Santogold Helps Trouble Andrew Find His Second Calling

What happens when a Burton-sponsored Olympic snowboarder irreparably tears his ACL (knee) at the height of his career? My guess is that most boarders would just retreat to the backcountry for a while to hole up in haze of frustration, and eventually open up an overpriced snowboard camp for kids in Tahoe. However, if your best friend and fiancée is the hotter-than-hot musician Santogold, and she helps you rehab by channeling your rebellious snowboarder mentality into songs, you might end up finding your second calling. That’s exactly what Trevor “Trouble” Andrew did a little over three years ago, and now his group is shredding stages (and the occasional slope) with their fresh crunk-rock sound. After a show last week at the Mercury Lounge, members of Trouble Andrew sat down with us in the venue’s bunker-like basement. Amongst beer boxes filled with empty bottles, Trouble Andrew, guitarist Joao Salamao, and bassist Masa took us behind the music.

So, Masa, let’s start with you. Is your head sweaty under that fedora? Trouble: You should see his hair under that. We told him not to cut it off. It looks like a helmet. Masa: It’s Lego hair. Trouble: You know, the little Lego guys. That’s what Masa’s hair is like.

Joao, I see a wedding ring. Masa, are you married? Masa: Yes and no. Trouble: Not married, but Santi and I have been engaged since last Christmas.

Do you ever feel like you are cheating on your wives or girlfriends with your art? Like music as your mistress? Joao: What a weird question … Maybe? Trouble: No, because my partner is a musician and she totally gets it.

How did you meet Santogold? Trouble: We met at an event six and a half years ago, when she was in the band Stiffed. After that, we would talk every day by phone. Then, when I injured my knee snowboarding in 2005, I had to stop boarding and rehab it for nine months. So I moved to Philadelphia where Santi lived, and she encouraged me to write down the lyrics in my head and helped me work them into songs.

If the universe hadn’t provided her inspiration and practical help, do you think you’d be here now? Trouble: I think it would have happened a lot later, that’s for sure. Originally, I only wanted to make music for myself and the snowboard kids. I wasn’t looking for success in the commercial sense. I already had that kind of success from snowboarding. But as I continued writing and performing, I now understand that the hustle is so the music can reach people. I mean this crunk rock won’t stop, you know?!

How does training for a professional sport compare to training for music? Trouble: You’ve got to really love what you do in order to succeed in it. I’ve been snowboarding since I was very young, and I remember way back, Shaun White’s mom being at the top of the half pipe being like, “Let Shaun drop in.” I consider skateboarding and snowboarding like art and in that sense. Shaun is a fucking great athlete and artist. For musicians and athletes, to succeed it takes great determination and dedication.

Going Goo Goo for Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, nee Stefani Germanotta, is a 22-year old New York native singer/songwriter whose debut album, The Fame, features dizzyingly danceable tracks like the aptly titled, “Just Dance,” “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich,” and “Paparazzi.” Thanks to a high/low art musical mix-n-match, and a futuristic glam-girl persona, the musically trained Gaga (whose name is a play on Queen’s “Radio Gaga”) is inevitably headed towards major superstardom. After starting with open-mic nights at the Bitter End and becoming a must-see act on the New York club circuit, she quickly landed a major deal with Interscope Records. Here’s our candid interview with the disco sister, and don’t worry, we didn’t know who Joe Biden was either.

Can I call you Lady GaGa on the phone right now or is that weird? Sure, call me GaGa.

OK GaGa, what was your first word? Oh my gosh!

Oh yeah girl, I’m coming at you with some doozies, so be ready. Oh my God, I’m really going to have to think about that.

We can go back to it. I think it was Daddy. I think it was Dada.

OK, and what music did your parents listen to when you were growing up? Oh my God the best. Like Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, like the best shit ever.

Was it hard with your parents to let you move to New York when you were 17? Actually, I grew up in New York.

In the city? Yeah, in the city. So I moved out after a year of college. Actually, I moved out after high school, and then I dropped out of college. So that was the hard part, when I dropped out of school.

Because? Because I didn’t want any help from them. I didn’t want any money, I didn’t want anything. I just wanted to live on my own, make music, and do it the right way.

Yeah, let’s get into your music and your training. I was watching one of the Transmission Gagavision webisodes, and you mentioned the profound impact that Rilke’s “Letters To A Young Poet” had on you. How does high art, like Rilke, relate to pop music? You know, I think that pop is considered to be very lowbrow. And I really love Andy Warhol and what he did to make pop culture figures iconic, and how he took commercial art and made it fine. He made fine art out of, I don’t know, commercial … the concept of commercial work. And that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s pop music, but it’s art. It’s pop art music.

It’s interesting because on one hand, it’s really accessible music. The vocab is very accessible, but then you have this kind of classic outlandish style that people can just rock in a mall in Minnesota. Also, the lyrics are pretty drifted. Like if you listen to “Paparazzi,” the song seems to be about one thing. But then you really dive into the lyrics, and it’s about a lot more.

You wrote a new song on Britney Spears’ album and have written for the Pussycat Dolls, right? Yeah it’s true.

So do you get high? [Laughs] Do I have to get high writing them?

How do you channel the place where you know you are writing super-seductive lyrics for sexy singers, even though it’s not really your persona? How do you get into their zone? The idea is to always to write a hit.

How do you know when you have one? In the sound, it makes you dance, it’s undeniable, and you know when it’s not. I’m really good at knowing when it’s not.

One of the things I wanted to talk about is race. What you’re doing is kind of cross-racial, working with R&B cats like Akon, and also more electric musicians. Do you consider racial factors when making hits? Yeah, it’s really true. It conquers race boundaries in terms of the audience, and I also cross sexual boundaries, with straight audiences and gay audiences. It’s funny, I played a show in San Francisco this weekend, and it was supposed to be a gay night at a club, and it was not just gays. It was gays, it was straights, you know, men and women. It was black, it was white, it was Asian — it was everybody all showing up on a gay night.

What are some of the things you think are sexy? I think intelligence is really hot. I think that “Love Game” and “Poker Face” are really sexy because the lyrics are just smart, but it’s about sex.

Oh, “Poker Face” is about sex? I was going to ask you who has a better poker face, Lauren Conrad from The Hills, or Joe Biden? Who?

Joe Biden. Who’s that?

The Vice Presidential candidate running with Barack Obama. Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Please don’t put that in the interview! I’ve been on tour in Europe, and I haven’t watched the news in like five months. But I am voting for Obama.

How many interviews have you had, like 11? Um, yeah.

I’m sure we’re all asking the same questions. How do you keep it fresh? [Laughs] Yeah, you are keeping me on my toes! I am really grateful for what I do. I really love it, so it’s not fake with me.

How much does the Kelis’ “Bossy” video influence you? It seems similar to “Beautiful, Dirty Rich” in many ways, including you writhing on money, compared to Kelis writhing on jewels. Well, Kelis was actually on flowers when she did that in “Bossy.” I remember because I do like that video, but a lot of people have done that. Pharell Williams and Ludacris did it in the “Moneymaker” video. I could name so many hip-hop videos that have done that, and that was the idea. I wanted to take the idea of women and video — and I don’t think we’ve ever seen a white rocker chick with a hard edge like me — do a hip-hop iconic image like that in a serious way; not making fun of it. So that was the idea. The song is not about really being beautiful and dirty rich, it’s about having no money, and no matter who you are, or where you come from, being able to embody fame, art, and your culture, in a way that you can feel beautiful and dirty rich, no matter what.
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Diesel Founder Renzo Rosso Wants to Give Obama Some Jeans

From the get-go, one notices Diesel founder Renzo Rosso’s two R tattoos bedecking the knuckles on the ring finger and flip-‘em-off finger. In response to my comment (cool tats), Rosso answers, “They are my initials,” in the way he answers all questions: coolly and matter of fact. Other facts — Diesel turns 30 old this year. Fact: Diesel has more jean variety than Baskin Robbins has ice cream flavors. Fact: Diesel stores always have loud music roaring, often spun by an in-house DJ. Personal fact: My first encounter with Diesel was courtesy of Vanessa, the Venezuelan exchange student in 9th grade, who blessed the halls of Asheville High (North Carolina) in the sickest pair of rocker jean shorts I’d ever seen.

It only seems right, then, for the founder of Diesel to be as beguiling a human as Vanessa’s shorts were back in 9th grade. With his fantastically blue eyes, unruly salt-and-pepper hair, and a gut instinct that has yet to fail him, Renzo Rosso has done for Diesel what most denim companies don’t dare to dream — he has remained relevant as a trendsetting brand for three decades, and Diesel is still the coolest.

How does the fashion business today compare to 30 years ago? In the past, [fashion] was about one pair of jeans or one single item. Today, it is a whole lifestyle, a collection. Business today is much more difficult. Now you must be perfect in every single area of the company: logistics, finance, production, marketing. Every single area must be developed; otherwise it just doesn’t work.

How would you describe American style? America is a little bit more conservative, in general. They need a little more time to change. Not so much the new generation, but the older generation has a little more resistance.

In light of the current economic crisis, what investment piece should everyone have? A pair of jeans! A pair of jeans is a good investment because you can wear them anywhere, and they make you feel free. Jeans mean the weekend; jeans mean freedom, blue sky, and green gardens.

Do you remember your first pair of jeans? Of course! The first pair of jeans that I bought … I was 12 years old. It was a very good day for me. When I was younger, you had to wear the trousers from your older brothers, but those were my first new pair.

A lot of Diesel jeans look like they have been passed down from brother to brother, with the fading and distressed look. Does that have to do with it? Maybe, yes. And now we are opening our first vintage store in Osaka and a second one in Milan, where we collect all of our vintage items from the 70s, 80s, and 90s and sell them.

What’s up with the new Black and Gold collection? Is Diesel moving in a more high-end direction? No, with Diesel we stay just as we were when we were born — young and with fresh blood. My dream is for Black and Gold to address the new consumer who is approaching the luxury market with a more casual mentality. You cannot offer traditional luxury that is difficult to wear, like too classical or … tight. New Luxury is more casual and easier to wear.

Music seems to play a big part in the Diesel experience. What music are you loving right now? I love music. It is very important to see how artists work and develop. Fashion and music are deeply connected. Right now I am listening to Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, and Kanye West. Nonetheless, I was born with rock. I am a rock man.

If you had to go to jail immediately, and could only bring three things with you, what would you bring? A pair of jeans, of course. Then I would bring my mobile. No wait, actually my Blackberry because with the Blackberry I can also have my mobile. After that, I’d bring my running shoes.

What kind of running shoes? Saucony.

How often do you run? Not every day. But two or three times per week. And my trainer comes to my home for yoga.

Do you consider yourself a businessman or an artist, primarily? I am the combination of the two. I am very creative, but I have a real sense about how to do business. And because I am not the best at details, I have an incredible staff that keeps me organized.

If you were an animal, what would you be? I would be a catoblepas or something.

A what? A caterpillar? No. It’s like a lion, but different.

A cheetah? But the black ones.

A panther? Yes, panther.

What advice would you give someone starting out there careers? If you believe in something, believe in it 100 percent. Find the path to what you believe in. And when you want to do something, be sure to do that something differently than what already exists.

What did you have for breakfast today? Fruits, yogurt, and tea. Normally I have fruits, yogurt, and tea.

What is your favorite place on Earth and why? New York City. When I was a kid, America saved Italy from the war, and my parents taught me that Americans are the best people, and America is the most fantastic country in the world. When I arrived here for my first time, 30 years ago, I was totally in love. Every time I come back here, on the way from the airport, I feel like I am back home.

Are you paying attention to this election? Yes, I am paying attention. I like Obama because he is fresh, and thanks to the color of his skin will be a good contribution to the old world.

Would you give him a pair of jeans? With pleasure.