‘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?

Bootie: There’s No Cheering in Nightlife!

One of the cruel ironies of living in Los Angeles after living for years in New York is that because of Los Angeles’ geography, that pesky drinking-while-driving-thing is much more difficult in L.A. unless you live in the clubbing centers like Silverlake, Echo Park, or Hollywood. Ironic, because whereas New York has this cabaret law problem (an odious regulation that requires venues to have a license to allow dancing for three or more people) and has a shortage of decently sized venues that aren’t crippled by bottle service and idiots, Los Angeles has a bounty of venues to go dancing. It has no cabaret law and has any number of decent-sized joints with good sound systems that can fit between 200 or 500 people. (Also thankfully missing from the L.A. nightlife scene: the narrow hall closet that passes for a bar.)

It’s in one of those ridiculously spacious places that monthly mashup party Bootie takes place; it’s that venue known to Angelenos as Echoplex. The dancefloor is biggish, with plentiful room to dance badly and wildly to familiar songs expertly mixed to form something that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. We went last month to the Paul V.-hosted-and DJed night with rising mashup producer and rising star Jordan Roseman, known as DJ Earworm, who also happens to be a friend of a friend.

It seems that the world of mashups has come a long way from the days of Z-Trip and DJ P, the first DJs I heard who overlayed the strange bedfellows. While they used the turntables in a similar way as a house DJ might overlay two house records, they worked as turntablists, and would simply play Metallica and Midnight Oil at the same time, with a timing that made the union uncanny. Lately, though, the DJs are more like producers, mixing a cappella and instrumental tracks, a la the Strokes/Christina Aguilera combination of “A Stroke of Genie-us.” The other difference I noticed: the Bootie beats are designed for people with excessively short attention spans. If you didn’t pay close enough attention, you might miss a song before it floated through, waved hello, and got out.

That night, we heard Daft Punk’s “Around the World, and Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” at once, while “Push It” was paired with INXS’ “Need You Tonight.” Perhaps the strangest of all: Grease’s “You’re the One That I Want” and Snoop Dog, which drove the kids wild.

And they were kids, too. Very young, very guileless, and a very excitable kind of geeky crowd. At one point, after a mix of Andy Griffith and “Single Ladies,” they actually cheered. (The jaded and confused former New Yorker inside me snickered, “There’s no cheering in nightlife!”) My friends, who were both visiting from San Francisco, said, “They would never cheer in San Francisco.” True, but that is so very boring. Did I mention the glowsticks? There were glowsticks. Then a Lady Gaga impersonator named Anna Konda took the stage and did a pretty good impression of the pop star to a “Poker Face” mashup. At the end, they cheered again.

Email tips to {encode=”tromano@bbook.com” title=”tromano@bbook.com”}.

LA Labor Day Weekend Dance Parties

Los Angeles summers are a strange thing. They don’t have a clear beginning or ending — you just sort of wake up and realize it’s a little bit hotter and there’s a bit more to do than normal, and it seems appropriate to go to the beach all the time. Oh yes, usually some part of the city is burning. While the rest of the country is gearing up for this weird thing called Fall, we’re still having summer jams. This weekend you’ll have three parties to shake your booty at.

For example, on Saturday you can shake that booty at Bootie, the popular dance party that fearlessly combines genres and artists in odd and thrilling mash-ups all night long. Resident Paul V and special guest DJ Alex supply the crossover mixes, with a midnight mash-up show featuring a fake Lady Gaga (Anna Konda). Saturday at 9pm, Echoplex.

If you’re a bit more into deep house and minimal techno with a sprinkling of Chicago, you should see Honey Dijon show the men at MJ’s how it’s done. Her last visit at Chocolate was so successful, they’ve come back for more. Saturday at 10,MJ’s Bar.

If you are not too hungover, head to the Standard Downtown for one of their infamous pool rooftop parties where a pretty impressive group of mini-techno and micro-house DJs will be slaying what’s left of your brain cells. It’s a M_NUS vs. Culprit throwdown with frequent Richie Hawtin cohorts Magda, Troy Pierce, Droog, and Appendics.Shuffle going head to head on the turntables. Sunday @ 1-10pm, The Standard Downtown.

Email tips to {encode=”tromano@bbook.com” title=”tromano@bbook.com”}.

Singer Anya Marina’s Seduction Phase

You may have already been exposed to the charms of Anya Marina and not been aware of it. The Michigan-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter has not only had her songs featured on television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl, but has also had an acting stint in the film 100 Girls, a role which the pixie chanteuse had to appear in sans eyebrows. Her sophomore album, Slow & Steady Seduction, Phase II, was produced by Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Louis XIV’s Brian Karscig and, with Marina’s breathy vocals and sharp lyrics, is best enjoyed with a snuggle companion and a glass of something tasty in hand. Marina is currently on tour with The Virgins and Lissy Trullie, but she took some time out to talk with us about getting topless while recording, her Roman Polanski-inspired video for the single “Move Me”, and gender play when covering T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.”

When did you first decide that you wanted to pick up an instrument? Truth be told, I didn’t ever want to pick up an instrument. My father insisted that I take piano lessons. And that went abysmally. And then he insisted that I take flute and/or clarinet, both of which I failed miserably at. I just had no interest in playing instruments at all. I always really liked singing. I love melodies, I love sitting by my record player and listening to music. And I was always coming up with little melodies and singing to myself.

Do you have memories of your early attempts at songwriting? I never even thought about that until recently, but I used to walk every day on this little route, and it was only about five blocks, but I remember looking forward to that time every day when my mom would drop me off at this particular place every day and I would walk the rest of the way to school. I would always make up a song that would go with the beat of my feet, and I I must have been like, eleven. And every day I would write a new song to a new beat, however fast.

What was the first song you learned all the lyrics to? Do you mean a popular song? The first song I learned on guitar was Freedy Johnston, “Bad Reputation.” I just love singing it from my point of view. I’ve loved doing that ever since — singing songs written by men and not singing the gender when I’m singing it. I’m doing it right now with this T.I. cover I’ve been doing every night, and the crowds seem to love it.

What song? It’s called “Whatever You Like.” I’m sure you know it.

I read somewhere that when you were recording a few songs on this album, you decided to take your shirt off while recording. Why did you feel that you needed to do that? I think it was hot. It was in the middle of summer, and I had the entire studio all to myself, and the engineer was in the other room.

Can you discuss your relationship to Jungian psychology and how it relates to the song “Move You”? Well, my dad is a Jungian psychologist. I read a lot of Joseph Campbell growing up. I don’t know a whole lot about Jung, but I do love that one quote that I read of his, “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” I just really like that notion, and I just ruminated on it for a long time, and it got me thinking that sometimes the simplest physical task can help you out of a jam that your mind is struggling with. And then I started thinking about how physically, sometimes getting it on can help you get through it. Everybody knows make-up sex is the best, right?

True. So how did the video come about? It wasn’t my concept but I was thoroughly won over by the concept. Scott Coffey directed it and he sent me this treatment for it which was based on this Roman Polanski film Repulsion. And it had all these beautiful textures in it. I knew his work because I’d seen his film with Naomi Watts called Ellie Parker, which was so good.

The video is beautiful, and you seem really comfortable in front of a camera. Is that because you have an acting career as well? Is there anything coming up that we can look for? I started acting when I was about 17 or so, just trying to go out for things. It never really took off. I have a one-line role in this Kevin Spacey film called Shrink that’s coming out. It was at Sundance, and it was directed by Jonas Pate, who is an upcoming and fantastic director, and it’s written by this guy Thomas Moffett, who worked with Wes Anderson for years. He’s an incredibly gifted writer.

Your song was on the soundtrack to Grey’s Anatomy. Any other TV shows you would love to be associated with? Mad Men would be amazing but that’s highly unlikely. I would love Anthony Bourdain to have me on his show. I know he had Queens of the Stone Age for a Christmas special. But I think he only likes dude rock.

You were a radio-station DJ for a while, so I’m going to appeal to your musical expertise. You’re living in L.A. now. What are the best places to check out live music out there? I love the Hotel Café, and when I can get out to the Troubador that’s always a great room. Sometimes you can catch some great stuff at Tangier and I just played the Echoplex when I was filming this TV show Rockville, CA, which I am going to be in with my band. But you know what, I go out a lot to see more comedy shows. I love going to Largo.

Finally, say I’m looking to have a slow and seductive kind of night. What’s the best drink to pair with your record? If you’re going to listen to my record and get your drink on, I think a nice Beaujolais, and if you’re in the mood for spirits, a vodka martini. Dirty.

Gettin’ Philosophical and Such with Adam Freeland

Adam Freeland is a cheeky Brit, an internationally recognized DJ and now the frontman for the band (appropriately dubbed) Freeland. The group’s first album, Cope, will be released on Marine Parade Records in June. But for now, the boys are rocking the live concert series, appearing at The Echo in Los Angeles on May 22 and the Cow Palace in San Francisco on May 23. Cope is a stellar debut, including guest collaborators like Tommy Lee, Jerry Casale of DEVO, Joey Santiago of the Pixies, Brody Dalle of Spinnerette, and bassist Twiggy Ramirez. Known as a man who speaks freely, Freeland gave us the rundown on LA’s finer points, playing tricks on the fans, and what’s wrong with American culture.

How’d you get to making this album with Freeland? I started as a DJ, and then I came to making music just through listening to a lot of music. After you listen to enough records, you realize what it is you want to do, and you know what you want to hear. At that point it was a natural progression. I’m really happy with the album, and I want to put together a really amazing live show now. I think it’s going to take some time because I want a Pink Floyd-scale live production. I have delusions of grandeur, and I think I’m going to stay focused on that.

You rocked SxSW this year. I loved it. It was the first time I’ve been, and I had no expectations. It’s predominantly a rock thing, and we haven’t had an album out here in America, so I didn’t really have any expectations for the shows. Although, they were amazing. We got in and did one show in the afternoon at this tiny little bar, and then at night we did a packed show on this rooftop, and the next day we had a full house. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get a chance to see any bands I wanted to see, because the schedule was insane. I was doing DJ gigs between those shows. I had seven shows in two days.

Were you surprised that you had such a big following? I was really surprised because I had no expectations. We had all this drama, and we had to fire the drummer, and then we had to cancel the dates before SXSW. We were still learning. To go and rock it our first three shows was a really cool launch for the whole project.

What happened with your drummer? I can’t really say much about that, so I won’t, but our drummer wasn’t cutting it, and we got a better one.

Any other festivals on the schedule? We just got put with Glastonbury and Glade, which are two great festivals in England. I DJed at Burning Man a few times, which is always crazy, but I don’t think that’s reasonable for the band. I’d love to go and do a lot of the different festivals in the states and around the world. There’s the Big Day Out in Australia, and there’s Fuji Rock in Japan. I think we’re actually doing Roskilde, which is like a main Scandinavian festival.

On the album you have so many collaborators; how did you swing that? It just sort of happened. Tommy Lee was the only drummer I knew when I moved to LA, and I asked him to do some drums, and he was up for it. Same with Twiggy Ramirez — he was the only bass player I actually knew in LA.

Speaking of LA, name five things that you feel really strongly about — love or hate there. The things that people hate about LA are the obvious, exploitable ones; the Hollywood plastic-ness stuff. I just don’t get involved in that. What I love about it: (1) Nature. Being able to go into the desert and as far as the beach is an amazing lifestyle. (2) The music scene. New York used to be amazing, but the music scene in New York right now sucks. I like going to see a lot of live bands, and every night of the week, there’s a band I want to see in LA. (3) Despite peoples’ prejudices, there’s some amazing people here. If you look at the creativity that’s coming out of the art and movie world, LA has drawn in a lot of people who are on top of their game in creative fields. I seem to have tapped in a really stimulating bunch of friends who are all really striving to make shit happen. (4) I’m a foodie. I love the fish, and all different cuisines, and I love all the different, fantastic Japanese and Mexican food. (5) The weather is amazing. I’m used to rain and miserable cold, but here it’s always sunny.

Do you have any favorite restaurants? I named a track on the album after it. It’s called “The Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada.” It’s an amazing fish taco place in Silver Lake. They’re big, $1.50 tacos, and they’re unbelievably good.

Tell us about the Human Conscience Disorder Quiz that’s on the Freeland website. How does this relate to bigger themes? I’m fascinated by this whole pill-popping culture in America. If you’ve got a problem, we’ve got a pill to fix it. It’s a ridiculous concept that there can be one drug that fixes all of your problems. There’s this wonder drug theme, and it’s almost like Aldous Huxley’s Soma, that keeps everyone happy. But watching how pharmaceutical companies try to reach out to people and watching Oprah is an absolutely scary and amazing experience. The pharmaceutical ads they have are amazing, and they pretty much invent symptoms and give you a cure. And that’s kind of what the Human Conscience Disorder concept is coming from. We were just playing around with the idea behind how to cope, and the Human Conscience Disorder is the idea that we can numb your conscience, and that your conscience is something that gets in the way of making good purchasing decisions that are good for the economy and your nation at large. In the past, we did this website about your soul, where you could come up with a cash value for your soul, and we had loads of religious groups who believed it and got all hot under the collar about it. I’m being cheeky, but people don’t always get it.

What is it about American culture that breeds dependence on pharmaceuticals? I think America represents an exaggerated version of what’s happening all over the world, I’m not just pointing the finger at America. I think America represents the best and the worst of everything in the world. You look at the reason why everyone’s on antidepressants, or the reason why there’s massive, high cancer rates, and it’s just about money. It’s amazing that the pharmaceutical industry makes so much money, and it’s not in their interest to give you a cure. That’s just a reflection of the culture as a whole. People are gullible, and with the right advertising budget you can convince people of anything. It’s like this swine flu, right now. It’s just the flu. It’s the same thing as the bird flu when everyone went out and bought that one drug. No one got bird flu, even without the drug.

We’re all being brainwashed to some extent? You’re not allowed to show a clit on television, you’re not allowed to show a breast, but you’re allowed to show people being brutally murdered, and that’s normal. And if you take a step back from the message that’s sending to our subconscious — it’s fucked up. The record’s certainly not a paranoid look at that. I’m just having a bit of fun with it. The idea behind Code is it’s actually the antidote, it’s relief of all that bullshit. And I used to be way more negative about everything that’s going on in the world, and now I’m kind of I a different state about it, and I just want to be a beacon of light in it. We need more light.

Howdy, Hello, Hiya: My Name Is Tricia Romano

imageBefore you start reading my blog entries and wondering who that crazy lady wandering around L.A. at all hours of the night is, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tricia Romano, and I’ve previously terrorized the shores of the East Coast where I wrote a column about nightlife called “Fly Life” for the Village Voice in New York. That five-year run ended in 2007; I packed up and moved to Los Angeles last spring and was living a quiet life by the beach, when BlackBook lulled me out of retirement. I’ll be reviewing the latest in Los Angeles nightlife, dishing news and gossip about the city’s parties, bars, clubs, restaurants, and even the occasional taco truck.

Speaking of trucks: The now-infamous Kogi Korean BBQ vehicle has managed to squeak into the top-4 slot of L.A. Taco’s Taco Madness tournament. The Twittering upstarts are currently up against Yuca’s, where they are losing to the more traditional family-owned chain, 61 percent to 39 percent. Voting in this round goes till manana, and the winners will be announced Monday. I’ve also been told that the owners are in New York all this month, where they have been hobnobbing with some heavyweight foodies, including Anthony Bourdain and LA Weekly’s Jonathan Gold. Kogi’s rep also hinted that there’s going to be some major news in about a month. (Are they going to permanently set up shop in my kitchen? No? One can dream.)

You need something to wash down those delicious tacos, and if you’re in the USC neighborhood, you can now stop at a gastropub instead of a corny frat bar. The newly opened The Lab looks just like you’d expect with a name like that — all scientific and stuff. The minimalist and sleek design is pretty sophisticated for your average college student, but it seems that the Lab aspires to reach a crowd beyond the usual dorm room spillover. There’s an extensive beer and wine list (ranging from a Blue Moon Belgian White to Moosehead to something called the Trojan Blonde), as well as a Lab sampler on offer at an economical $7. The food menu does have some gastronomic aspirations — lamb shank, seared tuna, and risotto — but Caroline on Crack wasn’t terribly impressed by the grub. You’ll have to judge for yourself.

Beer enthusiasts have yet another thing to look forward to: The city’s first-ever beer festival. Hosted by the LA Cabal (the Los Angeles Craft and Artisanal Beer Appreciation League), The Craft Beer Fest on May 9 at the Echoplex will feature 26 handcrafted beers and free pub grub, all for $30 and seven hours of unending fun.

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Trail of Dead’s Jason Reece: Tips for Surviving SXSW

After escaping unscathed from a Midwestern car crash, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead is back on the road (bus engine and trailer repaired), heading home to Austin to play SXSW (March 21 at Emo’s). As festival veterans and Austinites, Trail of Dead is in the position to give rookies and tourists advice on where to eat, what to do, and how to survive the orgy. While en route to the Echoplex in Los Angeles, Jason Reece took a few minutes to discuss which bands he plans to decapitate and the charm of a gun-crazed, pig-blood-covered, PCP-fueled last stand at SXSW.

I heard y’all were in an accident. Is everyone okay? Yeah, everyone is okay. We were stopped on the road in Wyoming, and there’s ice and snow everywhere. The truck behind us didn’t stop in time, and it slid and ran into our trailer and knocked it into the engine of the bus. It screwed the bus up. Nobody got hurt, but it was really annoying because we had to sit there at the truck stop and hang out with all these rednecks.

What are you planning on doing at SXSW? Probably waging war on other bands. Burning the place down. You know, normal stuff. I guess I’ll just decapitate every shitty band that I see.

Will there be a lot of them? I would say that there are a lot of really good bands, but there’s also a lot of horrible crap that comes with the festival. Everyone is trying to make it and whatever. It’s just an oversaturation of bands. The world doesn’t need another band. There’s too much noise pollution. But the cool thing about SXSW is that it’s great to have that sort of party, festive atmosphere.

Are you happy to be home? I get to sleep in my bed, but it’s still going to feel like we’re on tour. Our schedule is going to be crazy. There’s a bunch of shows, parties. The only way to deal with it is to buy a bunch of fucking guns and drugs and hole yourself up in a hotel and get high on PCP and crack.

Pretend you’re a tourist guide. Where should I eat? Where should I hang out? Go to Ruby’s BBQ. The meat is organic, and there aren’t any steroids and chemicals. The cows are free-range cows, and there’s more care involved. The BBQ sauce is incredible. I would get brisket there, the pickles and onions on the side. You’ve got your sauce and your bread. It’s very simple. For Mexican, I really like Vivo on Manor Road. The food is solid there. It’s kind of upscale, but still reasonable, and the salsa is incredible. I go to Maria’s Taco Xpress on South Lamar too. I like the barbacoa there.

Where do you go on your down time? I go to my bar — Beauty Bar. I own it. It’s a place for local bands to get their start. It’s cheap, we don’t really charge cover, and the DJs are pretty amazing. I like to see shows at Emo’s too.

Is that your favorite venue in town? We got our start there, and we know a lot of people that work there. It’s been our home. It’s a shithole. There are no frills about it, but it’s got character. I’ve seen a lot of amazing shows there.

Give me some tips on surviving SXSW. You should only drink hard liquor like whiskey — Powers or Jameson. You should not drink water at all. Don’t get any sleep. Stay up every day, all day, all night. Take off all your clothes, cover yourself in pig’s blood, and talk to yourself like a raving lunatic. Do this and you will go far.

Industry Insiders: Alexis Rivera, Pied Piper

Alexis Rivera, the underground force behind Echo Park Records and Little Pedro’s Blue Bongo, on putting together the illest acts in town, guzzling expensive drinks with cheap women, and getting sucker punched by veteranos as he brings music to the peoples.

How did you got your start in Los Angeles, and how did you became such a heavy in Echo Park? Well, after being trapped in shit cities like Boston and London for college, I had to come home to California, or I was going to turn into a teabag or something. I moved into my place in Echo Park, and after three weeks, I shattered my left knee, and since I live 100 steps up a hill, it took me about 10 minutes to get up to my bungalow on the crutches. I guess as a result of this, I dreaded going home, so I kind of limped around Echo Park talking to people, and probably being a nuisance to everybody.

What do you do now? [Smiling big] I’m a viejito: I get up pretty early, walk around the lake for an hour reading the Los Angeles Times listening to music, and then I come home and drink green tea and eat apple sauce and oats. I manage bands. That’s what I do, I guess. A lot of the business for the acts that I manage is out of Europe or New York or Mexico City, all places that start their day earlier, so my mornings are really busy talking to those assholes. By about noon, I’m mostly done with the majority of my work, so I’ll go eat lunch with some friend who has a regular job.

What do you think makes Echo Park such a good music destination and hot neighborhood these days? Well, there are two venues with regular live music. The Echo and Echoplex, and Club Bahia, and they kinda bookend the neighborhood. In between that, you have what I call the STD barns, Little Joy and the Short Stop, and the local, the Gold Room, and three restaurants with very stiff drinks: El Compadre, Barragan’s, and Taix. So, you got a lot of stuff going on in just a few blocks. Also, price-wise, Echo Park is good for drinks, and there are a lot of horny people, young and old, so that’s a wild combination. When you’re not working yourself, where do you like to hang out in the city? If I go to a bar, I go to Hank’s to watch sports, eat popcorn, and bet. And I go to Hop Louie for Scorpion Bowls and to enjoy sitting down. But my local is the Gold Room. It’s a block from my house, and the security guard Raul is funny as shit, there’s always a good mix of friends and strangers there, and the bartenders know what I like to drink.

I also like “A Club Called Rhonda” … my friends Gregori and Loren and Kimi put it on, it’s at Guatelinda, and the music is great, and I’m just very proud when I go there. It’s lush that my friends put on such a fun club. Also, there’s a night called “Mas Exitos” at the Verdugo Bar on Tuesdays that’s really fun, they play amazing stuff.

What do you think makes a truly great party different from just a good party? At a club or at a house? Liquor and loud music would be my answer for both, I guess. Beer and tepid tunes don’t do shit. When I throw a party, whether it’s at a club or at my house, I just invite my friends, and word seems to spread. I’m not good at promotion. It seems kind of vain, and I’d rather watch videos on YouTube or sit on my roof. Another thing that makes a great party is the unexpected, like an ex smoking meth in my closet and making out with a girl. When stuff like that happens, I don’t remember it until I see the photos, so that’s pretty great I guess.

Los Angeles’ nightlife has a reputation for being very douchey in spots. I think LA has so many amazing people … it seems like every time I go out, I meet someone new that I think is great. People don’t get in your shit here because they’ve got their own crazy shit going on, and I like that. But there are a lot of assholes here as well. When I house-sat in Santa Monica for a summer, I couldn’t believe how lame the people, especially the young ones, were there. Boring as shit. But then there’s a lot of boring people around Echo Park now as well, so who knows? And who would you say is your crowd? I don’t know if there’s a set crowd that go to my parties, but I would imagine it’s like 25% music nerd cholos, 25% cute Asian girls, 25% friends, and then the final 25%, which are brown friends dressing like yellow trannies, who like good music.

Side Hustle: I used to be a teacher at a community center around the corner from my house, and although I don’t have the time to teach anymore, I still see my kids around the neighborhood, see them at the bakery or whatever, so I’ll buy them rice pudding and we’ll catch up. I used to be a spy, I don’t do that much anymore, but it’s good money and a lot of crazy shit happens. I used to be a big gardener, I was involved in the Echo Park Community Garden when it was still around, and I wound up in the New York Times for my garden at my house, which is hilarious. Yeah, all I see is a discarded shoe sole in your dead garden. Who are some of your associates in the city? And who are your famous friends? My friends are the usual suspect group of derelicts and petty thieves. Different ages, different jobs … I don’t really want to associate with “nightlife personalities,” unless it’s like, the Filipino nurse who dances like crazy at the Gold Room, I guess that’s a nightlife personality. I guess I have a couple of friends who are known for their music, but I don’t know any actors or people like that. And most of the time when I meet someone that’s known, it’s in a very weird way. My friend Dave, he’s that producer Switch who did the M.I.A. and Santogold albums, I met him in Beverly Hills. Or my friend Jeppe, who was Senior in Junior Senior, I went up to ask him what his problem was because he was maddogging me [laughs]. I thought he wanted to fight, but he was staring at me because I had a Moroccan gown on and I was so drunk, I’d forgotten about it. Cute. You seem to really enjoy what you do, and are always chilling watching the shows with real glee on your face. I love music, and I love to see people have fun, so it’s very enjoyable. I’m an only child, and we didn’t have a lot of cash lying around, but my parents always had great music on and everything seemed okay, so I guess I enjoy how freeing music can be. When I put on a show, most of the stress is before the show, not during it, dealing with the booking agents and travel and crap like that. During a show I put on, I like to move around, see if everything is cool with the musicians and DJs, see if my friends are having fun, if the door person needs a drink or change, shit like that.

Any secret spots in LA you want to reveal? Well, that dude Jamaal had a crazy after-hours reggae spot in Hollywood, but I just heard that it was no more. He came up to me at Guitar Center about five years ago and we started talking, and he told me about his spot, and I went and couldn’t believe it, it was amazing. Then there’s the Japanese whorehouse afterhours here in Echo Park, but the drinks are too expensive. And the women are too cheap. I’m glad I asked. Is there anyone you particularly admire in the city who you see doing their thing in nightlife? Most club people and promoters are gross, but most of that shit is in Hollywood and I don’t go out there, but I have a couple of friends I really admire: DJ Dam Funk who has a night on Mondays all the way out in Culver City, but with no cover, and the crowd is really nice, and everyone’s having fun. I can’t recommend Dam enough as a DJ cuz he’s “all wax, original pressings!,” as he likes to say … or as a friend, the guy is just super cool, and that’s reflected at the club. Also my friend Omar, he puts on shows in his driveway in East L.A. and they’re awesome, he always had three or four bands, a DJ, and there’s all these kids and parents, they’re a lot of fun. Also, on a more professional level, Liz Garo, who books the Echo. She’s great, and she’s really nice and has great taste in music. What was the coolest event you’ve been involved with? Sometimes people come up to me, they go, “I was there that night when …” That’s pretty cool. I gotta say, though, it’s starting to make me feel like an old man. Having Joe Bataan play at Little Pedro’s back when I owned it was pretty cool. We had Dolemite too, and Blowfly once, those were memorable nights. Doing a post-Katrina benefit show with Eddie Bo was really special for me … that might be the party I’m most proud of. Flying Yo Majesty out here for my birthday party at the Echo, when no one knew who they were, and they’ve never been out of state, that was cool, it was like a punk show the energy that night, and then having Arabian Prince DJ, I mean you can’t have a better birthday than that. I remember when I flew Chromeo out for Halloween in 2005, their only previous show in LA was for 13 people, so they were expecting it to suck, and the place was slammed and everyone was dancing. When I see them now, they still bring up that night, so that’s cool. What’s the craziest shit you’ve seen while partying in LA? The craziest shit I ever saw at one of my parties was when Peaches DJed at Little Pedro’s, one woman was going down on another woman in the middle of the dance floor, and everyone around them kept dancing, like it was no big deal. That was impressive. I had a cousin visiting from Arizona that night, and his eyes popped out of his head. I don’t think he gets to see things like that in Tucson.

Because the Echo is so close to my house, if I’m in a good mood and the show was good, I’ll invite a bunch of people over. But sometimes I’ll invite people over but then not want to have a party, and by the time I walk home from the Echo, there’s already people on my staircase, waiting to get in. When that happens, I just go to Tommy’s, order a #2, and just wait it out.

The Black Lips did a secret show at the Echo at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday night, and afterwards, they all came over, and I woke up the next day with the worst hangover, not having any idea what had happened, other than apparently I had had people over, as my place was trashed and tequila bottles were empty. Then the following day I was washing my desk and realized the scribble marks on it were the signatures of the band, and that they’d come over after the show.

Also, the day after my birthday when Yo Majesty played, I woke up to one of the members walking out of my shower butt naked, going into my closet and putting on a pair of my boxers and a t-shirt, and then getting back into bed next to me and falling asleep, like nothing had happened. I was so scared we’d hooked up or something, but it turns out she just crashed in my bed because all the sofas were spoken for.

Fuck or fight anyone interesting lately? Nothing too crazy recently, although some old veterano punched me at the Gold Room the other night, but I deserved it … Projections: I’m talking with the Echo about doing a monthly or weekly club. I just need to see if I have the time for it. And I might be starting a record label, but I can’t talk about that yet. And there’s an old theater that I might be renovating with some friends, but we’ll see about that.

What are you doing tonight? I’ll probably go to Barragan’s and see what’s up. I’ve been going there since I was a baby, and for better or worse, the place hasn’t changed. But when the margaritas are two bucks and I can walk home, I can’t really complain.