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TALK: Money Mark

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The world of Beastie has been knee-deep in the film game recently. It was just a few weeks ago that Adam Yauch premiered his brand new basketball documentary, Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot, at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival (which is set to hit theaters on June 27). Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Beastie Boys long-time keyboardist Money Mark was at SXSW, promoting the soundtrack work he did for the film Beautiful Losers.

(left: Money Mark welcomes you into the world of…Money Mark).

A short time ago, I tracked down Money Mark and we chatted about his work on the film, when his next solo album is going to drop, doing handstands on keyboards, and writing new songs with, you guessed it, the Beastie Boys:

Jim Shearer: How did you end up doing the soundtrack for the upcoming film, Beautiful Losers?

Money Mark: My friend Aaron Rose (director), called me a couple years ago, and said “I’ve got this thing that I’m working on, and it would be great if you could look at it and give me some ideas for music.”

Jim: How does that work for a film? Does he give you little snippets of the movie and say, “I want a happy song here and a sad song there”?

Mark: He gave me complete license to do whatever I wanted to do. It turned out really, really great, and I was so honored to be asked to do it.

Jim: Wasn’t your first film score for the movie Blow?

Mark: I did the happy parts before the movie got dark. I did a scene or two at a time, but I think people think I’m good for romantic comedies or something. I did Along Came Polly with Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller. Ben was a fan–maybe it came through him, “Yeah, let’s get Mark to do it.” I did about seven very Latin [influenced] kind of songs for that. I’ve done various other things, but I’m almost even uncomfortable to name drop–

Jim: Ah c’mon Mark, why?

Mark: I’m not the self-promoting type. Maybe you can look online or something.

Jim: How about the Napoleon Dynamite score? It sounds a lot like a Money Mark soundtrack to me.

Mark: On the actual Napoleon Dynamite Soundtrack CD one of my songs is on there, “Sometimes You Gotta Make It Alone.” The sound of that song was kind of mimicked–that’s a nice word–in the film. The sounds in that film sounded very familiar to me, and to a lot of my friends.

Jim: Didn’t a lot of your friends think that you actually scored the film?

Mark: [After they saw the movie] I got at least 100 text messages on my phone that read, “Great score!”

Jim: What was your response to these texts?

Mark: “Thanks–I guess. What movie are you talking about?” I guess at a certain point it goes beyond flattery. In my whole career, I listened to tons of records, and when the Beastie Boys hired me to join their group, all of the stuff that I wrote with them was from our favorite albums. Being a musician, I’m kind of half academic, like I would really get into the song and break it down to look at why a song made me feel a certain way, or what were the emotive parts of the music. Some of it was derivative, but none of it was copied.

Jim: Speaking of the Beastie Boys, you came to their camp because you were friends with Mario Caldato? Can we talk about Phase II and Jungle Bugs?

Mark: That was the moment when Mario decided, “I’m going to be the engineer/techy/producer guy.”

Jim: Are we talking Jungle Bugs now?

Mark: Yes–and then I decided, “Okay I’m going to be more the musician/song-writer,” being in more of the front part of the scene. The teamwork there helped us a lot on the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head album. Even now I work with Mario on a bunch of stuff.

Jim: Everyone knows you as the long-time keyboardist for the Beastie Boys. During live performances of “Sabotage” you sort of flip yourself perpendicular to the ground. Have you ever injured yourself while playing keyboards?

Mark: No.

Jim: Never?

Mark: No. I practice that move a lot. In fact when I leave here I’m going to go practice that move.

Jim: How do you practice? Do you do it in a foam pit?

Mark: When I’m in a restaurant waiting for food, I just, like, move everything out of the way and do my handstand on the table.

Jim: Seems like you could really injure your wrists that way.

Mark: I’m actually pretty athletic. And believe me, on that song I’m only holding one note, the A-flat note, so I’ve got to do something. I can’t just stand there.

Jim: I saw the Beastie Boys not that long ago and during “Heart Attack Man,” you came to the front to the stage and began frolicking around.

Mark: Yes. I did my little one-man mosh pit.

Jim: Do you do that just for “Heart Attack Man,” or are you allowed to frolic whenever you “feel” a certain song?

Mark: I have license to just walk on the stage and be goofy anytime I want to. It’s fun.

Jim: When you are making a Money Mark album, how do you determine if you put words to it, and how do you determine if it is just instrumental? I think right now you are at 50/50, right? You have got two instrumentals, and two vocal albums.

Mark: That is a good question. It is just whenever I get inspired, you know? And sometimes I just say, “Wow, this sounds great, the music is great and I’m just going to keep it this way.”

Jim: Have you done a YouTube search recently on Money Mark?

Mark: No I haven’t.

Jim: There is a rapper called Money Mark and he has a ditty in which he sings, “Now Money Mark, now Money Mark.” So I was wondering if you planned on filing a lawsuit any time soon?

Mark: I think we sent a letter to somebody–

Jim: Because if it takes off, today’s generation will know that Money Mark rather than this Money Mark.

Mark: I think there has been other Money Marks. So I don’t know. I’m not all that concerned with that–yet.

Jim: Phase II is also the name of a hip-hop group?

Mark: Oh, okay, well. In Japan there’s a group called the Beastie Boys. There’s an island called Beastie, spelled differently though, and they’re the boys from that island.

Jim: Have you ever been to that island?

Mark: No I haven’t.

Jim: Let’s talk carpentry.

Mark: Ah hah.

Jim: Do you still have skills?

Mark: Yes, I still do that at home every once in a while. That’s kind of how I met the Beastie Boys and how we became friends. When they moved to Los Angeles I was making record shelves for them and whatever.

Jim: I know, there’s the famous lyric, “Give him some wood and he’ll build you a cabinet.”

Mark: That’s right.

Jim: So if I gave you some wood today would you have the kindness in your heart to build me a cabinet?

Mark: Sure, later on. I have my tools in my hotel room, but that is where the name [Money Mark] came from, in that song [“Finger Lickin’ Good”]. A few seconds from that line is, “Keyboard Money Mark, you know he ain’t havin’ it.”

Jim: Are you guys writing stuff for the new Beastie Boys album?

Mark: Yes. Every once in a while we will get together and do something. It is not very intense at the moment.

Jim: Can you prognosticate when this album will come out?

Mark: No, no, no. I would be out of line to say anything about it. I don’t know.

Jim: What about Money Mark? I know you got the Beautiful Losers Soundtrack, but when will we get a new solo album?

Mark: Working on that right now. So far I have a kick drum and a guitar (mimics playing them simultaneously).

Jim: You play both at the same time?

Mark: Uh huh, I’m doing Meg White and Jack White at the same time. I’m starting there, so I don’t know what it will end up being.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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