Tonight in Seattle:  


Imaginary SIFF Interview: Ruba Nadda, Director of Cairo Time

One of my favorite films at SIFF this year was the beautiful, intuitive drama Cairo Time, written and directed by the equally beautiful and intuitive Ruba Nadda.

In person, Nadda exudes an open friendliness that instantly made me comfortable. We sat down for a few minutes and discussed everything from Patricia Clarkson’s eyebrows to the fiasco of Sex and the City 2. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I was captivated by everything she said, and that I’d love to be able to sit down with her and do it again.


Latest comment by: filmfan: "What a great interview, thank you for posting this. I watched Cairo Time recently and loved it. Nadda is so inspiring, I really admire her work. "

Deep SIFF: Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel

{Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel screens at the Seattle International Film Festival tonight, Wednesday, June 9 at 9:30pm at the Egyptian Theater.}

In the fascinating and thorough new documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel, you don't learn much about the larger-than-life, octogenarian character who spends most of his time in his pajamas and dates women who are at least half a century younger than he is. What you do learn about is a very smart and thoughtful man who has an unmistakable moral compass and has always ended up on the correct side of history.

The film was directed by Canadian filmmaker Brigitte Berman, who is best known for documentaries on jazz musicians Bix Beiderbecke and Artie Shaw. The latter (Artie Shaw: Time is All You Got) won the Academy Award in 1987 for Best Documentary and the former (Bix: "Ain't None of Them Play Like Him Yet") was responsible for Berman and Hefner meeting. When I interviewed Brigitte Berman after her documentary screened at the Seattle International Film Festival, she explained, "it just happened that Bix was Hef's favorite musician. When I won the Oscar for the Artie Shaw film, Hef tracked me down through Mary O'Connor, his right-hand woman, and she called me and said Hef wanted to get a copy of it, so I sent it down. He's been showing it and whenever I was in LA, I was invited to the mansion for movie night. Our friendship grew over music and movies." She further explained "I knew there was so much more behind him because I'd hear him talk after movies and I saw the intelligent and complex side. I decided that I wanted to make a film about him. I wrote up a treatment because I knew that he would never agree to it if someone came up to him and said 'Hef, can I do a movie about you?' The next day, he sent me a fax that said 'I love it and anything you need, I'll give you.'"


Imaginary Interview: SIFF

If you've been to TIG any time over the past twenty days or so, you've noticed that the Seattle International Film Festival is one of our favorite events. Some 400+ short and feature films will have been screened by the time the whole thing wraps up on Sunday by giving out the Golden Space Needle Awards that morning and closing it out with a screening of the Bill Murray/Robert Duvall film Get Low and a party.

To get some more insight into the festival, we posed some questions via e-mail to SIFF's wonderful and extremely knowledgable Programming Director, Beth Barrett. Here's what she had to say.


Deep SIFF: Wheedle's Groove

You could probably be forgiven if the first time you thought of Seattle as having a vibrant music scene was when MTV first aired "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Thanks to an engrossing new documentary from first time feature director Jennifer Maas called Wheedle's Groove that just played at the Seattle International Film Festival, you learn an awful lot about the thriving soul and funk scene from Seattle in the 1960s and '70s. While few of the artists are remembered today and fewer broke out of this particular scene, it was thriving because there were a lot of clubs booking these bands and they were playing several nights and week to large crowds.
The Wheedle's Groove project was first a compilation album from local buried treasure-finders Light in the Attic Records that they put out in 2004, featuring bands like Cold, Bold and Together, A Black On White Affair and Ron Buford. They aren't household names today, but the compilation has sparked a renaissance of interest in this time and it has spawned a supergroup of sorts from this era who play and record as Wheedle's Groove and released an album of new music in 2009 called Kearney Barton. When I interviewed director Maas at SIFF, she told me how the idea for this documentary came about. "I was doing a documentary, I was pretty new to making documentaries but I made a lot of short things, I decided I was going to find out how a music scene works behind the scenes. I started interviewing people like John Richards and Jason (Hughes) from Sonic Boom, different record labels. I was going to interview some of the Three Imaginary Girls, although I don't know that I did. I think I planned that interview but I don't think it ended up happening." It changed, she said, when "I ended up interviewing Matt Sullivan at Light in the Attic. They were just about to put out this compilation of soul music from the 60s and 70s in Seattle called Wheedle's Groove. I instantly decided that was the movie I needed to make instead of the one I had been making. There was a record release party (at Chop Suey) and I showed up there with a bunch of cameras and then here we are, five years later." It should be noted that she and Sullivan also married in that time.


Latest comment by: Ural Thomas' agent: "Soul man Ural Thomas will be making several appearances in Seattle on 6/19 and 6/20. Check out his Facebook page for details!!/profile.php?id=100001216832795"

Black Whales Studio Diary: Deeper and Weirder

We asked Alex Robert, frontman for Black Whales, to keep us posted about what's going on with the band now that they are unsigned and recording a new album with John Goodmanson. We'll be posting his words here in three parts. This is the third. If you missed it, check out the first and second parts, here and here.

{If you would like to see the Black Whales at the Chop Suey, June 11th for free, email us your name and a reason why we should give you a pair of tickets to <> by Tuesday, June 8th at 5:00pm with "Black Whales" in the subject line. We have two pairs of tickets folks. Get 'em!}

So, if you've been following any of the little studio diaries that we have put up over the past four or five weeks, then a thanks is in order. Thank you very much! We really appreciate it. If you haven't, then nothing is in order. Nothing for you in this. Thank you for nothing.

To close things out: The next couple of weeks are John's time to do his thing to the thirteen songs that will be on this record. It's kind of a downer really, finishing a record. The next time I'll be in a studio to record music won't  be for awhile. And I've gotten so used to doing it everyday that everything else seems like plain Yoplait by comparison.


Latest comment by: Anonymous: "Sad that these posts are ending, and the great photos, too! Can't wait for the show and for the album."

Deep SIFF: The Dry Land

{The Dry Land screens once more at SIFF, on Monday, May 31 - Memorial Day - at 1:30pm at the Harvard Exit.}

For well over a century and going soon into two, people have accepted the common phrase "war is hell" as a universal truth. While likely true, we don't often talk about what affect war has on people individually once a war is over. That is the central issue surrounding Ryan Piers Williams' thrilling, post-war character study The Dry Land, which just played at the Seattle International Film Festival this past weekend.
Ryan O'Nan stars as James, a soldier returning home to his small Texas town after serving in Iraq. The war changed him and he now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Coming back home, he is unprepared to deal with daily issues and is constantly on edge. He certainly doesn't mean to be abusive towards his lovely and loving wife Sara (played by America Ferrera) or snap and his friends and coworkers who don't understand the psychological torment he's dealing with. At best, they can be sympathetic, but not empathetic. The director, Williams, said in a roundtable discussion with myself and a few other local film writers said about his film's protagonist, "he needed much more than people saying 'thank you for your service'. He needs people to actively try to understand his situation and offer him the support that he needs."


The Joy Formidable finally releases A Balloon Called Moaning in the US


The Welsh, indie, noise-pop band The Joy Formidable released their fantastic EP A Balloon Called Moaning in the US last week. It’s been available in the UK for the better part of 2009 and is finally making its way stateside after building considerable buzz on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Joy Formidable is a power trio that meshes a lot of noise (loud drums, louder guitars) with lush but delicate harmonies. It’s often quite joyous to listen to how all of the instruments mesh together and form something so cohesive and beautifully messy at the same time. At the beginning of the year when the band was in New York to play a couple of shows, I spoke with singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan for a brief phone interview and she said that after a few months of working together “we eventually found a sound where we all said ‘yeah, that’s what we want to sound like’ but that came from quite a bit of experimentation and going outside of the box quite a bit as well.” She went on to say that “when we started writing together we set out to be quite experimental but we try to be as expressive as we can with the sonics and the sound. We all had different styles but we just threw it out there and after about six months of writing together we found a way to not be shy and be truthful with it and it locked.”


Kate Nash: Bricks are Heavy

The first time I saw British pop star Kate Nash was almost two years to the day prior to the second time I saw her play. It was a sold out show at the Showbox at the Market and the buzz was beginning to make its way to the US after her debut album Made of Bricks hit number one in the UK. Her songs were perfectly catchy bedroom pop numbers accentuated by Nash’s witty lyrics and made with a piano and little else. She had barely gotten out of her teenage years but even then she had a knack with clever wordplay complimented with plenty of memorable hooks. Nash’s music was often like reading your most clever friend’s diary with a melody behind it. Listening to Made of Bricks or seeing her play those songs live, the adjectives that first came to mind would likely be “sweet” or “lovely” or “cute”.

After returning with an excellent and much more realized sophomore album, My Best Friend is You, a catchy-as-hell lead single that pays homage to 1960s girl groups and a US tour whose opening act is called “Supercute”, it would be easy to use those same adjectives to describe Nash in 2010. I interviewed Nash on the morning of her stop in Seattle last week and after I got off the phone with her, like after the first show I saw of hers, I thought she was perfectly lovely. She seemed quite humble after every compliment I gave her (which was often because I do think My Best Friend is You is a brilliant album) and was ready to write exactly that. I spent a lot of the time between our phone interview and when she took the stage at Neumos that same night (around twelve hours) mapping out exactly how I was going to write this article in my head.


Exene Cervenka's record store tour

{Exene Cervenka plays at Easy Street Records (Queen Anne) on Friday, April 16 at 6pm, at Tyrannosaurus Records (Renton) on Saturday, April 17 at 2pm and at Damaged Goods on Saturday, April 17 at 5pm, all free and all ages.}

Record stores have, like nearly every business, not fared particularly well in the economic climate of the past few years. In fact, they have likely had a much more difficult time staying solvent as the move towards more people getting their music online than at retail stores. At the beginning of this year, the first two albums to hit number one on the Billboard 200 chart this year (Ke$ha’s Animal and Vampire Weekend’s Contra) were the first two albums in history to top the charts with more than 50% digital sales. The lower prices, huge catalogs and fast delivery methods have made iTunes, emusic and Amazon the often first place for people to go to purchase music (and that’s saying nothing of what is obtained via illegal downloading) and has made it that much harder for record stores to stay in business.

One artist who is doing what she can to help record stores is Exene Cervenka. Best known for being the badass frontwoman for punk band X and the alt-country band The Knitters, she has been one of the most prolific and multi-faceted artists over the past thirty-plus years. Not just a musician, but she’s also a writer, poet and visual artist. My favorite quote about Cervenka came from her X and Knitters bandmate John Doe (which I found in Maria Raha’s great book Cinderella’s Big Score), who said “she was such a badass! I pretended to be but Exene was the real thing. She had the ax to grind…the unusual wiring that made it possible for her to throw a drink in somebody’s face and still be right.” She most recently released a gorgeous solo record called Somewhere Gone last autumn. She is currently on a tour, playing in-store shows at record stores on the west coast that will include appearances at three Seattle-area record stores: Easy Street Records (Queen Anne) on Friday, April 16 and on Saturday, April 17, the actual Record Store Day, she’ll be at Tyrannosaurus Records in Renton and Damaged Goods in Belltown.


King Khan and the Shrines' "psychedelic, erotic gospel"

{King Khan and the Shrines play at Neumos on Tuesday, April 13 with The Fresh and Onlys and Unnatural Helpers; 21+, $15 adv.}

When James Brown passed away a few Christmases ago, the title of “Hardest Working Man in Showbiz” had to have been passed to someone, if at all. For my money, the obvious choice would be the Montreal-born musician Arish Khan, better known as King Khan.

Khan has been one of the most prolific musicians over the past several years, constantly touring and working and recording with his projects King Khan and the Shrines and King Khan and BBQ Show, most notably. The rock band King Khan and BBQ Show is a collaboration with Mark Sultan, a musician from Montreal who has worked with Khan since their days in a mid-to-late 1990s band called The Spaceshits. There’s also Almighty Defenders, who released an album last fall on Vice Records, which was a gospel-inspired project between Khan, Sultan and Atlanta punk band The Black Lips, who found rock asylum at Khan’s Berlin home after an ill-advised tour of India where the band fled after learning the world’s largest democracy probably didn’t appreciate The Sex Pistols a generation before and still weren’t ready for their music. Khan is also planning on working with Wu-Tang Clan rapper GZA’s next album, when he can find the time.


Latest comment by: heather b: "Chris B, you're fantastic & I absolutely cannot *WAIT* for this show on the 13th!!"