Monthly Archives: October 2009

Paint a Picture – Chris Thiessen

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I started skating when I was 18 in my senior year of high school. I understand that’s pretty late for many people, but there was something about the rawness of street skating that attracted me to it. Not many people understand how expressive and artistic skateboarding can be, you’re using the concrete to articulate your feelings through pure speed and motion. The best skaters are the ones who’s lines are not consistently planned, but rather improvised and flow with the natural dynamics of the city and its many street obstacles.

I have always felt that Chris Thiessen‘s skate videos epitomized that same ebb or flow. He’s a very talented filmer and I recently had the opportunity to speak with him about skateboarding and how it relates to art.

Your latest skate video Hellawood has a lot of lo-fi camera angles and production work. It’s very artsy and the editing style that you utilize is not what’s commonly seen in skate videos. How are you influenced by art in terms of your filming and editing process?

I think I utilize influences from videographers and videos that I like and enjoy. A lot of my favorite videos are from the nineties. I like the feel videos from the nineties have, they weren’t super produced, but they have a rawness to them. For instance, Dan Wolfe’s Eastern Exposure, it’s a video with a lot of pushing and raw street skating. Toy Machine and Alien Workshop videos during that time were amazing too. Toy and Alien are companies that have always had a strong artistic feel and it shows in their videos from that time and in their videos now. So, a lot of the influence on Hella’wood and the way I produced it was inspired by videos and companies I love from the nineties.

What forms of art impact how you conceptualize and plan your projects?

Video and music

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Do you deliberately choose certain subjects (ie your favorite skaters) for your videos?

No, it’s more whoever I’m usually hanging out with. The last two videos that I’ve done have featured my friends. It’s just having fun with friends and working on a project together.

Have you worked on different concepts, scenarios and even storylines that you would like to capture on film?

Well…not so much scenarios or story lines, because when you go skating it is usually just barging a spot and getting what you can with whoever is skating. Which is a good thing because its rad to see how stuff turns out afterwards. Plus you can come across stuff while you’re out and about that is visually interesting, like in the city. But, having a concept is good because it motivates you. Like, it you have an idea of how you want to do something it gets you hyped to work towards it. With Hella’wood, it was not a huge project that we worked on for a year or anything like that. It was me realizing that I had a sufficient amount of footage sitting there not going towards any projects so I thought it would be cool to put it towards a short film. Instead of making it into a predictable skate edit, I thought it would be fun and unique to mess all the footage up and tweak the video out. I think I worked on it for two weeks and that was it since I already had used almost all the footage going into it. I wanted to do something different and have fun with it. There were no guidelines on making Hella’wood look perfect, just messing it up with music that I like and having a good time working on it.

Skateboarding and art seem to naturally mesh because it’s usually the most flashy or unique and visually appealing graphics that make kids want to purchase certain decks. Have you seen any kind of merging or cross sections between the skate and art scenes in Atlanta?

Yeah, I know that the art and skate scenes usually intertwine with each other as far as people being friends and everything, but I am honestly not that familiar with the art scene in Atlanta (laughs). So I cant really answer that question.

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Which artists and musicians influence you the most (or do you even look to these realms for inspiration)?

I’m listening to a lot of Japanther and old Rolling Stones stuff right now. Artists that influence me are videographers and artists in the skate world mainly… Jon Holland, Chris Ray, Kevin Barnett, Greg Hunt, Bill Strobeck, Josh Stewart, Ty Evans, Jason Hernadez, Ed Templeton, and so on.

Do you ever go to a skate spot and then drop by a super trendy art gallery afterwards to enjoy food, wine, and art ala the Gonz and Chris Pastras?

Nah, haven’t really done that before. Although when I was in high school, my friends and I were in Tampa for the Tampa Pro contest and after skating the city, we went to a party/art show and there were original paintings by Ed Templeton there. Ed and Toy Machine are a huge influence to me, so that was rad to see as a youngin’.

What projects do you currently have in the works?

Just little things with my friends right now. I want to do a fall time edit with my friends in Atlanta.

Any last words?

Have fun 🙂

ryan fitch

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Click here to watch Hella’wood

Click here for the trailer to Meanwhile (another Thiessen flick)

(*The skaters featured are Candler Woods, Kris Markovich, Ryan Fitch and Rhett Freeman. All photos were taken by Christy Chaffin and Aaron Smith).

Worth Checking Out – The Dirty Dishes

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I never thought I would enjoy dirty dishes until now.  One of my good friends and fellow Hijacking Music comrades told me about a band called The Dirty Dishes. They are an indie post punk band from Boston and so far I’m really enjoying their material. They reminds me a more poppy and electronic influenced version of Faraquet. If you’re a fan of Q and Not U, Faraquet, the Medications or anything with Devin O’Campo’s name on it, you just might like this.

Dirty Dishes new record is entitled In the Clouds and you can stream it here.

*And for those of you wondering, yes, the guy on the cover really did jump that high.

November show calendar

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Wednesday, Nov. 4

Kingnaldo, Rova Zatella, Merkava @ the Masquerade

King Khan & the BBQ Show, Those Darlins, GG King @ the Star Bar

HEALTH, Chrissakes, Abandon the Earth Mission @ the 40 Watt

Thursday, Nov. 5

Adult Swim Presents Metalocalpyse: Mastodon, High on Fire, Converge @ the Tabernacle

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Nomo @ Variety Playhouse

Friday, Nov. 6

Growing, Fuck Buttons, Facehugger @ 529 Atl

Thursday, Nov. 12

Odist, Gunslinger, Miles From Pangaea @ the Clermont Lounge

Irreversible, Subrig Destroyer, Let Night Roar @ 529 ($3 show)

The Interns, The Working Title, O’Brother @ the Caledonia Lounge

Friday, Nov. 13

Leo Kottke @ Variety Playhouse

Quiet Hooves, Reptar @ the WonderRoot

Pigs on the Wing @ New Earth Music Hall

Tuesday, Nov. 17

Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys) @ Variety Playhouse

Wednesday, Nov. 18

White Denim, Brazos @ the Earl

Saturday, Nov. 21

J. Tillman (of the Fleet Foxes), Pearly Gate Music @ the Earl

Stokeswood @ Lennys

Pride Parade, Savagist @ Caledonia Lounge

Saturday, Nov. 28

Untied States, Can Can @ the Highland Inn Ballroom

Did You Hear About? – The Jungol & Odist

jungol halloween flyer

Did You Hear About? – It’s Elephants

its elephants lnstore final copy

Worth Checking Out – Phaseone

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Phaseone is a super talented electro/techno artist coming out of St. Louis. He’s notorious for remixing indie artists and making the remixes sound ten times better than the original (Check out his Animal Collective Daily Routine remix). He’s got a new mixtape out and it’s called White Collar Crime. Download it here.

Artist Profile – Baroness

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Baroness has been grinding on the stoner rock scene for close to seven years now. I first heard about them around 2004 and since then they have gone on several regional and national tours, signed to Relapse Records and are currently in the process of releasing a new record The Blue Record. I had the opportunity to speak with the band’s shaman and spiritual guru John Balzary. Here is the conversation that ensued.

When most people think of Savannah, the city conjures up images of the tremendous annual St. Patrick’s Day festival, historic homes and cemetaries, Tybee Island…pretty much everything written about in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. However, a thriving stoner rock/metal scene is not what comes to mind. Can you please describe the current music scene in Savannah?

There’s really not much of an established scene. There aren’t many musicians, but the people here really put a lot of effort into it and care about what they do. It’s more quality over quantity. There are just not that many people here. For instance, we’ll have our cd release party and the same 150 people show up over and over and over…and it’s been like that in Savannah for six or seven years.

Who are some of your favorite bands coming out of Savannah? What about the Atlanta area?

The scene we’re a part of is really small. Obviously bands like Kylesa and Black Tusk, I suppose I’m more familiar with the bands that don’t exist anymore. In Atlanta it’s about the same. Maybe Mastodon…it seems like a lot of younger bands come and go, but it’s still a tight-knit community in our scene.

Baroness just released a new album called The Blue Record. From a mainstream perspective, you’re still classified as a rookie/novelty act, what do you think when you see bands like Mastodon selling only 40,000 copies in their first week? How does that affect you and your label’s strategy in terms of marketing the record to fans and getting people to purchase the record instead of downloading it?

Honestly my thing is not about people purchasing records. My end point is not about selling records. It’s really more about the art as opposed to the “commercial packaging.” We enjoy throwing ideas around in the band to keep ourselves interested. However, I think it’s great when bands like Mastodon, who have the same roots as us, are doing well and get out there. There’s a community of bands and fans who enjoy this music and it’s good when the entire scene is elevated.

Aside from the departure of two guitarists (Brian Blickle and Tim Loose) Baroness has existed as a cohesive unit for six years, what has the journey been like? Would you change anything?

I would not change a single thing that has happened. We’re a process-oriented band, the reason we create the music we create is because it tests our mental and physical boundaries and stamina. That struggle and inertia is what we strive for. An easy week is something counterproductive to us. I love being put on the road and exposed, everything is raw. That’s what the real world and art is like, that’s what we’re about. We have potentially done things slowly and we try to maintain a certain amount of humility and gratitude. Ultimately, we are after the unattainable goals or goals that modify themselves after being reached.

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Describe the songwriting and recording process behind The Blue Record ?

It was similar to most of our writing processes. I’ll start with some broad ideas or concepts and apply these thoughts towards what I’ve done in the past. What I’ve done in the past, but in a progressive manner so that we’re growing. We assemble more parts and pieces. Pete (guitarist) and I are very critical from a personal standpoint, not really for pop sensibilities. During the writing process, especially in our earlier days, every riff had to say something to us, be personal and strike a chord within us. We work on these riffs until things start to become visible and once things become clear, we add bass and drums. Sequencing was very important so things could be properly structured and laid out. Once that happened, we practiced the shit out it in the practice room and laid down the record in the studio.

Baroness worked with John Congleton on this new record. He produced and engineered it. Congleton has worked with some big artists in the past (Explosions in the Sky, Black Mountain, the Roots, Erykah Badu, Marilyn Manson, the list goes on), how did having him in the studio affect the writing process?

I think we had this notion that he would be this hot shot dude with slick hair, but he’s not. He is very humble, honest and irreverent. It was like having someone else in the band, it didn’t feel like we were in a recording studio. His m.o is not some heavy handed, I’m at the helm relationship. His strength is his engineering know how and disarming personality. He trusted us, took our songs, ideas directions and put it through his filter. He allowed what we wanted to transpire. Looking back, he was such a pivotal point and familiarized us with things we did not know. It would not have been possible in the same way. He’s a fantastic producer and incredible guy. He was instrumental in the making of our record.

Well I’m sure you will garner John an even bigger clientele base after people read your kind words.

(Laughs) Yeah, hopefully.

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Your last album was called the Red Album and this one is the Blue Record. Are you trying to utilize colors in some sort of concept or theme?

That’s exactly what we’ve done. The thing is the material inside is so dense. Musically, artistically dense, there’s a lot of emotional response. It would be difficult to give our albums poetic titles that didn’t come off as pretentious or heavy handed. We want to leave it up to the audience and be open to interpretation.

John, you designed the artwork for the Blue and Red records, in addition, you do all the band’s artwork. What’s your artistic background like?

It’s the same as my musical background. I love making artwork when I’m not making music. I went to art school, didn’t graduate, but I’ve applied the training I received. It has always been in my past, you can look at my baby pictures and see me doing some kind of art. My parents were encouraging and allowed me to take chances…which I’m sure was risky for them. In a sense it’s not a super profitable career, but it’s a great job and I love it.

Baroness is signed to Relapse Records. Relapse has helped to catapult the careers of several artists, namely Mastodon and Neurosis. Do you view your current indie label as a stepping stone to a major or are you content where you’re at? Could you picture yourself going independent after fulfilling your label obligations?

Relapse is so incredibly nice and good to us. They have provided for us when we need them to. I am personally friends with so many people at the label. They have been hands off when it comes to our creativity and artistry. I have no reason to complain about anything and enjoy working with people I respect and give them their due respect.

What new artists have been influencing you lately?

I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to that.  I don’t think I can answer that the way you would like me to. When we toured on the Red album, we toured with some incredible bands and it was like going to school. We use what we learn on the road and from other bands. We’re constantly trying to address our weaknesses in order to push forward.

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Baroness will be performing with Kylesa at the Jinx in Savannah on Oct. 17.

To stream their new record, click here

Tour dates and other info is here