Friday, May 30, 2008

Matt & Ben have coffee part 1

Ben & I recently sat down for coffee to discuss the recent NEW YORK STALKER project and our future plans. It was sort of a way for us to make an assessment of the experience and hopefully shed some light on what inspired the whole thing and where we want to go next...

M: Let's start with the songs themselves... can you tell me about writing the song "Broken Girl"

B: Sure, "Broken Girl" was written about my ex, Christina. We had a long and very dysfunctional relationship which was fertile soil for songwriting. She wanted marriage and kids and I wanted to be a became living hell from which we barely recovered. Actually, she recovered well enough to get married and have kids with another man.

M: So you wrote this while you were still in the relationship with her?

B: Yes, she actually liked the song. When I showed her the video, she loved it; she said she knew it would take three girls to accurately portray her. She always hated you...

M: Yeah I think she suspected I was after you from the start. Maybe it was the skirt I was wearing when we first met.

B: Yes she knew something was up even then...she was like, "which skirt is it going to be - him or me?"

M: Well, I'd say you chose the right skirt.

B: My question to you is what made you think that song was ripe for video?

M: It immediately struck me as a very dramatic and intense song. There was a lot of self-loathing to the lyrics and the music itself was very dark - I liked how the song feels like it's building towards a certain doom, an inevitable bad ending of sorts. At least that’s the feeling the music and words kind of gave me. I liked it.

B: Well, yeah - the song becomes a self attack, I didn't want it to be a finger pointing song, so the chorus becomes more of a "you thought I'd save you from the wreckage of your life but guess again , I'm just as fucked up as you."

M: When I first described the plot of the video to you - that you would be walking around as a serial killer as we witness your prior victims being discovered - did you think "of course - that's perfect" or did it take some getting used to?

B: I thought, "Of course, that's perfect MATT," and I'm sure Christina thought the same thing... "that fucking pervert!"

M: There is an odd use of our girlfriends and ex-girlfriends with this song and the video project. You wrote the song about your ex Christina, then in the video you employed your current girlfriend Gina to play a corpse that gets dumped in a garbage heap. My ex Jen Rock played the first victim and I have to give her credit and say Jen was totally essential to us doing that video since she really liked the idea for it and agreed to take on the task of handling the make-up.

B: Oh sure Gina and Jen were huge. And Jen really rocked the makeup. When you first hit me with the idea, I remember her saying, "I want to be a dead girl!"

M: Well, she got her wish. Of the three videos we did - "Broken Girl" is the most pure horror. Were you concerned about being involved with something that could be viewed as misogynistic or hateful towards women?

B: Not at all, if you follow my career, through the What's Up Show and so on, you can see a pattern emerging: a distaste for all that is feminine and an interest revolving around seeing them made to suffer. Mom, goddamn you! Goddamn you! No, in all honesty, I think creation is creation. It has nothing to do with all that PC shit....Were you afraid that you would be considered anti woman?

M: I knew people could misconstrue my intent or otherwise think me a creep for making such a video, but what do I have to lose? People see what the want to see. I have my own values and beliefs and they're not always going to necessarily be reflected by what I create. It really helped to have the support of our girlfriends with the project in that regard - their "being OK" with the material was definitely a vote of confidence to me in moving forward. But really, at the end of the day, I don't think when you watch "Broken Girl" you get a feeling of "yeah, man, strangle that bitch!" The video's not an experience for the viewer to vicariously experience the thrill of stalking and/or killing. But this raises an interesting question in terms of the material, do you have any stalker in you when you walk the streets of NYC? Like have you ever found yourself following a woman that you're attracted to?

B: YES. I can literally walk the streets for hours behind a woman who looks particularly good from the back. I just watch though - I don't touch! It is the best free entertainment in the world - just follow a beautiful girl... WAIT that rhymes -

M: Well this segues nicely into the second song of the trilogy - "Seen a Girl." How long have you had that song kicking around your catalog of tunes?

B: Since you rejected it from God The Band!

M: Oh, is that true?

B: Don't you remember I was playing it to you and Danny Rockett in the kitchen of our house in Hatfield, PA. Everyone liked it but some were afraid it didn't "fit."

M: Hm... I don't remember that, but even so, I don't think the song would have fit with the GTB mold, if there was one. But Danny did write some similarly themed love-song tripe that managed to make the grade. I'd say it probably didn’t get picked because we didn’t want you taking over the band, Ben. We were God The Band - not Flies of the Marketplace.

B: Ouch. Well, regardless I always liked that song and was thrilled when you expressed interest in making a video for it.

M: Well, I liked the song, too, though it's not the kind of thing I would normally gravitate towards in adapting it for music video.

B: Right, it's a Beatlesy, happy thing...

M: Exactly - and it could make for a Beatlesy, cutesy sort of video if you wanted to play it safe. It’s obvious when you hear the song that you’re being sincere – it's a sweet and heartfelt little ditty. There isn’t that level of menace or twisted irony that comes off in the video.

B: Did you find some parallels between that song and "Broken Girl"?

M: No, not really. I wasn’t really seeking to make those types of connections at any point. I mean, there was a thematic connection between the ideas, but it wasn't originally worked up as a trilogy of stalker incidents. It wasn’t like “ok, we have Ben as a serial killer, now let’s see what he’s like with his mother and so on.” I think as it happened I had volunteered to work up some music video ideas for some of the songs off some of your albums and “Seen a Girl” one came out of one of those brainstorming sessions. I still have the little piece of paper where i wrote out the idea for it. Originally you were supposed to be accompanied by a trio of black female back-up singers as you were stalking your mom. Kind of a “Little Shop of Horrors” touch.

B: Damn! I miss that idea...oh is that mysogonistic?

M: No, actuallly, it was out of budget. But that’s fine - if we did have the resources to shoot the back-up singers for the video, it would have taken on a higher level of camp which would probably have been too cutesy for my taste. The way it ended up, it’s a somewhat unsettling video – especially with the revelation that this poor old woman you’re following around is your mother.

B: Who do you like in terms of horror directors?

M: Well, i think what Polanski did with the genre is somehwat unparalleled - he's easily one of my film gods, both in terms of horror and otherwise. I do like some of the Italian directors like Fulci and Argento, but they run the gamut from brilliant to just bad. You kind of need to check your brain at the door when watching that kind of stuff. It's funny - we acknowledged all these horror films that the trilogy was "paying homage" to when we sent out the press release and really, the only one with any real direct point of reference to me is John Carpenter's Halloween with all those shots of Michael Meyers stepping into frame... seeing "the shape" ominously juxtaposed against wide shots of unsuspecting victims going about their business. That stuff still gives me chills.

B: I love John Carpenter too, I just watched "The Thing" which I borrowed from you a few weeks ago and it's just amazing, gets better with age actually...someone just recently told me that the movie Halloween was shot in just a few weeks. I was like "you have got to be kidding..."

M: I notice you've written a lot of songs with the word "girl" in the title. Was "Seen a Girl" always a standalone piece or did you write it as a companion piece to something else?

B: It was written as its own song. I remember (surprisingly enough) seeing a girl on a bus and it was just love at first sight. It's weird isn't it how you can love the way a person looks and imagine what they are like and what personality they will have just by their features and expressions? You construe their intellect, their's so cool, none of the bother of actually really going through a messy relationship.

M: So true - from that standpoint I'm the biggest slut of New York City.

B: Right. For me, who is generally a voyeur, that's how i exist. I go through a 5 year relationship in 30 seconds, come in my pants and then I transfer to the L train.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Matt & Ben have coffee part 2

M: OK moving on.... "Like You Do" sounds deceptively simple at first - like a basic rock blues riff but it goes off somewhat unexpectedly in the lead-in to the chorus - was this something that came natural to you in the writing or did you go through a lot of trial and error in getting it to sound right?

B: I like that part - it actually came easily to me when I was writing it chord-wise, but the lyrics took longer. But back to the blues riff, you know something weird, when I was learning guitar I would go into this guitar shop to play some amps. I was really young and this guy was playing just a blues vamp, the same as the first few notes of that song, and I was totally captivated, bum bum bum... I was standing in the middle of the music shop transfixed. I looked at his fingers to try to learn from sight what he was doing, and I STILL LOVE the sound of just the simplest blues chords...but I HATE the blues.

M: Right well you use that standard blues riff as a sort of springboard - you abandon it pretty quickly and that's where the song gets interesting. One thing that really sticks out to me with "Like You Do" is the production - the song sounds really amazing as it swells up to the chorus.

B: Two words, no three...Caleb "KBC" Sherman - he produced it.

M: You guys have quite a history together as performers from the "What's Up" band and as musical collaborators afterwards. What exactly is his role in producing a song like "Like You Do?"

B: I gave him "Like You Do" with NOTHING - just the chords and no vocals. He gave it back to me LIKE THAT! It's scary...he should be the stalker!

M: So you didn't really play any of the instruments on that song?

B: Nada. Nothing. Nil. Netay.

M: Wow, how very Monkees of you.

B: I excel at taking undeserved credit. But that build-up to the chorus, in the video you have that shot panning up to all the photographs on the wall - truly a moment. What was your inspiration there?

M: My inspiration was basically "wouldn't that look cool?" I don't think I was consciously lifting anything out of a specific film or anything like that. Really, the inspiration, in this case, would be the music - it has a wonderfully demented build-up right there. I thought that would be wicked to kind of mirror the dementia of the music with a simultaneous reveal of the frightening extent of your character's obsession. Can you tell me what the song is really about?

B: Russ Irwin! Russ was a member of the semi-legendary underground comedy troupe Whats Up with me and Jason Paige. Now he's playing keys with Aerosmith. He went on to fame and fortune as I collapsed in the corner. So you have the makings of a pop song right there: jealousy, regret, envy. He goes everywhere, tours all over the world making bank, as I read online tutorials about how to legally rob I tried to make the song about hanging out with him, but as three people: me, him and my jealousy.

M: Are you still jealous of his success?

B: I'm positively livid! No, I was upset when he left the show...but he was absolutely right to join Aerosmith of course! But I am that single minded - I was like what about the public access show! I realized i was being childish and the song really taps into that childlike sort of world revolves around me, i don't think I'm that envious now though...10 years later...his life probably has just as many plusses and minusses as mine....THAT MOTHERFUCKER!

M: Well to me the video, if not the song, is about self-obsession as much as it is about your preoccupation with the subject. That’s why it translated well into this idea of you stalking yourself. Did you realize that the whole idea of this video was to mock you and your self-importance as an artist?

B: Sorry to say that I've lost all feelings of self-importance a long long time ago, I've gone from wanting to take over the world to wanting to take out the trash...c'mon Matt admit it, you're jealous of my awesome talent!

M: Well I remember recording the RAWK! album with GTB and having to concede that you could play that one guitar riff in "latch key kids" better than me - but I don't know if I was jealous really. More frustrated with the limits of my abilities.

B: I'll take that as a simmering pool of unxpressed envy. We'll use that for the NEXT video, but with "Like You Do"...did you storyboard that video out?

M: I didn't write out a shotlist or phsyically draw storyboards - it only leads to humiliation and mockery when people see my ragged stick figures and ask "what the hell is that?" But it was mentally storyboarded - I had nearly every shot and edit worked out beforehand, especially in the first half and that happens from listening to the song over and over again, envisioning the video as the song plays out. That's a very exciting time for me because there's no limits at that point - only what your mind can conjure.

B: Did you run into any major problems during shooting aside from needing a better looking star?

M: Hell no, Ben - I like the way you look - I'd much rather work with someone who has interesting features than just another pretty face.

B: Oh fuck off!

M: The biggest problem with the "Like You Do" shoot was the limited time we had to do it. We did all three videos over a 4 day weekend in September and "Like You Do" was the last video we shot and so it was foolishly relegated to one day of production.

B: Right. Three days of the condor. What would you change if you could?

M: Well I just think a lot of shots are below my standard of what passes for good. The end product and the video that was in my mind were two different things. The video we ended up with isn't bad, it's just compromised. And this is very much due to the fact that we were cramming everything in to one day - we had to keep things moving forward so my standard was lowered from "that's good" to "that's good enough."

B: Sure but I think everyone thinks that...John Carpenter probably still doesn't like that looney bin parking lot shot in Halloween either.

M: So back to writing about your jealousy, did this translate to you at all when making the video?

B: Well sure, I mean putting a visual to an abstract feeling in a song is always settling on a particular choice and I thought this choice - stalking myself - was a bold and interesting choice so i thought it was going to be fun to see what we ...WE came up with. I still don't think anyone watching the video will really follow it like a linear story which is fine. It's like all those videos we used to watch at the beginning of MTV that they spent so much time trying to make a story and basically kids just kinda glazed over and bopped along oblivious.

M: I like story-driven music videos - they're much more interesting to me than "let's shoot the band playing in 10 different locations and cut it together." Blah.

B: During the shoot, I saw a different side of you - you were relaxed and precise with things. I'd like to see you directing much more, actual TIME doing thing after thing. You were in the zone.

M: Well thanks for that, though I’m of the opinion that if it’s a good shoot and the director is being clear with his vision and the actors are comfortable and doing good work, then there has to be a good crew supporting the whole endeavor. This shoot was definitely a success because of the people who were supporting the project by volunteering their time to do it.

B: How crucial was Bowls MacLean?

M: Oh absolutely crucial! And not just because he was lending us his VX100-B camera to the cause. I think his presence definitely helped keep me relaxed because of our own history from working together. There wasn't any tiptoeing around our egos when it came time to do the thing, which makes everything flow much better. And Bowls is hilarious - he has a gift for saying funny shit... just a fun presence on the set. It was great having Anthony "Zonalpony" Lopez shoot those picts of you dressed up as "Lee Ann" for the "Like You Do" video, too. It's really cool to have all of these friends' various talents come together like that.

B: You need more things to direct, check out for more songs!

M: It seems there's a disparity between what these songs were about or where you were mentally when you wrote them - do you feel that now when watching the videos?

B: Not really...whenever you draw something in the sand, through a song or a video, you know all those thoughts or feelings are going to change, except with anti-Bush songs! Feelings are fleeting, get em down and move what are you going to do now?

M: I don't have anything in the queue production-wise - just trying to get more people to see the stuff that's already done like Family Tie and the stalker trilogy. But I'm working on a feature length horror film screenplay which has been getting kicked around the noggin for a few years now, so hopefully that will take some shape in the months to come.

B: What's the film about?

M: It's about a bunch of 20-somehting adults living in Brooklyn who are getting murdered for other people's amusement - basically a post-modern slasher film for a hip young audience. It's a hipster bloodbath.

B: Well living in Greenpoint must be great for inspiration.

M: Yeah i'm in the thick of it. I'd love to try something non-violent, non-dark one of these days but you know, they say, "write what you know" and that kind of stuff never comes naturally to me. And what about yourself - what's next on your agenda?

B: Gotta play live more, probably do solo shows with a twist...recording an album with Caleb Sherman called "C The Deuce" about a white guy who has a 'race-change operation to launch a career in the entertainment industry, and I still have 10 songs on my hard drive that I'm calling a "new album." but in actuality I've been recording it for years.... It sucks to be constipated.

M: But it seems like you usually have a few things going on simultaneously - you let projects simmer so that the flavor is all the richer when it's ready to be served.

B: And i want to collaborate with you MATT!

M: You want to do everything like I do.

B: Ha.

M: Well, let's start with this new album - any good stalker material for me to run with?

B: Only if I’m stalking myself.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mug's May Movie Digest

So here are some capsule reviews of some movies I've seen lately. Some of them are new new, like in the theaters new, and others are only semi-new, or on Bluray HD DVD new, which is nearly just as good as seeing the movie in the theater in my opinion (sometimes I would argue even better). So without further ado and in no particular order...

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skullfuck turns out to be an adequate, if not entirely fulfilling, entry in the series. Maybe I wasn't disappointed since I went in with very low expectations and found myself enjoying the major action sequences in spite of myself. Yes, the bombast of some of the bigger scenes nearly crushes the film beneath it and no, this is not Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it's an enjoyable, if not ultimately dismissive, two hours at the movies. No doubt many loyalists will disect the film from start to finish with issues and while it's far from perfect, it works as mindless entertainment. Harrison Ford does a good job reviving the character and he still moves quite well for someone his age (at least, that's what the magic of the movies would have you believe). Now if only they could have had a less turgid plot and some more believable FX, they might have had a gem instead of the B-grade fodder they ended up with.

But on the subject of action-film bombast, I sat through Live Free or Die Hard last night on Bluray, which was something I was kind of dreading as, like Indy, I have very strong feelings and childhood associations about the first film in the series. Turns out I was right - this was, by far, the weakest entry in the series and it feels virtually interchangeable with any other big budget action vehicle save for the occasional John McClane wise-crack or in-joke reference to the first Die Hard movie. The introduction to John McClane's character is just painful to watch as he accosts a young man making a move on his now grown-up-and-very-hot daughter and it doesn't get much better from there. Justin Long is enjoyable in his role as a computer hacker as is Timothy Olyphant's steely-eyed villain, but director Lens Wiseman has a very poor sense of camera placement when shooting dialogue and some of the editing is simply out of control. Like Indy 4, Die Hard 4 was clearly a process of "filmmaking by committee" and the end product clearly suffers as a result.

Even more self-consciously bombastic in its over-the-top action sequences is Shoot 'Em Up starring Clive Owen and Paul Giammatti. Both of these guys are extremely talented actors, so seeing them in a cheesy action film should elevate the material to at least some level of cool, right? Not when you have a sexist director who is gun-obsessed and has the gall to try to fit in a "guns are bad" message amidst the never-ending cascade of squibs and rat-a-tat gunfire. It seems they were trying to make something that was self-aware of its ridiculousness so they pushed it further and further and it ended up being just as dumb (if not dumber) as the action movies it is purportedly sending up. It's like they're saying, "We know this material is really stupid (wink-wink) but here's some more brain-numbing action scenes because we're smart enough to deconstruct it." Well they failed miserably. The end result is tedious, tiresome, and gratingly stupid.

All three of these action movies suffer from the same fundamental problem: how can you get "caught up" in the tension of an action scene when you know for absolute certain that the hero will emerge unscathed? We all know that CG effects are out of control in the modern blockbuster movie, and these films are no exception: the obviousness of their special FX, green-screen compositing and over-the-top stunt coordination makes the whole experience feel like a computer generated "virtual" rollercoaster ride. If this is the best that action movies are going to give us in this decade, then it's a genre I'll gladly skip.

On the positive side, I saw a movie called The Fall several weeks ago which is only now getting a wider distribution. Director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, music video for REM's "Losing My Religion") took 10 years to develop and shoot this movie which is sort of a cross between The Princess Bride and Lawrence of Arabia. It's a "story within a story" film that has a paralyzed stunt man (Lee Pace) telling an improvised fairy-tale to a young girl from his hospital bed so that she can get him pills for him to end his life. The movie switches into these gorgeous and exotic locations all over the world as it visually realizes the story being told from the little girl's perspective. Dramatic parallels between the two realities unfold within the fantasy world and the "real" world that these characters inhabit. It's a stunning and beautiful film - an accomplishment all the more praiseworthy for the unexpected emotional punch it packs along the way. It seems, critically, that this movie has had some mixed reviews and the effect of it on audiences is somewhat polarizing, but for myself, it is nothing shy of brilliant, inspired film-making and I recommend it unequivocally. Watch the trailer below... Tarsem Singh is a visionary.

And earlier this week, in an attempt to give my brain a break from action-movie overkill, I bumped up the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room in my Netflix queue which was a mind-blowing portrait of corporate greed and excess. I didn't know the details of the Enron scandal other than some shady accounting practices and insider trading from the corporate head honchos ultimately acted as their undoing, and that, as it turns out, is only half the story. It's a tale of greed and hubris for sure, but it also is a tragic character study as well; one that probes into the human nature of the situation in a capitalist society such as ours. Some scenes were really eye-opening like the revelation of their involvement with the infamous rolling blackouts in California in 2002. In several cases that the documentary makes, these were often the result of some of Enron's day traders calling up these power plant facilities and asking them to "get creative" to find reasons to shut the system down so they could create a higher energy demand and drive their stock price up even higher. Pretty amazing stuff that sounds like it's out of a James Bond story except this really happened! Not only that, but it begs the larger question of, if Enron is a case that got out of control and ended up being one of the biggest corporate scandals of our generation, how many other corrupted business practices are being made out there now? How many Enrons do we need before some of the leniency afforded corporations by our government demands reform? Pretty thought-provoking stuff, and, as a film, it never feels stodgy or too clinical and features great use of archival footage from the corporation's own in-house video productions.

Some other recommendations before I sign off would be 3:10 to Yuma, the western remake with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe was fresh, exciting and not entirely predictable. Ratatouille is another very well done animated story from Brad Bird that's not quite on par with The Incredibles but is extremely enjoyable and is gorgeous to look at. The sci-fi horror film Sunshine is also one of the best-looking films I've seen in a while and is a good entry in the genre of "doomed space expedition movies" even tho it falls off a bit in the final act when it goes slasher. And No Country For Old Men is better the second time through - a lot better, in fact.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

with god on our side

matt, originally uploaded by sara bizarro.

My friend Sara Bizarro (yes that's her real name) surprised me by illustrating a portrait of me based on one of my myspace portraits. it's part of a series of portraits she's done, the results of which can be seen here. You rock, Sara!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

The Family Tie at Film Fest Reloaded

Tomorrow night, "film guy" Bill Woods is hosting his weekly Film Fest Reloaded show in Staten Island and will be screening THE FAMILY TIE along with several other of my shorts and videos including the NEW YORK STALKER trilogy. Here's the release for the event...

Thanks Bill!

This Tuesday, May 20th, we welcome filmmaker, Matthew Glasson.

The filmmaker brings in an ultra violent black comedy romp, The Family Tie, about a young man who witnesses the destruction of his family at the hands of a psychotic business partner of his father’s. Swearing vengeance, the boy seeks out to destroy John and will stop at nothing.

Glasson, born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Mt. Prospect, IL, Matthew Glasson began allocating his energies at an early age as a performer, writer and filmmaker. He went on to attend film school at Columbia College in Chicago before moving to New York City to start a rock group called "God The Band."

During this time, he kept his filmmaking chops fresh by directing and producing music videos for the band and developing other short films. He currently lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he works as an editor and filmmaker.

For the film’s website, check out

For the trailer, check out

So please join us this Tuesday, May 20th with filmmaker, Matthew Glasson at FilmFest Reloaded. Admission is free.

See you at 8 PM at Karl's Klipper, 40 Bay Street, across from the St. George post office in Staten Island, just 1 block south of the SI Ferry Terminal.

Thanks for jumping in...

Bill Woods
FilmFest Reloaded

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Blues By The Beach

This is a trailer I recently cut for a documentary film "Blues By The Beach" about a night club bombing in Tel Aviv in 2003. There was a film crew doing a light-hearted documentary on the bar when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the establishment. It's a pretty powerful and amazing film and it has been an honor for me to be tasked with the responsibility of cutting it together. You can watch the film online by going to the movie website

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