

We have thought about this album from the ground up with the live touring aspect in mind. When listening, we want our audience to feel as though they are with us in a stadium.

Will Sheppard be coming back to tour in the US to coincide with the release of the album?

Yes, you can definitely expect us back in the US in the near future.


Sheppard’s Favorite Spots in Brisbane

James Street

James Street is located just off of Ann Street in Fortitude Valley, and is the place to go if you need to find a great shop or two. Our favorites include Gail Sorronda, AJE and Sass & Bide. If you don’t like shopping, you can sit down at a cafe and enjoy the Brisbane sunshine or catch a movie at the Palace Cinemas.



White Label Noba

One of our favorite local designers White Label Noba have a shop located in Hawthorne. If you are into colorful, sparkly outfits, this is definitely worth the drive.


Mrs Brown’s

Mrs Browns bar and restaurant is our new top local spot. Such a fun vibe and great food to top it off. Our favorites on the menu are the prawns rolls, KFC Cauliflower and the dumplings. If you are looking for a spot to hang and catch up with your friends, this is definitely the place.




Nodo is a cafe that serves all day breakfast and gluten free donuts…they are healthy, right? This is another great place to have a meeting or work out of home or catch up over a coffee.



Long Time

Hands down one of the best restaurants in Brisbane. They are widely known for their incredible Asian inspired dishes (whole candied chili bay prawn, Panang curry of honey glazed duck legs) matched with amazing cocktails. It’s also a great date night spot.



Spaghetti House Trattoria

If you’re looking for an Italian, home style cooked meal, Spaghetti House has your back. The staff really know how to look after you and they make the best lobster gnocchi.




This is our favorite spot to take guests or tourists in Brisbane. It’s a bar located on the river at Eagle Street Pier and has a great atmosphere and view. Have drinks overlooking the Story Bridge.


The Triffid

The Triffid is a newish music spot in located in Newstead. It’s a very intimate space, which is a really nice way to catch your favorite act. They have a wicked beer garden as well, great for Sunday sessions.





Exhilarating New Soccer – Sorry, Football – Docu-series ‘PHENOMS’ Debuting at SXSW

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Soccer – football, of course, to the rest of the world – has had a tendency to ebb and flow pretty wildly in its popularity Stateside. But perhaps the new globalized, digitized reality has now sealed its status in the US; indeed, at least in major urban areas, America has decidedly caught World Cup fever in these last few years.

So the new 5-part Fox Sports docu-series PHENOMS should kick up quite a stir when it gets a “sneak peek” premiere at the Fox Sports House at SXSW this coming weekend.

The series follows the lives – both professional and private – of more than 60 of what will likely be the next generation of superstars in “The Beautiful Game,” as it’s affectionately referred to by fans. You don’t know all of their names yet, but Paulo Dybala, Ousmane Dembele, Adrien Rabiot, Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso, Hirving Lozano…have already left fans swooning and shouting with their remarkable abilities on the field. Footage for the doc was shot in more than 20 countries, by 12 different directors.

To give you an idea of the fervor surrounding its release, infamous footy fanatic Gordon Ramsay has even cooked up a special menu for the kickoff event in Austin on Sunday (mini kielbasa representing Poland, macarons representing France, albondigas representing the Latin nations – you get the idea.)

Leading up to the debut – and in hot anticipation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia this summer – we caught up with PHENOMS producers Mario Melchiot and David Worthen Brooks to discuss their inspiration and expectations for the series.



What compelled you to tell this story?

Mario Melchiot: To introduce the world to what it takes to become a phenom. Because there are so many questions asked by young talented footballers and parents and fans; we want to help guide them, guide their children to become the next Phenoms. With this documentary, we will be able to answer all the questions they have ever wanted to ask.
David Worthen Brooks: My love and fascination for the World Cup is deeply rooted – as a ten year old I was already obsessed. Nothing beats the spectacle of amazing players converging from all parts of the globe. PHENOMS has been the perfect outlet to express that fascination.

With so many young, talented soccer players, how did you ultimately decide on the players who are featured in PHENOMS?

Mario: I worked closely with another producer, Arbi Pedrossian, to identify the young talents of the world now. Arbi was key in finding the talent, and then we looked at the clips and used my knowledge of the game, my history, and I was able to select those that I saw in my eyes who would have the opportunity to play for their national team. You’re never going to get it all right, but we did a pretty good job if I so myself.
David: Three years ago Mario and Arbi did an amazing job of predicting which unknown players were going to blow up.

International fans become deeply attached to their favorite players. What were you trying to reveal to them about those players with PHENOMS?

David: Remember what it was like to turn twenty? End of adolescence. Start of adulthood. It’s a profound moment in anyone’s life. We wanted to catch these prodigies at this critical moment in their lives.
Mario: They are more than superstars; they are human beings that live a different life to a certain degree that the fans normally don’t get to see. If you take the game away from them, they’re just like everyone else.

Some of the players featured in the documentary are from internationally known clubs – Real Madrid, Manchester City, Tottenham. Did those clubs’ wide fanbases factor into the decision to feature those players in the documentary?

Mario: No, we looked at the quality of the player. A phenom is not based on only the club, it is based on the player’s quality. You can perfectly fit the definition of a “Phenom” and not be from one of those big clubs; Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. But, as soon as you become a Phenom, all of those big giants come after you.
David: The big clubs are the logical destination for Phenoms – and while shooting we have followed our subjects from the lower leagues to the big powerhouses. For instance we accompany Gabriel Jesus from Brazil to Manchester City, and Corentin Tolisso from his hometown to Bayern Munich. We also track stories like Moses Simon, who is still in a lower league, but if he has a good World Cup we’ll see him at a huge club come fall 2018.



What was something surprising you discovered about the stories of these players while filming PHENOMS?

Mario: That you can identify so much with it. That our lives have so many similarities; that we all work so hard to the best that we can be. You see how much dedication and hunger and belief in themselves that they have, and that’s what sets them apart. It allows them to achieve so much more in their professional life; like playing for their national country.
David: I was struck by how many of these young men have already had to deal with massive life events – like the tragic loss of a parent – at such an early age.

There are obviously some big international stars in the documentary such as Dele Alli, Gabriel Jesus, and Paulo Dybala. Who are some of the players that are not so well known who have some incredible stories to tell?

Mario: Moses Simon is a great example. You will see that the journies of some of the players are not easy. Just by the decision at the young age of changing your comfort zone, the place you’re from, where your family is, to a whole new territory. You have to settle in on your own and adapt quickly. Leaving Nigeria for Belgium is incredible. Oliver Burke is another good example; he goes to Germany and then travels back to England, where he was comfortable and where he was at home – but that doesn’t equal success.
David: Saul Niguez is amazing – he played for a season with a catheter – just the most incredible grit and determination. Aleksandr Selikhoff was sent home as a teenager by the top clubs in Russia due to a heart condition, but fought his way back to the top of that league, and is now poised for a massive career.

You were a professional soccer player for 17 years. Is there a certain player’s story that you most related to?

Mario: I related to so many of the stories. Having a single mom with five kids, and you understood that she couldn’t always go to watch my games. The belief of your family is what makes you succeed on the field because you know that you have their support; that is worth more than anything else, during football and away from football. Also, as a child you have a dream and, you find success to make that dream into your work. Now that I’m retired and looking back, I still think it is the best sport in the world to be a part of.





Feels Great: Fetty Wap and Cheat Codes Talk Tattoos, Taking Risks and THC

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Photography: Christian Cody


Anyone with a phone knows the name Fetty Wap. But what they might not know about the 26-year-old rapper, is the fact that he doesn’t like to play by the rules. Case in point, his latest collaboration with Los Angeles-based electronic outfit Cheat Codes. While on the surface he may not appear to have much in common with the trio, there’s a lot more similarities between them than just the fact they all like to smoke weed – and a lot of it. A sunny and almost annoyingly perfect pop banger, “Feels Great” shows how all four of them won’t be boxed in by anyone, including themselves.

BlackBook caught up with Fetty and Cheat Codes following their collab, and just in time for the weekend. The boys sounded off on Michael Jordan, marijuana and making music.



BlackBook: You guys collaborated on ‘Feels Great’ a couple months ago. Tell me about the track.

Matt: What was your first impression when you heard the track? As a whole, I think the track is really different than anything you’ve worked on before.
Fetty: Yeah it was a really big difference for me, but I enjoy being challenged. Immediately, when I heard the song, I just thought it had such good vibes. At first, I didn’t even listen to the lyrics – I just focused on the melody and the production. Melody is really the biggest thing for me, anyway. And the melody just really caught my attention – that and the energy of the track.
Trevor: So it literally felt great. That’s perfect.

BlackBook: How was it for you guys to work together?

Fetty: Well, we had met before we worked on the song. So it was all just really chill. Plus, we smoked weed together, and when you smoke weed, everything good happens.
Matt: We’d also always wanted to collaborate with Fetty. So, when this song came along, we immediately thought he’d be great. He just has such good vibes and we always see him smiling, and that’s really how we felt about the song. Then the fact that he actually liked it and wanted to do it – that was just perfect for us.
Trevor: We’re also used to working as producers and songwriters. Even when we work with other artists, we always try to have, like, 90 percent of the track done, so they can just kind of come in and put on the finishing touches. But with Fetty, we sent him the record and he completely did his own part. So, it was really cool to have him bring something totally new and unexpected to the track.
Matt: Yeah, when we did the video together you told us a little about the verse you wrote. What was the story behind it?
Fetty: When I first started listening to the lyrics, my interpretation of this song was kind of like, ‘Okay, this is something that I’ve been through,’ but with a totally different attitude. You know, my background – I’m from the hood. So doing this track and having such a positive spin is something that people probably wouldn’t expect from me. I started thinking about my girlfriend when she was in high school and how no one used to really look at her or talk to her. But then of course, I became Fetty Wap, and she got older and matured, and all of the sudden people liked her and she was so beautiful. So, I used her for my interpretation of the song – that was the idea I pulled from.
Kevin: I’ve always wondered how you got into the rap game. Was it in high school? Or how did you get into music?
Fetty: I actually got into music because of Remy Boyz’ Monty. Everybody knows our song “My Way” that we did together. But Monty was really the one who pushed me to pursue music because it’s really his first love, and he showed me how much I love music and how much I really love to make music – every part of it. He’s the real inspiration for me being Fetty Wap.
Matt: Shout out Monty!
Trevor: He’s the man.
Fetty: But what about you guys?
Trevor: For me, I started writing songs when I was probably 12. My dad actually played guitar and he would always play us songs that he wrote, so I was always around that. Then I just started writing and recording in my bedroom, and dropped out of school when I was 16 to try and really pursue it. It was kind of like, ‘If I’m going to do music, I’m going to really do it.’ So, that’s exactly what happened.
Kevin: My uncle was in Sugar Ray actually, and my brother was in a big rock band back in the day, so I also grew up around it and it was something I always wanted to do.
Matt: It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when I got into music, but I was always doing it in school, like band and choir and all that stuff. Eventually, I was kind of just like, ‘I don’t want to do choir, I want be in a cool rock band and make cool music.’ So, in high school that’s what I was doing: playing rock ‘n’ roll in my basement. Then I moved to L.A. and met these guys and we started making electronic music because honestly, we all just get really bored really fast. So, we wanted to be able to make the kind of music that we could switch up whenever we wanted, making tracks with a pop star like Demi Lovato and then do a song with a dope rapper like Fetty Wap. I swear I have A.D.D. or something. But that was really the goal behind this project.



Fetty: What’s your biggest inspiration when you’re writing?
Matt: For me, it’s weed.
Fetty: I definitely agree with that 100%.
Trevor: I’m just always so excited about the idea of moving culture forward. I honestly can’t think of anything better than when I hear something that sounds like it’s never been done before. I really don’t even care if it ends up flopping or if people hate it because the risk is worth it for me. I want to be on that record that’s changing things and changing music. If I’m just doing the same thing other people have done for years and years, it’s not really worth it for me. So, that’s what really inspires me and makes me want to create. Well, that and weed.
Kevin: I just like being in the studio or in my room writing music. I mean, of course I love performing but my favorite part is just being by myself or with the guys and being creative.
Trevor: Fetty, what was the first tattoo you got?
Fetty: My first tattoo? I believe I was – I don’t want to get my mom in trouble, so I’m just going to say I was 17. It’s a T, a star and an F on my left forearm, which stands for ‘Team Fam,’ which was a sports thing that every kid had to do in my neighborhood, and my friends and I, we had our own little crew. My favorite tattoo though, is my Michael Jordan tattoo on my leg. I was supposed to get his jersey tattooed on my leg, but it hurt so bad, I only got his name.
Trevor: I just got a neck tattoo the other day and that really hurt.
Trevor: Wait, so you’re into basketball?
Fetty: Actually, football is my favorite sport. But my mom kind of cut my football career short because she was so scared I’d get hurt.

BlackBook: I’m curious if you guys think your personas onstage are really different from who you are IRL. Like, is Fetty Wap a character? Or is that who you are all the time?

Fetty: Fetty Wap is just a brand name. When I’m home, I’m just Willie. A lot of people think I am who I am onstage – like when I’m performing, I’m really aggressive – but I’m not like that at all. Except when I’m in California. When I’m in California, I’m Fetty Wap all day.
Matt: I think we’re all the same, except maybe our personalities are a little exaggerated when we’re playing.

BlackBook: With social media, though, do you feel like you have to be ‘on’ all the time?

Trevor: I don’t know any other way to be. I grew up in the social media age, so I’m just used to it.
Kevin: I also think as long as you don’t take anything or yourself too seriously, it all ends up working out.

BlackBook: Do you see similarities between rap and electronic music?

Matt: The main thing that’s probably the most obvious is the fact that it just makes people feel good, you know? People want to go out on the weekends and have fun when they hit the club. That’s why you want to make records that people can enjoy.
Fetty: Real energy and authenticity always provides the best outcome, you know what I’m saying? And I like to do different things. I don’t even consider myself a rap artist, you know? I’m just an artist because I like testing limits and I don’t like boxing myself into any one thing. So, even with ‘Feels Great,’ it was like, ‘Okay here’s a new opportunity for you to do something you haven’t done before, and try out a new genre.’ I’m never going to say no to expanding my music in a positive setting. I don’t only want to be a rapper – I don’t only ever want to be one thing.

BlackBook: What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t an artist?

Trevor: I’d definitely be in the NBA.
Fetty: I don’t even think I can answer that question, because I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing. My music is just part of who I am. Or maybe I’d be a doctor or something.


MUNA Release Acoustic EP To Celebrate One Year Since ‘About U’

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To celebrate a year since the release of their fantastic debut album, About U, queer LA-based trio MUNA today have dropped an acoustic EP covering three of their most popular hits.

About U: One Year On was recorded live on February 2, exactly a year after they initially unleashed their debut. The three-track EP sees acoustic renditions of “Crying On The Bathroom Floor,” “If U Love Me Now,” and “I Know A Place.”

“Recording this live EP was almost like reading a letter you’ve written to your future self,” says singer Katie Gavin. “Our lives are different than they were last year, partially because of these songs and largely because of the way that other people have made these songs their own. Arranging and playing them acoustically was a way for us to come alive to that fact. The music changes us and then we change the music and it goes on like that.”