Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pheaturing Ian Margolycz From Velvet Ants

Hey ho, let's go. Welcome to another entry of the Phile, kids. How was your week? Things have been pretty crazy here in Florida with storm after storm. Let me tell you this, take it from your old friend Jason, if you don't have a powerful surge protector, get one. Last night if I didn't have it my TV, and Brighthouse box and Blu-Ray player would of been fried.  Alright, let's talk about what's in the news...  It's been a rough couple years for pasty white comic-book dorks like me who get enraged at the thought that the world of nerddom might not revolve around their pasty white asses. First, they had to deal with a half-black/half-Latino Spider-Man. Then came the Muslim Ms. Marvel and the all-woman X-Men team. Now, their beloved God of Thunder is going to have prominent boobs. Marvel announced the other day on "The View" that, for the first time ever, a woman will wield Thor's mighty hammer Mjolnir. The same one that was once carried by an alien horse named Beta Ray Bill. "Excuse me, my hammer is UP HERE." - Female Thor. Some people think that sports statisticians (the ones who actually care about the events of the totally unimportant and barely watchable annual MLB All-Star games, at least) might have to place an asterisk next to N.Y. Yankee Derek Jeter's two-for-two hitting game last night, after St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright joked (maybe) that he was going easy on the soon-to-be-retiring Hall-of-Fame shoo-in. "I was going to give him a couple of pipe shots. He deserved it," Wainwright said, before later claiming he was joking and stating erroneously that "this game means something." I know it's the rules, it just doesn't seem fair that Derek Jeter has to be taken behind Yankee Stadium and shot when he retires.  While it has been generally assumed that the nation's richest 1 percent was in possession of 30 percent of all the national wealth, that estimate is likely off, according to a new report. The actual number may be as high as 35 or 37 percent. "Our results clearly indicate that survey wealthy estimates are very likely to underestimate wealth at the top," economist Philip Vermeulen explained. The upside is that they're still letting the rest of us split the remaining 63 percent between the 310 million of us. For now.
Plan A: Get rich. Plan B: Hate rich people.  No longer content with merely lurking ominously on shadowy street corners outside the homes of the objects of their delusions, some celebrity stalkers are pushing forward into scarier, more-overlty criminal behavior. Sandra Bullock's stalker recently made it all the way to the outside of the Oscar-winning actress's bedroom door before police were alerted, and another somewhat-more-confused stalker broke into the Kennedy compound in Massachusetts looking for pop singer Katy Perry. Say what you will about celebrity stalkers, they do not lack for self-esteem.  In one of the most depressingly ingenious moves in recent years, gaming company Glu Mobile decided to rebrand its already-moderately successful smartphone game Stardom Hollywood as Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, while adding in some pictures of the game's new namesake professional famous person. The new-and-Kardashian-approved version of the free-to-download app is expected to pull in about $200 million annually from advertising and in-app purchases.  Did you guys see that new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie? I saw it and was confused, not one person in it was named Dawn. Anyway, anyone else find it kind of ironic that the average person paying to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes doesn't even believe in evolution?  Speaking of movies, there's a new movie doing out about Paddington Bear? Do Americans know who Paddington is? My mum and my sister Lucy were really big Paddington fans. Anyway, I saw a screen shot of the new movie and it's not what I thought it would be...

It's not the same Paddington Bear I remember.  I was in the store the other day and I noticed a few magazines have changed. They are more blunt now than they used to be. Check this out.

Haha. If they're assholes, what am I?  I have to show you this new public service poster I saw.

Yeah, that poster would of been funnier a few weeks ago.  So, a lot of you have been asking me where I was for five months. I was on a modeling job... and I have  a picture to prove it.

Oh, man. I'm so sorry you had to see that. You're gonna have nightmares now, aren't you? LOL. You didn't know I was working out, right? This picture reminds me about something... no, not ow I would look as a woman but about bikinis. All through summer I will be showing you different bikinis that are out there. Why you ask? Because bikinis are fun. Haha. People are pretty much obsessed with bubble wrap and people love bikinis, so it was only a matter of time until someone came up with the Bubble WrapBikini.

As you can see, the bikini leaves nothing to the imagination. The bubbles on the bikini aren't the only thing that'll go pop when you wear it to the beach, that's for sure. And now, from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this weeks...

Top Phive Groups Of People Who Went To See Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
5. Chiquita executives, cursing themselves for missing an obvious product placement opportunity.
4. Rowdy PETA members, loudly rooting for the apes.
3. Morons who'll watch anything that features heavily-armed monkeys on horseback.
2. People who loved Andy Serkis' performance in The Hobbit but felt Gollum wash't hairy enough.
And the number one group of people who went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes...
1. Tea Party members curious to see a more coherent and thought-out plan for revolution.

Nobody wants to watch regular old serious films about boring just humans in just regular life anymore, and the western isn't nearly as popular as it used to be, so it often falls to superheroes and space battles and sci-fi monkey operas to deadlift the burden of culture's Deep Thoughts. Popcorn entertainment of the past is now the chief host for gestures toward big ideas and heavy meaning. It's not always a comfy fit.  The Planet of The Apes film series that dominated the childhood of every person who attended elementary school in the 1970s (me, for example) were groovy carriers of those gestural moments. They were designed for maximum shlock appeal and didn't shy away from ham-fisted metaphor. They were bad and good in equal measure and if you were lucky enough to also own the action figures you could spend third grade role-playing every kind of cruelty and sacrifice under the sun. Perfect, really.  The newly rebooted Apes saga has taken on more responsibility. It's darker, deeper, complicated and urgent. And if that makes it all a little less goofy than the concept deserves remember, this is about talking apes who take over the world... then so be it, I guess. It helps that they have Andy Serkis.  Serkis plays Caesar, the leader of the mutated ape tribe that survived when a genetically engineered virus wiped out almost all the stupid non-apes on Earth. In the forest outside San Francisco, Caesar is the king of a peaceful nation. But the people who survived, currently blockaded inside the city's limits, won't be satisfied until they can jumpstart a nearby dam to provide power. And a few of Caesar's subjects aren't as committed to non-war as their Ape President. There's going to be a rumble.  How they get to that blast of violence (no major plot details divulged here, so you can keep reading), with all the special effects a bigger, badder budget can buy, is the meat of the story and it moves along like an ape-driven tank of visceral thrills. Along the way the Big Ideas... the history of human conflict, xenophobia, greed, the inevitability of evil and brutality, the anomaly of trust and compassion roll up and stomp around a bit, but they never become ponderous. There's too much action and fighting to get to and that stuff is way more important.  It's all the feels that really matter here, anyway, thanks to Serkis' intense, emotionally complex performance. It's his show from start to finish, and he earns the film a measure of true gravity it otherwise wouldn't have. Good thing, too, because the human characters are mostly disposable creatures, all the better to annihilate them in the next movie as this place finally becomes "a planet where apes evolved from men." War is coming! Go apes! Whoo hoooo!  So yes, ape shall not kill ape. But that doesn't mean ape shall not ride on a horse holding a machine gun in each hand and instigating an inter-species world war. We can all be seriously grateful for that kind of serious fun.

Johnny Winter
February 23rd, 1944 — July 16th, 2014
Forty-one years ago he released an album titled "Still Alive and Well".

Tommy Ramone 
January 29th, 1952 — July 11th, 2014
Rock rock rock, rock and roll plant food.

If you spot the Mindphuck email me at Okay, so, you may or not remember the last few football seasons I had my good friend Jeff here and we talked about football and had a football pick contest. It's been five months since the Super Bowl, and us talking football, and the next season is just right around the corner but I thought it'll be cool to have Jeff and his noiw wife Lori back on the Phile and we can finally wrap up last seasons...

Me:: Jeff! Lori! Welcome back to the Phile. I bet you never thought you would be on the Phile again, right?

Jeff: It's always good to be back on the Phile. I knew you would come back with it, so to be back on it for me is not that much of a surprise. Perhaps it would be more of a surprise for you to make your return to my second blog Inside the Wrestling Ring?

Me: I'd love to come back on your blog, Jeff.

Lori: I just figured you'd forgotten about us after we left. You know, out of sight, out of mind.

Me: Never, Lori. Okay, before we get down to business, I have to mention you two are now married. I'm sorry I couldn't go the wedding, I had something important come up. anyway, how was the wedding?

Jeff: Yes, Lori and I are now married. We were sorry you couldn't come to the wedding. Especially considering how amazing it turned out! But we both understand that you had a commitment that you couldn't get out of. The wedding was everything we could have expected. There was some transportation issues for some of our guests, and they were missed. But the wedding itself was amazing.

Lori: Our wedding was absolutely perfect. We have a short video if you want to see it:

Me: You two went to Europe for your honeymoon. Where did you go and what did you do?

Jeff: For our honeymoon we went to Gibraltar, Corsica, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal on a 14 day cruise. I had never been outside North America so it was completely different for me. But I loved it. We all ready want to go back!

Lori: We had a fantastic time and did a little bit of everything. Some history, some adventure, some lazy beach days.

Me: Did you go to England at all?

Jeff: We flew in and out of London. We also took a side trip to see Stonehenge, but that was all that we did in England.

Lori: We flew into London and left on a two-week cruise from Southampton. We drove around the countryside some and visited Stonehenge because Jeff had never seen it, and we spent a ridiculous amount of time in Heathrow, but that's okay, because it's my favorite airport.

Me: I lived in Oxfordshire about a half hour from Stonehenge and never went to see it. I regret it now. Grrrr. While you were overseas the World Cup was going on. Did you get to see any games on TV? Are you fans of soccer?

Jeff: No, we are not soccer fans. But we watched a few of the World Cup games, and not just USA games. The tournament was going on while we were on the cruise so there was no escaping it, even if we wanted to.

Lori: I'm definitely not. Though I would say I'm a fan of Tim Howard, now. We watched far more soccer than we normally would. We even missed dinner one night for the USA vs. Germany game.

Me: Okay, let's talk about American football. Lori, you officially won this year. Congrats. For those that don't know as I have lots of news readers, tell them what you won and how did you win?

Lori: I thought my prize was your never-ending servitude? Am I wrong? I don't know how I won, honestly.

Me: You won the football picks for 2014. How did you win?

Lori: I mostly just picked who I thought was better, which sounds silly, but it's true.

Me: Jeff, what was the final score for our football picks?

Jeff: The scores were pretty one sided in last year's standings. Lori beat me by 12 points. Unfortunately, Jason you struggled all season and lost by over 30 points.

Me: Yeah, that sucks. So, this was the third year you and I did this, Jeff, and Lori's first year, and in three years we all won a year, so next year should be very interesting. It's been five months since the Super Bowl, and I can't remember anything about it, except Seattle won I think, the Broncos did horrible, Bruno Mars kicked ass and the Chili Peppers didn't play their instruments. What do you remember about the game?

Jeff: As far as what you need to remember about the Super Bowl. I can sum it up like this. The first play of the game was a safety for the Seahawks. That had never happened in the history of the Super Bowl. Seattle was on fire all game and Peyton Manning was so bad, there was at least one rumor he lost the game on purpose. We know that would never be the case, but those rumors were out there. The half time show was decent, even if the Red Hot Chili Peppers instruments weren't plugged in.

Lori: I remember Peyton Manning being scared of the airplanes. This was during the military fly-over after the National Anthem.

Me: Well you guys, football season is around the corner so we are definitely gonna have a fourth year of Phootball Talk and the picks. Are you excited?

Lori: I'm so excited for football to come back! We have tickets for training camp again this year, plus the Eagles' home opener! Wooo Go Birds!

Me: Thanks very much for coming back on the Phile, being patient with me, and congrats on your wedding. Love you both.

Jeff: I am excited. I hope to return to form and bring home my second championship. We will see you for kick off 2014.

The 31st book to be featured in the Phile's book club is...

The author Mark Baxter will be a guest on the Phile a week from today.

Today's guest is the lead singer and guitarist for the rock band Velvet Ants whose third album "Solt Olio" is now available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Ian Margolycz.

Me: Hello, Ian, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Ian: Doing alright. Had somewhat of a bug last week. I think it’s run it’s course though. Thanks for asking.

Me: I was thinking you are from Canada, but I'm wrong, right? Where are you from?

Ian: Close by actually, I’m originally from Rochester, NY. Lake effect is embedded in me for better or worse. I grew up outside of Boston, Mass and moved to Virginia in my teens. East coast kid. I consider myself from New England though.

Me: Where are the Velvet Ants based out of?

Ian: The Ants started out as a side project. Around 2005 I was recording under the moniker Dream LAX. It was more ambient and electronic sounding. I wanted to get back into the band thing so that’s when I asked my now ex-drummer if he’d like to join. We just started demoing tracks left and right and recording whenever our day jobs would allow. Pretty soon we had a sound. Basically based off the home recording style we were using, and mainly out of necessity. Sort of Wipers meets the Breeders, or a harder edged Weezer I guess. We worked at a fast pace. I was off medications at the time and was manic as hell. We spent as much time writing and recording as we did on manufacturing the discs and promoting things on our own. It was a fun time. Everything was funded from our day jobs. Trevor worked in HVAC and I was working as a land surveyor. Hence the name of the band’s label: T!LT Records... the term came from the theodolites we used day to day.

Me: What is the music scene like there?

Ian: Back when we first started there were a bunch of great venues and a lot of shows to play. A lot of those clubs got shutdown or went under though. Now it’s all cover bands. Clubs won’t even book bands unless they are affiliated with an agency. Even when you do book shows you’re lucky to get paid unless you call their bluff. Venues seem to have a stronghold on local artists and there’s only so much you can do besides not play out. The scene has definitely suffered. Unfortunately, a lot of that stems from greed. At the end of 2007 the band went on hiatus and I moved up north for a bit. The scene in Boston was totally different. There was more of a community vibe there. People take that for granted but when venues are only booking three bands and their friends band’s... it gets old real quick. The band I was in played the city often and when we did we got paid. Here in Virginia it’s like pulling teeth. I don’t see it getting any easier for younger bands either. Northern Virginia has always had a somewhat veiled and pretentious atmosphere. DC is better but I don’t see kids from the suburbs going to DC shows anymore. I think they’d love it and bands would thrive more, but they don’t. It’s weird. There’s a lot of money here and I think that goes to people’s heads.

Me: So, how long has Velvet Ants been together a band, Ian?

Ian: Technically it’s been six years as we never really “broke up” but actual years together? I’d say really only three. When we were together we’d release 2 albums at once or always have something going. In most of the bands I’ve been in an album would take a good two years to develop and fully reach an audience. With this band for whatever reason we could never keep up with our output. Creatively it was incredibly satisfying but we also competed with ourselves to get things into fully formed thoughts.

Me: In that short time you have had a few members in the band that came and left. So, is Velvet Ants just you now?

Ian: I’d consider Eric and Jordon to have been in the band whole-heartedly. They not only helped in creating the album but many of their ideas are what made "Solt Olio" so great. Eric had some of the best bass lines I’ve heard in 15 years of playing music. I’ve only played with one other bassist who I can call just as good and that’s Jason Deffenbaugh from a previous band I was in. They both play for the song and not to be flashy or make a statement. Their statements are their playing and their playing compliments the song. Jordon taking the reins on drums was a huge help too. I had people quit right up to the demoing process. Every week I’d tell Jordon: “We lost this guy” or “this girl is out” and all summer I’d keep him posted like that until I finally asked Jordon if it’d be possible just to program things and be done with it. I even laid down my own ideas for bass lines in case Eric fell through but luckily he didn’t. We even prepared to program drums but once Jordon had the demos he got behind the kit himself and started knocking out tracks. I had listened to Jordon’s band Blinker the Star all through my adolescence so being able to work with him was an absolute gift. I found it difficult in the past to get a straight answer from band mates about the direction of songs and collaborate on things so this was refreshing. I mean that’s what part of being in a band is all about. So when you’re the only one writing songs and coming up with ideas it gets tedious and can become boring real quick. I wanted to bounce ideas off people. I wanted to write songs together and that wasn’t happening. This album allowed me to do that and more. I was able to stretch my wings a bit even if it was a change in style for the band. As a kid you tend to box yourself into musical genres, which isn’t always the best thing for the band or the music. We all had something to offer and the songs were diverse enough to allow those things to happen naturally.

Me: Have you always been a musician and songwriter pretty much your whole life?

Ian: I wanted to be all sorts of things growing up. An actor, astronaut or painter. All four of my parents were in some field of photography. Most of my weekends were spent in studios or darkrooms looking at or developing film. I had the luxury of growing up in extremely creative households. I spent a lot of time at photo shoots and seeing how things were made. This was pre-digital so everything was still done by hand, down to the printing and editing. It must have had an impact on me. I think one of the most important things parents can do is expose their children to as many creative outlets as possible, if not as a potential career, at least as catharsis. Specifically though, my first instruments were drums and keyboard. Once the guitar was introduced, songs were being written and recorded on 4-track almost immediately.

Me: Who did you grow up listening to and who do you listen to now?

Ian: I’d listen to everything from The Police to Chuck Berry at my dad’s studio in Boston. My mom and stepfather played old 78s of turn of the century symphonies 24-7 so there was a major difference that way in households. At eleven I started toggling over to the local rock stations where I’d hear whatever was on the radio back then (early 90s). I got R.E.M.’s "Monster" from a classmate for my birthday one year which had a huge impact on me as well as Steppenwolf and The Door’s first album from my stepmother. She got me into a lot of cool bands like New Order and the Psychedelic Furs and other 80s new wave bands. In a lot of ways I was late to the game. I somehow came across STP’s "12 Gracious Melodies" at an early age and that blew my mind as well. Until then though, it was all Elvis, all the time. By the time I moved to Virginia, Nirvana was over. Bands like Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins had become the last breath of mainstream alternate rock and I was just discovering them.

Me: Okay, "Solt Olio" is the band's third album, am I right?

Ian: Yes, sir. I had the title in mind back in 2011 but didn’t use it until now. I’m glad though, it fits better now.

Me: How would you compare the music to the other releases?

Ian: I can see "Solt Olio" being the last of it’s kind. The first album was straight up lo-fi punk. The second album was a lot more progressive and epic sounding. This one is dare I say it pop, with a steel underbelly. I just cared a lot less about what the final was and just allowed the individual songs to ring true. It’s the "Rubber Soul" for the band. It’s happier, it’s stronger, it’s as Jordon said “the band riding off into the sunset.” I can see that.

Me: You released an album called "Covers" which is all covers. How did you go about and choose the covers for that album, Ian?

Ian: The covers thing had started back before the second album was recorded, or around the same time anyway. I recorded an acoustic cover of INXS’ song "Don’t Change", put it out there, and was surprised at the response it got. Drafts of other covers were laying around as well so I started adding to them and finished a few. By the time I got to "Forever" by Dennis Wilson last year I knew I there was something special there. I’m not sure how it will all turn out or when it will be finished for that matter so I’ve just kind of left things up for people to check out in the meantime. Some are complete some aren’t.

Me: You do a few Beatles songs on the album so you must be a Beatles fan. I think everyone is a Beatles fan in the long run, right?

Ian: If they have any sense of melody or inkling of a soul.

Me: Okay, so, I have to ask, what does "Solt Olio" mean?

Ian: Damn. I thought I would dodge that. Solt Olio doesn’t actually mean anything. It did at one point but then I realized I mis-heard it! I was watching a cooking show back in Rochester and the host said something about sott’olio, which I heard as solt olio. So for the next two years I’m thinking how great a title it is and how it’s got so much meaning (sott’olio means ‘under oil’ and is a way of preserving things in Italian cousine). Basically it’s misheard Italian. One definition said solt meant honor. I guess it’s up to the fans to interpret. Although I also read that solt can mean salt. I know, it’s one big conundrum now.

Me: Your single is "Cardigan's Fable", who is Cardigan?

Ian: No clue. Sometimes lyrics are abstract that way. Another conundrum.

Me: Haha, fair enough. Do you do all the songwriting yourself, Ian?

Ian: It’s just me and the voices inside my head.

Me: You play guitar, I know, but what other instruments do you play?

Ian: I play drums too, and every year I get worse! I’d love to play drums better though. I’ve played drums on several demos in the past, but I’ve never learned the correct technique. I think it takes more patience and coordination than I have to offer. The only music lessons I ever took were for keyboard. I think it’d be interesting to see what I could do on just that instrument alone. I add synth and keys to tracks all the time so it’d be kind of cool to see that up front instead of the standard guitar, bass and drums setup.

Me: Were you just a kid when you learnt to play guitar?

Ian: I was 15 when I bought my first acoustic from a local pawn shop. It was a Hondo with horrible action on it. It was hard as hell to hold down one chord let alone play a progression. I think this may have lead to me being more rhythm oriented instead of doing the lead guitar thing. Most of my buddies played lead so I was always the guy holding down the core of the song when we’d jam on stuff. Around the same age my dad bought me my first electric. He bought me a really cheap one to see if I liked it and if it was even worth pursuing. I must have made my first 100 recordings with that thing. I’d dub an old children’s LP at different speeds and play a bunch of noise over it. I’d record day and night and eventually learned my way around a 4-track like it was nothing. I pissed everyone off real good in the process. There’s a tape somewhere where my dad comes in towards the end shouting “Ian, can you turn that down? I can’t function with this noise shit” That particular guitar was smashed into smithereens. A sacrifice to the gods you could say. I see bits of it every once and a while. It’s memory live on. At some point the acoustic was painted silver and never dried properly. It now sits stringless in retirement.

Me: Okay, so, I have to ask, where did the name Velvet Ants come from?

Ian: I was at work one day off the highway and saw this magnificently red fuzz ball hovering on the ground in front of me. I asked my party chief a guy named Tony Griffith what it was and he told me “Oh, that thing? It’s just a velvet ant.” I bent down and touched it’s back. The name stuck with me and I thought it’d be a great name for a band.

Me: When I first saw the name for a second I thought the name was The Velvetants. I'm an idiot, but it does look like that on top of your website. Look.

Ian: Yeah, I figured we’d be confused with a few more ‘The’ bands. Some guy scooped up when we weren’t using it and was asking thousands of dollars for it. We just started using ‘velvet ants’ for most of our pages instead. The internet is like the Old West in that sense: Do or die, or pay the consequences. Even if it’s your idea it instantly becomes public domain. It tends to feel like a one way relationship at times. Hahahaa. Bastards.

Me: Alright, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics... ready? If possible would you live year round in your favorite season? I would and that would be fall.

Ian: I’d have to agree with you on that. What a great time of year. Things slow down, die off or prepare for hibernation. Everything seems a little more poetic and meaningful.

Me: Ian, thanks for being on the Phile. Mention your website and I wish you lots of luck, and please come back soon. All the best.

Ian: will lead you to the lion’s share of our work (even those covers we spoke about). Most of our other sites use the name ‘Velvetants’ like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Thanks for the interview. Great bunch of questions here. You left no stone unturned! Thanks for checking out the tunes and have a great year!

Me: You too, Ian. "Solt Olio" is out now on iTunes. Good job, Ian.

Well, that about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Jeff and Lori Trelewicz and Ian Margolycz. The Phile will be back tomorrow with jazz piano player John Funkhouser. I said it last week, what a great name. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker.

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