I’ve both mentioned it and mentioned how I’ve mentioned it before, but when 40 year old legendary cult musician/outside artist, Wesley Willis passed away 10 years ago from complications with Leukemia, it was the first, and possibly last, time that I ever actually felt anything from the death of a public figure. I had only met him once, but there was a pit in my stomach for the loss of someone that I felt like I had known well; someone who had been an important part of my life since high school. He was an amazing character and the fact that I was able to personally speak with him and “bump” his head before it was all too late is an experience that I will cherish until my own time eventually comes in 2046 as a casualty of the inevitable robot uprising. Here at Monster Fresh we love Wesley Willis. In fact, I have one of his giant original hand-drawn Chicago cityscapes hung over my infant son’s crib right now, influencing his delicate impressionable subconscious. Yeah, I love Wesley and, while his legacy has continued to grow, to some degree, since his untimely demise–not unlike that of comedian Mitch Hedberg–Willis is still anything but a mainstream figure. That’s why I was so surprised to discover that my high school self and my comic book-collecting junior high self had collided and got its chocolate in the other one’s metaphorical peanut butter. I’m only discovering this now, but back in December, DC Comics unleashed a brand new character that is inarguably based on the late great Willis into the latest Wonder Woman storyline. Read the rest of this entry →
Neil Michael Hagerty is an American guitarist/singer/songwriter/producer who first captured the imagination of the underground music community as a guitarist/contributing songwriter in Jon Spencer‘s pre-Blues Explosion avant punk band, Pussy Galore. Following their break up, Hagerty and then-girlfriend, Jennifer Herrema formed the band that he is the most well known for, Royal Trux. This new project applied Ornette Coleman‘s musical philosophy of harmolodics to a trashy rock and roll sound equally influenced by the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, and Velvet Underground. The duo released 4 albums and countless singles as the flagship band for the fledgling Drag City Records (their “Hero Zero” single was the very first release for the label) before signing a 3 album deal with Virgin Records, as part of the nineties “indie/alternative rock” corporate signing frenzy. After their second major label album, Sweet Sixteen, was critically trashed and underperformed at record stores, the Trux were dropped from Virgin and returned to Drag City for 3 albums, two eps, and a singles compilation. Some time in 2000, Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema split up and the Royal Trux ended.
In 2001, Drag City published a Hagerty-penned comic book called, The Adventures of Royal Trux – Vol 1 #10 that hints at some of the reasons for Royal Trux‘s split. This was followed by three albums released under Hagerty‘s own name – Neil Michael Hagerty (2001), Plays That Good Old Rock and Roll (2002), and Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling Hex (2003).
In 2004, Hagerty started releasing records under the moniker of “The Howling Hex“, with 2005‘s All Night Fox becoming a personal favorite of mine. The most recent Howling Hex release, Victory Chimp, is actually a highly ambitious 4xCD (3hr 19 min) audio book version of a 157 page sci-fi paperback that Hagerty originally published in 1997, during his Royal Trux days. The story centers around a chimp master of the multiverse “rattling the cages of freedom.” It’s also one of the fucking weirdest recordings I’ve ever heard in my life. Seriously nutty stuff…
Along with releasing this newer Howling Hex material, Drag City recently took all of the Royal Trux albums out of print and has been reissuing them -one at a time- on gatefold vinyl, over the past few years. Another reissue (maybe Accelerator?) is due out in November.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Hagerty some questions about his bands, Victory Chimp, comic books, baked beans, and where the music industry is today. Some of these questions may dig a little deep, but pretty much every other Hagerty interview that I’ve found on the internet seems to ask the same questions: “You used to do drugs, huh?” “Why did Pussy Galore cover a whole Rolling Stones album?“, “What was David Briggs like?” etc. That information’s been covered. Hopefully there’s something new in here for the hardcore NMH fans and something worthwhile for anyone discovering his work for the first time.
Now that you’ve read our writer Knuckle Supper‘s review of Scott Pilgrim VS the World, you should know a little more about the project. If nothing else, you should now know that it began as a graphic novel and have a rough idea about the manner in which it was adapted into a full-on motion picture. It can be a big leap from the pages of a hand drawn comic book to the big screen and, in building that bridge, a few branches had to be cut. The folks over at ADULT SWIM have decided to make that transition just slightly smoother, by providing an additional 4-minute short titled, “Scott Pilgrim VS The Animation“. Through it’s format alone, the cartoon helps to segue from the 2-dimensional black and white pages of Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s now classic, illustrated work to it’s live-action cinematic counterpart, but that isn’t it’s only benefit. The short also works as a prologue, filling in and setting up a piece of the storyline that never made it into Edgar Wright‘s final movie. The mini-film focuses on a flashback sequence from VOL. 2 of the book series, which establishes how Scott and Kim Pine originally met and began playing music together.
The network aired their brief animated contribution last night, in preparation of the the film’s release today, but we have it posted here for everyone that may have blinked and missed it. It was produced by Jason DeMarco, and features voice work by actors Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Mae Whitman, and Jason Schwartzman.
Something my brother said as we were leaving the movie theater: “Man, I’m glad that they made that into a movie, because when I try to explain Scott Pilgrim to people, it sounds soooo dumb!”
I could totally relate to that sentiment and, if you’re already a fan of the graphic novels that were the basis for the new film, I’m sure that you probably could too. Those who are not may be asking “So, what is it all about?“ Well, Scott Pilgrim is this unemployed, Canadian twenty-something bass player who begins dating Ramona Flowers, an American hipster girl on Roller Blades (how one can remain hip while on Roller Blades is never quite explained, but it manages to work ). It is soon discovered that for them to continue to see each other, Scott has to fight and defeat Ramona‘s ex-boyfriends. It sounds sorta dumb, right? I know, but there are a million reasons why its not and a million reasons as to why it is, in fact, one of my most favorite things ever. To read through Scott Pilgrim‘s 6 manga-like volumes is to get an honest look at creator Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s tastes and hobbies. If you have even the slightest bit of a nerd streak in you, you will instantly be able to relate. You get references to comic books, manga, video games, and indie-rock… and the fighting ex-boyfriends thing? It sounds silly, but look, its a metaphor. Scott is trying to stack up against Ramona‘s past relationships. The series itself is a really great read.
Now there’s always a danger when a beloved comic book gets adapted into a movie. Hell hath no fury like a scorned comic book geek with a modem. When Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was first announced, a lot of people began monitoring its development nervously. With Micheal Cera backlash at its peak, things got even more tense when he was announced as the lead. Still, there remained faith in director Edgar Wright (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), and O’Malley‘s involvement/endorsement of the project. The biggest fear, I think, was the potential to lose much of the lovable quirkiness found in the comics. How much of the video game and comic book tributes would be lost? These elements are integral to the feel of the series and one of the keys to its success. A romantic comedy is all the more fun when a “save point” magically appears in the corner of the room! Read the rest of this entry →
Italy has a long rich history in the fine arts. It is the country credited with the birth of the Renaissance movement and home to world famous venues such as the Vatican Museums and The Uffizi Gallery. It’s a legacy that deserves every bit of respect that it garners, but there is a great amount of people who feel no connection to these ancient works and even more people who feel distanced by the term “art” in general. Art is a class that you take at school; something coupled with “Literature” on a Trivial Pursuit game card. It can become more of something to understand intellectually than emotionally. For the last 30 or 40 yrs, the Pop Surrealism, Lowbrow, Graffiti and Street Art worlds have challenged these constrictive ideas of what art is and who it’s for. These are also the selected art-forms that Milan‘s Matteo Donini has been dedicated to showcasing since opening The Don Gallery in 2008. This month’s exhibit at The Don, New Idols, is a refreshing venture into pop-culture by a young Milanese sculpture by the name of Francesco De Molfetta. Read the rest of this entry →