BlackBook Archives: In and Around LA With Uffie

It took Uffie three years to finish her debut album. Now that it’s finally done, the Paris-based hip-hop MC takes a much-deserved break to revisit her West Coast hangs (May, 2010). 

“You can’t just pull an album out of your ass,” says Uffie, the 22-year-old rapper, by way of accounting for why it’s taken her three years to finish her first record, next month’s Sex Dreams & Denim Jeans. “The other stuff I’d done was just for fun. I had to find my style, musically, and my artistic confidence.”

Her 2006 EP Pop the Glock brought her to the attention of the international club scene and propelled three years of continuous touring. It was the birth of her daughter Henrietta last October (the father is Parisian graffitist and nightlife player André Saraiva) that finally pushed Uffie to get o the road and into the studio. Once there, she recorded the album’s lead single with Pharrell, her favorite hip-hop artist.

Although being a mother hasn’t tempered the Paris-based singer’s willingness to talk explicitly about sex—on “Pop the Glock,” for example, she calls herself a “badass bitch/ I’m rated X/ I’m gifted/ Ain’t gotta sell sex”—it has changed her entire perspective on life. “Your child is the only person in life you love more than yourself. I don’t want to spend as much time wasting my youth in the clubs. She’s a reason to get up in the morning.”


Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.34.20 AM

Dim Mak Studio

4953 Hollywood Boulevard

This is the office of my friend Steve Aoki’s label, Dim Mak Records. It’s also a store where they sell their merchandise. We play poker here and it’s a general hangout a er shows, especially after this weekly gig on Tuesday nights at CineSpace [6356 Hollywood Boulevard]. The Dim Mak team is a great group and they’re involved in all of the festivals. I met Steve at one of my first gigs at the Winter Music Conference in Miami in 2007 and we’ve been best friends ever since.

image

Amoeba Music

6400 Sunset Boulevard

I came here for the first time in 2007. It’s the biggest record shop ever. It’s cool how they have both new and used stuff. It has every kind of music you could want under one roof. I got a Joy Division album here and I like to browse through the hip-hop.

image

Skylight Books

1818 North Vermont Avenue

If you’re out shopping at the vintage clothing stores in Los Feliz, you can get a little brainwork in here at the same time. Skylight is my favorite independent bookstore in L.A. It’s intimate and well laid out. Two of my favorite writers are Bret Easton Ellis and Michel Houellebecq. I like contentious, dark stuff.

image

Fred 62

1850 North Vermont Avenue

They have a front patio, which is key for me. You can people-watch without being too close to the street. The bright colors and retro-kitsch décor inside are fun. This place has great comfort food, like my favorite, mac ’n’ cheese. I left the U.S. for Hong Kong when I was 4, so I didn’t get to spend ample time in diners as a teenager. I still regret missing out on prom and the whole American college experience.

Photography by Zoey Grossman, Styling by Brett Bailey Makeup: Tsipporah using MAC cosmetics, Hair: Judd Minter using Bumble and Bumble, Stylist Assistant: Danielle Defoe. Second image: Coat by Jeremy Scott, Third image: Jacket by Marni, Fourth Image: Jacket by KTZ, Catsuit by Betsey Johnson, Shoes by Doego Bolcini

Karen Elson, ‘The Ghost’ Who Rocks

Not that you would ever have occasion to look it up, but there are no direct flights from Manchester to Nashville, which might explain why it took model Karen Elson nearly a decade to trek from her birthplace to Music City, where she now lives with her rock-star husband, Jack White, and their two children. But the journey—the grit of her hometown and the country flavor of her adopted one—all make themselves felt on her raspy, lo-fi debut album, next month’s The Ghost Who Walks. “In fashion,” Elson says from inside midtown Manhattan’s Ace Hotel, “I can’t ever truly be myself. What music brought out in me is gigantic. The first time I played Jack one of my songs, I just cried.”

In casual conversation, Elson lights up when talking about Nick Cave, ’80s pop group This Mortal Coil and the surrealism of 1930s Paris, an endearing surprise coming from the onetime face of Yves Saint Laurent, Prada and Chanel. Similarly, The Ghost Who Walks plunges right into the heady stuff, opening with the sinister title track (it’s also the nickname given to her by bullies when she was a child), a graphic murder ballad strongly reminiscent of Cave’s “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” Then there is “Last Laugh,” a love letter to her two children—framed within the context of the apocalypse. From the haunting “The Birds They Circle” to the down-and-out desperation of “Mouths to Feed,” Elson takes listeners through a litany of sorrows, cruelties and savage injustices. Of all this despair, she shakes her head and says, “We’re all such fools, human beings.”

image

Elson is well aware of the stigma associated with her professional detour and fully expects that indie nerds may receive her album with disdain. (Though perhaps they aren’t aware of her other outfit, The Citizens Band, a subversive theater troupe that took on Wall Street profligacy last October with the musical The Debt Rattle.) That White, the founder of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, whom Elson met in 2005 on the set of the music video for the Stripes’ “Blue Orchid,” produced her album won’t do much to endear her to this crowd. But—nepotism be damned—it does give the record a convincing, hardscrabble sound.

image

Also adding to the record’s authenticity is Nashville—a city that, like Manchester, she reckons “can never be fully explained except through music”—where she has lived for the past five years. “If I had written these songs in New York, they probably would have been much more cynical,” she says. “In New York, people are motivated by success and money. It’s not about being good at what you do. It’s about being good at hustling. Instead, this is a very honest record.”

Top Image: Robe by Agent Provocateur, Shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo. Second Image: Dress by 3.1 Phillip Lim, Shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo.Third Image: T-shirt by Alternative Apparel, Jeans by Levi’s. Sittings Editor: Christopher Campbell, Hair: Cali Devaney, Makeup: Jami Harris, Photography By Mark Squires Location: Third Man Records, Nashville, TN.

KAREN LIKES: Cafe Gitane.

Sleigh Bells Ring It On With Their Debut Album ‘Treats’

Following last October’s CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival in New York, there were, as expected, a number of previously unknown bands from Brooklyn being raved about on music blogs. Sleigh Bells, a duo whose tender vocals are ripped apart by pounding guitars, blown-out beats, distortion and a whole lot of dancing, led the pack. (Pitchfork hilariously labeled them “the best beat-based boy-girl duo going in New York City.”)

Perhaps the positive reaction should have been predicted: M.I.A. doesn’t just bike over to every new band’s house to discuss the possibility of producing their record. But the “Paper Planes” firebrand did that very thing after listening to a few songs by composer, guitarist and percussionist Derek Miller and lead vocalist Alexis Krauss, riding over to Miller’s place to put together a deal. “A friend of hers played our music, after which she wrote to us out of the blue,” says the 28-year-old Miller, who grew up in Pahokee, Florida. “She said she loved our music and wanted to work with us. She wasn’t even halfway about it, which was inspiring.”

Expectations are high for Treats, the band’s debut album (out this month on Mom + Pop in collaboration with M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. label), thanks in large part to the storm they created on the music festival circuit, most recently at SXSW. “The first few shows after CMJ, there were lots of crossed arms and pens out,” says Miller. “Honestly, that’s fine. It’s not fun to play to journalists, but they create opportunities for us by writing all this shit.”

Miller comes from hardcore—he was a guitarist for Florida-based outfit Poison the Well—a genre that tends to attract an angry or alienated crowd, but “Derek is a happy-go-lucky guy,” says his former bandmate, drummer Chris Hornbrook. “He’s also very intense. He always wanted to do something percussive. His grandfather was a drummer.”

Krauss, too, has music in her blood. “My father is a full-time musician, so music has been a part of my life since I was very young,” says the 24-year-old New Jersey native and former schoolteacher, who also did time in RubyBlue, a teenybop quartet. “I worked my ass off between the ages of 13 and 16. And as packaged as it was, there was definitely a lot of creativity in RubyBlue. But I had no intention of returning to music until I met Derek.”

The pair found each other two years ago at a Brazilian restaurant in Brooklyn called Miss Favela. Krauss was getting drunk with her mom; Derek, who had come to New York in search of a female vocalist, was their waiter. “I wasn’t working in music at the time, but my mom was like, ‘Alexis is a singer!’ We started talking about a project, and then I heard what he was working on and absolutely loved it.”

If Treats lives up to its hype, how do Miller and Krauss intend to spend their earnings? “Underwear. Toothpaste. Beer,” says Miller. “I imagine Alexis would buy a box of pencils and some yogurt.”

Photo by Phil Knott.

Movie Reviews: ‘Splice’, ‘I Am Love’, ‘Solitary Man’

I Am Love – In the mannered melodrama I Am Love, director Luca Guadagnino invites us into the lives of the moneyed Recchi family through its kitchen. With painstaking, extended close-ups, he focuses on the Recchi servants as they place, with trained precision, flatware on whiteclothed dining tables. All of this structured pomp is a metaphor for the traditions that stifle the spirit of the clan’s gracious matriarch, Emma (Tilda Swinton). But when Emma meets her son’s friend, a chef named Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), she breaks out of her routine and the focus on cutlery disappears. Their initial spark explodes into a full-blown, all-consuming, gorgeous Italian affair, which climaxes when Emma is forced to choose between the stability of her past and her risky, lustful reawakening. As a caged bird desperate to escape, Swinton has never been better. —Nick Haramis

Solitary Man – At 65, Michael Douglas can still walk the walk. Over the opening credits of Solitary Man, he strides through the streets of Manhattan, cutting a trim, handsome figure—and his character, Ben Kalmen, knows it. That’s his problem. Ben is well into his midlife crisis: he has already left his wife (Susan Sarandon), already destroyed his high-powered career and already bedded scores of pretty young things. Broke and unfocused, he is charming to the point of smarminess, a good time to the point of being unethical (he believably and creepily seduces the 18-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, Jordan, played by an icy Mary-Louise Parker). He’s also a liability as a father, grandfather and friend. Needless to say, he’s fun to watch. —Willa Paskin

Looking for Eric – On paper, English director Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric overflows with indie-movie clichés: troubled, middle-aged postman Eric Bishop’s life is falling apart; his sons don’t listen to him—and one of them is mixed up with a gangster; he’s still in love with the woman he left when he was in his twenties; and he’s having conversations with a figment of his imagination (the great Manchester United soccer player, Eric Cantona, who plays himself in the film). The hallucinated life coach even convinces Bishop (Steve Evets) to seize the day and take control of his circumstances. But credit goes to Loach for bringing his characteristic low-key realism to bear on the project, extracting the twee and leaving the sweetness. If the movie’s culmination feels a bit stagey, the naturalistic conversations and good cheer between friends balance it out. —W.P.

Splice – Director Vincenzo Natali’s (Cube) latest film is a cautionary tale, but it’s never clear against what, exactly, we’re being cautioned: Post-millennial parenting? Science as big business? The lust for power? Geneticists Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody), a young married couple who work for a pharmaceutical company, combine animal DNA to make throbbing slime-blobs. After Elsa throws her own genes into the spin-cycle, she and Clive welcome into the world an ersatz daughter—one with gills and wings—named Dren (Delphine Chanéac). There are moments of sci-fi beauty in the film, which is shot through with all kinds of creature-making tricks, but they’re too infrequent to make up for the story’s icky subplot, in which Clive puts the “orgasm” back in “organism” by bedding his pubescent progeny. —N.H.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money – For a certain kind of scumbag, the life of“über-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff might make for a heartwarming bildungsroman: a college Republican grows up and gets rich shilling for crooked countries, bribing congressmen and screwing over Native American tribes. For everyone else, it’s a sobering look at the sad, corrupt circle-jerk that constitutes modern life in Washington. Oscar winner Alex Gibney’s documentary is far less ham-fisted than the works of his liberal peer Michael Moore, and his use of source material—an email exchange between Abramoff and his co-conspirator Michael Scanlon that includes hilarious frat-boy hip-hop slang like “You da man”—is impeccable. Footage of a dapper, teenage Karl Rove is, on its own, worth the price of admission. —Scott Indrisek

The Porn Supremacy: Sasha Grey Interviews Terence Koh

Sasha Grey is a 22-year-old adult-film superstar who, with only four years of experience in the business, has already appeared in more than 200 movies. Grey is firmly planted in that world, but she seems not of it—she’s not stereotypically blonde, bubbly or bland and can hold her own when discussing the writings of Carl Jung (though she does excel in a three-way scene). She crossed over to the mainstream last year in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, but immediately and unabashedly returned to porn.

Terence Koh is a 32-year-old mixed-media artist who regularly uses his own bodily discharge in his confrontational and controversial work, often selling it for suitcases of cash. Unlike most gallery darlings, Koh eschews all-black, super-serious nihilism in favor of bright colors and cutesy affectations (when writing, he uses words like “coolio” and “greato”). He recently partnered with the equally outlandish pop star Lady Gaga (he designed the black piano with protruding arms she played at this year’s Grammy Awards) in Tokyo to perform as one-half of GAGAKOH!, which is where Grey found him.

“It’s an honor to be interviewed by you, dear Sasha,” he writes, from his hotel in Japan. “I really loved The Girlfriend Experience. I have never seen so much straight stuff in my life. I had to take off my gay glasses. Anyway, I’m excited for you to ask me all these questions!” She jumped right in.

SASHA GREY: In 2007, you sold your gold-plated feces for $500,000 at Art Basel. Now, you’re selling it on your website—without gold plating—for $150. Why sell it for such a low price? It is, after all, still your feces. TERENCE KOH: I personally believe that any of my feces, gold-plated or not, should be worth its weight in gold. But I wanted to sell it at a lower price-point for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford me. I try to be democratic, especially when it comes to my poop.

Speaking of which, what was your last movement like? I just had one at the airport lounge. I am super-duper phobic of germs so I hate to use public toilets. I have to cover every single surface of the toilet seat and even then I think it’s completely disgusting. It makes me dizzy thinking that there are piss stains on the seat. Sometimes I sneak into the women’s toilets because they are usually much cleaner.

Using the Google Voice Search app on my iPhone, I said the first sex-related word that came to mind. I chose “butthole.” But it didn’t work and instead typed “bible.” Aren’t they the same thing? They are both symbols of godly power. God comes from our assholes because we’re most human when we’re on the toilet.

image

Many great artists have been able to take negative stereotypes and reclaim them for their own positive use. Are you trying to do this through identifying with punk and queer aesthetics? How are you so astute about the art world, dear Sasha? When I create, I honestly don’t think about it being punk or queer or gay or faggoty or whatever—the ideas kind of pop into my head. I like to think of it as art pooping. I poop out an art idea, fully formed, when it’s ready. And then I try my best to take that idea and make it a reality.

Can you describe your taste in men? My favorite men are athletic, tall and black because it’s like having a dark night fucking you. It’s like the whole universe is fucking you and the stars are little sprinklings of pre-cum.

You seem to have a very dominant personality, yet most would people assume you’re submissive in bed. Am I right to assume you like a little power struggle? You are completely, exactly, perfectly right. I am the world’s happiest bottom, but I am a power bottom. I like to get fucked a certain way and at a certain speed. I want them to cum on me first. I want to control everything.

I’ve often addressed the lack of leading Asian men, with the exception of action stars, in mainstream films and adult films. What are your theories on this imbalance? There definitely need to be more Asians in films of all kinds. As a gay Asian, I have always felt like a niche within a niche: only a fraction of people are gay, and an even smaller fraction think that Asians are attractive. That leaves about 0.008 percent of people who would want to fuck me. And that’s kind of depressing because I would like to be popular. I want to be the most popular artist in the world.

image

Anna Paquin’s Killer Road Trip Playlist

I feel kind of stupid saying that music inspires me,” says Anna Paquin, during her morning commute to the set of HBO’s vampire drama True Blood, in which she stars as Sookie Stackhouse, a big-hearted waitress with a thing for the undead. “I love music, but when I try to narrow it down, to describe it, I feel dumb.” The 27-year-old Oscar winner recently acquired a new outlook on the power of the playlist. “I just learned to drive, and I’ve discovered the pleasure of good driving music,” she says, “especially now that I’m confident enough to have noise around me when I’m behind the wheel.” Fully immersed in True Blood’s third season, which premieres next month, Paquin admits that she has been too busy to search out new songs, so it’s helpful that Stephen Moyer—her real-life fiancé and love interest on the show—came into her life with a large music library. “A lot of the music I listen to comes from him,” she admits. “I think he has half of iTunes on his computer.”

Lady Gaga’s “Teeth.” I’m sure that everyone else on the planet jumped on the Lady Gaga bandwagon long ago, but I was just introduced to her music last month. She has this amazing voice and, honest to God, it sounds like this song was written about our TV show. It’s great workout music.

Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People.” This one is a throwback to my sad, little goth-girl adolescence. It’s been on my playlist since I was 14, when I dyed my hair black and wore kneehigh Doc Martens. I went to a Marilyn Manson concert about two years ago, and there were no teenagers in the audience.

Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host.” This is embarrassing, because my taste in music hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. This was on the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and it wasn’t on any of Radiohead’s albums at that point. Stephen and I got tickets for the Haiti benefit they did a few months back, so I finally got to see them in concert. It was a tiny, amazing gig. I’ve missed hearing them perform so many times that I’d stopped trying. I’d get tickets and then get a job far, far away, almost to the point where if I were superstitious about it, I’d have started buying Radiohead tickets just to get the jobs I really wanted.

Johnny Cash and June Carter’s “Jackson.” This was my theme song when I was auditioning for the role of Sookie. June Carter has a sassy Southern galtype voice that my coach and I worked with to get Sookie’s accent just right. I love their banter at the beginning of the song, him saying naughty things and her being cute and flirty about it.

Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire.” I love bands that still make rock music.

Anna Nalick’s “Wreck of the Day.” She’s a singersongwriter in the vein of Aimee Mann, very sweet and slightly melancholic. When I’m trying to get into the mood for a scene, I’ll listen to a song like this. Sets are noisy places and if you’re trying to get into a less happy place, it’s good to have some way of tuning all that out. I usually put together a playlist of songs that make me cry, and this is one of them.

Mark Ronson’s “Toxic.” This is a cover of a Britney Spears song. Mark Ronson and Ol’ Dirty Bastard covering Britney is pretty funny.

Modest Mouse’s “Bukowski.” I have to plead complete idiocy because I’ve never actually read any Charles Bukowski. I may seem it, but I’m not particularly book-smart. I don’t sit around reading important philosophical texts. There’s a perception that if you’re not someone who smiles all the time, then you’re someone who sits around reading tortured literature. I’d rather ride my bike to the beach.

The Puppini Sisters’ “Crazy in Love (The Real Tuesday Weld Remix).” They’re an electrosinging trio, a throwback to the ’60s and they remixed the Beyoncé song. I was obsessed with this one for quite some time.

Fiona Apple’s “Parting Gift.” I’ve loved her for so many years. She’s an icon for sad-girl singer-songwriters everywhere. I don’t think you’re allowed to be a tortured teen, in the most on-the-nose pretentious way possible, without having listened to Fiona Apple. This song has interesting insight into relationships—but not the one I’m in right now.

Photo by Peggy Sirota.

Rufus Wainwright: Long Day’s Journey Into Night

“I’m not trying to say anything specific with the heels and makeup,” says Rufus Wainwright, dressed on a dreary spring afternoon in a silk robe and ruby red pumps, a nod to his muse, the late Judy Garland. Scanning the streets of Manhattan from the balcony of his former home at Chelsea Hotel, he adds, “I’m just naturally a bit of a chameleon.”

And sure enough, a few hours later, the 36-year-old performer’s flamboyance has faded away when he sits down at a booth inside the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar, dressed in black. Wainwright is in mourning. In January of this year, his mother, Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle, died of cancer. She and Wainwright shared a special bond—“The kind of romance that is typical of gay boys and their moms,” he says—and his loss is on display in his dark clothes, puffy face, tired eyes and the lingering hug from his publicist.

Mother and son had a long goodbye, jetting to Venice, Paris and Rio de Janeiro—even performing together at London’s Royal Albert Hall—during the three manic years after her diagnosis. Their adventures culminated last July when McGarrigle attended the premiere of Prima Donna, Wainwright’s first opera, at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, England. Wainwright appeared in full-on dandy mode, attired on opening night in a foppish top hat that he paired with a sleek, black overcoat. The costume, along with his bushy beard, was an ode to his musical idol, Giuseppe Verdi. (Style matters to Wainwright. Of an $11,000 brooch he recently purchased, he says, “When you’re in mourning you really understand the importance of luxury items. Silk and diamonds and caviar definitely become profound ways to connect.”)

Wainwright’s sixth studio album, All Days Are Night: Songs for Lulu, a stormy, sometimes conversational pastiche of theatrical reflections, touches on this period, containing lyrics like, “My mother’s in the hospital/ My sister’s at the opera/ I’m in love, but let’s not talk about it.” Singing these words brings him back to a time before his mother’s death. “They pertain more to a kind of parallel existence where her death was always looming and I was always sort of grappling with it,” he says. But now that his mother is gone, so is any lingering confusion. “Death is final. It’s clear-cut. I know what’s up and what’s down again.”

image

All Days Are Night isn’t exclusively about the loss of his mother—it’s also about the loss of the younger Rufus, the one who indulged in so much crystal meth that he temporarily lost his vision, the one whose earlier sexual appetites involved strangers and dangers he no longer entertains. While his days of drug use and promiscuity are gone, they’re not forgotten. “In all of these years of good, clean living, I’ve found it necessary to personify my dark side in order to identify it,” he says. “Decadence is my favorite thing.”

That’s where Lulu comes in. Wainwright has recast the erotic and adventurous vaudevillian, portrayed by Louise Brooks in G.W. Pabst’s subversive 1929 melodrama Pandora’s Box, as his muse and surrogate. She is a conduit through which to explore the depravity of his past dalliances without having to relive them. “I fully enjoyed that life for a long time,” he says. “That cross-dressing joy-seeker is still alive and well in me, and so I chose to identify her as Lulu. Whenever I see her, through my mind’s eye, walk into the room and witness a situation that I would enjoy, I put her in her place and leave. She is a dark force that I adore and worship, and this album is, in many ways, a sacrifice to that idol.” Also empowering Wainwright to walk away from activities Lulu might enjoy is Jorn Weisbrodt, his partner of five years.

“Before I entered into this relationship, I was a card-carrying hedonist of the highest homosexual order,” says Wainwright, who has recently gone public with his desire to marry the German arts administrator. When he speaks of Weisbrodt, it’s with glowing intensity. He describes him as a “gorgeous creation,” and while he recalls with fondness trips they’ve taken to Venice, nights out at the opera and sex on a deserted beach, it’s the banal things that tie them together. “We can go to the passport office together and we won’t kill each other,” he says. “It’s these little things we do that we don’t have to freak out about, which is, I think, what it’s all about.”

Though he says he still “follows the teachings of Oscar Wilde”—advocating a type of sexual freedom that, Wainwright insists, homosexuality allows—he no longer lives those teachings. (Read: he’s monogamous.) Chalk it up to sobriety, his serious relationship or the simple fact that Wainwright is getting older. “I’m now more prone to admire someone for his youth without needing to devour him,” he says, with a theatrical burst of laughter. “Besides, after a while, it’s a pain in the ass taking off your boots.”

image

image

Photography by Martin Schoeller. Styling by Christopher Campbell.