Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pheaturing Becky Stark From Lavender Diamond

Okay, I had only two hours sleep, I am on Oxy, my right arm's in a sling, I smell and itch like crazy. Whatever, let's do this thing.

Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile. Did you miss me? I am doing this blog with only one hand, kids. It's not the first time I did something on the computer with one hand... if you know what I mean. We went on vacation to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and as most of you probably know by now, I had a big accident. I am a hot mess, take a look.

Actually, I don't look too bad. That's the Oxy talking. I told the story on what happened to me a few times this past week, but for those that don't know, let me tell you.  On our last day of vacation last Monday I promised Logan we'll go down to the pool and beach when last time while Jen started packing. It was too dark on the beach, and I didn't want to get hurt, so we just swam in the pool, taking photo's with Logan's underwater camera and having a grand ole time. It was starting to get late and chilly so we decided to head back up to the room. Walking out of the pool area to the outdoor elevator's I slipped on some concrete. My feet went up from under me and I came crashing down on my right shoulder, breaking my humerus bone on three places... one break going all the way through. I knew right away I broke something, the pain was unbearable and I couldn't move. Logan was in shock and worried and other people around came to see what happened. Front desk called my wife in the room saying I fell and injured myself. 911 was called, I screamed, cussed out loud, and yes, I sobbed like a big fat baby. The medics finally showed up and took me to the local hospital. You can see here in how much pain I was in.

Hang on, I need a rest.  Okay, that's better. Anyway, you can see where the ground goes from bricks to smooth, back to bricks. It's on the smooth part I slipped. I was in the hospital for four days, and Jen and Logan had four more beach days. They were gonna do surgery there, but instead I decided to have a nerve block put in, and hopefully this week or next week I will have surgery. Anyway, this is what I looked like on the 8 hour drive home.

LOL. Jen wished she was on a Jason Block. I want to say thank you to the nurses and staff at Grand Staff Regional Medical Center for taking good care of me. It wasn't all smooth, the ER wanted to put a sling on me, give me some pain pills and have me drive home. Jen fought for them to keep me there as I was in so much pain an 8 minute drive would kill me, let alone an 8 hour drive. So, that's my story on how I got hurt.  South Carolina is very nice, by the way. We loved it there, but what's with all those Sweetwater basket stands? They were everywhere. Speaking of everywhere, I never seen so many miniature golf courses in one small area in my life. That's what people do for fun there? Putt-putt? I hate putt-putt.  I have to mention the Gamecocks, kids. Do you think I was the first person in history to make a dick joke there? Who came up with that team name? Anyway, while we were there I watched the Gamecock play the Gators on TV. It was brutal.

We stayed at a nice hotel on the beach, The Sandy Beach Resort. They're changing the name to The Slippery Concrete Resort. How do you know when you're staying in a South Carolina hotel? When you call the front desk and say, "I've gotta leak in my sink." And the person at the front desk says, "Go ahead".  Anybody excited about the World Series? The San Francisco Giants, who looked pretty good the other night, face the Detroit Tigers. Here's what I predict. I predict the whole thing will be decided in Ohio. How about the Giants' Pablo Sandoval? In one game, he had three home runs and a single. And today Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees said, "You can do that?" Sandoval hit three homers in the first game against the Tigers in the World Series, and today, first thing, Donald Trump demanded to see his birth certificate.  Well, the debates are over. All that's left right now is to set up and rig the voting machines. Studies show that votes cast in the days leading up to the election tend to favor the Democratic Party and votes cast AFTER an election tend to favor the marijuana party. The Green Party. Is that what they call it?  Alright, well, I had a stupid accident, but it could've been a lot worse. Mine is nothing compared to this guy...

These amazing X-rays show how a man arrived with a tap and 16 inches of pipe work stuck in his eye at a hospital's casualty unit. But the terrified patient was forced to pull the tap out himself... because surgeons took three hours to send for a plumber to get it out. Yi Zhao, 57, had slipped in the bath impaling his left eye on the tap at his home. Shit, that sucks. Well, I ate it by falling on vacation. Let's see who really ate it.

Russell Means
Nov 10, 1939 - Oct 22, 2012
He was in The Last of the Mohicans, but he was an Oglala Sioux. Man, that pisses me off.

George McGovern
July 19, 1922 - Oct 21, 2012
Well, now I guess he expects us ALL to just kiss his ass.

Sylvia Kristel
Sept 28, 1952 - Oct 18, 2012
Porn star. Throat cancer. Coincidence? Yeah. Probably.

Well, as you know, the world is supposed to end in a few months. Those Mayans are so smart, I believe it. Anyway, I invited our good friend Marvin back to the Phile to give us some Mayan advice. So, please welcome back to the Phile...

Me: Hello, Marvin, welcome back to the Phile. So, what advice do you have? Last time you were here you said something about carrying firewood and falling. You said nothing about carrying a towel, cap, t-shirt and sneakers and falling. Maybe you should of said to wear the sneakers, not carrying them. Anyway, go on.

Marvin: Nya b’a’n tu’n ttzaj tcy’aja aj t-xiy si’wil, ku’n b’e’x cjawil pac’chaje.

Me: I have no idea what that means, and I am starting to feel like shit, so what does that mean?

Marvin: It is not good (for a pregnant lady) to put a comb in the folds of her skirt because her child's teeth will end up crooked.

Me: that explains what happened to me. Thanks, Marvin.

Well, Tropical Storm Sandy is hitting up North so I invited a friend back to the Phile to give you some advice. Please welcome back, Laird Jim.

Good morning, humans. Gotta laugh at people who panic and clean the stores out of EVERYTHING because a storm is coming. Here's a list of what you need. Canned MREs (I prefer ravioli and pasta) a case of bottle water, jar of peanut butter, loaf of bread, toilet paper, candles, lighter, booze, someone to snuggle with, condoms. End of list.

The 21st book in the Phile's book club is...

Vic will be a guest on the Phile on Saturday.

Today's pheatured guest is an artist, singer, songwriter and entertainer from Los Angeles, California. She is the voice of the band Lavender Diamond. In an article about her in the New York Times called "North American Songbird," Zoe Wolf wrote "Picture Lucille Ball and Tinkerbell engaged in a duet and you have an apt metaphor for the neo-folk singer Becky Stark, who suggests an impish fairy from a faraway land." Lavender Diamond's latest CD "Incorruptible Heart" is available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Becky Stark.

Me: Hello, Becky, welcome to the Phile. It's a pleasure to have you here. How are you?

Becky: I'm good thank you, how are you?

Me: To be honest, the Oxy is wearing off, and sitting here is giving me a neck ache. Apart from that, pretty good. Okay, before we talk about your band Lavender Diamond, I have to mention another band you're in called The Living Sisters. You are in the band with a Phile Alumni who I interviewed a few years ago... Inara George. How is Inara and is that act still together?

Becky: Inara is doing great! She has three beautiful babies and she is such an inspiration. I love her so dearly. Yes, our band is still together. I think we will be always be together. We're like sisters. We're releasing a new record in January.

Me: Becky, where are you from originally?

Becky: Well, I was born in Culver City, CA. I was raised primarily in Montgomery County, Maryland outside of Washington, DC. But I spent summers in Southern California... in Santa Monica & Santa Barbara. So I'm part East coast and part West coast.

Me: Lavender Diamond is based in California, right? When did you move out there originally, Becky?

Becky: Yes well... Lavender Diamond is based on the beautiful earth. California for now. California has been my home in some way for my whole life because I have family here.

Me: I first heard of your name when you did a project with The Decemberists, one of my favorite bands. How long have you known those guys, Becky?

Becky: Well, I guess we first met them in 2007. I think it was 2007. We toured with them before "Imagine our Love" came out when they were touring with "Crane Wife."

Me: You sang on their album "Hazards of Love"... when they asked you if you'd do that project, what did you think?

Becky: Well, actually I was pretty shocked! It really seemed like a dream... really I wondered if it was real. Originally it was going to be a Broadway musical so that was how it was first presented to me. Colin said he was writing the part of Margaret for me to sing and I was just thrilled.

Me: Lavender Diamond played on a Madonna tribute album... I love your version of "Like A Prayer". Are you a big Madonna fan?

Becky: Thank you! Yes, I am big Madonna fan. When I was a little girl I listened to her recordings over and over and knew them note for note. I just loved dancing to Madonna's music!

Me: Who are you inspirations? Who did you listen to growing up?

Becky: Well, I have many inspirations! I listened to Prince more than anything I think. We listened to music constantly in my household. Actually my mother created something for us as kids called The Church of Popular Culture. She had an incredible collection of records, 45's specifically, and we would listen to them and have dance parties! And also she would have us listen to the music and we would have lessons about it and have to write essays and have conversations about the meaning of the music. I remember having a lesson about "Karma Chameleon" and having to write an essay about karma. And I remember also a lesson about materialism connected to "Material Girl" and lessons about the environment and war related to "Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall" by Bob Dylan and ""There But for Fortune" by Phil Ochs. I had a beautiful and unusual childhood in that way. Full of inspiration!

Me: Did you choose to do that Madonna song or did someone else recommend that was gonna be the song you are gonna cover?

Becky: I can't remember! Maybe it was my idea. Maybe it was Ron's idea. I love that song!

Me: Have you heard John Wesley Harding's version? Wait, do you know who JWH is? I am guessing you do as he worked with some of The Decemberists as well.

Becky: No, I haven't heard it. And I've never listened to his music but I will.

Me: Apart from you, Becky, who else is in Lavender Diamond?

Becky: Well, Steve Gregoropoulos plays the keys and writes arrangements and Ron Rege Jr. plays the drums. And sometimes Jeff Rosenberg plays guitar with us.

Me: Ron Rege is an artist, right? You have to tell him he should be on the Phile and I could feature his art in the Peverett Phile Art Gallery. Did you put the band together, Becky, or did someone else?

Becky: Oh, that's that great idea! He just made an amazing new book and I'm sure he'd love to talk with you. I put the band together. Lavender Diamond originally was just me. It had several forms before I started playing with Steve and Ron. It used to be me and Elvis Perkins. But then I had the idea for it to have a band sound and it really came together with Steve and Ron and Jeff instantly like magic.

Me: You and Ron have a comic book you guys work on together, right? What is it called and what is it about? Do you write it and Ron does the art work?

Becky: Well, we were making a comic for some time called "Peace Comics" which was about the humor of becoming a peaceful person. Yes I write it and Ron draws it.

Me: Where did the name Lavender Diamond come from? It sounds like a character from a James Bond movie, or a stripper name.

Becky: That's hilarious! I had the inspiration for the name while I was writing an opera called "Echoing in the Diamond Caves." I had the vision of the sound of a crystalline play of resonances deep inside the earth from an undiscovered crystal cave. And a fairytale came from that idea. In the fairytale a man hears the beautiful crystal singing and follows the sound to the mouth of the cave. When he goes inside he discovers the crystalline music and he takes one crystal from the cave, the lavender diamond. When he breaks it off it silences the resonance of the cave. He runs away and centuries later the lavender diamond has become a ring on a medieval lady's finger and she loves to stand on her balcony and sing and sing. Outside her window there is a tree with a magpie and the magpie is a bird who cannot sing but who loves shiny objects! And all day long the lady would sing to the magpie! But one day the magpie swooped down to steal the ring from the lady's finger! But the stone of the ring was caught in the magpie's throat and the ring was caught on the lady's finger so both the lady and the bird fell to their death at the foot of the tree. The magpie had swallowed the stone and both were buried at the foot of the tree. Centuries later the soul of the stone was reborn in a songbird called Lavender Diamond who lived in the tree. Lavender Diamond would sing all day long to the lady who lived upstairs called the Queen of the Indoors, a magical woman who enchanted all of the furniture to dance. And they lived together until the end of their days. Or something like that. It's kind of a long story! One day I'll really have to make the whole fairy tale opera for real.

Me: Wow. I downloaded the new album "Incorruptible Heart" from iTunes and love it. What a great album. Who writes the songs in the band, Becky?

Becky: Thank you I'm so glad! The songs come together as a collaboration. There are some songs I write on my own and bring to the band for us to play together. They may alter somewhat in the chord progressions and take greater form through instrumental ideas. Then there are some that are born of improvisations with Steve and Ron. I write the melodies and lyrics. On this record the songs that were invented from scratch together were "I Don't Recall" and "Light My Way" and "All the Stars" and "Everybody's Heart's Breaking Now". The rest I wrote by my lonesome and brought to the guys. Steve and I have a very magical alchemy of inventing songs together. I feel very free with him.

Me: How long did it take to record?

Becky: Forever! No that's not true. It took a while because I was recording my own singing and Damian kept telling me to try again because I was singing too carefully and scientifically. Finally all of the singing was just live and happened very quickly. There was a lot of time spent on the arrangements and layering. Steve wrote very beautiful string parts for the Calder Quartet to play and brass parts for Probyn Gregory to play. Damian created many layers of instrumentation and shifted the songs a lot. And then Damian and I went to Dave Fridmann's studio and had an odyssey mixing the record and turning it all into what we call "Dark Disco Magic." When we were mixing it with Dave it was really thrilling for everything to come together in a new and more open sonic space. 

Me: It was produced by Damien Kulash from the cool band OK Go. Did he approach you guys or vive versa?

Becky: Well, I went to Damian for advice because he is incredibly wise and kind. I had so many songs I didn't know what to do or how to begin a new recording process. I had just started playing with the band again and I was really trying to keep my solo songs separate from the band but he suggested that we put them together and he offered to produce the record. Immediately it seemed like a great idea for him to produce it! It just felt right in my heart.

Me: What was he like to work with?

Becky: Amazing! I love him so much! He made us promise to be very open and allow him to lead the songs to a new dimension. It was very thrilling and fulfilling. He worked so hard... tirelessly! He committed himself entirely to the music, it was very inspiring. He really gave his whole heart to the record. I can't imagine how we could have made it without him. He is so passionate and brave.

Me: I have to ask you about the albums name, "Incorruptible Heart". Where did that name come from, Becky? What does it mean?

Becky: Oh! Well Ron came up with the name. He named the other 2 records too. He has the knack! Corruption comes from the french word for heart "coeur" and rupture. So it really means unheartbreakable heart! It is meant to invoke the unbroken dimension... the aspect of everything and everyone that can never be separated... the irrevocable heart of all.

Me: When I was researching for this interview I came across a sentence about you. You were described once as Lucille Ball and Tinkerbell engaged in a duet. What did you think about that quote when you heard it?

Lucille: Oh, I think it's hilarious! And probably true. I hope it's true I think it's so funny!

Me: Are you a Lucille Ball and Tinkerbell fan?

Becky: Yes, of course!!

Me: I watched the video for the song "Everybody's Heart Breaking Now" and it features you spinning and spinning and spinning in space. How long were you hung up by those wires? 

Becky: Oh my goodness! For hours! It was incredible!

Me: Who came up with that idea? I noticed the other guys didn't go through that, Becky.

Becky: Well, it was my idea! I wanted to do that dance of falling and flying because it opens the heart so wide and I wanted to share that energy with the song. And Maximilla Lukacs and I had incredible parallel vision for the video. I was dreaming that dance and then I ran into Maximilla and she had just shot a test of an aerialist in slow motion through a prism casting a beautiful rainbow holographic shadow aura. It was a very magical confluence of events. And really a miracle that we made that video. We had help from George Augusto, an angel patron of the arts in LA, and Elizabeth Newton, head of the Circus School in LA who just believed in our vision even though I had only been on the wires once for 3 minutes but I knew I could do it because I felt it so strongly in my heart! And Chobi Gyorgi who is a Hungarian Flying Trapeze artist who built the rigging and held me up all day! And an amazing team! Our dear friend miss kk made a perfect costume and June Zandona shot it and we had an amazing team of producers and editors and everyone worked so hard out of the love in their hearts and for the vision. It was really amazing! And the guys weren't in it because well... they don't instrumentalize Lavender Diamond like I do. Lavender Diamond is my voice and body.

Me: Apart from the bands, comic and other stuff you do, you are also putting together a musical comedy variety show, am I right? What can you tell us about it?

Becky: Hmm... well... it is really my dream to have a musical comedy variety show because that way I could really combine all of my passions! One day soon I hope it will take form! It will be such great fun!

Me: Becky, thanks so much for being on the Phile, I hope it was fun. Will you come back when your next project come out?

Becky: Oh yes, please! Thank you very much it was a pleasure!

Me: Thanks again, and take care.

Oh boy, I never thought this entry will get done. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim and Becky Stark. Okay, the Phile will be back tomorrow with Josh Mintz from Friend Slash Lover. Then supposedly on Wednesday with singer Neara Russell and on Saturday with Vic Flick. Unless i have my shoulder surgery then everything is up in the air. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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