Tag Archives: San Diego

The Gaslamp Killer readies his new “Experiment”


William Bensussen, aka The Gaslamp Killer, knows a thing or two about Coachella. The one-time San Diego DJ/producer has attended every music and arts festival in Indio since its 1999 inception. And since 2010, whether in the campground, Heineken Dome, or Gobi Tent, Bensussen has performed at the annual event.

He’s performing again this year, but the show is going to be much different.

Just after sundown on each of the festival’s Saturday nights, Bensussen will present what he calls The Gaslamp Killer Experience – a psychedelic, 12-piece ensemble that initially formed after a scooter crash nearly killed the DJ two years ago.

“I’ve only done it once,” Bensussen told DiscoverSD from his Los Angeles home. “It was a fundraiser to help cover the bills from my accident. We did at The Mayan in 2013. I brought this band together and they just killed it. I decided it was something I wanted to record, and it ended up being so good we decided to release it as a live record. It just seemed like this was an awesome moment to put out the one-take amazingness we captured.”

Titled “The Gaslamp Killer Experience: Live in Los Angeles,” the album’s release is perfectly timed with the second- and third-ever performances of the new band. Vinyl pressings will be available on-site at Coachella, and the album will make it to shops in time for Record Store Day on April 18. It will be released digitally on Bensussen’s own website a week after the festival wraps up.

And while it seems this unique project could develop into more, it’s something that will have to wait. Bensussen is set to put the finishing touches on his next album the moment Coachella ends.

A long-awaited follow-up to the beat maker’s 2012 studio debut, “Breakthrough,” the new Gaslamp Killer album will primarily focus on organic sounds.

“Breakthrough had a lot of old stuff on it,” Bensussen said. “On this one, I’m not digging into my old vaults as much. I never thought it would change my opinion of anything, but hearing what people liked on Breakthrough changed things. I realized that songs like “Nissim” and “In the Dark” really touched people. No one really ever mentioned the drum machine stuff. But it helped me realize how much I like making live music. I’m excited to be able to do this one from scratch.”

Whether with The Gaslamp Killer Experience or on his own, one thing will always hold true – Bensussen is the kind of musician who refuses to dull the edges of his art to appease strangers.

“In one way or another,” he said, “we’ve all lived our lives like that. So when you finally find something you don’t have to do that with, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings ever. Why change it?”

Originally published by DiscoverSD

Christmas Under Waters


John Waters hates Easter.

Well, the popular version of it, anyway.

He hates the hunt. He hates hard-boiled eggs. He hates the pastel-colored baskets and the shredded plasti-grass that goes in them. But, most of all, he hates the bunny. Man, does he hate that bunny.

Christmas, on the other hand, is a different story.

Since releasing A John Waters Christmas in 2004—a compilation album of hand-picked holiday oddities from artists like Tiny Tim and Jimmy Donley—the cult filmmaker and best-selling author has used every December to star in a Christmas-themed, one-man show of the same name.

What started as a handful of stand-up dates in places like New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., has now become a well-polished show that makes an annual trek through 15 cities, as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

“I hope it sounds like I’m just talking without any planning,” Waters says, speaking by phone from his hometown of Baltimore. “But it’s completely written out and rehearsed. I need to remind people of important things—like to never ask the fat person in your office to play Santa Claus. That’s the worst, rudest thing you could ever do.”

And while it’s impossible for the transgressive auteur not to infuse his perverse holiday monologues with the same kind of bawdy humor he used in films like Pink Flamingos, Polyester and A Dirty Shame, the man once dubbed “The Prince of Puke” swears the show—which comes to Belly Up Tavern on Dec. 4—is more therapy than anything else.

“I don’t have much tongue-in-cheek in this,” he says. “I’m serious when I say I’m going to tell you how to get through Christmas no matter your religion, creed, sexual preference or relationship with your family. If you’re a criminal, a capitalist, Republican or Democrat, I can tell you how to get through it. It’s like a self-help meeting.”

Despite the current version of his traveling support group unabashedly celebrating things like Christmas-tree violence and chocolate, Santa-shaped butt plugs, Waters’ own Yuletide celebrations are relatively tame.

He designs and sends out a Christmas card. He gives gifts. He throws a party. And Waters always takes his turn when it’s time to cook for the family.

“It’s traditional,” he says, “but everything has a twist to it. My mantle has the Unabomber birdhouse on it. My sister does a wreath on the front door, but it has prickly bushes that scratch you on the way in. I decorate an electric chair instead of a Christmas tree. But I’ve always said that to celebrate bad taste, you have to know good taste.”

And gift giving and receiving? For the 66-year-old iconoclast, it’s all about books. A bibliophile with a massive collection, Waters finds as much joy in fringe pulp fiction as he does Tennessee Williams. Whether it’s a cheesy, soft-core sex book with a hilarious cover or an obscure piece of literature he hasn’t yet acquired, Waters wouldn’t want to unwrap anything else on the big day. For years now, on the top of his wish list are movies made into novels.

“I collect those because no one collects them anymore,” he says. “It’s a dead genre. And if anyone can ever find me the novelization of Pootie Tang, I’ll give them a lap dance.”

Waters is an accomplished author himself, with five books to his credit. The latest, 2010’s bestselling Role Models, is a collection of essays, including reflections on Manson family member Leslie Van Houten, singer Johnny Mathis and Baltimore stripper Lady Zorro.

He’ll follow that next year with Carsick, a chronicle of his recent hitchhiking adventure across the country. In it, he both imagines what might happen and documents the actual pickups by, among others, a city council member, a married couple and the indie-rock band Here We Go Magic (they tweeted in disbelief at the time).

“The first third of it is a little novella,” Waters says, “and I’m imagining the very best that could happen on the trip—vicious characters, sex, adventure. Next, I wrote the 15 worst rides possible. The day before I left, I wrote my own death, and then I went and really did it. Twenty-one rides in nine days. Most people thought I was homeless at first. The rest you’ll have to read in the book.”

If it seems strange that an iconic writer / director of 16 films has spent the last eight years doing one-man holiday shows and authoring books, it is, especially considering that Waters’ 1988 film, Hairspray, was turned into a Broadway hit—before Hollywood remade it in 2007—and went on to become the forth-highest grossing musical in U.S. history.

But he hasn’t stopped trying to make movies. He’s been attempting to get his children’s Christmas film, Fruitcake, which he describes as “The Little Rascals on acid,” made since 2008. The studios haven’t been cooperating.

So, instead, at least for now, all of that unrequited holiday commentary is channeled into his live act.

“I hate Easter,” he says. “But I do like Christmas. I just think everyone’s neurotic at Christmas, even if you don’t acknowledge it. And that’s just another form of neuroses. And that’s why I’m here to tell you how you can both love and hate Christmas at the same time.”

Waters is going to keep writing books, and he’s going keep doling out Christmas advice and observations, until someone decides to finance Fruitcake. And if that day never comes, well, he’s fine with that, too.

“It may never go into production,” he says. “That’s why I’m writing a book. But it’s OK. I have many ways to sell stories. It’s not that big of a shame. I’ve made 16 movies. It’s not like I haven’t spoken.”

Originally published in San Diego CityBeat on November 28, 2012


Kid Koala LIVE video


Legendary turntablist Eric San, aka Kid Koala, recently brought his “Vinyl Vaudeville” tour to San Diego. Not only was I lucky enough to see him and his amazing showcase turn the Casbah into a gigantic, paper-airplane-throwing party, I got to chat with the Ninja Tune craftsman for a while before the show. Check out this quick segment wonderfully shot by Albert Rascon. While it’s not as good as being there, it gives a nice little peek into an amazing evening of music.



New (FREE) DJ Shadow Mix

Go HERE for a brand-spanking-new, FREE, downloadable, 17-minute DJ Shadow Mix by Irn Mnky. It’s being shared in conjunction with the limited edition box set release “Reconstructed: The Definitive DJ Shadow.” And if you live in one of the cities below, don’t miss the live show. It’s incredible. I shot this picture the last time he was in San Diego.



December US Dates:
12/6/12 Madison, WI Majestic Theater
12/7/12 Chicago, IL The Mid
12/8/12 Detroit, MI Majestic Theater
12/9/12 Boston, MA Royal Nightclub
12/11/12 Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Bowl
12/13/12 New Orleans, LA Bassik @ Republic
12/14/12 Miami, FL Mansion
12/15/12 Atlanta, GA Opera


The Freedom of Patti Smith


Patti Smith could retire if she wanted to. Her service record to the artistic community was cemented long ago. There are no accolades left to chase, no accomplishments to reaffirm, no career goals to conquer, no creative stones left unturned. Not that she cared about those things, anyway.

As a singer, writer, poet, painter, photographer and performer, she’s proven herself time and again during a storied, four-decade career. So, why does the 65-year-old, recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee keep producing art at such a breakneck pace?

Because she can.

“It’s sort of a non-stop situation,” Smith tells CityBeat, speaking by phone from her Copenhagen hotel room on the last night of a European tour. “I’m always working on something. I’m a worker. And I feel very privileged that I can communicate in so many different ways.”

In recent years, that’s what she’s been doing. That is, in every manner but musically. Once the face of high-brow rock ’n’ roll, she seemingly abandoned songwriting after an extended absence from music, choosing instead to explore the art and literary worlds. But that all changed this summer.

Released in June, her new Columbia album, Banga, offers up her first original material since 2004’s Trampin’. Tempered by motherhood and the decades of distance from the punk jams that made her a household name in the 1970s, her solo material is far mellower these days—her latest album is a meditative, guitar-driven affair. But it’s no less challenging. Smith explores themes of forgiveness, loyalty and environmental apocalypse—all gleaned from personal experiences during her time away from the studio.

The title track comes from an obsession with Mikhail Bulgakov’s 1937 novel, The Master and Margarita, a book she read four years ago. She wrote the rocking rambler “Fuji-san” in response to the tsunami in Japan. Late-album opus “Constantine’s Dream” works through the deaths of the venerable St. Francis and early Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca, ending with images of Columbus dreaming of the world in flames.

Smith recorded the album at New York’s famed Electric Lady studios, working with longtime bandmates Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty—just as the threesome did on her 1975 debut, Horses.

“It’s nice to have the collaboration of my band and crew,” Smith says. “It’s so energizing and such a great way to expand our cultural voice. But if I desire solitude, I do have that option. I can always take a photograph or work on a poem.”

Much has been made of Smith’s eight-year hiatus from making music—she’s been quoted as saying she needed to “evolve”—but the time wasn’t exactly ill-spent. She helmed the 2006 closing performance at New York’s CBGB nightclub. She had high-profile exhibitions of her visual art and photography, like last year’s Camera Solo show at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn. She acted in the 2010 Jean-Luc Godard feature, Film Socialism. And she spent time with her two children.

Perhaps most importantly, the break gave Smith the opportunity to really focus on her lifelong passion.

“Of all the disciplines I’ve pursued, I identify most with writing,” she says. “I’ve written all my life. I started when I was 10 or 12 years old, and I’ve never stopped. So, even if I’m not writing for the public or having something published, I keep hundreds and hundreds of notebooks. I write every single day.”

During the downtime, she penned the starkly honest and beautifully written Just Kids, her memoir about coming of age in New York City with artist and lover Robert Mapplethorpe. A New York Times bestseller, it was translated into 30 languages and picked up the prestigious National Book Award for nonfiction in 2010.

“I was thrilled,” Smith says. “You know, for a girl who worked in a bookstore for almost eight years, I really had to grasp what a wonderful thing it was. And what a privilege it is to have a National Book Award. It’s something I never even dreamed of.”

A true labor of love, Just Kids started as a promise to Mapplethorpe the day before he died. Despite never having written a single piece of extended nonfiction, Smith was determined to see it through.

“It took a really long time,” she says. “I started it, shelved it for a couple of years and started it again. And then I’d re-write it, and that was almost like the process of writing the first draft. I had the story I wanted to tell, I just had to get the confidence and take the time to write it.”

And she had help—not from another writer, but from highly detailed journals that she kept since childhood.

“I mean, I knew exactly what day I chopped up my hair like Keith Richards,” she says. “I knew what day I met Janis Joplin. I knew where the moon was in the sky on a night in 1972. I kept such good notes that I could draw from them and really picture everything.”

Smith will be in San Diego this week for a special two-date run, unlike any others she’ll play in the U.S. As she does occasionally in Europe, she’ll play two distinct shows. At Downtown’s Spreckels Theatre, she’ll do some reading, be the subject of an interview, participate in a Q&A and perform acoustic songs. The next night at House of Blues, she’ll play a rock show with her full band.

“It’s been a long time since I played San Diego,” she says. “And we’re not doing a whole lot of dates. But I promise you one thing—each show will be different. I have a lot of freedom in the way that I can communicate. That’s part of the beautiful challenge of performing every night—the way it unfolds in front of you.”

Originally published in San Diego CityBeat on October 10, 2012

10 Questions for Jonny from The Drums


Who: Frontman Jonny Pierce from the Drums
What: The Brooklyn-based five-piece plays ridiculously infectious pop tunes with an edge
Why: The Drums just dropped their sophomore release, Portamento, and it trumps their acclaimed debut
Where: The Casbah
When: Saturday night, with opener IO ECHO

Scott McDonald:
 You and [Drums co-founder] Jacob [Graham] have been friends for so long. Does it help the band knowing someone that long?
Johnny Pierce: Well, Jacob and I have been very close since before we were even teenagers. I think we thought we knew all there was to know about each other, but touring for three years has shown both of us that there is so much more to know. I feel as though we are growing together through all of this. Some of this growth has been lovely — other parts of it have been ugly.


SM: Portamento keeps the energy of the first record and builds on it. Was there a difference in the process?
JP: One of our goals with this band is to stay consistent sonically. Our favorite bands always sounded the same with every song and usually to critical fault, but we never really cared about critics. We just do what we do. I think the only main difference here is subject matter. I wanted to write an honest album … one that was less escapist than our previous releases.


SM: Production sounds a lot cleaner this time around. Did you just have access to better equipment?
JP: Well, we didn’t buy a single piece of new recording equipment. I think it’s just like anything else one does. You just get better with practice.


SM: Is that you on the front cover? The pics seem to mirror each other.
JP: Yes, that is me as a boy. I found that photo while looking for a cover that reflects the autobiographical nature of the album. I like that you used the word mirror in your question because that was the exact intent.


SM: Sick of the Joy Division/Smiths/etc. comparisons yet or does that just come with the territory?
JP: Those are all good bands that got me into the bands that I obsessed over growing up — like the Wake and Blueboy — so I don’t mind the comparisons. I do have to say I haven’t personally listened to Joy Division or the Smiths in years … I just can’t anymore.


SM: It was publicized that you guys almost split recently. What happened and how did you guys keep it together?
JP: Oh, it’s like anything else. If you run too fast for too long, you’re gonna crash and burn. Touring was starting to grate on all of us. Thankfully, working on Portamento helped unify us again in some ways.


SM: You write some damn catchy tunes. Can you see the formula ever changing?
JP: I have such a big fetish for perfectly constructed pop, and I think that will always dominate this band. But I also have a soft spot for linear, repetitive house — like some of the smart house that Kompakt has been releasing for years.


SM: What is the current incarnation of the band? Are you at the kit when you play live?
JP: We are five onstage. Jacob has moved to synth, and Connor has moved to guitar. We have a couple friends joining us on drums and bass. I just sing, but I did record and program all the drums on Portamento.


SM: Two years and two albums. Is the plan for a new record sometime next year?
JP: I think we are going to take a year and focus on some other things. For one, I’d like to meet someone and fall in love.

Originally published by NBC San Diego on October 15, 2011