2011 – Year of Blawan!

beat junk producer of the year, Blawan. Blawan’s style is a lot of stomping brontosaurus noises, long-throated Jackie Treehorn sexfunk, meant to be listened to while naked on a trampoline on a beach next to a phosphorescent ocean. Blawan’s not on my top ten for 2011. Blawan was 2011!

Twenty-Eleven Top Ten

Here’s my personal Top Ten list for 2011

1. University of Victoria’s Writing Department.
2. Prince live at Montreal’s Metropolis and then in Victoria at the Save-On Foods
2. tied with the rap duo Main Attrakionz
3. Co La’s song “Egyptian Peaches
4. Soulja Boy’s mixtape “The Last Crown
5. Roberto Bolano’s book of essays “Between Parentheses
6. Kevin Chong’s novel “Beauty Plus Pity

7.Anders Nilsen’s graphic novel “Big Questions

8. Eli Boronowsky’s show at Blanket Gallery

9. (I’m looking forward to reading Peter Nádas’s “Parallel Stories“) Antonio Lobo Antunes’s reprinted novel “The Land At The End of the World

10. Tree of Life. I didn’t see enough movies this year to know what’s good and what isn’t. I saw Drive. Drive was decent. But how could any movie turn out better than Tree of Life?


It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update!


Epicly Long Exclusive Q&A with Alabama’s I.B.I.

Anyone familiar with the Alabama rap scene has heard Henny, he’s the stylish rhymeflipper next to Yelawolf and Pill on “I’m A Freek,” he’s worked alongside Jackie Chain, Bentley, G Mane, and with Slow Motion Soundz. On his own, Henny has created a trio called I.B.I. with his cohorts Ziploc Moe and Icey Mike Shawty. I think these must be three of the best rap names out there. And these guys are stoked rappers. Henny’s got some amazing mixtapes, including Black Superman and I Make Alabama Look Good. Kind of the best thing going, I.B.I. has released an independent record titled S.D.M. (Sex. Drugs. Money.) that’s a loud pack of great tunes, including ‘Passport’ and the single ‘Bandz.’ I really listen to these tracks a lot. Enough to write and ask if I could ask them some questions, as a fan. I really don’t know how to interview rappers. I am still am not sure how exactly what questions to ask, but I conducted this one over email, which was easier than when I interviewed Bun B over the phone. I think what happened is I sent the questions and Henny read them aloud in the studio and transcribed the answers. First, here’s their video:

Henny, you’ve been rapping with Yelawolf and Pill and other MCs for a
few years now — how did you click together with I.B.I.?

H: I.B.I was always a label I wanted to start while I was a member of the rap group Greedy Money. When the group split due to legal troubles and moving me and the remaining members decided to start up the group again but wit a new attitude and new approach and Icy Mike

Henny, how do you describe your group’s approach to lyricism and flow?

H: we just get in the studio and vibe…we’ver known each other for a while so the chemistry is there. All we need is some exotic weed and a hot beat

Icey Mike Shawty, when did you start rapping and when did you acquire
such a hype alias?

I.M.: I started rapping the day I was born. And I came up wit my alias to describe my persona. I’m icy cause I’m cold I’m mike cause that’s what’s on my government and I’m shawty cause that’s how I hustle

IMS, how did you know you wanted to make music as part of I.B.I.?

I.M.S.: Just the energy every time we be in a session together the chemistry was perfect

Ziploc Moe, with the unbelievable rap name and the nasty rasp — when did you start writing rhymes?

Z: Shit around the beginning of 2009

Ziploc aka Maury Gator, you have a serious, funny and unstoppable style. Describe for readers how you came to rock it so fucking hard:

Z: Aww man you know I just put my heart in everything I writeand I try not to be a one dimensional rapper. I got many styles wait til ya meet Mauri Gator

How does a track like “Bandz” get made — do you go to the studio
together with lyrics prepared or do you sit down and work it out while
the beat is getting made?

I.M.S.: I don’t even remember I rolled up and wrote my verse
Z: Klassik produced a funky track and God sent it to us
H: I don’t really remember but we just went in and did what the beat said do

Do tracks start from a chorus or hook and work out from there or off
the first 16 bars?

H: it don’t really matter to me
Z: sometimes we do the hook first or sometimes we do the verses

You just put out a really tight mixtape — did those tracks come out
of a big recording session, or do publish your tracks almost as fast
as you can make them?

Z: we just go in. Play tracks. Drop the song. And on to the next one

Are there other members of I.B.I. behind-the-scenes besides the three
of you?

I.M.S.: Yeah ibi is a nation. We the faces
Z: We the faces. But we got members we aint even found yet
H: and don’t forget the in house production team. Klassik Keys, Joe Air, and Tech beats

Who are some of your favorite producers to work with?

Z: myself, Klassik Keys, Grade A
I.M.S.: Klassik Keys, Beat Champ, Joe Air, Lbo Keys, Dr Fangaz, Mellow Rich, & JB
H: Block Beataz, Grade A, JPlymp, Lbo keys, Klassik Keys, man I got a lot of em

What do you like to hear in the recipe of the sounds on the drumkit,
the speed, the samples, for I.B.I. to want to jump on a beat?

Z: I like a nice drum track. The synths gotta be there
I.M.S.: Tracks that speak to ya. Tracls that already got direction
H: just make a hot & timeless track and we on it.

I’ve been listening to Alabama rap for five or six years now, I guess,
especially the guys in Paper Route, Slow Motion, and Small Tyme Ballaz
— are you affiliated closely with any producers or labels in Alabama?

H: I’m affiliated wit a couple people from the Slo like Mali Boy, Kristmas, & Codie G. I got BGM fam shout out Eldorado Red. And my selma fam DBD

I.M.S.: yeah BSB, King South

What’s your take on the Alabama music scene? What was it like to grow
up there? Did you grow up going to shows by Last Mr Bigg when he was
just diamond-eye Bigg? Is Alabama on the map now in a way it wasn’t
when you were a kid?

H: Nah Bigg from Mobile we never grew up on him like that
IMS: but yeah we on in a major way now. Wit artist like Yela

Is there a place you go in town to drop a new track and see it play
out in the club?

IMS: the whole city. We plugged in wit the djs in the city. when we drop something the whole city know

Do you go to a lot of rap shows? Who have you seen live that you
thought put on a great show?

Z: Yelawolf
IMS: not being bias but Yelawolf. Even tho he reached new barriers he still displays that “still trying to get on” in each of his performances
H: yea Yela. Cyhi, Gside, & Malachi from the Dungeon Family his live show is remarkable

There’s something innovative in the countrified rhythm of the Alabama
scene, with all the different rappers and producers something connects
the sound, makes it homegrown. I don’t know if you can describe how
you like to represent your home in your sound or if that’s even
important to you?

IMS: its definetly important cuz our sound is a sound that aint been displayed yet. and its Alabama soul
Z: its very important wit us being from Alabama cause we the underdog
H: I like to rep my hometown just by telling true southern stories and if I do that right I know I did my job

Are there some local legends in the scene who inspired you growing up
to strike out on your own and become an artist and part of the music

Z: Rick rock, the commodores
IMS: Big Pimp, King South, Henny, & Leon Carmichael
H: PeeWeeDee, Icy, Killa Kat, man its too many to name for real. My city been packed wit talent for over 10 years now

Ziploc, I get the impression you have a thing for women’s shoes — do
you guys hope to grow I.B.I. into an accessories and apparel business?
Are there fashion items that you are each really focused on, lyrically
and esthetically?

IMS: first off I been said fuck rap let’s sell clothes. Women buy more clothes than music
Z: yeah I love making women beautiful cause they the ones doin g all the shopping. But yeah in thf future we wanna do that we already selling shirts and hats

The producer you want to work with at the moment?

H: Big Krit, 9th Wonder, Sha Money
Z: Scott Storch & Dr. Dre

Who is a really under-rated rapper you feel deserves more attention?

Z: shit……Henny
H: Slimm Calhoun, Sean Paul (young bloods), my whole team

What is your favorite rap lyric — is there a lyric you listen to and
it reminds you to make your style loose and original?

H: I got too many to name
Z:I aint got no favorite I’m a chameleon to all genres

Can you quote a few lyrics from I.B.I. you want to make sure people
take a moment to listen carefully to?

H: all the verses from every song for real…but “Heaven Help Us” hook is a good one

& maybe you could explain why you chose those lyrics?

H: I say “Heaven Help Us” cause it just sums up the whole cd…Sex Drugs Money

Your lyrics make a lot of wordplay around money and earning good pay
— but there’s also this sense of independence and uncompromising
attitude in what you write…can you talk about what are some of the
dangerous pitfalls you hope to avoid in the business side of things,
and the creative side?

IBI: we don’t wanna not be consistent. Longevity is the key. And just staying out of the everyday troubles of the world like our previous legal problems

Speaking of: The crime life has always been a great source for
metaphor in rap, and all I.B.I. lyrics keep it very real, very fresh,
funny, hard as hell, and you drop tons of common 2011 slang as well as
plenty of your own personal touches to your lines — and what I want
to ask about is the music industry. Have you observed, and is true,
that the music industry is truly full of criminals?

IBI: most definitely. They say the rap game remind em of the crack game.

Ibi: Overall you just try to keep the grass cut and watch for snakes its hard to say who the shady characters are until you encounter them.

Alabama seems like a more peaceful place, at least there aren’t any
tragic stories in the news like what’s going on around Lil Boosie and
what’s always playing out with rappers elsewhere getting shit on by
police, and what seems like a very complicated thing Alabama seems
like it’s not a part of?

IBI: well we don’t have hip hop police but a lot of rappers from Bama have legal issues. More so because most if not all are from the streets

You guys all plan on releasing solo albums and then another group
album? When can we start hearing tracks from the solo albums?

H: well ICY’s got his solo coming first its called “Plug Luv” so you should start hearing songs from that soon. I’ve got 2 cds I’m working on now and I’ve got 2 online “Black Superman” & “I Make Alabama Look Good”. And Zip’s got “Liquor & Loud” coming soon. So be on the look out

Will we see you guys working with. other rappers on features for these
albums andleading up to the solo albums?

I.B.I: well we already got the song wit Yung Ralph “Demonstr8” bubbling but future features will include Kristmas, Bentley, King South, Attitude and a lot of other people from Alabama too many to name

What the hell happened to D4L that you can be sure to avoid? Damn,
what a tragedy. That whole show fell apart. Maybe it was just internal
struggles. You guys have a harder, more of a RUN/DMC vibe in that I
imagine your live shows are almost like rock shows. It’s a very
different vibe what you’re doing, even if a lot of the sex themes are
there in both.

H: well we got a homie that’s signed to D4L that’s from Montgomery Alabama named Jurrari. But D4L is still kickin they just got a deal wit G-Unit too I think…but yeah as with any family you gonna have disputes and setbacks you just gotta keep it moving Ànd stay prayed up ya know

Describe a day in the life of I.B.I.

H: just studio all day really
IMS: Loud…music loud weed loud

What’s your favorite music to listen to outside of rap? Do you listen
to any of that UK stuff or kwaito from South Africa or kuduro from
Angola or whatever?

IBI: we all listen to a lot of other genres from R&B to Reggae to Blues and even Jazz and Rock

Outside Juice and Scarface, what’s your favorite rap-related movie?

H: Belly
Z: Belly or Shottas
IMS: Friday

Who is the most famous rap video starlet today?

H: Superhead
Z: Lola Luv
IMS: Amber Rose

Aren’t you making a video for every track? You guys look like
billionaire beasts on film.

H: yeah were trying to finish the year out by shooting a video to the whole cd as well as solo project vids

You see the Lil B Youtube grind and he’s blown up in a silly way — do
you think the video style is working for him? Would you keep up that
ridiculous tempo? I think people could handle it if you guys were
dropping tons of Youtubes but some of those 500 B tracks cause
migraines. I like his stuff.

H:yeah I think the consumers of today are more about visuals than anything so we do feel obligated to give them that “look” but we prolly won’t do it to the annoying level of Lil B but there will be a lot more videos and video blogs

What do you spend most of your money on besides your home and food?
Was there a time in your life when you were crazy like me and a lot of
your money went to buying music?

H: yeah most def bought a lot of music at one pooint wÉ all have really but now I just spend it on sneakers
Z: I take a lot of trips
IMS: Loud…you know Keshia Cole?

If you could put someone’s face on a new American dollar bill
currency, who would it be?

H: Obama
Z: Me
IMS: Tupac

Have you guys ever thought of doing a track sampling Betty Davis
(Miles Davis’s hot as funk wife)?

H: bro we’d sample you if it sound good lol


Main Attrakionz – Power

Main Attrakionz, Bay Area’s best rap duo — the world’s best rap duo. Part of Green Ova Underground. Part of the freshest crew of rappers and producers working in America today, and after Alabama’s scene’s success, these are the new saviors of rap, no doubt. There’s a lot of classic tunes already laid out by zoned out MondreM.A.N. and Squadda B and so a person could check out Blackberry Kush or Best Duo Ever or Chandelier or their solo tapes. Or check out Datpiff.com and search for some of their earlier stuff. There’s at least three hundred tracks already easily available to download and most of their shit is better than most mainstream rap. Check out this vid they put out last month, it’s simple, funky, teenage, stylish, sk8 park zoned out, and musically amazing.

Vancouver Is Awesome Book Club

VANCOUVER IS AWESOME Book Club is on Wednesday, May 25th, and in prep for the event, Lizzy Karp’s been posting illustrations I did for the book on the VIA site. For more info, check it.

Q&A: novelist Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer’s novels shouldn’t be spoiled. Even though nothing can spoil the fun of reading her books. Her writing has no expiry date that I can find. Timeless kind of prose, brilliant in many ways at once on every page. Still, I almost spoiled this interview by accidentally asking for an answer from Meg Wolitzer that would make her reveal what’s going to be one of the fun pleasures of reading to the end of her latest, The Uncoupling. So I edited that question out. If you’d like to know the ending, look elsewhere, others couldn’t resist. No biggie, like I said, it’s the reading of her flawless organic tell-all prose that’s the pleasure.

Meg Wolitzer lives in Manhattan, where she writes playful novels full of every imaginable kind of voice and flawed, wonderful characters. She observes them and disturbs them, she gives her characters  public and private selves, and lets us see the contrast. She plays with shape and form and duration in her novels, using memory, media, real history, and intimate family details to spin wonderful, page-a-minute stories. The Uncoupling, her new novel, is not her first to consider the mating dance our first step into magic realism. The Ten-Year Lap, her novel from 2008, and before it, The Wife, The Position, and her first, Surrender, Dorothy, all discover real, vividly real scenarios and depictions of love and our relationships that would be absurd and impossible to consider were it not for great literature to invent a way.

How would you describe the way the action unfolds in your latest novel, The Uncoupling?

My novel involves a magic spell (I never thought I would use the words “my novel” and “magic spell,” in the same sentence), that is cast upon a suburban town, causing all the women to turn away from men in bed.  The action, such as it is, unfolds subtly, in that it’s really a kind of inaction–a mass refusal.  I follow the spell as it wafts through the town, and I go in and out of the bedrooms and psyches of the women and teenaged girls in question.

I wonder if in writing this novel you observed certain myths of the American sex life that your story was able to transgress or highlight?

I think there’s a truism in American culture that everyone wants sex all the time, and that to be healthy is to be strongly sexual.  This began with Freud, I guess; if you were sexually repressed back then, you were seen as ill.  But actually, I don’t think that sex is always the imperative in one’s life.  There are vicissitudes, and I wanted to acknowledge that, at least metaphorically.

Sex is some tricky language. There’s even an award for doing it poorly! You don’t get that for writing a family dinner scene. Who are the top writers on the themes of sex you might have looked at?

For a book about sex, there’s very little sex in The Uncoupling, because it’s about that aspect of life being taken away.  But let’s see, in novels without magic spells or sex strikes, I like some of the sex scenes in… Jenette Winterson’s work, and in Jonathan Franzen’s.

Does theatre still have magical properties? — what parts of performance and rehearsal and line interpretation did you enjoy writing about?

I think all great literature–whether it’s meant to be only read, or read and performed, is highly powerful, and can change everything.  That’s part of the premise of my book.  There are lots of “spells” floating around out there in life, including the spell of art, which in some instances has lasted from ancient times all the way up until now.

Is there a play you’ve seen recently that made you wish you could have watched all the rehearsals?

I am going to see “Arcadia” by Stoppard tomorrow; it’s one of my favorites.

[enough Time passes before publishing this interview that I can ask] What did you think of the play, now that you’ve seen it?

I actually found that I preferred reading the play, and I am not sure if it was this particular production, or simply the fact that the words fly around your head in Stoppard, and I as a writer can’t help but want to linger on them. Some of it was extraordinarily moving, of course.   (For me, all you have to say is “Time passes,” and I am basically weeping.)

If you wrote a stageplay, what might it be about?

I actually am planning to write a musical with a musician friend.  We are just starting to think what it will be.  I have a fantasy about the ache of a play like “Our Town,” but with zesty music.

Are you interested in actors?

Sure.  They are often much more beautiful than writers!  Also, the actors I have met seem open to lots of different kinds of writing, and their interpretations of character are sometimes startling and not “fixed.”

This is a writing question and it turned into a long whopper: Your novels are lively relationships, and there are main characters, and through them we meet so many different people, secondary characters, and hear their stories told in so many different styles. The characters’ dialogue, the newspaper clippings. and announcements, letters, interviews, and all laid out in this fine, smooth order —  what is your technique for developing these numerous voices, all appearing in and out of narrative and scenes and chapters, what effort to find that pace you like and the fluidity and continuity?

A while ago I had an insight (well, I think it was an insight) that the whole concept of “backstory,” or “flashback” was fallacious.  Most of our lives are back-story, aren’t they?  I am sitting here typing, but I am also thinking about something that happened to me this morning, and something that happened to me in my childhood.  It goes back as much as it goes forward, and I think ordering parts of a novel for “momentum” can be a mistake, and goes against the grain of fiction.  The ordering that I do more closely resembles free-associations.  Only later, during, say, a second draft, will I go in and heighten momentum on purpose.

At what point in the writing process do your characters get named?

They get named very, very early; then their names sometimes get changed very late.  But one of the pleasures for me (as I am sure is true for all writers) is the naming.  We know when a name is right, though sometimes we can’t explain why.  I like the way the unconscious works during the picking of names, leading the writer toward certain qualities in a character that a name either amplifies, or desperately tries to hide.

Do you toy over how major events play out or basically write them as they come to you, revise, and move on?

I barrel through as they come to me.  Later, looking them over, I am often appalled, and so I revise.

Are you able to talk a bit more about how you like to develop and reveal aspects of your characters?

I never really picture the characters, but instead I just let them kind of appear as the ideas in a story deepen.  Once the ideas solidify, I try to enrich the characters; I never want them to just “be” there like people idly sitting in a park.  I want them to have some kind of dynamic role, even if I don’t initially know what it is.

What’s a story got to do under your typing fingers to make you feel awake to its potential?

The writing has to excite me, thrill me, make me want to rip through it.  I love that crazy, sick, overstimulated feeling you get when you’re writing well.

Do you think a person can see themselves as well as we can see the actions of characters in novels?

No, I think we are all blind to ourselves for most of our lives.

Are people in it together or inherently more selfish?

In life?  We are frightened of dying and need solace all the time.  Selfish, definitely, but human, which makes it all understandable.

Do you write short stories?

Not usually.  I tend to like the big bag of a novel.

What’s an important film for you?

“The Lady Vanishes,” by Alfred Hitchcock.  Funny, frightening, moving, beautiful, and old now, very old.

Do you go see any foreign films in the movie theatres?

Yes, once in a while, although more and more my movie-watching takes place at home.

Who is a really great auteur type filmmaker you can’t get enough of?


What’s some of your favorite short stories?

Alice Munro’s “Child’s Play.”  Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.” James Joyce’s “Clay.”  “Delmore Schwartz’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.”

Who writes the wildest short stories?
Mary Robison is pretty wild.  James Joyce is too.

Do you hang out at many of the interesting-sounding literary or other NYC events that the rest of the world’s agape over when they read NYer etc, must it all balance with hunkering down over the keys, writing?
Most of my friends are writers, so I guess when we get together it’s a writers’ thing, in a way.  We do go to readings and lectures in NYC, certainly.  As far as whether the world would be agape… Does the world want to sit around and eat cheese with writers and talk about books?  Maybe in, oh, 1982 it did, but I don’t think it does to that degree anymore.   All the writers I know are nervous about the future of books and writing, but everyone balances the cheese-eating and even reading-going with serious productivity.  We don’t know what will happen, but we just keep doing what we know how to do.  What else is there?

What’s a remarkable novel you’ve read recently?
Here’s a great one:  Old Filth, by Jane Gardam.  It’s masterful!  (See, I even used an exclamation point.  I felt the need to exclaim over this one…)

Zomby ‘▽’

Zomby’s been releasing new tracks this month. All are good. Drums galore. Reminds me of Mujava in his love for them. Dedicated to all those turtles out there who’ve lost their shells.

Odd Future, Tyler the Creator

great video, crazy lyrics, Tyler the Creator and his friends from Odd Future Wolf Gang and MellowHype are defining rap for 2011

Ben Marcus Q&A

Ben Marcus is an American author living in New York City, with two books, The Age of Wire & String and Notable American Women, as well as two minibooks, The Father Costume (a collaboration with artist Matthew Ritchie),  and recently, The Moors. He will publish a new novel, The Flame Alphabet, next year with Knopf. His short fiction and editorial has appeared in Conjunctions, The Believer, McSweeney’s, Tin House, &c. and besides an important selection for Conjunctions in a folio titled Sticks & Stones, Marcus wrote an influential essay in 2005 for Harper’s Magazine titled,

Why experimental fiction threatens to destroy publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and life as we know it:

A correction

in which Marcus heartily chides those who might agree with his cheeky title and “defends experimental fiction against critics, Jonathan Franzen in particular, who disparage it.” It seems American culture is very concerned with the “value” of fiction. I’ve always agreed with Marcus that experimental fiction has no more or less value than any other kind. Social realism has its value stitched right into its face like a baseball. Experimental fiction has something more like the value of a campfire.

This email was conducted by e-mail.

Q The reason I felt prompted to ask you some questions was the publication of your new work, The Moors. I was itching to read some new fiction from you. It always feels like it’s been a while, because the work you publish between book projects is so compact. How did this mini-book come about?

It was first published in Tin House, and then Madras Press asked if they could issue it as a small book, with proceeds, several million dollars, no doubt, going to charity. I chose the library in Brooklin, Maine, where I live in the summer. An amazing library run by terrific people.

Q What other recent writing have you published that I might have missed?

Not so much. I’ve spent the last two years working on a book, so I didn’t publish much other than reviews.

Q The Moors is about a fraught interaction between employees in a section of an office so creepy and ‘misconceived architecturally’ that all it’s good for is stashing a coffee cart. What attracted you examine the reveries compacted in this awkward moment?

I wanted to write as close into a character as I could. It started that way. A man crippled by the smallest social encounter. Not just crippled, destroyed. I wanted to listen in on his thoughts and find the story’s conflict inside his head.

Q Some people thrive in office environments while others suffer, and architecture and sociability have so much to play in this success. Do you hope the kind of strenuous inner life your main character has offers him an escape from office life or is his language and fretting a symptom of the deep office doldrums?

I don’t see much of an escape for him. His inner life is just so assaultive and not nurturing at all. And then there’s his situation at home, which you only learn of at the end.

Q Which great architect created the cruelest offices spaces, in your estimation?

Who designed the Roman Coliseum? That guy.

Q What was the best office you ever worked in?

I worked in an office where the bathroom was out in a shared hallway, for which you needed a key from our receptionist. That was back when I ate a lot of soup, chased with bottled water, and I had to pee every twenty minutes, which meant I had to keep going back to the receptionist’s desk to get a key, undergoing her highly curious stare. And then everyone in the office would see me leaving, and returning. Fairly high scrutiny. I didn’t last very long there.

Q Who are the writers you admire for the structure of their internal narratives?

Donald Antrim, Nicholson Baker, Lydia Davis.

Q You wrote an important essay for Harper’s on the current conditions of the literary enterprise in which you defend an approach to fiction that is other than a giant social contract with America. Since the essay was published, can you give an update on what you’ve seen lately in publishing?

I packed my radar away for a little while after writing that essay.

Q I wonder if you care to say anything about Franzen’s novel Freedom I’d be very interested to know if you felt the need to read it, and a thumbnail of what its publication might contribute to your thoughts?

I haven’t read it but I hope to, soon.

Q What’s your favorite decade in literary history?

This one, so far.

Q If I were to ask you to suggest some living writers for an anthology, like you’ve done in the past for Conjunctions and Anchor, what are some stories or authors you would want to include that you’ve never before had a chance to select?

There’s a pretty long list, and I’m sure I’ll forget a lot of great people. Jane Unrue, Blake Butler, Doug Elsass, Deb Olin Unferth, Matt Derby, Gabe Hudson, Tom McCarthy, Jennifer Egan, Mark Doten, Chris Adrian, Lynne Tillman. It’s impossible to name everyone. That book came about from eighteen months of concentrated reading. When I couldn’t forget something it went into a pile. I asked everyone I knew what I should read, and I bought hundreds of books and sat and read through all of them. So, to be honest, I’d want to do that again, and listing names here is too much of a short cut. I love the writers above, and there are so many more that I also love, but in the end I’d want to lock myself away with a new roomful of work and see what would happen.

Q The claim made by a critic recently that American fiction is too insular…does this argument hold any water with you?

American Fiction isn’t an organized sports team with a single, driving purpose. There’s no single it about it. If I say that Canadian bread is too dry, I’m overlooking some terrific bakeries in Montreal, and elsewhere. Calling American fiction too insular is not, by the way, an ‘argument’. It’s a display of monstrous stupidity. Plus, just to be thorough here, let’s remind ourselves of some great insular fiction by writers such as Samuel Beckett, Thomas Bernhard, Jane Bowles, etc.

Q: On the back cover it says you’ll publish a new novel The Flame Alphabet with Knopf in 2012…what can you reveal about it?

It’s a book about language toxicity and what happens when children are the only people who can speak without getting sick. This gives them tremendous power, which they promptly abuse. It’s also a book about a family falling apart. And, among several other things, it’s about a little-known strain of Jewishness that is rigorously private, unadvertised, and conducted primarily alone in the forest.

Q How much time or silence or language or image did you need to write The Flame Alphabet? Are you still writing it?

It’s done. I wrote it in about eighteen months, after thinking about it, and faltering at it, for four years. For the first time since I had kids I went on a few residencies (I was on leave from teaching), and those were, sadly, crucial for concentrated writing time. Very great to work day and night without having to read Thomas the Train books, and yet at the same time very sad not to get to read Thomas the Train books each and every day to little, warm people who don’t hate me.

Q Is the cover going to be something special?

Haven’t seen it yet. Any day now.

Q Wire & String was kind of a father-inspired book. And Notable American Women was rather more mother-inspired. The Flame Alphabet is inspired by your other guardian, language?

This I don’t know. I don’t really think of my books as inspired by specific people or entities.

Q: Did you give yourself a specific constraint in writing The Flame Alphabet?

It needed not to deeply, horribly suck. That was a big constraint. Actually, for some reason, after finishing my last book, I decided I couldn’t write again about birds or cloth or wind, but somehow they got into this book too.

Q Do you have a process for revising your work? How do you know something needs fixing?

For me there’s always something that needs fixing. Sometimes I have to reckon with what I can’t fix, but, in general, everything can always be better, a lot better. The trick is not to go completely mad in the realization of this. But my process is as sexy as editing gets: I read what I’ve done and note my misgivings, which blacken the page. I line-edit, reading for sense and sound, and I try to cut what’s weak. Sometimes, if a whole scene is offensive, I re-write it from scratch. This is almost always a good idea, working from roughly the same content but attacking it with some different stylistic modulation. Once my own misgivings have been aggressively handled and I suffer the momentary delusion that I’m finished, I turn the work over to another reader, who usually waits a few weeks before somberly telling me that, as I suspected, there’s something treacherously rotten and flawed at the core of my project. I mourn and grieve and protest this, but days later I feel as happy as I’ve ever felt, and then get back to work. Pretty sexy stuff.


Kendrick Lamar

I really dig this fresh MC from Compton Kendrick Lamar and also his and School Boy Q are among the best rap aliases since Nikky 2 States. Lamar seems to be working with Dr Dre, which might explain why this sounds so awesome.

Babe Rainbow Q&A

Babe Rainbow is the name of Vancouver-based Cameron Reed’s experiments in electronic music. I’m a big fan of his sound, the deranged moods, funky beats, chilly melodies, and intelligent structures. This is fresh music. Babe Rainbow’s got a lot of buzz going, so I’m pleased to have this interview. He’s put out a lot of tracks online, including some great screwed&chopped remixes of rap classics, and a collection of brilliant ambient work. There’s also the Shaved E.P. on Warp Records, a really beautiful selection of tunes from spooksville, with an apt cover by local conceptualist James Nizam. This interview was conducted via e-mail.

Q: The name Babe Rainbow, is it a reference to your circle of friends?
No, I was taking an art class in school saw a painting by pop artist Peter Blake entitled ‘Babe Rainbow’. I remember thinking it would be a ridiculous band name, kinda mocking the whole ‘put two unconnected words together as a band name’ idea (Twin Shadow, Neon Indian, Crystal Castles, etc). So when I start BR I needed a name to make a MySpace page and just used that name. Now I’m stuck with it. I don’t mind it though.

Q: Is there a piece of gear or was it a piece of music that inspired you to try making music in this style?
I’ve always made these kinds of moody soundscapes. Even when I was younger recording acoustic guitar on a 4-track I was making these loops of layers and layers of guitar. They all ended up pretty dark or moody. When I started making this music I just did was cam natural.

Q: When you begin a fresh tune, do you start with a sample or a drum loop, or where does a song start?
More often than not it’s a tone. I just start fucking with sounds and play around. Sometimes I’ll start with drums. I’m just starting to get more into sampling now.

Q: Is anyone else in your family gifted with music?
No one else in my family really plays music. They enjoy it but in a sort of passive way. I’m the only person in my immediate family that is really immersed in it.

Q: I can’t immediately solve your song titles, what’s the naming process for Shaved and its various pieces?
There’s no real method to it. Often just the first thing that comes to mind.

Q: Do you include other musicians in BR creative process?
I’m trying to do a lot more collaborating. But no, it’s really just been me for the most part.

Q: Local weather, tree species, ocean tides, island system, seclusion, Satanism, oddities, what do you most identify with that is part of this place, our home, Vancouver, BC?
Isolation/seclusion. It’s weird,
I can’t imagine what it must be like for other cultures that immigrate here. It would make sense why many of them maintain and stick so closely to the culture from where they move from.

Q: What is your experience with audiences here in town? Do they dig BR?
Yeah, everyone is usually very supportive. Some have said very nice things. It’s not dance-y music so if people just stand and watch without leaving it’s a success.

Q: Are you involved in other music projects outside Babe Rainbow?
No, not really. I’d like to play guitar in a band again.

Q: Have you reached out to other artists to collaborate with on Babe Rainbow tracks?
Yes, I’ll be working with more MCs in 2011. I’m very excited about it.

Q: How about the importance of Dj Screw for electronic music these days?
I don’t really know how that became so massively injected into electronic, it’s interesting. I pull a lot of inspiration from hip hop so it made sense to me. I assume it’s the same for most of these other artists utilizing his techniques.

Q: You know a lot about Vancouver after dark via Music Waste and being sociable and so on, I wanted your recommendations for each night of the week’s best dark locations?
Biltmore, Goody, Astoria, Six Acres, China Cloud, Fortune, the Narrow. I end up at those places most often.

Q: What are some of the first places you played live in the city as Babe Rainbow?
Funky Winkerbeans and Astoria were my first live shows,
Q: Even the loud noise music in town has been pretty crunk in the past few years — I think the Mutators were the crunkest. Looking back at a band like The Mutators, what do you remember the most?
I feel really lucky to have been a part/been friends with so many people in that noise punk community. The Emergency Room and all of the music that came out of there inspired me beyond words.

So much raw, youthful energy. DIY on a hundred thousand trillion.

Q: Music here in Vancouver, often great. You put together a super mix of local stuff for CBC Radio 3. What was the first Vancouver group you ever heard? What’s the latest you’re excited about?
Probably bands like Red Light Sting, the Doers, and Black Rice were the first I remember seeing that really impacted me. Around 2002 or so.

There are tons of bands I like now. Basketball, No Gold, White Lung, Heavy Chains, Defektora, Bison, Peace, and so on forever. Too many to name.

Q: I wonder if the 21st century’s pace of rap mixtapes and rap beat production has put more pressure on dub styles like yours to drop a lot of tracks frequently, in order to not look like a slouch on the blogs, etc? I know the rap scene as a daily conversation, and electronic singles are starting to appear almost as regularly…?
Yeah, in some ways maybe the quality control has gone down but who care. Music is so temporal most of the time anyways. And in my case, I’m just doing it for fun, so if I like it even though maybe it’s not the best or polished, why not share it. No harm.

Q: does a contract – rider for a live gig really depend on how popular your music is with drug dealers?

Q: 2010’s critical rappers?
Curren$y had a huge year. Big fan. Freddie Gibbs. Odd Future. Dad Racist.

Q: What are your thoughts on Aphex Twin?
He is a legend that has inspired an entire generation of musicians. He needs to release more music.

Q: You’re the first Vancouverite signed to Warp records. Do they have a west coast A&R? how did you meet the label, how did that all come about?
No, I’ve been in contact with their A&R/creative director out of London. He’s great. He got in touch with me to do an EP after some of my songs started to do the rounds online.

Q: Warp has a special history in modern electronic music. When they signed you, did they tell you to ignore all that?
Ha! No, they did not, however, I do try to ignore it. Only because a lot of negative reviews of BR stuff is coming from old school IDM heads who just want Warp to relive their 90s output forever.

Q: what kind of relationship do you have with Warp, is it encouraging, tampering, or hands-off? What does an artist like BR want from a label relationship?
I’m always in contact, sending them songs, demos, or just shit I’m into. It’s a great relationship. It’s very encouraging. They are pretty ideal as far as my situation goes. If they were requiring me to go on huge tours to ‘move units’ it would be different.

Q: Is one question Warp asks you when you sign is if you plan on doing BR for the long haul and want to be making music as BR for ten-twenty years? Is commitment a factor in your decision to make music solo with Warp?
No, we’ve never said anything like that. If they wanted to stop working with me they probably just would.

Q: Your label has a pretty significant history of doing videos, and you’ve done a suite of vids for your E.P. I’m wondering if part of the fun is that Warp encourages you to make visuals for your tunes?
It’s mostly just me doing it without consulting them. Since it’s only an EP they don’t really have a budget for it so I’ve just made my own, relying on the good will of talented friends, or funded them myself.

Q: What’s your next project with visuals?
I’m working with two friends who both did their Masters at Emily Carr. I’m really excited. They are both insanely talented.

Q: Ok so what is your next project for Warp?
We’re talking about a couple more EPs. Looking to put out two EPs around April.

Q: Did Music Waste start with zero budget?
Music waste still has zero budget

G-Side 1.1.’11 – very Cohesive

G-Side, Block Beattaz, and Slow Motion Soundz, my best friends in the rap world, straight out of Hunstville, Alabama, just released another classic record on the first day of 2011. I’m really amazed by what they’ve done here. I feel like I’m listening to Low End Theory for the first time, with my jaw on the floor. A thinking, feeling, lyrical revolution in sound. I’m excited as hell for them. It’s a beautiful record. Amazing production by Block Beattaz, and lyrics that are epic from ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova, plus lots of Alabama rapper guest appearances. I’ve been listening to Alabama rap since the PRGz put out ‘Wood Grain,’ and score ”Lacs and ‘Prices’ by PRGz and T.I. as the greatest rap song ever written. G-Side are kind of like superheroes of this scene. Huntsville is really taking the hip hop sound to a whole new place, very independent, and very fuckin cool — fans of raps,  preview G-Side’s new album and buy it here.

Ehman & Zumpano collaboration

SP Ehman used to live in a fine old house on Pender Street in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver, where he and some other artists rented rooms. The kitchen was the place where they liked to do most of their artwork. Eventually Ehman moved out and others moved in. Then a treeplanter bought the house and had to evict everybody. When the new tenants moved out they had a massive housewrecker party, documented in this video.

The video is an animated tribute to the kitchen that once was a great art studio. The music is by Vancouver’s master of pathos, piano magician Jason Zumpano, and it was all made for the show Cyrillic Typewriter commissioned by ViVo, an artist-run centre here in town dedicated to audio-visual experimentation of all stripe.

4 Minutes of Fire

Some epicly good Baltimore dancing in the basketball courts.

Probably One of the Weirdest Videos I’ve Seen In A While

bowhunting flying carp

IBI- Bandz

My favorite place I’ve never been to is Hunstville, Alabama, home to the most inspirational rap scene in America: Slow Motion Soundz, G-Side, Untamed, Hood Headlinaz, Paper Route Gangstas, Block Beataz, Big P.O.P.E., Mali Boi, Dawgy Baggs, Yelawolf, Nikky 2 States, Mata, Jhi Ali, Money Addict, Jackie Chain, The Last Mr. Bigg, King South…I’m forgetting to mention the names of too many son god MCs, it’s a good scene. If someone sends me there to write about this rap scene, I’ll go. For now, I just listen to the music.

and recently DB49 and this one, IBI  — is it produced by Block Beataz? Must be.

On Tony Romano in The Walrus

Click this sentence or the picture to link to the introductory essay I wrote for a photoconceptual piece by the artist Tony Romano in the latest issue of The Walrus.

Memory Festival

My Nollywood Choice for Perfect Hallowe’en Movie