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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.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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