Pearl Jam. Bruce Springsteen. Neil Young. Radiohead. Green Day. Practically every rock icon who has seen the light of day in the last couple of decades has been on the business end of Danny Clinch‘s camera. Not only has Clinch emerged as his generation’s preeminent rock & roll photographer, he’s also directed videos for everyone from Tom Waits to the Foo Fighters, and his 1999 photo book, Discovery Inn, stands as one of the modern era’s finest collections of music photography. Now Discovery Inn has been updated for the iPad age, as an interactive app that includes not only the unforgettable images from the original book, but an abundance of additional multi-media material.
Clinch comes by his claim to the Annie Leibovitz mantle honestly, as he learned directly from her, having worked as an intern for her at the beginning of his career. “Her work ethic was amazing,” Clinch recalls, “She never took no for an answer. However she wanted to get things done she would get them done, she was just really driven.” Perhaps even more importantly, Clinch learned from her how to put his subjects at their ease. “She just has a way with people and getting them comfortable that not too many people have,” says Clinch, touching on a skill that is one of his own not-so-secret weapons.
The priority on Clinch’s own agenda is always remaining respectful of the moment while illuminating the essential aspects of whoever is standing in front of his lens. “I’m trying to capture something about the person that’s gonna resonate with the viewer,” explains Clinch, “I’m not overly directing them.” That naturalistic quality is ever present in Discovery Inn, a collection Clinch says first came to life as an idea through “these friends of mine who had started that company Razorfish. They had done really well for themselves, and they’re big supporters of the arts. They said ‘Let’s do a book of your photographs.’ We had no guidelines, no one was saying ‘Put this on the cover, it’ll sell better.’ We made this book and we wanted to keep it really simple.”
After a rough recording experience with 2009′s Armistice, New Orleans rockers MuteMath decided to reclaim creative control. The result is Odd Soul, a back-to-basics, bluesy record that speaks to the band’s live strengths, first and foremost. The album inspired the band’s upcoming Odd Soul Tour, which features breakthrough 3D video technology on top of stellar performances from both MuteMath and opening act Canon Blue. OurStage caught up with drummer Darren King to talk about how the band were able to revive their creativity, what gets him pumped up to perform and his goals for 2012.
OS: You had some difficulties with the making of [2009's] Armistice, specifically with songwriting and working with a new producer. What did you learn from that experience and how did it influence your approach to recording this time around?
DK: I learned a little bit about not making things any more difficult than they need to be. I learned, through that process, the most valuable lesson I learned in my career so far. Of course, there are difficulties and parts of it that are frustrating, but you’re not supposed to hate music. You’re not supposed to hate the process. It’s fine if it’s a little arduous, a little frustrating, if you get stuck and get writer’s block…all of that’s good. But there’s always supposed to be this passion in it, it’s not supposed to be just this uphill climb, feat of strength just go get through it. From that point on, I vowed to make it fun. And whenever it gets gross, I start over again, in regards to songwriting, or the process of creating. You’re supposed to feel like you’re cheating at life by getting to do this for a living. And I try to present that, I try to fight for that now, and a big part of that, oddly enough, was not having a producer for this record, and it being just the three of us.
OS: Odd Soul is the first album you’ve made without original guitarist, Greg Hill. How did this change affectyour approach to the new album?
DK: Todd [Gummerman, guitarist] didn’t come into the picture until after the album was finished, so we had all of the guitarists that any band would ever need, and our bass player, Roy [Mitchell-Cárdenas]. [Roy] did a marvelous job of bringing all kinds of creativity and spark to the process to the process. I think he had a lot pent up in him too; he’s a talented guy.
He was a guitar player before he did anything else, so that was an easy transition. He stepped up, too. He’s a father of two, and both he and our lead singer were expecting children during the recording of this album. Roy would drive all the way from Miami to New Orleans, he’d drive through the night, and show up with a great attitude. It was really inspiring. And now we have our new guitarist. As we were finishing our songs in the studio, I would send them to him, and he would tell us that they were fun to play. He worked really hard to get ready for his audition. We were expecting to audition Todd in person, but he got to a place where he knew the songs well enough that he got tired of waiting for us, and he’d just email us his takes. He would play the songs, record himself, sing along, play along and he’d email it to me…and I thought that was ballsy! It made it easy; definitely our first audition via email!
OS: It’s rare to see a drummer that is so involved in the songwriting process. Does Mutemath have a certain method for how you write together?
DK: I think I’m more involved than you even know! Right now, I’m putting together our live video show and it’s time consuming, but I love it. This is probably the first time I’ve mentioned this…we’re doing a very exciting, 3D video show on this next tour. It’s been very tedious, but we’re working with some people in New York and some people in Nashville and we decided to try and go all in on this tour to make it big. So currently, my days are spent programming and animating video for this live show…it’s a new-found interest of mine.
OS: Odd Soul has a more blues-influenced sound than Armistice. What was the cause behind this shift in sound? Were there any particular artists that influenced you while writing this record?
DK: It’s so funny how the influences that I think I’m going for the most, don’t really seem to be the ones that come through in the end product. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, either. But Roy’s playing opened up a lot of opportunities for us. All we were going for was something that would go great live. All the bluesy-ness didn’t so much come from us saying, “Let’s try to do something a little Jimi Hendrix-y,” or, “Let’s do some Led Zeppelin riffs.” It was really that we didn’t want to make a sleepy album. We didn’t want to make something that would be convoluted, live. We wanted to make something that would allow us to play to our strengths as a live band. The whole idea behind the record was to set up the tour that we’re about to do now. The big tour, with the video show and the lights and all of the antics. After Armistice, we released a live record, and I remember reading a review of it that said something like, “Why is this MuteMath’s best record? Why is their best record this live record?” And I thought, well, it probably makes sense that it is, to them. There’s probably some switch that we turn off when you go into the studio. Music can be a little like taxidermy. You can start replacing the real stuff with the glass eyeball and get real meticulous with making things seem real. And I think it has to be that way, to an extent, whenever you do music in the studio. So we tried to make [Odd Soul] sound more real.
OS: You’ve had your songs featured on the soundtracks for major motion pictures like Twilight and Transformers. How have these placements changed or impacted your fan base?
DK: Don’t forget The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2! Yeah, we did get some younger fans through Twilight, and I loved it. We got some hatred through Transformers. Some people loved it, but there were some hardcore Transformers fans that were livid that it wasn’t heavier, like…[metal growl]
OS: Before the new album dropped, Mutemath played some smaller clubs on the Odd Soul Introduction Tour. How will this upcoming tour be different from those shows?
DK: It will be longer. Right now, I’m not making any promises, but right now, the setlist we have has about twenty to twenty-two songs in it. We’ll have a great opening act in our friend Canon Blue, he’s out of Nashville, on Rumraket Records. He’s great. A great musician, great songwriter. We just decided, at this point, not to take out bands that we don’t like, but will sell tickets.
I’d just really rather not subject our fans to that anymore. Actually, we’ve done a pretty good job at taking out artists that I like. But we had a couple opportunities to tour with bands, and we’re gonna go for quality. We do want to make this the most absurd show we can and I want everyone to feel like they got way more than their money’s worth after the show, and I want to make it the best tour we’ve ever done. I’m certainly excited about this 3D video. We’ve got this really neat set behind us, and I think it’s technology that’s going to be pretty common in a year. I’m glad that we’re doing it now…I feel like we’re ahead of the game if we do this tour this way. If we did it next year, someone else will have done it before us. I know [electronic musician] Amon Tobin has done crazy stuff with projecting on 3D structures…you see it a lot with electronic artists, but I don’t know a band that’s done it yet on a tour. So the goal, unless someone sneaks in there next week, we’ll be the first band to take that kind of stuff on the road.
OS: You mentioned Canon Blue earlier…what can people seeing him for the first time expect from his performance?
DK: He’s an electronic artist. He’s opened for Miike Snow, I think that was a really good fit. So, stylistically, fans of Miike Snow will also enjoy Canon Blue. He’s done a good job with mixing a lot of really beautiful elements with some intense, glitchy electronics, as well. I know he got the Amiina Quartet to play on his record, the same group that played for Sigur Rós. So he’s got a lot of pretty strings on his record, and he’s a good singer too…it’s going to be my favorite tour, I’m pretty positive of it. Unless something goes wrong! [laughs]
OS: You guys are known for having a pretty wild live show. What inspires your stage presence? Do you tendto be more consistent with the performance aspect of the set, or more spontaneous?
DK: I’ll only speak for myself, because I think the other guys would give you a different answer… but I’ll tell you what makes me wild on stage. I’m a little hungry for attention, and you certainly get it whenever you perform. People clap for you after every single song. I can’t think of anything else where I get that much attention. From the very first show we ever did, God, it got me really excited. I’m not an only child, but my brother and sister were both teenagers when I was born, and I was just alone a lot. I would spend hours in my bedroom playing drums, pretending there was an audience in front of me. Or I would put on my Paula Abdul record and dance as a background dancer and pretend there was an audience. I look back and realize that a very large portion of my time alone as a kid was pretending I was in front of a bunch of people.
I’d even do speeches. I memorized the Gettysburg Address and I would do it in my bedroom for, I guess, a bunch of soldiers? I was raised in church, and Paul did this too, he’d preach, his family would make him preach for people…and I would preach to no one in my room. That was just my thing, I guess…pretending I had an audience. And when I finally got one, I think I got way too excited. I just get pumped up. It’s exhilarating. And to be honest with you, I’m addicted to it. Sometimes I play hard because I love it. If I’m tired but I’m still playing hard, it’s because I don’t want it to end. I’m scared of the day when I don’t have an audience in front of me. I don’t like myself when I go too long without playing a show. I’ve gotten a little bit better about it, I think being married helps [laughs]. If one person approves of you after seeing you at your worst, then that does mean more than a bunch of people who think you’re cool whenever you’ve got a bunch of smoke and mirrors. I used to go through intense withdrawal, really bad, whenever we didn’t tour enough [laughs]. So yeah, it’s kind of an addiction thing. I get excited about people, I’m like a dog! [laughs]
OS: Since we just started a new year, what’s something you hope to accomplish this year that you haven’t done yet?
DK: Like my resolutions? My New Year’s resolutions are: to not sit down to pee, because I end up playing Words With Friends on my phone…just sitting on the toilet for too long. It’s just such a waste of time. Being on the toilet for five minutes after you’ve gone to the bathroom is just dumb. I’m also going to stretch daily. As a band, we’ve already made a couple music videos, we want to make another one. We get to go to Australia and we want to make a good impression there. And I want to be a good son, a good sibling, a good husband, a good drummer. OK, here’s the real one: to get into a creative habit with music. When we’re control freaks like this and we’re working on video and working on the tour so much, I’m starting to miss getting to make new songs. So just to do a little bit every day, with songwriting, so it doesn’t take too long to come out with the next record.
This is definitely a show you don’t want to miss! Catch MuteMath’s Odd Soul Tour on these dates:
01/26 Houston, TX at House of Blues
01/27 Austin, TX at Stubb’s
01/28 Dallas, TX at House of Blues
01/29 Tulsa, OK at Cain’s Ballroom
01/31 Denver, CO at Gothic Theatre
02/02 Los Angeles, CA at Club Nokia Live
02/03 San Diego, CA at 4th and B Concert Theater
02/07 San Francisco, CA at The Regency Ballroom
02/08 Sacramento, CA at Ace of Spades
02/10 Seattle, WA at Showbox SoDo
02/11 Spokane, WA at Knitting Factory
02/12 Boise, ID at Knitting Factory
02/14 Salt Lake City, UT at Club Sound
02/16 Kansas City, MO at Beaumont Club
02/17 Chicago, IL at House of Blues
02/18 Minneapolis, MN at First Avenue
02/28 St. Louis, MO at The Pageant
03/01 Grand Rapids, MI at The Intersection
03/02 Detroit, MI at St. Andrew’s Hall
03/03 Columbus, OH at Newport Music Hall
03/04 Cleveland, OH at House of Blues
03/07 Boston, MA at House of Blues
03/08 New York, NY at Best Buy Theater
03/09 Philadelphia, PA at Trocadero
03/10 Washington D.C. at 9:30 Club
03/11 Norfolk, VA at The Norva
03/14 Charlotte, NC at Amos’ Southend
03/16 Ft. Lauderdale, FL at Revolution
03/17 Orlando, FL at House of Blues
03/18 Atlanta, GA at The Tabernacle
Is this a sign of the first wave of ’90s nostalgia? In the past few weeks it feels like we’ve gone back in time 15 years and returned to the age of the big music video. It’s about time too, as memorable music videos have been too few and far between lately.
Dr. Dre has been slowly drumming up the buzz with little snippets here and there from his long, long, long awaited album Detox. At one point the rap Chinese Democracy, Dre appears to be making good on his word that the album will be released in the near future, likely some time in April (Dre himself has been quoted as setting the release date for 4/20 – ha ha – but that’s a Wednesday. Albums are typically released on a Tuesday in the US).He’s already released the first single from the album, “Kush” and just released the video for second single “I Need a Doctor (feat. Eminem & Skylar Grey)”. While the video for “Kush” was appropriately epic visual for any mainstream hip-hop single, “I Need a Doctor” takes things to a whole ‘nother level.
The seven minute long video tells Dre’s entire life story (or at least the parts we care about) from a montage to his early 90s gangsta heyday to his collaborations with Eminem. Then a little car crash throws a wrench into the mix but it only serves to facilitate his recovery and his big beefy return to form. Seriously, the guys gotten jacked. His pockets must be swelling too – from the Ferrari 360 Moderna to Dre post workout Gatorade, the product placement in the video is off the chain.
Rihanna has remained as ubiquitous as ever, continuing to have a spot in seemingly every Top 40 hip hop and R&B song currently released (we’ll talk more about Kanye’s new video, and her appearance in it, a little later on). Rihanna capped off the month in big music videos with the visuals accompanying her new single “S&M”. While the song is a hit on pop radio, the video has, unsurprisingly, generated a lot of controversy.
In addition to the expected reaction to the risque imagery, photographer David LaChapelle claims that the video copies directly from some of his past work. LaChapelle, whose photos have appeared in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and GQ said, “The next time you make a David LaChapelle video you should probably hire David LaChapelle” in a tweet which has since been deleted. LaChapelle has also brought a lawsuit against the director of the video over the alleged infringement. You can check for yourself and take a look at side by side comparisons of the video and some of LaChapelle’s work.
Kanye West, not one for small gestures, just dropped the video for “All of the Lights”, the fourth single from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The track, the centerpiece of an album referred to by at least one critic as “the Sgt Pepper of hip hop” is an oversized, blown up banger. Such a track needs a striking, standout visual to accompany it and Kanye did not disappoint.
Borrowing heavily from the art style of French filmmaker Gaspard Noe’s Enter the Void, the clip is highly stylized while not as crazy over-the-top as his video for “Runaway.” Effervescent colors swirl and the seizure inducing flashing lights pervade the clip as video switches from the story arc presented in the song’s lyrics to shots of Rihanna and her boobs in some kind of boob harness. A does of controversy for this one too: the video has gotten a warning added to the beginning of the clip on YouTube alerting viewers as to its potentially seizure inducing nature. Overall, B+ for the video—it gets points for Rihanna and the quality art direction but penalized for Kanye’s sleeveless shirt.
We can’t make mention of some of the big videos of the past month without forgetting Britney Spears and Radiohead. Britney came back with a bang, or, if you prefer the metaphor presented in the video for “Hold It Against Me”, like some glammed-up meteor impact. You can check out our coverage of it from earlier this week here. Radiohead may have had the biggest or the most hyped releases of the past few weeks with their announcement and sudden release of their new album The King of Limbs sent shockwaves through the Internet. Adding to the stir was the video for the first single off the album, “Lotus Flower”. If you haven’t seen it yet you’re doing yourself a disservice.
The question that is begged by all these big premieres is, “Why?” With the industry struggling to generate revenue from the traditional methods you would think they would be more hesitant to back large, big budget affairs for videos. This all harkens back to the last golden age of pop music, the mid to late ’90s (Boy Bands, Girl Groups and Will Smith) which went hand in hand with the age of the multi-million dollar music video. This is also the last time MTV would play music videos, ever. While they’re all accruing millions of views and thousands of comments online, why is it now that artists are returning to the visual medium, to the budget-busting music video, to make a statement? Only time will tell if such a strategy will work. For now, let’s just enjoy the visuals.
Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, artists are no longer forced to rely on posters in record store windows or word of mouth to get fans pumped about their upcoming releases. Whether it’s as simple as tweeting the album art, as Gaga did, or as elaborate as setting up an online scavenger hunt for your fans, like Underoath did, musicians are coming up with a plethora of new ways to create buzz about their work. Most recently, it was Britney Spears who teased her fans into an online frenzy with a series of short YouTube clips leading up to the release of her (totally bizarre) video “Hold It Against Me.”
The pop princess started releasing 5- to 8-second teasers thirteen days before the video’s premier, giving fans access to a new one every day until the video debuted on February 17. (You can check out MTV’s analysis of all fourteen teasers here.) Not a bad move by Spears — or her marketing team. According to YouTube Trends, the first clip was viewed more than 2.4 million times, and while not every teaser garnered that many views, they were viewed almost 13 million times in total.
Although Spears isn’t the first artist to arouse our curiosity with bizarre teasers, she’s certainly been one of the most successful. MTV even held an hour-long discussion and analysis following the premier of “Hold It Against Me,” because apparently this video is about as important as the State of the Union Address.
If all this speculation and fanfare has you shaking your head, you’ll appreciate the approach Radiohead took last week. The band made a surprise album announcement on the 14th about their album The King Of Limbs, which was scheduled for release on the 19th.
While that left fans a meager five days to brace themselves for the new material, the Internet was all-aflutter with news of the release. Fans scrambled to purchase the deluxe-edition newspaper album, dropping as much as $53.00 for the combination newspaper album and WAV download. And then, the band surprised their listeners by releasing the album 24 hours early, along with the video for the first single, “Lotus Flower.” King Of Limbs didn’t appear to suffer at all for its lack of promotion; Radiohead, Thom Yorke, The King of Limbs and Lotus Flower all became worldwide trending topics on Twitter almost immediately after the album was released.
So which method is better? Did two weeks worth of teasers really get people more excited about Britney’s video? Would Radiohead have sold even more records if they made an announcement months in advance? It’s tough to say, because in truth, artists as popular as Britney or Radiohead probably don’t have to worry too much about selling albums. Britney’s fans will go crazy over her new video no matter how much she promotes it, and Thom York and co. certainly aren’t going hungry any time soon. But for artists looking to generate buzz and increase their fan base, maybe teasers can be a useful method of promotion.
If you’re looking for a laugh, check out the videos for both “Hold it Against Me” and “Lotus Flower,” and marvel at the fact that at this point in her career, Britney’s dancing may be worse than Thom Yorke’s.