Comics

Animated Part 2: The PopMatters Exclusive with Full Clip's Schwarz Brothers

Drawn Together: In their creation of the psychologically riveting Damaged brothers Michael and John Schwarz rely as much on their interpersonal dynamic as on their shared love of popculture.

The real story of the Schwarz brothers isn't their improbable and meteoric rise in Hollywood after being marginalized by the Australian film industry, but the generational shift they bring to staid thinking in the media of both comics and film.

Comics, as John Schwarz reminds me, is something of a long game. "We try to work out exactly what it is we expect from the story," he says talking about the brothers' process in developing high concepts. "One of the things I love about comics and always have loved is the episodic nature of how you tell the story. It's a long form that you can't really do in film, even in a film trilogy, in that way. So that's how I like to approach it. Something like Damaged, when we conceived the idea, I couldn't see it any other way, other than a comic at the time."

"And as you'll see when you read the six issues that there is something unique to comics you can do with the way that time passes. You can have a break between issues where the next issue picks up at the second that the previous issue left off. Or it picks up months or a year after the previous issue left off. That's one of the things I love, you can't even get that across even in television. That's one of the things we want to do with Damaged, and one of the many reasons why Damaged works in a comic rather than in a film at this point."

It's easy to get lost in the thought. There's clearly been years of practice not only at the design of ideas, but at the meditations that go around making art. And the Schwarz brothers benefit from each other. Like the Mandarin word for "strength" which is simply the ideogram for two men (while one rests the other works), the brothers are locked in a creative and symbiotic two-step. Never quite in-sync, they always seem to expand the topic by offering unexpected insights.

Rather than simply commenting on the tensions of the social media generation the Schwarzes seem to be reenacting these dramas in their creative process. But it reaches deeper than simply two brothers hanging out together, exchanging shared codes. They've always been nested in a creative group.

"We've always had a cluster of friends back in Australia," Michael says, "A lot of them are actors John went to acting school with back in Sydney. And we've always been trying to get into things in the Ozzie industry. I've always been trying to get into writing and directing. It's a really tough industry in Australia to break into; it's smaller, it's not really based in genre things and the kinds of things we like. "

"It just so happened that one of our creative partners back in Australia became a big movie star, all of a sudden. And through him we were able to get this partnership going in America, which is a creative new playground for us. It's where the genre stuff that we love is really encouraged and embraced. I came over to America last March, and John was already here as an actor, and we just formed this company with our partner Sam."

The "Sam" referred to is none other than Sam Worthington, star of the phenomenally successful Avatar, the reimagining of the Ray Harryhausen classic Clash of the Titans and the upcoming Last Days of American Crime. "Sam's our third brother," I'm told later in the interview. Was it by Michael or John? What stands out is not the author, but the signature of their shared faith in the confluence of the creative process.

"The important part is that we're all mates trying to battle it out. Sam is like a brother as well," Michael says. "It's no different Johnny and I working together, than working with him." This only reinforces the idea that the brothers have always considered the mechanics of creativity nestled within the folds of an artistic cohort.

It's this foreknowledge that sets the stage for a certain kind of expectation when I ask the brothers about the psychic price paid for their first creative foray into comics being a project like Damaged. The brothers are after all at the very beginning of their careers, not at the end. So is there any kind of cognitive dissonance they experience when writing this kind of story? There's the tantalizing silence a brief hesitation that hangs in the Los Angeles morning. Have I hit on the one question that the brothers were wholly unprepared for?

Not at all in the slightest. There's a slight chuckle by Michael. Could he have anticipated this as early as my opening salvo of questions? John steps in to answer, almost immediately, "In one sense it's about the end of careers, but it's also about the start of careers. It's basically something we looked at from the angle of the two new proteges (Frank's and Henry's). Basically they're starting up their careers as well."

There's another chuckle from Michael, "If those themes are there they really come from a subconscious level. Retirement's not really a thing I've thought about." It's striking to measure both responses against what I have already established about the brothers' creative process.

With John's response there's a clear sense that even I've been drawn into the brothers' creative milieu; reframing my question as he did is something he'd done only with Michael thus far. It is abundantly apparent that the brothers both are able to extend their creative process to respond directly to whatever environment they find themselves in. There's an adaptive intelligence at work here, one that secures itself by extending itself.

Michael's response is no less striking. It comes as a deep-rooted recognition of the possibility of being shaped by the world, and a simultaneous refusal to be that simple clay shaped by unconscious forces. Michael underlines the secret valor of creativity; that being creative is a quiet and abiding resistance that transmogrifies mere existence into basic human-ness of living.

And these unassuming but thoroughgoing responses probe me to revisit they earlier dismissing of their big break (with Sam Worthington's success) coming as nothing more than a stroke of luck. With the kind of determined resilience their responses betray, would they really have hit the big time only as a chance encounter? The brothers certainly evidence enough concerted drive and imagination for them to adapt their circumstances. And it seems clear that they would have made a big splash anyway, that luck rather than simply happening "to" them, is something they've been manufacturing themselves.

The self-effacing attitude to their own success engenders something else; a kind of stymieing of any resistance to their creativity. At the very moment of John's answer when even their interviewer was being imbricated in the brothers' creative process, I deeply wanted to participate.

Perhaps this is key to the new kind of projects the Schwarz brothers and Full Clip Productions are ushering into the world. The establishing of a new kind of creativity that does not so much "capture" the audience as implicate them, offering them infinite opportunities for participation. The idea that social media is not a fad, not juvenile but a sober, functional idea is confirmed by the kind of creativity the brothers bring. Their profound and abiding collaboration with Radical points to this being the case; a place transmedia exists as a concept. And spearheading this beguilingly elegant revolution in entertainment is the story of a dream come true, of a creative team finding the place in the world they always deserved.

It's hard to remain jaded in the face of this. Damaged, and Full Clip could just be the beginning we've all along deserved, perhaps even without our realizing our need for it.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Noel Fielding (Daniel) and Mercedes Grower (Layla) (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back in time to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

Keep reading... Show less

The Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop artist MAJO wraps brand new holiday music for us to enjoy in a bow.

It's that time of year yet again, and with Christmastime comes Christmas tunes. Amongst the countless new covers of holiday classics that will be flooding streaming apps throughout the season from some of our favorite artists, it's always especially heartening to see some original writing flowing in. Such is the gift that Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop songwriter MAJO is bringing us this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image