Check it out! Sensational fashion + celebrity portrait photography work from our friend MATTHEW PEYTON
Andrew Rossi is a super talented doc filmmaker. First came on our radar with the amazing “Page One” featuring (we miss him every day) David Carr and Brian Stelter. “Page One” was nominated for two News & Documentary Emmys and a 2011 Critics’ Choice Award for Best Documentary
Next up, “Ivory Tower.” The film was nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy for outstanding business and economic reportings, and is simply essential viewing for anyone interested in the crisis in higher education here in the U.S.
And now…Andrew’s kicking off Tribeca’s 15th year with “The First Monday in May” exploring the intersection of fine art, high fashion, and celebrity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Turns out that our very own Northern Lights EP Robin Hall was a punk rocker back in the day! And a very influential one at that with his proto-punk band JACK RUBY. Their raw experimental sound influenced a number of the big punk and alternative bands to come out of the 70’s NYC music scene – though they never released any music commercially themselves. A recent re-discovery by Thurston Moore and others led to a release of their music and in turn led to their songs being used in HBO’s new show VINYL, which premiered Sunday Feb 14th. Interesting story below from Pitchfork about how it all transpired.
How “Vinyl” and Lee Ranaldo Turned a Lost ’70s Act Into TV’s Next Great Fictional Band
by Marc Masters
In the premiere episode of “Vinyl,” the new HBO series created by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, record label owner Richie Fenestra (played by Bobby Cannavale) sits on his couch, wired on coke and cigarettes, shaking his head to a song blasting from his stereo. The tune is “Bored Stiff” by a band called the Nasty Bits, whom Fenestra decides his company, American Century Records, absolutely must sign.
The Nasty Bits didn’t actually exist in the 1970s New York music scene that “Vinyl” depicts, but “Bored Stiff” did. It was originally written by one of those great bands that almost got lost to history, the proto-punk outfit Jack Ruby. The quartet existed sporadically for only a few years in the mid-’70s and never released any music commercially. But in 2011, Weasel Walter’s ugEXPLODE label released a CD of their 1974 demos; three years later, the small labels Saint Cecilia and Feeding Tube followed suit, releasing the same material from higher-quality tapes, along with more recently-discovered music.
Those releases caught the ear of “Vinyl” music supervisor Randall Poster, who heard the show’s fictional band in them. “There’s a punk rock foundation embedded in Jack Ruby’s music, before punk existed,” says Poster, whose lengthy resume includes The Royal Tenenbaums, Boyhood, and Carol. “Their music is stripped of all classic rock artifice, and it puts forward the root of something that would evolve from there. It works for Kip Stevens [the singer of Nasty Bits], who is having a moment of crisis trying to connect to what brought him to rock and roll in the first place.”
Jack Ruby’s music is indeed a fascinating hybrid of underground sounds, made at a time when mainstream rock was becoming a cartoon and punk was just around the corner. Their songs were clearly influenced by the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, with singer Robin Hall’s snarl echoing Iggy Pop, as well as Richard Hell. But their tunes also include layers of noise generated by atonal guitars and electronics. Hall recalls bandmate Randy Cohen, who went on to write for “Late Night With David Letterman” and the New York Times, filtering stock sound effects through his Serge synthesizer, which was “the size of a coffin.” The results foreshadow the unruly strain of post-punk known as No Wave. (One incarnation of Jack Ruby even included bassist George Scott, who later played in No Wave mainstays Contortions and 8-Eyed Spy.)
According to Hall, being both catchy and chaotic wasn’t seen as a paradox in the downtown New York scene in 1973. “Everybody was doing something different, and it was very generous in the boundaries,” he recalls. “There was nothing that wasn’t allowed.” So as much as the Nasty Bits scoff at their label’s attempts to smooth their sound in “Vinyl,” Jack Ruby could dream of success while also refusing to bend. “We wanted to be popular, not underground,” Hall says. “But we were also committed to noise, and there was no thought of compromising. We assumed no one was going to get us, even as at the same time as we thought we would have hit singles.”
Judging by the music that survived, Jack Ruby’s Top 40 fantasies were not such a stretch. All four tunes that show up over the course of the show’s initial 10-episode run—”Bored Stiff,” “Hit and Run,” and “Bad Teeth,” plus Jack Ruby’s take on the Four Seasons’ “Beggar’s Parade”—are swinging and infectious, like punk before punk existed. It’s easy to hear why these songs could have impressed a label seeking fresh sounds; even 40 years later, Jack Ruby have a bracing immediacy.
To replicate that immediacy, Poster turned to one of his rock’n’roll heroes: Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo. He tasked Ranaldo with recording the songs of Jack Ruby and other bands depicted in “Vinyl” for its soundtrack, and in turn, Ranaldo called on an array of current musicians to help. “Randy likes the idea of bringing a lot of people into the game,” says Ranaldo, who previously worked with Poster on Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan bio-fantasy I’m Not Here. “All the different people we’ve had—tons of musicians coming in and out—have made it exciting.”
Ranaldo, whose ex-bandmate has also notably praised Jack Ruby, put together a band with bassist James McNew (of Yo La Tengo), drummer Steve Shelley (also of Sonic Youth), and guitarists Alan Licht and Don Fleming. When you watch the Nasty Bits raging away in a scene, you’re actually hearing Ranaldo’s band backing up singer James Jagger (yes, Mick’s son), who portrays Bits frontman Kip Stevens. Of course, Ranaldo and company are out of the age range of the show’s fictional group of disheveled twenty-somethings, so Poster and his colleague Meghan Currier hired some actual musicians to play Jagger’s backing band: Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils.
“We’re basically accessories to the [Kip Stevens] story,” says Beach Fossils founder Dustin Payseur. “He’s the singer in this proto-punk band, and we’re his weirdo, fucked-up bandmates.” None of the members of Beach Fossils had ever acted before, but at the beginning their tasks were pretty simple. “For the most part, [the directors] just said, ‘Play like you’re losing your mind,'” says Payseur. “And I said, ‘I know how to do that.’” “One of the assistant directors told me, ‘I don’t even care if you’re playing the part—just run around stage, fall down and act insane,” adds guitarist Tommy Davidson.
James Jagger as Kip Stevens in “Vinyl”. (Niko Tavernise/HBO)
As episodes progressed, Beach Fossils were given lines to perform, which all members say went surprisingly smoothly. But they really got into the whole experience when they were simply pretending to perform in front of crowds decked out in ’70s garb. “The scenes where we’re playing onstage with the crowd reacting to us—it’s easy to feed off that energy, because it feels real when you have a hundred people screaming at you,” says Payseur. “It makes you feel like you’re totally immersed in [that time] when you’re shooting [one scene] for 12 hours,” adds guitarist Jack Doyle Smith.
In other “Vinyl” scenes, real bands from the time period are played by actors, with Ranaldo’s supergroup of sorts also providing the music. For one flashback scene—set in 1968 at legendary St. Mark’s nightclub the Dom—Julian Casablancas joined Ranaldo’s group to sing the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” and “Run Run Run.” For another, they reworked Alice Cooper’s “I Love the Dead” with Andrew W.K. on vocals.
Scenes featuring more obscure artists required mixing and matching. “We needed to record something for a scene with Joey Ramone’s first band, Sniper,” recalls Ranaldo. “But there’s not one bit of music you can hear by them—there’s not even one picture of the band you can find.” So Ranaldo chose songs from a similar group of the same era, the Magic Tramps (led by Eric Emerson, best known for his acting in Andy Warhol’s films). He recorded those tunes with Yo La Tengo, alongside Jesse Malin singing as Joey Ramone.
Ranaldo’s stable of collaborators widened even further when creating music for the end credits of individual episodes. Guests included Iggy Pop, X’s John Doe, the Kills’ Alison Mosshart, and Charli XCX, who Ranaldo says “did a Stooges song and totally fucking killed it.” “That’s the fun part,” says Poster of all this partnering. “There are a lot of people involved who we’ve all worked with before and know. Somebody like Ira Kaplan, he’s an incredible musical resource. I’ve always cited Yo La Tengo’s [partial covers album] Fakebook as a great inspiration for me in finding material.”
Ranaldo and Fleming also served as on-set consultants, making sure the concert scenes looked and felt accurate. “It was pretty amazing to watch,” says Ranaldo. “They would do a club show with 150 extras wearing what people coveted from vintage stores 25 years ago. The Velvet Underground scene was supposed to be the Warhol crowd, so there were people in bouffant hairdos and gold lamé mini-dresses.”
But Ranaldo seems particularly thrilled to have helped rekindle the music of Jack Ruby. “I think they were straddling this period musically,” he says. “All of their recorded stuff was super raw, and you can feel this nascent energy rising up, which makes it valuable as a historical document. Jack Ruby led to some great stuff that happened even if they didn’t get there themselves.”
This recent interest in Jack Ruby, after decades in obscurity, must feel redemptive to the band’s only surviving members, Robin Hall and Randy Cohen. For his part, Hall admits that “Vinyl” has provided a thrill that his teenage self couldn’t have imagined. “I was a 15-year-old kid in New Hampshire when some girl said to me, ‘You look like Mick Jagger,’ and that made me want to be a rock’n’roll star,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s amazing that 40 years later, Mick Jagger’s son is singing my band’s songs.”
The Scenic Route and the Petersen Automotive Museum approached Studio TEN to develop unique videos for the Museum’s re-opening in December of 2015. Studio TEN produced three distinct pieces of content utilizing design, CG/Animation, editorial, projection mapping, and live action for each of the Museum’s three floors centered around “Artistry of the Automobile,” “Thrill of Motorsports,” and “Road to Stardom.”
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles turns 20 this year, and now the public can finally enjoy the fruits of the $125 million renovation it gave itself as a birthday present.
After a year of work, the Petersen, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and showing off historic vehicles, has reopened with an additional 300,000 square feet, 22 new galleries, and a crazy façade of candy red paint wrapped in steel ribbons. To fill all that space, the museum formed partnerships with a host of brands like Maserati, Ford, and Lucas Oil, giving it access to massive chunks of automotive history.
BMW, for example, will present a rotating selection of its famed Art Cars, which have been designed over the years by figures like Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Jenny Holzer. Maserati will be the subject of a “Design To Production” exhibit where patrons can see the Italian fetish object go from the concept stage all the way to finished car. The Petersen will have the one and only show floor for the Ford GT Supercar, complete with a history of the machine dating back to 1966 when the GT won Le Mans.
All of this feels like standard, if impressive, museum fare. To bring this automotive shrine into the future, the brain trust at the Petersen knew it needed to make the new and improved space an immersive multi-media experience. So it hired creative agency MindOverEye to make custom video content for their massive new gallery halls.
Studio TEN has worked on campaigns for Lexus, Infinti, and Mercedes. Remember that cheeky “Villains” campaign for Jaguar? That was them! The firm got an Emmy nomination for the visual effects work it did on the Neil Degrasse Tyson re-up of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.
For the Petersen project, it created a cohesive visual narrative that runs through the renovated museum’s three floors. The first floor is the “Artistry of the Automobile” section. On a 16-foot tall, 166-foot wide arced wall, you’ll see a 12-minute abstract video loop meant to invoke the “spark of inspiration” in automotive design.
Move up into the second level and you’ll be immersed in the “Thrill of Motorsports.” Studio TEN worked up another all-encompassing video exhibit for this floor that plays at a slightly more modest size, just seven feet high and 134-feet across. To ensure viewers feel fully enmeshed in a day in the life of an auto race, the wall wraps around 180 degrees and displays stock footage as well as live action video shot by the creative team. To capture the images for such a large-scale display — as in 23,000 pixels wide — Studio TEN deployed a custom nine-camera array with bespoke optics inside.
On the top floor comes the nod to Hollywood. The “Road To Stardom” exhibit commemorates the movie industry’s icon-creating history with automobiles.
The Petersen sits on LA’s Miracle Mile, a stretch that’s been blowing up in recent years. That includes a new metro stop coming soon (hey, car lovers can use public transit, too) and a bevy of trendy food spots popping up on local heat maps. That means it’s the perfect time to go get yourself a double fist of the art-filled bougie lifestyle: Snag a lunch of avocado toast and then get your culture on by crawling from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the Petersen.