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Exclusive! Video premiere and interview with Dan Black.

Exclusive! Video premiere and interview with Dan Black. (photo)

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Dan Black used to be in a band but decided to break out on his own to explore a one-man’s-vision approach to seemingly incongruous, as he calls them, “Frankenstein mash ups.” One of his first, “HYPNTZ” which combined the lyrics from Notorious BIG’s “Hypnotize” with a sample from the score to the 1984 film “Starman,” was a wild internet success. But the night before he was to shoot the video for it he got word from his newly signed record company there was a “veto” on the rights to the lyrics and it was suddenly all canned.

Elements of it would live again though in the song “Symphonies,” a blinding cut of pop brilliance. In the song’s latest incarnation Black teams up with Kid Cudi and in the video the two tap deep into a shared cultural experience, an ethereal pop force that surrounds and binds us all. I talked to Black in Paris over the phone and we got down on Jeff Bridges, wartime British films, and how dope this video is.

Apart from the alluring quality of your song craft in general, I like talking about being “broke” and “blown away,” so you really got me. This song’s a triumph, and I’ve been jaded about modern pop for a long time. Was that Notorious BIG cover “HYPNTZ” like a blueprint for this?

Yeah exactly it’s a long journey to this song…. [After] we couldn’t use the lyrics to “Hypnotize,” the record company went a bit loopy and they had to stop it going to radio, and stop it being manufactured – it was properly, a nightmare. And they were going to give up, when I said, no, no, no, I’ll just write my own lyrics to this! You know, the music’s fine, the music I made really. We have the sample clearances of the bits we need, so I wrote “Symphonies.”

Chic and Artistic directed the video, a team which I understand involves your wife, which is adorable.

Yes, she and another guy. Chic and Artistic, are the people I collaborate with on everything. They’re really important and a key part of what I do.

The video is like a wet dream for film title sequence fetishists. How did the concept come about?

[laughs] Yeah well all the things we do, I try to carry through in the same way I work on my music. At the heart of it is a playful, experimental quality where we have fun and explore and do things that seem like stupid ideas maybe, but why not try? You’re sort of hunting around for things that fire up your brain and make you go, “wow this is ridiculous, this is brilliant!” That kind of feeling is what you’re chasing. So a lot of it’s just us having someone throw out ideas. I remember them saying, “Let’s do something where you’re walking through lots of opening titles for films.” Oh yeah, that’s a brilliant idea. Then we got into what films, and what would happen in which titles.

I love the nods, the “Bond” sequence, genius, “Blade Runner.” Do you have a favorite?

Well that’s a good question actually, never thought about that. I like a lot of it. I like the continual dissonance. I like the wholeness, the weight of it. It just never seems to stop. The big hit that I get from it is it’s just unrelentingly new.

Now this genius sample, how did you come upon the idea to use the “Starman” score? It’s one of my favorites.

Oh yeah me too! I saw it as a kid. I’d get the VHS videos out and I’d watch that film like three or four times. You know you’d only have it for a night from the video store. I don’t think I really had much of a quality control when I was a small kid and I used to just watch films repeatedly. [laughs] But I remember there’s a scene where the spaceship comes down and he’s beamed up. I loved watching that scene, and as I got older it dawned on me the thing I most liked was probably the music. So I hunted it out, just to have. And then, you know, I was looking through huge piles of CD’s for ideas of things to try out for songs and oh yeah [there it was]. But it’s not the original, the original was a kind of cold synth, but I used this Prague orchestra version playing these science fiction film themes.

Ah yes it does sound warmer.

Yeah it’s an orchestral version of the original, so that’s the thing that I took and then chopped up.

How great is Jeff Bridges?

Yeah exactly. Even then he was a genius.

Truly. What other movies did you grow up loving as a kid in your little village outside London?

Well I was a kid in the eighties so obvious things like John Hughes films, I massively loved them. And arguably the thing that has ruined modern cinema, the blockbuster, so you know things like “Back to the Future.” And Jon Cusack films of the 80’s.

What film would you liked to have done the soundtrack or score for?

Well that’s a hard one because films that I’m particularly aware of the soundtrack of – have got amazing soundtracks, so it’d be stupid of me to try and better them…. It’s amazing I’ve done a few bits and pieces for adverts and it’s fascinating the whole way of it, the language and the relationship between music and picture. How you can create something beyond the sum of their parts. “Blade Runner.” Vangelis’ soundtrack for that is kind of the perfect soundtrack.

What film would you like to live inside of, if you could?

Probably in a film set in the past or set in a world that doesn’t exist… and then I’m thinking “Shortcuts” but that would be depressing. Something with loads of different themes in it. [laughs] A value for my money I think is what I’m trying for. Oh I know, I really love these films by Powell and Pressburger – just like really English, magical. They were made during and after the war. The two that really stick out are “A Matter of Life and Death” and “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.” They’re these magical, weird, sort of dream like films. In “A Matter of Life and Death,” David Niven is an English pilot in the Second World War, and his plane crashes but the angel that’s sent to get him and take him to Heaven is late. So he spends a bit more time on Earth accidentally, and falls in love someone. He then argues, well it’s your fault, you missed me so I should be allowed to stay. So there’s these scenes when he falls asleep he’s in this court in Heaven, it’s like 1943 or so and it’s in color but it’s that kind of weird “Wizard of Oz” Technicolor. And it’s really amazing, beautiful and sad and happy all at the same time. I’d like to live in that.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.