WIRED’s been on a train with a bunch of musicians, artists, and other creatives as part of the cross-country extravaganza that is Station to Station.
When the train rolled into Chicago’s Union Station, it was met by a slew of new musicians—including, according to backstage rumors, at least one big-name surprise guest (MAVIS STAPLES!!!). Punk duo No Age will be ripped it up again, as did Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore and avant-rocker John Moloney. And the colorful nomadic sculptures were open to patrons; if this is was your first exposure to artists like Liz Glynn and Urs Fischer, well, yurt in for a treat.
Check out our coverage of Chicago’s event over at Underwire!
Photo by Kendrick Brinson/WIRED
Say what you will about their Satanic-looking masks, gnarly R-rated-Jim-Henson-warrior outfits, and strapped-on penis appendages – no band has ever made monster metal like Gwar. Then again, when a band essentially creates its own genre from scratch, they really don’t have much competition.
Born in 1984 out of the Richmond, Virginia artist collective known as Slave Pit, Gwar embodies a certain kind of rock sensibility that seems like the brainchild of a metal-loving teenager who would go on to become a performance artist. Their band members have names like Oderus Urungus (“undying chaos demon” Dave Brockie) and Balsac the Jaws of Death (Mike Dirks) and, as part of their mythos, are a group of intergalactic “chaos warriors” that were banished to Earth and became “the sickest band in metal history.” (They also throw really great “Gwar-B-Qs.”)
They are, in a word, awesome – and next year they’re celebrating their 30th anniversary. In the lead-up to that anniversary, the Gallery at Black Iris Music – an art space in Richmond – is holding a an exhibit of some 400 pieces of Gwar-t: production drawings, photography, film, and sketchbooks from band members Brockie, Matt Maguire, and Bob Gorman. The exhibit comes from the deep archives of Slave Pit and also includes never-before-seen items like handwritten set lists and “genitalia molds.”
Still not sold on his hacker cred? How about this: Before anyone had songs produced by Just Blaze on their phones or MP3 players, he infiltrated the industry via Motorola’s famed P900 two-way pager.
“I got my first bit of industry-wide notoriety programming ringtones for those things,” says Just. “Back then, there wasn’t such a thing as ringtones for your phone, at all. But Motorola included an app that allowed you to make customizable tones. The way you had to enter the music into the pager wasn’t really a musical approach. It was more a mathematical thing. It was all numbers, letters, and punctuation. Kind of like a language of its own.”
Photo: Alex Welsh/WIRED
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A tiny indie band cuts an album long ago, then disappears into obscurity, only to be rediscovered decades later and universally lauded by nerdy record collectors on the internet.
Yeah, it’s a yarn as old as the trees. But even though that’s exactly what happens in the documentary A Band Called Death, the way the story unfolds is so twisted, so serendipitous, and so bizarre, it’ll leave you spinning for days, even weeks, after you see it.
The rock star cliché for a band headed to South by Southwest is a handful of gnarly dudes piling into a beater van and setting the GPS for Austin, Texas. But for New York singer/songwriter Laura Stevenson and the four guys in her indie-folk band, the reality is less fart jokes and drug-addled misadventure and more baked goods and early mornings.
We’ve been documenting their tour to SXSW this year - watch the first installment here! - and in the midst of all the shows and driving, Laura played us this acoustic version of her song, “The Move,” from the upcoming album, Wheel, due out on April 23rd.
Beck’s astonishing 10-minute recreation of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” racked up more than 300 thousand Youtube views in the last week, and now Beck and music video director Chris Milk (with the help of car maker Lincoln) are releasing an all-new way to experience the performance for all the fans who wish they could have been there. Call it the next best thing: an interactive 360-degree version of the performance that allows online viewers to navigate the concert similar to the way you navigate roads in Google Maps Street View, while surrounded by sound and movement.
“The perspective you have watching it in 360 and the way you move around is probably similar to how a player in a videogame moves around the space,” Beck told Wired. “But in this you’re obviously moving around a real space. It’s sort of imposing the way you navigate in a videogame into a real-life experience.”
The art of beatboxing is unparalleled – intricate layers of booms and clicks produced by a single person’s mouth in ways that seem almost super-human. Watching a great beatboxer turn out a series of vocal tricks can give anyone watching a distinct sense of, “WTF? How did they do that?” Luckily, science is now trying to find the answer.
Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory have been using real-time Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to examine exactly what “paralinguistic mechanisms” beatboxers are using. And, according to their most recent study on the matter, what they’ve found is that a beatboxer can use mechanisms found in many diverse languages — even ones they don’t speak. Their research also shows beatboxers can create an illusion of singing while making a beat, a skill that provides insight into the relationship between speech production and perception.
“We were very surprised to discover how closely the vocal percussion sounds resembled sounds attested in languages unknown to the beatboxer,” the study’s lead author Michael Proctor said in an email to Wired. “Even though his goals were musical, the beatboxer converged on methods of sound production which have been harnessed in the phonology of other human languages.”
Read more, and watch a video of the MRI, over @ Underwire!
Fans of indie musician Jonathan Coulton were incensed last week when an alleged Glee version of “Baby Got Back” surfaced on the internet that seemed to shamelessly rip off Coulton’s distinctive arrangement of the 1992 Sir Mix-A-Lot song. Last night, that cover version was confirmed as an official Glee track when it appeared on the mid-season premiere of the Fox show, and is currently for sale on iTunes.
“It’s a little frustrating. Whether or not they’re in the right legally, it doesn’t seem like the best way to handle it. If you’re going to claim that you’re giving an artist exposure and they should be grateful — there’s a right way to do that. Contact them ahead of time. Say this is great, we’re going to talk about it on our blog and tell all our fans that they should be fans of yours. We’re going to put a credit in the show. That doesn’t cost them anything. It’s a show with something like a $3.5 million budget for each episode, but there are still so many free things they could have done to engender goodwill.”
Over the last several weeks, we’ve posted our year-end roundups of the best television, top albums, and most underrated movies of 2012. We thought we made some pretty good choices, but since no list is ever going to be comprehensive in the eyes of the fan whose favorite didn’t make the cut, Wired readers had some suggestions of their own. With the help of your generous and in no way angry comments, we’ve compiled a new list of 10 TV shows, movies and albums that deserved props in 2012 — as dictated by you.
…also DUHHHH, ADVENTURE TIME = BEST EVERRRR