Kool Kat of the Week: Russ Marshalek Walks with Fire to Reimagine TWIN PEAKS as a place both wonderful and strange

Posted on: Sep 12th, 2013 By:

Photo courtesy of Russ Marshalek.

When TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME was released in 1992, it evoked boos in Cannes and derision from almost all US critics and many loyal David Lynch fans. However, over time, the film, meant to be a hybrid of prequel and sequel to the iconic TV series, has acquired its own cult following who revel in the excessive grotesque, over-the-top symbolism and psychological horror dualism of Leland Palmer and the corrosive Bob. One of these new advocates is once-Atlanta resident/now New Yorker Russ Marshalek, a musician, DJ and looper whose previous project with Sophie Weiner, the Silent Drape Runners, devoted much of its creative energy to re-soundtrackings and re-imaginings of the iconically weird TV series, a precursor to quirky cable dramas of today. Now with his new solo project a place both wonderful and strange, he’s doing a live re-scoring of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME this Sunday Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Highland Inn Ballroom, and well, while Angelo Badalamenti‘s score was a film high point, maybe the Log Lady injected us with a primal sense of curiosity.

The idea of new fans and a new soundtrack makes me wonder if TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME might have been received better as a standalone feature, in other words, if the series hadn’t existed. I, for one, recall hating it for the same reasons as Quentin Tarantino did – Lynch was so out-Lynching himself that it became almost a parody of the cinematic vision I had grown to admire from ERASERHEAD to THE ELEPHANT MAN to, of course, BLUE VELVET, and WILD AT HEART. TWIN PEAKS was an epiphany when it hit the airwaves, and Audrey Horne (Sherrilyn Fenn) became my role model for how to be all innocence and tease, saddle shoes and maraschino cherries. Alas or maybe for the better, Fenn, along with Laura Flynn-Boyle, skipped the movie, although the pass did not save her career. Lynch also had lost his co-series creator Mark Frost by then, and even Kyle McLachlan sought to minimize his role. Maybe it’s the train wreck aspect also that perpetually fascinates, the longing that something highly anticipated, such as Audrey’s slow knotting of the cherry stem in her mouth, would be better than I remember. Chris Isaak and David Bowie also played roles in it. Yeah, just plain weird. Which also is totally Lynch.

ATLRetro caught up with Russ because I had to ask “why?” I’m happy to report, he left me asking “why not?”

ATLRetro: You and Sophie just disbanded the Silent Drape Runners. How is your new solo project, a place both wonderful and strange, similar or different to your past work? And is that place TWIN PEAKS?

The production work for Silent Drape Runners was mostly me, and when Sophie and I parted ways I immediately knew that I wanted to continue with what I’d been doing, so a place both wonderful and strange is a similar creative vision, but it’s mine. The music is a bit more accessible, I think, and live performances incorporate a heavy visual and dance element. That carries over into the FIRE WALK WITH ME show, which is a bit more theatrical than the SDR shows were. On the whole if you liked SDR, I think you’ll love a place both wonderful and strange.

Let’s go back to the beginning. What was your entree into the world of TWIN PEAKS, and why did it entice you so much as to become such a central theme of your music? Were you already a fan of David Lynch’s work?

Lucy, my friend/current vocalist/then-gf, introduced me to TWIN PEAKS when I bought her the Gold Box for Xmas one year ages ago. It broke the conventions of everything I thought could be done with using images to create a mood – I am, and have always been, more about words or sounds. That was the gateway drug. Combine that with the fact that Lynch’s influence is inescapable in the modern dark electronic music scene, and there you have it.

TWIN PEAKS’ second season was not as satisfying as the first — some say it descended into strange for strange sake once Laura Palmer’s murder was resolved. And TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME doesn’t get a lot of love from critics. What are your thoughts and why if the show didn’t end on a high note does it have still have such a following nearly 25 years later. 

I attended a lecture recently done by this group FEAST OF FOOLS here in Brooklyn, at the occult bookstore Catland, on David Lynch, TWIN PEAKS and the occult. In it, the end of TWIN PEAKS Season 2 was discussed: how when Lynch returned to the show he did so in a BIG way. And I agree – yeah, a lot of season 2 was “eh,” but the end of the show was phenomenal, and that’s what sticks with you. Honestly, FIRE WALK WITH ME is one of my absolute favorite things, and though it wasn’t adored by critics at the time, I think it shines as a terrifying masterpiece.

There have been other re-soundings of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. What makes yours different and worth coming out on a Sunday night? 

What we’re presenting is a unique vision: we’re not adhering to what Lynch and Badalamenti have laid down as gospel, but rather taking the dualistic playful/terrifying nature of the source material and using it as inspiration. There’s a live performance aspect that goes into it, and honestly if I ever scanned the notebooks of concepting that went into these two hours, it would be enough to drive a sane person nuts. Also, yeah, it’s a Sunday, but you’ll be home by 10 p.m.

Are there specific parts of the film that were especially interesting or challenging to re-conceive musically? 

Laura’s death. It’s easy to treat that with TOO MUCH gravitas, and that’s not what the show is about. Yes, it’s terrifying and emotionally draining and horrific, but it’s also campy and outlandish. The trick was finding a middle-ground. The whole movie, in fact, is like that.

If I understand correctly you did the soundtrack in collaboration with GHOST COP, aka Lucy Swope. What’s Lucy’s part in this? 

Lucy and I actually dated ages ago; we’re just friends now. Lucy’s GHOST COP project is really impressive electronic space pop. As I said, she introduced me to Lynch. She also had performed a few times with Silent Drape Runners, doing a twins/doubling performance with my former band-mate Sophie on a witchy version of “God Only Knows.” When there was a gig to fill doing a show for the David Lynch Foundation in South Carolina post-SDR, we talked and the pieces kind of fell into place. I love FIRE WALK WITH ME, probably more than the entirety of the series as a whole, so the show kind of started from there. We took to the film with a scalpel and came up with something that’s playful, a little inappropriate and creepy as hell. She does the majority of live vocals.

Looping and goth music are obviously strong influences on your work. What about some of the iconic experimental industrial groups such as Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubaten?

Looping/drone was one of my first musical loves. I used to walk around the Barnes and Noble on Peachtree in Atlanta and listen to the sound the store’s air conditioner made. It was a really uniquely repetitive tone that was strangely highly nuanced. IDM stuff like Autechre and old Warp/Rephlex Records stuff also factor in there, too. The work of Chris and Cosey‘s stuff under that moniker more so than Throbbing Gristle, though obviously Throbbing Gristle is incredibly important. Nine Inch Nails. My Bloody Valentine. My hair stylist pointed out to me the obvious nods to Coil.

Russ Marshalek. Live photo taken by The Culture Of Me. Photo credit: Zhang Qingyun; Art Direction: Deanna Paquette.

What do you think of DUNE? To me, it’s always been an intriguing but tragically flawed film, and I’d be very interested in seeing a re-sounded interpretation. 

HMMMMMMM. 🙂

You and Lucy used to live in Atlanta. Does your show here have a special resonance because of that, and what else would you like locals to know about what you have planned? 

Atlanta’s always a fun place to play. My old band had a great time playing some gigs there last year. It’s where I grew up. Plus it’s the last show of the tour. We’re doing four shows in four days, so I will be in a pretty festive mood after. Maybe we should all go to The Bookhouse? 😉

While you’re here in Atlanta, you’re also DJ’g a Depeche Mode after-party Thursday night at Noni’s. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have planned for that? 

Yeah that should be fun – the folks who run the NONSENSE Atlanta parties and I are doing that . Up here, I DJ so much pop music that I’m really excited for a chance to dig into some darker dance tunes without anyone asking me for “Blurred Lines.” I have an external hard drive full of stuff that I can’t wait to play.

Will there be a recording of the re-soundtrack and what’s next for a place both wonderful and strange? I take it that it won’t be all TWIN PEAKS, or will it?

No, no recordings. The original Silent Drape Runners re-soundtracking of the TWIN PEAKS pilot was recorded at our final show in August, and that’ll be coming out next month, but I feel about this show the way I felt about that one – it can’t be experienced unless it’s live. The live, performative aspect of it is what makes it special. What’s next for my project? I’m putting out the music video for my single DNT CM, finishing my ep.

Finally, gotta ask. If we went to a diner, would you order coffee and cherry pie?

YES, but not at Waffle House.

Advance tickets are recommended and available at http://aplacebothatlanta.eventbrite.com/.

 

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Going Back to the Bizarre Birthing of Burton: Splatter Cinema Raises Blythe Spirits with BEETLEJUICE at the Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2013 By:

Splatter Cinema Presents BEETLEJUICE (1988); Dir. Tim Burton; Starring Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara; Tuesday, August 19 @ 9:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

This month, Splatter Cinema goes a little off the beaten path at the Plaza Theatre. This month’s showing is not the typical gore-soaked exploitation fare you’re likely to see them serve up. But the way that BEETLEJUICE enthusiastically revels in horror and delights in depicting twisted flesh makes it a good choice for those of the Splatter Cinema mindset.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Tim Burton wasn’t a “thing.” That there wasn’t an identifiable “Tim Burton” style. And that there was a time when BEETLEJUICE was a sudden and surprising leap into the dark comic realm that would eventually come to define that style.

Burton had exploded onto the film world with his previous film, 1985’s PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE. While that movie contains themes that he would revisit many times in the future (particularly “childlike protagonist exists in a fanciful universe seemingly of his/her own creation until a shock tosses them into the outside world”), it also contains the off-kilter and baroque visual sensibility that is a hallmark of his films to this day. But aside from the “Large Marge” and “clown hospital” scenes, there’s little of the horror-steeped atmosphere that saturates so much of his work.

BEETLEJUICE is where (aside from his earlier short films, which were largely unseen by the public at that point) Burton first seamlessly blended equal parts horror and quirky comedy into the recognizable whole that would come to identify the director.

The film focuses on a young couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), who find themselves unexpectedly deceased and forced to haunt their New England home. When the Deetzes (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones and Winona Rider) move in, the Maitlands are forced to circumvent the bureaucracy of the afterlife and engage “bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton, pronounced and also known as “Beetlejuice”) to force the new residents out. As to be expected, wacky antics ensue.

In collaboration with production designer Bo Welch, Burton used the foundation of the screenplay to paint his comic sensibilities in a luridly-colored, high-contrast gothic horror sheen. His scenes in the afterlife and during Beetlejuice’s reign of terror in the Maitlands’/Deetzes’ home look like Charles Addams’ cartoons filmed in the style of SUSPIRIA. Grotestqueries bathed in candy-colored lighting schemes. Welch and Burton would develop this aesthetic even further in collaboration on 1990’s EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS, firmly establishing this as the “Tim Burton” trademark style.

It would have been all too easy for the screenplay to serve simply as a hook from which Burton could hang a number of ghoulish setpieces. It’s to the credit of writers Michael McDowell, Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren that the film is as engaging as it is. By keeping the “ghosts” of the movie benign and well-meaning—and the new residents not malevolent but incredibly selfish and irritating—Beetlejuice’s diabolical motives put both families in a sympathetic light.

And the cast’s performances can’t be overlooked in helping create the rounded characters of the movie. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are both amiable and sweetly romantic as the ghostly Maitlands, while Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones are their polar opposites: antagonistic and back-bitingly snarky. Where Baldwin and Davis are convincingly laid-back and plain, the performances of O’Hara and Jones are deftly high-strung and pretentious. Winona Ryder as young Goth daughter Lydia Deetz bridges both worlds—not only figuratively in the temperament of the clashing couples, but literally within the story as she is the only person able to see and converse with the Maitlands—and delivers a performance in turns dryly sardonic, cooly detatched and warmly engaging.

Winona Ryder in BEETLEJUICE.

But the movie truly belongs to Michael Keaton. As Betelgeuse/Beetlejuice, his performance clashes perfectly with everyone else’s. No matter how engaging or off-putting the Maitlands and Deetzes may be, the performances of Baldwin, Davis, Jones, O’Hara and Ryder are tightly restrained and controlled. Keaton, on the other hand, is entirely explosive and cartoonishly over-the-top; issuing forth a rapid-fire patter of one-liners, non-sequiturs, mumbled asides and mad proclamations delivered at the top of his voice. He’s physically manic as well, leaping about and flailing around wildly, as if Burton was randomly jolting Keaton with a live electric wire just off-screen. He turns Beetlejuice from a simple, evil prankster into something larger than life. If, you know, he were alive rather than a moldering corpse.

And if the movie belongs to anyone else, it’s Burton. This is where the Tim Burton we now know was born: the bright colors washing over stark black-and-white-patterned spookiness of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, the stylized locations and set design of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, the dark humor of FRANKENWEENIE. They all spring from here. But few mesh these elements together with as much effortless skill as BEETLEJUICE.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: A Chanteuse and a Cello: Atlanta Newcomer Nicolette Emanuelle Channels Kate Bush and Nick Cave at Kavarna on Sun. Oct. 28

Posted on: Oct 24th, 2012 By:

 

Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

An Evening with Nicolette Emanuelle is an intimate concert by an intriguing new Atlantan on Sunday evening at Oakhurst coffee shop/wine bar Kavarna on Sun. Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. The singer/songwriter/burlesque performer hasn’t been in Atlanta long, but she’s already made her mark with a volatile voice and songwriting style that’s been compared to Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey. Our Retro heart, though, beats to another side of Nicolette – the influence of Kate Bush and Nick Cave. She has a passionate love for the piano and even more for the cello. She had the chutzpah to apply for and score a grant to produce her first rock album, as well as a striking look and a fearlessness in revealing costumes that has been drawing attention at local club events. Oh, and she says she gives great hugs! Needless to say we were just curious enough to make her Kool Kat of the Week!

Can you talk a little bit about what it means to be compared to Kate and Nick and the influence of these two artists on you?

I consider it to be a huge compliment when someone compares me to Kate Bush or Nick Cave. I was raised on Kate Bush, and I have memories of pulling the endpin all the way out on my cello so I could pretend it was a bass to do the choreography from the “Babooshka” video. Nick Cave I wasn’t introduced to until later in life. I fell in love with MURDER BALLADS, and I’ve been a fan ever since.  The only cover I will be playing at this upcoming show is a Nick Cave song in honor of Halloween.

Did you grow up Goth or is that a rhetorical question?

Well, my wardrobe was all black from the ages of 14 -18, but I’m not entirely sure if it was a fashion statement or laziness when it came to fashion. I was much more of a orchestra/drama/band nerd than anything else.

How did you decide upon the stage name of Nicolette Emanuelle?

Emanuelle is my middle name and also a family name. I identify more with the name “Emanuelle” than I ever have with any of my last names – of which there are three.

Lots of artists are raising money for their albums via crowd-sourcing, but you did it for your album PINAFORE the old-school way with a grant from a county arts council. How difficult was that, and are musicians overlooking that opportunity? 

I have my ex-girlfriend Laura to thank for that. She had a history in non-profit work and had written many grants, so when we found the Regional Artists grant [from the North Carolina Arts Council] we decided to go for it. I put together a sample of my work and she wrote the proposal and helped me with the budget (she also played drums on the album). When I told my peers what I was doing they insisted that no one would give a grant for rock music, but that just made me want it even more.  We were ecstatic to find that not only did we get the grant, we got the full amount that we asked for.  I encourage any musician, no matter what their genre to use whatever resources are out there to produce their work.

Grants are a good resource if you have a specific project you are trying to fund, like an album. When considering your proposal keep in mind how your project will benefit the organization, pay attention to their mission and carefully read the grant requirements, then read them again! We went from the angle that not only would recording this album help my music career and allow me to contribute more to the artistic community, it would make the ASC visible in the alternative community. A lot of people didn’t know about the ASC and if they did they didn’t think they would support that part of the artistic community. Some of my peers in that area are now utilizing the many workshops that the ASC holds to help artists become better business people so they can make a living off their work.

Nicolette Emanuelle and her cello. Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

You just moved to Atlanta? Where are you from originally? What drew you here now and what do you think of the music/performance art scene in Atlanta now?

I moved to Atlanta in February – I had visited back in ’97 but never lived here – after a few months of wandering from state to state trying to decide what to do with myself. The most recent place I called home was Seattle; I left there in December, 2011. Originally? I always found that to be an interesting question, and people ask it often. My dad was in the Navy, so a little here, a little there. I love the arts scene here; it is very eclectic and there is a lot of talent.

You’ve said how much you love playing the cello. What is it about this very old-school instrument that appeals to you so strongly?

My cello is my husband, it’s always been there for me even when we were fighting. There was a time when I tried to step away and, but people would call me up with work.  I would ask it “why do they want you? Can’t they see how in love I am with my piano?” and it would sigh that low mournful sigh. Then we learned to communicate and the more we played the better we got; then one day I realized that I was in love with my cello. It is a very different kind of love than I feel for my piano, more like a familial love. You know those relationships you have that exist because you went through some shit together and came out on the other side stronger? That is my cello, it is my voice. It has been my voice when I couldn’t communicate any other way

Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

Kavarna is an intimate musical venue. Can you talk a bit about what you have planned for your performance this Sunday?

All of the songs I will be performing were written between June 2011 to present. I was happily married to a wonderful person. I loved Seattle and loved living on Capitol Hill. I was performing burlesque, training in the aerial arts with a fantastic group called The Cabiri, and I had a loving four-legged companion named “Charlotte.”  I was pretty content with my life, and then I lost everything. It was like a bad country song: I lost my husband, I lost my dog, I lost my home, and then things got worse. I started down a decline and couldn’t recover.

So after two years of producing barely anything music-wise, I was inspired to write. It started when I was packing some of my things to move into a room I was renting after we decided to separate. I found a poem Fritz wrote called “I-Centric” and made a song out of it. It is a very personal set, and so I wanted to play somewhere low-key and intimate. I want to take the audience on a journey with me, and if one person hears something that they can relate to or can take something positive away from it, even if it’s as simple as “I like that groove,” then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. It’s a story, my story on how I came to be in Atlanta miles away from everything I knew and loved. The good news is I have found new things to know and love.

Nicolette Emanuelle as The Cheshire Cat. Photo courtesy of Nicolette Emanuelle.

You also do burlesque and performance art, and have been seen out at club events in some racy outfits. Can you talk a bit about that persona? How does that compliment your music or is it more about having fun with expressing a different side of you?

That is a complicated topic! It first became a way for me to take back my body. It was taken without my permission, and for years I hid under baggy clothes thinking it would protect me somehow. I hated my body and felt betrayed by it. It took a very long time for me to even get to a point where I felt comfortable showing my legs in public. For years I didn’t even own a pair of shorts, and if I wore a skirt, I would wear like two pairs of stockings. I had to re-learn how to love my body. Aerial trapeze helped a lot with that; it allowed me to start trusting my body and what it could do. I started to become impressed that I could climb ropes and flip around bars like when I was a kid. Burlesque taught me that it was okay to be sexy and have fun, that my sexuality was not a curse – well that and years of therapy. I started to notice that while my music always came from a place of pain, burlesque and performance art came from a place of  joy. I need this persona to balance the other one. The funny thing is I don’t feel naked when I’m performing burlesque or out at a club. I feel the most naked when I’m playing music.

What’s next for Nicolette Emanuelle?

I need a drummer and a string player! I would like to put together a band, record my new material and have highly artistic videos made for each song. Then I want to release each song/video a week apart until the whole album is released, then have a big CD release party. At the CD release party I would like to have performance artists and burlesque performers come up with a piece for each song to be performed at the party – and recorded. Then I want to release a DVD of the videos, performances and songs. Then I could cross-promote on film sites, music sites and performance art sites. I’m really excited about this idea and this show is the first step. I’m really hoping some musicians see it, like it and want to play with me. There is nothing like having people to work with who have faith in your vision.

Finally, just how good are your hugs?

Well, you’ll just have to come out to the show see for yourself.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Amanda Palmer Finds Peace and Perfection in The Cure, a Beating Fish Heart and Peeling Up Rugs

Posted on: Sep 15th, 2012 By:

Is Amanda Palmer a Goth Goddess? A Steampunk diva? Sally Bowles? Super-heroine? The publicity photos for her new band the Grand Theft Orchestra suggest Geisha meets AMADEUS. Atlantans will find out tonight (Sat. Sept. 16) when she steals into the Variety Playhouse.  A creative chameleon who has played in many Retro eras from costume to sounds, Amanda Palmer has reimagined herself again with a new album, THEATRE IS EVIL, released on Sept. 11. Some critics have dubbed this album poppier than previous projects such as the Dresden Dolls, but we’re intrigued by the list of many of our favorite ’70s and ’80s Goth/alternative bands, which she lists as influences yet how she makes the songs very much her own.

THEATRE IS EVIL also is testament to her savvy social networking skills and a passionate fanbase. It’s already music industry legend how she produced the LP without label support through a Kickstarter campaign in which she asked for $100,000 but raised $1.2 million. You have to imagine plenty of musicians are tilting their heads and analyzing the hows and whys of her success – could crowdsourcing be the golden ticket to being able to stay true to your artistic vision without interference by over-zealous marketing suits?! In any case, Amanda sure seems to be living the artistic dream life with enough money to follow her creative bliss and even married to Neil Gaiman, award-winning leather-jacketed punk rock author of dark fantasy best-sellers and creator of the ultimate dream-weaver comic, SANDMAN.

Yet all the while Amanda stayed true to her busking performance art spirit  including fun Kickstarter incentives that radiated a reciprocative passion for her fans including an artbook, personal sketches and private concerts. And she even took a time out during a busy week on the tour bus to zip out a last minute Q&A for readers of a humble local blog like ATLRetro, for which we have to say she’s a mighty Kool Kat

ATLRetro: On NPR’s ALL SONGS CONSIDERED, the two critics Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton  couldn’t get enough of THEATRE IS EVIL, even comparing it to Bowie’s THE LODGER. You’ve mentioned that you had The Swans, My Bloody Valentine, The Cars and VIOLATOR era Depeche Mode on your mind with particular songs. Since we’re ATLRetro, we have to ask which critic comparisons have pleased you the most and are there any other Retro musicians/bands who particularly influenced the work on this album?

Amanda Palmer: Oh, where can I start? Soft Cell. Gary Numan. The Cure, all over the place…I feel like some songs like “The Killing Type” are more early-era stripped down Cure whereas “Want it Back” is more KISS ME, KISS ME ,KISS ME me era, and “Smile” was directly an homage to “Plainsong” from DISENTEGRATION, right down to the fact that I chose it to kick off the record and the fact that we open the live show with it. One of my deepest and influential moments was the first 30 seconds of seeing The Cure live in around 1989, on The Prayer tour. They opened with Plainsong, and I felt like I was listening to the voice of god.

You embrace live performance with a passion and bravado unparalleled by many contemporary musical artists. Why the album title, THEATRE IS EVIL?

Because it’s hilarious.

Your songs not only tell stories but also always seem to have interesting stories behind how you came to write them. Pick one song on THEATRE IS EVIL that you’d like to tell Atlanta fans more about.

Wellllll – “Tour Heart Replica” has a good one. I was going through a really rough breakup, and I was visiting Neil Gaiman at his house with my whole touring crew, before we started dating. I was also really feeling the tour grind, the caged feeling. He took us to a trout farm. We piled into his car on a freezing Wisconsin day right before Christmas – a few of the actors in the tour, my opener and cellist Zoe Keating. The trout farm was this set of shacks where they had the trout swimming and swimming endlessly in circles in these big metal tubs. They clobbered a dozen of them to death and brought us into the fish surgery where they gutted them, and as the dude sliced into one of the fishes, he said “look” to us, and a fish heart was laying there in his hand, still beating. And for about 20 seconds, it kept going, in his hand, beating. “This happens sometimes,” he said. Then he put the heart on the counter and he left, and Neil followed him out. And Zoe and I stood in the room, looking at the fish heart on the metal counter. And it kept going, it kept beating. Everything about my life was reflected in that moment. And Zoe, Neil and I joked in the car that the moment was the perfect song, the perfect poem. And we all went off to write. Neil’s poem was published in a journal, and my song found its way onto the album.

Some of my favorite songs by you with the Dresden Dolls and solo have been those that have been angry/angsty but also clearly about empowerment and moving on. In other words, not getting derailed by relationships that end bitterly. Can you talk briefly about what those kind of songs do/mean for you or are you moving away from that thematically since you’re happily married to Neil?

Well, a lot of the album does feel like it’s about coming to peace with things. But in order to truly come to peace, you always have to peel the rug up and look at the truly rotting stuff. You can’t have one without the other, I think. To me songs are the perfect way of doing both things at once: the peeling up, and the coming to peace with what you find there. And then the best part: sharing what you find with everybody else, and seeing the heads nod in “you too?” agreement. You can find anything under the rug if you don’t feel alone in the finding.

Without giving away any crucial spoilers, can you share a little sneak peek into why no one should consider missing your show in Atlanta this Saturday whether or not they have seen you perform live before?

Well, I’m backstage in North Carolina right now, and we just had the audience split up into a “lamb of god” divide and wield disco balls and peace twigs at each other. ANYTHING is possible. But in seriousness: be prepared to dance. The dancing is key. Bring a tissue as well, for the sad bits.

Finally, we know that you are goddess queen of the Earth, so what secret weapon could we use to save us from your wrath?

A towel, obviously.

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Retro Review/Vintage Vacation: The Weird are Victorious: CUTE AND CREEPY Opens in Tallahassee, FL

Posted on: Nov 3rd, 2011 By:

Pop-surrealist/guest curator of CUTE AND CREEPY Carrie Ann Baade posed in costume besides Jessica Joslin's OTIS, bone and metal assemblage.

By S. J. Chambers
Guest Contributing Blogger

Something unprecedented happened in Tallahassee, FL, last October 14. Over 2,000 people, masked and unmasked alike, showed up at the Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Art for the opening of CUTE AND CREEPY, which runs through Nov. 20. Guest curated by FSU painting professor and pop surrealist extraordinaire Carrie Ann Baade, CUTE AND CREEPY is one of the first exhibits to look at the new surreal, grotesque and macabre dark art that is beginning to permeate popular art, and is exhibiting 25 of the most cutting edge artists working today like Kris Kuksi, Elizabeth McGrath, Jessica Joslin, Kate Clark, Kathie Olivas and Chris Mars. In addition to being the first exhibit to collect all the facets of the bizarre and strange under one museum roof, Baade explores what a “Weird” aesthetic really is, its cultural significance, and why now, as she writes in the catalog’s introduction, “is the time to revel in the macabre.”

Can you find the Diva-in-Sheep's clothing posing next to Kate Clark's mixed media sculptures?

And revel Tallahasseans did. On opening night, Professor Baade treated gallery-goers to not only art, but a dark carnival-like atmosphere where the weird, the cute and the creepy came to life and swarmed the space. There were acrobats, Goths, Steampunks and unclassifiable fabulous costumes, one of which was what I can only describe as a Were-sheep Diva. Even Professor Baade got into the spirit with a beautiful Steampunk/Surrealist vintage costume.

The FSU Fine Arts museum has never seen a crowd like this before. In fact the 2,000 attendees were four times the amount of any prior opening. At one point in the night, people were shuffling from one room to the next, gridlocked as though they were in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. But this was a show that people want to return to, and throughout the gallery, people began making rendezvous to return for more quiet contemplation.

Gallery-go-ers contemplate the cute and/or creepy aspects of one of Kathie Olivas's "Misery Children."

I, for one, am not surprised at the success of this rare and intriguing exhibit. It is in line with a prominent and emerging trend in the arts. In 2010, Tim Burton’s retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art became its third most-attended show in its history (Matisse and Picasso hold rankings first and second). Then, earlier this year, the Boston Athenaeum presented a very thought-provoking exhibit on the work and genius of Edward Gorey. What better way to bookmark the year than with Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Arts fall exhibit: CUTE AND CREEPY.

S. J. Chambers is a writer and native Tallahasseean. She is co-author of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (Abrams Image), which was just featured on CBS SUNDAY MORNING, and the editor of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE, VOLUME 2.0. She can be found espousing ephemeral musings on her Twitter. Meet her on Sat. Nov. 12 at The Mechanical Masquerade Presents: A Paranormal Fantasy

All Photos by S.J. Chambers.

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