BlackBook 3 Minutes: Musician Jack Antonoff (Fun./Bleachers) and Musician Matt Berninger (The National)

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Lately, it seems like Jack Antonoff has been all work and all play. The lead guitarist for Fun., and Lena Dunham’s arm candy, has just finished recording an album for his new solo project, Bleachers, much of it recorded while he was touring with Fun. The lead single, “I Wanna Get Better” – video directed by Dunham – is a slice of frenetic pop rock complete with anthemic chorus and sputtering piano that summons a time and place—New Jersey in the early 90s—that defined his childhood. As for his monicker, Bleachers, “it reminds me of the shitty parts of being young that ended up being the most important moments in my life,” he told  Vogue.com. That’s a feeling we can all relate to.

When Bret Easton Ellis interviewed National frontman Matt Berninger for his podcast recently, he credited the band’s 2008 album The Boxer for helping pull him out of depression. If the National’s signature sound—introspective, moody, plaintive—has evolved since their 2001 debut (which was more Tom Waits than Radiohead), Berninger has evolved with it. “Once you have kids, I think we realized how our rock band is actually not at all that important in the grand scheme of things,” he told Interview last year. In March fans got to see Berninger from a fresh perspective in the funny, poignant documentary, Mistaken for Strangers, directed by Tom Berninger, the singer’s younger brother, and as much an inquiry into sibling rivalry/love as a rock doc (Michael Moore described it as “one of the best documentaries about a band that I’ve ever seen”).

Here the two discuss the creative process, finding their audience, and embracing the mainstream.

 

BlackBook 3 Minutes: Actor/Artist Norman Reedus and Comedian Eric André (Part II)

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Best known for playing zombie-killing gangster Daryl Dixon in AMC’s runaway hit The Walking DeadNorman Reedus’s route to celebrity is strange, and apparently not apocryphal: he was invited to be in a stage play after a director spotted him standing in the middle of a party, in giant comic sunglasses, screaming his head off. Given that striking performance piece, it’s not surprising to discover that Reedus is something of a jack-of-all-trades. In between his intense shooting schedule, he finds time to model (he has been the face of Prada and Allesandro Dell’Acqua), paint, and sculpt. Last fall he published his first book, a collection of his own photographs, under the title, The Sun’s Coming Up Like a Big Bald Head.

Although Reedus has acted in many indie movies, including cult fave The Boondock Saints, it’s his Walking Dead character that has electrified his career. And while the show’s body count is high, fans have made it clear they wont take kindly to Reedus’s exit if, and when, that happens. “If Daryl Dies, We Riot” is a common refrain found on T-shirts, mugs, and other fan paraphernalia. “Last season, they were bringing fan mail to my trailer in this mini tractor,” Reedus recalled in a recent interview for Complex magazine, before adding: “But, think about it—it’s not that hard to look cool when you’re carrying a crossbow.”

If anyone can match Reedus’s antic energy its Eric André, whose 15-minute Cartoon Network series, The Eric Andre Show is 15 minutes of the funniest, most uncomfortable TV you will find anywhere. Andre calls it an “anti-talk-show talk show,” that undermines the conventions of the traditional format by exposing them. A typical show will begin with him smashing up his own set, and proceeds from there. Although he does interview real guests—Pete Wentz, Devandra Banhart, James Van Der Beek, to name a few—it’s his fake guests such as George Clooney or Jack Nicholson that are often the funniest. Asked what she would say to Matthew Broderick if he was in the room, “Reese Witherspoon” replies, “suck my dick—I would rather f*** two midgets on a toadstool.” Just don’t expect to find the clip of Andre dressed as a chain-smoking Ronald McDonald terrorizing the diners of a McDonald’s by growling, “you’re fired” at them all. That clip was deemed too risqué by the show’s lawyers.

Watch Part I HERE.

BlackBook 3 Minutes: Actor/Artist Norman Reedus and Comedian Eric André

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Best known for playing zombie-killing gangster Daryl Dixon in AMC’s runaway hit The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus’s route to celebrity is strange, and apparently not apocryphal: he was invited to be in a stage play after a director spotted him standing in the middle of a party, in giant comic sunglasses, screaming his head off. Given that striking performance piece, it’s not surprising to discover that Reedus is something of a jack-of-all-trades. In between his intense shooting schedule, he finds time to model (he has been the face of Prada and Allesandro Dell’Acqua), paint, and sculpt. Last fall he published his first book, a collection of his own photographs, under the title, The Sun’s Coming Up Like a Big Bald Head.

Although Reedus has acted in many indie movies, including cult fave The Boondock Saints, it’s his Walking Dead character that has electrified his career. And while the show’s body count is high, fans have made it clear they wont take kindly to Reedus’s exit if, and when, that happens. “If Daryl Dies, We Riot” is a common refrain found on T-shirts, mugs, and other fan paraphernalia. “Last season, they were bringing fan mail to my trailer in this mini tractor,” Reedus recalled in a recent interview for Complex magazine, before adding: “But, think about it—it’s not that hard to look cool when you’re carrying a crossbow.”

If anyone can match Reedus’s antic energy its Eric André, whose 15-minute Cartoon Network series, The Eric Andre Show is 15 minutes of the funniest, most uncomfortable TV you will find anywhere. Andre calls it an “anti-talk-show talk show,” that undermines the conventions of the traditional format by exposing them. A typical show will begin with him smashing up his own set, and proceeds from there. Although he does interview real guests—Pete Wentz, Devandra Banhart, James Van Der Beek, to name a few—it’s his fake guests such as George Clooney or Jack Nicholson that are often the funniest. Asked what she would say to Matthew Broderick if he was in the room, “Reese Witherspoon” replies, “suck my dick—I would rather f*** two midgets on a toadstool.” Just don’t expect to find the clip of Andre dressed as a chain-smoking Ronald McDonald terrorizing the diners of a McDonald’s by growling, “you’re fired” at them all. That clip was deemed too risqué by the show’s lawyers.

Stay tuned for Part II from Norman and Eric, coming soon.

BlackBook 3 Minutes: Artists Leonardo Drew & Paul Pagk

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Existential crises — we all have them. As an artist, there’s even the potential for post-mortem existential trouble. Just consider that the grave of Piet Mondrian, one of the great artists, was hardly remembered until two of today’s artists stumbled upon it, entirely unremarkable, in a cemetery in Brooklyn’s Cypress Hills.

The discovery of Mondrian’s grave jolted painter Paul Pagk and sculptor Leonardo Drew — what would they leave behind? A body of work, hopefully remembered, and a forgotten body? Here the two ponder their future legacies, and the legacy of those around them.

BlackBook 3 Minutes: Andy Cohen and Billy Eichner Part II

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One afternoon in January, Andy Cohen, the grinning, gleeful, garrulous host of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live sat down to chat with Billy Eichner, the grinning, gleeful, garrulous star of Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street. Eichner had been on Cohen’s show a few times, and Cohen—an avid booster of social media—is a keen follower of Eichner’s hilarious Twitter feed (sample: “Just remember – without Ringo Starr there would be no Beyoncé”) which has become essential reading during awards season. Cohen and Eichner, not surprisingly, have a lot in common—not only are they Jewish and gay and funny, they also enjoy Girls, love Fashion Queens, and adore Madonna. Well, what else did you expect?

If you missed Part 1, can you find it here.

BlackBook 3 Minutes: Andy Cohen and Billy Eichner Part I

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One afternoon in January, Andy Cohen, the grinning, gleeful, garrulous host of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live sat down to chat with Billy Eichner, the grinning, gleeful, garrulous star of Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street. Eichner had been on Cohen’s show a few times, and Cohen—an avid booster of social media—is a keen follower of Eichner’s hilarious Twitter feed (sample: “Just remember – without Ringo Starr there would be no Beyoncé”) which has become essential reading during awards season. Cohen and Eichner, not surprisingly, have a lot in common—not only are they Jewish and gay and funny, they also enjoy Girls, love Fashion Queens, and adore Madonna. Well, what else did you expect?

BlackBook 3 Minutes: Composer Clint Mansell and Writer Irvine Welsh (Part II)

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If, like me, you were lucky (and old) enough to have attended the UK premiere of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting in Edinburgh in 1996 you would have been aware of witnessing a cultural moment. Part of that was Boyle’s kinetic filmmaking—a much-needed jolt in the arm of a moribund British movie industry dominated by period dramas and genteel comedies. Then there was the alchemy of a cast that included Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and a terrifying Robert Carlyle, as well as barmaid-turned-actress Kelly Macdonald making her debut as Diane, the underage girlfriend of McGregor’s heroin addict, Mark Renton. And, crucially, there was the political landscape into which the movie was born—the tail end of 18 years of Conservative rule that had decimated Britain’s industrial base.

More important than any of these things, however, was the scabrous novel by Irvine Welsh, a boiling cauldron of fury and outrage leavened by the antic, madcap exploits of a group of pals desperate to find their next fix. The idea of a literary “event,” seems almost quaint today, but the 1993 publication of Trainspotting—really a series of short, interconnected stories—was a seminal moment that connected to the kind of readers not typically courted by the publishing industry. The fact that is was just voted Scotland’s favorite novel of the last 50 years illustrates how lasting its impact has been even if the novel’s principle concern—Scotland’s chronic drug culture and the epidemic of AIDS it spawned—is less resonant than it once was.

Welsh did not rest on his laurels—seven novels and four collections of short stories have followed, including Filth, a picaresque tale of a misanthropic, coke-snorting psychopathic Scottish detective. Despite being described by Welsh as “unfilmable,” a movie version has just been released in the U.K. to raves, particularly for James McAvoy’s performance in the central role, and it will be a lasting shame if it doesn’t find the audience it deserves. And as Trainspotting drew power from the propulsive techno of Underworld’s seminal track, “Born Slippy,” so Filth is elevated by the sepulchral beauty of composer Clint Mansell’s score.

Best-known for his long working relationship with Darren Aronofsky, Mansell grew up in the U.K. at a time when the attitude and spirit of punk was rousing a generation of frustrated teens. For Welsh, the call-to-arms was The Sex Pistols; for Mansell it was The Ramones. Both men would channel that spirit into their work. As lead singer and guitarist for Brit rock band, Pop Will Eat Itself (aka The Poppies), Mansell enjoyed modest success, cracking the U.K.’s top ten with the 1993 single, “Get The Girl! Kill The Baddies,” and later befriending Trent Reznor (Mansell plays backing vocals on NIN’s The Fragile).

The break up of The Poppies in 1996 might have been the end of Mansell’s career in music but for a random encounter with Aronofsy who was looking for a composer for his debut movie, Pi. The two bonded over their mutual despair at the state of filmmaking in general, and film-composing in particular. Requiem for a Dream—arguably Mansell’s best-known score—followed, and the commissions have come thick and fast ever since. “I’m not very analytical really; everything I do is based on gut feelings,” Mansell told BlackBook earlier this year. “My job is to embellish the universe that the filmmaker is trying to create with this story and images and performance; everything I do has to be true to that world.”

BlackBook invited Welsh and Mansell to chat about the art of story telling, the power of punk, and what it means to help articulate a cultural moment.

(See PART I on their conversation HERE)

Marina Abramović‎ and William Basinski Inhabit an Eternal Moment

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As fearless and ferociously talented as she is seductive and passionate, iconic performance artist Marina Abramović has spent more than forty years challenging herself and engaging audiences with her work. As a pioneer of performance art, she has created some of the most vital early works of the movement, putting her mind and body at the forefront as the medium, and offering herself to her audience no matter the danger. When we spoke to Abramović back in 2012 for the release of The Artist is Present—a documentary chronicling her seminal performance exhibition at MoMA—she told us:

I don’t have any personal life so it was not complicated, everything is public and all my work is available to everybody. I show all aspects of myself—fragile, strange, dramatic, kitschy, whatever. And I think being vulnerable, the public can also project their own vulnerability into my persona, which makes them closer to me and I’m closer to them.

And as her most personal work to date, Robert Wilson’s viscerally and visually stunning The Life and Death of Marina Abramović (now onstage at the Park Avenue Armory), re-imagines her remarkable life—from the tortured Yugoslavian childhood of her past and her decades of work as a performance artist to her love affairs and what the future will inevitably bring. Starring Abramović as both herself and her mother, she performs alongside an incredibly athletic Willem Dafoe and bellowing Antony Hegarty. Amalgamating music, theater, sound, design, physical performance, and visual art, the “quasi-opera” encompasses all facets of performance, bringing the audience on a fragmented and abstract immersion into the emotional and psychological landscape of the artist’s extraordinary life.

From the early beginnings of her career, Abramović has used her body as a vehicle for expression—and Wilson’s show, in which she gave him complete freedom to tell her story, is no exception. With her art, she creates a unique dialogue between herself and audience, asking the public to watch as she tests the mental and physical limitations of the human body. She solicits the viewer to participate in the experience, creating a conversation and critique of social norms and boundaries of everyday actions and interactions. Having been raised in former Yugoslavia to militant parents, her childhood was imbued with an incredible sense of discipline and structure which has fueled her abilities as an artist, but also created an extreme emotional distance that has created a deep yearning to love and be loved. And in that great expression of physicality in her work, she manipulates our conception of time, slowing down the clock to embody the notion of time’s illusion to inhabit an eternal moment.

And if there’s any other artist whose work echoes that temporal element, it’s avant-garde electronic composer and master of brilliant sound William Basinski—who collaborated with Wilson, Abramović, and Hegarty to create the powerful music for The Life and Death of Marina Abramović. As one of the most fascinating composers in the world, he too has been perfecting his craft for decades now. After being greatly inspired by Brian Eno’s melancholic Music for Airports and the work of Steve Reich, Basinski began experimenting, investigating just how far he could go with the tape loops that have now gone on to garner him both the acclaim and following that has been slowly building for over twenty years. His immersive soundscapes drone on and on, shifting your consciousness—stripping bare the artifice of time and allowing you to inhabit that eternal moment. From his early work to The Disintegration Loops and now his work with Abramović, his music lives in an ineffable realm that’s as delicate as it is harrowing and extremely powerful in its absolute beauty—especially heard here upon the stage.

“In the concerts, I usually do one long set because the whole point is to try and get out of this body and this worry and this nonsense and just take a little vacation, fall in. And forty minutes can go by and it feels like five, so that’s the ideal situation. It’s like meditation, you have some relief, you sort of go back into the womb,” he once told me. And although having never met previously to the collaborative experience of the show, Abramović have fallen into a natural simpatico, both in their work and personally.

Now one of the most revered and legendary artists—with a show that immortalizes her career— Abramović took some time while getting her stage makeup done to talk to her dear friend Basinski to discuss the physical and mental limits of expression, inhabiting an eternal moment, and the state of the art world today through their seasoned eyes.

Check back here for Part II of Marina and William’s conversation tomorrow.

Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz & Louisa Rose Allen (aka Foxes) on Insanity, Twitter, and Tattoos (Part I)

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Pete Wentz knows something you don’t: Louisa Rose Allen, aka Foxes, had one of the best singles of 2013.  Her galloping, anthemic “Youth,” put critics on notice, and set high expectations for her debut album, due next March. Name-checked as one to watch by Katy Perry, and fawned over by music bloggers and critics (“She’s almost too perfect,” sighed The Guardian’s Caroline Sullivan), comparison to Britain’s long line of distinctive female troubadours, from Kate Bush to Florence Welsh, was both inevitable, and fitting.

So far, though, Allen’s biggest hit is her collaboration with Zedd on the club hit, “Clarity,” which reached number 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Chart in November, scored a performance on Letterman, and clocked a Grammy nomination. Wentz himself got to work with Allen earlier this year when she contributed guest vocals to “Just One Yesterday” on Fall Out Boy’s fifth album, Save Rock and Roll (in the video for the song, Wentz spews up snakes, vomits blood, and terrifies a young girl in a tutu; Foxes is a whole lot easier on the eyes, but not as innocent as she first seems).

The two found time to catch up and talk web etiquette, music influences, and tattoos.