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Premiere: Nader Sadek’s oil-loving vision of primitive man in “Sulffer”

Premiere: Nader Sadek’s oil-loving vision of primitive man in “Sulffer” (photo)

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In the Flesh, the new album by the Egyptian-born, New York-based artist Nader Sadek, includes members of Cattle Decapitation, Mayhem, Morbid Angel, Cryptopsy and Behold…the Arctopus; it is being released by Season of Mist, one of the most respected metal labels in the world.

You might find it surprising, then, that not only is this Sadek’s debut, but also that he doesn’t consider himself to be a musician. Rather, Sadek is an accomplished visual artist who has worked with metal titans like Sunn O))) and Mayhem and built highly lauded multimedia exhibitions out of metal iconography and his strange history as an extreme music fan in Egypt. In the Flesh, like Sadek’s visual art, clings fast to concept, meaning that his ideas are the fuel behind the top-notch crew of collaborators at work here. As a matter of fact, In the Flesh explores man’s attachment to power and control through the prism of petroleum and in an intense vortex of death metal gilded with grindcore, black metal and noise.

Above, we, along with NPR, present the premiere of “Sulffer,” one of the videos Sadek intends to make for each song on the album. The video for “Sulffer” was funded, in part, by Northern Manhattan arts Alliance, JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. To hear the entire album, out this week, see Decibel.

This is your first album, but already you’ve gotten a lot of attention from outlets like The Village Voice and Decibel and NPR. Has that surprised you?

I didn’t expect IFC or NPR when I started this. I really wanted to be able to get multiple audiences, because I’m a fan of lots of different things. I wanted that to translate to my work but still make it as metal as possible, which is probably what I like the most. I created it to hopefully transcend metal and get into different venues and audiences.

Tell me about the development of this album and how you see your role in this album.

I’m continuing a theme I’ve used since my very first exhibition in 2004 in Egypt. That project continues and morphed into something else. That’s how my work goes usually, just morphing and a continuation of itself, but sometimes I reinterpret an idea and it becomes a new artwork. So I did this project with Steve Tucker in 2006, and that project was about power and how that relates to immortality. It was also attached to this theme of petroleum because petroleum could mean power, but also a kind of immortality. It’s something that’s actually dead–formed of living creatures, vegetation that has been cooking inside the earth for a very long time. We have found a way to exhume it and create energy out of it. It’s energy from death, and I took the artistic liberty to make it about immortality.

That project was about the perception of power. It got me thinking about this experience I had in Egypt. I had the metal appearance of super long hair and a goatee, which intimidated local Egypt. I was totally alienated, and when I was walking down the street, I was kind of scary. When I came to New York, I wanted to find a way to mirror that. Heavy metal is not that scary; it’s an accepted culture here. It’s not something people are that afraid of. In Egypt, it really translates into Satan worship or something truly evil. What I wanted to do here was get the same reaction from locals in New York. So I dressed up as an Niqab-clab woman from the Middle East and walked down the street. In Times Square, I got more looks. People were completely intimidated. It was kind of hard to walk around. It was completely uncomfortable, and it created this potential for the project. I ended up getting in touch with Steve and some other Middle Eastern musicians, and we made this song that was kind of like a noise track. It was a death metal song with a Middle Eastern song.

In my sculpture work, I got more into flesh forms, like these mechanical tools that I render to look like flesh. That’s part of the petroleum dependence thing that I’ve always been working with. I made several sculptures and I figured, “OK, maybe it would be interesting to express this idea or theme through music.” If I did that, then death metal was definitely a pretty good choice because it already has a lot of the sound in it that, to me, resembles engines. It resembles a lot of machinery–the double-bass and really fast guitars. There’s a very engine-like sound to it, and I was pretty intrigued by that. I had this idea. How can I develop it? Who can the players be? Who could make that sound the way I wanted it because, yeah, all death metal has that sound, but like my sculptures that are made to look like flesh, I wanted to complement that in the music? There had to be a new element in the death metal project.

Already in that song that we had done previously, there’s one very specific riff that I thought would sound really great if it had someone with a black metal sensibility to play this riff. I felt it had a very black metal melody. I’m pretty sure Steve was not really into black metal at the time, but that became interesting, too. When it came to finding drums, we had to have a very intense attack that also resembled intense machinery that’s just working nonstop. A lot of little things that you only notice if you listen to it very hard.

How did the band develop? And did you write any of the songs?

Then, I proposed the idea to the band. I went to each one of them and approached them about the whole petroleum-dependence idea. So Steve liked the idea, and I asked him to compose a song. I told him that I really wanted him to think about an engine when he was writing. At this point, he had written two more songs, so now we had three because I thought we could still use the old songs that we did together. I got excited about the idea of actually writing music, which I sort of did, accidentally. I had no intention of actually doing that. I didn’t think that musically I was going to be involved at all. I’m not a musician by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not interested in taking any credit like that. I was playing around with GarageBand. I hang out with a lot of musicians and a lot of them are engineers and I get to watch them play with cool tools a lot. I’m a very curious person.

I ended up writing a song, and I just like mapping out the melodies. I hummed a melody that I thought was appropriate and I tried to find the notes on the keyboard, and I wrote a song like that. Another song I wrote on guitar. One day I decided to play around with the guitar and I ended up trying to figure out some sound. The other song I wrote on the keyboard was just several melodies. Rune [Eriksen] took that and created a fully-fledged death metal song with the melodies that I had written. It was really exciting to see that process. I wasn’t sure how much he was going to manipulate it, and I’m not confident at all as a musician. I’m not one. It was kind of intimidating. I wasn’t sure if Rune was going to write back and say, this is not going to work. But he actually liked it and made a killer song out of it. And that’s actually my favorite song. I feel like it’s the most collaborative track we had. Flo [Mounier] came up with some crazy ideas for his drumming, and Steve wrote the lyrics for it, so it was a real team effort for the song and I think it’s the best one. Basically, this is where my direction was fully articulated. I was really interested in hearing how Rune would play a melody on top of this part, or on top of that part. Everyone came up with some ideas.

How do you define your role with this music?

In the studio itself, the process I wanted was to have everything feed off everything else. The demos of the songs influenced the sketches for the drawings. The direction influenced what the songs were sounding like when they were being recorded. As the songs were being recorded, I was finishing the drawings, which also influenced the lyrics. All that together influenced the music. It’s like my involvement is really strange. Some people want to say that I’m the producer of the music, but I don’t really think of it in those terms at all. To me, if it had to be particular, I would say maybe I’m a director. I ended up doing a spoken-word thing on the album, so I actually was recorded, but it was nothing compared to the layers of guitars.

In this video, you have this primordial being sloshing around, angry, in this goo. How do his actions relate to the song “Sulffer,” where packs of men roam around, looking for the fuel to make them live longer?

I hand built that cave, and it’s actually in my studio. I have to take it apart. This song revolves around sulfur, but the best way to describe it is a mad quest for immortality. The figure is kind of a primordial figure, and sulfur is extracted from petroleum. Immortality is an abstract idea, but somehow we strive for it. We always welcome more power, and sulfur is used in preservatives in food. I thought it was interesting that, although it’s not part of petroleum, it’s something that comes with it, and is used in pharmaceuticals and to preserve food. It’s a battle between the protagonist and a reflection of itself, and it’s kind of this vicious circle. It’s about the failure of never reaching immortality.

What’s so interesting about petroleum to you? Why is it so representative in your work?
Most wars are about petroleum, so it’s kind of representative of that. Eventually, it’s almost like a kind of suicide, but we don’t see it as suicide. We are killing our enemy, but in fact we’re just killing ourselves. Sulfur is kind of this buffer, this thing that makes us think we can do it.

Obviously, your music has its own effect on the listener, as your visual art does on the person looking at it. What do you hope the common effect between those forms is?
When I was growing up, everyone told me I was an artist because they saw that I drew. And it really influenced how I shaped my personality. I guess I’m trying to get rid of that and try and tap into everything. I really surprised myself, I hope this doesn’t come off in any way pretentious, but I was really happy with some of that songwriting stuff that I did. I don’t believe in the word “artist” or that an artist is someone different from some other occupation, I think we’re all artists and each one can have one thing they reproduce. It can be writing, it can be sculpture, but it could be programming. I see it in a broad spectrum and I really want to tap into all these things.

Why did you move to New York from Egypt?

I moved to New York about six years ago, because I saw its opportunities and certain philosophies that I follow or I like to express. I just wasn’t at all that comfortable with Egypt. It’s totally different there, being an artist. I’ve been here many times before as a teenager, visiting some family.

I’d lived in Minnesota before; I came from Egypt to Minnesota. I don’t know if you’ve been to Minnesota, but I can describe it simply as the exact opposite of Egypt. Cairo is a very big melting pot, a very active city, and Minneapolis isn’t. It’s like they took a couple of blocks from New York City, put them in huge land, and that’s Minneapolis. It’s a microscopic version of New York. I really needed something in between Minnesota and Cairo, and New York was perfect, it’s exactly that. It’s in America, and it’s got all the great things about this country. It’s got lots of people, lots of things happening, lots of events, which also happened in Egypt. I’m just not into the things that are popular there, which is pop culture. I’m not into pop culture really, so over there it gets harder to avoid than here. Here there’s just more things to do.

As far as someone who’s lived in Egypt all their life, it was just time to move on. Having lived in the States also, you get conditioned. Things that are OK in Minnesota and not OK in Egypt, it got kind of annoying to recondition myself back to going with the flow. I was tired of the flow.

You’re going to make a video for every track on In the Flesh, correct? What’s your timetable for finishing?

I really don’t know. I’m going to take it one at a time, but I don’t want to rush it. I have ideas for two videos; it’s just a matter of getting the camera and getting it done. I think I’ll be done with all of them a year from now.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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