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Wednesday, Mar 31, 2010
Gymnast, actor, writer, violinist, and (oh yeah!) soul music singer-songwriter, Russell Taylor shares his renaissance qualities with PopMatters in this latest edition of 20 Questions.

I imagine Russell Taylor sharing a cup of tea with Langston Hughes, or discussing his latest set of lyrics with Billy Strayhorn. Perhaps the night before, he sat in with Duke Ellington or hoofed across the floor at Small’s Paradise. If Russell Taylor had been born four generations earlier, these scenarios would be the stuff of history books. Anyone who knows Taylor, one of the most prominent artists to emerge from New York’s independent soul music scene, knows that he has an affinity for the Harlem Renaissance and the individuals who made “uptown” a destination in the 1920s. Doubtless, he’d be embraced by the literary and musical figures of that creatively fertile era.


It’s the 21st century, however, and Russell Taylor is carving his own niche not just in Harlem and New York, but around the world. From Paris to London to Atlanta to Los Angeles, he brings a fresh take on soul music that began with his pair of Soulstar releases and grew with Somewhere in Between (2006). The artist is still working his latest release, Confessional (2009), and preparing to film videos for two songs from the album, but not before returning to his acting roots, composing songs for other artists, and planning a 2011 release.


As PopMatters learns in this edition of 20 Questions, there’s a well-spring of ideas and thoughts that percolate inside the mind of the man who delivered “Let Me Love U”, one of 2009’s best songs. It’s a good time to be Russell Taylor, or as his friends and fans know him, “RT!”


Tagged as: russell taylor
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Friday, Mar 19, 2010
What does the original "anti diva" share in common with Orlando?

The sun has finally peeked through the clouds in Manhattan. It almost feels like spring. In fact, the afternoon is ideal for a wedding.  That’s exactly what Carole Pope notices as she strolls through Central Park. In just a few days, she’ll jet up to Ontario for a three-night stint. For the time being, though, she’s content to ponder what quality she shares with Orlando.


Like the title character of Virginia Woolf’s literary masterpiece, Carole Pope has challenged convention throughout her career, first as the trailblazing front-woman of Rough Trade and then as a solo artist. Her autobiography Anti Diva (2001) traces one of the most compelling life stories in popular music. Described by Pope as, “a comment on the times, beginning in the summer of love. It drags me kicking and screaming into the 21st century”, the book was recently optioned for the screen.


The forthcoming biopic is just one of many projects Pope is currently undertaking. Between recording a new album, promoting her last record (Transcend), and touring the film festival circuit for Suck (2009), a rock and roll vampire story that pairs her with Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, and Moby, the “anti diva” is as prolific as ever.


While taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of a Chinese wedding, Carole Pope checked in with PopMatters for this latest edition of 20 Questions.


1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
A Single Man. Usually anything about death or where the character’s really feeling lost, I can relate to.


2. The fictional character most like you?
I’d like to think it was Orlando (laughs). I just related to the character’s ambisexual being. I love that book.


3. The greatest album ever?
Wow. It might be the Beatles’ White Album. When it came out in 1968, I remember playing it on my Seabreeze or whatever I had. I think pretty much all the songs are mini-masterpieces. They’re very visual, which I relate to.


4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars, because I remember Bill Murray singing the theme song on Saturday Night Live (laughs).


5. Your ideal brain food?
I guess fish. I love spicy tuna. It just seems like really clean food.


6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I guess the fact that we actually got a record deal, as Rough Trade, for our second album, Avoid Freud (1980).


7. You want to be remembered for…?
I think just being outspoken and being innovative and doing a lot of things before other people did, even though I don’t get recognized for them…she said bitterly! 


8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Definitely Bowie. He’s such a chameleon.


9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
I wish I’d written one of Bjork’s songs, because I worship her. I think that she’s really an amazing, innovative artist.


10. Your hidden talents…?
I can cook, though that’s more of a hobby. I’m obsessed with music and art.


11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Being true to yourself. Maybe it’s my advice to me! I think I advise myself. I think it just evolved from being an artist. The minute you’re not true to yourself, you create traps.


12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Probably my guitar.


13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
I would feel best if I had some Prada, but I don’t (laughs). I wear a lot of G-Star. There should be some designer who designs clothes for dykes. It could be somewhere between men’s Prada and G-Star, as far as I’m concerned!


14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Probably my friend Tim Blanks, because he’s the most confusing and interesting person I know. I am met him in Toronto. He used to live in Toronto in the late ‘70s, and then he turned into this fashionista. Now he writes for Style.com, which is Vogue online. I wish he’d write an autobiography.


15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I’m kind of drawn to the court of Louis XIV. I don’t know why. I’d want to be a guy, though (laughs), or dress like the guys. The women had to wear all those corsets. Maybe I could just be like a peasant, I don’t care! No, I’m lying. I’d want to be the Sun King.


16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I wouldn’t hire a hit man, I’d be the hit man. I would probably go on a spa vacation.


17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Chocolate. It chills me out. I don’t eat a lot of it, but it’s a little treat, a little something at the end of the day.


18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Right now it’s the city, but that could change. If I was rich, I’d live in Europe—I would live in London or Rome—but New York City is the next best thing.


19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Hello, can I get some equal rights over here?


20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on now?
I’m working on a new album, Transcend. “Johnny Marr” and “Shining Path” are on iTunes. Suck is premiering at MoMA. I just did another movie in Toronto called Trigger, directed by Bruce McDonald. My guitar player and I and some drummer we never worked with performed a song. Bruce McDonald is a really great Canadian filmmaker. He did Hard Core Logo (1996). More movie work for me! I would love to do more film scoring.


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Monday, Mar 15, 2010
Eugene Bezoids of aptly named British pop duo Patrick & Eugene answers PopMatters’ 20 Questions, discussing how good he’d look in an ellipsis, why setting Patrick’s hair on fire may or may not be part of a magic trick, and his unabashed love for ... cider.

When playing Patrick & Eugene’s debut album for the first time, get ready to raise some eyebrows.  It starts with a simple ukelele melody, followed by some sweet vocals, then a thumping dance beat, a horn section, and next thing you know ... you’re probably dancing to it (and that’s all before the saxophones and whistles come in). 


Yes, Patrick & Eugene’s style is a bit off-beat, but the UK band makes no apologies for their relentlessly optimistic music, and this might explain why the duo has done as well as they have, with their debut album Birds, Bees, Flowers and Trees receiving all sorts of raves while the track “The Birds and the Bees” has been spotted in a national VW ad. Toss in a cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” that wouldn’t sound too out of place on the Borat soundtrack and some ridiculously playful live shows, and you the recipe for something genuinely special.


Now, the one and only Eugene Bezoids takes part in PopMatters’ 20 Questions feature, discussing how good he’d look in an ellipsis, why setting Patrick’s hair on fire may or may not be part of a magic trick, and his unabashed love for ... cider.


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Wednesday, Mar 10, 2010
Pinback? Three Mile Pilot? Systems Officer? All in a day's work for virtuoso guitarist Zach Smith, who presently answers PopMatters 20 Questions and reveals a love of slow-motion Obama, a hatred for stolen instruments, and a desire to move to Scotland.

Another day, another musical project for Zach Smith.


At least, that’s how it seems to go for the celebrated guitarist behind such groups as Three Mile Pilot and Pinback.  Zach Smith’s playing style has always been a bit off-center and deceptively complex, but his love for his craft has shown through in each song he’s created during his nearly two-decade run in the music industry.  As if he wasn’t busy enough, in 2004 he released a solo EP under the moniker Systems Officer (portions of which can be heard here)—a fun little one-off that simply allowed Smith to work through some songs he had been composing just for himself.  Only in late 2009—following a Three Mile Pilot reunion and still basking in the glow of all the good press of Pinback’s last few albums—did Smith finally follow through on what he set out to do five years prior and release the debut album by Systems Officer.


Now, in-between recording new albums for both his “regular” bands, Smith answers PopMatters 20 Questions, noting a love of all things Slint, sci-fi, and—of course—Japanese green tea.


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Monday, Mar 8, 2010
Photo (partial) by Alex Myers

Old 97’s co-founder and bassist Murry Hammond released a solo album in 2008 called I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m on My Way.  He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, singer-songwriter Grey DeLisle, and their three-year-old son, Tex. Old 97’s will soon begin recording their eighth studio album.


1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Junebug.  Amy Adams’s sweet old Dad reminded me alot of my sweet old Dad.


2. The fictional character most like you?
I’d like to claim George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life—he tries his best to be good and take on the weight put upon him, but he often falls into frustration and has to hunt for new sources of strength.


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