Master shredder Marnie Stern was lounging poolside with her sweet little dog when she spoke to PopMatters about her love of Hella, her current collaboration with Mary Timony, and many other subjects. Her current album, This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That, is out on Kill Rock Stars.
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In the Twin Cities, Lori Barbero is a legend. She’s been a record label owner, a band manager, and, of course, the drummer for the legendary Babes in Toyland. Kat Bjelland may have provided the shrieks, but Barbero gave the band its tribal, often menacing pulse.
In person, Barbero is anything but menacing, as anyone who’s met her can attest. In a surprising move, she’s traded Minneapolis for balmy Austin, Texas.
Over the last three decades, not much has changed in the way of heavy metal music videos. While cutting-edge filmmakers like Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, and Jonathan Glazer created innovative pieces in the pop, electronic, and indie rock realms, metal videos, on the other hand, have been merely content to stay the course, opting primarily to please the fans as opposed to trying to break new ground in the medium. There have been exceptions, of course, Tool being the most obvious, but for the most part, metal clips tend to fall into three categories: a deliberate showcase of a band’s latest stage show, a straightforward clip of a band performing among its rabid fans, and conceptual stories intercut with simple performance footage.
The latter category has yielded extraordinary results in the past, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a metal band embrace the music video quite like Mastodon has done this year in the wake of the release of their excellent album Crack the Skye. Enlisting director Roboshobo, the man behind last year’s spectacular clip for Metallica’s “All Nightmare Long”, Mastodon’s video for “Divinations” involved a caveman trapped in ice, a Yeti, and cannibalism, and the partnership’s follow-up “Oblivion” delves into far more cosmic territory. Typical of the band’s tendency towards rather outlandish, convoluted concepts, the storyline centers on the foursome on a space rescue mission, the sudden appearance of vegetation and butterflies outside of the craft, and the mysterious, blissful deaths of Troy Sanders’s crew. What it all specifically means is open to interpretation (goodness knows Mastodon’s explanations of their concepts tend to complicate things even further), but the joy with which the band throws themselves into the whole video making process, coupled with some actual major label bucks, makes for a terrific visual complement to one of the year’s better hard rock singles.
Last autumn, this vidblogger caught Ha Ha Tonka’s stunning show at a Bloodshot Records showcase in Brooklyn. They didn’t disappoint in Austin, either. Here, guitarist Brett Anderson talks a little about the band’s history. Ha Ha Tonka’s new album, Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South is out now.
I’ve done a bad bad thing
Cut my brother in half
—Little Dewey Cox in Walk Hard
The new millenium has been kind to biopics of musicians. We have, most of us, seen the blockbusters, including Walk the Line, Ray, and Notorious, and these have been accompanied by more minor films like Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, Cadillac Records, and Jenna Maroney’s unforgettable Sing Them Blues, White Girl: The Jackie Jomp-Jomp Story. Some of the recurrent themes of these films, such as drug abuse, became so predictable that they were easily satirized in Walk Hard.
But in thinking about how these films diverge, after finally reaching the (somewhat confused) end of Notorious, I realized that in both the earlier film 8 Mile, the semi-fictional story of Eminem’s life, and in Walk the Line, the white performer comes to a moment of emotional overload that threatens his very ability to get on stage. In Cash’s case, this is because he is re-living his brother’s death; in Eminem’s case, it is because he has to face a hostile, mostly African-American crowd as a white rapper.
By contrast, in their respective films, neither Ray Charles nor Biggie experience this kind of stage fright. Instead, particularly in Notorious, there is an utterly natural transition from the private work of practicing and writing to the public arena of performance. This is even the case despite Ray’s having undergone, like Cash, the death of a brother while very young.