Face-to-Face with the Great Bryan Ferry

To say that I expected Bryan Ferry to be as cool in person as he is in sound and vision would be kinda like saying that I expected my right foot to follow my left. I mean, the man has both epitomized and personified cool throughout each and every moment of the last four decades. If that doesn’t add up to a given, then I’m giving up.

Ferry, who founded English art-rock group Roxy Music in 1970, is every bit the gentlemen — and then some. Reached through my producer friend (Arthur Baker) of his producer friend (Johnson Somerset) just hours before his Miami rehearsal, the British song stylist had no problem taking time out to chat with yours truly, not to mention sitting for a few photos from ace lensman Jeffrey Delannoy. That the rehearsal was the last there’d be before he and his band embarked on the latest leg of their Olympia Tour only compounded the coolness and kindness of it all.

Perhaps Ferry fondly recalled our conversation from a couple weeks ago, when I reached him by phone in Warsaw and we discussed the likes of Lucien Freud (who he both knew and admired and happened to be reading about) and the early 20th century British moderns that Ferry began collecting back in the ’80s, and which he showed at London’s Olympia last year. Perhaps he dug the piece I’d just written about him for The Miami Herald, where I put him among the great good company of Sinatra, Bowie, and Waits. Or maybe Ferry’s just cool like that.

But I digress. Behind the soundboard at The Fillmore Gleason, where Ferry’s kicking off a seventeen-day stretch that ends at LA’s Greek Theater, he comes off like a cross between an old world maestro and an up-to-the-minute producer. It’s a sound that anyone with ears can immediately recognize; an aural swoon of grace and beauty that’s steeped in the tradition of song yet wholly its own. There’s a certain sweep to that sound (think the harnessing of horizons) and an unequivocal majesty (they don’t call him Sir for nothing). To hear it being assembled in real time by the very man who invented it is akin to watching the Wizard pull the levers that begot Oz.

“We’ve got two new singers with us on this leg of the tour,” said Ferry. “Well, not new exactly; they’ve been with me before. But new to this line-up.”

By line-up he means a thirteen-piece band of brothers and sisters whose cohesion is exceeded only by their devotion to the music that’s propelling them all around the world. Those singers he mentioned are none other than Fonzi Thornton and Tawatha Agee, who’ve backed Sir Bryan before. Original Roxy Music drummer Paul Thompson is also back with his lifelong co-conspirator, and he’s as in-the-pocket as he was during the heyday of “Virginia Plaine.” And guitarist Chris Spedding is standing by his main man too, just as he did in 1977 for the In Your Mind Tour, and again in 2002, when they hit the road to promote Frantic, which, as most folks only too well know, was the last time Ferry staged across the States.

Speaking of stages, Ferry told me earlier that he’d seen The Fillmore when he was on holiday in South Beach a few years back and “thought it would be a nice place to play.” Breaking from rehearsal, I got the distinct sense that he was quite happy with his decision (as is Miami). After remarking on the “beauty” of Vienna’s State Opera House (“plenty of ghosts”), where he performed again back in July, and on “how great it was” to finally play cities such as Tel Aviv (“that was fabulous”) and Bucharest (“another highlight”), in addition to the usual amalgam of world capitals, you could say Ferry’s opinion is more than a little informed.

I mentioned that Frantic had brought Ferry to Sunrise Musical Theater, and he immediately remembered “that [the venue] was a long way away” from where we were standing on South Beach. Just as the last time he’d performed in Miami was a long, long time ago.

“The first time we actually played here was a festival at Miami Speedway, in 1972 or 1973,” Ferry told me. “I’m glad we have a chance to come back. It’s really nice here. I’m really enjoying myself.”

A large part of that enjoyment undoubtedly springs from the fact that Ferry stays at no less a swing spot than The Setai when he’s in town, nevermind dining at Prime 112 and Casa Tua, two of South Beach’s most deliciously hopping eateries. That band of brothers and sisters most certainly adds to the equation too, as I’m sure does the company of the very jake Johnson Somerset (who I shall owe in perpetuity) and the keenly-attuned Isaac Ferry, who’s one of four number one sons.

Mostly though it’s Ferry himself who brings great good things to life — and to our lives. His sound, his style, his royal smoothness, has paved more than many less traveled roads with gold, and left legions basking in his wake. Call me a fan boy if you want, but to me Ferry can do no wrong. That I got to get with him face-to-face at The Fillmore, surely must mean I’m doing something right. Slip out when he hits your town and see how readily you agree.

Photo by: Jeffrey Delannoy

Getting Illicit with Natalia Kills

There’s something deliciously illicit about Natalia Kills. Even if the English singer’s name didn’t evoke a villainess from some outtake of The Avengers, one gets the impression the lass would be just as comfortable running a con or plotting a heist, as she is pulling a Machiavelli on the pop world. Then there’s that whole murderous girl thing she’s got goin’ on; an explicit lethality which can be found in both the sound of her single “My Boyfriend,” and the visions of her Love Kills xx video series, in addition to the very name itself. On the terrace of South Beach’s Catalina Hotel on Thursday night, just hours before Kills took her stand at Mansion, it was all I could do to not ask her if she’d like to go knock off a bank.

But Kills is far too single-mindedly determined to be sidetracked by something that could keep her outta circulation for even a couple moments, let alone a few years. See, that might foil her plans for world domination. And make no mistake, this unequivocal young lady is definitely going global—or else.

While where Kills is going may be clear, it’s a lot harder to pinpoint where she’s come from. Born to a Jamaican father and a Uruguayan mother, and raised primarily in the Gunshine State (Miami and Jacksonville), she’s spent the last couple of years lighting fires around LA. Her “wish,” though, is to move to the Big Bad Apple, and soon. “There isn’t anything wrong with Los Angeles,” she says. “It’s just time for New York.” Perhaps she simply needs a bigger city to core?

When prompted, Kills calls herself “English.” Noting her heritage, however, she may just as well claim citizenry of the wild world she seems so keen to conquer. Like many a bright mind, Kills is the kinda Benetton kid Tibor Kalman undoubtedly had in his head when he created the incomparable Colors. A cross-pollination of creed and culture as compelling as it is adroit. Otherwise known as: our future.

In other words, Kills has got it goin’ on, even if her Wiki page has it all wrong. She does NOT share a name with her mother, nor has she been in a succession of British soap operas. Kills isn’t from Persia either, though she “has great respect” for the people and the place.

The last time Kills hit South Beach, she opened for Robyn at The Fillmore. This time, as mentoined, she soloed at Mansion, one of the most renowned dance emporiums on The Strip. Prior to that, there was a mad two nights in New York, where she pulled off appearances at both the Standard and Bowery hotels, as well as an exclusive on the 48th floor of the Atlas. By the time you read this, Kills will be in arenas opening for Katy Perry before she crosses back over the pond to retake the continent.

Face to face, Kills is forthright, forthcoming and utterly assured. Yes, “My Boyfriend” is about a real someone. No, she didn’t kill him. She is “grateful” though that their six-year relationship turned out so badly. Otherwise, her album “would be all rainbows, and who the hell wants to hear that?” Kills is also extremely grateful to French director Guillaume Doubet, the Love Kills accomplice who taught her the tricks of the the cinematic trade and gave her the opportunity to be on both sides of the camera. “I learned so much shooting that series,” she says. “Mostly, I learned that I could direct too. I just had to do it.”

Forget for a minute Nike’s now-overexposed slogan, because before there was such a thing as kicks campaigns, there were people for whom “just do it” was simply who and what they were. Count Natalia Kills among that worthy roster. Or else.

Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy.

Hailing the Gang Known as The Overthrow

To call them the cool kids would lend too much credence to those who still think in high school terms. Sure, the idea’s correct — they are the cool kids. But it’s also an oversimplification, so let’s just call it as they call it: The Overthrow. As the name suggests, this merry gang of creatives is out to overthrow the status quo, especially as it’s lived by night.

The gang came about almost by accident back in ’08 at a joint called Bella Rose. At the time, Chief Sorcerer Alexis “Lex” Mincolla was running a swingin’ soiree entitled Black Sunday, the highlight of which was a weekly murder movie shot by Evil Eye Charis Kirtcheimer and Viking Stian Roenning. Just about everybody who was anybody got knocked off in one of the cinematic kill fests, which were so blood-spattered YouTube took ’em down. They weren’t off site for long though, because a coalition of the willing lobbied hard to get YouTube to relent. And relent they did.

During all this melee, down the strip a bit, a cat named Sam Baum was running a hotspot called Heathrow. Heathrow was dark on Sundays, so Baum and company naturally gravitated to Black Sunday, a place where things were even darker. Baum and Mincolla first connected there, and within minutes the two had decided to do something together. That Halloween, each gathered their respective coterie and assembled en masse at Heathrow. The night was dubbed Haunted. And it would be the basis for The Overthrow. Since then, there hasn’t been a club in town The Overthrow hasn’t, well, overthrown. I got with gang members Baum, Caleb “Agent of ChangeJa” Gauge, Troy “Hand of Glory” Kurtz, and Tamara “Pussy Violence” Sky in the VIP Lounge of the Fillmore Miami Beach right before Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings took that fabled stage. The Overthrow has been helping out at The Fillmore for a good year now, and there are plans for the them to start bringing in the biggest and best of dubstep in the very near future. Till then, though, we had another Overthrowdown in mind, the one that’s coming up tomorrow night at 1111 Lincoln Road. It’s called Ivory Tower. And it’ll leave you learned and unleashed.

Tell us about Wednesday’s Overthrowdown…

Baum: Wednesday we’re doing a special event at the world-renowned architectural masterpiece 1111 Lincoln Road. Designer extraordinaire Kerin Rose of A-Morir, who’s draped the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna, will be previewing her new line for the first time. Sole Bikes will be doing a demonstration of their custom-made fixed gears. And the Miami-based international artist collective Primary Flight will be doing an installation. So there will be a whole lotta culture goin’ on.

Gauge: Gotta Dance Dirty is the blog sponsorship, so it’s gonna be blasted out to our entire family all over the world.

Kurtz: That doesn’t even include the music side, which is a showcase from The Windish Agency including Nadastrom, Beni, Brenmar, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and High Rankin.

Baum: It’s the best up-and-comers from mumba tone to dubstep to electronic.

What are you doing to the space?

Kurtz: Well, the space was designed by the world-renowned Herzog de Meuron, so it really doesn’t need anything. But since this is the first time the space is being open to the public we’ll do a little tricking to it.

Gauge: The venue itself will be a platform for all these various forms of art. This is something that you might see during Art Basel, but nobody ever shows light to this when electronic music is the focus of the week.

Can you sum up The Overthrow in one sentence?

Tamara Sky: The Overthrow is dark and different. Miami is pink; The Overthrow is not.

Anyone else we need to mention?

Baum: Yes! BlackBook! They’re our media partner, and they’ll be helping is live up to that blackness!