Last week, just a day before I was ceremoniously laid off from AOL Music, Talib Kweli joined me for a live chat via Google Hangout.
Among the many topics we discussed, there was some talk about his longtime friend and collaborator Kanye West. And according to Kweli, the whole ‘Kanye interrupts a show’ thing is not new. He’s been the victim of it himself, back when West was opening shows for him in the pre-College Dropout days.
“He would cut me off during my shows,” Kweli explained. “So when I see him do it to Taylor Swift, I’m like ‘Oh, that’s what he used to do to me. He literally would come on stage while I was rapping and stop the music and say, ‘Yo, I gotta kick this rhyme. And I would have to be like, ‘Yo, you can’t, this is my show.’ But that’s how passionate he is about the music.”
Not only that, but Ye’ would also occasionally opt to fly to shows over taking the tour bus, proving that the diva act that he’s become known for is not exactly new, either.
“Kanye used to do that, and then we would have to get on the tour bus to go to the next city and he would be in his room, and we’d be banging on his door and he’s not answering,” Kweli said. “He’d call me three hours later like, ‘What city are you in now?’ And then he would get on a plane, even though he got have just got out of bed and got on a tour bus, he would fly to the next city and meet us and apologize. It makes sense when you think about him as a person.”
Kweli feels that Kanye gets more negative criticism than he deserves.
“He’s done some things that have been looked at as arrogant, and I’m sure that he’s dealing with them,” he said. “And he’s done some things that he’s apologized for. He also said George Bush don’t care about black people. He’s also done some revolutionary things. At the end of the day those positives and negatives are what make him the great artist that he is. And I can tell you from first hand experiences that he didn’t change… The way he is now, he was like that before the money and the fame. He was talking about he was the best producer; ‘I’m the best rapper,’ ‘I’m the best dresser.’ His attitude was exactly the same.”
Also, he gives credit to ‘Ye for shining a light on the underground.
“Kanye is a champion of our culture and he’s somebody who’s driven the culture forward in such a way that it’s benefited all of us,” he said. “Like, me directly. I can speak for myself, Common, Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, Rhymefest. All of us have benefited from Kanye West beats, from Kanye West talking about us, from Kanye West working on us. He elevated that brand of hip-hop to the mainstream…. He’s given his all. Kanye gives more than people. He’s given his entire being to hip-hop. We should be thankful and gracious that he gives us so much of himself.
Watch my interview with Talib Kweli
I’m pleased to share that Project E.A.R.’s new album “Revolution” is finally available for sale.
I’m really proud of the records I produced and co-wrote on the album— “I Don’t Care,” “Chasing Rainbows” and “Can’t Get Enough,” respectively— and I wish the band nothing but success with this album.
For me, personally, I’m excited that people will get to hear something that I (and everyone else involved) worked on really hard to get right. These songs really took shape over a year ago. Let me explain.
Back in the middle of January 2012, I was on BBM with my friend Yaniz in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Yaniz manages a handful of artists and DJs there and is essentially just one of those people who makes shit happen in Southeast Asia. She tells me that the band she manages, Project E.A.R.— a super group of sorts, made up of members of a handful of band members from different countries in Southeast Asia— is getting ready to work on their album and is looking for beats for it.
Beats? Well, I always have those. So I sent a few over, and literally within hours I’d heard back from her saying that they wanted to purchase two of the tracks I sent. I love selling beats soooo, yeah, exciting !
The story would have typically ended there, as I’ve sold beats to international artists before. And while we might have connected eventually as I traveled through their respective countries, and vice versa— as I’ve done with artist artists I’ve worked with in that capacity— we’d probably never actually work on the songs together in the same room. And I kind of hate that.
In the midst of BBM convo, Yaniz told me that the band members would be flying in from their individual countries and convening in Bali, Indonesia, to record the project. They were renting a surf villa in Oluwatu for a week, and would be building a studio inside, where they would make the record.
To be honest, Bali was not somewhere I was planning to go. I know Bali has this allure to it, especially since “Eat Pray Love” was shot there and all that, but to me it just wasn’t on my radar like that.
“You should go!” Yaniz said to me in a BBM message. “It’s Bali!”
I mulled it over for a few minutes, thought about working more hands-on with the band and how that might lend itself to making better music— especially considering that these beats I’d sent were largely just skeletons— thenlooked at my schedule, decided that some of the stuff could stand to get canceled and made a rather impulsive decision. Fuck it, I’m going to Bali. Two weeks later I was on a 24-hour flight to the other side of the world by myself, having never met the people I was going to work with and the lofty goals of making some great records.
Upon meeting the band members— Moots (Malaysia), Dandee (Thailand), J.D. (Malaysia), A.J. (Malaysia) and Jamir (Philippines)— I could tell right away that we would make some good tunes. There’s just a vibe you get from certain people, where they’re very genuine and sincere. The fact that I’d traveled so far, it wasn’t lost on them. That type of energy goes a long way when you’re being creative. On occasion I’ve worked with people who aren’t so open and down to just try things out, and I’ve found that it’s often lead to poor results. I don’t know how anyone can work in a creative field these days and not be down to just do whatever. We have all these tools to produce amazing things, have unlimited computer power and space. It’s the perfect canvas to just throw things at the wall, see what sticks. What do you have to lose?
But I digress. The Project E.A.R. guys were not like that at all. If I had a suggestion, they’d at least give it a shot, see how it sounded. If collectively the consensus was that it was wack, we’d delete it. They let me produce their vocals, help them with lyrics and adjust their flows to sound more palatable for an American audience. It was a collaborative effort.
So anyway, over the course of a week we worked on the three songs I produced, and they also cut a few other songs from the album as well. I wasn’t as intimately involved in those tracks, if for no other reason than because I was so jetlagged. I would literally wake up in the morning there and we’d have a communal breakfast type thing— the people at the villa cook for you— and then we’d just jump right into working.
There really wasn’t much down time. By the early evening, following dinner, I’d be so tired. I would just retire to my room in the villa and pass out. Because of that I’d usually wake up early, too. And then I’d just lay on the couch with the door open, listening to wind blow and the waves crash outside. It was among the more peaceful experiences I’ve had in my life.
One day I walked down from the villa and went for a swim in the Indian Ocean. The water was warm and the corral was rough. I was by myself and surrounded by Australian surfers who were just there to catch a wave. I waded in the water and looked at the sky. I thought to myself that it was altogether incredible that some musical ideas that I thought up one cold and lonely night in my Staten Island apartment brought me all the way to where I was. That’s pretty cool.
“I Don’t Care” features Dave Kennedy of Angels and Airwaves, and is an ode to arena rock, complete with a scream and shout-style chorus that I think you will hopefully have stuck in your head after you hear it.
“Can’t Get Enough” is a keyboard-driven pop rock song, a love letter to that one thing each respective member can’t live without. My favorite part of the song is probably the Nile Rodgers-style disco guitar on the song’s chorus. That, I can’t get enough of.
And there’s another song, “Chasing Rainbows,” which isn’t available yet on Soundcloud. When they make it available I’ll be sure to post it.
But anyway hit me up, let me know what you think.
Previously, I wrote about the German-language version of Joy Denalane’s “Maureen” LP, which had been released last year. The English version of the album is available on iTunes and Amazon today. I produced the song “You Are Not The Only One” on it. I think it’s a pretty great song, even if I am a tad biased lol. But yeah, if you’re into soul music you should enjoy it. Links are below where you can directly purchase it.
Okayplayer‘s been running some promo and here’s a little interview she did talking about the album.
Been meaning to upload this for some time. This is a song (“Du Allein”) I produced on Joy Denalane’s 2011 German-language LP Maureen, which dropped in the Spring. Honestly the song and album release fell of my radar for a bit, because the whole process of working on it goes back quite a while.
I actually made this beat some time in 2006. I had previously produced “For The Love” on Joy’s 2006 LP Born & Raised, and was still making a lot of tracks in that same vein. Except at this point I was looking to scale back the hip-hop vibe— particularly the drums— and make tracks that were more palatable for a vocalist to sing on.
In around March or April of 2007 (memory is hazy), I was working as the Technology Editor at Scratch magazine when I found myself on a plane to Frankfurt Germany for the annual Musikmesse convention with the mag’s Ad Director Geoff Martin. It just so happened that Joy had a show in Frankfurt one of the nights that we were going to be in town. Odd coincidence. So I rolled to the show solo that night, popped up outside the venue to Joy’s surprise and watched the show. It was great to hear “For The Love” played by a live band again (I’d heard it just one time previously, when she did her big New York showcase at the Canal Room a year prior). Backstage, I told her I had this one beat that I’d made that was perfect for her. I emailed it to her when I got back to my hotel. Then I didn’t hear anything back for a really long time.
In January or so of 2009, an email hit my inbox from Joy’s manager saying that she’d recorded to the beat and that they wanted to use it on her new album, which she was still working on. We did our due diligence on the business side and everything was ready to go. Except I’d still not heard the song. Then, in June of 2009, she played the completed version of the tune for me in Downtown Studios, in New York. At this point, the song was in English and sounded fucking amazing. I’m thinking, okay, the album should be out soon. But then it just… wasn’t. I really had no idea what was going on with the tune. Eventually I caught wind that she was going to be releasing two versions of the album, one in English and one in German. I happen to have the English-language version of the song sitting on my hard drive, but ya’know, whenever they’re ready. Anyway, the album release just sort of slid by me, cause I’m doing a million and one things and pretty irresponsible like that lol.
In all though, I’m happy the song and album was finally released. I haven’t made that many tracks like this in a while— the demand is low, and every time someone wants to buy one I get slaughtered on publishing with respect to sample clearances— but it brings back a lot of memories for me. Like, I actually remember finding the sample, how I made the beat, how there were two or three different versions with different drums, what it sounded like before all the instrument parts were replayed, etc. It was definitely one of those beats I listened to a whole lot. I really remember what I was trying to do musically at that point. It was a moment in time.
And just to hear another language over it is crazy to me. Maybe that’s a small thing to someone else, but to me it’s cool as shit. I remember around my birthday— maybe it was this year, maybe last year, can’t really recall— I was having a rare conversation with a friend of mine from Staten Island. Somebody who I produced records for in my late teens, early 20s, part of a group I funded and subsequently released thru my own indie production company back when I didn’t really even know what I was doing. Anyway, we were talking and as I often do, I was questioning who I am and what I’ve done in this world. It’s hard not to do that as you turn a year older.
“Dude, didn’t you produce some music for some artist in another country who’s like the biggest thing in the world out there?” he asks me.
“Well, yeah,” I replied, matter-of-factly.
“Out here (Staten Island) people can’t even produce music for someone on their own block, let alone someone who’s actually known in another country,” he said.
“I guess you’re right,” I ceded. “Sometimes I feel like I exist in a space removed from all of that, where it’s almost expected to do those things, though. Ya’know, this has been beyond hobby status for me for some time.”
And then our conversation continued along the lines of that, running down a list of things I’d done and so on. I guess it was kind of cool. Occasionally you get lost in the translation of everything that is going on, and you don’t pause to consider the magnitude of stuff. Like, real shit, I have producer friends in Germany who think it’s a big deal to work with people in their country that even they can’t. Me personally, I just don’t even think about it like that. It’s just something else to do. However, it’s always fascinated me whenever I’ve been involved with anything international. There’s just something about knowing that I was sitting in the garage in my dad’s house making this beat and then it winds up being super personal for an artist, and consequently their fans.
Also it’s kind of a reminder of how long certain records take to come out thru proper channels. I mean, seriously, the process of this all started 5 years ago. One song. 5 years! Crazy when you consider how much music comes out every day.
Well, maybe it won’t mean that much to you— heck, doubt anyone outside of German-speaking folks can understand it— but enjoy.
I know what you’re thinking, “Not another essay on Lady Gaga!” Bear with me here as I’ll try not to bore you much with what has become increasingly boring subject matter. Namely, Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga’s new album, Born This Way, leaked last night. I haven’t heard it yet. I really don’t know when I’ll get around to listening to it. Maybe some time next week, maybe next month, maybe next year. For someone with as much buzz, so much critical fanfare, so much fan support, why am I so indifferent to listening to this new Lady Gaga music?
Because it sucks.
For all the hype, the pyrotechnics, the glossy production, most of these new Lady Gaga songs— “Born This Way,” “Hair,” and “Judas,” in particular— have really not moved me in any way. Maybe Gaga has transcended that point in an artist’s career where they need a surefire hit record to make people care about them, but I’ve always believed in two types of music— good and bad. Good? I’ll listen. Bad? I’ll pass. Everything else— the color, the backstory, the message behind it, blah blah blah— just something that sweetens the deal and provides added context to what is a purely visceral experience. That shit means nothing if there isn’t something to make me want to listen in the first place. We’re talking pop music here, not experimental jazz.
Everything about these new records is so busy, so all over the place, so “trying to do everything all at once,” that they lack any flow. They feel like they have a nice rhythm going, then they explode, then explode some more, come back to a little rhythm for 2 seconds, then explode again, only this time bigger and more explosive. She’s like the Michael Bay of music right now. What gives? The lone song that is listenable, “Edge Of Glory,” is the only one of the bunch that doesn’t feel like it’s doing too much. It’s a mish-mash of progressive house, glam rock and an oddly-placed Clarence Clemons saxophone solo at the end that gets seemingly drowned out by the production fireworks. Still, it’s tolerable.
While it may seem like these songs are popular, a lot of that can be attributed to Gaga’s diehard fanbase. Even if the music was god awful, they would still support. In this day and age, that’s a beautiful thing. As an artist, I think you want to eventually make it to that point where you can be daring and take some risks and not have to make a cookie cutter pop tune to have people listen to you. What happens though, is as the music gets worse, over time that fan base starts to wither, as it collectively questions and further realizes how not so awesome the music actually is.
There’s no debating how big of a fanbase the Wu-Tang Clan has. They are hip-hop’s answer to The Beatles. They will tour the world for the rest of their lives and continue to make money so long as they have vocal cords that allow them to rip microphones on stages. But have you been to a Wu-Tang concert in the past five years? They largely perform material from the early to mid-90s. Maybe a few stray songs from some solo projects in the 2000s. But it’s pretty safe to say that their fan base, while still overly dedicated to the group, withered once they began putting out subpar material. What’s more, there were other acts that came along and diverted the attention spans of those fans. The Wu had gone too far left, too far into pleasing their own audience, that they actually curbed their growth. It would be like Google, if Google only created a search engine. Their would be no gmail, no google reader, i.e. nothing to keep you really interested and nothing to attract new interest.
In the 90s and a good portion of the aughts, it would take years for you to really notice the waning influence of a musical act. Things moved slower then. There was less music. Less clutter in the marketplace. We sat around and waited for albums to drop on Tuesdays. We purchased them. We spent money on them, so we were in some ways forced to listen and at least try to like them. Now? Not so much. In the blink of an eye, or rather, a drag of a file to the recycle bin, you’re practically gone. That’s not to say that you won’t have your fan base, but as far as growth, it sort of stops at a certain point very quickly. Namely, when the hits dry up.
Gaga is such a machine that there would be no way all these songs from Born This Way don’t make it onto the charts. Those singles will be rammed down your throat if you so happen to listen to the radio, and she’ll be inescapable on other media as well. You’re not going to sit through an episode of “Glee” without seeing or hearing Gaga (not entirely sure you’d want to sit through an episode regardless, but that’s neither here nor there). That’s the major label marketing muscle putting itself to work. In an era where there are fewer stars than ever, Gaga is one. And so she will be the biggest and baddest and the one that breadwins for practically the entire music industry. It’s the 1980s all over again. Gaga is going to save Interscope (if Eminem didn’t already).
But are these songs good? To me, no.
There’s that point where an act goes from cool and cutting edge to just flat out doing shit for the sake of doing it. And that’s boring. Because you want to talk about things because they’re genuinely good. Regardless of my personal tastes, MIA was all the rage a few years back. Then her music
always sucked started to suck. No longer all the rage. No coincidence here. Music either hits you or it doesn’t. That scathing Lynn Hirschberg profile on MIA that everyone seems to think brought her down? Less consequential than you think. Sure, it made people pause for a second and ask themselves how seriously they took MIA, but would it have mattered if MIA had a genuinely awesome record? Probably not that much. Look, nobody is thinking about a New York Times profile when a song is playing at max volume in a nightclub and you’re trying to cut something. “Paper Planes” made people feel a way. Because it was genuinely good. The minute I heard that song, I said, “What the fuck is that?” I remember that day like it was yesterday. Sure enough, 6 months later it was a hit.
Where Gaga is in her career, on this pedestal that seems to only have enough space for one person, it’s probably not by choice. Do I have any doubt that she wants to be the biggest star on the planet? No. I think she does. But she couldn’t have foretold just how fast she would rise, how iconic she would become. But beyond that, everything else is done for shock and awe purposes because it needs to be shock and awe for anyone to even care. Look, Ke$ha has had a string of HUGE records over the past year, and while she may eventually be a big star, she’s barely on the radar when it comes to Gaga. Where Gaga’s life as performance art project comes off as artistic and daring, Ke$ha lacks that story, lacks that depth, and ultimately lacks Gaga’s appeal. I don’t think they’re in it for the same reasons, and had Ke$ha preceded Gaga, maybe Ke$ha would be doing what Gaga is doing now. Who knows. But I think we’ve hit that point now with Gaga where it’s like, cool, here’s the story, now where the fuck are the songs? She’s clearly making them. They’re just not great.
What was my point? Maybe I didn’t have one. Or maybe it was just that it’s disheartening (I know, poor idealist) to see the story— bear witness to this elaborate profile in The Guardian— touted above the music. So much conversation about the religiosity of the lyrics, the imagery in the videos, the outfits. Judas, Juda-a-as. Fuck, is the melody great? Do the drums hit? Does it elicit a visceral reaction from you? If not, get that shit the fuck out of here. Basically.
The image above is so telling. Last July, Prince told the UK’s Daily Mirror that the internet was finished.
“The Internet’s completely over,” he said. “I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it, and then they get angry when they can’t get it.”
He compared it to MTV, that bastion of tastemaking that long ago kissed music programming goodbye in favor of reality shows, docu-style TV and now scripted programming. Too bad Prince was wrong. And so is everyone else who says anything is over. Nothing is over.
The internet is just the most obvious example to use to make that point, because on the internet, everything seems to be over before it even starts. What’s the shelf-life of any piece of content online? Unless it goes viral and makes its way to soccer moms in flyover states and little Kim and Nicky start sharing it with their Twilight-watching friends, most things online die within a few hours. A good friend and colleague of mine who runs one of the most popular websites for the 18-35 year old “cool” kid demographic once told me that working on that particular media brand’s website was like closing a magazine …. every single day. Which means you’ve got to keep your site stocked with fresh content every hour on the hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is virtually impossible, but everyone does the best they can. It’s only within recent years that people seemed to realize, “hey, this internet thing doesn’t have an ‘off’ button.” But that’s neither here nor there.
The reality is, when you’re pressed for new content every 30 minutes, the content-cycle moves very fast, and thus logic would predict that only the cream would rise to the top. But that’s not really how it works. Are cat videos the cream of the crop? Not necessarily. Yet they’re universally seen as the type of content that draws massive amounts of views on Youtube. Most of them are shoddy camera phone-shot videos that capture some short moment of cuteness that you just have to watch to brighten up your life.
Now I’m not saying the entire summation of Youtube or online content comes down to cat videos >>> everything else. VEVO, for example, has trounced many things on Youtube with its pre-roll ad-supported major label videos to the tune of billions of views between Gaga, Eminem and Justin Bieber. Sometimes looking at the view counts on their videos is a mindfuck. Like wow, 378 million people watched the video for “Bad Romance?” That’s more people than the entire United States population. Now that Youtube has launched their top 100 chart, it may be even easier to see the discrepancy between professionally-produced content and that of the DIY filmmakers who upload their stuff hoping it may have the slight chance of being seen by one person, or— gasp!— going viral. Charts make a big difference.
Still, that doesn’t mean that things that don’t chart well don’t exist. And that is ultimately the salient point that I’m trying to make here (although admittedly, I think I did a terrible job at it). It’s this idea that because one thing has 378 million plays, another thing isn’t totally cool with its paltry 1 million. Fuck man, that’s still 1 million people watching. Do you realize how many people is 1 million? That’s a lot of faces. It would probably take you a month to personally introduce yourself and shake hands individually with 1 million different people.
So we always hear of business models being dead, things not working anymore, so on and so forth, but the reality of it is, nothing ever dies completely. That’s not to say that something is still effective or that it makes much sense. I always use the bicycle as an example of this. Say you were making bicycles in the early 1900s. By around 1920, you were basically fucked. Because not as many people wanted bikes anymore. People wanted cars. I’m sure bike production was still high and that bikes still sold, but the automobile industry was certainly on the rise. It’s like that with music, with publishing, with anything really. New models come in, the business evolves and whatever it was you were doing starts to look like it has less of an upside.
The Clash said it best though, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”
That depends on your goals. If you were a manufacturer of vinyl records, you probably would have bailed that business long ago. But here we are in 2011, and sales of vinyl records are up more than 300% since the early 90s, when the compact disc became en vogue. These aren’t boom times for vinyl, but someone somewhere is making money off of them.
Which is all just to say, trends change. Things are cool and then they’re not cool. Like stocks. Stuff gets hot, stuff gets cold. Are you riding the hype looking for a quick buck or are you gonna be the Warren Buffet type, buy and hold? The internet isn’t dead, just like MTV isn’t dead. Just because you don’t buy records in a record store doesn’t mean a whole bunch of people are the same way. Every week soundscan numbers come out, and every week evidence is there to support the fact that someone is plunking down their cash on a physical CD. Are the numbers shrinking? Of course. Just like the numbers of bicycles sold after the automobile was introduced most likely did (don’t have any hard statistics on this handy). But bicycles are still selling. Maybe their use has changed. Maybe they’re a novelty item. Maybe they’re for specialists. But to suggest something is dead just silly. And nobody in their right mind who calls themselves a business person takes a product off the shelf if people are still offering their money for it week after week.
Wanna see the best example of this? AOL. Yes, some people still pay for dial up. Less relevant? Certainly. Dead? Definitely not.
I bailed on NYC for the New Year. Yeah, I shuttled off to London by myself to ring in 2011. Suffice it to say, getting there was a major pain, considering the blizzard that hit the day before I was scheduled to leave. Nevertheless, I made it there a day later than planned, and accomplished my goal.
I cracked my eyelids on the first day of 2011 in another country
The first two nights in London I stayed in the Astor Hyde Park hostel, which was a few blocks walk from the Gloucester Road underground station. I want to sit here and say my first time staying at a hostel was this sort of comfy experience and tell you that it’s the best way to experience London on the cheap, because I think in total those two nights may have only cost me about 50 bucks. But in reality my time there was sort of shitty. There were a few girls staying in the shared room I booked and they were just loud and inconsiderate and I really couldn’t get any sleep other than during the day. That’s kinda pointless when you’re visiting a new city. I ended up bailing on the hostel situation, figuring NYE was going to be a drunken mess for anyone I was sharing a room with, so I booked a hotel not far from the hostel. Cost a grip but I couldn’t stand to not get any sleep for another day. I was already jetlagged and exhausted from walking around the city for two days.
One thing that helped me a lot on this trip was having a cell phone that worked in London. Prior to going, I thought I was going to rack up crazy roaming charges on T-Mobile because they don’t offer any real international usage plan. But I got hipped to unlocking my blackberry, which allowed me to use it with a UK sim. I was able to purchase one right in the airport from a vending machine like a soda. Crazy. Having my blackberry allowed me to use google maps, which gave me a good tool for navigating the city and its surrounding areas. Just little things, like finding where the nearest tube station was, not saying it’d have been impossible without google maps, but that app definitely helped speed up the process. Hip-hop hooray for google.
I never really did make it onto London time. Nor did I stay on New York time. I think I wound up somewhere in the middle, and that was largely due to those first two days where I didn’t get much rest. On the day of New Year’s eve, which was basically my third day- the day I checked into the hotel- I slept like all day, and that just threw the schedule all out of whack. So for the most part I was waking up at around 5am every day. It was cool though, because I was able to get up early, have breakfast near where I was staying, and take things at a leisurely pace.
The exchange rate from USD to british pounds is terrible. I don’t know what it is off top and I’m too lazy to google it (I know, lazy, right?), but I just know everything I spent money on there seemed like it was going to end up costing a grip in American dollars. Why? Because you would think that things would be priced on scale. I know there’s some economic term for what I’m referring to, but I’m not an economics guy. So let’s just use this as an example. If a british pound is 60 pence compared to 1 USD, then a 10 dollar hamburger should cost 6 pounds. But it doesn’t. A 10 dollar hamburger costs 10 pounds. Like a soda from a corner store the United States, which costs 1.50, still costs 1.50 there. The fuck? So yeah, your finances are taking a beating by going to London. Mine definitely did.
I can say this much, I’ve traveled alone before, but never to another country. It was definitely sort of an interesting feeling, just getting off that Gloucester Road stop when I initially arrived in London. It seemed busy there, it was mid-day. It kind of reminded me of New York in a sense, but then, not so much. People didn’t seem too friendly. Typically I can chat up the average person pretty easily. In London, that didn’t seem to work. I don’t know what it was. Maybe I was giving off a touristy vibe- that’s fine, I was a tourist- but it didn’t seem like conversations were easy to strike up. It could have also been just me. Like, I don’t know that I was super enthused about talking to anyone. I was kind of cool with the idea of people watching, just walking around and chilling, mostly. At any instant, I would pop into a little cafe for a coffee and a croissant. I would just sit and listen to the words and conversations I was hearing around me. Watching people’s mannerisms, the way their hands move, how they interact with others, what they’re wearing, and so on. It was kind of like a study of British people, in a sense.
I don’t really know how much I did in London compared to what other people do when they visit. I just know whatever I did worked for me. I had visited London about ten years ago, in August of 2001. At the time, I was 19 years old and was heading into my second year of college. College is really what put the bug in my ear, and subsequently my mother’s ear, that London was a place to visit that summer. I had an international politics class my second semester of the first year, and I recall needing a big book of maps for it. We basically looked at those maps for the entire semester, and went through histories of so many different countries. It definitely wasn’t the first time I’d looked at a map, but I think it was the first time I had added context, and I began to understand more why each country existed in a certain space and so on. Or, maybe it was just the first time I ever paid attention. Whatever the case, it made me want to see the world so badly. So going to London in 2001 was the first step towards that. That trip, however, wasn’t how I envisioned it. It was mostly sightseeing and typical tourist stuff, which was fine, except for me, I like to do that stuff in my own way. Kind of digest in the way that works for me. I think I had one day where I got to do something completely solo. I shopped for vinyl and books, nerdy stuff that guys like me are into. Had my whole trip been that way, I’d have called it a success.
This time around, I wanted to take that one day from the 2001 trip and basically extend it. I wanted to just float and do my own thing. I pretty much did that. Saw Stonehenge. Saw Buckingham Palace. Saw Royal Albert monument. Saw Queen Victoria Monument. Shopped in Camden Town. Shopped in Leicester Square. Went up to the park at Hampstead Heath. Saw the London Eye. Went to Harrod’s. Went to Carnaby Street. Kicked it in Soho one night. Went to Natural Science Museum. Saw the Adrian Boot photo exhibit at the Proud Galleries in Camden Town. Saw the High Society exhibit at the Wellcome Collection. Ate a lot of good food, drank some pretty strong coffee. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things.
It was very cold and rainy there. Colder and rainer than NYC in the winter, for sure. And I had just left a blizzard. I don’t think I saw the sun the entire time I was there. One peculiar observation, folks in London don’t really drink coffee the way we do here. If you were to order a coffee there and want milk in, you would order a white coffee. Otherwise, the coffee is coming to you black. But even at that, drip coffee was hard to come by. They make americanos there. I’m not a fan.
As far as women, my god, I wouldn’t even know where to start. If you took the top 10% most fashionable women in New York, cloned them and made thousands of duplicate super fashionable beautiful women, you would have London’s entire female demographic. I’m not really the gawking type. Typically, I’m not even that impressed by…. well, anyone. That’s not my ego or anything, it’s just, I don’t get goo gaga over appearance. Beauty is more than that. But there, I couldn’t help but stare. So. Many. Beautiful. Women. Even the older women looked amazing and dressed to kill. I know some of my female friends, ones who are super into all this high fashion stuff, they would have had a ball out there just people watching. Everyone dressed well.
Below, some pictures. I snapped over 400 pictures there, be it on the Canon Rebel t2i or my blackberry’s camera phone. I also shot some video as well, which I’ll probably post at some point soon. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the slideshow, it’s just kind of random. If I had a little more patience I could probably say where each photo was, and maybe at some point I’ll do that. For now, enjoy.
Theo Martins goes from Providence, Rhode Island to the crossroads of the world, Times Square, in less than a year. You should probably not miss this one.
So anyway, in a bit of randomness, I somehow ended up in on the front page of the Pro Keds website. To make a long story really short, I’d reached out about getting my client, Theo Martins, in this Pro Keds shoot this past August (I know, I’m so late updating this thing). Somehow someway, Pro Keds already had enough people in the shoot that wore Theo’s size, so he couldn’t be in it. But they asked me to be in it instead.
So I guess that was my modeling debut lol.
Regarding the shoot itself, that was easily the fucking hottest and longest day of my entire life, and I feel like I’ve seen some pretty stressful days before. It was early August, in Queens New York, the sun was blazing at something like 95 degrees. I soaked through three shirts that day. I barely slept a wink before going out for the shoot (not a good thing), so I was beat tired. I ended up pretty sun burnt. As well, it took me a day or so just to get over the heat exhaustion.
I came away with a better appreciation for models. I can only imagine what it must be like for actors. Having worked in production on a few TV shows, I see how crazy it is just for the people behind the scenes. If I had some lines to remember, geez. Or well, maybe it’s not so bad. It’s just this idea that you have to be in character and look good and all this other jazz, despite being in somewhat ridiculous conditions. Difficult to say the least.
I’d gladly do some more though. Ummm… holler at me? lol
Last weekend in New York City there was the marathon. I forget who won, I honestly wasn’t even paying attention. I’d have completely forgot there even was a marathon if it weren’t for my twitter timeline and the fact that certain streets were blocked off.
Usually in the weeks leading up to the marathon, I often get asked if I’m training for it. Because people know I like to run and typically I have certain benchmarks I’m looking to reach. The answer is, no, I’m not training for the marathon. I don’t know that I ever will. For the most part I’ve been running 6 or more miles a day for almost 3 years and there are a few things that seem to strike folks when I speak of my experience doing this.
1) I’ve done it all solo. I’ve never done a serious run with anyone else. Well, scratch that. I ran one time last summer in Clove Lakes park in Staten Island with a former member of the Marine Corps Special Forces unit. He asked me to. It was a good run but definitely slower and shorter than I’d have liked. Dude was in amazing shape, about to become a full time trainer, so I was a little disappointed. I also ran with Alex from the Kickdrums in Central Park one time. And that was fun. For the most part though, every day I’m on my own.
2) I’ve never been in a race. I’ve never even thought about being in a race. I know there are all these 5k runs for this and that. And maybe I should get involved with one of those some day. I don’t know, they just never really appealed to me for whatever reason.
3) Up until very recently, when I bought an iPod Nano, I ran in total silence. For a very brief period of time I was using the media player on my blackberry, but then the headphone jack stopped working. So no music really. Just me. Alone. With my thoughts and the ground beneath my feet.
4) I ran with the same pair of Asics from January 2008 up until October 2010. That’s a lot of miles to cover with one pair of sneakers. They’re still in surprisingly good shape with lots of tread on them. You’d think all the running outside would wear them out, but that just hasn’t happened. Why didn’t I buy a new pair? Laziness, mostly.
5) I haven’t had a single noteworthy injury. Barely a knee pain worth mentioning from running itself.
Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s because I think when I hear these questions about whether or not I’m training for a marathon or a race, I start thinking about people’s purpose for doing things. Maybe they don’t think they’ll win the marathon, but they want to complete it anyway. It’s on their bucket list or whatever. Some people do it for charity. Other people do it because it’s a social thing. Like, a year ago a friend asked me to get in a marathon runner’s club with her. Adidas was sponsoring it and they were filming the training sessions and all this other shit. It sounded cool to me, but oh such a pain in the ass.
How bout I just get down to telling you why I run… I run because I enjoy it. I run because now it feels like a natural thing. I enjoy the process. I enjoy moving my legs. I enjoy feeling my heart beat fast. I enjoy hitting my stride. I enjoy breathing heavy. I enjoy keeling over on the treadmill because I think I can’t go any longer. I enjoy sprinting at 12mph and feeling the burn in my quads. I enjoy running up a hill and feeling every muscle in my core tighten as I try to maintain my speed and make it to the top. I enjoy the time I get to be alone with my thoughts. I enjoy runner’s high. I enjoy feeling alive.
There’s this idea- I think maybe it’s an American thing- where we always have to be doing something for a specific reason. Like there has to be some deep subversive meaning behind our actions. Something bigger than what it is. Like running. And a marathon. I just don’t subscribe to that theory at all. I do things because I let them naturally occur. I take piano lessons because I want to be come better at playing the piano, because in the natural order of things, my hands are drawn to the keyboard, but not because I want to be a pianist. Not because I want to perform a concerto. No, because it brings me a sense of joy. And again, it’s the process itself that provides the reward.
It’s similar to running. I needn’t be running in pursuit of completing a marathon to make me run. I’ll run my 6 7 or 8 miles a day whether the concept of marathon exists or not. There is no grand scheme here. I top out at 8 miles or so just on the strength of being kind of bored after an hour. Nothing more to it. I’m sure if I wanted to, I could run 28 miles straight. I’ve actually not a doubt in my mind about that. Last night I ran a 6 minute mile. First time in my life I did that. It was the 3rd mile of my workout. I had no real goal in mind, just an impulse. It wasn’t something I set out to do per se. But in the midst of mile 2 I said to myself, maybe I can knock out a mile in 6 minutes. And I did. Then I got off the treadmill.