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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tokyo Gore Police (Japan, 2008)

If the Chinese dazzled us with creepy psychic horror films like The Ring and The Eye, then Japan responded with insane, erotic fetish, over-the-top gore with humor to spare movies. The most sensational output comes from a genius make-up and special effects artist, Yoshihiro Nishimura. Nishimura references Salvador Dali as one of his biggest influences in the way he depicts distorted body parts in surreal settings. His sci-fi/horror classic, “Tokyo Gore Police” has enough erotica and surrealism to make Dali beam with pride. It serves up outrage the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the college revival house theater days of Jodorowsky, Makavejev, and crazy Fernando Arrabal.

Tokyo Gore Police is the story of Ruka (Eihi Shiina), a police officer for the Tokyo Police Corporation, a now-privatized police force who excels as an Engineer Hunter. Engineers are serial killers who have the ability to make their severed body parts morph into deadly weapons, whether it’s a chainsaw or a sawed-off shotgun, all courtesy of a mysterious stranger dressed in black named The Keyman (Itsuji Itao). It’s up to Ruka to find The Keyman and stop him from his evil task. Unfortunately, Ruka is a flawed person herself, a cutter who inherited her bad habit from her mother to punish herself from not preventing the murder of her father.

Just like Jodorowsky, though, the plot is almost secondary to the Garden of Surreal & Erotic Outrage breaking up the plot from time to time. In between action scenes you’ll be treated to:
1. Blood showering out of a severed limb like a wedding reception fountain.
2. Chainsaws flying straight into a man’s mouth and ripping open his head.
3. Commercials hawking cool cutters for teenage schoolgirls with cute colors and promising it makes “blood taste better”!
4. Punk kids on the subway chuffing down live earthworms and night crawlers. Yum!
5. Amputee leather slaves walking on prosthetic legs made of samurai swords.
6. The Keyman’s severed upper head grows two gun barrels that shoot out bloody ginsu knives.

Ruka’s colleague, Officer Barabara-Man (Jiji Bu), decides to let off steam by going to a kinky S&M club that specializes in back room sex with mutant girls, like a Snail Girl and a Girl with Crocodile Jaws Snapping Between Her Legs. Whoa! He picks Door Number 2 and gets the girl with the croc jaws who bites off his dick, which naturally provokes another Wedding Fountain of Blood. He gets the Engineer Key and needless to say, his empty crotch morphs into humongous red cock cannon! He takes his Gigantor cock cannon and goes berserk at police headquarters, firing deadly cannonballs at his fellow officers.

Ruka finally corners the Keyman in his crummy apartment, and instead of killing her confesses that he’s the son of the Police-sanctioned hit of her father, executed at an anti-police privatization rally. His father also killed by the now-privatized Police Corporation, he devoted his life as a genetic scientist by injecting himself with the DNA of psychotic killers like Ed Gein and Charles Manson, all bottled up and labeled in his laboratory. That’s right, another Mad Scientist movie! To Ruka’s horror she’s trapped by him with an Engineer key installed in her against her will.

In the meantime the Tokyo Police Corporation has gone completely batshit crazy and begin arbitrarily torturing and murdering citizens en masse, so Ruka hits the streets with her newly acquired Engineer mutation, one crocodile arm which rips the face off a policeman’s head. Now that Ruka knows who the fascist madman behind her father’s murder is she has a final showdown with him using her best samurai sword skills and that badass crocodile arm.

Tokyo Gore Police ends with the Tokyo Police Corporation no longer privatized, with the slogan in big screaming letters: MORE GORE COMING SOON! Love it or hate it, Tokyo Gore Police is punk as fuck and makes no apologies about itself. It’s easily the only movie that can kick any video game’s ass with a cock cannon around the block!

Also recommended: THE MACHINE GIRL, almost as demented as Tokyo Gore Police and well worth your time.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Then Play On" - Fleetwood Mac (1969)

There has never been a blues album like Fleetwood Mac’s “Then Play On” as it effortlessly transcends the blues genre while committing to its cardinal rules at the same time. It would be the last album group figurehead Peter Green would record with the band amidst a firestorm of controversy in the British music scene. The third album by the band and released in 1969, it was also their breakaway from Blue Horizon Records and the beginning of a very unique genre that wasn’t and still isn’t so easily defined.

The original Fleetwood Mac sound was that of a scruffy garage band bashing out classic Elmore James-styled 12-bar blues with a lethal dose of fuzz on the guitars courtesy of Green and Jeremy Spencer, whose incendiary slide guitar style hinted at more of an abrasive acid rock sound than simply adhering to trad blues conventions. Mick Fleetwood’s explosive drum attack was also more hard rock than South Side shuffle. All that would change by the time of “Then Play On”.

The band changed its approach to a dark, somber surf guitar sound with lyrics that progressed from standard blues issues to a more existential angst, questioning a man’s existence as well as his role in God’s creation. It is almost the blues equivalent to Syd Barrett’s album “The Madcap Laughs” in its vision of despair and loneliness, however, there were signposts up ahead that hinted at this new direction in sound.

Several tracks from past albums hinted at this new departure for them; on the first album there was the spare, bleak cover of Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound On My Trail”, Peter Green singing along to a very quiet piano; there was also “The World Keep On Turning”, Green singing alone to his acoustic guitar: “Nobody saw me crying, nobody knows the way I feel, the way I love that woman, it’s bound to get me killed”, and of course on the second album “Mr. Wonderful” there was “Black Magic Woman” and another quietly sad number with surf guitars, “Man of the World”: “I guess I‘ve got everything I need, I wouldn’t ask for more, And there’s no one I’d rather be, but I just wish I’d never been born”. Not exactly boogie time.

The darkest number in Fleetwood Mac's set up to that point was a live cover of Blue Horizon label mate Duster Bennett’s “Jumping At Shadows”: “Everyone points their hand at me, I know I’m just a picture of what I used to be, I’ve been jumping at shadows, thinking about my life”.

In “Man of the World”, the BBC documentary on Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Mick Fleetwood recall the turning point for the band when they arrived in Germany while on tour and were met by an attractive German jet-set couple who whisked Green and third guitarist Danny Kirwan from the airport to their chateau for an acid-drenched party that marked the two guitarists for life. Fleetwood and Spencer agreed that Green & KIrwan were never the same again.

The original plan for “Then Play On” was to make it a loose jam session as an antidote to the Top 40 singles success of “Albatross”, “Man of the World” and “Black Magic Woman”. The album does indeed have a schizoid relationship between bracing, fiery guitar jams, impeccably played like “Searching For Madge”, “Fighting For Madge” and the more cerebral “Underway” and “My Dream”.

On the other hand there are the dark, moody compositions like “Closing My Eyes”: “Someday I’ll die, and then I’ll be with you/ So I’m closing my eyes to hear the people laugh”, or “Show Biz Blues” with the immortal lines, “Tell me anybody now do you really give a damn for me”. The lightest point on the record for Green is his ode to masturbation, “Rattlesnake Shake”.

Danny Kirwan begins to shine on this album with full-bodied melodic compositions that lighten the mood somewhat, the Everly Brothers-influenced “Like Crying”, the Buddy Holly-sounding “Although The Sun Is Shining” and the pre-Santana influence “Coming Your Way”. His songwriting became even more refined and melodic on the more rocking albums “Kiln House” and “Bare Trees”.

But it’s still the rapidly diminishing shadow of Peter Green that dominates “Then Play On” with “Oh Well”: “Don’t ask me what I think of you/I might not give the answer that you want me to”, or the defeatist sound of “Before The Beginning”: “I’ve got to find a place to sing my words, Is there nobody listening to my song?” Green followed up “Then Play On” with his darkest and most legendary composition, “The Green Manalishi”. Following the release of the single he left the band, dabbled in several religions, released an album titled “End of the Game” and began a downward spiral which sent him in and out of several mental institutions. Although Green eventually bounced back – he still seems a little odd in his documentary – Kirwan never fully recovered from his breakdown and has been homeless for years.

What makes “Then Play On” (taken from the William Shakespeare line, “If music be the food of love then play on”) a legendary work of rock music is the way it stays within blues constraints yet takes it to a place that goes beyond sex, drugs, love, liquor or anything materialistic: it’s the blues of a mere mortal on God’s earth and the utter feeling of powerlessness. The musical palette the band creates on this album completely sets a tone of darkness and isolation that evokes feelings of sadness that the blues are meant to express. And that’s why “Then Play On” is one of the most timeless blues albums ever recorded.

Next month Rhino Records will be releasing an extended version of “Then Play On” with “The Green Manalishi” and its B-side, “World In Harmony”, among other extra tracks.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Werk! Werk! Werk!

“My week beats your year” – Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music

If there’s no rest for the wicked then we have been very, very wicked. There was the assignment to do linens embroidered with Gary Baseman images for his upcoming show, “The Door Is Always Open”, which is now showing at The Skirball Museum in Bel-Air. The show replicates Baseman’s surreal vision of a middle-class Jewish household and all the century-old traditions and customs twisted through his surreal vision. Rebecca skillfully reproduced all of Gary’s characters and idiosyncratic lettering and embroidered them to his specifications.

We created chair slipcovers, a dining room tablecloth and a bedspread with Gary’s many images embroidered them. In addition to sewing the fabrics I also had to digitally edit the images prior to embroidery. Placement on the linens had to be done with absolute precision, otherwise the desired effect would be lost. The results turned out very well and Gary’s opening was a big hit. Also on display was Rebecca’s tapestry she created for Gary’s “La Noche De La Fusion” Culver City show in 2009.

After the job we wanted to take a break but the phone rang with an assignment to fabricate 350 waiter outfits for Napster co-founder Sean Parker’s wedding in Big Sur, California. The outfits ran a large variety of sizes which had to fit the staff that couldn’t be present at our studio for a fitting, so in some ways we were flying blind. Any alterations had to be done at the wedding site before the ceremony.

The outfits involved quite a lot of detail, and most of the outfits once brought up state fit pretty well. The wait staff outfits involved a lot of pleating which I handled pretty well after the first 200. Just kidding, the costumes were designed by Doug Hall who did wardrobe for the movie “Sling Blade”, and any comments, any direction came directly from New Zealand where she operates.

During that job Rebecca got a call from Nick Cannon’s costumer requesting a James Brown-style Uncle Sam outfit he can wear for the season premiere of “America’s Got Talent”. This entailed a star spangled tail coat and long striped slacks as well as a big cray cray top hat. A lot of time management came into play for this one, i.e. we were up all night cutting and sewing this whole extravaganza. Once completed it was given to Mr. Cannon who didn’t want to take it off and spent the whole day dancing around the set with it on posing for pictures.

After the Napster wedding job was over I stopped to scratch my ass when the phone rang and we got the assignment to make a C3PO outfit for film star Alexis Denisof, who was going to wear it when he ran for the fund-raising Course of the Force, held at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. Course of the Force is a multi-day benefit in support of the Make-A-Wish foundation and begins at Skywalker Ranch and ends at Comic-Con in San Diego, California. Jeeeezus!

The C3PO outfit involved a lot of gold spandex with a few mixed-media items. Alexis chose to wear runner shorts to keep his lower extremities family friendly. Several vents were built into the outfit so he wouldn’t suffer heat prostration in the dead of summer. I thought the outfit turned out brilliantly and the photos of the event looked terrific. Alexis looks happy just like Nick, just like Gary, and baby that’s where it’s at. Keep the customer satisfied – Paul Simon said it and he probably got it from The Bible. Or Mr. Blackwell.


I'd like to say a few words about Lorna Knight's book "The Dressmaker's Technique Bible: A Complete Guide to Fashion Sewing". It is absolutely indispensable! Yes it's a $30 sewing book, but it's the best sewing book you'll probably ever own. Every component used in the craft of clothesmaking is explained in simple detail, from the design of each outfit to fitting weird body parts (pear shaped bodies, big bootays, big hips, yow) to the essential art of finishing, etc. Every page is jam-packed with helpful illustrations and broken down point by point that even a little greeen man from outer space could follow. If you were previously too scared to sew this is your life preserver.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Je M'appelle Grunt

The new neighbor moved into my building right after 9/11, and his forthright friendliness and good nature was startling, startling because the general behavior of people in my neighborhood was snobby and rude.  He told me his name was Alex and I thought he was the most down to Earth guy I’d met in ages.  Alex said he was an artist and I thought, “Okay, just another artist in L.A.” Wrong.

I learned a lot more about him one night when a couple of kids engaged in some low-rent tagging in the alley behind our building. Alex’s apartment faced the alley so it didn’t take him long to race out and stop the graffiti in progress.  “Hey you guys you can’t tag here!”  The taggers ran a cross between teenage fear and rebellion, keeping their backs up. I stood by my car in the parking lot watching the whole thing.

As Alex got closer to the three kids you could see their bravado deflate and their expressions melt into complete awe at the sight of him.
“Hey, you’re Axis, fuckin’ A!” one kid said.
"No way, dude!” the other kid yelled.
“Dang, that’s Axis from the CBS Crew!” another kid gushed.
Alex aka Axis talked them into taking their act somewhere else and they took off but not until after they bumped fists and told him what big fans they were. My neighbor wasn’t just Alex but a graffiti legend: Axis from the CBS Crew.

Alex played it cool, drinking with me at The Coach & Horses bar on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, working the room and scamming on chicks. It seemed as if he knew everyone in there.
“I’ve got an installation next Friday at a store on Melrose, can you guys make it?” he asked.
“Sure”, I croaked.
“It’s gonna be cool, a few of my paintings’ll be up and I have a few custom made t-shirts and stuff, there’s gonna be a DJ and a bartender there. It’ll be great if you guys could make it”.
When the night we over we got a lift home from a cab driver named Hamlet. I never met a cab driver named Hamlet before; it was crazy.

The art show opening was a different story entirely. Seemed like everyone from The Coach & Horses was at the show and even more. It was the most packed show on Melrose and brought back memories of the old Luz De Jesus when it proudly stood on Melrose & Poinsettia way back when. Alex/Axis’ paintings and t-shirts hung on clothes hangers suspended from butcher‘s meat rails running around the store to the shop window in front.  

But all work and no play is a life wasted so one day I told Axis about a punk rock show starring porn star Bridget The Midget and her band at some tore up from the floor up gay bar in the San Fernando Valley, not Oil Can Harry’s but something just as skanky.

Bridget The Midget’s band was awful, just stale Grade Z punk rock and little Bridget was even worse. She couldn’t sing to save her tiny life and even made a point of overdressing in Army fatigues to hide the fact she earned her dough jigging around naked sucking dick for cash. Wendy O. Williams she wasn’t. She even insulted Axis on stage, a genuine throwdown considering the fact he had a killer band at the time called DWP: Drunk With Power.  


Bored with her lopsided hardcore antics on stage, I wandered around the club and noticed a little room in the back all painted red. I got closer to the door and realized there were a lot of bears in leather doing all sorts of weird stuff, when suddenly an arm yanked me away from the door as quickly as possible.


Well, neither was watching Bridget The Midget so we took off mid-set and headed straight back to The Coach & Horses. But just to show how it’s done, not too long later Axis played with his band The Sickness at The Cinema Bar in Culver City. The Cinema Bar is the greatest club on the planet where hippies and bikers and punks and slacker kids all converge and the drinks are awesome and they play old cowboy records on the jukebox. The place was jam-packed with fuckers of every stripe and Axis had the last word performing after The Porn Midget’s diss.

The Sickness played a sort-of Black Flag punk sludge gone speed metal flug that ripped your ears out and pissed on your brain. Axis ripped out some vicious chord-age while his singer, a Mechanic Destructive Kommando  yowled at the top of his lungs, “BULL-YER-AWL-PIG JE M’APPELLE GRUNT HUFF LA KUNT KILL BZRGLYRGFLG!!!!!” The music sounded like a caveman carrying a heavy boulder up a slippery mountain of mud. The rhythm section pounded evil migraine skullfuck while the amp stranglers shrieked in your face all night. The audience dug their shit, immensely.

But one of the most memorable nights was when our girlfriends were out of town for Christmas in 2002 and we hit Max’s on Fairfax Avenue. We tossed back our drinks and talked about the psychopaths in the neighborhood ("Who's gonna get locked up next?") when suddenly the room was filled with Clash records played at ear-splitting volume, and it wasn’t their shit disco crap, it was all the good punk rock records, too: Complete Control, City of The Dead, Janie Jones, 1977, What’s My Name, I Fought The Law.
“This is great!” I told the bartender. “Why all The Clash records?”
“Didn’t you hear the news -  Joe Strummer died yesterday”.

So that was Christmas in 2002, Clash records played loud enough to shake the walls with Axis talking the bartender into letting him mix some Chocolate Cake drink behind the bar. It only goes to show that art isn’t just about painting but playing the loudest racket or mixing the wickedest drink or just making people crazy with the art of living. Axis gets it all done. 

To see more of Axis' art, go to stylepig.com