Mixmag: South America guide

Originally published in Mixmag

Brazil:
Brazil mixes ostentation and poverty like nowhere else, throwing dollops of sex, sun and sleaze into a bubbling cauldron of music and culture. For lazy, sun-drenched days and spontaneous partying head to Rio, where the whole city turns with the indolent revolutions of the sun. Beach parties replace after parties, and the best way to get hooked up is to strike up a conversation. Clubbers and promoters rely on networks of friends and instant messaging to spread the word about events, or fuel spontaneous after-parties. For something a little more familiar head to Sao Paulo, home to a thriving scene running the gamut from drum and bass and hip hop to ice cool minimal. With a population of over 10 million it’s like London on steroids, and has the clubs and thriving music scene to match. It’s full on, full time, but if it all gets too much there’s always Warung.

Best clubs:
Warung Beach Club: Is Warung the ultimate beach club? Probably. It’s worth the trip to see Itajai beach anyway. Throw in acres of beautiful tanned flesh and A-list DJs and it’s downright unmissable.
D-Edge: The neon-laced D-Edge is Sao Paulo’s coolest underground venue and a magnet for world-class DJs. “It has a huge soundsystem, it’s beautiful and attracts really cool people,” explains Gui Boratto.
Love Club, Rio: Because you can’t be at the beach all the time… Love Club is Rio’s answer to D-Edge. It’s intimate but equipped with cutting edge music, pumping sound and gorgeous people.

Chile:
According to locals national character is a matter of coastlines. Brazil and Argentina, sitting on the Atlantic coast, are brasher, livelier, more cosmopolitan. The Pacific countries like Chile are more conservative, less Euro-influenced. Which meant dance music took longer to find its way into Chile, but when it did it was bleeding edge European electronica and Detroit techno (Juan Atkins and Derrick May played the country’s first ever rave). “There were a lot of Chileans living outside the country in the 90s and when they came back they brought electronic music, with them,” Luciano says. You can still see the effects in the clubbing culture where huge events like Creamfields are balanced out by house parties or intimate after-hours bashes. Santiago, the capital, is the heart of the year-round club scene. In the summer hire a car and head 120km to the seaside clubs of Valparaíso.

Best clubs:
La Feria, Santiago: With huge aquariums built into the walls, porthole windows and white leather everywhere it looks like a Bond villain’s lair – if only Dr No had been into techno.
Dominica 54: An after hours club-cum-sushi restaurant? It shouldn’t work, but it’s a favourite haunt of Chile’s expat DJ A-list (Villalobos, et al). Sushi till 1am, dancing till 10am.
Deck-00, Muelle Baron: Set on Muelle Baron, the main public access to Valparaiso’s seaport, Deck-00 hosts huge one-off events with the likes of Fatboy Slim in a glittering setting.

Argentina:
Buenos Aires boasts the same mix of sun, sex and tunes as Miami or Rio, but for about half the price. It’s also the most European of South American countries, which means plenty of English-speaking clubbers to befriend and a cosmopolitan flair to its nightlife. A tragic club fire two years ago led to a huge safety crackdown on club venues (Pacha Buenos Aires saw its capacity reduced from 4000 to 2200) but massive events like the 10,000 capacity Moonpark festival have filled the gap. With a mix of international tourists and out-going locals Argentina is an ideal start to a South American clubbing adventure. “The people make Argentina totally unique,” Hernan Cattaneo says. What he means is last time he played Southfest the crowd literally stretched as far as the eye could see – all going mental. “In other countries people go to the bar. Here, they dance like it’s the last time they’re ever going to dance.”

Best clubs:
Crobar: Buenos Aires’ best Friday night, the newly established Crobar sticking with the formula that’s made its US clubs successful: big international talent (Armin, FC Kahuna, etc) and a sleek setting.
Pacha Buenos Aires: Though its capacity was scaled down after the Buenos Aires club fire tragedy Pacha BA is still one of the biggest draws in town. A host of A-list international guests keeps crowds flocking in on Saturday nights.
Club 69 @ Nicetoclub: Like many South American clubs Nicetoclub hosts everything from rock ‘n’ roll to hip hop, go on Thursday for dance music accompanied by fancy dress, cabaret performances and general madness.

Uruguay:
You could fit the entire population of Uruguay into London comfortably. Twice. But there’s nothing you can tell the three million strong population about partying. Every year in January the young, rich and beautiful flood to the seaside paradise of Punta Del Este to romp on the beaches and soak up the bar life. “Everyone’s there – Brazilian, Argentine, Peruvian… It’s a millionaire’s playground. I went to a private party there with 2000 people, a huge swimming pool and an open bar pouring with champagne and vodka. It went on for days,” says DJ Greg Vickers. The season is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it short but look out for big outdoor events like East Festival, which hosts the likes of Sasha and Erick Morillo. For year-round clubbing head to the capital Montevideo. “Check out Milenio, it’s underground but everyone goes there,” Tania Vulcano advises. And after you get your club on go replenish your tan on one of the white sand beaches that surround the city.

Best clubs:
Milenio: A big-yet-cosy three-storey affair, Milenio has a reputation for top notch music and a liberal attitude, which has made it a magnet for hedonistic tourists, the gay crowd and hip locals.
W Lounge: You’re never far from the beach in Montevideo, especially not in W Lounge which capitalises on the Ibiza-of-the-southern-hemisphere vibe with two dancefloors and a gorgeous seaside terrace.
Punta del Este: Not a club, but a destination. Throw caution and credit rating to the wind and head there in January to party at the many beach bars and mini-festivals that spring up during its brief season.

Peru:
The club scene in Peru is small but cutting edge – the rule is minimal music, maximal partying. “You’ve got people in their 20s and people old enough to be their grandparents, all getting involved. It is purely hedonistic. By the end of a night here I can never remember the name of my hotel,” says Greg Vickers. A typical night finishes at 8 or 9 in the morning then everyone staggers to Larcomar, a huge shopping mall-cum-hangout overlooking the Pacific, to catch the sun.

Best clubs:
Gotika: Handily located on the fifth floor of Larcomar you won’t want to leave before sunrise. Better write the name of your hotel on your hand before you go out.
Aura: A slick, trendy, industrial space in a Soho chic style, Aura hosts a mix of local and international talent. You’ll want to put on a fresh tee-shirt before you go.
Home: A distant memory in the UK, Home is alive and well in Peru, where it’s just celebrated its first birthday. Think high stakes glamour and non-stop house music.

Columbia:
For serious eye candy try Circus in Medellín. Ministry events manager Nick Leonard has fond memories: “Every woman in the room had her nose and boobs done. God I wished I could speak Spanish!” Apart from a few big clubs nightlife revolves around warehouse parties thrown by promoters like Techsound and Ultrabass. Despite the headlines you’re more likely to be hanging out with working class kids than narco villains. “People are very outgoing and friendly, even if they have no money they manage to party,” says Techsound boss Luis.

Best clubs:
La Sala, Bogota: One of Bogota’s hottest clubs, the slickly styled La Sala plays host to the likes of Poker Flat, Subliminal and Ministry tours, as well as top local talent.
Circus Club, Medellín: An hour’s flight from Bogota this Pacha style club holds 3000 glammed up clubbers. And with an average ratio of two gorgeous women for every guy it’s worth the trip.
Warehouse parties: You’ll have to do a little legwork (try the phrase “donde está una fiesta de techno?”) but for authentic Columbian clubbing head to one of the regular bashes thrown by local promoters.

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Mixmag: Luciano

Originally published in Mixmag

Luciano @ DC10, Ibiza

Luciano @ DC10, Ibiza


One image summed up Ibiza 2007: Luciano standing in the DJ booth at DC10, music off, flanked by stony-faced Spanish cops as a chorus of protest rose from the dancefloor. Slowly, the boos turned into a chant, “Lu-ci-an-o, Lu-ci-an-o.” It was a classic confrontation between young and old; freedom and restraint; hedonism and joyless authority and the 29-year-old Chilean represents everything the Ibicenco police were trying to stamp out. That moment turned him from a star into an icon.

In the past twelve months Luciano has gone from underground hero to bona fide A-lister purely by refusing to compromise. Unhappy with his old management, he left and – with new label partner An Reich – created Cadenza booking agency. Like everything else in Luciano’s life, Cadenza (the label he started four years ago) has a newfound sense of purpose. They’ve released their first two LPs and expanded their roster. As well as running the agency Luciano and An have taken Cadenza’s successful residency at Berlin’s Panoramabar global, establishing nights in Paris, Madrid, Italy, Bucharest, Barcelona and Moscow.

In the midst of all this, while the rest of the world was moving to Berlin Luciano packed his bags to take his young family to Geneva. “It was hard for my career, it would have been easier to stay. But you have prove you have the strength to fight, to re-build your life,” he says.

Lest anyone mistake this move for a retreat, he’s thrown himself into DJing. As Cocoon and DC10 resident he was the biggest star of the Ibiza season – tirelessly igniting the terraces every Monday. Plus he racked up the air miles playing in different country, or two, every weekend. “It’s scary. Sometimes I wake up and have to turn on the TV to find out what country I’m in,” Luciano says.

Describing 2007 as “exhausting and beautiful,” he is eager to keep pushing in 2008. “We’re touring Japan, Malaysia, India… I don’t know if they like techno in India, we’ll find out,” he laughs. It’s a safe bet that if they don’t yet, they will by the time the Luciano is through with them.

An Reich says simply, “He seduces people with music,” and this was the year the world fell under his spell.

Mixmag: David Guetta

Originally published in Mixmag

Most DJs just walk into a booth. Not David Guetta. He strides through Pacha flanked by two burly friends, his gold and black satin Adidas jacket glinting in the lights. Head down but ears tuned to the rising hum of the crowd, he looks like a bantam weight fighter marching into the ring. Outside, the words Fuck Me I’m Famous flash Vegas red in the warm night air, a gaudy invitation. Stepping into the booth Guetta shakes himself, loosening up. The minders hang back, looking down watchfully as David steps up to the decks. Shrugging off the satin jacket he raises his fists in a boxer’s salute and the crowd – recognising their contender – sends up a throaty roar.

This is pure Fuck Me I’m Famous. High-octane showmanship, glamour, the elusive splash of sex, style and stardom that has turned Guetta into a worldwide celebrity. Watching him work the crowd it’s easy to fall under his spell. He has the savvy and highly polished charisma you’d expect from the man who scored a top three hit with a canny (but nerve-grating) re-edit of someone else’s remix (David Guetta Vs The Egg, Walking Away), and who – in the manner of A-list athletes, rather than DJs – starred in a global campaign for cosmetic giant L’Oreal.

What you don’t expect is him to pile down a dusty Ibicenco side road in a red Peugeot van emblazoned with the logo of a Spanish cleaning service. Nor do you expect his driver to be a middle-aged housekeeper in checked trousers and a black apron. In shapeless camo shorts and metallic sneakers he looks like an overgrown skater boy (albeit one sporting a heavy, expensive black Rolex diving watch) and he apologises for his tardiness as profusely as a waiter standing over a plate of undercooked chicken.

This is the other side of David Guetta, the one that doesn’t make the billboards, the adverts, the society pages of France’s gossip magazines. Two years ago Mixmag sipped champagne with him in Pink Paradise, the high-end strip club he owned with his PR/designer/entrepreneur wife, Cathy. Now, he offers us pasta which we eat off our knees while the cleaner Hoovers the next room and his three-year-old son Elvis giggles with the nanny. It’s a deliberately domestic, unprepossessing setting in which to discuss his new album, Pop Life. But reinvention is very much on the Guetta agenda.

Having worked his way onto the celebrity radar, and into the consciousness of pop culture, Guetta seems to want to tear it all down. Or does he? “I am not trying to be a pop star. I’m a DJ. I have a pop lifestyle, but I am not a pop person,” he says, firmly, if not entirely believably. To the contrary, he’s the only DJ at the moment making serious waves in both clubland and planet pop. Like other big shot DJs, he runs a very successful night in Ibiza and has an exhausting gig schedule (“I get planes like I used to get the Metro” he says). Unlike other DJs, he’s opened for George Michael at the 80,000 capacity Stade de France and Madonna on her Confessions tour. The Queen Of Pop has even plugged Pop Life on her blog (“I couldn’t believe it, so crazy!” David chirps, though he did send her the album, so he can’t have been too surprised). And Pop Life’s title? Borrowed from a Prince song. A tribute, not a declaration of intent, he says.

The initial transformation from “just a DJ” to his current society status started in 1989 when he spotted a pretty girl one night, when he was spinning. Digging into his bag of tricks he started chopping up tunes, scratching, spinning back records, anything to get her attention. “And it worked,” he grins. She was the bartender, Cathy, and it was the beginning of a romance and partnership that would transform both their lives.

When they arrive at KM5 – a plush outpost of Eurotrash girls and leathery men with mullets – for a quick meal, pre-Pacha, Cathy sweeps, St. Tropez tanned, and dripping gold, David all but invisible behind her. Seven months pregnant and imposingly stylish in black, her force-field personality is only amplified by her regal bump. She kisses everyone, dispensing greetings in three languages. Next to her David looks like a pale, tow-headed kid, the same shy boy who impressed her with his vinyl juggling.

The way he tells it, he always wanted to be a DJ – no more, no less. Cathy, on the other hand, made quick work of moving from bartending to PR, to running celebrity-packed nightclub Les Bains Douche with David, to launching her own-brand perfume (with David DJing at the parties, naturally), to running their joint venture restaurant and lap dancing club. She’s smart, ambitious and charismatic. David is happy to pass her off as the mastermind of his celebrity image. More than once he refers to “Cathy’s world” (meaning Cristal-popping VIP events) and “my world” (meaning clubs).

He doesn’t want people to think, despite those bare-chest- and-heaving-bosom, Fuck Me I’m Famous promo shots, that it’s all about the image, or that he’s interested in being A-list. “I came up with the name Fuck Me I’m Famous to take the piss out of the whole celebrity thing,” he insists. If the name – as strung across the entrance to Pacha in bright red lights, and splashed across his chest in gold lettering – is a dig at Brand Guetta it’s so subtle as to be imperceptible. Certainly none of the rich Americans and C-list celebs (former Kiera Knightly paramour and Bodyrocker Kas James has a noisy group of friends in the corner) watching him from the VIP area seem to be in on the joke.

David, though, is visibly happiest and most relaxed behind the decks, shuffling through CDs or turning around to pull silly superstar DJ poses for the in-house photographer. He says there’s nothing he loves more than dropping some surprise tunes, though none are in evidence tonight. He plays the first Pop Life single, Love Is Gone (“it’s about a crisis I had with my wife,” he says, though as relationship meltdown songs goes it’s no Love Will Tear Us Apart), bopping along as the kids below the DJ booth wave their hands in the air. Miss Kittin’s Silverscreen Shower Scene, and Shakedown’s At Night and even Snap’s The Power are aired between mixes of his own tunes. So far, he hasn’t played anything that would sound out of place at a bar mitzvah, but the crowd is swept up in the moment. As much as anything, it’s his genuine enthusiasm; his unselfconscious glee at dropping records your mum might consider old hat but which create chaos in the maelstrom of bodies beneath him.

Yet he insists this isn’t the real David Guetta. Fuck Me I’m Famous, he says, isn’t me. I’m different. To prove the point he and Cathy sold up the restaurant and strip club in Paris. While his wife has publicly stated she was sad to see her “babies” go, for Guetta this was the beginning of a new life. “When you own something, you’re also owned. Success doesn’t necessarily make you happy – success at what you love makes you happy,” he says, explaining his decision to sell off his money-spinning businesses.

Instead of being an industry heavy, he wanted to be a jobbing disc jockey again. “I was very successful with the clubs, and when you make a lot of money it’s hard to stop. You never know if music is going to make money,” he says. But it was a risk he was prepared to take.

David characterises his work of the last two years as “door to door sales” – going around the world with his record box knocking on the gates of clubland. This is his preferred pose, the David Guetta he wants the world to see through the gleam of his public persona. While he has certainly worked the clubs – playing nearly 250 gigs during that time –it is impossible to imagine he’d have anything near his current international profile without the ritzy Fuck Me I’m Famous parties and his tenure as the worldwide face of L’Oreal Studio Line hair gel. (Not that there’s anything wrong with using your looks to get ahead, but – as any woman could tell you – it does make it harder to be taken seriously.)

The larger obstacle to the DJ credibility David craves is, well, the music. Playing party music is one thing. Dropping House Of Pain’s Jump Around in the main room at Pacha is another. “I’d be bored to death if I had to play minimal techno,” he says. Yet he doesn’t exactly take full advantage of the vast range of music that falls between ‘minimal’ and ‘cheese’.

Unusually, for a DJ, record shopping isn’t much a part of his life. There’s the odd excursion to Beatport but he complains “It’s hard to find music other people don’t have.” Instead of hitting the shops he relies heavily on an informal record swapping club involving Pete Tong, Erick Morillo, Steve Angelo and a handful of others, trading new tunes and edits. (This, he says, is how The Egg remix worked its way into the light of day. “I just gave a copy to Pete, as a friend.” A friend, of course, whose Radio 1 show is the most influential force in mainstream UK dance music.) If he finds the variety available on Beatport stale, sourcing records from just half-a-dozen or so close friends is a paradoxical solution. It’s like borrowing your mates’ clothes for fear of showing up in the same outfit as someone else at a party – you might not look like anyone else, but you’ll sure as hell end up looking like your mate.

Apart from his DJ pals, the person David counts on most is, of course, himself. At KM5 he’s twinkling with excitement over a new edit of Love Is Gone, impatient to test the club’s reaction. He is full of confidence as a producer, saying Pop Life is his best album yet; that he thinks it has songs that will go the distance, not just club tunes. It’s a line straight out off page one of DJ/producer promotional catechism, and Pop Life is equally riddled with clichés. Musically, it’s more Time & Envy than Ministry Of Sound, with the likes of Tomorrow Can Wait and Everytime We Touch a blurred onslaught of by-numbers funky house. And the lyrics, like so many in commercial dance, don’t bear close inspection. Safe to say, nothing here is going to trouble the underground clubs Guetta professes to respect so highly.

Pop Life is another baffling piece of the Guetta puzzle. Who is he, really? And what does he want? He talks enthusiastically about playing afterhours clubs with Tiefschwarz, but at his own parties he plays wedding disco music. As a producer he sticks to formulaic commercial house, but pays homage to the innovations of Daft Punk and Depeche Mode. He says he doesn’t want to be a celebrity DJ, but he happily poses with his socialite wife to promote Fuck Me I’m Famous.

Ultimately, it’s hard to tell how conscious he is of these contradictions. Playing at Pacha David looks like a kid in a candy shop. There is no doubt he sincerely loves what he does. Perhaps he really sees himself as part of the electronic pantheon he continually name drops, like DJ Hell and Depeche Mode. On the other hand, he’s an incredibly astute operator. While he’s not running Pink Paradise anymore the sharp business brain that made it such a success isn’t resting. Underground is cool, yes; but being the highly marketable, commercial face of dance music (and being endorsed by Madonna) makes a lot more sense in terms of career progression.

Maybe the key to the riddle lies in David’s recollection of his early years as a DJ. “We were treated like shit. I was the number one DJ in Paris at the end of the 80s and I remember playing in the basement, in a little hole. Sometimes I feel like this is all a big joke and I’ll wake up and be back in the basement,” he says. Perhaps he’s just trying to stay out of that basement, by any means necessary.

Dummy: Dan Sartain

Originally published in Dummy

Dan Sartain

Dan Sartain


Dan Sartain plays rock’n’roll. Real rock’n’roll. Like young Elvis did, like his hero Chuck Berry did. Onstage at the Astoria he first looks small and very alone; almost obscured by stacks of equipment for the next band. Then he smashes out an opening chord and his sole accompanist beats furiously at the drums and the sound blasts through the smoke and the chattering crowd like a jet taking off. Suddenly he’s channelling Chuck’s knock-kneed shuffle, spitting out raw three-minute sagas of love and death with sweat-soaked fervour.

Off-stage he smokes fast and talks slow in an unexpected West Coast accent. His gaunt face and mischievous eyes hint deliciously at a picaresque past. But the Birmingham, Alabama born and raised singer claims he had a typical childhood, playing with Transformers, eating Vienna sausages from the tin. Birmingham, for all its sordid racist history, is, he says, just like anywhere in America. And like many grown-up American kids he loves big glossy cars, sport, hip hop, and getting stoned.

Still, at not-quite 25, Dan seems old for his years. A little roughed up by life, already. Maybe that’s how you get, living with as-yet unrequited dreams.

When did you first get into music?
My dad was a musician so he had a guitar around, always. He taught me how to play my chords when I was about eleven, and that’s when I got interested. And I’ve got a cool big brother. He’s probably my biggest musical influence, as far as getting me good records and shit. Sonic Youth, Pixies, Rocket From The Crypt. What else do you need?

What was the first record you bought?
It was either Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits or AC/DC Who Made Who. I still have both those tapes and listen to ‘em all the time.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
An athlete. American football or boxing. I had the heart to do it but I didn’t have the body.
But I come to every practice and tried as hard as I could.

Were you popular at school?
Yeah, probably for the wrong reasons. I was either making fun of people or getting made fun of myself. The biggest class clown there was.

Is that part of why you got into music? To show off?
There is a certain buzz you get; it’s like a high, playing onstage. It kicks in the same endorphins as being an athlete. Except you get to be drunk and do it, so that’s cool.

How did your debut album, Dan Sartain vs. The Serpientes, come about?
When I was about 19 I made a record myself called the Crimson Guard, and I gave it to [California-based label] Swami Records, the one record company I ever tried to get on. They liked it and wanted to put it out so I rerecorded some old stuff and did a bunch of new stuff. It felt good. I felt validated as a musician.
I don’t know what would have happened if I’d gotten knocked back. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about it.

Who or what are the ‘serpientes’ of your album title?
It’s just, uh, snakes. Dan Sartain versus the snakes. All the snakes of the world. It’s cooler to say ‘serpientes’ than snakes.

You’ve been compared to Johnny Cash and Elvis – is that exciting or intimidating?
It’s nice, ‘cause I like Elvis, and Johnny Cash. But Chuck Berry’s better than both of them.

So who are your musical heroes?
Ol’ Dirty Bastard. [Jazz/blues musician] John Reece. Chuck Berry. And the people that I get to work with.

Is there any music you don’t like?
Most music. You gotta dig for treasure, you know what I mean. You gotta dig through all the stuff to find one jewel.

How important is your image to your music?
Not that important. But I like to look nice. I try to wear something with a collar.

What would be your dream gig?
Oh geez. I wish I’d seen the Ramones.

And to play?
There’s so many gigs that you play that you think were the perfect gig. My 21st birthday was good. You get to drink when you’re 21 in America, so it was like a big milestone. Was I drunk onstage? Oh yeah. Well, we were the first band so I wasn’t too tossed

What’s on your rider?
Towels, water, fruit. Nothing too exciting. I’d like to get lobster and pistachios but that ain’t gonna happen.

One reviewer wrote that you were probably destined for ‘cultdom not stardom’ – what do you think?
I agree with ‘em. I’d like to do enough to get some money though ‘cause I don’t have any money. When people say they don’t have any money they got something. They got some Christmas money put aside or something but I ain’t got no money. I ain’t got no money.

How does it feel to be working these last few years, putting out records, and still be broke?
Well, I can’t do anything else. And I can say that in all honesty, ‘cause I tried. I’ve been a pizza maker, done manual labour stuff, everything but office jobs.

What’s the worst job you’ve had?
The worst job I ever had was cleaning out the showers at the YMCA. They were obviously full naked men walking around. I’m not homophobic but then again, they weren’t homos. They were just naked dudes and it made me uncomfortable.

On MySpace you list your influences as Mike Tyson and THC – can you elaborate?
I just like to get stoned and watch Mike Tyson knock people the fuck out. Yeah! He’s the greatest champion of our life time.

Doesn’t the ear biting count against him?
One time he bit that guy’s ear, I guess. But Holyfield shouldn’t have been head butting him. You don’t head butt Tyson and expect him to take it lightly, you know.

Do you take any shit off people?
Never. I’ve been in fights, yeah. I’m not proud of ‘em. I usually win though. Hit someone in the nose and they get all bloody and they don’t want to fight anymore.

Who would play you in a biopic?
Sal Mineo, maybe. [Rebel Without A Cause co-star, murdered in West Hollywood thirty years ago.] I’d like to choose James Dean, you know, but you can’t choose somebody that’s more handsome than you.

Would you rather be famous now or well-remembered in the future?
What has more money? Famous now? Then famous now.
I’ll tell you this much, people that are rich and try to play it off – do everything very moderate – those are born rich people. But poor people, when they get rich, they’re like all these rappers. They’re like Elvis. Elvis was a poor person who became rich. He was like, I’m eating whatever I want, anytime. I’ve got three Cadillacs, got all these jewels in my belt.
I’d do all that. I’d do the lobsters, I’d do the rings, I’d do all that shit.

Dan Sartain vs. The Serpientes is out now on One Little Indian. His new album, Join Dan Sartain, is scheduled for release in Sept 2006

Last Exit To Brooklyn DVD review

Originally published on www.filmexposed.com

Last Exit To Brooklyn DVD
Cast: Stephen Lang, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Peter Dobson, Burt Young

Last Exit To Brooklyn is set during the Korean War, in the early 1950s. The first characters you see are a trio of soldiers, cock-of-the-walking their way back to barracks after a night out. For a few, deceptive seconds this might be a war film, in the conventional sense. Then the real soldiers, fighting the real war, bowl on screen: a gang of roughneck wops, spoiling for action. A brief, brutal, beautifully choreographed beating later you’re in their world, to stay.

Based on the novel by Hubert Selby (who also wrote Requiem For A Dream), the film is a raw, artful, unsparing look at raggle taggle Brooklyn life. The endless parade of soldiers who straggle through the film getting mugged, propositioned, beaten up, or otherwise damaged in their exchanges on this lawless patch are stand ins for the audience – sucked into a world that is short on narrative arc and long on impulse, where the only constant is violence. At the centre of this universe of quicksand is Tralala (Leigh), a mouthy hooker with a finely tuned survival instinct, and her occasional partners in crime, Vinnie (Dobson) and Sal (Stephen Baldwin). Their buddy, Harry (Lang), is a shop steward, and head of the strike office, making free with his union expense account as the community struggles through a long strike against the bosses of the local metalworks.

Though a stunningly filmed late-night clash between police and strikers provides the visual epicentre of the film, social issues never eclipse the individual. Rather, the big picture stuff (war, labour disputes, family relationships) is backdrop to the intensely felt experiences of the characters. In sharp contrast to films that look back at the ‘50s through a spyglass of modern mores, Last Exit is perfectly self-absorbed. When shop boss Harry falls hard for a fey, selfish little queen called Regina (Bernard Zette) it would be easy for the film to make a statement about contemporary sexuality, or life in the closet. But it doesn’t, because the point is not what we think of Harry, but how he feels. Instead of glib commentary, there is real pathos. A theme that is repeated in the subplot of transvestite Georgette (Alexis Arquette) and her unrequited love for good-looking thug Vinnie (ringleader of the tormenters in the opening scene). Any kind of vulnerability can be fatal in Last Exit’s testosterone-fuelled landscape, especially for dainty queens, which makes Georgette’s flirtation watch-through-fingers stuff.

Frankly, it’s a miserable film. Yet so lovingly shot and acted you can’t help being drawn in. These are characters so small, sharp, closed and ugly they wouldn’t ever get an airing elsewhere, but the strong cast (including an excellent young Sam Rockwell) render them painfully alive. Leigh, in particular, pulls off an extraordinarily difficult role with power and panache. They elicit compassion when they shouldn’t and they provoke empathy at the unlikeliest moments. And while they’re trapped, you can leave, which gives this film its lingering, bittersweet edge.

Sense: How to launch a business website

Originally published in Sense magazine

1. Getting started… what do you want from your website?
Websites are essential marketing tools, whatever your business. But a poorly thought-out or inaccessible page is worse than none at all. “The most common mistake is to not have a clear idea of your needs. Take the time to work out your objectives,” says Stuart Dowling, director of The Website Store (a4internet.com).
Your site can be a showcase of your work, an informative page about a service you offer, or a full-fledged online shop, but you must always remember you’re pitching to a fast-moving customer base that is spoiled for choice. Web surfers spend a maximum of five seconds waiting for a page to load before they click away, so your mantra should be: clear, simple and accessible.
Once you have a plan for your site find and register a suitable domain name. You may need to try a few variations on your business name before you find a free domain. Go to nominet.org.uk for exhaustive information on finding and registering a domain name.

2. Check out the competition
Once you’ve decided on the main objectives of your website do your research. What are similar businesses offering? How well do your competitors’ websites work? If you find yourself clicking away, ask why. Your responses as a consumer should feed back into your own design. Equally, if you find a website you like, take inspiration from its best features.

3. Find a web developer
The simplest way to find a developer is to find a website you like and contact its designer (developers always put a link to their company on the sites they build.) You can also try sites designed to match you with a designer, such as web-development.com/UK or services like approvedwebdesigners.co.uk which lets you input basic requirements (type of site, budget, etc) and returns with quotes from developers.
There is no overall UK accreditation programme for web designers but look for qualifications such as Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), degrees in web design or IT, and membership in bodies like UK Web Design Association (ukwda.org). Remember, though, web design is incredibly fast moving. Academic and professional qualifications are a important but the fundamental question is: can they deliver what you want? Get as much advice and as many personal recommendations as possible. A good web designer will be happy to share their portfolio and references.

4. Finances
As with any building project, be prepared for snafus and budgetary surprises. For a timely and cost-effective build agree, in writing, on a payment structure based on delivery.
You also need to think about maintenance costs. If you have good IT skills a CMS (content management system) site will allow you to update it yourself, reducing your ongoing costs. If you don’t want to maintain the site yourself, budget for updates.
Online stores need to factor in the cost of security because you’re responsible for protecting your customers’ information. PayPal (paypal.co.uk) is a simple, inexpensive option for handling payments securely. If you want to accept credit cards in your own right first research the requirements on sites like ecommerce-digest.com, then find a firm like Netcraft (audited.netcraft.com) which can provide you with appropriate security.
Don’t forget to budget for promotion, too! (Which we’ll discuss in a moment.)

5. Developing your site
Choosing the right designer is critical, but you can’t hand over the reins entirely. Artisan Laura Long (lauralong.co.uk) creates unique handmade gifts and jewellery, and wanted a site that communicates her passions. This meant providing words and images, collaborating on page layout and making sure the designer tagged her site with the right keywords to help her customers find her on the web. “It was time consuming, but I got exactly what I wanted,” she says.
Once all the elements are in place, give the site a dry run. Read the copy carefully – spelling and grammatical mistakes don’t inspire confidence – and check to ensure buttons function, pictures display correctly and links open. Test the site using different browsers and operating systems (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Windows, Mac, Linux, etc) and on different speed modems and broadband to ensure every customer will see your site to its best advantage.

6. Promoting your webpage
Hiring a web marketing firm to promote your site will save you time and stress. There are literally hundreds out there, so apply the same principles as looking for a designer to find a reliable partner.
If you want to do it yourself, get a free online tutorial at net-commerce-solutions.co.uk, or pick up one of the dozens of books covering online marketing. Register your new site with the major search engines, familiarise yourself with search engine optimisation (there are loads of free online articles and pointers) and explore the marketing tools offered by the likes of Google (google.co.uk/services, etc).
Posting on forums related to your area of business, sending out newsletters, even putting up flyers around town, will all help drive traffic to your site.
And remember, being number one on Google isn’t for everyone. Efficient marketing means delivering customers, so target your region or interest group for maximum returns. To do this, you’ll need to analyse who’s using your site, and how. Be sure and ask your designer about data capture – your server will have software that will tell you how many unique visitors you have, where they come from, which pages they’ve looked at, etc. Or turn over the job to a marketing company like redeye.com who will analyse your site usage and report back. With this information you can focus your promotional efforts, tailor your advertising spend for maximum return, improve your customer service and make your virtual business a real-world success!

At a glance:
Expect to pay: From £200 for a basic site.
From £1500 for an e-commerce site.
Timescale: Depending on the project, between 1-10 weeks. The key is agreeing your objectives and a reasonable delivery time with your developer.
Pros: Unique to your business, adapts to your needs, is always open, is easily accessible to millions of potential customers, helps you gather information about your customers and refine your offer.
Cons: Maintenance can be time consuming/costly, technical problems beyond your control and security breaches can cost you money and credibility, may be susceptible to hackers and viruses.

Q: Michael Eavis interview

Originally published in Q magazine

Interview with Glastonbury founder and Q Award winner Michael Eavis at the Q Awards 2005

  1. What are you Drinking?
  2. I’ve had a glass of white wine, but I probably shouldn’t have.
  3. Have you made any new friends? Anyone you want to meet?

It was good to see Chris [Martin] again. We’re great buds. I met Noel as well, he’s another great one. Have I met him before? Of course, but I hadn’t seen him for a while. They [Oasis] were the highlights of the nineties [at Glastonbury]. Their 1994 performance was a classic.

  1. Will your Q Award be going in the loo or on the mantelpiece?

Well, I have a few NME Awards but my cleaner doesn’t like them. She thinks they’re rude, so she keeps moving them all to the cowshed. I don’t think she’ll mind the Q Award though. It’ll go in the kitchen, next to my Pollstar award for Best Festival In The World. That was an extraordinary honour, so I think the two awards belong together.

  1. Liam or Noel?

Noel

  1. Anyone you think should have won an award today who didn’t?

Radiohead are still the best band in the world, but they didn’t get a mention. I suppose they aren’t doing much this year, so it’s nice to see Coldplay have a turn. For the most part I wouldn’t want to argue with the readers who voted… though I was surprised the Kaiser Chiefs didn’t pick up anything. I think there should have been more recognition for new music. There are so many great young bands coming up, like the Magic Numbers.

  1. Favourite speech/moment?

What Chris (Martin) said about Glastonbury was lovely – though it was about us so I don’t know if I can pick that! Nick Cave and Jimmy Page didn’t say much… there were no notable best speeches.

  1. Where are you going next?

Back to Somerset, I think. Though I’d like to have a chat with Chris before I go.

  1. Track of the year?

Fix You. It’s fantastic. The album has been getting some mixed press but I think it’s brilliant, and Fix You is my favourite track, by miles. The band’s manager sent me some of the tracks before the album was released and it’s grown on me ever since. I’m not a natural fan of anything, I have to be convinced, but Coldplay completely won me over.

  1. Best Album Ever?

(didn’t have an answer for this one)

  1. With no Glastonbury this year, what are your plans for the summer?

We have a lot to do on the farm. Dairy farm politics are in a state at the moment. The price of milk isn’t good. Supermarkets are making most of their money of dairy, but the farmers are struggling. Will I miss Glastonbury? No. I think it’s important to take a rest every five years, to have a fallow year to allow the farm to recover. People ask me, how can you turn down £15 million and I say, no problem. We do Glastonbury because we want to, not because we have to. We’ve been milking cows for 120 years so the farm always comes first.

  1. What was going through your head Friday morning at Glastonbury (this summer) when the rain was pouring down?

When the rain started I thought, fantastic! I knew it was going to rain, but I was sure it would be over. I went on Radio 1 and was convinced everything was going to be fine. I said the sun would be shining again by 11AM and it would be sunny the rest of the weekend. I was wrong, obviously, but thankfully we have a great crew who are incredibly skilled at handling a crisis. The guy who does our electrics has worked in Afghanistan and Iraq, so this was nothing. I wasn’t worried, not at all.

  1. Rumour has it after Bobby Gillespie’s unhinged performance on the Saturday night he was politely escorted off the farm and told to never come back. Is it true?

Not at all! [his outburst about ‘fucking hippies’] was the funniest five minutes of the weekend. It was a total hoot. He asked the crowd what they wanted to hear, expecting them to say Moving On Up and instead they said ‘Basement Jaxx’ so he got a bit upset. He was rude, but they certainly didn’t get chucked off. You can say what you like at Glastonbury

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Cila Warncke