Friday, August 26, 2011

Our Idiot Brother

My review of Our Idiot Brother is in WE this week.









Starring Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by Jesse Peretz
Tired of summer comedies that rely solely on flying feces, projectile vomit or other bodily functions? Our Idiot Brother is the quintessential R-rated comedy for the art-house set: smart, emotional and truly funny — with occasional punctuation marks of witty vulgarity.

Ned (Paul Rudd) is a happy-go-hempy organic farmer who’s tricked into selling pot to a uniformed police officer. A few years later, Ned gets out of prison only to discover his dreadlocked girlfriend, Janet (a brilliant supporting turn from Kathryn Hahn), has moved on. So, he wears out his welcome at the homes of his three sisters: hipster Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), aspiring journalist Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and harried stay-at-home mom Liz (Emily Mortimer). Ned’s idealist ways throw his sisters’ secretly messed-up lives into total disarray but, of course, since Ned is more idiot savant than idiot, they eventually realize he’s a help, not a hindrance.

Herein, seemingly, lies Our Idiot Brother’s one drawback: Rudd is so affable and charming as Ned, more often than not the sisters are the ones who actually seem like idiots. But, thanks to the deft skills of scriptwriters Evegenia Peretz (the director’s sister) and David Schisgall, the film becomes a sort of  Rorschach test, depending on which character you identify with. That is, of course, if you can stop laughing.

Our Idiot Brother proves edgy comedy gold is possible with nary a staple-gunned scrotum or loose bowel movement. All you need is a great script with fully realized characters and a charming, quirky cast. In other words, Hollywood’s Holy Grail. —Andrea Warner

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wilson Phillips

My interview with Wilson Phillips is in this week's WE.

Wilson Phillips from left: Wendy, Carnie, Chynna

Wilson Phillips reaps ‘Bridesmaids’ rewards

Privileged daughters of rock royalty reaping the benefits of nepotism or three talented women crafting the most feel good, guilty-pleasure pop mantra of a generation? This is the great divide separating Wilson Phillips’ detractors and fans, of which both are legion. But suddenly, the band that disappeared quietly into karaoke obscurity is back with a vengeance thanks to the blockbuster comedy Bridesmaids, which features a cameo from Wendy and Carnie Wilson (daughters of troubled Beach Boys’ genius Brian Wilson) and Chynna Phillips (daughter of troubled The Mamas & The Papas leader John Phillips and singer Michelle Phillips), performing their infamous hit single “Hold On.” Now, for the first time since 1990, the year they became famous, the trio is back in Vancouver, performing at the PNE on September 1. WE spoke with the longtime friends over a conference call about their new reality show, their fathers’ musical legacy and their return to the spotlight.

WE: How does it feel to be “back,” as it were?
Carnie: It feels great. I was thinking about this the other day. God, I remember when I used to do things on my own, whether it was promoting a TV show or something, and I thought, I love doing this. It’s fun. But there was always a little part of my heart that felt sad, like I wanted Wendy and Chynna next to me, you know? And now all of a sudden we’re doing it again, and it really made me happy last night [at the Do Something Awards].
Chynna: Yeah, I got the same feeling, too. It was just really nice to hear them all saying, “Hey Wilson Phillips! Chynna, Carnie, Wendy!” And looking over, having our picture taken with our arms around each other. It’s just a warm feeling to be back in the groove, doing what we love, back in our element and our fans being able to see us again. There’s so much synchronicity going on right now.

Were you surprised to get the Bridesmaids call?
Wendy: Yes, we were. We’d never been in a movie together. We were so excited because we knew that Judd Apatow was a part of it and the girls from Saturday Night Live. We had no idea what kind of a movie it was, what script and we just went in blindly and just went for it. But it was such a great thing that we did it. We’re happy it was a big hit and it gave us a lot of publicity, which is great.

“Hold On” seems to be the rallying theme of BFFs. Do you remember the first time you heard it fully produced? Did you have an idea of what it would mean to people?

Chynna: The first time I heard “Hold On” on the radio, we were driving in Chicago in a van on our way to a radio station and it was my 22nd birthday. I just remember how excited I was that the first time I heard it on the radio was my birthday. I remember that it sounded really good; exactly how I thought it was going to sound coming out of those little speakers. The first time we heard it from beginning to end at the studio, we all just kind of looked at each other and giggled because we knew we had a hit on our hands. You just kind of know. How could a lot of people not like this song? (Laughs) It’s just a positive, feel-good, good rhythm, hooky chorus — we knew we had something special on our hands. But we didn’t know it was going to go viral the way it did. It just struck a chord really deep in people.

There are all sorts of rumours about what’s coming up next, including a new album and a reality show.
Wendy: True and true. We’re about to start a reality show. We’re nervous, yet excited about it. We can’t really say much about it except it’s sort of based on our relationships with each other.
Carnie: It’s also sort of following the reunion and the resurgence. The making of the next record, what it’s like to be with us on the road and our lives, the way that they’re strangely intertwined in that we’ve known each other forever, but we have such separate lives. We’re connected through music, but we have nine children between us, so the show is not going to be focused just on us. It will be more how we integrate this career that is blossoming again with our personal lives. And recording the next record.
Wendy: This record we’re doing right now is not an originals record. It’s a cover record of all of our parents’ greatest music. It’s different for us.
Chynna: It’s very exciting, too.
Carnie: We’ve been performing some Beach Boys and Mamas & Papas now in concert for a couple of years and the response from the crowd is really, really positive. It was actually Sony [Music’s] idea to do this. And it’s not that we were hesitant but we were so anxious to get in the studio and write and partner up with Glen Ballard again — which we know will happen but this was Sony’s idea. We’ve never done it and we almost feel like we have to do it at some point, because it’s such a natural thing. And as we were doing it, we realized just how classic these songs are and how much of a fan base there is out there. Two generations back and then this generation. I think it’s really going to appeal to a lot of people.

Could each of you tell me what your father taught you about music?
Wendy: Even though our mother taught us how to sing harmony, I think just that inherent love of harmony would be from our dad. He taught us how beautiful it is. That’s one thing the Beach Boys and Wilson Phillips have in common: the sound, the voices blending together. It makes it so magical and that’s something that makes us stand out from other people.
Carnie: I definitely think that’s a strong thing that’s been passed down, that it’s in the family. Dad sang with his brothers and Wendy and I sing together and it’s almost like Chynna’s a sister anyways, we’ve known each other our whole lives and when we do sing together, it’s so meant to be, it feels like family. I would say the ability to have an ear, to really hear pitch and harmonies and notes and the blend of it.
Chynna: My dad taught me that when you write a song, write about something that is universal and that people can identify with. Whenever I sit down to write, I always try to think, okay, is this way too personal? Is it something that only a handful of people will be able to understand? I think that’s one of the reasons “Hold On” went viral. So many people struggle and so many people have a difficult time getting through the day. If they can just hold on for this one day and things are going to start going your way, everyone can hold on for just one day. That was a really universal message.
Wilson Phillips perform Sept.1 at PNE Concert Stage, 8pm. Free with PNE admission

Girl Talk

Last week's WE cover story: My interview with Girl Talk!'

Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk
Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk
Credit: Supplied


Gregg Gillis is used to being the epicentre of sweaty, writhing masses. For the last 10 years, the 29-year-old former engineer has been performing as Girl Talk, the hype-worthy mad maestro who has elevated mash-ups and digital sampling to an almost scientific art — hearing, segmenting and remastering pieces of other peoples’ songs into something new. Hence, he’s also no stranger to copyright controversy: Gillis has released five albums — all for free — featuring thousands of samples from mostly mainstream pop, rock and Top 40 songs. Even though Gillis’ music has come under scrutiny, he’s built an untouchable reputation as the number one party-starter, playing everything from small club gigs to massive festivals. He’s won over legions of fans thanks to his all-consuming performances wherein he crafts entire hour-long shows on his laptop, live, often using as many as 400 samples. Gillis spoke with WE in preparation for his slot at the Live at Squamish music festival, bringing his trademark dance party up the mountain.

I think of your work as a little like Dr. Frankenstein, piecing together disparate bits to craft a new whole. How do you view what you do?
Greg Gillis: I can see it as that, but it’s sort of rooted in many things, so I’ve never thought of it in terms of that because I grew up listening to hip hop and like, Public Enemy records which were a big collage of sound. Then, moving on to stuff like Negative Land. The reference points for me were that music and very precise electronica, where precision is an important part of it being cut up, so I like that collage of pop music. I try to reach all around and part of the fun is having source material that seems all over the place. Perhaps Frankenstein-like is more interesting than if it was just all rock songs or all pop songs. I try to sample from as wide a variety of pop music as I listen to.

Do you remember when you first started experimenting with that dismantling and rebuilding process?
I was kind of doing it a little bit prior to even the start of calling it Girl Talk. I started doing Girl Talk in 2000 and I was in a band prior to that in high school. It was a more avant-garde noise band and it was just me and my friends, a bratty take on noise music. Very invasive and no real traditional song structure, but we used to sample music in a real bratty way — like show up at a show and turn on the pop radio station and then make noise over top of it, or do a show where it’s just 20 skipping CDs playing at once while we’re smashing televisions. All of that definitely laid the groundwork and I love that dichotomy between pop and noise... I think the whole Girl Talk thing is just a more refined version of stuff I was doing with my band in high school.

You typically use songs that fall in the pop or rock genres. Are there other genres you want to incorporate?
It’s more like, not necessarily genres, but it is exciting to maybe sample more obscure things, like that music would maybe have different intentions. Right now, I’ve been kind of on a cycle of every few years I put out another album and when I finish, I start working on new music immediately because I want to do stuff for the shows that relates to that album. When I make music on a daily basis, I’m always thinking about the next weekend, and the next weekend might be a festival where I’m going to be in front of 10,000 people. Or, it might be a club where 500 people paid to see the show. So, in those cases I want to make something that I enjoy and a progression of the evolution of what I’ve done beforehand. But definitely something that relates to that music. I’m in it all the time and I play so many shows, it’s hard to find time to branch out outside of that. But occasionally I’ll sit around and sample something more obscure, or a hip hop beat, just for my own enjoyment. At some point I’m definitely looking forward to the shows slowing down, just because I haven’t really stopped touring in four or five years now. At some point I would expect that I’ll make the decision to stop or there will be a year where I’ll only do 20 shows, that would really impact my life. If I had a month in front of me where I wasn’t expected to make an album or didn’t have to prepare for a show, I’d be really excited to just sample other stuff in music or even sample pop music but maybe do it differently. There’s just so many ways you can work a sample, whether you play the melody straight up or chop it up to a point where it’s unrecognizable — there’s many places to go.

Tons of people sample other peoples’ work, but it’s fallen to you a lot to talk about copyright.
Fair use allows you to use samples without asking for permission, if it falls under certain criteria. That, in itself, is a really positive thing. But the details surrounding it are a little ambiguous and what qualifies under it may be a little strict. I’m not anti-copyright. I don’t believe you should be able to buy a CD and burn it 10 times and go on the street and sell it, I don’t believe in that. I believe in copyright and it stands for a reason, I don’t believe in anarchy in that system, but I do believe that you can take something previously existing and make something new out of it in such a way that it’s not negatively impacting the source material or hurting the sales or debasing the artist. If it’s not a competition, I think you should be able to present that as a new work and sell it. When you’re in my position and you make music and you want to put it out, you put it out there and it just falls into that grey area. You don’t truly know whether a judge thinks it would fall under fair use or not. I think the general perspective of the world is shifting a bit, just in the general sense of intellectual property and ownership of ideas. And being attached to the internet has really changed everything. It’s like, I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and people have been sampling forever, but I do think at the beginning of this project, that doing an unsolicited pop remix was fairly unusual. It happened, but it wasn’t that common. Now, the same day every new Lady Gaga song comes out, immediately hundreds of remixes and fan-made videos come out. Everyone is constantly interacting with the media that they consume. I think artists and fans and everyone understands that and a lot of it is not necessarily hurting those sales, it’s just widening the audience. With my particular case, it seemed like the discussion five or 10 years ago was, ‘When am I going to have a problem?’ But now I hear from so many A&R people and labels and I get so many promos, I think people are seeing eye-to-eye on it. It’s not an issue. People really see that if I was to sample one of their artists, it’s not going to negatively impact them. It could potentially lead to a few new people hearing about it.

You’re putting everything together live when you DJ.
That’s why I’ve never even considered it DJ-ing. I’ve always thought of it more as live electronica music. It’s not a slight against DJs or anything, but that’s something where it’s all loop-based samples and in the 10 years of doing this, I’ve never played someone’s track unaltered, which to me is sort of the definition of a DJ, you’re playing other peoples’ music... I always played as a live electronica musician, it was always framed in that way from the get-go. The kind of technology I started using in the early days is still what I use now. It’s a program where there’s a bunch of loops and everything is very isolated and through the course of an hour-long show, I may go through 400 samples or something like that and I trigger everything by hand. It’s definitely the sort of thing where the sets are practiced beforehand and rehearsed. I have an idea how to play it, but everything is live. If I want to skip over something or I feel like changing something up or repeating something twice, I can do that. A lot of times I’m figuring stuff out on the fly, or I might make a small mistake and have to figure out how to transition in or out of that or what the sound system and audience are like will really determine certain details.

The mash-up has become a vital component of mainstream pop culture. Glee has really taken that over. How do you feel about that?
It’s fun. To me the word mash-up describes a tiny piece of sample-based electronic music, but the idea has existed for many years prior. It’s been fun to watch that word exist and grow.  It’s thrown around everywhere and I think the idea’s been around for a while. It goes back to like, Stars on 45 and medleys from the ’60s and ’70s and going back to classical music and sharing motifs. Seeing it have that mainstream exposure just highlights how it’s a fundamental part of the creative process. It’s always a little weird to me when people draw those clear-cut lines between sample-based music and playing in bands, because to me there are so many parallels. You can hear any band and really piece apart their influences and you can tell where it’s coming from. What I’m doing is a more physical version of that. Like I said before, the general world perspective on intellectual property is changing and people are seeing all these examples of taking something and very blatantly putting a new spin on it. Things like Glee are very healthy, just so people can understand that you can take something that previously exists and make it new by putting it in a new context. That idea’s been around since the dawn of time and it’s just becoming more apparent. Like, it’s something you don’t even have to explain to a 10-year-old kid anymore, they’re so surrounded by remix culture. I think that’s a positive thing. Songwriting is all about self-expression. That just gets so icky and narcissistic. If it is about self-expression, then you’ve got to have a lot of craft and a lot of skill to pull it off so it doesn’t just turn into a navel-gazing thing, you know? Someone who really has true discipline, who has worked on their skill and has a way around a back beat.

Live At Squamish runs Aug. 20-21 in Squamish at the Logger Sports Grounds. Girl Talk plays Saturday on the main stage at 9:40pm. $90-$149 from

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bare: A Pop Opera

My WE cover story this week is about Fighting Chance Productions' 20th show, Bare: A Pop Opera and its relevance to gay youth.

Braedon Cox and Lucas Blaney

Baring It All

For the first time in weeks, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and — oh, there’s a used condom not three feet from the door of the building I’m about to enter. The respite from Vancouver’s dismal summer seems somewhat incongruous with this area of Vancouver, known mostly for its rundown warehouses, hookers and sketchy dudes cruising in rusted-out beaters. But in the middle of these shady surroundings, up two short flights of stairs, a crew of young actors are singing, dancing and sweating their way through a 10-hour rehearsal of Bare: A Pop Opera, Fighting Chance Productions’ 20th show in just four years.

Braedon Cox is in the middle of performing a powerful, gut-wrenching number. It’s his first show with the flourishing, volunteer-based theatre company, after recently returning from a scholarship stint in Los Angeles at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, nods and begins again, his voice soaring over the keyboard. As the rest of the cast joins in, the small room is suddenly packed with emotion, the harmonies drowning out the rev of motorcycles in the distance. Nothing matters except this moment, witnessing Cox and crew establish so clearly Bare’s central theme: the fresh hell that is being a teenager — more specifically, a gay teenager who believes in God.

Bare was first staged in 2000, eventually making its way to off-Broadway for a short run in 2004. Musically it follows in the spirit of Rent and Spring Awakening — rock heavy, with occasional detours into gospel and soul — but story-wise, it takes its cues from Shakespeare and Degrassi, with plenty of emotional torment, betrayal, sex and drugs. Cox plays Peter, a 17-year-old boy who has been having a secret affair with his roommate and best friend, Jason (Lucas Blaney) for years. After much soul searching, Peter’s ready to come out of the closet, despite his conservative surroundings. Jason has no desire to come out the closet and gives in to wild, pretty Ivy (Lena Dabrusin), with tragic results.

“I had people at school in Los Angeles who were quite successful in the film industry tell me never come out of the closet, you’ll always be typecast, you’ll never be taken seriously, blah blah blah,” Cox recalls. “I never agreed with them. What does it have to do with anything? If I’m a gay actor, I’m a gay actor. I don’t let being gay define me and it shouldn’t define who I am as an actor.”

Outside Waterfront Theatre, just 30 minutes after opening night comes to a close amidst thunderous applause, Cox is visibly exhilerated. At 21, the star of the show is himself barely out of his teens. He remembers his own angst well enough to identify with and convey Peter’s beautifully, though there’s a world of difference between himself and his character. Cox has left Peter’s awkward body language and hurt confusion on stage where it belongs. Here, he’s smiling and joking, speaking with the kind of clarity and peace typically reserved for those decades older. But, in spite of his confidence, Bare reflects a reality Cox knows all too well: the culture of shame and confusion that surrounds teens and homosexuality.

Messages like that make Cox grateful that shows like Bare exist, particularly in the current cultural climate. The last few years have seen religious beliefs crushing marriage equality in the U.S., not to forget our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s well-publicized belief that same-sex marriage is not a human right. Adding to the devastation: the recent influx of headlines about bullied gay youth committing suicide — which prompted Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project. Though it was written over a decade ago, Bare’s subject matter has, sadly, perhaps never been more relevant.

“It’s so important for us to do shows like this, to stick people in there and say, ‘Hey, you can’t look away.This is what’s happening. People are killing themselves,’” Cox says. “[Teens need to be told] just be yourself. Nobody has all the answers. Don’t look to a religion to help you out in these matters, look within yourself. There’s life beyond the walls of your high school or church or family’s house. You can live a fulfilling relationship with someone who really loves you and love them back, someone who will walk through life with you.”

It’s a powerful message that Cox is happy and proud to help deliver with each performance of Bare. He’s hopeful that people will take a chance on the gritty, controversial subject matter and see it as an opportunity to better understand the reality facing gay and questioning teens.

“I’ve had people in the cast tell me, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to invite my dad because he’s not really into this kind of thing’ and I’m like, no, these are the types of people you need to invite,” Cox says. “You need to get them in the theatre. The way being gay is portrayed in the media and magazines is completely far off, so many things that are not defining who we truly are as people and Bare gets so much deeper than that. It really analyzes the heart and soul of homosexuals’ minds. It’s not just waving flags and Britney Spears.”

In fact, the experience has meant so much to him, he’s calling on the LGBTQ community to join him in reaching out to teens.

“As an accepted gay person, we owe it to go back to the teenagers and help them through the struggling phase,” Cox says. “It can be so traumatizing. Everyone in the community should come together helping these kids. We don’t need anymore deaths on our hands.”

Bare: A Pop Opera runs to Aug. 13 at Waterfront Theatre, 8pm. $20-$30 from Tickets Tonight.

Imelda May

My WE music feature this week: Imelda May!

Imelda May
Imelda May
Credit: Supplied

The ‘Mayhem’ and magic of Imelda May

If you’re a sucker for an accent, singer/songwriter Imelda May’s adorable Irish lilt is as stick-to-your-ribs satisfying as a Guinness stew. It’s just a few weeks before she returns to Vancouver for the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival, sharing a bill with Canadian icon k.d. lang, but she’s already celebrating: her second studio album, Mayhem, has just come out in Canada following a staggered release in Europe then the U.S.A. After a slow burn, it shot up the charts thanks to an audience hungry for May’s unique blend of rockabilly chic, sexy blues and vintage Irish influences. It’s been a triumphant year for May, who got her start singing in clubs when she was just 16: she wowed millions during her Grammy appearance with Jeff Beck, toured with Meat Loaf and is proving something of a pioneer in the industry as one of a handful of women producing their own albums.

WE: Do you remember the first song you sang where you felt you’d really found your voice?
May: Ooh, I was maybe 16 or 17. When I was 16, I started playing in clubs. God, what was the song? I sang all the time. I can’t remember the name of it! I used to call it me anthem, I used to end every set with it. People would shout for it at the end of every gig. It’s on the tip of me tongue. Oh! “Bring It On Home!” That’s what I sang all the time. It’s an old number, I’d toy with it, change it each time. I got to play with it a lot.

How would you change it?
Do you know, I’ve never told anybody this before, but when I was a kid — thinking of it now, I was so obsessed with music early on I used to listen to records, with my ear to the speaker, so I could hear every single thing. I remember when I was 17 or 18, singing in these rootsy clubs, the blues, jazz, country, and traditional Irish of course, and rockabilly, I remember I used to just pick any song, like “Happy Birthday” or anything at all, and I used to sit as if I was day dreaming and I’d try to sing it in as many different styles as I could. I suppose I was learning without realizing it. I’d do a gospel version, you know [sings a few phrases of “Happy Birthday”] or you might do a rock ‘n’ roll [sings a totally different, snarling version] and I would do that with any kind of song.

How have your songs evolved?
I don’t know. As a writer, hopefully you try and get better all the time. That’s natural, as I’m sure for you too, you try to improve constantly. The influences have stayed the same, still with the chunk of rockabilly and blues and jazz and a bit of post-punk, with a bit of traditional Irish. I tried to evolve on the production more than anything else. With Love Tattoo, I had a record deal and they said they wanted it turned up a notch, they wanted it more produced, let’s call a big producer in and I said, no, no, I’ll do it. And they were like, “Wha?!” They were having heart attacks and fighting me against it, and I said, no, I’m producin’ me own album. It’s what I do. They said, “We want this to be moved on a bit.” Me too, I said. They tried to get me to meet producers, which I did, but then I went into the studio without telling anybody and I decided to record the album and produce it without anybody knowing. I played them what I’d come up with and they were happy! I wanted this album to be a little bit more pushed along without losing the charm of the first two. I wanted to be a little more creative on it and I had a little bit more time. Not much more, but for instance, I wanted to put backup vocals on it, so I generated me backup vocals, I just do that myself. I have a great band who are very talented and play many different instruments.

Your label trusts you more as a producer, I assume.
They do now. Initially they thought I’d produce the same album, they wanted a little bit more from it, but once they heard I wanted the same, I think they were still nervous. It’s not the usual thing, usually you get a big shot producer, but I really didn’t want that. I can hear me own stuff and I love producing and I knew exactly what I wanted the album to sound like. I wanted to get me teeth into it, really. Once I got going on it, they were very supportive and they backed off.

It doesn’t seem like there are many women producing their own work. Am I wrong?
No, I don’t think there are many. I think a lot of people will maybe doubt themselves and get a producer in, but I love that side of it. I’ve been in studios for years... Maybe it’s confidence, I don’t know, all I know is that I know how me own music should sound. I don’t want anybody else’s take on it. It’s in my head, I can hear it when I’m writing it... As weird as this sounds, I like sitting there listening to seven drum takes.

You’re pretty well known in Ireland and the U.K., but not as well this side of the Atlantic. Is there pressure on you to become a hit?
No, no. I do my thing and hopefully it works. I love doing it and so far it’s doing well. I was surprised — the album just came out in Canada — it’s come out in staggered amounts and it started off slow but then went crazy, to like number seven or something in the charts, so I never expected, I suppose, my career to even go this well when I made my first album. I wasn’t signed to a record label and I was expecting to just live out of my suitcase, that’s what I’d been doing before. I love it, I don’t feel pressure. If it goes well, great, and if it doesn’t, well I get to do what I love.

You appeared on the Grammys with Jeff Beck. Was that a surreal experience?
Yes. Completely surreal. It was a very weird and great day. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Very strange to be standing in a queue for photos with all the press. Course, nobody knew who I was. They knew I was with Jeff Beck. You do interviews beforehand and then you do the photos, then the performance and then more interviews after. Before we were walking up and everyone’s calling, like “Alice Cooper!” — he was beside me —  “John Legend, we want an interview! Pink, we want an interview!” And I’m just walking around and some girl has my name on a placcard walking in front of me, which made me laugh my head off, and somebody else is going, “do you want to interview her?” [meaning me] and they’re like, “Who? No.” Then I ended up in a queue for the photos between Pink and Mary J. Blige and then the Jonas Brothers and Nicole Kidman skipped the queue and then we went off and I did the photos, did the performance, and when I came out it was completely different! They were shouting “Imelda! Come talk to us! Imelda! Imelda!” Within a couple of hours or so, it was fun. It felt like a dream! We go there, did the performance and then we were on the plane straight back home and me and my husband woke up in bed and I just looked at him and said, “Did that really happen?” It was so funny and great.

You toured with Meat Loaf. Did he give you any awesome advice you’d like to pass on?
Meat Loaf is a brilliant man. I love him to bits and he’s a wild performer. He told me “Oh, you have to love it.” And then, “I’m an actor. I’m not a singer, I’m an actor. I act my songs.” Which is exactly what he does. He gets right into character for every song. It’s amazing. He said, “I’d love you to get up and do a song with me.” And I said I’d love to, brilliant. And on the last night he said, “Would you shoot T-shirt guns at the audience?” And I said, I would, yeah! He said, “Do you know what they are?” And I said, yeah, I think so. He had a glint in his eye. And I’m up singing with him and then they come up and — I don’t know whether you want to put this in your paper, by the way, you might not want to — they strapped this thing on to me that was a giant hot dog that was supposed to look like a giant penis. (Laughs) That was the one night my family had decided to come. Out of the very top of it, a tiny little ball of a white T-shirt shot out of it. My God, I nearly died, but I laughed me head off.

Imelda May plays at 5:05pm at the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival Aug. 13 at Deer Lake Park, $65 from Ticketmaster or $70 at the gate, 1-10pm. Info:

Die Roten Punkte

Totally forgot to update my site with my cover story from last week: Die Roten Punkte. You can still catch them at the Cultch until Aug. 13.

Die Roten Punkte
Die Roten Punkte
Credit: Supplied

The funny business of turning music into ‘Art’

Take everything that follows with a grain of salt. Otto and Astrid Rot comprise the greatest band you’ve likely never heard of and they have quite a story to tell. Tragically, horrifically orphaned at a tender age, the German siblings were then subjected to an abusive aunt and uncle before finally fleeing for the squats of Berlin. They channeled their torment into Die Roten Punkte, “the greatest band in the world,” which got its start as a hilarious Fringe show that’s blossomed into a touring production and spawned three albums so far, including their newest record, Kunst Rock. The Rots poke with WE from a hotel room in Los Angeles, where they’re resting up before making their grand return to Vancouver, home of their beloved Banana Guards.

WE: Have you adopted an LA rock star lifestyle?
Otto: Oh yeah. Last night we were kicking by the pool, that’s how they say it here. You don’t actually do any kicking, though, that would be dangerous. Astrid is here, too.
Astrid: I just got home, so I am a little bit kooky.

Did you do the “walk of shame” home?
Astrid: There was no shame. It was a cool night.
Otto: You have to be careful with Astrid because she was in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Astrid: Stop it, Otto. That’s private. Shut up. I was having a great time. I went to a cabaret night last night. It was very cool. And then we went dancing later, it was very nice... You made a mistake going home so early Otto.
Otto: But the hotel has high speed Internet.

What kinds of things do you do that you require such a high speed?
Otto: Talk to friends and make videos. I have friends in bands all over the world. Also lots of straight edge friends, like people into politics and food. We’re always talking about lots of straight edge — do you know what straight edge is?

Umm, more conservative?
Astrid: No, she doesn’t want to know.
Otto: It surprises me because it’s so famous everywhere, I thought everyone knew.
Astrid: It’s boring Otto, no one cares.
Otto: In the 1980s there was a new movement of punk music and it was coming out of Washington and it was a whole lot of people listening to bands like Minor Threat. It was people who listened to hard edge rock ‘n’ roll music, but also talking about social issues in the world and caring about the world and not taking alcohol or drugs.

Like the rock version of Family Ties?
Otto: Really?

Maybe. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came together as a band?
Otto: We grew up outside Berlin in Grunewald, and then it was very sad, when we were little and on our way to the zoo, our parents they were killed by a lion. The zoo was very close by. So we had to go home with no parents —
Astrid: That’s not true at all. What happened was we were on the way to the zoo for my 12th birthday and our parents were killed by a train —
Otto: It was a lion!
Astrid: That’s completely stupid.
Otto: It was a lion!
Astrid: Andrea, you don’t believe it was a lion, right?

I respect both your versions.
Astrid: It would be a big news item: Lion escapes from a German zoo, killing two people. It was a train and afterwards when we were home we were all alone and our aunt and uncle came to stay with us and were very nasty.
Otto: They made us do cooking and chopping wood and dancing.
Astrid: Anyways, I took Otto and we ran away to Berlin and it was the late ’80s and we lived in a squat —
Otto: Do you know what a squat is? No furniture, concrete everywhere.
Astrid: Yes, she knows. There were lots of musicians everywhere in Kreutzberg and I guess it was just inevitable that we would end up in a band. I was going out to see lots of bands, but nobody seemed to want to be in a band with Otto and I, so I was like, don’t worry Otto, we will just make our own band and we’ll be the best band in the whole world. Pretty much that’s what’s come true.

You have the title of best band in the world?
Astrid: Well, we wrote the song first and have the t-shirts. The t-shirts say “I’m in a band,” but really, if you look between the lines, read the subtext, it really says “I’m in the best band in the whole world.”

Do you have peers that you feel are almost as good as you?
Astrid: There are lots of those bands, but they’re not playing so much now. David Bowie —
Otto: There are lots of bands that we love and whose energy we’d like to be like.
Astrid: I really like Blondie.
Otto: Devo, Talking Heads, B52s.
Astrid: I like Florence and the Machine and Arcade Fire.
Otto: We love Arcade Fire. I love Tegan and Sara.

They’re Vancouverites!
Otto: They live in Vancouver? No way! I wonder if we could get them to come to our concert?
Astrid: They’re probably busy, Otto. Touring somewhere in the world.
Otto: I’m going to Facebook them.
Astrid: They wouldn’t be answering their Facebook. They would have somebody else answering their Facebook. We’re the only ones who answer our own Facebook.

Tell me a bit about the new album.
Astrid: We wrote a rock opera in six parts in the middle of the show and it tells the whole story of after our parents died.

Is it a bit darker?
Otto: There are dark moments and happy moments. It’s kind of like a cross between The Who Sell Out, the mini rock opera before Tommy, and Green Day, we were really influenced by them in the last two albums as well, like with American Idiot and “Jesus of Suburbia.” So we just wanted to write our own rock opera of our own story.
Astrid: We also have a Go-Gos track called “Bad is Good.”

Is there a single for the album?
Astrid: Well, the first one is called “Burger Store Dinosaur” and the second one is called “Bananenhaus.”
Otto: That is about a Vancouver invention! Do you know the Banana Guard?
Astrid: We know them, we met them!
Otto: They’re on our t-shirts.

Die Roten Punkte perform to Aug. 13 at The Cultch (1895 Venables), 7pm. Late shows Aug. 6, 13, 10pm. $16-$25 from