‘Super”s Ellen Page & Rainn Wilson on Vigilantism, Misogynistic Pigs & Kevin Bacon

Although he appears in 2007’s Juno for just a few minutes, Rainn Wilson’s quip, “This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet,” which he says to Ellen Page’s title character, became one of the most quoted lines from Diablo Cody’s verbose, hilarious, and Academy Award-winning script. (Page was also nominated for an Oscar for her performance as the pregnant and conflicted protagonist.) After spending a day shooting his scenes for Juno in British Columbia, Wilson, now 45, took Page for a drink and cemented their friendship.

When Wilson, most recognizable for his portrayal of Dwight Schrute on NBC’s hit series The Office, met with filmmaker James Gunn to discuss the latter’s balls-out vigilante tale, a midnight-black comedy called Super, they knew the film needed a strong female lead. They were looking for an “Ellen Page type,” but couldn’t quite decide who that was, so instead of scouring agencies for imitations, they went straight to the source. Wilson, who also appears alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman in this month’s Hesher, emailed the 24-year-old Canadian actor to gauge her interest in playing Libby, a comic book store employee who befriends Frank (Rainn Wilson), a scorned everyman who conceives of Crimson Bolt, the superhero alter ego he adopts in his quest to win back his wife (Liv Tyler). Together, Crimson Bolt and Boltie (Libby’s superhero name) do battle with drug-peddling heavies and a sweetly sickening Kevin Bacon. Bolt attacks his targets with a wrench. Boltie runs people over in her car. It’s all very Sam and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, but with sex and less hairy feet (hers anyway).

From their homes in Los Angeles, Page and Wilson reminisce about spandex and discover their mutual appreciation for Salt.

Were you at all apprehensive about being in such a violent film? ELLEN PAGE: Even though I have a hard time with violence, I didn’t have any reservations about this film. It doesn’t always seep into my brain that—[The sound of a chiming bell indicates that Rainn Wilson has been connected to the conference call.] Fancy you showing up.

RAINN WILSON: I always get on conference calls four minutes late, because it’s not so late that it pisses people off, but it’s just late enough to show how important I am. What are you guys talking about?

We were just acknowledging the violence in Super. RW: I was talking to a friend the other day about that movie with John Cusack where the world gets destroyed—2012? In it, something like five or six billion people die, and it’s the most preposterous thing you’ve ever seen in your life, but no one really talked about the violence in that movie. They just talk about the special effects. In Super, about 11 people die and a few get bashed in the head, but people are so freaked out by the violence. The reason why the violence doesn’t bother me is because I think the movie makes a statement about violence, which has to do with this world where we’re like, Are these people insane or are they heroes? What’s the difference between a vigilante and a superhero? What are the real effects of violence? I don’t want to give anything away, but with Ellen’s adorable character, we really see the consequences of people trying to play superhero. Without the violence, the movie would feel false.

EP: When I did Hard Candy, which is also a vigilante movie, I was constantly getting comments about the violence. Men would chuckle and say, “I don’t want to go anywhere near you!” But every time you turn on the news women are being raped, murdered, and left in dumpsters. It’s the beginning of every Law & Order episode. I don’t know how this happened, but I watched Salt last night, and, sweet Jesus, that lady kills a lot of people. She is just constantly killing people.

RW: In Salt, she blows away 347 people, but it’s a movie about how badass Angelina Jolie looks in leather pants. The camera doesn’t linger on the smoldering, decimated skulls of the people she’s just killed, and it doesn’t show the families weeping at their funerals. image

You know who could die in Super without too many tears? Kevin Bacon’s character. RW: I was 11 years old when I first saw him in Animal House, and he’s always been so memorable in—[A beeping noise indicates that someone has been dropped from the call.]

Did Ellen just hang up? Maybe she didn’t feel like talking about Kevin Bacon. RW: Let’s just come out and say it: Kevin Bacon broke her heart. Seriously, though, I think his characterization is unlike anything we’ve ever seen him play before. He’s so sleazy and charming, and you really just want to put a gun in his mouth. [The chiming bell indicates that Page has been reconnected to the conference call.]

EP: Sorry, sorry! I got knocked off! I’m a huge Kevin Bacon fan—I think any self-respecting person is a Kevin Bacon fan—although I didn’t get to work with him in this movie and I’ve never met him. But I still think I’ve earned the right to say there are zero degrees of separation between us since we’re in the same movie.

Along with Kick-Ass, Super exemplifies a larger trend in film, one that ignores big-budget superhero epics in favor of smaller pictures about regular guys who take it upon themselves to fight crime. Why do you think that is? RW: There are so many superhero films coming out, and there are more and more on the way because they’ve proven to be box-office gold. Get a young star with six-pack abs and put him in a tight outfit, then tell audiences the story of how he discovered he was a superhero and watch the magic happen. Super is a reaction to that. It’s like the real Watchmen, or the underbelly of the superhero tale. Superheroes are like the myths of our time, like our Greek gods, but the way studios package these stories for 14-year-old boys isn’t all that true to their roots.

Having worked together, however briefly, in Juno, was it easier to share scenes in Super? EP: When I trust someone, I’m better able to uninhibitedly pour myself into a character. Rainn and I have a sex scene in the movie that’s kind of delicate—well, not delicate in the way it’s acted out, but delicate for an actor to shoot. I don’t immediately connect to being a sexual predator, so it felt especially strange for me, but it’s so easy when you’re working with someone like Rainn. He takes the craft very seriously, but he doesn’t take himself very seriously. I’m crazy about the guy to the extent that he’s someone I miss, and you don’t always miss, or stay in touch with, your costars.

You two recently joked on Twitter that you’d consider co-starring in a remake of The Bodyguard. What would that version look like? RW: In my low-rent version of The Bodyguard, Ellen Page is the lead singer of a punk band, let’s say Sleater-Kinney, and I’m the doorman at a place like…

EP: Echoplex? Spaceland?

RW: Spaceland! I’m the doorman at Spaceland and she’s a singer in a punk band. I realize that some jilted ex-lover of hers is planning to take her out, but I don’t have a gun or a walkie-talkie in my earbud. All I have as a weapon is…

A clipboard? RW: Yes, that’s right! I’d defend her honor, we’d fall in love, and then we’d make love all night, surround by coyotes, up by the Silver Lake Reservoir tower. EP: It’ll be just like the original, but mixed with a little (500) Days of Summer.

Almost everything we say or do is documented and archived online. You’re both computer-literate, obviously, and so I’m curious to know if you read what’s written about you on blogs. EP: I read some stuff, but not in any OCD manner. My relationship with the internet comes and goes. I think it’s kind of rad that I get to be alive during a time when there’s all this new shit that’s super-relevant and changing things—like YouTube, which made that little kid from Canada ridiculously famous. Who knows if all of this technology is healthy or unhealthy, or what the fuck it all means, but it’s fascinating and I’m curious about it.

RW: When I first created my Twitter account, I read all of the @replies I got. When I started getting known for The Office, I’d read what people were saying on the IMDb message boards, but I got so bummed out by all the negative stuff. Say there’s an online clip of me doing something. If someone enjoys that clip, they’re not going to write anything. It’s only angry, unemployed screenwriters or teenagers from Des Moines with pencils in their butts who anonymously write their hate screeds. My life is so much better than reading about why some pimply fan of the English version of The Office hates me.

EP: As an actor, there came a time in my life when people were suddenly writing about me, which is a weird transition unto itself, realizing that my name somehow resonates with random people I’ve never met. That’s still such a weird concept to me. I’ve read insanely horrible things about myself on the internet, which can be really overwhelming when you’re 21 and it’s about things that are extremely, invasively personal. At one point someone wrote that he would rape me, and I think that’s when I was like, Um, okay, I’m now done reading these things.

RW: Ellen… that was me.

But he feels really bad about it. RW: I’m sorry!

When did you two become friends? EP: I wouldn’t necessarily call us friends. RW: I only spent one day on the set of Juno, but Ellen and I had a great time together. I was such a huge fan of hers because she’s so funny and low-key and real. After that, we stayed in touch. EP: And then we became butt buddies! RW: On set, whenever one of us shouted “butt buddies,” we had to find each other and jump up and down, rubbing our butts together. There’s nothing like butt cheeks and spandex, rubbing up against each other in a friendly, butt buddy kind of way.

Sounds like a Platonic hoot! EP: Who said anything about Platonic?

Adam Goldberg: Fine and LANDy

On April 8th of this year, Billy Bob Thornton appeared on CBC Radio One with his rockabilly band the Boxmasters. After being introduced by the program’s host, Jian Ghomeshi, as an actor with a prolific film career, Thornton regressed into monosyllabic petulance, each response punctuated by the disinterest of an ersatz Dylan. And, given the recent resurgence of performers who love to act and sing (from Scarlett Johansson and Zooey Deschanel to Jessica Biel and Terrence Howard), Thornton’s reaction has become the bellwether for how we address crossover stars. It’s difficult, when speaking to a performer best known for his cinematic work, not to discuss his films, especially in the case of Adam Goldberg, whose career over the past two decades has included stand-out performances in Dazed and Confused, Saving Private Ryan, A Beautiful Mind and The Hebrew Hammer. But, after just one listen to Eros and Omissions, a hypnotic, meditative debut album featuring songs that Goldberg wrote over the past six years, one can’t help but want to focus on LANDy, Goldberg’s musical alter ego. Assured, fractured and, at times, downright nasty (On “BFF,” Goldberg sings, “So your parents didn’t love you? Well, now mine don’t as well”), the album swells and shivers like a forlorn lover lost in a downpour. Here, days after news broke via Twitter that his ABC show “The Unusuals” had been canceled, Goldberg discusses his second act.

Billy Bob Thornton was criticized for lashing out against a radio host who mentioned his acting career during an interview about his band’s music. Can you understand the impulse? I don’t know that I would spell it out so explicitly, but I can understand Thornton’s reaction to this guy who was like, “What’s the matter? Being a big movie star isn’t enough?” Acting only fulfills a fraction of who you are. I don’t make gazillions of dollars, so acting is how I make a living. But actors—even the most famous, successful ones—have time off between jobs. And if acting is the only means by which you can express yourself, you really are beholden to the nature of the job market. It’s frustrating to have a lot to say, and not always be able to say it, and then to be derided by some critic who doesn’t look beyond the cover. The inverse seems a lot easier—maybe with good reason.

Do you mean musicians who become actors? It does seem like a far more acceptable transition. For some reason, this seems like a revolutionary or aberrant move. But I see this as an adjunct to that creative part of me. I suppose I feel a little precious about this album, much more so than I would about an acting performance. I’m sort of hypocritical, though, because I can totally relate to the skepticism and cynicism. A long time ago—this isn’t necessarily the case now, although it might be with High School Musical—performers had to do everything.

The desire to box performers into one creative outlet seems a little reductive. Every actor or filmmaker wants that one thing that’s going to catapult him into fame, but then, unfortunately, they become beholden to that very thing. It’s different for me, though, because plenty of people have no fucking clue who I am.

You don’t deal with public recognition? There’s a certain amount of that, but it’s not a huge part of my existence. I’m about as recognizable as I can psychologically handle.

Which is an idea you explored in your second film as a director, I Love Your Work. People who were harshly critical of that film said, “It’s a naval-gazing movie about the trappings of celebrity—how dare you?” The funny is, though, that it was autobiographical to the extent that it dealt with themes like longing and the past, but I severely exaggerated the more neurotic aspects of myself and explored my lifelong interest in paranoia and schizophrenia. Basically, the concept boiled down to: If Mark Chapman became a movie star along the lines of Russell Crowe, what would happen? The stalker and the star being stalked were really two sides of the same coin—both fueled by narcissism, one “successful,” the other “not successful.”

The criticism of autobiography certainly won’t dissipate with this album, which is also centered on love and loss. The works of art that have always moved me most are made by people who’ve laid themselves bare. I’ve always been moved, beyond any kind of intellectual or theoretical hypothesis, by that which is very personal—the personal being universal, and that sort of thing. Once you start trying to appeal to too many people, you stop appealing to anybody. In music, it seems less “indulgent” than it does on film. Every time I ever felt like writing, it was to expose or “cathart,” or whatever. I never thought that anyone would ever listen to it.

Stephen Drozd of the Flaming Lips, with whom you collaborated on this album, referred to Eros and Omissions as a world of sound, which I thought was a nice, apt way to describe it. I’m a big fan of sound design as well as music. David Lynch is a great example of a filmmaker who makes incredible sound-designed movies—it’s always very difficult to tell where the sound design ends and the music begins. I can’t help but want to evoke or create some kind of space where the songs live, rather than have the songs stand on their own. I want to place them in some sort of other aural context. Boy, I sound like a pretentious asshole!

After directing Christina Ricci in I Love Your Work, she became your girlfriend. You also starred in 2 Days in Paris with Julie Delpy, with whom you had a romantic relationship. Is it just easier to work with people you’re close to and be close to people you work with? My girlfriend now is a graphic designer by trade, but she’s also a violin player and so I asked her if she wanted to play on “BFF,” and a few other tracks that we recorded last year. It just happens like that. Down the line, it would be neat to seek collaborators out, but it’s pretty essential that I forge my own path for a while before relying too heavily on another person’s aesthetic.

I’m curious about the name of this album. Its title is Eros and Omissions, but it was originally called Everything Must Go, which is actually the name of a monograph by YBA artist Michael Landy, with whom you share your stage name. Is this all simply weird coincidence? Total coincidence, although that may have been the straw that broke the album title’s back. I had thought a lot about the art for the record cover—I’d been making variations of it for years, actually. One day, I woke up and Everything Must Go just seemed a really obvious title to me. But then I found out that there was a Steely Dan record called that. And then I heard about that book, by some bizarre coincidence.

Why the pseudonym? Is it so that people don’t say, “Adam Goldberg the actor has an album out?” [Laughs] It’s a weird thing because LANDy is definitely not a band, but I don’t particularly like the sound of Adam Goldberg as a record. I wouldn’t necessarily want to buy that. Beyond that, though, there are collaborations with a lot of different people on each track, and it feels more like a project that I’m the designer or creator of—though, obviously, I’ve written the songs.

There’s also a singer-songwriter in Boston named Adam Goldberg. I’m aware of him as well. It seemed like it could cause some confusion. There is a—well, actually, I shouldn’t say that. Never mind…

What’s that? Someone on iTunes thought that the music of that Adam Goldberg was mine.

And the album got panned? Yeah.

What a shame. [Laughs] Go on.

What is the best music venue in L.A.? I’ve spent many nights—years, probably—at Spaceland in Silver Lake. I used to live down the street from there, and it was one of the few places I would stop on my way home. I saw Elliot Smith play there. I’ve also been to and played at The Echo & Echoplex. To be frank, I’m pretty shit scared of performing live.

The stakes are a little higher now. I’ve literally been losing sleep about venue space and routing systems, rather than how I’m actually going to play these fucking songs.
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Taryn Manning Does It All

Taryn Manning is exhausted. Consider the slew of film auditions, big time fashion shows in support of her Williamsburg-friendly line Born Uniqorn, getting her party on with the likes of, you know, Paris Hilton and company, and now, the March 10 release of her electro pop funk of an LP A Million Trillion Stars. As the distinctive voice fronting brother/sister duo Boomkat, Taryn’s proving that the whole actress/singer/fashion designer thing doesn’t always have to conjure up J.Lo (and we’re thankful for that, as JLO jeans still haunt us). You’ve likely come across Manning’s fearless acting chops as the no-bullshit prostitute who rocked Bo Derek cornrows in Hustle & Flow. With all of Manning’s film roles, even as Britney Spear’s knocked-up BFF in the chic-flick Crossroads, Manning keeps it real, and equally as real in life–whether it’s on the silver screen, as heard through her throaty, soulful pipes, or through an e-mail. No publicist or puppet strings of any kind hold Manning back; she’s the all around real deal in the unfortunate Taylor Swift/Katy Perry world in which we live. We talked about her Large Marge nightmares, Lynne Spears requesting her MySpace friendship, and her regrets for turning down make-out sessions with Charlize Theron.

You have a whole lot going on. Who were you when you woke up this morning? Today I woke up and my hair and makeup girl came over and she did it for the day because I have two big auditions — not a cattle call, but parts that are, you know, really awesome. But it’s really competitive so when I go into these auditions I’m seeing other actors that are my contemporaries that I really admire. I take a lot of pride in my work so I always get my hair and makeup done. But right now, I’m with my music manager. The official release for A Million Trillion Stars is coming soon so I’m just working on all of that stuff. So today I’m more of the actress-singer but I’m very tired because I just did two amazing runway shows for my clothing line. One in Vegas was for the huge trade show, “Magic.” It’s just a time when everyone goes and everyone has a booth — all of the buyers come from all over the world to see all the lines at one time. I also had a huge fashion show at Tao. And I had a big, big, giant dinner that I hosted with my partner, Tara Jane. So, I went to Vegas, then the next morning at the crack of dawn, flew home for this amazing Elle magazine runway show that had my line and Russell Simmons’. Paris Hilton and Queen Latifah are good friends of mine and they came so it drew lot of press as you can imagine. But, today I’m the singer actress. I’m really tired today. Do you believe in R&R? I told my mom: “Mom, I don’t understand. I’m sleeping 8 hours but everyday I’m not feeling that good” and she actually said “Your adrenal glands are drained.” Having to be so on and up, like “Hey, how you doing? I’m Taryn!” to buyers who only speak Japanese or French and you’re trying so hard to have a conversation with them and it’s tough. But things are really good. I’m really happy with my life, and I’m really enjoying all of the endeavors. I remember seeing you rocking stars on your face for your first album, Boomkatalog One, and now your latest LP is called A Million Trillion Stars … coincidence, or do you have a big time penchant for stars? Yeah, I still do that when I play with Boomkat — I still love to put a star on my face. It’s just something I started doing when I was really young — I don’t know, but I’m definitely like Rainbow Brite and my friends call me Rainbow Brite. My clothing line is called Born Uniqorn, I have a unicorn tattoo, I have a tattoo of a ghetto blaster on me. I wear stars around my eyes. I’ve always just been kind of funky. It’s funny now seeing Lady Gaga wearing all of that space stuff. It’s cool, it’s on another level. I just like having that trademark to separate the actress Taryn from the singer Taryn. Now I’m in music mode because sometimes there’s the actor-turned-musician and musician-turned-actor. I’m not turned anything. I am a musician, I’ve been one my entire life. Me and my brother are, my father was, and I’m an actor. I’ve studied acting really hard, and went to a lot of schools for acting. So I believe I’m legitimately an all around little entertainer.

What can we expect from A Million Trillion Stars? The title came from a dream. Our first album was called Boomkatalog One because me and my brother have so many songs, so obviously we were gonna call the next albums Boomkatalog 2 and 3. But I didn’t always love that. I just didn’t know what to name it. It’s so eclectic and it’s been so long since I put out of a record and all of a sudden I had a dream. Do you know Large Marge from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure? She drove a truck and when Pee-Wee got in, they were talking and she looked over and her eyes would bug out of her head and she kind of turned demonic. So in my dream, she was giving me a ride in her semi. I was like, “I just don’t know what to name my record.” All of a sudden, she turned her head like in The Exorcist and her eyes bugged out of her head and she said “It’s called A Million Trillion Stars and if don’t name it that, I’ll kill you!” And I was like, “Yes, ma’am!” So I woke up, and that’s what I named it. It’s super cool and it speaks to me. So thanks Large Marge! But I never had a dream do that before where I’ve actually taken a lesson from it and used it. Do you find it a lot easier collaborating with your bro? We both respect each other and what we bring to the table. It can be hard sometimes hanging with your brother so often but we’re pretty close and he’s a really funny guy. And we’re the exact opposite, the Yin and the Yang. We’re two completely different breeds of humans which is good because I’m sort of the social kind of front person and he definitely goes home right after work and makes music — that whole mysterious artist sort of thing. So it’s a good match.

You were in will.i.am’s celeb-filled, pro-Obama “Yes We Can” video — how was being apart of something like that? That was really cool. Actually, I didn’t realize quite the impact it was gonna have at all. My friend is a really big club promoter in LA. She became very active when Obama became a candidate. She’s friends with will.i.am and she called all of her celebrity friends and I kinda just went and did it. It was really cool, there were awesome celebs in the studio. But I didn’t really know the impact it would have actually. It won an Emmy for I think best web something … some sort of award. But will.i.am is so intelligent. I believe that the video is another reason why Obama was elected. I really do.

Have any musical dream collabs? It’d be cool if Prince would write me a song. I love Prince. I’d love to work with Timbaland one day. I think he’s pretty cool. I love the way he like collaborates with offbeat artists like Nelly Furtado and Chris Cornell and sort of recreates an awesome sound for them. But Prince was my first concert when I was like five. He’s definitely a big influence for me.

Does it piss you off when other actors take a stab at singing who really aren’t that good or aren’t successful? Like Scarlett Johansson attempt at covering Tom Waits. Or do you think people are getting over that? Zooey Deschanel’s She & Him are pretty legit. It doesn’t piss me off. I’m definitely a supporter of any artist being an artist. I’m not someone who judges or is like “Oh gosh, here’s another actress trying to sing” because I get that sometimes and I don’t like the way it makes me feel. And you never know, a lot of these actors that are singing could have been singing before their acting. Or now having money or getting tired of the same outlet, they go on and explore their singing abilities. Not everyone has to have an amazing voice to be a singer. I’m not Whitney Houston by any respect but I love to sing, I love to write music. And I believe I have a lot to offer. Yeah, acting happened first but no one knows my history and upbringing and I don’t really care what people think. I decided lately that I’m gonna do it because I love it. I have fans and they like it. I definitely dream of it going to a bigger higher level so I can tour the world and reach further. You mentioned Scarlett. She’s got a pretty good voice … kind of dark and indie but that’s what she’s into. I mean, Joaquin Phoenix played Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, so he obviously has a musical side to him. He’s definitely a great actor too. I love him.

You’ve worked with two of the biggest music superstars – -Britney Spears and Eminem — who both had pretty public downfalls and now subsequent comebacks. Did you learn anything from them behind the scenes, and did they offer you any advice about super stardom? Are you afraid of becoming too big after seeing what happened to them? Eminem’s a very, very private person. You know, he doesn’t go places where you can be with him. After the 8 Mile premiere, he went home and didn’t wanna go to the after party. I don’t know much about him except he’s really nice, a big goofball — really funny. And every chance he had, he was writing lyrics in his notebook. To me, he represents a true artist that had all this inner dialogue that he wanted to get out on paper. Who knows? He could have been writing the soundtrack or a hit record. I mean, all his records were hits. It was very cool to be in that completely and cool of him to watch tapes of actresses and have a part in choosing me to play that role. Same with Britney — she saw the tapes too and chose me. And it makes me feel I’m on that level of talent. But I also think that I learned so much since I was young that I don’t think I would have any kind of public downfall. I don’t see that happening with me in particular. Britney’s been doing it since she was like 13. It’s kind of fair that she had a little bit of a meltdown. I mean, she’s been through a lot. I think she’s gonna be alright now. She’s an intelligent girl. But it was pretty incredible to work with them … definitely a highlight of career… so far. I’ll admit, I heart Crossroads and totes shed a tear (or two) after your character lost her baby … That’s funny you said that because Crossroads was on TV last night and my mom and my brother were watching it and I was like “Why are you watching that?!” But it got such a bad rap but it’s actually a sweet, little movie. And then I woke up to Britney’s mom requesting my friendship on MySpace … So, Crossroads was on last night and I woke up to “Lynne Spears wants to be your friend!” Tell me about you and your BFF’s line, Born Uniqorn. I hear LiLo’s a fan. Can us little people and recessionistas afford it? It’s very price-conscious right now. We’re keeping prices lower these days. It’s just cute and really for any girl. We try to make something for everyone to be honest. The more cleaner cut and the more simple bodies sell more than when we were trying to do something that’s kind of edgy. We really learned how to streamline our clothing line. What people wear on the East Coast can be kind of traditional; California is kind of funky. And Middle America is looking both East and West. We really had to perfect to make our sales continue to be big. We had to really sort of not style, not make the clothing for ourselves but make it for the masses. The spelling is not the traditional unicorn, it’s uniqorn — like “born unique.” It’s been a lot of fun and was just a hobby I did on my down time with my best friend of 17 years. It just kind of turned into something that got a little bit more serious and became another business of mine. I enjoy it thoroughly but it’s hard, hard work. I really hope that we can sustain it and make it happen for a long time. Should we expect to see you at the tents … er, at Lincoln Center, in the spring? We were asked to last year but we weren’t quite ready. Now we’ve done a couple so we feel like we can take on a New York Fashion Week. We’ve come a long way, but we feel like we’re really ready to keep going.

Who are your fashion icons? I definitely respect Kate Moss’ fashion sense. I think she always has the coolest outfits on–not trying too hard but always looks great. Nicole Richie’s whole … whatever happened to her was pretty amazing. I look for her for fashion ideas. I know a lot of it has to do with Rachel Zoe, but Nicole has a great frame to wear some of the things she wears. As for the classier kind of actresses — Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, and Cate Blanchett look great as far as the red carpet. But for more funky, Nicole Ritchie, Kate Moss, and also, I love Gwen Stefani. I wouldn’t dress like her but she wears whatever she wants, kind of out there, but I love it. I look up to her because of her music and her clothing line and she’s an actress–we have a lot in common.

Where do you like to shop in LA? Popkiller, Han Cholo, Shabon, and What They Wore.

And where do you like to head after a busy day for some grub? For breakfast, I like Hugo’s, and for lunch, La La’s. Some of my favorites for dinner are Ago, Madeo, and El Compadre. You’re making me hungry … Where do you go to get your music fix? Spaceland, Viper Room, Largo, and the Roxy.

Are there any film roles you would have died to play? There’s two roles I auditioned for that I wish I would have done. I sort of passed the one part to be in Monster to play Charlize Theron’s girlfriend, Christina Ricci’s part. But I didn’t want to play gay at the time. I don’t know why, I just was very ignorant and I didn’t know. But I would have done anything to play that role. I could care less now. But at the time, I was like 22 and I was scared. And I also auditioned for Million Dollar Baby and remember wanting that so bad. I know that’s kind of the role that I could do really well. Acting wise, every thing’s going well. I have a couple offers but they’re all pending. I don’t want to say what they are but I’m really excited about the record coming out and traveling a bit for that. What’s your take on trashy celeb blogs? I’ve read some stuff about myself that’s been hard to read — judging my looks or whatever, saying mean things about me like I’m not their type or they don’t like the way I talk or the way I sing. But there’s also been some really kind things that I appreciate. It’s a double edged sword. But it’s fine. You gotta be liked and disliked — that’s what makes the world go ’round; that’s what makes a superstar. You’ve gotta be controversial but you can’t be perfect. A lot of times, it’s just insecure people that just wish they were different people in their own lives who blog and spend time being negative. It’s pretty sad when people just sit on their computers and be negative. It’s a pretty sad quality of life but if that’s what floats their boat then so be it.

Industry Insiders: Michael Smith, DJ of Found Sound

Michael Smith, private beat architect for Katsuya, Ferragamo, SBE, and The Standard, on drunken David Hasselhoff, the ambience of teeth brushing, Mark McGrath’s desperation, and MILFs in the White House

How did you get your start in Los Angeles? I started off DJing back in 2000, where, unlike today, LA didn’t have more DJs than housepets. Most DJs want to rock clubs and be the hero. I never cared if people knew who I was. I was in love with downtempo music because I could work, sleep, chill, and basically live to it. I looked to do completely different types of events: cocktail parties, art spaces, boats in the South of France, you know … and found a niche outside of the club that allowed me to take more chances and meet more people. Eight years later, I’m doing global music marketing projects for many of the world’s top brands (Diesel, Vanity Fair, Jaguar, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Cavelli, 20th Century Fox). Crazy!

What exactly do you do now? I construct sonic identities for a variety of hotels, restaurants, brands, and many other projects. I utilized the attention I got as a DJ in LA to start a company that does background music for restaurants like Katsuya, hotels like The Standard, and over 60 other businesses around the world. I take music and sound and put it together to define a unique voice for a business across platforms that make sense: in the background of a space, websites, in a film.

How does Los Angeles inspire you? LA has long had a bad creative rap. Having traveled to perform and work in top cultured cities from New York, London, and Tokyo, I can safely say that LA has the largest gathering of artists and the most productive pool across all media. You are seeing such interesting video art, electronic, and indie music, short films, and so much else now.

What kind of different moods are you trying to create, and how does the specific venue affect that? I like to use music that evokes a response. I DJ’d a party for Chanel in Central Park last month where they asked me to make people trip out, as it was for an experimental art exhibit called Art Mobile. It was located at a spaceship-looking building constructed for the project by Zaha Hadid. I was dropping obscure electronic music and scratching bizarre sound samples over it. It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. The music, blended with the venue, equaled A Clockwork Orange’s Milk Bar meets the Star Wars Millennium Falcon.

What do you think makes a truly great party different from just a good party? You have to do something that people remember and keep hitting them with surprises. With an unlimited budget, I put together runway music and choreographed it for a Louis Vuitton event. We had a 10-piece orchestra going, and the runway was over an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Who’s your crowd? I have focused on a high-end lifestyle crowd who tend to love art and culture and appreciate great music. My music and services are really only known by celebs, socialites, and I guess you could say, tastemaker crowds.

Favorite Hangs: I love hiking up Will Rogers, looking at art on Chung King Road in Chinatown, dropping in for random shows at Spaceland, busting out karaoke with friends over on Sawtelle.

Side Hustle: Just worked on this political group that went to drag races and NASCAR events in the South stirring up democratic voters. It’s hilarious seeing the confused reaction you got from a guy in ripped jeans and a mullet not understanding why you wouldn’t want a “MILF like Palin in the White House.”

Any crazy shit go down while entertaining tastemakers in the city? Ha! Many stories here … I’ve had it out with Buzz Aldrin’s wife over “playing too loud,” got in a shouting match with Courtney Love while DJing over not playing a Hole song, had Lindsay Lohan pass out on my DJ booth … David Hasselhoff so drunk he knocked over his date, Jeremy Piven having a threesome on this guy I know’s driveway … the saddest was Mark McGrath karaoke-ing to Sugar Ray, and somehow managing to make his own terrible song … much worse … really, too many to count, and some that definitely shouldn’t be posted in cyberspace.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? Pushing the envelope in every way imaginable. We recently had a guy in a sound studio we were recording brushing his teeth, and brought in random foreigners talking in Japanese and German to each other. We were making sound samples for this new hotel called SLS I programmed the music for, where you will hear all of these weird noises going on while you are staying there.

What was the coolest event you’ve been involved with? The Walk of Style event. It was a celebration of fashion where they shut down all of Rodeo Drive. I worked with an Italian design team from Ferragamo to design music for their fashion show. They barely spoke English, so I was happy it came off at all. After the show, I opened for Kanye West, who came onstage with a full orchestra behind him and rocked it out.

Is there anyone you particularly admire in the city? I have always admired Brent Bolthouse. He’s managed to survive a brutal nightlife game, and keep at the top throughout and continue to expand. He was also great enough to help me get my background music business off the ground a few years ago when he recommended me to do the music for Katsuya.

Any secret spots in LA? Absolutely Phobulous on La Cienega has some of the best Vietnamese I’ve ever had. There’s a street in Laurel Canyon called Grand View that has a vantage point on the city that will blow your mind. And Mr. Teas’ ice-blended tea drinks are all bullet-proof.

Projections for the future? Art is about to get very challenging with the economy. Unfortunately, there will be a lot of starving people out there, but desperation and depression usually breed the best art. I think we have no idea the amount of talent and creativity about to break out in the next five years, and I’m excited to be involved in any way it explodes.

What are you doing tonight? Going around the clock on several hundred playlists for different clients. Literally, no sleep ‘til Brooklyn.

Photo: Donato Sardella

Los Angeles: Top 5 Places to Hear Music Without an iPod

imageHop to it before your tech-separation anxiety sets in.

1. Safari Sam’s (Hollywood) – Punk cabaret of sword swallowers, burlesque, spoken word, political seminars, brain-shattering live music. May or may not survive upcoming relocation. 2. The Echo (Echo Park) – Where Cold War Kids and their Silver Lake cousins grunge it up and wait to not be discovered. 3. Spaceland (Silver Lake) – The Monday residencies are the stuff of legend; the bands they launch are too.

4. Hotel Café (Hollywood) – Usually local acts, but huge stars will stop by to showcase their upcoming albums, too. 5. Temple Bar (Santa Monica) – A rare, true place to dance by the beach, with something new every night.

Los Angeles: Top 10 Dinner & Concert Spots

imageGrab a bite and see a show — Los Angeles has a thriving music scene and several great venues to catch local as well as far-flung artists. Here are our top 10 choices, along with great in-the-hood spots to chow down before (or after) you rock out.

1. Father’s Office + Temple Bar (Santa Monica) – Bleu cheese burgers and indie rock chicks. 2. New India Sweets & Spices + The Mint (Mid-City West) – Chicken tiki masala and rock-jazz-eclectic jams. 3. Amarone Kitchen & Wine + Viper Room – (West Hollywood) Pasta, Prosecco and punk rock.

4. Blowfish Sushi + Key Club (West Hollywood) – Sushi first; blow, chandeliers, and loud rock n’roll, second. 5. BLT Steak + Whisky A Go Go (West Hollywood) – Steaks + the legendary Whisky rock. 6. Pho Café + Spaceland (Silver Lake) – Noodles and uber-hipster indie rock. 7. Ammo + Knitting Factory (Hollywood) – Sandwiches, soups, and hip-hop/jazz/rock fusions. 8. Juliano’s Raw + 14 Below (Santa Monica) – Raw foods and raw ska, punk, and metal. 9. Citizen Smith + Hotel Café: (Hollywood) Comfort foods with a twist (jalapeno mac n’ cheese) and the best indie/blues/piano/guitar in the city. 10. Kinara + Troubadour: (West Hollywood) Spa food and indie rock gods.