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Exclusive Premiere: Sound And Vision: Blake Mills

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Meet Blake Mills. At 25, the Venice-based musician has already stacked up a career’s worth of gigs as a session and touring guitarist, playing with a diverse array of musicians that span from Cass McCombs to Conor Oberst to Lykke Li to Kid Rock. When producer Rick Rubin needs a guitarist, Mills is the first guy he calls. He’s worked with everyone from Mark Ronson to Dangermouse to Don Was. Yet, for despite his eye-popping resume, Mills has never really released an album. Well, sort of. While his album “Break Mirrors” has been out on Record Collection since November 2010, it never really “came out.” The album wasn’t sold in stores, didn’t have a barcode, was never sent out to radio or to press, etc. But as friends burned copies for their friends and a small cult following ensued, word about Blake and “Break Mirrors” got out.

Then there are his impromptu jams at Mollusk Surf Shop in Venice, CA. At first it was just Blake and his girlfriend (of the up-and-coming LA band HAIM) performing, but as rumors of the music spread, people started coming out of the woodwork to watch and to sit in. People like Jackson Brown, Cass Mccombs, Jenny Lewis, Charlie Sexton, Billy Gibbons, Dave Rawlings, Val Mccallum, Smokey Hormel, and Matt Sweeney have all swung by the shop to play with Blake.

Blake spent much of last year touring with and opening for the legendary Lucinda Williams and this summer/fall he is the special guest for Fiona Apple’s entire US tour and will accompany her on guitar during her set.

In his spare time, Blake has taken up producing. Most recently he co-produced the new Jesca Hoop record, co-produced a track with Bill Gibbons for the forthcoming Fleetwood Mac tribute record (Concord), produced the latest album from Nonesuch artist Sara Watkins and produced some tracks for former bandmates Dawes.

Blake Mills is somebody to watch. Luckily, you can. Right here in the fourth installment of Sound & Vision, a series of web documentaries highlighting the individual stories of emerging artists. For more information about Sound & Vision visit redbullsoundstage.com:

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Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Exclusive premiere: Chains of Love “He’s Leaving With Me”

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Enter Chains of Love’s twilight zone motel, where reality continually loops in on itself. The way the man asks, “Do you hear the music?” feels like the beginning to a Canadian snuff film. It might prompt an urge to check under the bed to see if Mark Frost and David Lynch are lurking there too, but the only lurker in director Scott Cudmore’s vision appears to be a random booty chick.

“I like motel locations even though they’re kind of over-used maybe, but they have such an atmosphere,” Cudmore said about the creepy locale in which he sees the motel guy as a kind of counterpart. “In an vague and indirect way, it’s sort of a music video about music videos. You could see the motel guy as being like the director, or creator.”

The poor girls the motel guy has trapped in his loop are singer Nathalia Pizzaro and guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Marie Law Gray. The rest of the Vancouver band was supposed to appear in the video too, but apparently they couldn’t handle it. “During the shoot they got really sick and had to leave,” Cudmore revealed. “And why is there a booty girl? Well, why is there ever a booty girl? Certainly this guy would have a booty girl in his strange fantasy never-ending music video loop nightmare.”

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Shirley Manson on Garbage, Azealia Banks and being a CEO

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Seven years ago, Garbage broke up. The band that brought us the chart-toppings anthems “Stupid Girl”, “Happy When it Rains” and “Supervixen” was done with the music industry that helped them sell millions of records and bring their music to the masses. The 90s alt rock band was formed by Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, three American musician-producers (Vig was best known as the producer of Nirvana’s 1990 album”Nevermind”) who invited Scottish singer Shirley Manson to front the band. Success came quickly, including numerous awards, sold-out stadium shows, and even a James Bond theme song (“The World is Not Enough”). The band was overwhelmed and soon the fun was gone. So they broke up. But now, after a seven-year hiatus, the band is back with a rollicking new album, “Not Your Kind of People”.

Shirley Manson took some time out of her schedule to chat about the 90s, the benefits of running your own company, and being an outsider who sold over 12 million records:

Your band went on indefinite hiatus in 2005, why was now the right time to get back together?

I don’t know why. It just felt like we were ready and had something to say. We felt regenerated and ready for the next phase of our career. I guess we felt excited to work together again and all those reasons made it the right time.

How does it feel to be with the old band again?

It’s amazing. We’re having the time of our life right now. We’re privileged to be playing again and to be playing sold out shows to packed houses. We’re very lucky to still have fans like that, especially in this day and age when there is incredible ADD among fans, that our following has shown they are still curious about what we are doing and what we have to say.

Now you are back and …it kind of sounds like you ever left.

Is that a question or a statement?

Both, I guess. Do you think people will buy the album out of nostalgia or do you think it will appeal to new fans?

Kind of a mixture. But we’ve been surprised to see how young a lot of our audience is. We’ve made a classic sounding Garbage record, for sure, but it’s a competitive record for sure. It fits in with radio programming right now. We want to reach a new audience and we think it will. We don’t sound like anyone else on the radio. Much to our surprise there hasn’t been another band like ours since we came off the road. We have a unique sound and we hope the new album will result in a whole new generation of listeners.

Do you think your sound has been influenced by other bands that have come up during your hiatus?

I’m sure we have. I think there’s a lot of music that’s come up in the last decade that has excited us for one reason or another. I think young artists are always inspiring because they are coming at worlds from a different point of view.

Do you think you’ve matured as a band?

I don’t know if we have matured as a band per se. We definitely have matured as individuals and we view our role in a different way you now. When you’ve had a long career it feels different coming back and playing festivals, meeting other musicians or meeting bands who have been influenced by our music. It’s amazing to meet to meet artists who grew up listening to us. That’s an incredible privilege.

What made you release the album yourselves?

I think we just decided it made more sense for us philosophically. A lot of collective experience lead us to believe that we could do a better job getting our music out to our international audience than a label that was indifferent. We could self propel ourselves. Plus it’s fun to be a CEO.

Do you give yourselves a lot of coffeebreak? Good benefits?

Very good benefits, naps and lots of coffee breaks.

What does the album’s title, “Not Your Kind of People”, mean to you?

I think it’s just a call to arms in a way to anyone who feels like we do about the world. Just to a human being trying to figure life out. As a band we’ve come from a weirdo oddball place. We’ve never fit into a music scene. In my life I’ve never been an insider. I was a redhead and a middle child, both can make you feel excluded. It’s like fighting to be included, in the swim of things. After a while you start to develop a bit of a victim mentality, which isn’t great for a happy life. So this time our attitude has changed. It’s great. It can be great to be outsider.

You say you were a band of outsiders, but you sold over 12 million records. So are you insiders or do your fans think they are outsiders?

I think it’s a bit of both. At the time we sold that many records there wasn’t anything like us on the radio. We had a sound like no one else and I think it resonated with people. We did attract a huge following, internationally too. I just think it was a case of a lot of people identifying with our sound and what we were saying. I think a lot of people in their lives feel like they don’t fit in, even if it looks like they do. People feel like outsiders even if others think we the lives we live have everything. If they are popular or they have everything they are supposed to have. Even then people still don’t feel quite included.

So …we are all outsiders?

Yeah, man is an island. That phrase doesn’t come from nowhere. I think it’s inherent in human nature to feel a little lonely or maybe alone is a better word for it.

In the 90s there were a lot of female-fronted acts like Garbage, No Doubt, Alanis Morissette, and Hole. Courtney Love. Do you think it has changed the face of rock? Or is the glass ceiling still in place?

I feel like my generation burst through the glass ceiling. But, arguably since September 11th, radio programming has become very conservative. Now, there’s a proliferation of pop music from women. Pop music seems to be the way radio programming has chosen to support female artists. They have chosen not to support a more provocative voice from women, which I find disappointing.

The only women being heard right now are the popular girls, the cheerleaders, the pretty ones. There are a lot more voices to be heard. That’s not to say I don’t like pop. There are a lot of pop stars I like. I really like Beyonce and Rihanna and I admire what Lady Gaga and Katy Perry do. The radio just needs to play other voices.

What about the rise of female rappers like Kitty Pryde or Kreayshawn?

My favorite out of those is Azealia Banks. The first time I heard “212” I almost died. It felt dangerous and exciting and really fresh and I have a little crush on Kreayshawn, too. But I don’t know if those girls are getting time on the radio. It’s great that they are getting played via YouTube or Tumblr, but I want them on the radio. Like in the 90s when Missy Elliott was getting played. You know, it’s hard out there right now for women with attitude.

Where did the song Blood for Poppies come from?

It’s come from a lot of things. It’s really an analogy for a story I read about Afghanistan and the opium wars over there. Actually it’s from a few stories, one about a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan and the other about the opium wars. I use that as a backdrop for a story about maintaining sanity in an out-of-control place.

Check out the video for “Blood for Poppies” by Garbage:

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