Kool Kat of the Week: Weird Worlds and Twisted Tales: Spec-Lit Author Nicole Givens Kurtz Talks Diverse Voices, Representation and BLACKTASTICON 2018, Coming to Atlanta This Weekend

Posted on: Jun 12th, 2018 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The State of Black Science Fiction shouts “Welcome to the Future!” as co-founders Kool Kat Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis bring you BLACKTASTICON 2018, Atlanta’s top-notch spec-lit convention (formerly known as The State of Black Science Fiction Con), this  Saturday and Sunday (June 16-17) at GA Tech’s Ferst Center. This event is chock full of Afro-futurism, steamfunk, cyberfunk, dieselfunk, sword and soul, rococoa, Afrikan martial arts, and then some! So come on out and celebrate the diverse and ultra relevant voices of current black writers, artists, filmmakers, and creators of all kinds delivering some of the most dynamic and ground-breaking speculative fiction today, including our Kool Kat of the Week, Nicole Givens Kurtz.

Kurtz, Dream Realm, EPPIE and Fresh Voices in Science Fiction award finalist, delves deep into the speculative literature genre (sci-fi, horror, weird westerns, urban fantasy, etc.). Her short stories have been published in thirty plus anthologies including “KQ” (LOST TRAILS: FORGOTTEN TALES OF THE WEIRD WEST, VOL. 2 – wild west/horror), “Death’s Harvest” (STREET MAGICK ANTHOLOGY – urban fantasy); “Kanti’s Black Box” (THE MARTIAN ANTHOLOGY – science fiction), just to name a few. Kurtz is also the mastermind behind the CYBIL LEWIS and MINISTER KNIGHTS series. In addition to her prolific writing career, Kurtz is publisher and owner of Mocha Memoirs Press, brought to life in order to bring more diverse voices to the land of speculative fiction.

ATLRetro caught up with North Carolina-based writer and frequent Atlanta visitor, Nicole Givens Kurtz, to find out more about her influences, her career in spec-lit, the need for diversity and representation, and the importance of BLACKTASTICON.

ATLRetro: The first annual State of Black Science Fiction Convention was a hit with over 500 attendees and 40 vendors. Atlanta welcomes it back for another exciting year as Blacktasticon 2018 invades the south once again! As a guest and panelist at last year’s event, can you tell us a little about your experience and what you hope to gain this year?

Nicole Givens Kurtz: The first annual State of Black Science Fiction Convention was an awe-inspiring event. It also felt like a homecoming. Many of the people there I’ve known virtually via social media. There were hugs, laughter, and a great deal of support. One of the beautiful things about the convention resided in the warmth and promotion of black science fiction. It was ours. Here we were not the fringe of the convention, but the center, its heart. That paradigm shift hit me hard, and there were times when I looked out at the sea of black faces–faces like mine–that I wanted to weep in joy.  I’ve never felt so included in a convention before.

Blacktasticon welcomes us to the future, a boundless and complex yet beautiful future. With the current state of politics, of the #metoo movement, of the societal woes and bloody wounds still saturating the present-day, what message do you hope current writers and creators bring to the table for future generations?

The overriding message I hope Blacktasticon delivers to future generations is that we (African-Americans) aren’t going anywhere. The future is full of black people, including women. We are a creative force, in all aspects of media, comics, movies, novels, and animation. This convention shows the future generations what we are capable of and what they can do. Those creative doors aren’t shut to them because of traditional gatekeepers. This goes beyond simply diversity, but the nuisances of the black collective. African-Americans aren’t a monolith, and here at this convention, all of those various talents are displayed.

Black Women in Sci-Fi Panel 2016 (l-r) Nicole Givens Kurtz, Alicia McCalla, Penelope Flynn, Kyoto M., Rennie Murphy

Do you feel it is the job of artists, writers and creators to represent what this world should be and could be? If so, which speculative fiction writer past or present would you say represents the most comprehensive ideal of how the world and its inhabitants should be?

Science fiction has always been political. Mary Shelley‘s FRANKENSTEIN is an absolute novel about hubris. So, yes, I do feel it is our job to tell stories, as humans have done since the beginning of time, since before written language. We tell stories to explain the world around us. That’s the role of artists, writers, and creators to continue to tell those stories, including what the world should be and what it could be. Past fiction writers that I feel offered the most comprehensive ideal of our world are classics such as Octavia Butler, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, Zora Neale Hurston, and of course, Mary Shelley. There are modern writers of science fiction and fantasy who are representing the world as is or how it could be as well. N.K. Jemisin, Daniel Jose Older, Max Gladstone and anyone at Rosarium Publishing is presenting fabulous visions of the future.

Can you tell us how you got started writing? Did you start writing as a little girl? Or were you older when the writing bug bit you?

I’ve been writing stories before I could actually write words. When I was little, I would go up to my room and continue the stories I saw on television with my dolls or in my head. Once I learned to write, I would scribble the stories down, but it wasn’t until high school where I won a district wide essay contest that I realized I could make money from writing. I read everything I could get my hands on from elementary school onward. My mother encouraged me to keep reading and we spent many weekends at the public library checking out books. When I became a teenager, I would skip the mall and spend my Saturday buried in books, gaining knowledge, and losing myself in other worlds.

Your Mocha Memoirs Press mission statement is “We believe representation in speculative fiction (science fiction, horror, fantasy) is not only important, but a necessity.” Can you tell our readers a little bit about Mocha Memoirs Press, LLC, and why you feel representation is essential?

Mocha Memoirs began as a way for me to funnel more diverse works into the world, where at the time, I saw a huge gap. The company began in 2010, and at that time, I did not see vary many science fiction works that reflected people of color, women, or black women in particular. Often when I attended conventions with my first novel, I was the only black person there at all, let alone actually selling my published novel. In an effort to give back but also bring awareness to the diverse stories we can tell, I started Mocha Memoirs Press. Representation is essential because it provides positive self affirmation. Essentially, seeing oneself in media as a hero, heroine, or protagonists demonstrates to the reader/viewer, “You matter. You exist. This future is yours and you have a place in it. This story could be your story.” Everyone wants to be valued. Representation should reflect the diversity of our world.

We see that you’ve had work published in LOST TRAILS: FORGOTTEN TALES OF THE WEIRD WEST, LAWLESS LANDS, and STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, to name a few. Can you tell us about your love of westerns (the weirder the better) and how living in New Mexico influenced your writing?

Prior to moving to New Mexico, I lived in a variety of other places (San Diego, Chicago, Louisville) but nothing took root inside me the way the Land of Enchantment did. My mother was always a western fan, and in our household, I grew up with Clint Eastwood, SHANE, and THE RIFLEMAN. To this day, my mother still sits and watches westerns. Imagine a young black girl in a housing project watching these men settle scores with the fastest pistols in the west. As a writer, my weird western stories are rooted in the theme of freedom. This place, the west, specifically, the southwest, thrived with a diverse group of people–Native Americans, Chinese immigrants, freed slaves, and of course, wealthy Eastern whites; each having to work together to scrape out a life in this harsh, new environment, and in doing so crafted an entirely different way of life, of culture, unlike those in the East. Those differences still resonate through to this day. That’s why I write weird westerns.

You’ve had short stories published in over thirty anthologies ranging from science fiction to horror and have had your novels become finalists for several awards, such as the EPPIES, Dream Realm and Fresh Voices in Sci-Fi. If you had to choose a favorite short story or novel from your bibliography, which would you choose and why?

This is like asking me to pick my favorite child! Of all the short stories I’ve written, “Belly Speaker,” is my favorite. It’s my favorite because it is a weird western, but it is about finding one’s voice when others threaten to silence it. My favorite novel, of the ones I’ve written, is DEVOURER. In this second MINISTER KNIGHTS OF SOULS novel, Akub seeks to redeem herself from her violent past by doing something criminal.  I’m interested in redemption and how we overcome the actions of our past.

Which writer from the past and which writer from the present has influenced and continues to influence you the most and what is it about them that draws them to you?

The writer from my past that influenced me the most is Stephen King. Most of my stories have their roots in weird, strange horror. Even if they’re science fiction stories, horrific things happen in them. Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, Zora Neale Hurston, and classic literature such as Shirley Jackson, Alice Walker, and of course, Octavia Butler have all influenced me.

Having had the pleasure of experiencing your panels at last year’s convention, we know you’re not only a killer storyteller, but you’re also a spooky horror film junkie and fanatic like us! Can you tell us your favorite horror movie and why it ranks at the top of your list?

My favorite horror movie of all time is MY BLOODY VALENTINE, the remake. Don’t judge me! Prior to that movie, my favorite horror films were from the 1980s: LOST BOYS, FRIGHT NIGHT and HELLRAISER. I still watch these films on streaming media whenever I need a good scare.

As a writer working in the science-fiction, fantasy and horror genres, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme among women, especially women of color in the industry?

When I began my career in science fiction publishing in 2005, the challenges were getting past the gatekeepers at major publishing companies to even look at my work. So many rejections of “Cannot identify with this character,” and “Nice concept, can’t sell it.” The perception that black protagonists wouldn’t sell or that readers who weren’t black couldn’t identify with a non-white protagonist in science fiction was astounding to me. This same genre where people could identify with shapeshifting tigers, but not another human being, continues to be the drumbeat for certain editors and publishers today. The difference today (14 years later) is the convenience of small press publishing, electronic book publishing, and self publishing options that allows my work to by-pass some of those gatekeepers. Conventions like Blacktasticon help me market and connect to readers who are hungry for those stories.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

Five things I’m in to right now are: 1) CLOAK & DAGGER on Freeform/Hulu; 2) ALTERED CARBON-the series with Kovacs is a good cyberpunk series; 3) Sting’s TEN SUMMONER’S TALES is always in rotation; 4) Andrea Botticelli is also in heavy rotation; and 5) ROUTE 3 by Robert Jeffery is a comic series that I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Any advice for women writers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

Nicole Givens Kurtz and SOBSFC guest 2016

DO.NOT.SETTLE. I wish I would’ve stuck to this advice at the onset of my career. Don’t settle. Do your research because this business requires a great deal of patience. Know what you want and do not settle for anything less.

Getting back to what brought us here, Blacktasticon 2018! Is there anything exciting you have planned for attendees? Can you give us a sneak peek into the panels you’ll be sitting on?

My press, Mocha Memoirs, will have special package pricing just for the convention. I’m on the Women in Black Speculative Fiction panel, which I’m very excited to be a part of again. Last time we had standing room only!

And last but not least, what are you currently working on and how can we get our hands on it?

I’m currently working on finishing a novella, that’s romance and fantasy. Afterwards, I’m diving back into my Cybil Lewis Science Fiction Mystery series. Then later this year, I’ll be working on my weird western short story collection.

 

Photos courtesy of Nicole Givens Kurtz and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Dayna Noffke, Local Independent Filmmaker and Retro-tastic Gal Joins the Killer Cast and Crew of the Inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL

Posted on: Sep 18th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by Andrew Shearer of Gonzoriffic

Dayna Noffke, lover of all things retro, Jill of all trades and local filmmaker (ThrillRide Pictures), joins the gore-tastic ranks of the inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL (WIHFF) brought to you by Festival Directors Kool Kat Vanessa Ionta Wright (“Rainy Season”) and Samantha Kolesnik (“I Baked Him A Cake”). The festival invades Peachtree City promising a weekend filled to the bloody brim with kickass independent women filmmakers, creators and horror film enthusiasts. You won’t want to miss the horrorific lineup of shorts and feature-length films, panels, vendors and special guests including Heather Langenkamp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), Amanda Wyss (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET/BETTER OFF DEAD), Marianne Maddalena (SCREAM), Lynn Lowry (CAT PEOPLE/THE CRAZIES), Trina Parks (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) and more! Noffke has been given the excruciating task, yet a highly rewarding opportunity to get a sneak peek at the talent before it’s unleashed on the unsuspecting masses, as a WIHFF film judge. Competitor’s films for the film competition will screen throughout the festival weekend (Friday, September 22, 12:00 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.; Saturday, September 23, 12:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, September 24, 12:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.;  Crowne Plaza Atlanta SW – Peachtree City; Tickets $45 day pass ($55 at door) / $125 full fest pass ($140 at door); and $200 VIP Fest Pass (includes all speakers, workshops, films and special events including the Thursday night VIP party); Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here)! Kick off this season of horror and make your way to the WIHFF, take a walk down the “Dead Carpet,” and experience a weekend full of killer cinema!

Noffke’s film career began in 2008 when she was cast as an extra in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II (2009). She’s been churning out what she calls “backyard no/low budget” short films ever since, while working part-time as a set dec-buyer/dresser (V/H/S VIRAL, THE VAULT) and working towards directing full-time, with no end in sight. Since 2009, Noffke’s made ten short films including “Safety First” (2009); “Mouse” (2012); “Picnic” (2012); “Recompense” (2014); “Under the Bed” (2015); with her latest being “Teaser,” which wrapped this past week. She’s also written three feature film scripts, which have done well in the screenplay contest circuit, prompting her to take the next step to produce a feature-length film in the near future. As a filmmaker who has had some pretty amazing life experiences (researched Mantled Howler monkeys in Nicaragua; took Gross Anatomy and dissected a human body, just to name a few), Noffke seems to be a perfect choice to judge some of the best independent horror films coming our way this year.

ATLRetro caught up with Dayna to chat about the Women in Horror Film Festival, what inspired her to dive head first into the film industry, her favorite horror movies as a kid, and rooting for kickass final girls. While you’re taking a stroll through our little Q&A, why not take a peek at a couple trailers for some of her short films here.

ATLRetro: How exciting to be a part of the inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL! Can you tell our readers how you got involved and a little about your role as film judge?

Dayna Noffke: It is exciting! We’re fortunate to have so many amazing film events in Atlanta and this is a wonderful addition. When I heard about the festival, I knew I wanted to be involved but I wasn’t certain that I would have a new film finished in time to submit for this year. I submitted to the organizers’ call for judges and before I knew it, I had a queue full of fantastic film work to review.

What’s it like to judge films of women who have dedicated their creativity and professional lives to the horror genre?

​It’s an honor to be entrusted with these films. I have been in the role of judge for a few different festivals now and I always take it very seriously. I know what it’s like to be on the other side — to have your work put out there for review, and I try to remember that and give each film my full attention and consideration. All of these filmmakers have my respect, because getting any film finished requires Herculean amounts of persistence and hard work. I greatly enjoyed judging, discovering new talents and seeing the evolution of those creators with whose work I am familiar.

We see that you’ve been involved in filmmaking since about 2008, when you were an extra in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II. What was it about that particular film production that made you want to make movies?

Photo by Andrew Shearer

​The experience of being an extra on that film gave me two things. First I was given the ability to see the filmmaking process and the roles on set, including watching a director who really enjoys his work. ​And secondly, I had a great freaking time on set. I felt very at home. It was a light bulb moment for me. All my life, I’d been struggling and bouncing through trying out different artistic disciplines with none of it ever “clicking.” Here it was. I got it. Prior to that experience, it wasn’t in my frame of reference to think of making films as something that I (and my friends) could do. Sure, I realized in an abstract sense that people were making them, but I hadn’t seen it up close and it was a separate world that I’d never experienced. Watching RZ direct that film changed my perspective, so yes – in a strange, roundabout way, Rob Zombie is responsible for my leap into the film world.

It was once thought that horror films were made by and generally made for a male audience. Of course we adamantly disagree, as horror is definitely right down our alley, especially pre-21st century horror. Can you tell our readers what drew you to the genre and why it keeps drawing you in deeper and deeper, as your own filmmaking career continues to grow?

The million dollar question. Why? Why are we so drawn to this darkness? I am actually a pretty light-hearted person. I consider myself lucky to have a great life that’s full of adventure and joy – which makes it perhaps even more of a puzzle. For me, I guess it is twofold. First of all, there’s the thrill. There is nothing like that feeling of being at the top of the clicking roller coaster hill or just before the corner in the haunted house – the anticipation, wanting to scream and laugh and run all at the same time. Monsters are fun, they’re fantasy, but most importantly, they’re an escape. Second, I am fascinated with human beings and that translates into a desire to understand them. While I certainly don’t empathize with people who are able to do horrible things to other people, I want to ‘get it.’ I want to know what makes them tick. Why do these things happen? I want to find sense and make something out of the chaos. I love writing about the survivors. I’m in awe of kickass final girls.

You’ve been employed in several roles in the film industry, including set decorator-buyer, writer, director, producer, etc. Is there any particular role you prefer over the others and why?

One of my favorite things about film is the collaborative nature of the art form. Working in different departments has given me an appreciation for the importance of the different aspects of filmmaking and a better view of the process holistically. I’ve been working professionally, for the past four-something years, as a set decoration buyer. I enjoy the work and it’s helped to develop my design eye, which has translated into better visuals in my own filmmaking. But ultimately, I want to write and direct. I want to be out there telling stories. I’m currently working on making that jump from set dec to being full time on my own projects. As for producing, I have done a lot of that on my projects out of necessity and while it’s a good learning experience, it’s not where my talents lie. I had a great producer, Chris Ethridge, on my most recent short, “Teaser,” and he was a lifesaver. I’m glad to hand that part over to people who are better-suited to the task.

Who are your favorite female horror directors and why are they your favorite? Were there any female role models in the horror genre that particularly inspired you growing up?

“Teaser” Cast & Crew, Photo by Ed Selby

I wasn’t really a monster kid. I was a kid who loved just about everything having to do with stories and pretending – from dolls to Grease to Star Wars – and also happened to be into all kinds of movies. I did always love the final girls who made it to the end of the horror movies — Nancy and Alice and Laurie, particularly. My list of favorite female directors is a long one! Not only are there the big ones, like Mary Harron – whose AMERICAN PSYCHO is a vision of absolute, all-out abandon – but there’s a huge list of indie filmmakers who are making waves in both short and feature length formats. Jen and Sylvia Soska, Karen Kusama, Izzie Lee, Jill Sixx, Lynne Hansen, Tonjia Atomic — the list goes on and on. What they all have in common is guts. They’re all out there taking chances and getting their stories told however they can. Their art is gorgeous and brave. I’m also a huge fan of the actors who make directing such a great job. I have been honored to work with Madeline Brumby (FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE), Katherine English and burlesque star Lola LeSoleil among others.

What would you say was your gateway drug/film that enticed you into the land of horror films?

The first real horror film I remember seeing is SILENT SCREAM. I recall that shortly after, my brother and I went on a FRIDAY THE 13TH and JAWS watching spree. I’d set the alarm to get up and watch films on Cinemax in the middle of the night. MY BLOODY VALENTINE also figures prominently into my childhood. ​

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

Just five? I love reading, music and films, so I’m always on a tear. There are two books that I cannot recommend highly enough. DEVIL ALL THE TIME by Donald Ray Pollack is a jaw-droopingly dark and poetic trip into the Southern Gothic. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m also reading THE WITCHES: SUSPICION, BETRAYAL AND HYSTERIA IN 1692 SALEM by Stacy Schiff. It’s full of great information but not particularly academic, a more human approach to the Salem Witch trials story. As for films, Karen Kusama‘s feature film, THE INVITATION, is incredible. I’ve re-watched it a few times. It’s got a very tight, effective story and a killer cast. I will also add to the list of people singing the endless praises of Jordan Peele‘s GET OUT. It’s just that good! Since it’s September, I’m in heavy rotation on monster bop/classic Halloween music. I’m enjoying my new birthday present – Waxwork‘s limited edition MY BLOODY VALENTINE LP with score and music from the film.

What was your favorite horror film growing up?

As a child, JAWS all the way. My brother and I had a best friend who had a pool. We’d get the VHS and make a ‘movie theater’ with tickets, watch the film and then scare ourselves into a frenzy thinking that Jaws lived in the pool. I’ll also have to admit that we chased my brother around an awful lot as Jaws so… apologies on that front.  As a teenager, I really loved cheesy horror – things like MICROWAVE MASSACRE, TOOLBOX MURDERS and the like. ​I got hooked on RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, EVIL DEAD and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE then, too, and that has definitely stuck. TCM is my favorite to this day.

As an independent female filmmaker working in the horror genre, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

While I hesitate to speak for every woman in the industry, I’ve certainly heard enough stories and had enough experiences to see that there are definitely barriers to being heard as female filmmakers. I have been put in incredibly uncomfortable positions at cons and film festivals, where I wanted to be involved in the film conversation but was compelled to speak up and/or leave because of the incredibly casual misogynistic and ugly talk about other women. All I could think was, “If they are saying this while I am standing right here, what are they saying about us when I’m NOT here?” I’ve been followed to my hotel room at night by creepy guys and on and on. These types of harassment are barriers to all women – not just filmmakers – feeling comfortable attending and enjoying film events and that sucks. I’m heartened to see a lot of men starting to speak out about this and standing up beside us to put an end to this kind of behavior. There are other problems, of course. Sadly, it’s a long list.

Any advice for women filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

Show up. Help other filmmakers with their projects and support them in their successes and challenges. Make movies whenever you can – it’s the only way to learn. Community makes the indie filmmaking world go round. Be relentless. The first time funding fell through for my feature, I was crushed. But I quickly realized that it’s probably going to happen a few dozen more times before that film gets made. Keep moving forward. We want to hear what you have to say.

As a filmmaker, and a film judge for the WIHFF, how does the competition look? Anything spectacularly horrorific and exciting you can tell us without giving too much away before the festival? Any particular film we should definitely check out?

​Hmmm. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to give away so I’m going to plead the fifth on this one. But trust me, the competition is FIERCE. You’re really going to enjoy this festival – it’s got everything from fun over-the-top gore to horror comedy and creature films to beautifully realized horror poetry.

What are you looking forward to most about the festival?

I’m really looking forward to meeting the filmmakers! I love catching up with the ones who I know and seeing what’s up next for them but I’m also excited to meet the creators of the films that I judged. There is so much talent out there. ​

And last but not least, what are you up to next? You’ve indicated that in 2018 you’ll be working on a feature-length project based on a screenplay you wrote. Can you tell us a little about that, and any other projects you’re currently working on or will be in the near future?

“Teaser” still with Jim Stacy and Lola LeSoleil

I have several projects in the works right now. I’m forever writing screenplays – who knows where they will take you? I finally finished up my short film, “Under the Bed” last month. It’s a fun little creature film that stars my daughter and one of my best friends – so we had a great time making it. I’m busy entering it into festivals right now. We wrapped on my latest short, “Teaser” last weekend. It’s a very lush and poetic burlesque-themed short and my biggest production so far. We have a hard deadline for getting it through post, so you can expect to see it at festivals soon!​ I am slated to shoot another short film, “Shark: A Love Story” for a local production company sometime at the beginning of the year. That one has a lot of special FX — blood everywhere! It’s going to be crazy!

I also have three feature film scripts that have been bouncing around for a while but nothing solid on production yet. It’s my goal to shoot my psychological thriller, EIDOLON, in 2018. It’s a very sparse psychological/paranormal thriller — a re-imagining of the classic Victorian short horror story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” My feature script, GET CHINO! is a comedy/grind-house hybrid about five fan girls who kidnap their favorite action star in a bid to get him to star in their film. The screenplay has been chosen as an official selection at Oaxaca Film Festival this year and I’m looking forward to hearing some feedback on that one as well and maybe roll on it in the next few years.

All photos courtesy of Dayna Noffke and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ATLRetro’s Throwback to the 20th Century St. Valentine’s Day Guide – Our Top Picks for Gettin’ Comfy With Cupid, Retro-Style!

Posted on: Feb 10th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Hey all you dapper fellas and glitzy gals! Cupid got your tongue? “Be Mine”, vintage-style this year and celebrate all that is vintage and Valentine’s in Retro Atlanta! Get romantic, retro-style and see what we have in store for you on this day of love and seduction!Meehans

1. Red Hot Jazz and Soulful Sensations. Get jazzy with your love tonight at Meehan’s Public House in Sandy Springs, during their 1920s Anti-Prohibition Dinner & Dance, featuring ’20 inspired tapas, cocktails and jazzy tunes by Courtney Renee Jazz!  Or jazz it up during the Emory Jazz Fest’s Big Band Night at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, featuring the Gary Motley Trio and special guest vocalist, Alex Lattimore. Free Admission; performance at 8pm. Get delivered at The Artmore Hotel (Studio Lounge) with a jump on the heartfelt holiday weekend (Feb. 13) with the soulful tunes of The TriggerMan Band, while sippin’ a few sultry cocktails from 6 to 9pm.

2. Blackhearts Unite. It’s a night of murder ballads made popular by Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Nirvana and a whole lotta’ bloody maniacal mayhem at The Earl with their Bloody Valentine’s event, featuring Kool Kat Aileen Loy with Till Someone Loses an Eye; circus shenanigans with The Thimberling Circus and more bloody romantic fun! Doors at 9pm!

2.14Famous3. Oh là là! Hearts A’Blaze Entertainment is smokin’ hot with their Vices & Valentine’s event va-va-vooming it up at the Shakespeare Tavern at 11:30pm, featuring performances by Kool Kat Talloolah Love, Kool Kat Persephone Phoenix, Kool Kat Roula Roulette, Kool Kat Ursula Undress, Candi LeCouer, Ada Manzart, Jack Callico and more! Tickets start at $20. Get a little naughty this Valentine’s Day at Paris On Ponce for their Luscious Love Valentine’s Day event, hosted by The Imperial OPA Circus, featuring 13 tantalizing acts, including tastes of vaudeville, cabaret, burly-Q and circus shenanigans with 2 shows, 8:30pm/10:30pm. $50 general/VIP $175! Or get royally romantic at 2.14STavernJerry Farber’s Side Door with Kitty Love’s Cheeky Belles Burlesque: Dizzy Princess Revue at 9pm! Tease it up with Kool Kat Kitty Love, Angelica Vice, JudyAnne Foxe, Valkyrie Jones, Sainte Lee, Zina Czarina and more! $15 in advance/$20 at the door. The Famous Pub welcomes you to the Spectacular! Come see what’s behind the red curtain at RITUAL’s Moulin Rouge Valentine’s Day Ball featuring the Diamond Dog Dancers and more! $10 gains entrance to this exciting extravaganza starting at 10pm!

Basement4. It’s Boogie Time. Shake your money maker at Kavarna in Decatur at Susi French Connection’s Valentine’s Disco Party at 9pm! Or get your ‘90s club fix at The Basement with their D.A.N.C.E. ’90 Dance Party, Valentine’s Edition that’ll have you dancin’ to your favorite ‘90s club tunes all night!

5. Be My Folksy Valentine. You won’t want to miss some old-time Irish, Scottish and Celtic mythical ballads this day of romance with Emerald Rose’s Valentine’s Day Show, putting a musical spell on you and your lucky lover at the Crimson Moon Café at 8pm.CrimsonMoon

6. Shakespeare In Love & Really Retro. Get romantically retro and take in William Shakespeare’s classic tale of star-crossed lovers and feuding families at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center! The Atlanta Ballet premieres Jean-Christophe Maillot’s alluring yet stripped down production of Romeo et Juliette, hailing all the way from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo! The Atlanta Ballet Orchestra accompanies the beautifully choreographed masterpiece with Sergei Prokofiev’s provocative and breathtaking score! Tickets start at $20 and performance begins at 8 pm! And for all you knights in shining armor, get really retro and romantic with the royal one in your life and joust on down to Medieval Times for their Valentine’s Day Couples Package! $99 gets you 2 admissions, a photo, Valentine’s scroll, champagne in keepsake glasses, a light up rose and 2 admissions to the dungeon! Get classically romantic at Atlanta Symphony Hall with their “From the Heart” performance, delivering the “most romantic songs that celebrate Valentine’s Day” at 8pm!

2.13ParkTavern7. Groovin’ Up Slowly. Be a smooth operator and sail on down to Park Tavern in Piedmont Park for Valentine’s Day Eve (Feb. 13) with Yacht Rock Schooner! It’ll be an evening of smooth 70s and 80s love songs and a champagne toast, so put on your dancin’ shoes and come aboard! $15 online/$20 at the door. Doors at 7 pm!

8. Lovin’ on the Silver Screen! ‘Here’s looking at you kid!’ Take a peek at love and romance Old Hollywood-style at The Strand Theater as they screen Michael Curtiz’s classic romantic drama, CASABLANCA (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid CasablancaBergman. Enjoy a few cocktails during cocktail hour with your dapper fella or glamorous gal at the Lumiere Lounge, , open from 7-11pm!

Pallookaville9. Cupid’s Culinary Delights! Grab your beloved bestie and even the kiddies for a dinner fit for a king at Pallookaville Fine Foods in Avondale Estates! A king of pop culture and classic monsters, that is! They’ve got monsters and circus freaks and retro-themed food, oh my! So, you won’t want to miss their Valentine’s Day Feast running from Feb. 11 through Feb. 14, which includes the essential dinner of love, a ‘la Lady & The Tramp-style, Linguine & Meatballs and the fixins followed by chocolate-covered strawberries! Adults $18, Kiddies $10! Or hula on over to Trader Vic’s and escape into the island atmosphere with their Tropical Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu, featuring BBQ Duck Breast Spring Rolls, Asian Chicken Breast Salad, Pan-Seared Yellow Fin Snapper, Which Chocolate Soufflé and more! $60/person.

10. We Goth You Covered. For the darkly romantic, The Oakland Cemetery offers their Love Stories Tour, complete with tales of loves past led by a Victorian-era clad docent. Tours last an hour, just long enough to meet a kindred spirit or even a new love! Get loved to death while traversing the land of passionate souls RLClonging for love. Tours haunt at 3pm, 4pm and 5pm! $10 adults/$5 students! Haunt over to the Red Light Café for their Valloween Costume Cabaret with bloody romantic tunes by Mayhayley’s Grave, belly and sword dances performed by Claire Voyant of The Cabaret Noir Collective and more! Doors at 7pm; $12 advance/$15 door. Or for a Valentine’s Eve-Eve (Feb. 12) event, get your bloody heart ripped out at Mary’s for their ‘Goth Nite St. Valentine’s Massacre’ event! It’ll be a Goth throw down featuring classic Goth rock, synth pop, post-punk and even tunes from the New Romantic era!

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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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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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