Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pheaturing Phile Alum Lee Negin

Hi there, and welcome to the Phile for a Tuesday. How are you? So, it'd be easier to explain to you why David Bowie was such an important musician if you turned down your Justin Bieber album. Among the 4,000 women Mick Jagger is rumored to have slept with, the most beautiful was David Bowie. Don't ever let the excuse that "David Bowie already did it" stop you from doing anything.
Yep, as you probably know by now, David Bowie, the best fucking human, died yesterday at the age of 69, a very Bowie number, after an 18 month battle with cancer. Just two days before, he released the album Blackstar (technically spelled ​"★​" because David Bowie does not need language), to rave reviews. And now, his producer Tony Visconti is saying that his last masterpiece was, indeed, a goodbye message from the pop genius. The Facebook post reads, "He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life - a work of Art. He made "Blackstar" for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry." In particular, people are singling out the first two singles from "Blackstar," "Blackstar" and "Lazarus," as specifically being about Bowie telling the world that he expected to die soon, with lyrics like "Something happened on the day he died / His spirit rose a meter and stepped aside" and "Look up here, I’m in heaven." Imagine: this artist knew he was going to die and decided to spend his last months making something gorgeous.
David Bowie might have passed, but David Bowie the "little blue" or "fairy" penguin was born just two days earlier at the Cincinnati Zoo on January 8th. The younger Bowie was named after the performer, with whom it shares a birthday. Little blue penguin Bowie was named before the artist died; zookeepers had "no idea" the timing would be so significant. The gender of the little bird won't be known for a few weeks, but that seems totally acceptable, given its namesake's androgyny. The "little blue" or "fairy" penguin is the smallest species of penguin, and this David Bowie currently weighs in at 2 ounces. It will eventually grow to stand all of 10 inches tall. Zoo communications director Michelle Curley told the "New York Daily News" that the keepers are already providing the baby bird with a steady diet of David Bowie music, adding, "I think that little penguin will be very special."
James Gunn, director of Marvel blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, wrote in an emotional Facebook post that David Bowie was in talks to appear in the 2017 sequel at the time of his death. The post, which has been shared over 1100 times, touches on the many ways Bowie influenced and inspired this director... making Gunn far from atypical, since Bowie was the fucking best.
Here's hoping they still use a Bowie song ("Starman," maybe?).
Let's talk about something else, shall we? On Sunday, a musician in Arkansas posted an image to their very popular Facebook page, and it quickly gained a memetic life of its own. The image contains some well-meaning but very bad math about the Powerball lottery, which is currently valued at $1.4 billion. Here it is in case you don't see it...

The original drawing has been shared over a million times on Facebook, and who knows how many more times on Twitter and other networks. Sorry, Philipe Andolini, whoever you are. Poverty is actually not solved. By that math, every person in America would have $4.33, not $4,330,00.00. People everywhere were quick to point that out. But Livesosa don't care. Their post keeps getting them more and more press. For them, the math clearly says "keep this baby up." They also call the creator of the meme a lady, though Philipe is traditionally a man's name. Livesosa does not sweat the details, obviously. Americans: always proud to be wrong as hell. By the day, here's what the Phile says...

By the way, I'm gonna try and get Philipe on the Phile and see what happens.
A Kansas waiter is going viral with an image of a generous tip that turned out not to be money, but a deliberately unfunny prank. Garret Wayman is a 17-year-old server in Wichita, who is so enthusiastic about food that his Twitter handle is @BeanBurrito. He was thrilled recently when he though he had gotten a $20 tip. "I'm 17-years-old, $7,000 in debt because I had to buy myself a car, juggling full-time school, and working seven days a week," Wayman told Tech Insider. A $20 tip would have been a huge deal for him. But instead of finding Andrew Jackson, Wayman unfolded the bill to find a religious pamphlet telling him "there is something you can have more valuable than money!" and to "seek faith thru Jesus Christ." While the customer promoted serving God, he failed to respect his server. He didn't leave a real tip and just bolted. Wayman added,"I wanted to tell him that I only make $3 an hour and bust my ass at my job to make way less than I deserve, but he was gone by the time I had the chance to." Wayman didn't turn the other cheek, and instead tweeted a picture of the prank. That picture has now been retweeted over 5,000 times. The pamphlet included such "tips" as... "Nothing in this world will really satisfy, that is because there is a void in your life that can only be filled with God, who created you... Come on, try Jesus, and see what happens! God's promise is your guarantee." People on Twitter are sharing the image, and calling out the customer for being "Un-Christian" and rude. Jesus gives tips, and so should kind customers. As Wayman said, "To get my hopes up like that... is just flat out mean."
So, this as you know is the Phile's 10th anniversary month and all this month I am showing you pictures of people reading the Phile on their computers. Just pretend, okay? Check it out...

What a cute couple... but why are they all in white with a matching laptop? I work with the public a lot at my job and I swear aliens are real. Don't believe me?

Have you seen this brand of Dorito's in the store?

Cool American? What? Yesterday I went to Disney's Animal Kingdom and I was surprised to see this sign...

Haha. That sign wasn't really at the park. By the way, just for the record, this is not supposed to be me...

I would not ask that question. Alright, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, here is...

Top Phive Things We'll Hear During Tonight's State Of The Union Address
5. The state of our union is strong... wait a second, that has to be a typo...
4. Let the record show that on my watch, an enjoyable Star Wars was released!
3. Stick with me, and at the end, I promise I'll announce the Powerball numbers.
2. Cough, cough! Trump's a douche! Cough! Sorry! Something in my throat!
And the number one thing we'll hear during tonight's State of the Union Address is...
1. As I said this morning in my interview with Sean Penn...

David Bowie 
January 8th, 1947 — January 10th, 2016
Ground Control to Major Tom. Hello? Tom?

Alright, all this month the Mindphucks are sent in by you the readers, which is kinda risky and stupid. Haha. Here is today's...

If you stare at it long enough, there's a pretty clear image of a forest of some kind. Haha. I have no idea what the Mindphuck is. If you think you figured it out let me know. Alright, it's time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.

Me: Jeff! Welcome back, it seems like you were only here two days ago. How are you?

Jeff: I most certainly getting that deja vu feeling like I was just here too. Odd. I'm doing all right, I suppose. How about you?

Me: I'm doing okay. I have a really bad headache right now, but apart from that I'm okay. I have to say thanks so much for being part of the anniversary entry. What did you think of it? It was long, right?

Jeff: I enjoyed it of course! Dude? You have been here for 10 years. You're entitled to go long. Until they start playing music to get you off stage... wait, this isn't the Golden Globes. Nevermind.

Me: Haha. So, it was just the weekend of games, but anything interesting happened?

Jeff: Well, we were talking earlier about the future of Tom Coughlin. Seems he all ready has a job interview for a head coaching position... in Philadelphia. Two really close football games this weekend including the Steelers win were this weekend. The Steeler/Bengal game will impact next season as well since there will definitely be suspensions that come from it.

Me: I'm so annoyed your Steelers are still in it, Jeff! There's no way I can win now, right?

Jeff: I mean you could still win if I don't make good picks, I suppose! I'm not going to say I'm sorry that my team is still in it if that's what you're looking for.

Me: Hahaha. Alright, so, how did we do with our picks? I still can't believe you're now three points ahead! I was winning the whole season!

Jeff: We both went 1-1 with our picks during Wild Card weekend, but thanks to a Steeler win I earned another point. I now lead by 4. Yes you were leading until late in the season but I caught up thanks mostly to the Steelers. You actually have more picks than I do, but I got more points on Steeler wins.

Me: Let's do this weeks picks. I say New England by five and Carolina by three. What do you pick? 

Jeff: My picks will be Arizona by three points and Carolina by seven points. Q: Okay, I'll see you back here next Tuesday. This is a weird month for entry postings that's for sure.

Jeff: Talk to you next time. Or in three days. Whenever I'm needed!

Okay, the 43rd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Phile Alum and author Jim Korkis will be a guest on the Phile on Friday. Okay, a friend of the Phile wanted to come on and talk about David Bowie. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man. You know what time it is.

I first met David Bowie in New York City when I was all of 21. I'd had a tremendous amount of good fortune in my singing career and managed to land a record deal with a major label and Tommy Mottola as my manager all in the same year. I was a young punk recording at The Hit Factory across from Studio 54. While on a break from a particularly grueling vocal taping, I stepped out into the hallway. Staring at a picture on the wall of John Lennon... I heard a voice come from down the hall... "Are you that chap I keep hearing with the big voice?" I looked into the shadows to see a rather tall, lanky figure walking towards me. I was blown away to see the thin white duke heading my way with that big, toothy smile. I replied... "Wow... you heard me singing?" He nodded and said, "Fancy a fag?" (English slang for cigarette). "Sure..." I snapped back. We headed towards the elevator and spoke of the rich history of music at the studio... how we both missed John Lennon. We walked across the street and stood outside Studio 54. I handed him a Marlboro and he went for a very expensive lighter... then offered to light my smoke. I remember him saying how great he thought I sounded. I told him how I'd always admired him. After our "fag break," we walked back inside. We bumped into Stevie Nicks waiting for the elevator. David introduced me to Stevie as if I was an old friend. "This is my friend, Jim... quite a set of pipes on THIS one." As we stepped out onto the floor we were all recording on, David shook my hand and said, "Best of luck, young man... welcome to Oz." As he walked away, Stevie Nicks tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I had SUCH a crush on him years ago. Hey, come with me... I need a fresh set of ears." She opened a door that led to a room with a grand piano and nothing else. "Sit." she said... patting the place next to her on the bench. "I need to know which key this sounds better in." I sang into the same microphone that John Lennon recorded "Double Fantasy" with... I sat cheek to cheek with Stevie Nicks at a grand piano (and she wanted MY opinion on something) AND David Bowie said he thought I was a great singer... yeah... it was a really good day for me. I've met up with David several times since then and he always remembered my name and took the time to speak with me. A class act, to say the least. Anyway... that's my David Bowie story. I figured I'd share it with you all. Rest in peace, David... you were indeed, one of a kind.

Today's pheatured guest is a Phile Alum whose new single "Dervish Dharma Dancing" is available on iTunes and the video is up on YouTube. He's one f the most eccentric and original guests I ever had on the Phile. Please welcome back... Lee Negin.

Me: Leeeeee, man, welcome back to the Phile. How are you?

Lee: Jaaaaaason, man, great to be 'back' (great to be anywhere), especially on this special occasion of your 10th anniversary of your blog. Congratulations, and thank you for inviting me and all of your kind support over the years!

Me: Okay, so you're living in Japan now, am I right? What part?

Lee: I live in Tokyo. Previously, I lived in Fukushima (North of Tokyo) for about 15 years.

Me: Are you teaching there, Lee?

Lee: Part-time. I do contract work, so pick up jobs when I can. Recently, I've been teaching at major corporations with some university gigs.

Me: What made you move to Japan? I take it you know how to speak Japanese. Do you?

Lee: I left Japan 11 years ago, vowing to never return. Ah, yes... 'never say never.' After I left Japan I moved to Poland (Warsaw), the idea being that if I could stick it out, I'd get an EU visa, allowing me to live in a country I'd want to live in (Germany, Switzerland, or northern-European countries like Norway). The year in Poland was somewhat hellish, and I found myself, after so many years of living in Asia, to be a bit 'out of it.' While living in Japan, I spent a lot of time hanging out in Europe (lots of holiday time as a university professor), and I did my post-graduate work in the U.K. (University of Surrey). However, I felt somewhat 'homesick' for my 'Asian lifestyle' so I thought it best to return (plus the EU visa thing turned out to be a nightmare, especially with Polish bureaucracy, which is still very "Russian" (need cash to 'grease the wheels'). It took me 8 months just to get my work visa, even though I had the job lined up before I got there. I didn't want to return to Japan, for several reasons, a major one being earthquakes (remember, I lived in Fukushima) so I thought Korea would be a good choice... the best of both worlds. They still maintain their culture, but there are Starbucks on every corner (if you take my meaning). I was offered a good job by the Korean government to be a teacher trainer... teach Korean English teachers teaching methodology... blah blah blah... sorry... story getting too long. After 10 years in Seoul, I recently (2015) moved back to Japan. Why? Long story, but naturally, it involves a woman. No fool like an old fool, eh!

Me: Is it an expensive place to live?

Lee: Yes. Tokyo and Osaka are the 2 most expensive cities in the world. And, it's not like you 'get what you pay for.' Examples: The public transportation is very expensive (double the prices in Seoul) and the trains are often late or cancelled for mechanical reasons or 'personal injury' (read: some depressed person decided to jump in front of a train. Happens all of the time). The housing quality is pitiful for a 'rich' country. No central heat, and household appliances are laughable compared to wealthy western countries. Some people pay $700.00 a month (plus) just to park a car in Tokyo. You get the drift. Plus, the Japanese yen is very weak now, so changing to dollars is quite painful (I purchase a lot of my gear from the States)!

Me: Every Japanese person I met in my life has been cool. They don't have assholes there, do they? 

Lee: 1. You've probably met them outside of Japan. 2. Either you've been very lucky, or they were putting on the Japanese act (called 'tatamae' in Japanese). They have a 'social face' and a 'true face,' and foreigners seldom get to see the true face. Have to live here for a while. Of course they have hordes of assholes, like every country. People are people! Westerners glamorise Japan and the Japanese to a nonsensical degree. Just like many Japanese think British men are all British gentlemen, who drink tea at 'tea time,' speak like Prince Charles, look like David Beckham and went to Oxford. I have been in 45 countries. People are people. Every country has cool people and assholes. Don't glamorize Japan... this romantic image propagated by JTB (the Japanese government's tourist division), horny western males dreaming of docile geisha and movies. Many people come here and are very disappointed. The Japanese culture westerners dream of is all but over, if it ever really existed at all. It's a fantasy, usually concocted by western men who have an image of docile, subservient Japanese women who will dote on them, fulfil their every sexual whim and follow them--submissive. LOL. On a positive note, it is much safer here (not including natural dangers like earthquakes, typhoons, tsunami). No guns. They don't share in Amerika's paranoid barbaric psychosis. Again, I am far too chatty today.

Me: No, you're good. Do you watch those Japanese game shows?

Lee: No. They are rubbish... another 'seamy' side of this infantile so-called culture. I don't have a TV. 

Me: Lee, I totally forgot, where in the states are you originally from?

Lee: I left the U.S.A. 26 years ago. At the time, I was living in the SF Bay Area (Marin County to be exact. My neighbour was George Lucas... literally). I was brought up in a suburb of Cleveland called Shaker Heights, but left there while still in my teens.

Me: Do you think you'll ever move back to America?

Lee: "Never say never." However, I don't want to. To be honest, the place scares me shitless. The perception of Amerika internationally is pretty grim and embarrassing. Obese, uncouth, uneducated rednecks toting automatic weapons... so much anger, polarisation, violence, xenophobia, racial tension, crumbling infrastructure, gun proliferation, horrendous incarceration rates, horrible education system, illiteracy rates, infant-mortality rates, broken political system, personal freedoms trampled in the name of 'war on terror,' gang violence, homelessness, the wealth gap (income disparity), obesity, belligerence, bad manners, failing health system, people armed to the teeth, paranoia and delusions of 'exceptionalism.' "Let's all bellow "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A." Donald 'duck' Trump??!! Rap artists"!!?? Reality TV "stars"? It's a freak show! The decline of the Roman Empire.

Me: Okay, since you were here last a few months ago you have released two new singles... "Frack Art, Let's Dance" and "Dervish Dharma Dancing." Do you consider these songs being dance songs, Lee?

Lee: No, I don't look at music like that. I write what I write. If it is "danceable" so be it. It's not that contrived. "Frack Art" was inspired by a British artist friend of mine... a painting he made for me. He made a collage, with me in it that reminded me of the cover of the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper." The original words on his painting/collage were "Fuck Art, Let's Dance" but my puritanical American record distribution company would never go for that, so we had to make some alterations. It was not intended to be a 'dance' track (it's not, is it?). More an 80s influenced pop ditty. Just a quick single so he and I could work together (an old friend).

Me: I have to show that painting. It's very cool...

Lee: "Dervish Dharma Dancin" is perhaps more danceable, inspired by a prominent Japanese video artist I now collaborate with. He already had a video for a different DJ that I quite liked (the video, that is) so I proposed I make a new 'soundtrack' my style, but I was confined by the rhythm, which was about 144 BPM = modern EDM (electronic dance music). He made some changes, both at my request and from his inspiration from my music, and the video and song "Dervish Dharma Dancing" was born.

Me: How do you think of this music? Do you dream it?

Lee: Waking dreams. Not like Paul McCartney with "Yesterday." I get musical ideas during the day, going about me business. Concepts, or phrases, or rhythmic ideas. As David Crosby said (recent interview), 'The muse is there, but you have to open the door to let him in," meaning when I am in writing mode, I sit in my studio and start working and see what comes. Sometimes it turns out to be rubbish, other times bits are usable and get recycled, and sometimes it comes out full-born. I wrote "Dervish Dharma Dancing" and mixed it in less than one day. It was a quick one.

Me: Okay, so, I have to ask, what does frack mean?

Lee: Again, to be PC, had to change "fuck" and fracking is a method of injecting water at high pressure to extract oil (?) which totally fucks up the environment, so a little word play on my part (old English major vestiges).

Me: And then again, what does dervish mean?

Lee: A dervish or dervish is someone treading a Sufi Muslim ascetic path or "Tariqah," known for their extreme poverty and austerity. His focus is on the universal values of love and service, deserting the illusions of ego to reach God. In most Sufi orders, a dervish is known to practice dhikr through physical exertions or religious practices to attain the ecstatic trance to reach Allah. Their most common practice is Sema which is associated with Rumi.

Me: That's deep. You had a Japanese video artist make the video for "Dervish Dharma Dancing." Who is it and how did you meet him?

Lee: His working name is "Aurora Wizard" a.k.a., Sinarisama. He is a well-known (in Japan) VJ (video jockey... they accompany DJs, doing the visuals). I met him through a Japanese VJ group on Facebook. We chatted and found we had some similar ideas about artistic intent (I basically loath most EDM and the whole scene, which is just glorified disco made by talentless, unoriginal hacks for people to jump around to. Very simplistic 'button pushers'... in all meanings of that phrase). It's like the 80s disco scene... Studio 54 but instead of cocaine, they use Ecstasy, MDM, etc. and call it 'spiritual' and psychedelic. Same as it ever was. But, Sinarisama and I started chatting about Buddhist/Taoist intentions and music/visuals used for (lack of a better word.. .I'm tired) 'higher' purposes than bumping and grinding and getting inebriated and laid. More inspirational for "mind expansion"... blah blah blah.. .I'll spare you a rap about Buddhist/Taoist concepts. Check out our video at youtu.be/MsEHYq1WlUM and check out Sinarisama at youtube.com/user/sinarisama,  facebook.com/FestaSinarisama/.

Me: Did he just create what he wanted to or did you tell him what you wanted?

Lee: Both. The basic framework for the video was already done, including the length so those were my confines... length and BPM (beats per minute). He made some changes (some at my request) to make it more suitable for my 'themes' (the whole Buddhist/Taoist trip) and would send me cuts to check and approve or not, and or make suggestions, and give more ideas.

Me: You're always making music, aren't you?

Lee: After returning to Japan in February, I went a long time without making music... for several reasons. But, recently I'm on fire again. A new album is planned for this spring, and I'm working hard on it daily.

Me: Last time you were here you mentioned doing live shows. Are you still thinking of doing that? 

Lee: Indeed! I am getting that together (gear purchases, strategics, etc.). The original idea was to tour Europe, but after a lot of research, I found it's just not feasible for now. Working papers, visa requirements, sponsors... a 'red tape' nightmare. So, I will start playing shows in Japan, both solo shows and shows with Sinarisama. He and I are discussing logistics now (preliminary discussions). The "Dervish Dharma Dancing" video was somewhat of a test to see if we can work together. We are taking it slowly. I am VERY protective of my work and artistic intent, so I am very careful about who I will work with (which is why I usually do everything... composing, playing all instruments, producing, mixing and mastering... by myself, including making my own videos). I have a very clear 'intent' and don't want to compromise... despite the financial 'deprivations' it has caused me.

Me: What will your shows be like, Lee? Lots of dancing I am guessing.

Lee: It will be an audio-visual psychedelic mind-melting, 3rd eye opening, out-of-body experience. If people want to dance... whatever moves them (no pun intended). It will be the audio-visual equivalent of a 'psychedelic trip' and hopefully inspire people to experience a different channel in their consciousness TV.

Me: So, you play many instruments I know, but in the new single what instruments are you playing? 

Lee: Everything. I usually like to make 'electro-acoustic' music ('real' instruments mixed with samples and electronica) but for "Dervish Dharma Dancing" it's all electronic. No loops were used. I created all of the rhythms (tabla and middle-eastern drums), etc. I'm having fun with my new 'sequencer' (don't want to say company and model, as they turned down my request for a sponsorship deal).

Me: Are you planning a new album this year? Knowing you it'll be three albums. Haha.

Lee: One for the spring, and then focus on live shows. Am looking into releasing the new album as a 12" vinyl (time is a problem... my albums are over 1 hour and vinyl can only handle about 45 minutes) and/or as a DVD with videos by me and Sinarisama for each track (or CD-ROM). All quite expensive, and I cannot afford it myself.

Me: That's cool. You have many musical influences, don't you, Lee?

Lee: Many, of course, but as we talked about before, I don't listen to music anymore... haven't for years! For many reasons.

Me: Do you ever get tired of making music?

Lee: No. I get tired of life's intrusions and the hideous music business, especially now. And of course, I can always take a break.

Me: Okay, so, on the Phile I am asking my guests where they were ten years ago as this is the Phile's 10th anniversary... so, where were you ten years ago? What were you doing?

Lee: Ten years ago I was in Korea, in Seoul. A professor, teaching teaching methodology. I wasn't making music at all. I didn't start making music again until 2010 (German label contacted me about re-issuing an old single... got the ball rolling again after a several year hiatus from music making. I've related that story in past interviews).

Me: Yeah, you did. Thanks so much for being back on the Phile. Come back when your next CD comes out. Take care, sir. Oh, mention your website.

Lee: Thank you so much, as always Jason, and once again, congratulations on 10 years! Quite a milestone! New album in the spring. Would love to 'come back' if invited. Passingphasemusic.com (main artist page), facebook.com/LeeNegin1 (please join me here. Like the page!). twitter.com/umeboshiroshi (please follow me on Twitter. I will follow back),  youtu.be/MsEHYq1WlUM (latest video--please watch all of it... YouTube tracks minutes watched, "like" it (thumbs up) and leave a comment). Lastly, my music is available... both as CD's and MP3 downloads... at iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby cdbaby.com/Artist/LeeNegin etc. PLEASE download an album, or a single or two. You are more than willing to pay $5.00 for a cup of coloured hot water (coffee) that costs them .25 cents to make, lasts 10 minutes, and is soon pissed out and forgotten. For $1.00 you can buy a song that might inspire you, cheer you up or console you, or maybe make you dance that you can keep forever and play again and again (that cost me several thousands of dollars to make... no exaggeration). Happy 2016 to all!

Me: Well said, Lee. Talk to you soon!

That about does it for this entry. Thanks to my guests Jeff Treleiwcz, Laird Jim, and of course Lee Negin. The Phile will be back on Thursday with Phile Alum Jessica Meuse. 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

1 comment:

Tony said...

Cool blog. Congrats on the 10 year roll. Thanks for the Lee Negin interview. It's always cool to catch up with the Star of the East again!