Mark Kozelek’s Beautiful, Haunting Jason Molina Cover

Last week, we were met with the highly upsetting news that the world lost Jason Molina, the gifted and highly prolific frontman of Electric Magnolia Co. and Songs: Ohia, who left behind a brilliant catalog but all too soon. Molina was loved among his peers, as was his music, and so it didn’t take long at all for Graveface Records and his fellow musicians to announce a compilation album, Weary Engine Blues, whose proceeds will help Molina’s family cover medical and funeral costs.

Weary Engine Blues will feature covers of Molina’s songs from a number of artists, including Mark Kozelek, Phil Eleverum, Will Oldham, Allo Darlin’, John Vanderslice, Damien Jurado, Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater, Will Johnson, Scout Niblett, Jeffrey Lewis, Hospital Ships, Wave Pictures, Herman Dune, and more, along with original artwork by Molina and a print made for him by Will Schaff.

Graveface has already released Mark Kozelek’s contribution to the record, a chilling interpretation of Molina’s “It’s Easier Now.” When he sings Molina’s lines in his absence—“It’s easier now / that I just say I got better”—it feels like a sock to the gut. Listen below.

Today In Unusual Fragrance News: Smell Like Pizza, Will Oldham

With the holiday shopping season still in a frenzied state (Chanukah starts this weekend!), many companies are trying to launch those last-minute new products for the individual of particular or discriminating taste. Fragrances are usually a rather popular gift—that is, when they’re a normal floral or musky or refreshing and ocean-esque scent. But some people want a more, er, distinctive aroma about them. And for when no mere Acqua di Gio or Marc will cut it, there’s Pizza Hut perfume.

You heard me. Pizza Hut perfume. What started as ad agency Grip Limited making a joke on Pizza Hut Canada’s Facebook page became an actual thing that someone made. Turns out, some people legitimately wanted a real fragrance you can spray on your body or dab behind your ears that makes you smell like a pizza box just opening, with all those sweet, doughy aromas mingling before the first slice is devoured. The company made 100 limited-edition bottles of the stuff, which went quickly, so you won’t be able to pick one up for your pizza-obsessed someone this time around. But hey, maybe they’ll make more next year.

IF smelling like a greasy mélange of dough and cheese doesn’t sound like your jam, Will Oldham of Bonnie “Prince” Billy has a more, er, refined new scent on the market. The unisex Bonnie Billy will set you back $220 and apparently does not smell like whiskey and sadness and dive bar, but according to blogger Diane Pernet, who knows more about fragrances than most people, Bonnie Billy contains some of the oldest known scents in the art of perfume-making, including “the scent of the Agarwood tree” as well as “Egyptian jasmine, French mimosa and the rare, exotic oils of Mukhallat and kewda.” So, you know, no pizza. 

Afternoon Links: Ai Weiwei Sets Up Live Webcams, Mary J. Blige Commercial Pulled

● Ai Weiwei has installed four live webcams in his Beijing home — including one over his bed and two at his desk — as a nod to the 24-hour police surveillance he has been subjected to since his detention last year. [ArtsBeat]

● In Glamour this month, Lauren Conrad claims that, ever since someone "zoomed in" on her cellulite years ago, she has been "just petrified" of wearing a bathing suit in public. "It was so mean," she says. [Us]

● Noted astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson has for years been bothered by the inaccurate star-map used in Titanic‘s climactic scene, so for the 3D go-around, James Cameron changed it. "So I said, ‘All right, you son of a bitch, send me the right stars for the exact time, 4:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, and I’ll put it in the movie,’" Cameron said. "So that’s the one shot that has been changed." [HuffPost]

● David Byrne and Will Oldham have teamed up as the Pieces of Shit — a title which no one would endue the two — for the This Must Be the Place soundtrack. [Pitchfork]

● Mary J. Blige’s commercial for Burger King chicken snack wraps ("Crispy chicken, fresh lettuce, three cheeses, ranch dressing wrapped up in a tasty, flour tortilla," she’ll tell you to the tune of her “Don’t Mind”) already seems to have been pulled from YouTube. [Gawker]

● Nick Cannon has begun documenting his recent health troubles with an online series called the NCredible Health Hustle. "Hoping this series serves as inspiration for anyone dealing with kidney disease, lupus or ANY ILLNESS to keep pushing as well," he says. [People]

Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Indie Folk Royalty

He’s the artist formerly known as Palace, Palace Brothers, Palace Songs and Palace Music, a series of monikers attached to a list of critically praised records released since 1993. Today, the much more widely acclaimed artist known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy (his real name: Will Oldham) assumes yet another identity in a New York hotel room, courtesy of a pair of spooky, deadening novelty contact lenses.

“The lenses make your entire eye appear solid black, like a shiny black marble. I’ve been popping them in so they don’t dry out,” says Oldham, searching intently around the room for a case to hold his recent purchase. When I suggest that the visage of a black-eyed, heavily bearded Oldham might be unsettling to the general public, he shrugs and says, “Well, you gotta keep things interesting.”

It’s an oddly fitting introduction to a man who is often regarded as one of America’s finest and most confounding songwriters. He’s one of the few non-major-label recording artists to have been covered by Johnny Cash. He’s also dueted with Björk, and starred in music videos with both Kanye West and R. Kelly. This spring, Oldham releases Beware, the sixth proper Bonnie “Prince” Billy studio album (not counting various live recordings and singles) and arguably his most forthright project to date. Even though he has a reputation as a reticent, media-shy contrarian, today Oldham is friendly, funny and seemingly happy to talk about the new record despite an admission five minutes into the interview that, “I do hate doing this stuff, you know.”

“This is probably the most premeditated record I’ve ever made,” says Oldham of Beware. While the record’s title might sound like an implied threat, its tone is more cautionary than aggressive. Even though the song titles alone suggest Oldham is plumbing familiar depths — “You Don’t Love Me,” “You Can’t Hurt Me Now,” “Beware Your Only Friend” — Beware is actually a rollicking and tentatively optimistic affair. With the same kind of warm, big-room production that imbued many of the great country albums of the 1970s — “I play with the same kind of guitar setup as Waylon Jennings and David Allan Coe,” he says — the album is a measured step forward for Oldham.

“I got an artists’ residency at this place in Sausalito, California. I could work all day, every day, by myself,” recalls Oldham. “I wrote all the songs for Beware while I was there. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a chance to work that way again, and I’ve certainly never had that before — time to completely focus with no distractions. I used to fantasize about being one of those people who can wake up and write music in the morning, but for me it’s hard to do. I find that the world starts fucking with you the minute you open your eyes.”

For someone long mislabeled as a kind of iconoclastic loner, Oldham has a genuine love of collaboration and a profoundly wicked sense of humor. His back catalog may conjure visions of a troubled troubadour, but he is as likely to be biking, spending time with his mom or listening to hip-hop as he is to be hanging out in the woods strumming on a guitar. “I get really frustrated by the lack of cross-pollination happening in music,” he says. “I know people typically associate me with country and Americana and folk music, but I don’t. It’s frustrating that people won’t allow you to feel the same — or justified — by enjoying wildly different kinds of things.”

When reminded of the notoriety he has cultivated after nearly two decades of releasing music, Oldham can only shrug. “When you are home and by yourself, all of that stuff — all of this stuff — doesn’t really exist,” he says. “Most of the time, I just assume that no one is listening to my music. That’s just my natural, go-to spot in my brain. I don’t think about the fact that I have fans or listeners. To know that all those records I’ve made continue to have a life out there is so, so, so nice. When we play shows and people actually come up and talk to me about the music… it can only be severely awesome.”

Photo by Simona Dalla Valle

Industry Insiders: Spencer Sweeney, Your New Santa

Spencer Sweeney, artist and one of the forces behind Santos’ Party House, talks community boards, sketchy after-hour clubs, and why he’s changing his name to Santa.

Point of Origin: I came to New York about ten years ago from Philadelphia where I was an art student. I started DJing when I moved here at a sketchy after-hours spot on Ridge Street. Looking back, it was a pretty significant place culturally. My first party there was with Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello. The club was basically some guy’s apartment, and he got arrested every weekend. I think he had an incarceration fetish. There was this party at Standard Notions on Ludlow, which was a big hangout. Every week you’d have the guys from A.R.E. Weapons, Chloe Sevigny, Ben Cho. That’s where we all came together. At the time, DJing was very genre-driven. If you went into a record store, everyone would ask what you spun, and you’d have to be like “Organic Deep House,” you know?

Occupation: I co-own Santos’ Party House with Andrew WK, Larry Golden, and Ron Castellano. I had been DJing at the Hole, and the owner was basically raping me, paying me in pennies. And I thought how cool would it be if we could have our own space. It took us three years to build out Santos. Part of the impetus behind the club has to do with the Dadaists and the Futurists, which were artistic movements that had very strong social legs to them. We started with the stage and sound system, getting the best we could. And the idea of calling it Santa’s Party House was to try to make the most radical departure from nightclub naming as it currently exists. It was originally Santa’s, and then we were advised by our lawyer not to go with Santa, because if someone really wanted to fuck us, they could say it’s like Joe Camel trying to appeal to young children. So Andrew came up with the shift of Santa’s to Santos. But I found a way around it. I’m actually legally changing my name from Spencer to Santa. Really. I will be Santa Sweeney. It’s gotta be called Santa’s. It’s perfectly absurd.

imageSide Hustle: I’m an artist. I have solo show coming up at the Jack Hanley Gallery in San Francisco. I was in a performance art troupe called The Actress with Lizzi Bougastsos of Gang Gang Dance and some others. I wanted to move into visual art. I had just quit my job as an artist assistant — I was a terrible assistant — and I was walking down the street, I had heard about Gavin Brown and the bar Passerby and I thought that would be a good place to do parties and performance. We had a lot of good stuff — Fischerspooner and Andrew WK — it worked out great. Then I did a solo show for Gavin.

We’re going to be working with a lot of artists at Santa’s, have more live music and a theater group too, that Kembra Pfahler of The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black is going to direct. Our liquor license took a year. Our neighborhood didn’t have a community board, so we were thrown to Tribeca by default. We were like “we won’t even be in your neighborhood,” and they’re like “we don’t care!” It was a bunch of angry old ladies. We had all our friends at museums write letters on our behalf, saying it would be a place for artists and culture. The board was like “what kind of artist is gonna be up at two in the morning have a drink?”

Favorite Hangs: I liked Lit on Mondays and Wednesdays. And I like … uh … I guess that’s the only place I go. Erik Foss, the owner, is a nice guy. Of course there’s also Max Fish which has been a great place for 20 years now.

Industry Icons: I don’t want to emulate anyone else’s career. But there’s definitely inspiration. Mickey Ruskin at Max’s Kansas City. I mean everyone went there. And Steve Paul who owned a place called the Scene. And the biggest inspiration was Arthur Weinstein, who I was very good friends with, who just passed away a few months ago. He owned one of the first discos called Hurrah. They were really hot for a season, then Studio 54 opened up. I learned a lot of lessons from him.

Known Associates: I’m collaborating at Santos’ Party House with a great choreographer named Maria Hassbi. Who else do I want to give shout-outs to? Andrew WK. Gavin Brown. Elizabeth Peyton. Agathe Snow, Carol Lee at Paper magazine, Ben Cho, Chloe Sevigny, Meredith Monk — we hope to have her perform. Will Oldham — him too.

What are you doing tonight? Going to a reggae party. I’m excited.