<p>John Ridley at the 2014 Oscars</p>

John Ridley at the 2014 Oscars

Credit: AP Photo

Interview: John Ridley on Oscars and Jimi Hendrix pic 'All Is By My Side'

'12 Years a Slave' writer talks penning race and art in rockers' life

In the same week -- really, the same 24 hours -- he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "12 Years a Slave," John Ridley flew to Austin to launch into work on the pilot for ABC's "American Crime." That meant, too, he could promote "Jimi: All Is Lost," to which he referred as his "child," his baby, a film fit for the South By Southwest film conference and is creeping toward theatrical release on May.

"All Is By My Side" and "12 Years a Slave" both made their debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last year; but it's the former that he wrote, directed and executive produced. Touching on one year of rocker Jimi Hendrix's early career, Ridley also had to work-around the notoriously difficult Hendrix estate, which denied the film any usage of Hendrix's recorded work, and long timeline conversations with people producing the film.

I thought that "All Is By My Side" toyed with what really makes up "the cast of characters" in Hendrix's life, namely the women that surrounded him. He abused some, like he ultimately did his drugs, which Ridley's script also alludes to. His passions for guitar and art and music felt so light-hearted compared to his inner-struggles for acceptance, and the film knowingly complicates the story of Jimi Hendrix before he became famous to thousands -- and, ultimately, millions -- of fans at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967.

I caught up with Ridley at SXSW at the time of "All Is By My Side's" U.S. debut at the fest, to ask about women's roles in the film, Hendrix and race, films with messaging, Andre Benjamin (Outkast rapper Andre 3000) as Jimi, and how that whole winning-Academy-Awards-thing is going.

HitFix: You haven’t been able to really enjoy your Oscar win, have you?

John Ridley: I have not had time to literally sit at home with the wonderful statue, I had to jump on a plane to Austin and work on this pilot. I didn’t get to just revel in it.

I have to say there’s something nice about leaving that behind, leaving truly with my family and knowing what’s next, and knowing there were people truly supportive of me before it happened. That’s a good feeling. In some ways it was like a dream, like it didn’t happen. The reality is it all happened so fast. It takes years to get there, it takes months to get to that moment, once they start with which film is going to be [selected], who’s in, who’s in play, who’s not… it’s always gonna be over too quickly.

Do you feel like this has a long goodbye? Do you need to have some kind of closure with your films?

It’s odd because for me, the reality of “12 Years a Slave” started in 2008 so in some ways I feel like I’m being rewarded for something I did in high school. It feels great, but people ask you questions about it, want to recollect about it, and I'm like, “I think I did this?”. It was a beautiful end for everybody involved, but there is a level of “It’s done now.” I’m ready for what’s next in my life.

“All Is By My Side” also took a long time, and it just keeps going.

Like with “12 Years a Slave,” sometimes you’re just a writer --  and that’s just the way it is, you’re kinda removed, you hand it off to this amazing team.

In all actuality, we were filming “All Is By My Side” at the same time they were filming “12 Years a Slave.” You’re handing over your child to other people and they’re raising amazingly well, but there’s a cool remove. With “All Is By My Side,” that’s the kid you’re with every single day, from the moment you sit down to write it, to the moment early on when you pitch it to other people, then you meet these producers who believe in it, you meet actors like Andre and Imogen and Hayley, then you shoot it, you’re working with an editor, every step of the way.

Toronto [Film Festival] was amazing in that both of my kids were there – “12 Years” on that Friday, “All Is By My Side” was Saturday. People are talking about the film, it’s being reviewed in the right ways, but you’re not done with it yet. It hasn’t gotten its release, it does go on and on and on. It’s this dance.

I don’t want to beat the metaphor to death, but I feel like now I’m the dad and I’m having this last dance with my daughter. It grabs me different, this one. Every step of the way, every moment, every cut, I had a hand in and worked with the people who helped execute it. This is a special feeling. The ways people are responding to this film are phenomenal. The way people respond to Andre and his performance… That makes me proud.

After TIFF, what was reflected back at you? What did you take from the TIFF experience, and what are you hoping more people would “get?”

I was very happy with people how they responded in Toronto. You can’t come into things and manage how people feel. Any time you put something out into the public, you always take that risk of people loving or hating it. You can’t live or die by reviews. I want people to appreciate what we were trying to do with it, that it’s not a conventional narrative, that it is just one year out of someone’s life, that we’re not trying to be dependent on certain artifacts but get a certain emotional velocity throughout this film.

I always talk about a film that inspires me, “Sid & Nancy,” [even though] I don’t really dig punk rock music. There were bits and pieces of the Sex Pistols within it, but that’s not what the film was about. It was about these two individuals who were no good for anyone else but each other. That’s what we wanted to do; it’s about relationships and about connectivity.

When people appreciated this was not a traditional biopic, that’s what I want people to get out of it, that we were hopefully celebrating this gentleman’s life. We’re not about the tragic end of the story. It was important to me that we kind of end on a hopeful note. The last words are about being inspired and inspiring others.

I look back on my career and the early pictures I was a part of – they were kind of exuberiant and nutty – like “U Turn” and “Three Kings” and “Undercover Brother” -- and they were all great to work on. But you do get a little bit older and you have kids and you want them to have a takeaway. Whether it’s “Red Tails,” “12 Years a Slave”  and even with “Jimi”… I don’t want my kids walking away from this thinking sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is all there is to be.

But Jimi inspired people. I want that to be the message of it. People responded to the style, the performances. It’s not a typical cradle-to-grave downer biopic. In a place like SXSW, where it’s about celebrating music, celebrating diversity, celebrating energy and creativity, we were trying to do that in all aspects.

Three major themes this film struck on were fame – pre-fame, really – women, and people of color. To that last one, there’s the nugget in the film where there’s an “us and them” exchange, with the black activist scene. Were you torn wanting to tell more of that side of that story, on race?

<p>Elbow</p>

Elbow

Credit: Tom Sheehan

Rock band Elbow talks 'Taking Off' into their golden years

Craig Potter is thinking about Bloody Marys on the cusp of their No. 1 (UK) album

Elbow just scored their first No. 1 in the U.K. this month, with their sixth studio album "The Take Off And Landing Of Everything," which has also become one of their best-selling sets in the U.S. The music itself contains as much up and down as the title suggests, even with the rock troupe's many successes; it's more about personal failures and regrets, sarcasm and lunacy, and -- sure -- a some triumph and optimism.

Produced by the band keyboardist Craig Potter, "The Take Off" now leaps up from No. 109 to No. 83 on the Billboard 200 this week. The group will be touring the U.S. May 12 through May 28, with several dates already sold out. Having previously interviewed frontman Guy Garvey, it's apparent Elbow are thankful for any success they've seen. With this release, I spoke to Potter, who also feels that shaking things up in the studio still has kept them on an "up" trajectory.

!-- break -->

Below is our abridged Q&A, on their single, their tour, beer and bloody marys, recording at Peter Gabriel's studio and embarking on The Golden Years of Elbow.

I’ve been listening to “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” a lot since the song came out. Let’s start by talking about that song, can you talk about the making of that song in the studio?

What we did with this album, we sort of split up into different groups, didn’t necessarily all get together. We had one day off a week when we were writing so it meant that different varying groups of the whole band working together at different times trying to get different vibes out of different songs. So “Fly Boy Blue,” the bare bones of it, was written by three of us, musically.

It's so much more of a performance song, sort of band feel. Probably a little bit more like some of our older stuff. We always wanted it to feel quite foggy in a lot of ways, as some of the other tracks on the album do. They came up with this big heavy riff in the middle, this really long riff and it was just guitars and keyboards at first and then we decided to put the sax on to give it a bit of a twist.

It's basically a story of snapshots of Guy’s life in a lot of ways, the first half, and then “Lunette” is more of an honest sort of hit. It’s a sort of admission, just a very honest sort of tale, I think.

I like in particular the treatment of Guy’s voice. Can you talk about the evolution of his voice as you've known him as a producer and bandmate throughout Elbow’s career?

Interesting. Listening back to our old albums and listening back to early stuff that we did, it has changed quite a lot. Obviously his range as he gets older -- he can't quite do the falsetto bits anymore so he used to sing a lot of falsetto and higher sounds when he was younger.

He's always layers his voice in a lot of ways, especially when we first started experimenting with recordings. One of his strengths is harmonies. So I'd give it a little bit of a twist. And more and more it got a bit more gravel. You can push Guy's voice up in the mix a lot and it's just really “wow” having it really loud and in your face. Other than that ,it's just the usual things really, a bit more grit has come in there.

Lyrically this album and the last touch a lot on major big life gestures and a moving through life. Do you feel like this new album says something new or touches on a lot of issues about aging?

Yeah, I think the feel of a lot of the things are definitely about approaching 40. I mean I'm actually a couple years younger than the rest of them, but yeah we’re all at that or around it. When you get to that I think a lot of it's when you get to that stage of life you do a bit of looking back, and you do looking forward, so you're sort of in the middle almost. And I think that comes through. Considering death and then considering your childhood and what was, all at the same time.

Did you imagine that you'd be still with this band and working with this band in this capacity when you started?

If you'd asked 20 years ago if we'd still be together, I would've said no way. I think we're just lucky to get on so well.

And what have you considered to be one of the biggest goals that you guys have achieved or what had you thinking, “Man, we really made it?”

The big moment that is sort of changed everything was winning the Mercury Music Prize over here. That changed a lot of things. But I mean - because of that we got to play with BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and on TV over here…

And you have your own beer, which I feel like is an achievement of its own.

Yeah. The beer thing is crazy. We did it with the last album and it went down so well so we've got to do it again. It is just to promote the album at the end of the day. But if people like it and it sells well it's like why not, it's a bit of fun.

It certainly makes you think a little differently about merchandising. Are you thinking about branching into spirits, perhaps some whiskey?

You never know. Maybe next time. We would think we'd quite like to do a bloody mary mix. I mean it's one of things because we travel around a lot and depending on how hungover you are, sometimes it's nice to have a morning bloody mary in an airport. Maybe next time that's what we'll do.

<p>Jim Breuer at SXSW</p>

Jim Breuer at SXSW

Credit: HitFix

Jim Breuer working on hard-rockin' metal album for families

'Saturday Night Live' alum does not want to hear your terrible Goat Boy impression

AUSTIN - Comedian Jim Breuer is heading into the recording studio in May to record what will be "hard-rockin' metal" album for families.

Mind you, not "for kids." But family-friendly. "Everyone can relate to the lyrics," he told me, and along for the ride is what he said will be "some pretty heavy names involved."

This month, Breuer was at the SXSW comedy fest heading up a Laugh Button bill that included Sinbad. But this summer, he's heading out on Motorhead's Motorboat Cruise along with Megadeth, Anthrax, Zakk Wylde. His rapport includes some applauded impressions of Metallica and Black Sabbath.

So, it's safe to say he's made some heavy metal fans along the way to recruit for the as-yet-untitled set.

"Family-friendly" and hard rock have been some of the cornerstones of the "Saturday Night Live" vet's routines. But so has Goat Boy, from SNL. And Breuer doesn't need to hear your drunken take on it: he's heard "everything from a baby lamb to a donkey," so enough already.

Watch the full video, for Breuer's "Lars Ulrich Storytelling" impression, his advice to young comedians, how he's a fine wine, and what makes you a banana and a yo-yo.

<p>Kelis at the NPR showcase at Stubb&#39;s</p>

Kelis at the NPR showcase at Stubb's

Credit: NPR

South By Southwest Superlatives: Music and movies' best in show

Coathangers, dancing, 'The Mule,' Jodorowsky and fashion tips from Betty Who

Now that we've caught up on sleep and let the ringing from our ears cease, Drew McWeeny and I got our thoughts together to go over some of the bests and bizarre-est from from this year's South By Southwest music and film conference in Austin.

Despite having to leave a couple days early this time around (thus, missing out on half the music-side), I still managed to see more than 30 bands in two-and-a-half days. I enjoyed many of the films, including and especially "Only Lovers Left Alive" and "Before I Disappear," for this ninth year in a row at the festival, I'll always have my heart set and open for the hundreds of bands that make the tough trek into the chaos that is 6th street and appended.

In the gallery below, I outline some of the acts that left the biggest impression on me, including The Coathangers, Les Claypool, Kelis, Charli XCX, High Tension, and more. Read on for Drew's account of sitting with Alejandro Jodorowsky, watching "The Mule" and having a close-to-very-awkward moment.

20 must-see new bands at SXSW: Listen, even if you're not going

20 must-see new bands at SXSW: Listen, even if you're not going

Cymbals, Black Tusk, Teen, Destruction Unit, Stalley, and other artists to know

Sure, you could see Lady Gaga, Soundgarden and Coldplay at the South By Southwest Music Conference next week.

But then you could see dozens of other hot artists that might not be on your radar yet.

Here's a breakdown, with music streams, of 20 artists you may very well fall in love with, from the punk souls of Ghetto Ghouls and Perfect Pussy, to rappers like Stalley and Black Milk, psych like Destruction Unit, dance like Tomas Barfod, pop like Samsaya, noise like Bo Ningen, metal like Black Tusk, country like Lydia Loveless and more.

Check out more music below. What are you excited to see at SXSW this year?

Exclusive behind-the-scenes: Ace Reporter's 'Stick To' music video

Exclusive behind-the-scenes: Ace Reporter's 'Stick To' music video

You don't just eat Franklin BBQ

Like a moth to flame, during SXSW I will flock toward Franklin BBQ.

I have more in common with Ace Reporter's "Stick To" music video than I thought.

Directed by Austin-based Peter Simonite and Annie Gunn, "Stick To" personifies one of the weirder winged insects and puts him on a bike; he's drawn to a light in an apartment, who as it ends up is Alex Gehring from rock band Ringo Deathstarr

Watch the video below, then watch our exclusive behind-the-scenes commentary video below it. Simonite and Gunn describe the process of sending their human-moth out into the streets, and just how he got his dusty aura: with the help of ashes collected from Franklin's barbeque pits.

Gunn and Simonite were also behind Immaculate Noise favorite Explosions in the Sky's short film "Postcard from 1952"; the latter director also helmed another clip from a popular Austin band -- Spoon -- for their "Everything Hits at Once."

<p>From &quot;Big in Japan&quot;</p>

From "Big in Japan"

Exclusive premiere: 4 posters from rock 'n' roll SXSW film 'Big in Japan'

Tennis Pro gets a second chance overseas

South By Southwest is the perfect stage for the collision of music, film and hungry artistic urges, thus "Big in Japan" may be the perfect film for the fest. Director John Jeffcoat follows the real-life band Tennis Pro on tour, where the performers hope to get their break as a recognizable name in rock and abandon their dayjobs.

Sound familiar, ye Austin-bound?

Today, we get the honor of debuting the colorful posters for "Big in Japan," "a semi-fictionalized rock 'n roll road movie," below. I prefer the pink and red one because it's like candy plus a seizure.

Here's the full synopsis:

When an opportunity arises for Seattle rock band Tennis Pro to take their act on the road to Japan - where the allure of a second chance at recognition awaits them - they can’t refuse. On their Tokyo musical odyssey, the guys experience the thrills and setbacks of taking their music into unknown territory and in the process learn a thing or two about themselves. Told with rollicking humor and catchy tunes, director John Jeffcoat ("Outsourced") utilizes a fresh narrative approach and guerrilla production style mixed with an international storyline to craft a dynamic and entertaining story. Music and film intersect with two cultures to reveal simple, oftentimes hilarious, universal truths.

"Big in Japan" premieres at SXSW on Tuesday, March 11 at the Stateside Theater in downtown Austin.

Big in Japan poster 1

Big in Japan poster 2

Big in Japan poster 3

Big in Japan poster 4

<p>From &quot;Honeymoon&quot;</p>

From "Honeymoon"

Exclusive: Poster debut for scary SXSW film 'Honeymoon'

'Sinister' getaway becomes a post-nuptial nightmare in this Midnight selection

You know how catching the bouquet at the wedding is considered a "nice" thing? Well, you wouldn't want to get your hands on this one.

Today we exclusively reveal the poster to SXSW film pick "Honeymoon"; the synopsis alone gives me heebies.

Young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) travel to remote lake country for their honeymoon where the promise of private romance awaits them.  Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods.

Midnight selection "Honeymoon" is helmed by first-time director Leigh Janiak, who was impressed by Treadaway's performances in "Fish Tank" and "Control."

"What's interesting about Harry is that he has this masculinity that's not a typical 'dude' way and I'm drawn to that... when he read it, he really got that this wasn't a stereotypical 'I'm a man' role," Janiak said in our interview. She said the film definitely has a way of toying with gender roles, a "back and forth," and a play on "how well you can really know another person."

"Honeymoon" premieres at the Austin-based fest on Friday (March 7) at 11:45pm at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

Honeymoon SXSW poster

Lana Del Rey working with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach: How's she fit in?

Lana Del Rey working with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach: How's she fit in?

Who are the other recent acts the songwriter/performer/producer has collaborated with?

Lana Del Rey and Dan Auerbach are apparently collaborating on the former's next album "Ultraviolence," while the latter has some explaining to do.

The recent "Once Upon a Dream" cover artist Tweeted a photo of her and the Black Keys frontman together, with her arms around his neck, each appropriately stoic. "Me and Dan Auerbach are excited to present you Ultraviolence," she posted, which Auerbach retweeted. Del Rey had announced the "Ultraviolence" title when she premiered her "Tropico" video last month, with a May 1 release date.

With what little one could cull from the statement, the pairing sounds to be more than just a duet or some guitarwork: the guitarist and singer could likely be producing the set. That scenery in black and white could be the Akron Analog studio near Auerbach's Ohio hometown or at his Easy

 

Oh, to be a fly on the wall during the conversations that led this to be. The Black Keys have never held back their opinion on pop music -- or music tech, label politics, and so on -- and back in 2012, Auerbach had some strong feelings about the "Lana Del Reys" of the world. This was right around the time after "Video Games" blew up, "Born to Die" was about to hit shelves and Del Rey hit "Saturday Night Live" with a foal-on-ice effect.

"On some level, we've seen that Lana Del Rey thing since we first started. All of a sudden this new band would be headlining festivals and we're like, 'Wait, how did they get that?' We've been here for two, three, four, five years and we're still working our way up. But then they're gone. Just as quickly as they get up there, they disappear," Auerbach told MTV in early January 2012.

Maybe Auerbach sees something in Del Rey - beyond Interscope's backing -- that's worth keeping from "disappering." And maybe it's something he'd like to see in himself: as a producer, he's primarily worked with artists in a rock and heritage rock framework. If "Tropico," "Born to Die" and Del Rey's other pop, singer-songwriter and genre amalgams are any indication, the Black Keysman may want to stretch out this time.

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<p>Tegan and Sara</p>

Tegan and Sara

Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

6 reasons Tegan And Sara are totally on fire right now

Everything is awesome for musical sister duo

Tegan and Sara Quin made a very conscious decision to make their music more "accessible" with the release of their last album "Heartthrob" last year.

“Look at Adele and Coldplay, who are accessible to more people. For their fans, that’s really raw and emotional… I can’t change my voice. I’m never gonna sound like Katy Perry or Chris Martin or Adele,” Tegan told me back in May 2012. “There’s always going to be fans who wish we still sat on stools and didn’t have a band and played our shows that way… but now I want to share my music with as many people as I can.”

"Heartthrob" became one of the sister-duo's best-selling album to date, and yielded their biggest singles, and thrust them further into music's mainstream -- and main stage, big screen, small screen and into headlines. And even moreso lately, it seems, they're everywhere.

Here's six major reasons Tegan and Sara have been totally killing it so far in 2014:
 

1. "Everything Is Awesome." It is indeed. Anybody who has set foot in "The Lego Movie" and/or The Internet will be unable to deny the attractive power of the film's, erm, anthem "Everything Is Awesome."

Everything is cool when you're part of a team. And it took a team. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo produced and co-wrote the soundtrack to "Lego Movie," including this brain-gum of a single. Tegan and Sara plus comedy troupe The Lonely Island all piled on to its "remix," which itself should be the topic of a masters thesis class in contemporary pop music. It not only makes fun of popular music tropes, but has its own lyrical subversion and performances that T&S knock out of the park.


2. Opening for Katy Perry.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of seeing Katy Perry take the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, and some of her own personal favorite, hand-picked artists open the show. T&S, who have performed with Perry before, lit up the Hollywood Bowl with their typically hysterical banter. Their appreciation for each other, their acumen to warm a (literally) chilly and mainstream crowd and their kinship with Perry could kindle even the coldest cockles.

Perry has tapped T&S among her set openers for the forthcoming Prismatic World Tour, with Tegan and Sara's spots starting Sept. 9 in Vancouver. Don't expect "Everything Is Awesome" to make the setlist, though.

"Without the Lonely Island guys traveling with us, I can't really imagine it within our set. But that's not because I'm not proud of it," Sara Quin told Billboard.


3. "Don't Find Another Love."
I have listened to this new song from the soundtrack to "Endless Love" about 700 times. It's equal parts Ellie Goulding, Local Natives and Diana Ross, and yet still inextricably Tegan and Sara. Upbeat and "wicked," it's simple and unapologetically sweet.

Do not see the movie. I'm sorry. Do listen to this amazing soundtrack, which also has some Immaculate Noise favorites like Nonono, Cults, The Tallest Man On Earth and The Bird And The Bee with The National's Matt Berninger. There is no pouty Pettyfer to contend with.


4. Oreos.
God, as if I didn't love Oreos enough. Tegan and Sara retained their distinct style and voices for a fresh commercial for the milk-loving cookie co. And they didn't write this "Wonderfilled" jingle, ad company The Martin Agency did. How did they manage to find the perfect opportunity to line their pockets with fresh, delicious money without compromising their sound? Well, of course, it helps that their sound has drastically changed from their early career, but the dance-pop version of T&S is a no-brainer for partnerships like these.

This campaign started around the Grammys last month. Now give me a bite.


5. "Shudder to Think."
Still hungry? How about their original song for Oscar-nominated "Dallas Buyers Club?" Beyond even that: 10% of the sales of the soundtrack went to (RED) in the global fight against AIDS. This burst of awesome has staying power into 2014 because "DBC" is up for a whopping six Academy Awards in March, including Best Picture. How about a Best Song nod for T&S soon, huh?


6. That Ellen Page name-check.
The "Juno" actress and your new best friend gave a nine-minute speech on Valentine's Day as a coming-out, during a human rights conference. "I am here today because I am gay," Page said, then saluting others' efforts to "promote safety, inclusion, and well-being for LGBTQ youth."

"There are pervasive stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that define how we’re all supposed to act, dress, and speak, and they serve no one. Anyone who defies these so-called 'norms' becomes worthy of comment and scrutiny, and the LGBT community knows this all too well," Page said from the podium at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Time To THRIVE conference. "Yet there is courage all around us. The football hero Michael Sam; the actress Laverne Cox; the musicians Tegan and Sara Quin; the family that supports their daughter or son who has come out."

Tegan and Sara were "out" as lesbians in their teens. Fifteen years on, strangers still approach them and tell them their own stories of coming-out. T&S have been powerful and vocal activists and advocates for LGBT rights, starting by being who they are and being very talented. A hat-tip from a high-profile actress is not just lip service but a testament to power by example. A very cool moment.