January 10, 2008
And her Orgy of Talents
By Rob Brink
Missbehave January 2008
Much of what you've heard about Jena Malone is super five minutes ago. Yes, she was raised in and out of trailer parks by her mother and her mother's girlfriend. Yep, she then emancipated herself from moms and barely started high school before never going back. Sure, she was in the infamous Donnie Darko. Absolutely, she killed her role in Saved. And, she made out with Hayden Christensen onscreen in Life as a House and you didn't. Talking about all this old stuff is played.
Be up on the new shit, would ya? These days, Jena lives in Tahoe creating art, making music with her band, Jena Malone and Her bloodstains, and working with superDILFy Sean Penn. She's also recently discovered that being pretty doesn't mean people think you're boring, what being a woman actually means, and why being typecast as the weird cutter chick who lives in the bell jar is maybe the happiest thing in the world.
I've just researched and read every word you've said to the press for the last ten years. Does it feel weird to know that?
That's scary, actually. There's this whole persona of who I am on the internet. It's so disconnected. My IMDB profile says I love kickboxing and the Renaissance, and that was from an interview I did when I was 13. You say one thing and it's attached to you and your web persona for the rest of your life.
So you've experienced change since you were 13, remarkable...
Right! Well, I was the tomboy that hated everything that had to do with girls and girly shit. This year I've actually become a woman. I had this tainted vision of femininity my whole life and then realized I get to disassemble and reassemble it and be a woman in my own right. I've been buying dresses and all these things that before I totally shunned.
What clicked that suddenly you're into being a chick?
I'd never brush my hair or wear makeup, I'd wear baggy clothes and smelled. I didn't care. I never had boyfriends when I was younger and had my first real relationship when I was 18. It's horrible to say that love or men was the motivation, but it was interesting, because I was finally seeing myself through someone else's eyes. I wanted to wear nice things.
Feeling good because you look good isn't the worst, huh?
Totally. I didn't used to want people to think I was pretty. I wanted them to hear what I was saying, so I played down my appearance to get my point across. Now I'm much more confident in who I am—in my body and in my mind—that I don't need to play anything down. It's way more empowering and way more exciting.
Do you ever look at actresses your age who are all over the tabloids and think "I can't believe I'm in the same industry as these people!"
[Sighs] Of course. If I lived in LA and I had to deal with it all I think I would probably kill myself. Everyone's trying to one-up each other. It's everything I never understood about high school, and totally understood about high school. I only went for a year but you feel the strange rules and cliques.
Why did you move to Lake Tahoe?
I'd lived here in Tahoe for second and third grade then moved away. I moved back five years ago. I have a strong affinity for place. It's beautiful. I can be alone here for months and not even realize I haven't seen another person. Whereas in LA I get so lonely, it's such a public culture. If you don't call someone for a week they think you've died.
That's why it's rad that a Johnny Depp type can live anywhere on the planet and keep working.
There's a lot of fear involved in this business. If you're not "hot enough" you're gonna lose everything and people are gonna turn against you. It's like Hollywood's this weird club that you have to fulfill all these parts before you can achieve success. But really, you don't have to do anything. You just don't.
Do you ever fear getting typecast as the "indie film girl"?
I don't think there's any actor who hasn't been typecast. The first time you see an actor onscreen and they move you, you're gonna remember them in that role forever. It's a natural reaction of humans watching each other.
You just have to hope for the best, and keep true to your shit. I've definitely been typecast into that indie—whatever it is—"fucked up girl with problems" role. But I would rather be in that tidepool than be typecast as "dumb girlfriend."
What's your favorite movie that you've done?
Into the Wild was such an immense experience that I'd have to say it's my favorite. It was such a beautiful collaboration creatively that it blew my mind that it could actually happen in film.
Working with Sean, I mean, he's like a poet. You can talk to him about anything and I just respect and admire him so much.
What's the craziest rumor you've ever heard about yourself?
There was a forum on IMDB that said that I was dating Michael Clarke Duncan.
The huge black dude from The Green Mile?
Yeah! The rumor was like four years ago, when I was nineteen and he was like forty or something. I was like, "Wow, that's amazing, I've never even met him." I actually prefer that rumor than like, me and some Hollywood heartthrob.
Ever end up dating a fan?
I dated this one guy but didn't know until later that Donnie Darko was his favorite movie. He had a shrine in his house. I saw it. I was a little freaked and I didn't call him anymore [Laughs].
Damn, he blew it. I would have played it smart and hid that shit.
I know, right?
Why did you name your band, Jena Malone and Her Bloodstains?
It's the most intimate and personal thing I've ever created, so I wanted it to be my name. Taking my name back in a sense.
Is it easier or harder to be taken seriously in music because you're in Hollywood?
I wouldn't have been able to get my foot in the door if I hadn't had some sort of name. But I love to share it with people. Friends come over and I force them to listen to all these songs and new things I'm working on. I love it so much; I'll never stop making music. It's just hijacked my whole body and I can't control it.
Do you envision yourself being an actor 20, 30, 40 years from now?
Definitely. I'm in the business of storytelling, whether it's acting or writing or singing or taking photos and it's endless. As long as I can do it and be financially okay, I'll do this for the rest of my life. I get to constantly create new things and that's fucking beautiful.
What's the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were younger?
I would've wanted someone to tell me that it's nice to break your own rules sometimes—or to constantly recheck them to see if they still work for your life. I would have loved someone to say that to me instead of "Try and be lawyer and follow your heart." What does that even mean? You'll follow your heart until you run off a cliff and then where's that gonna take you?
September 21, 2007
Amanda Blank: Philly rapper on the come up
By Rob Brink
I'd been harassing rapper Amanda Blank for days before I finally got her on the line. Having just engaged in some lazy Sunday afternoon "boo lovin,'" Blank, 24, was still lying in bed. Naked. Now, I'm all for professionalism and as this was our first time speaking, I was gentlemanly enough to only wait three minutes before engaging in important topics like fingerbanging, handjobs and boners.
Blank, as I found out, will talk and rhyme about anything. The Philly-adoring MC just wants to have a blast and pursued rapping as a laugh—jumping in on the boys while they were freestyling and smoking blunts at high school parties. Then, after graduation, television-less and bored, Blank wrote songs about doing the dishes and cooking dinner with her roommate. She then recorded tracks with friend and producer, Spank Rock.
Her attitude has been totally breezy. "How serious can I take myself?" Asks the fun-loving rapper. "People know I'll do anything just to tell the story the next day. My music isn't only about cocaine and blowjobs, but you can't always have a message. People are over it, they want to hear something that will make them move." Blank, whose musical inspiration rages from Whitesnake to Cat Power, also records as the singer of the indie pop band Sweatheart, when she's not busy collaborating with her indisputably talented friends. "I have good people around me—XXX Change, Diplo, Spank Rock, Low B, M.I.A." Blank says appreciatively. "To know people who are doing shit that you like makes pursuing much easier. Fuck it, if no one else likes it at least my friends do."
Her fashion sense is equally compelling. She rocks the 1992 stripper look—the Kelly Bundy—tiger-striped, super-long nails, stirrup leopard print stretch pants under her shitty jeans, lots of fake gold and David Lee Roth hair. "Oh my God, I'm going to be so ridiculous if I ever make real money." Speculates the singer. "I'll be such a fucking spectacle all the time. A whole room of make-up and my own personal air-brusher." Which is just freaky 'cause that's the Missbehave office in a nutshell.
April 10, 2007
Crazy Like A Fox: Inside the mind of Little Loca
By Rob Brink
Missbehave, April 2007
Twenty-two year old Stevie Ryan looks like Sherilyn Fenn. This is hella distracting since I'm a lot obsessed with Twin Peaks. LittleLoca, on the other hand—Stevie's YouTube video blogging, virginity-bearing, 4.0 GPA-having, dark lipstick and hoop earring-rocking, opinionated-yet-irresistible chola alter-ego—does not. But she's ridiculously hot, too. Sure, critics are gonna be critical saying Stevie, a white girl, is getting all racialist portraying a Latina, but she swears up and down that Loca is an homage. Stevie jocked the shit outta the Latin girls she went to high school with in Victorville, California. A town where the 24-hour Wal-Mart had to change its hours of operation due to crime, where the per capita income is just shy of $15,000, and where Ms. Ryan—like a whole slew of ya'll—started loving that dark lipliner.
Since LittleLoca's vlogs beelined to YouTube's "Most Viewed" list with 69 videos at the end of 2006 and over 4 million views, Ms. Ryan has not only garnered the cover of Inside MySpace magazine and a New Yorker article, but has also gotten Hollywood recognition, with super-official, big willie, Tinsel Town management. Stevie and LittleLoca have been in the game for a minute though, with a few independent films like Sell Out and Rhapsody, a rumored Crispin Glover collaboration, and an appearance in Billy Idol's latest music video already in the portfolio. Now she's wrapping up Locamotion Derailed, a LittleLoca short that she wrote, produced, directed, and starred in. In anticipation of her new project, we chased down our homegirl and got this exclusive interview from the set, where LittleLoca dropped sage science about Jesus, Nutty Block Crips, and why Ricky Ricardo could get it.
We've noticed that your mole moves in every episode. Is this a public service commentary about melanoma being the most preventable form of cancer?
It ain't a mole, fool. It's a beauty mark! It's a little angel kiss. But seriously, melanoma is the most common form of cancer for people between the ages of like, 20 and 29. It's the most serious form of cancer in the USA and in 2006 there were 62,000 cases. People better check themselves before they wreck themselves. That was a PSA for you right there.
Whoa. Nice stats. Where do you go to college?
I'm up by USC.
Adderall in moderation for studying purposes? Yay or nay?
Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not even down with Tylenol. Loca's tryna keep it all clean.
That's good; you're a positive influence on America's youth.
It's just that I'll turn like, retarded. I'll even get like I'm poisoned. I'll start throwing up and it's like, my body just rejects anything like that, you know?
On the subject of upchuck, in Cooking with Loca, and Many Shout Outs, you get hella culinary. No disrespect, but what self-respecting Latina makes quesadillas in the microwave?
I gotta be doing homework! If I had time, I'd probably be cooking it up but I gotta be worrying about making those straight As, you know?
What did you get on your SAT verbal?
I got an 800, homeboy!
High five! Me too. So, we all know that hateration is the fuel of the jealous, but why do you think you have so many haters?
Why did Jesus have so many haters?
Why did Jesus have so many haters?
People don't like what they don't understand. I don't hate anybody.
Not even Paris Hilton, who goes on YouTube as therealparis?
Paris Hilton? Homegirl needs to get up off YouTube. I don't know why she's on there. She's already on everything. How you gonna be carrying a can of wine and be telling me things? It's like, Take your big ol' size 11 feet and march 'em off. These celebrities…they just wanna come up and steal everything from anybody that has anything. Damn!
And what's your beef with J. Lo?
You know what? Its not that I have beef with J. Lo, but seriously, that girl, she says she's "Jenny from the block," but she's Jenny that went around that block. She's had so many damn boyfriends and husbands in Hollywood. I just wouldn't want to be called that, you know? Don't try to put me in the hoodrat category or whatever.
Speaking of, ahem…loose women, you are not one. In fact, you're hymenally intact. Tell us, what Hollywood hottie could get that V card and why?
You know what? I think everybody is gonna expect me to say something stupid…Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt or something, you know? But nuh-uh. I ain't following all of these wicked waymen of the world into all their nastiness…no one is gonna get this [like that], I'm using it for what it's made for—to multiply.
Oooookay. Do you have any Hollywood dreamboat crushes?
Um, let's see, I woulda hooked up with Ricky Ricardo. It's just that I don't feel these guys in Hollywood. They aren't very manly, you know? They're all like little bitches—all of them. So it's hard.
Not into the metrosexuals?
Hell naw, I'm into a man. A manly man. I'm not about to have somebody that's gonna cry to me. Talk about how they need to go wax the middle of their eyebrows, tryna borrow my tweezers... Shoot.
How many bandanas do you have?
I lost count after 420. I don't know. A lot though, every color.
Heh....420…Um so you're always shot in black and white. Is this so we can't tell what colors you claim? Or is it some West Coast Rap All-Stars unity shit like, "We're All In the Same Gang"?
Naw, it's to keep it old school. Keeping the roots of film. Paying respect to the veterans of filmmaking. Everything used to be in black and white and I'm just bringing it back.
Yeah but you're a persuasive, articulate girl living in LA. What would you do to ease tension between the Piru Bloods and the Nutty Block Crips?
Exactly! I live in LA so you know damn well I ain't gonna mention nothing about no Piru Bloods and no Nutty Blocks, 'cause, like, I ain't even gonna go near that tension. I ain't even trying to give any advice to them.
Channeling James Lipton, what's your favorite curse word?
The word "curse" is derived from "pronouncing a curse on a person," like the curse by God denouncing the serpent. So cursing by supernatural powers is a bad thing and a real believer should be known by the fruits of their spirit and from their walk with Christ and not by cursing, so I'm gonna leave it at that.
Whoa, that's deep.
That's what Loca is. I ain't a shallow person, fool.
April 10, 2007
Kat Von D's Ink
By Rob Brink
Missbehave, April 2007
Usually we love nothing more than to gawp and nosily inquire about the inked embellishments of our favorite celebrity tattooees. This time we look to 24-year-old, Mexican-born, heavy metal and Beethoven-loving; Los Angeles-residing-and-adoring star of TLC's Miami Ink Katherine Von Drachenberg for the other perspective. Kat's first tattoo came at age 14. Fast-forward two years to early 1996, and her first attempt at needle wielding—a Misfits skull done with homemade equipment. A decade later, Ms. Von D is on TV, tattooing all over the world, chilling in Bam Margera's Lamborghini, designing her own clothing line, marrying fellow artist Oliver Peck, appearing in H.I.M. music videos and getting ready to take it even further. But not before sharing a little bit about her divergent experiences as a tattoo artist with Missbehave…
"I had been drawing since I could hold a pencil, and when I did that first tattoo, I knew right then and there that it was my calling. I was never like, 'I wanna be in movies! Or be a model!' I mean, look at me; I thought I ruined chances like that happening when I got my face tattooed. I think tattooing is definitely still a man's world. I have always tried my hardest to not make gender an issue, [but] I feel like women in this business, for the most part, aren't as good as most of the guys. Maybe it's because there is a smaller number of them... but there are not too many women out there that I would wanna get tattooed by.
When we first started doing the show, I was worried that I would be typecast as the person you go to for a portrait when you lose someone. And at first it was kinda crazy. I had a line of people waiting to get tattooed and tell me the horrible and sad stories of their loved ones dying. Now I completely embrace it. The other day I had to tattoo a woman who had come in to get a portrait of her 18-year-old son who had shot himself in the face 10 days prior. When we were done and she looked down I ended up holding her for 10 minutes as she cried on my shoulder thanking me for giving her her son on her leg forever. That shit is the most special thing to me—helping other people heal one way or another.
[On the other hand] one time, Steve-O was in Miami while we were filming and we'd gone out, got wasted, and talked about how we never wanted to have kids. He got so amped on the idea of being free and never having kids that he was like, 'I wanna get a 'Fuck Babies' tattoo, you wanna do it?' I was down, but the next day I was busy with a client, so he had someone else do the tattoo. It didn't translate so well. He wanted a picture of a baby with a cross over it, like the no smoking sign. Somehow it evolved into a dude with his pants down actually fucking a baby. I saw a look of regret in Steve-O's eyes (which is very rare, when it comes to that guy), when we all realized he looked like a total pedophile. Later, he blacked it out himself into a big black blob [then] Bam and I transformed into an ostrich. So now he has this dude on his arm fucking an ostrich doggy-style. It's pretty fuckin' bad.
I will never stop tattooing, but I always told myself, if there was a way for me to make money elsewhere, I would not tattoo for a living, I would do it for fun... you know, just tattoo your friends whenever you want. Tattooing is crazy for me though, if I go too long without tattooing I get withdrawals.
April 10, 2007
By Rob Brink
Missbehave, April 2007
Santi White, the singer, had her first performance at a mock hair salon fashioned from a bathroom closet. She was 7. "I had hair supplies and perfumes all lined up on the floor, and drew a couple pictures for the walls," begins the Philly-bred, Bed Stuy-residing songwriter, "I think I even put up 'Grand Opening' flyers around my block and was kinda bummed when no one but my little brother came on the big day." Couple years after her humble entrée into a tough business Santi White, at 9, began writing songs. "I never wanted to be a performer or anything," says White. "But it makes sense [since] I really hate office jobs."
She learned the last fact after a couple music industry internships, record label gigs, an e-commerce business and working at random art galleries during college. It was during these years that White founded and fronted the punk band Stiffed. She executive produces for herself and other artists (including last month's Missbehave cover gal. Lily Allen), owns a music publishing company, and just wrapped up her latest solo project, Santogold, slated for a late spring release on Lizard King Records. The latter was done with help from a few Stiffed members, Clifford "Moonie" Pusey from Steel Pulse, Disco D, Switch, Spank Rock, and her boyfriend, pro snowboarder, Trevor "Trouble" Andrew. And you thought you were busy and had a deep buddy list, right?
Admittedly a pop artist (in that she wants as many people as possible to know her music), White doesn't adhere to the philosophy that pop has to be "disposable" and "lacking substance." A fact she clearly delineates in her musical influences. "Artists like Blondie, Prince, and The Police were all pop artists," clarifies White, "but they wrote brilliant creative music as well and I want to bring the art back to pop and take it back from the wasteland it currently resides in."
Though this is a monumentally ambitious task in an age when Brooke Hogan can land a recording contract, seeing what Santi's accomplished thus far, all before the age of 30, she might actually be able to pull it off.
September 19, 2006
We HEART Regina Spektor:
The New York singer is confusing critics, snubbing comparisons and stealing hearts…namely ours.
By Rob Brink
Missbehave Autumn 2006
Bronx-bred singer Regina Spektor is headlining a gig in Portland, Oregon. It's one of the weirdest she's ever played. The bizarre, half hippy, half-corporate crowd reminds the 26 year-old of White Plains, New York. Maybe Westchester. Spektor feels like she's being observed. She probably is.
“I think it's like the pot capital of America or something, right?” says Spektor of Portland, “Maybe everyone was just high and withdrawn and sitting there spaced out. I'm curious to go back there and play again,” she muses, clearly deriving enjoyment from the act of performing itself, not just the response. For her, a lackluster audience is a no-lose situation. “I'll just start playing for myself really. You have a room, you have a piano and you get to sing your songs,” she reasons. “I'd be doing it in my bedroom without anyone else there anyway.”
When sung in Spektor's child-like voice, New-York specific lyrics like “Hey, remember that time when I found a human tooth on Delancey” or “Summer in the city, means cleavage, cleavage, cleavage…” sound dreamy and innocent. Her breathy, ethereal way of articulating sounds as if she sings with a mouthful of hot food. Currently on her second US headlining tour to promote her latest release Begin To Hope, slated for release on Sire Records this past June; Spektor is grateful for the opportunity to make music. And it shows. Whether in the moody black-keyed baroque of “Après Moi” with it's dramatic French phrases (Après Moi, La Dèluge) and string instruments or the decisive strutting tempo and tone of “Hotel Song”, the singer is thorough with her metaphors and does not let each orchestrated mood meander. Spektor is in control and this intention persists in her live performances.
“Every time you play a show, it's like building your own world,” Spektor says in her characteristically fantastic vernacular, “You get to a place and look around and bring in your equipment and sound check. For an hour and a half you get to build a little world for these people who are coming. Being an opening act is more like giving someone your business card. It's like ‘Here's five different things that I do, please call me!' It's really weird.”
Regina was born in Moscow—a tiny girl with ringlet hair and bold blue eyes. You can envision her youth, little feet dangling from a too-high piano bench or later, fluttering around the NYC apartment at nine years old. Ever the musician, Spektor transformed pedestrian things into makeshift "instruments," banging on stools and bozes since her beloved piano had been sold to help finance her family's emigration to the States.
As her love of music was culled from youth, her vivid, uninhibited imagination evident in her lyrics is also that of a young child. “I just make stuff up,” Spektor states simply. “I consciously pay attention to life. I try to write songs the way a short story writer writes.” Therein lies her musical charm—intricately spun tales of ordinary things told in a not-so-ordinary manner sang in a voice intimate enough for bedtime stories.
Spektor hasn't always had the opportunity for such intimacy. She's been the businesscard-like opener plenty of times. “There was like two years where I didn't turn down a show,” she says of playing comedy clubs, parties and basements. She's even pulled the occasional hustle to get on stage, convincing club owners she had a show booked with them, when, in reality, she hadn't.
It was such shiest that landed her first live gig at Manhattan's Sidewalk Cafe. The show culminated in a record deal and eventually Spektor found herself on tour with New York demagogues the Strokes and the Followill family foursome, Kings of Leon. Spektor's charm has not swayed everyone. The critics repeatedly liken her to Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Suzanne Vega, Kate Bush, Norah Jones and basically every other female that has stood on a stage solo. “The weird thing is, I don't think Kate Bush sounds like Billie Holiday at all,” muses Spektor and rightly so. “[And] where do Nina Simone and Tori Amos come in together, ya know?”
Spektor doesn't begrudge the critics' need to classify or lump together. She is however, saddened that such comparisons often demystify or hamper the newness of something. “Young musicians will be like, ‘You should listen to my stuff.' And you just kind of ask them for a feeling of it. And they'll just drop like seven names of bands: ‘Well it's sort of like a more Goth blah, blah, but if you mix it with a bit of Genesis.' And I'm like, ‘Oh my God, you just totally classified yourself. How are you supposed to write other stuff now?'”
Last year's Soviet Kitsch, was her third and breakthrough album, for which she embarked on her first-ever headlining tour to support. The cabaret-ish and esoteric Kitsch won the affection of many, but had some critics reacting less than optimistically—going so far as to underestimate the mental capacity of the listener. One review states, "The sheer uniqueness of Soviet Kitsch definitely catches listeners off guard. Her roughly unprocessed voice both scares and entrances audiences, as it is frightening…Right when the audience thinks it has got the album figured out, the next track begins and listeners are sent back into confusion."
“Yeah, [the review goes on] about how “scary” I am,” bristles Spektor of the reception. “A friend of mine was saying how record reviews are like, the critics' chance to write their great novel, ya know? Like, ‘On a dark and rainy day I put in this song and…'”
Spektor's latest effort, Begin To Hope, though likely not above such critics' reproach, is as uniquely darling as her previous releases. Despite a less eclectic, more produced and radio-friendly sound, Hope can be your binge eating or Prozac. The music is comforting. The kaleidoscope of elicited emotions run the gamut from happiness to wallowing but not, as the singers she's oft compared to, to the point of self-indulgence. Her tone whilst singing or speaking is inviting.
Spektor's infectious impishness does not end with her voice. Spektor is just as winsome visually. With full lips, fine features and expressive wide eyes she eventually plans on dominating other media. “I love acting and definitely want to get into it,” she says. “When I see that MGM lion in the beginning of a movie, I get the best feelings of anticipation. I know that for the next two hours a world is being built for me.”
Despite her desire to become the bold-name stereotype—the double threat, Spektor is focused. “I don't want to be a dabbler. I really hope if I do things like acting or theater that, I'll be surrounded by people I can learn with and do it well.”
And do it well she will. Spektor possesses a coy, untainted, playful countenance that disarms spite or criticism. It's a rare breed of asshole that can bash a cherub. And though not nearly as disengaged as her Portland audience, I once was ambivalent and ended won over, in the little world Regina built.
July 5, 2006
Guidance Counselor: Liquid Todd
By Rob Brink
Here's another one that was intended for Stance and never made it to the mag because it folded. The column was called Guidance Counselor and it showcased cool jobs that the audience might be interested in learning about. Although this piece was from May of 2002 and Solid State is no longer on the air, Liquid Todd is still working in NY and has a show on KTU and another on Sirius Satellite Radio.
Name: Anthony Todd Wilkinson
Liquid Todd's baby, Solid State showcases some of electronic music and DJing's finest on 92.3 K-Rock in New York City, where it reaches anywhere from 250,000-300,000 people every Saturday night. Todd recently won Best Radio DJ in the first-ever American Dance Music Awards—the 2002 DanceStar USA Awards, which were held in Miami Beach during the Winter Music Conference. Not a bad title to receive for your first award, eh?
What's your job description?
Well I don't really have a job description. I've kind of created my jobs. I actually don't like the word “job.” What I do is my passion, and I can't imagine doing anything else. I set goals for myself and I achieve them. Solid State is a show I created from scratch and it's the most exciting sounds on the radio. I also write music and produce remixes in the digital recording studio I built in my spare bedroom using a Power Macintosh and Pro Tools. It has all sorts of toys in it and that's where I spend most of my time. I also produce my DJ mixes there, record my radio show if I'm going to be out of town (I almost always do my radio show live), and do all sorts of audio and video editing there. It's like my little laboratory complete with a ridiculously fast Internet connection and three or four Macs.
Also, lately I've been getting back into the field I went to college for—journalism—by writing a series of “How To Be a DJ” feature stories on Starpolish.com.
How did you get started?
I bought a cheap DJ mixer and started making tapes. That led to more equipment purchases, classified ads, an internship at WDRE on Long Island, high-school dances, weddings, small club nights in Queens, a production internship at WDRE, and then my first full-time radio job in Augusta, Georgia. That damn Gemini DJ mixer was the end for me. I remember when I first brought it home from Sam Ash. I stared at the sliders and the knobs for hours and fantasized about having my own pirate radio station. I was hopelessly hooked.
What was your first big break?
Hard to say. I've had the privilege to work with some incredibly talented and patient people who taught me so much. Dennis Daniel at WDRE took me under his wing and showed me how to be a production director. Kurt St. Thomas at WFNX rescued me from WCHZ in Augusta, Georgia and brought me up to Boston to be the Creative Director. He was the one who let me go on the air with Spin Cycle, my second radio show but the first one that didn't suck. They really let me be myself at WFNX and make a name for myself. And then Steve Kingston at K-Rock had the vision and the guts to put me on the air with Solid State.
What are some of the perks?
Getting free records and being able to get into clubs for free isn't why I became a DJ. Although to be totally honest, I used to spend all of my money on music and when I started getting free records I was psyched! Being able to play the music I love for thousands of people every week on the radio is the greatest feeling in the world. I played for 40,000 people at Woodstock—you can't beat that feeling.
What are the cons?
Being a radio DJ is work sometimes. Fun, but work nonetheless. Dr. J. once said something that I think is very true about work and professionalism— “Being a professional means doing what you love even on the days you don't feel like doing it.” That's how I feel about being a DJ. How could I possibly complain about having my own radio show where I can play and say anything I want—in the number one radio market in the country and the greatest city in the world? But I have to admit, after doing a Saturday night radio show every week for the past nine years there have been times when I just didn't want to leave my apartment.
What were some of your earlier, non-radio, non-glamorous jobs?
Oh I've had many. I've waited tables, worked in bookstores, a large home-improvement store, cleaned pools, and worked as a newspaper reporter in a weekly Long Island newspaper. I was the only reporter on the staff.
How did you come up with the name Liquid Todd?
It was given to me by the copywriter at WFNX in Boston. He used to change my name every week I DJed at the club Axis where we did a night called “X-Night.” I was Phat Todd, Premium Todd, etc. Liquid Todd just stuck.
How would you direct someone looking to make a career of being a radio DJ?
Don't give up. The people who make it in this business are not always the most talented or brilliant artists or the sharpest businessmen. It's the people who pick themselves up off the floor and get back to work who make it. It's easy to get discouraged when you fail—especially when you are performing in front of people or doing creative work—but if you want to win, you can't let that stuff stop you. Everyone you admire in this business has made mistakes along the way. If you never take any risks you probably won't make any big mistakes, but you also will never win big either.
Another thing I hate to hear is when someone tells me they really want to be a DJ (or any other creative thing) but there are just too many other people who want to be DJs too. So what? Did you think that you were going to be the only one? Anything worth doing is going to attract a crowd. Concentrate on growing as an artist and as a person instead of worrying about everyone else and when you are presented with your first big opportunity you'll be ready. If you spend all of your time worrying about other people instead of preparing yourself you won't be ready. There is no such thing as luck. Luck is where preparation and opportunity meet so make your own luck.
December 26, 2005
The Last Days Of Opie And Anthony
by Rob Brink
Stance August 2002
This interview took place just two days before a married couple, trying to win NYC radio jocks Opie and Anthony's “Sex In Public” contest, got caught getting it on in the Big Apple's holiest place—St. Patrick's Cathedral. A week after the stunt, Opie and Anthony found themselves out of their four-million-dollar-a-year jobs, where they reached millions of listeners in seventeen cities across the country.
After a brief hiatus, the duo found a new home for their show on XM radio. Only about three of the following questions and answers ever made it to print in Stance, back in 2002, but I have included the full, unedited interview for all you O&A fans here.
How many cities are you on in?
O: About 20.
How many listeners?
O: We don't know, but don't want to know, that may freak us out, whether it's a lot or too little.
Now that you are syndicated, what is your goal with the show? Do you have a mission?
O: Obviously to put out a quality radio show every day, just because we are syndicated doesn't mean we made it, we still have to prove ourselves in all these cities. And so far so good, in most of the cities we are killing. Then it's a matter of keeping up that quality.
A: Once you get there, now you gotta hold it, and there are other markets that we arent in that we want to get into.
O: We want to do a TV show but no one has come up with the idea yet for a TV show. But we don't really have an idea at this point.
What was your craziest or best moment on the air?
O: There's so many. Having a girl flash on the Today Show was pretty special, she did the whole W.O.W thing for us live on the Today Show with the W.O.W logo on her belly. That was a pretty huge moment.
A: Blind boxing was just one of those things. People always ask us “Is there some line you have?” And that one came close, because when we are standing there watching two blind guys beating the crap out of each other. That was one of those times where I said “What are we doing?”
O: We had a pregnant girl jump rope and run up and down stairs in the studio hoping that she would give birth in the studio.
How far along in the pregnancy was she?
O: She was right there man!
And you guys would want her water breaking and placenta in the studio?
O: Well it never happened anyway.
What was your worst?
O: We don't really regret anything, you can't really be in this type of radio and regret anything.
Do you two ever get to the point where you can't stand each other? How do you deal with that when you have to go do a four-hour radio show together?
O: When it comes to the show, we've always been on the same team and we really take shots at each other. For some reason we can hate each other going in to the studio but still turn out a good radio show.
A: We butt heads every so often, but that's kind of normal. But you gotta go in there and do the show, but usually by the time the show's over we are like “What? Huh?” and its over.
Who is the hottest chick in the world right now?
O: Tiger Woods' girlfriend (Elin Nordegren) is pretty hot. And Anna Kournikova.
A: I think Janine Garafalo is really sexy.
A: No, you print that I'll have to kill you.
Now that you've proved your heterosexuality. If you had to make out with any guy on the planet, who would it be?
A: Ewwwahhh! I'm not getting involved in this one.
Oh come on, if you had to pick one.
A: I don't have to pick one.
O: We'd have to have some kind of option.
Well, I'd say Brad Pitt if you asked me, and I'm totally straight.
O: But, see, you're thinking about it.
Oh, is that gay?
O: We've had the discussion on the air. If you are thinking about it, it's a little weird. Like, I couldn't come up with anybody, because I wouldn't think about it.
Oh, so you're that straight?
A: Even if you could just throw one out and come out with one, when our fans and listeners read it, do you know the world of hurt that will come down on us on that day over the phone?
I thought it would be fun.
A: Are you insane?
O: God, I'd have to think of the ugliest dude so anyone that reads this would go "He was obviously kidding."
A: Yeah, pick Steve Buscemi. And kissing is another thing, more so than just the sex act.
O: Kissing makes it romantic. You'd have to go right for the "Hob the knob."
A: I think the kissing is what makes it gay. (Laughs).
O: At least like, if you had to do it to survive, like "Who's knob would you hob?" then I would almost understand.
Well what about when you are with your girlfriends and they say “So and so is a good looking guy” is there ever as time when you agree?
O: I guess you'd have to be blind, I mean you can see why girls think Brad Pitt is a good looking guy.
A: Is that your pick Opie? (Laughter)
As far as your show is concerned, what are you most proud of?
A: Its no single thing, but being able to do this on a daily basis for as many years as we have been doing it, and the popularity of the show seems to be going up, knock on wood. We are doing better and better. I am really proud by where we are right now and where it looks like we are headed. I am amazed by it on a daily basis.
O: I am proud that the listeners get what we are all about. I love reading email from the listeners who say that we made their horrible commute an enjoyable experience. Just imagine that—we all get stuck in crazy traffic, but there are people out there that don't mind being in the traffic because of the service we provide with this radio show and that definitely makes me really proud.
Who has influenced you guys as far as radio is concerned?
O: No one now, I think radio in general just blows. But when I was growing up on Long Island, of course I listened to Howard Stern. To fake and make believe we didn't would be ridiculous. I really learned my part of the O&A show from Brother Weese in Rochester. He's a morning guy up there who is a down to earth guy who relates to his listeners in a way that is a lot different than anyone else I have never listened to. Beside those two guys, I can't think of anyone else…maybe Casey Kasem.
How about influences just in general?
O: Growing up I was into Andy Kaufman. I was into how he was able to fuck with his audience. I really took a lot from that. I took a lot from Sam Kinison, how he could be out of his fucking mind and pretty much say what the average person or comedian wouldn't say.
Anthony, you seem to be the quiet one.
A: You hit me on a day when I had to sit and listen to an insurance salesman for a half hour. Almost lulled me to sleep.
O: I was into Nirvana and what Kurt brought to music, which was the balls to do something completely different than anyone else at the time. I admire that because there's not a lot of people out there in the creative field that are willing to take that chance. Tool is a band that has taken chances obviously, and always has. And speaking of Tool another person I admired growing up was Bill Hicks. He was pretty amazing.
Any advice for kids who want to be on radio or have their own show one day?
O: Two simple words: Be yourself. There's a lot of phonies out there that act like they are tough and act like they are cool, but they are listening to the wrong advice from those stupid program directors out there.
A: One thing I learned, is more importantly than knowing when to listen to your superiors, is learning when not to listen to your superiors, and go with your instincts.
O: We've said that in a lot of interviews, and no one prints it, especially trade magazines, they are scared to print that. Ant and I would have never gotten where we are today if we had listened to our bosses. I think there are a lot of professions out there that that's very important. There was a lot of asshole bosses who thought they could control us and tell us what to say and do, and we just constantly got in so much trouble it wasn't even funny, but we had a vision and knew we had to go for it.
November 27, 2005
Books, Pandering, Fan-dom, and Chuck Pala-"how do you say his name?"
By Rob Brink
ChuckPalahniuk.net June 2002
Dennis, the webmeister of ChuckPalahniuk.net (official site of author Chuck Palahniuk) asked me to write this story once he found out I had attended Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby book signing at the 2002 Book Expo America in New York City. This is how it appeared on the site.
Chuck at the Book Expo in New York City
June 8th, 2002
Robert Brink, of Stance reports on the NY Book Expo
Book Expo America is an enormous convention for the publishing industry. Everyone and anyone in publishing—from all over the world—attends the show to showcase upcoming titles and sell them, network, buy titles, or keep themselves informed in the ever-changing world of books. The show was held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, from May 1-5. I was attending on behalf of one of my writing clients, Stance Magazine. Two of the magazine's editors and I were there to make some contacts and beef up the amount of interesting and appropriate-for-the-magazine books we have coming to us to review. Of course, we all love books and jump at the chance to get them free and in advance as well. Furthermore, a weekend in NYC is always interesting, to say the least. Being a die-hard Chuck fan, I had my own agendas as well.
A week prior to the event, I heard through the grapevine that Chuck would be signing galleys of Lullaby for Doubleday on Saturday at 11 a.m. I had met Chuck once before on the Choke tour in NYC, he was great—signed all my crap, took pictures with me, and chatted. But somehow this was different. I had become way more Chuck-obsessed than I was in the months leading to the release of Choke or Survivor. I had read his other novels to death, simply to hold me over until the release of another, and the thought of flipping through Lullaby, four months before the rest of the world would be, and reviewing it for Stance, was just making me more and more eager.
Friday, May 3, was the first day of the show that I attended. Thousands and thousands of people crowded hundreds of aisles and thousands of booths on two floors. Imagine the mall on Christmas Eve—but twice as bad. Because everyone is schmoozing, self-promoting, selling, buying, and browsing. And they all have briefcases, bags, or rolling suitcases that they wail into your hips, thighs, ankles, shins—whatever, as you walk by them. People who are walking at a completely normal pace will stop on a dime in front of you if something like Ground Zero photos catches their eye. More than once I felt like I was caught in a mosh.
Eventually, I learned how to navigate the floor, and spent plenty of time looking at a lot of really interesting books from interesting publishers—stuff I can't wait to read. Of course, for every cool book or publisher is 50 lame ones. Scientology, witchcraft, self-help, new age, the companies who have rushed to get out books on the latest trends, like 9/11, "heroes," skateboarding, punk rock coffee table books, Babar, Yoga, etc. And let's not forget the "washed up celebrity" books. Because most celebrities resort to writing books to survive, or at least keep getting attention, when their original career is over, Book Expo is a great place to see tons of people who you forgot existed. Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Reeve, Al and Tipper Gore, and "Blair" (who cares what her real name is) from The Facts of Life, to name a few, were all there signing and grinning their lives away.
I searched high and low for information on the supposed Saturday Chuck signing. There were no listings anywhere; he wasn't listed on the "appearance" board like James Patterson was, and nobody that worked for the show seemed to have any idea what I was talking about. Even Doubleday's booth, with the exception of a poster, showed no indication that Mr. Palahniuk would be there. I was nervous—to say the least. I went home and set my alarm for the next morning. If he was showing up, I wasn't going to miss him.
Eight in the morning is early for me. Getting ready and into the city (I live in NJ) by 11 is no simple task—but I managed 10:55 and rushed into the show to find Chuck. I circled the Doubleday booth a few times—to the point where the people from the company were looking at me funny. Yes, I could have just asked, but that would have been too easy and definitely pegged me as a Chuck freak—as if they couldn't already tell. I was worried. No Chuck, no Lullaby galley, no happiness.
Tom Sizemore totally catching me lurking
I hit the cafè for lunch and lurked around the show, picking up a few more catalogs, business cards, and visiting with some of my friends from other publishers. Despite more things to see than any person can manage in a day, my main goal was to kill time in between Doubleday booth "walk-bys." At about 2 p.m. I gave up hope and bid farewell to some friends. On my way out, I was surprised to see a pep rally like formation of humans around a booth that had hot chicks in gold spandex pants and tank tops passing out flyers all weekend. It all seemed to make sense when I saw Heidi Fleiss walk in with her man, Tom Sizemore. That's right—Jack Scagnetti, and I am a huge Natural Born Killers fan. Move over Heidi, who cares if you have a tell-all book coming out (Pandering) about your illegal Hollywood prostitution business?
It wasn't long before I was standing with Tom, having a gold-pants-wearing babe snapping a photo for me. I told him I was a big fan of Natural Born Killers and his reply was somewhat lackadaisical—maybe even sarcastic: "That's a cool movie, isn't it?" He looked hung over or strung out, or something. Definitely a movie star though, you can see it the second you look at him—his clothes, his eyes, the sweat on his forehead, and even the stains on his shirt that he tried to wipe off as he put his arm around me before the photo—they all scream "Natural Born Movie Star." Tom is The Man and I was psyched. And it was an unexpected twist that almost had me forgetting about the Chuck letdown. As I planned to depart the building (for real this time), I figured I might as well do one more "Chuck scan." As I approached the general area of the Doubleday booth, I saw lines of people accumulating. I rushed towards the front only to see stacks and stacks of Lullaby surrounding a table with the Chuckster happily signing books and greeting fans. YEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!
So I get my copy of the book from one of the lovely ladies passing them out and go to the back of the line, which was out of the Random House sector and down one of the main aisles. Now keep in mind that this convention is for industry people—not really the general public. So these are people that know books, and authors, and things about publishing. I must have heard the following questions about 50 times each while on line from people also on line with copies of Lullaby in their hands:
"Who is that signing these books?"
"How do you pronounce his name?"
Now I'd hate to get on that "I have been a real Chuck fan for a long time thing." It isn't the point I am trying to make. Surely I wasn't the first fan or whatever, but these people who are in the industry have never even heard of Chuck Palahniuk? But they are waiting on line to get his autograph? I wasn't quite getting it. I could almost understand them doing so for Spock or Superman or Blair for Christ's sake, but Chuck has never been on the big screen, TV, or in the tabloids. And I am not sure he is even such a celebrity yet that he would warrant people who don't know him wanting his autograph sight unseen, books unread. But what do I know? Maybe they were just people getting mass amounts of signed books all weekend to put them on Ebay. I have seen them selling lately for a few Benjamins. As far as pronunciation goes, Chuck's last name was annihilated by many waiting on line. Even some of the Doubleday people, when asked, couldn't get it right, or had to go whisper to another Doubleday person, who would whisper to a third Doubleday person to get the correct pronunciation. At which point, it would travel down to the back of the line like a game of telephone—except we are talking about grown, "professional" adults here.
I had the "pleasure" of being next to the "books on tape" guy while waiting on line. Evidently, he works for the company that has the rights to Lullaby for the audio version. So he talked my ear off about that and how "down" with Chuck he is or whatever—which is why he was waiting on line for a half-hour to get a galley right? Because he and Chuck are so tight. When I jokingly asked him if James Earl Jones was reading Lullaby for the audio version, he didn't seem amused.
As I got closer to the front of the line, being the fan boy that I am, I started getting a bit nervous. How was I going to make Chuck remember me from the last time we met in NYC? We spoke of a mutual acquaintance—Steve Berra, professional skateboarder extraordinaire, writer, and husband of actress Juliette Lewis, Chuck signed my Fight Club skateboard, which no one else there had. Surely he would remember me! I mentally rehearsed my attack and then asked the woman behind me if she could take pictures of Chuck and me. She gladly took my camera, "Candid or posing" she said. "Posing," I answered.
So the guy assisting Chuck grabs my galley and opens it to the appropriate page and hands it to Chuck as I reach out to shake his hand.
"Chuck, my name is Rob, I met you about a year ago. You signed my Fight Club Steve Berra skateboard. I know Steve, and I reviewed Choke for Stance magazine"
With a blank stare but friendly smile, "Oh, was that in Seattle?"
At this point, my camerawoman was trying to get our attention.
"No it was in New York—the Choke reading." Flustered and feeling really dumb at this point, I shifted gears. "Can I get a picture with you Chuck?"
Leaning towards me as I crouched down to obtain a head-to-head level, "Sure, he said."
Flash. (Check the first photo, Chuck purposely made a kooky face.)
"Rob, you said?"
As he began signing my book, "So how's Steve, where's he at?"
"Well I got an email from him not too long ago and he was on a skate tour in Australia, then he was doing some filming in the Northwest—Oregon maybe? I forget."
Knowing that I was a die hard Chuck fan my photographer friend steps in, I think she thought I would be really pissed at the outcome of the first photo. "He (Chuck) needs to smile for the picture, I think we need to take another one."
We lean together again.
Handing my book back to me, Chuck reached into his bag and pulled out a packet of Silver Bell Turnip seeds.
"Do you have a garden?"
"No" I said.
"Well start one."
"Ok, thanks a lot. "
We shook hands again. I was confused, stressed, embarrassed, let down, overwhelmed, and elated all at the same time. I scrambled to get my seeds, my Lullaby promo pins, my book, my camera, get out of everyone's way, and thank the camerawoman all at once.
Then I went home. Chuck has most likely forgotten about me already—again. But at least I am reading Lullaby and most of you have to wait a few more months.
July 12, 2005
Young Bucks: Shaun White
By Rob Brink
Stance September 2002
Shaun White, snowboarder
Most people pick one activity in life, whether they love it or are naturally talented at it, and go with it. Maybe it is art or music, or a sport. Some are lucky enough to turn it into a career, while others just enjoy it as a hobby. Shaun White must have had trouble making up his mind, or maybe he is just too damn evolved for the rest of us humans to keep up and can master more than one discipline at a time.
Sir White is a professional snowboarder who is kicking some ass lately. He recently won fifty grand and a car in a Toyota high air contest, but had to sell the car because he wasn't old enough to drive it. Today he was skating vert triples-that's right, not doubles—triples with Birdhouse Skateboard's pros Tony Hawk and Bucky Lasek—two vert veterans. He shared a part in the Adio shoes video, One Step Beyond with Tony Hawk as well. If he is skating with those guys, you know he is good and only going to get better.
Could Shaun's career crossover into pro skating in the near future? I wouldn't doubt it. And don't rule out the possibility of him going surfing in the next few days either. Is Shaun a good contender for the “best athlete in the world” reputation that Shawn Palmer has been so famous for? You bet. Is Shaun 16 making more money and having more fun than all of us? Probably.