Premiere: Lauren Flax Remixes 18-Year-Old VIENNA’s Wistful Single, ‘What Are You Waiting For’

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When you’re the granddaughter of disco legend Donna Summer, music comes second nature. Delivering the same soulful vocals as her iconic grandmother, 18-year-old VIENNA’s sound pays homage to her family roots, while still looking to the future—a sleek, synthesized stamp on the landscape of contemporary pop that sounds wonderfully fresh on her new single, “What Are You Waiting For.”

We caught up with the rising artist to discuss being inspired by her famous family, moving to Nashville and listening to Radiohead with her dad. Stream VIENNA’s latest track, below, and hear an exclusive remix by Brooklyn-based DJ Lauren Flax.

Who inspires you?

“Definitely my grandma. I watch videos of her all the time honing in on her craft, and it always reminds me that if she can do it, so can I. My mom also inspires me—she always listens to what I have to offer and inspires me when she sits down at the piano and plays some things she wrote.”

Where are you from? 

“I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland, but moved to Nashville when I was 8, and I’ve been here ever since. And it’s music city—the opportunities here are endless, and there are always places to go and play out or people to write with. This town has really shaped my style of music.”

What was the process like making this new single for ReverbNation’s single series, The Watch List?

“Definitely something new. I can say I’ve never done anything quite like this before. It was refreshing getting to collaborate and get a new perspective and look on writing. It was definitely work, but completely worth every second. When I went to New York, me, Simon and Dave sat in the studio just singing whatever melody came to mind and recording it—that was fun. I’ve loved getting to see things from a different lens and really stepping outside my comfort zone of what I normally write. It’s been truly incredible and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”

 

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Describe your songwriting process.

“Depending on what I feel, I’ll either write the melody or lyrics first. If you write the melody first, you have a foundation where you can fit in the lyrics how you want and write them accordingly. If you end up writing the lyrics first, you can find a melody according to that, so it’s usually whichever one I feel first. Sometimes I sit down and just play the piano, and a melody will spring from that. Other times I’ll be incredibly inspired and driven to a theme, and lyrics will come flooding in.”

What are your short term and long term goals as an artist?

“Honestly, and I’ve always said this, [my goal] is to change people brought my music. Growing up, music was the one thing that in a sense held me together, and shaped me. I want to be able to do that for people. Whether they need encouragement, or something to relate to what they’re going through, I want to be able to inspire people to do what they love and let people know that they are far from alone. Short term I would say would just be trying new styles and really seeing the different ways I can flourish as an artist.”

Who are some of your favorite artists, new and old? 

“My current favorite artists are Frances, Saint Motel, always and forever the lovely Johnnyswim and Cage the Elephant. I wouldn’t say these artists are old school in any way, but I’ve always loved Ed Sheeran, Regina Spektor and Imogen heap—especially Regina Spektor and Imogen heap [because] these are people I grew up listening to. Me and my dad listened to Radiohead growing up so I’d say them and Coldplay were huge influences in the way I write and process lyrics.”

 

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David LaChapelle, Liberty Ross, and Giorgio Moroder Walk Into a Bar…

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Clubs in Los Angeles suck for the most part. They usually have a shelf life of about a month, and unfortunately are soon overtaken by the L.A. equivalent of bridge and tunnel, (those from the other side of the hill, aka The Valley).

But tucked away on Sunset Boulevard, there is an oasis — an invite-only haven for those who want to dance the night away without the glare of camera or paparazzi. Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of Giorgio’s, a nightclub filled with nothing but disco, disco, disco at The Standard Hotel in Hollywood. Sure, the celebrity quotient is high, (think Daphne Guinness, Mick Jagger and Dita Von Teese,) but that really doesn’t matter; what makes Giorgio’s such a scene is its mélange of guests: actors next to hair stylists next to CEOs. Though this is 2014, Giorgio’s is every bit Studio 54, run by impresarios DJ Adam XII (who spins for President Obama) and Bryan Rabin who was described by friend Michael Des Barres as “Steve Rubell without the coke,” in the Hollywood Reporter’s 2013 story on the club.

Saturday night’s crowd was every bit of Giorgio’s personified: photographer David LaChappelle danced on a piano bench; Jody Watley performed as Russel Simmons, “Mad Men” costumer Janie Bryant, and Liberty Ross grooved the night away. But most importantly perhaps, the club’s namesake, Giorgio Moroder was in attendance, hosting. (For those of you who don’t know who he is, he basically all but invented disco, creating songs like “Love to Love You Baby” with Donna Summer).

For both owners, the highlight of the evening came undoubtedly at midnight, a culmination of their first year beneath the mirror ball:  disco queen Jody Watley performing not one but three songs, including “Happy Birthday” as a birthday cake (in the shape of a record) was rolled out followed by a massive confetti explosion.

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What I’m Missing: Zac Efron, Domi Dollz, and Rob Zombie

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I’ve been a busy bee of late and have missed so many events that I would have loved to attend. Most notably, I couldn’t attend the Magadeth-Rob Zombie concert at the PNC in Jersey. That hurt.

Saturday I was DJing at Bantam for Tatjana Gellert’s birthday bash. It was hours of music from Donna Summer to Rob Zombie to LCD Sound System to Blank Dogs to Iggy to Tuxedo Moon. I was all over the place for the fun and beautiful crowd. The only place I couldn’t be was with my friend Robert Escalera  who is in from LA to offer up a film and cocktail event with the cast and crew of a movie produced by his favorite charity, the Zeno Mountain Farm.

According to its site:

"Zeno Mountain Farm is an organization that runs camps for people with and without disabilities. Everyone works together so all can experience a life full of creativity, adventure, fun and community. Typically, each camp has a theme that helps to focus and unify the group. The themes include but are not limited to filmmaking, theatre, high challenge sports, music, adventure travel and art."

The event was at the Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street. The movie is called Finding Zac Efron.

"When Zeno Film camp cast member and Zac Efron-uberfan Elizabeth gets sick, the Zeno gang springs into action. They decide to find Zac Efron and get him to go cheer Elizabeth up. They scour the city of Los Angeles to find Zac… But what they discover is beyond anything they ever expected! Finding Zac Efron stars all the Zeno Gang, plus cameos by Ted Danson, Lou Ferrigno, Mario Lopez, Joe Manganiello, and others… Is Zac in the film? … You have to come and see for yourself!"

Well, I couldn’t come and see, and I don’t know if Zac was in it since I was at Bantam. I urge you to check it out. Robert worked with me at all my hot spots of the ‘90s. His role varied, from my right hand to the heel of my left foot. He was almost as invaluable as he thought he was. He is joining me at the Bowery Poetry Club for BINGO tonight. I’ll get there early to explain to him how to play the game.

On Thursday I will DJ again, this time at Bantam and, as usual, Hotel Chantelle. Therefore, I’ll miss that night’s Domi Dollz event at the Museum of Sex. It starts at 7pm and is the most fun… for people interested in sex. There are sexy Doms and subs and they serve aphrodisiac cocktails and everybody laughs and feels frisky. They are so good at it that, they have, in the past, been able to teach an old dog like me… some new tricks.

What To Keep In Mind This Memorial Day Weekend (Slideshow Inside)

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And suddenly it’s summer. Memorial Day weekend will happen mostly elsewhere, but I love the empty city and will use the time to relax, reflect, and regroup. I most note the death of Robin Gibb reportedly from a cancer which could have been treated if only he had taken a test. I had no contact with Mr. Gibbs. I once tried to book the Bee Gees for the Palladium for New Year’s Eve, but my high offer was about one-third their low. The loss of Robin Gibbs, Donna Summer, and Adam Yauch from cancer way before any reasonable expectation of life sends a shudder through me. There are no guarantees, there are no guarantees. I do believe the rain will stop and this summer will be hot, Al Gore-hot, but the now-keener awareness of my immortality is embracing the rain and all the other miracles I enjoy every day.

I almost went to Vienna this year for the Life Ball. It was held in Vienna, Austria at its City Hall last Saturday, May 19th. The world’s flamboyant, fabulous, and fierce gathered as they have for the last 20 years. Party planner Kevin Crawford tried to coax me to go with him and his, but alas, I couldn’t swing it. His entourage included my dear friend Marko Kalfa, who sent me these wonderful photos. Around us, people are still suffering from AIDS. People are dying far before their time. From the amFAR website:

"Life Ball is the world’s most extravagant HIV/AIDS benefit. Held annually in Vienna, Austria, Life Ball combines the great Viennese Ball tradition with glamorous, outlandish performances and inspirational speeches. Organized by the AIDS Life Association, Life Ball has raised more than $22 million during the past 19 years for HIV/AIDS projects worldwide through partnerships with amfAR, the William J. Clinton Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and UNAIDS. Through the Life Ball, the AIDS Life Association has been a major supporter of amfAR’s TREAT Asia Pediatric HIV/AIDS Initiative."

This year, Life Ball celebrated its twentieth anniversary under the banner “Fight the Flames of Ignorance.” Attending Life Ball for the first time, Milla Jovovich was amfAR’s representative. “For me, Life Ball is about solidarity,” she said. “It’s a wonderful example of how people and organizations coming together can change the world.

As you head out into the weekend and all its glory, think preemptively, and think of how precious life is and drive slow… be safe and have fun. Talk to you Tuesday.

The First Time I Heard and Saw Donna Summer

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The news of Donna Summer’s death from cancer at the age of 63 shocked me out of my un-routine routine. I went to iTunes and downloaded half a dozen of her hits for use last night while DJing at Hotel Chantelle. Although it is the rockiest of rock nights, with a high probability that everybody in attendance had at one time owned a "Disco Sucks" T-shirt, it felt important to pay respect. At 3am I started mixing disco hits – and every other song was a winner from Donna. The crowd responded. It was "Love to Love You Baby," "Love Hangover", “Bad Girls,” and then Gloria Gaynor’s, "I Will Survive". Diva after diva… and the crowd went wild. The sound of well-produced dance music over a solid club sound system is one of the unique attractions of nightlife. “McArthur Park” was a near-religious experience. They ooo’d and ahhh’d and understood the loss as her voice rang clear.

I first heard “Love to Love You Baby” on my third date with a stewardess back in the mid ‘70s. We were hanging with her stewardess friends at their stewardess apartment when the record was put on. It was put on to turn me on, as I had been missing the hints that my world-weary stewardess was tossing tired of waiting for me to make my move. I caught the eye contact between her and her co-conspirators and understood my job. The 17 minutes of moans in “Love to Love You Baby” was worth a thousand words. After that affair, I retreated to my rock world, aware of Donna Summers’ hit factory but not very interested. Although “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” and her other mega-hits dominated disco – the most fun era in club history – I was a rock and roller and remain so. I was grunge before there was a name for it. I was a punk with ripped jeans and Ramones T’s. Disco was for the bad cologne, the polyester set.

Over the decades, her anthems were heard at parties and disco nights. She was unmistakable, undeniable. Her voice held even the disinterested in awe. Around 1989 I had the Red Zone, a popular club in the West 50s.

We had booked a Donna Summer event where she was to openly apologize for something she had denied even saying. She was quoted as saying "AIDS was a punishment from God for the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals.” She wanted her gay family to rejoin her, rejoice in her. In 1989 we were all losing scores of friends to AIDS-related illnesses. The hideous statement from a diva whose fan base was the gay community was beyond dumb …if it were true. Few believed her denials, and the event was being held to clear the air. ACT-UP disagreed and picketed the event. Donna never left her limo and that was that. Her protestations and lawsuits did little to regain her lost fans.

Over the years, I would hear a track on the radio or at a club and was awed by her talent…her way of hanging every impossible note and underlining every lyric. It was mid-last decade and I was asked if I wanted to see her perform at some corporate affair at Exit, another club in the far west 50s. Owner David Marvisi figured I might want to see her, but no one I called cared, no one wanted to go. I went alone. I stood in the sound booth, 15 feet above and in front of the stage, and waited. I had no expectations. I had no idea what I was going to see.

She came out in complete darkness, singing the intro to “McArthur Park” and I got goose bumps. It was beyond amazing. When the beat came on so did the lights and she was a DIVA, DIVA, DIVA. The corporate suits flocked the stage to see what all their money had paid for. Donna delivered. I welled up with tears. She was an overlooked star playing to an un-hip corporate card-crowd. The crowd should have been queens, hipsters, club kids, and the wonderful instead of the mundane. She gave them her hits and smiled that show-biz smile, but all I could feel was what could have been.

Donna Summer’s death is a stop-the-presses event. I was to tell you about a bunch of things today in detail, but a few lines will now have to do. On May 18th through the 20th, Roseland Ballroom hosts the New York Tattoo Convention. Clayton Paterson, a friend and organizer, was hooking me up with a photo of man-about-town Steve Bonde for a story, but… in short, he was the Stray Cats photographer back in the day and started this tattoo convention stuff in 1998. He wrote a couple of books: Tattoo with an Attitude and Marked for Life. Everybody in the ink community is going – and so am I.

I was also to discuss the end-of-season run of Daniel and Derek Kochs’ unstoppable hit brunch “Day and Night” at Ajna Bar, 25 Little W.12th St. I would also have talked about the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javits Center on May 19-22 where you can see all the furniture and fixtures of next year’s clubs in advance.

Lastly, I would have mentioned the piece in yesterday’s NY Times about Justin Ross Lee, international man of controversy. In that, the Times referred to me as "an authority on nightlife.” Now that I am official, I’m going to put down the pen, grab a diet Ginger Ale, and sit back and listen to "Last Dance."

Donna Summer, Dolly Parton, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ Added to LOC National Recording Registry

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Disco enthusiasts are still reeling over the death of roller-rink royalty Donna Summer, and less than a week after her passing, one of her most iconic anthems, "I Feel Love," was named as one of 23 recordings that will be added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry this year. And she’s in fine, if not eclectic, company, from Dolly Parton’s "Coat of Many Colors" to Bo Diddley’s "I’m A Man" to an Edward R. Murrow conversation, Love’s Forever Changes and Booker T. & The MGs’ groovy instrumental "Green Onions": 

Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was added, a timeless holiday classic which introduced jazz to children for a generation and became culturally relevant for an entirely different reason thanks to Arrested Development

More legendary pop music works added include Prince’s landmark Purple Rain, Sugarhill Gang’s hip-hop watershed "Rapper’s Delight" and Parliament’s Mothership Connection. The most surprising part of all of this in our humble opinion is that “Rapper’s Delight” wasn’t already in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. You’d think that would have been added years ago. Same goes for Purple Rain. Ah, well.

For the full effect of Summer’s disco classic, a club staple during the summer of 1977 and anthem of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, watch this almost spiritual live performance from that year. Summer will be missed, but her music is truly invincible: 

Prince, Donna Summer Make National Recording Registry

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Among the new music that will reportedly be added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry today are some surprising gems.

According to ArtsBeat, the registry has chosen to include in its hallowed archives 25 “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” recordings. Some of those that made it are Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” a live, 1977 performance by The Grateful Dead, Prince’s soundtrack to Purple Rain, and the Love stunner Forever Changes.

Not sure what constitutes a national treasure of a recording? Check out our favorites below.

Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love"

Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”

Love’s “Bummer In The Summer"

The Grateful Dead’s “Morning Dew”

Your Daily Guide to Trending Topics

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Every day there are some topics that are trending. Since many of them don’t make sense, we provide easy contextualization. Also, this way, you won’t actually have to know anything about anything.

Facebook IPO
If Facebook had a dollar for every time someone did a Google search about its stock… Oh, wait, it’s about to. Everyone’s searching for info on Facebook stock because at 11 a.m., when the Nasdaq Stock Market opens, the company’s stock will be available to the public — not really, but the Master of the Universe who will later make a fortune selling it to the actual public — and the company will establish its worth at what’s expected to be about $104 billion. Watch out, folks, a lot of pasty computer types in the Bay Area are about to get exponentially more attractive.

Eduardo Saverin
Because today is going to be all Facebook all the time — sorry, Donna Summer! — people using Google are curious about Brazilian-born Facebook founder Saverin (Andrew Garfield from the movie, kids), who’s doing his best to explain away the recent news that he’s expatriating to Singapore. The web entrepreneur, who supposedly owns about $2 billion worth of the social network, now says he’s not attempting to avoid paying taxes on what’s going to be an enormous windfall today. "My decision to expatriate was based solely on my interest in working and living in Singapore, where I have been since 2009,” he said to Forbes. “I am obligated to and will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government. I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen."

Elin Nordegren
Who cares about Mark Zuckerberg and pals when Tiger Woods’ ex-wife has told her friends she’s looking for a stable relationship. This is the shit that makes the world go round, Yahoo! readers! Anyway, the Norweigan beauty has apparently sent banking scion boy-toy Jamie Dingman packing and is looking for someone who can be a proper step-dad to her two kids. Meanwhile, her ex was just named the most powerful athlete in the world, which can’t make her feel any better on those long, lonely nights curled up in a mansion with her massive fortune.

Tebow Cease and Desist
The intrepid Yahoo! users who are searching out news on virginal Tim Tebow’s cease-and-desist lawsuit must be wondering why the Jesus-loving football star can’t turn the other cheek. You see, a company called Cubby Tees is making knock-off New York Jets shirts that turn the Jets logo into something that says “My Jesus,” not too different from those Coca-Cola rip-offs that say “Cocaine” and things of that nature. But because Tebow is the Jet most closely associated with the guy upstairs, he’s pissed! In a letter, his lawyers wrote, “"The Merchandise makes it appear as if Mr. Tebow actually endorses Cubby Tees and its products.”

#IReallyWantTo
Oh, Twitter. Even when there’s news happening and the world is changing, sometimes you just like to sit there and play with your bellybutton lint, don’t you? Today on the site, the phrase “I Really Want To” is trending, so people are posting their hearts’ desires. It’s awful.

I Really Want 1

I Really Want 2

I Really Want 3

Remembering Donna Summer, The Queen of Disco

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TMZ, the bastion of breaking celebrity death news, is reporting today that Donna Summer has died after a long battle against cancer. The Queen of Disco, who recorded such hits such as "Bad Girls," "Hot Stuff," and "Last Dance," was reportedly working on a new album. She was 63 years old. After the jump, take a look at some of her best performances, including some of the most ground-breaking dance hits she recorded with famed Italian producer Giorgio Moroder. 

Here’s the super sexy "Love to Love You Baby," as performed on The Midnight Special.

Another collaboration with Moroder, here’s the thumping "I Feel Love" complete with those fierce synths and Donna’s lovely voice.

And finally, "MacArthur Park." Let’s all leave a cake out in the rain for Donna, you guys.