Exclusive: 2012 Fantastic Fest debates to feature blogger, twins and a 'Miami Connection'

Exclusive: 2012 Fantastic Fest debates to feature blogger, twins and a 'Miami Connection'

Joe Swanberg puts his game face on

AUSTIN -- It's only right that Fantastic Fest's signature event is the potent combination of intellectual discourse, visual culture and blood sport. The Fantastic Fest Debates have become more prominent with each passing year and according to Carrie Matherly, Assistant Director of Fantastic Fest, 2012's crop of showdowns will be no exception.

The premise remains the same: two combatants debate on a topic, and then fight -- or "fight" -- in a boxing ring. This year's crop of four debates includes a couple new twists, in that martial arts will replace boxing in some cases, and the opening fight will feature a woman-on-woman scuffle.

As for the latter, they're siblings -- twins, actually. And both are martial arts experts. And co-directors. And they'll be dressed as Kitana and Mileena from "Mortal Kombat."

Jen and Sylvia Soska, the directors of Fest U.S. premiering "American Mary," will literally kick things off on Saturday at the Debates, on the topic of remakes. "They had a hard time coming up with a topic, because they agree on almost everything," Matherly conceded.

Is Exploding Pants Syndrome a thing?

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<p>Fantastic Fest is a face-meltingly good time: my personal favorite as a 100 Best Kills contender (&quot;Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark&quot;)</p>

Fantastic Fest is a face-meltingly good time: my personal favorite as a 100 Best Kills contender ("Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark")

Fantastic Fest: 5 Great Events That Aren't Movies

Haunted houses, the boxing ring debates and fantastical sex

The undead in slow-motion; gore-stained flesh; firearmed robots; foreign language throw-downs; webby animated fictions; and a documentary about penises. I'm not saying Fantastic Fest attendees can get sick of such things. I'm saying there's something more in case you want it.

Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League and his team have locked down a schedule of genre-driven extra-curriculars from seasonally appropriate hauntings to the famed Debates to having sex with air in a public formum.

And this year, I'm not only soaking in Fantatstic Fest for the first time, but attending the fest for the first time as a newly transplanted Austinite. The upshot to this is that my comfort zone isn't challenged to heartily: the various events essentially take place in the same block at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and League's own Highball lounge and bar, the epicenter of post-film playtime in Austin.

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<p>Tegan and Sara's &quot;Closer&quot; single artwork</p>

Tegan and Sara's "Closer" single artwork

Credit: Warner Bros.

Listen: Tegan and Sara drop radio-friendly new single 'Closer'

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Flirtatiously catchy

When I spoke to Tegan Quin earlier this year about her and her sister Sara's new album, she promised it'd be more radio-friendly. Judging from "Closer," the first single from the as-yet-untitled set, she wasn't joking.

The synth-happy, sex-ready track has a blues structure at times, and without all the tears. Tegan and Sara repeat their sweet refrains twice each, concluding they'd want their lover-to-be "underneath me." "Let's make things physical / I won't treat you like you're typical," they bop over lasers, harmonies and a BPM that winds you up for... whatever.

Aguilera, Usher, Enrique and the rest may outline specifically what they want their bedroom playtime to be in the most explicit terms possible; here, the Quins keep their requests and desires simple, melodically innocent and flirtatious. And no acoustic guitars here.

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<p>Ryan Bingham</p>

Ryan Bingham

Credit: Anna Axster

Oscar winner Ryan Bingham talks 'Tomorrowland' and writing a new soundtrack

Country and rock songwriter talks about life after 'Crazy Heart' and 'Weary Kind'

“It’s me, motherf*cker, I’m knocking on the door.” These are words not entirely unexpected from the same guy who took home a Grammy and an Oscar for “The Weary Kind” nearly three years ago. But the lyrics are indicative of at least the confrontational sound coming from “Tomorrowland,” Ryan Bingham’s new record and the first for his own label Axster Bingham Records. (The quoted track’s called “Guess Who’s Knocking.” Should have started with a spoiler alert.) 

The country and rock songwriter said in our interview that he spun a lot of records from the late ‘70s – the Clash, Bowie, Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin – when making the set, out of a friend’s private, secluded home in Malibu. Punk rock records “opened the door, was a really big influence” on the final result, sussed out with co-producer Justin Stanley. He incorporated a lot more electric guitars, for one.
 
The bigger, more robust rock sonics could also be the reaction to Bingham’s own career legacy up until now. His co-writes with T Bone Burnett on the “Crazy Heart” soundtrack put him on the map, but for his more tender material.
 
“I write real personal stuff, and I played a lot of tours kinda stripped down and acoustic. After a while, it’s just hard to get through those songs every night. It’s hard to be that vulnerable,” he said. Over the couple of years that followed “Crazy Heart,” for one, both of his parents passed away.
 
“Now, playing shows with these [songs] are a lot of fun. I get to rock the f*ck out.”
 
And his touring and recorded successes are in tandem with his wife Anna Axster, half the namesake of the label. She helps to manage; she’s also at work creating a  feature film “A Country Called Home,” and Bingham will be writing the music for the movie.
 
“It’s a film about tolerance,” he said. It follows a young girl from a small town to her move to a bigger city, but some “family issues” follow her as she heads back home. Bingham said the story was inspired by his travels across middle America, touring with his wife in “places you wouldn’t visit when you go on a trip. “
 
The film is getting cast right now, and Bingham hopes it starts shooting in the spring. It would be his first original soundtrack since “Crazy Heart.”
 
Bingham will begin touring in support of “Tomorrowland” starting next week on Sept. 25. The album is out today (Sept. 18).
 

 

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<p>The Killers' &quot;Battle Born&quot;</p>

The Killers' "Battle Born"

Credit: Island

Review: The Killers, 'Battle Born'

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What fuses six producers' work together, besides glitter and tears?

The Killers’ last album “Day & Age” was marked by their further embrace of glitter and dance. New “Battle Born,” in a way, is their ignoring the day and age – that is, this current one. 

The Las Vegas quartet has a nostalgia and escapism thing going on in this set, and not just in its lyrics; it has all the Born-to-Run bravado in its anthems while band also ducks down its head and wades unwaveringly into decadent ‘80s power balladry, vocally adept ‘70s arena rock and Depeche Mod-ular synth-pop.
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<p>Corin Tucker Band</p>

Corin Tucker Band

Credit: John Clark

Interview: Corin Tucker on 'Kill My Blues,' Odd Future and Pussy Riot

Watch the Corin Tucker Band's music video for 'Neskowin'

“It hasn’t been easy to transition into being a mom with two kids, having a career,” Corin Tucker said in our recent interview. Sounds like a struggle that any mother with a job has, and – bless the mothers – they gotta have their outlet. Tucker’s creative outlet is her job. Tucker’s job is rock ‘n’ roll. 

Corin Tucker Band’s “Kill My Blues,” their sophomore set, is particularly cathartic, it seems. After their first release “1,000 Years,” “we really as a group had a lot of fun with the dance-ier and more rockin’ numbers… I thought about how my audience reacted to those songs, and the covers we were doing. I think that was one of the motivating forces, to make something that people move to, to have a groove going. We were able to really achieve that with adding Mike Clark,” the former Sleater-Kinney co-founder said of their added guitarist.
 
Clark, interestingly, was in Stephen Malkmus’ latest backing band the Jicks, a group Tucker’s former S-K bandmate Janet Weiss played in. Weiss now drums in Wild Flag with the other S-K co-founder Carrie Brownstein.
 
It’s only natural to keep up with what the trio is doing post-break-up, but for Tucker, it’s just part of her long history in independent rock music. Her first project, duo Heavens to Betsy, was among the punk-rooted trailblazers in the riot-grrrl movement in the early ‘90s: their one full-length dropped on Kill Rock Stars, the same label home to half of Sleater-Kinney’s output. The trio’s final album “The Woods” (which, today, remains so very excellent) went out via Sub Pop in 2005, but Tucker went back to KRS with her Band’s two albums.
 
“Kill Rock Stars has a willingness to really work with the artist, and to be flexible with what they’re doing… part of being an independent artists means having your hands in the business all the time, so they bring in a lot of ideas about it,” Tucker said. “I feel like there’s a team spirit going.”
 
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<p>Ben Folds with a Fraggle</p>

Ben Folds with a Fraggle

Watch: Anna Kendrick, 'Fraggle Rock,' Rob Corddry join Ben Folds Five video

'Do It Anyway' has the trio and the Henson puppets in reunion mode

"It's like a double reunion," Ben Folds says in the making-of video for "Do It Anyway." He's describing the sensation of his band putting out their first album in 13 years, and of "Fraggle Rock" coming back together for their 30th anniversary to help promote the set.

"Do It Anyway," as the rock group said, has a bounce like Muppets composer Paul Williams, so it works here for the video, which also features comedian Rob Corddry as a studio engineer and Anna Kendrick as the front desk ditz.

But, yeah. It's mostly Fraggles, and the imagination of Nerdist's Chris Hardwick. "We're making a Fraggle rock video," he enthuses.

Is this the sign of more Fraggly things to come? If the franchise is on the cusp of 30 years, we certainly hope so: just check out the reaction of all the musicians and actors to the theme song at the end of the clip.

"Do It Anyway" is off of "The Sound of the Life of the Mind," out tomorrow (Sept. 18). Do you like the track? Does the video give your heart much joy? Where's your Boy George tat?

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<p>Lady Gaga is an art piece</p>

Lady Gaga is an art piece

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: 'Lady Gaga Film' premieres as Lady Gaga behaves like Lady Gaga

Pop star gets a head tattoo -- live! -- and promos perfume at Guggenheim

A few hundred words have been written recently about Lady Gaga's Fame fragrance and it's television commercial. A few more were penned this week as she shaved a new 'do onto her head in an apparent tribute. Last night, the full-length "Lady Gaga Film" bowed at a museum.

These all have something to do with each other, but it's mostly just a week of Lady Gaga being Lady Gaga.

Television commercials for Mother Monster's perfume were culled from a longer film, cleverly titled "Lady Gaga Film," directed by photographer Steven Klein. The 5:30-long clip made a full debut at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which hosted the fragrance's launch with Gaga herself.

More on the party later. First the film. There's some humping motor oil and a mind-graft with black plastic garbage bags. Gaga first appears as a giant gold idol, then later completely naked with her subjects crawling on her bits. There's some German, chanting and sex. It's very expensive. I think it's art? She thinks it's art.

Anyway, she made quite an entrance with her new consumer purchase item at the Guggenheim, and that entrance was also art.

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<p>Christina Aguilera</p>

Christina Aguilera

Listen: Official version of Christina Aguilera's 'Your Body' drops

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Leaked version effectively dwarfed, made to wear fuzzy handcuffs

Check that snare! The official drop of Christina Aguilera's "Your Body" has occurred, so clear the floor, and the bed.

As I suspected in the original review of "Your Body," "f*ck your body" has been replaced by "love your body" in that Enrique style the kids love. Aguilera's voice is crisp and up-front in this boudoir battle cry, and the shuffling early '00s beat is prime for any number of potential remixes. I'm personally holding out for the Major Lazer carnivale-reggae take, were such a thing to exist (crossing fingers, looking at Diplo).

The track is a fresh arrival for "The Voice" judge whose show has been rivaling "The X Factor" and "... Got Talent" and the news trickling in from "American Idol." Co-judge Adam Levine may have had a grip on the summer with his band Maroon 5's "Payphone," but this could be Aguilera's autumn with this Max Martin banger.

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<p>Amanda Palmer</p>

Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer draws criticism for hugs-as-pay touring musician approach

'Volunteer Corps': Albini weights in... does David Byrne too?

This week, Amanda Palmer started her recruiting the "orchestra" members of her Grand Theft Orchestra Tour with an announcement: she'd be drafting "professional-ish" quality horn and string players locally at each gig. "We will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make."

Let's be clear about something: Amanda Palmer did not invent the notion of paying musicians in drink tickets and a good hang.

Palmer fell under fire for her pay structure regardless, and for a few reasons.

According to the New York Times, the Boston-based songwriter will be paying her three regular touring members, but still wants seven or eight unpaid performers for each night: a string quartet and three or four saxophone players.

The songwriter made headlines earlier this summer for raising a record-breaking $1.2 million through Kickstarter, to make and promote her next new record "Theatre Is Evil." That album bowed on Tuesday and Palmer claims those funds were used in promoting and marketing and creating the set.

She also said that paying seven or eight musicians for three dozen tour dates would amount to $35,000, which she does not have or has not delegated or does not want to delegate. Plus, she told the Times, "If you could see the enthusiasm of these people, the argument would become invalid. They’re all incredibly happy to be here," she said. “If my fans are happy and my audience is happy and the musicians on stage are happy, where’s the problem?”

Not all of her fans are happy, and some have thought the move was unfair to musicians. Musicians Unions are not happy, saying her recruiting method devalues working musicians' work.

But, indeed, many of her fans are fine with the move: the $1.2 million is evidence of their loyalty and acceptance of this other type of "crowdsourcing."

Palmer's path -- even when she was on Roadrunner -- has always been unique, and these days, firmly DIY. Her music isn't my cup of tea, but I admire her enterprising and intimate connection with her fans. In my interview with her in 2010, she admitted to the tendencies of her "hardcore" fans, and then the need to recapture new fans' attentions after an album drops.

It's more than just the hardcore fans that will make the Grand Theft Orchestra Tour successful. And have no doubt: it will be really, really successful.

And that's where I break with her decision. Her logic says that her rotating mini-orchestra should get paid $0 or $35,000, and suggested no number in between. But Palmer is going to kill this tour. Murder it dead. She's playing mid-sized ballrooms and theaters, and she will sell many of them out. And she will have $35,000 and then some to spare by the end of it.

If Palmer says it took $1.2 million to make this album, sure, fine, it's totally fine. Blow it on catering and payroll. The math may bother me, but spending it on what she wants doesn't bother me, and I don't think the many fans that paid to make her album "possible" would disagree. But it's misleading to say that at the end of this tour, she can't afford to pay her players, even if $35k is high.

In her Tumblr, she noted the "poetic placement" of an article about David Byrne was next to her Times article. David Byrne even name-checked Palmer in his article, "as an example of someone who creatively crowdsources things," she posted. Plus: "when david byrne guested with the grand theft orchestra a few months ago at the music hall of williamsburg, we paid him…in beer."

Halt. Stop right there. I think Amanda Palmer knows that David Byrne is compensated for his music, and deserves to be. David Byrne played Palmer's show for a drink token not just because he likes Amanda Palmer, but because of a little something called good will. Generosity. Good will and generosity helped to raise $1.2 million, and not solely just because people like her previous albums.

To answer Palmer's question "where's the problem?", I'd say the move, more than anything, is tacky. Palmer could have listed "Play with my band" as one of the "rewards" for donating to her album fund. She, instead, experienced the love and generosity of her hardcore fanbase's outpouring of good will and vibes, and then dipped into the pot again, in a very public and tactless way. Her fans' exceptionalism is no excuse.

There are musicians and Amanda Palmer fans who would love the exposure and the fun of playing with her. There are musicians and Amanda Palmer fans who would love to play with her, but believe they deserve to get paid. Those who will play for free will get the gig, whether or not they are better players than those who decline the opportunity (and, at that, the lottery). Palmer will value you as an "Orchestra" member if you play for free, so what does that say about how she values all performers and touring artists, beyond how happy they are?

Chronic crank and brilliant record engineer Steve Albini, in his discussion online at the Electrical Audio board, used the word "waste" toward what happened with Palmer's Kickstarter fun. Furthermore, I'd call this tactic a waste of good will. Of course some of her hardcore, professional-ish fans would play for free. That doesn't mean she should let them.

 

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