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Re-Enter the ’36th Chamber’: RZA on a Kung Fu Movie Classic

The Wu-Tang Clan mastermind screened a chop-socky masterpiece at LACMA — here are 10 tidbits from a lively evening

RollingStone.com
By Gavin Edwards
September 24, 2014

The Wu-Tang Clan is a hip-hop empire built on a foundation of kung fu movies — and last night at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the RZA detailed some of the connections. First on the bill: a screening of the 1978 Shaw Brothers classic The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which had a resurgence of popularity in 1993 because of the Wu-Tang debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Then the Wu-Tang’s producer/leader and Elvis Mitchell (curator of the presenting organization, Film Independent at LACMA) engaged in a half-hour conversation about the movie’s influence on the musician’s life and art. The RZA, looking sharp in a fresh white button-down shirt and dark blue jeans, discussed how he had spent a lifetime studying every aspect of kung-fu movies; here are 10 highlights.

1. Birth of a Shaolin Warrior
The RZA saw The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, then called The Master Killer, for the first time when he nine years old, on a local New York TV channel. “We’d all be watching the kung fu movies and come out and start fighting each other,” he remembered. But the film awakened a social and historic awareness in him: “Beyond the kung fu, there was something about the reality of the situation.” The story of fighting against an oppressive government particularly resonated with him: “As a black man in America, I didn’t know that story existed anywhere else.”

2. Name That Tune
The RZA knows the movie so well that when he was backstage at LACMA’s Bing Theater, he could identify a fight scene just from the soundtrack. “Without seeing it, from music cues,” he said, he could tell that “San Te was fighting with the axe against the monk.” He also noted the subtitles had been revised in this particular film print: “They changed some of them, but I can work with that.”

3. Bring da Ruckus
The RZA’s favorite fight in the film: “When [San Te] loses the second fight, as far as choreography — the butterfly knives against the crescent blade. He had a plan to beat him, but he countered every move.”

4. Secrets of Shaolin
Before the Wu-Tang Clan released Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the group had adopted “chamber” as an all-purpose noun; in context it could be applied to an attractive girl or a bottle of Olde English malt liquor.

5. Early Ambitions
“When Wu-Tang first came out, there were no DVDs ; my goal was to put a cassette in your car, and have an audio movie.”

6. Chinese Raps
The kung fu influence on Wu Tang was not just lyrical but musical, as the RZA pointed out: “We always used these horn hits and percussion” that borrowed from movie soundtracks. Or as Raekwon once complained to him, “You’re still playing that Chinese shit.” RZA shrugged, and compared the Chinese five-tone musical scale to the musical vocabulary of the blues.

7. Shaolin vs. Julliard
The RZA has worked as an actor now and again, in films including American Gangster, Coffee and Cigarettes, and GI Joe: Retaliation. He said that there’s a unifying quality to his performances: “I act like a Chinese kung fu guy.”

8. Commissioning Gordon
The RZA directed the reverential 2012 kung fu film The Man with the Iron Fists; Mitchell touted an upcoming sequel, The Man with the Iron Fists 2. The RZA wanted Gordon Liu, the star of 36th Chamber, to appear in his film as an aged abbot. Liu was reluctant, the RZA said, until they met and he told him how his movies had changed his own life and he wanted to provide the same inspiration to a new generation. The clincher was the character’s dialogue, which RZA had to show him in person, because the lines “weren’t in the screenplay, only in my BlackBerry.”

9. Protect Ya Neck
“The Wu-Tang Clan, you’re looking at nine individuals who needed to come up for air. It was either swim or drown,” the RZA said. He spoke respectfully of Salt-n-Pepa and Run-D.M.C. as hip-hop pioneers who went to college, but opined that the difference with the Wu-Tang Clan was that seven of the nine members were felons, and were supposed to be dead or imprisoned.

10. Wu-Tang Forever
The RZA said he had internalized the movie’s themes of sacrifice, brotherhood, and “the self-discipline of building yourself.” He cited the five-year saga of self-improvement that San Te went through, and compared it to the recording of “Ice Cream” (the 1995 Raekwon single), when he was willing to stay up all night in search of the right sound while other producers might have gone to sleep. The Wu-Tang Clan’s DJ, Mathematics, had come over to observe the session, but fell asleep. At 7 A.M., the RZA said, he completed the track — and when Mathematics woke up, and heard how it had evolved “from a snare to one of Wu-Tang’s biggest songs,” he was inspired to become a producer himself.

Full article: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/features/re-enter-the-36th-chamber-the-rza-on-a-kung-fu-movie-classic-20140924

Reunited Ramones Estates Plan Big Comeback Including Martin Scorsese Film

Billboard.com
By Steve Baltin | August 27, 2014 12:10 PM EDT

The Johnny Ramone tribute at Hollywood Forever Cemetery has become a tradition. This past Sunday marked the tenth annual event honoring the late guitarist. In a marathon celebration that began before sundown diehard Ramones fans were treated to a Q&A that included Johnny’s widow Linda, Duff McKagan, host Rob Zombie and more, an all-star concert that found both Zombie and a group, which included McKagan, Steve Jones, Fred Armisen and surprise guest Billy Idol, covering the Ramones, and finally a screening of Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects.

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“Johnny was a good friend of mine, we first met probably ’95 as the Ramones were wrapping up their touring and they opened for White Zombie on tour,” Zombie told Billboard. “We hit it off first day, we started talking, we had a lot of things in common, very similar views on certain things, we became good friends and stayed that way right until the end.”

It was fitting that Zombie, such a close friend of Johnny’s, hosted what may be the last Johnny-specific public event. Jeff Jampol, who co-manages the band’s estate with Dave Frey, says going forward the tributes will be all about the group as a whole.

“That was probably the last Johnny Ramone tribute you’re gonna see. We’re gonna do something moving forward, but it’s gonna be Ramones,” Jampol told Billboard. “We’re all gonna focus on the Ramones, and it’s that whole thing of, ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ The legacy is the Ramones, the music is the Ramones, it was the four of them – it was Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy, and everybody is cooperating and moving in one direction together as a team.”

For years, Linda Ramone has controlled Johnny’s half of the band’s estate, while Joey’s brother Mickey oversaw the lead singer’s half. After a long behind the scenes disputes all sides are finally on the same page.

“It’s always been about the entire band expect I had Johnny’s half and Joey’s brother Mickey had Joey’s half. And since we weren’t speaking he did more Joey and I did more Johnny,” Linda says. “We can move on now and do Ramones cause me and Mickey now are friends, so that’s cool. I was happy he came last night.”

Linda jokes, “As we say everyday now, ‘We’re all one big happy family.’” But that is important for her, as the recent tragic passing of Tommy Ramone makes it even more pressing the band’s music be preserved and celebrated.

“With Tommy up there now with them it even feels more like, ‘Wow, they are all gone,’” she says. “I spoke to Tommy every week and the legacy was really important to him too.”

It’s Jampol’s JAM and Frey who are now co-managing the band, and Jampol says that was part of his requirement for coming on board. “JAM as a company, we were not interested in doing this unless it was Dave and I co-managing the Ramones as a whole. And so now everything we’re doing is Ramones centric.”

Jampol, who also handles estates for the Doors, Janis Joplin, Tupac, Otis Redding and more, has big plans for the Ramones moving forward.

“The 40th anniversary of the Ramones is coming up in 2016, that’s when the first album came out. So we have a lot of projects leading up to that. We’re looking at a documentary on the Ramones, we just secured a ton of footage, much of which has never been seen before,” he says. “It came from the Ramones on the road over the years in the Seventies and a little bit in the Eighties, from a gentleman who had shot them, his name is George Seminara.”

The documentary is just one of several projects in the works. Among the others are a theatrical play, a book and a film, which already has Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese attached.

Of the book, Jampol says, “You’ll see a book coming, which is not a biographical book so much, but a story of the band’s formation and those first few records and that craziness that happened. It’ll be a combination of prose, photographs and memorabilia and posters, just kind of documenting the scene. The Ramones were the first punk band and they started the punk movement.”

In leading up to the anniversary the Ramones will be reappearing in several other ways, including remastered music, fashion and music placement.

“You’re gonna see some really interesting combinations of music and new music and remastered music and apparel,” Jampol says. “As far as the apparel goes, and really everything, as a company, for me, authenticity is the foundation of everything. And luckily, when you have a really genius artist like the Ramones you don’t have to spin it. It is what it is and what it is is a beautiful moment in time that sparked a revolution in music and in fashion. So you look at 76 when the Ramones first album came out, and that really sparked that brand new wave of what I call the American rock and roll wardrobe, which is jeans, white t-shirt, leather jacket and sneakers.”

The event Sunday featured a VIP area with alcohol provided by Stillhouse whisky, a company founded by former Live Nation president of merchandising Brad Beckerman. Beckerman’s company also recently handled the wrap party for the Foo Fighters‘ HBO series. He sees the Ramones as being a perfect fit with one of today’s biggest rock bands.

“The Ramones are iconic and you’re talking about timeless music,” Beckerman says. “You could see it last night, I saw so many kids there. The only thing similar to what I saw last night in terms of a scene was the Dead, which was a culture.”

The Ramones first formed in 1974, 40 years ago this year, but, to Jampol, the band’s proper anniversary is 2016. “There are a lot of people trying to cash in on Ramones mania and cash in on celebrations, there are these small clubs, this is the fortieth anniversary tribute and it’s not true. The big fortieth anniversary is gonna be celebrated in 2016 with the release of the first record,” he says. “And my feeling is the same when we celebrated the Doors. [The Ramones] got together in ’74, they started playing some shows, they were a small local band, but the world became aware of the Ramones when they released their first record in ’76. And that’s the year we’re celebrating.”

Full article here: http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6229437/reunited-ramones-estates-plan-big-comeback-including-martin-scorsese-film

Janis Joplin Image by David Gahr Featured in USPS USA Forever Stamp Series

Posted by: David Gahr Photographs on August 3, 2014

Janis Joplin Image by David Gahr Featured in USPS USA Forever stamp series: Music Icons: Beloved musicians whose blend of sound and way of life broke boundaries.

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From the USPS website:

Groundbreaking singer Janis Joplin (1943-1970), an icon of the 1960s whose bluesy voice propelled her to the pinnacle of rock stardom, appears on this new stamp in the Music Icons series.

The artwork for this stamp features a photo of Janis Joplin taken by David Gahr in June 1970. The original black and white photograph is rendered in shades of blue, with Joplin’s trademark round sunglasses tinted a shade of pink. With her wild mane of hair decorated with a feathered accessory, wrists decked out in bangle bracelets, and expressive smile, it’s a joyful image of this iconic singer. The words “Janis Joplin,” along with the “Forever” denomination and “USA” appear in psychedelic-style script reminiscent of the 1960s, in shades of gold, orange, and pink. Daniel Pelavin designed the lettering. Small blue stars pop out from the stamp’s dark blue background. Text below the stamps briefly describes Joplin’s musical legacy.

Read full article and purchase stamps here.

JANIS JOPLIN IS FINALLY IMMORTAL – Songwriter and friend Johanna Hall on the debt we owe the rock goddess

Esquire.com
By Johanna Hall on August 13, 2014

Janis Joplin is getting a Forever stamp. She’d have liked that, with her fierce ambition, her fear of being forgotten, and the creative striving that drove her brief career. She set an example for all the powerful, complicated performers who came after her, who were unafraid to unleash their talent into the world and didn’t fit into a ready-made mold. Janis certainly didn’t fit the image of the pretty girl singer. Instead she roared on stage at Woodstock 45 years ago this month, expressing deep hunger and psychic pain in an extravagant performance that catapulted her into the national consciousness.

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The last time I saw Janis was August 8, 1970, at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. Two months later she would be dead. I was standing in the wings watching my songwriting partner and then-husband, John Hall, soundcheck for his opening-act slot. The stage door opened, and in a slant of afternoon sun, Janis entered wearing civilian clothes, her hair loose around her shoulders. She smiled with her blue eyes when she saw me and came over to give me a hug hello. We stood and talked of inconsequential things. Then she sighed, “Well, I’ve got to go upstairs and put on Janis Joplin.” She gave her mouth a wry twist. “I’ve got her in a box.”

I smiled back. We both knew she meant not only her trademark feathers and glittery garb but also the colorful persona she’d created: the hard-living psychedelic blues mama, with a bottle of Southern Comfort in her hand.

Janis had me from the first moment I saw her. It was the spring of 1968 and John and I went to check out Big Brother and The Holding Company, a new band from San Francisco with a “chick singer.” Wailing as she ran on to the stage of Generation, a basement rock club on West 8th Street in New York City that later became Jimi Hendrix’s studio, Electric Ladyland, Janis’s voice and persona filled the room with such power that I was an instant convert.

Early in 1969, I became a rock critic for the Village Voice. All the other critics were men, save one or two. When Janis left Big Brother to go out on her own, the press hated her. She was on a star trip, they said, counter to the hippie ideals of love and brotherhood. Male musicians weren’t treated that way. Steve Winwood went from group to group without accusations. I was one of the few writers who saw through the double standard. When she released her first solo album I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, I countered the backlash with a rave review, going so far as to call her my generation’s Judy Garland, our Edith Piaf.

After my review, Janis reached out to me through her publicist, Myra Friedman, who called to say, “Janis wants to meet you.”

Myra explained that Janis was feeling wounded and insecure because of the backlash. She was afraid her success wouldn’t last and she would fail. Myra told me Janis had asked her manager, Albert Grossman, “Will you give me a job in the office when no one wants me anymore?”

I pitched a profile to my editor and he approved it, so it was arranged for me to meet Janis at her hotel. I’d been given her room number since rock stars never registered under their own names. At the appointed time, I walked to the genteelly aging Fifth Avenue Hotel. I took the elevator up and knocked on her door. And knocked until it dawned that I should have called from the lobby. Embarrassed, I turned to go back down when the door opened. Janis stood there wrapped in a bedspread, nothing else. I’d woken her. She invited me into her suite.

She’d used her scarves, necklaces, and feather boas to decorate the rooms, draping lamps and mirrors to make the place her own. After she dressed, we sat at the foot of her bed facing a mirror. It didn’t seem odd to talk into a mirror, to speak to a reflected image of the other, my own blue eyes looking into the reflection of hers in the dim light of the room.

We spent 12 hours together that day. We went out into Greenwich Village, walked MacDougal Street, popped into shops, and bonded over dinner in a Mexican restaurant. As she revealed more of herself, we became equals, sisters under the skin, sharing our insecurities. She confessed that she’d been strung out on heroin but had been clean a little while. Albert had sent her somewhere to get clean and she was going to try to stay on the path. But she said fervently, describing the high, “There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for that peace!”

After that, Janis would come by our apartment whenever she was in town. I never knew which Janis I’d see when I opened the door. Sometimes she looked like a tired waitress in a diner in her native Texas; and at other times, she was a radiant siren. She had unusual skin, large-pored and translucent. Everything showed. She was funny and smart and perceptive when she was sober.

It amazed me that Janis could get drunk one night and do it again the next. She had no brakes, no governor on her excesses. At the same time she had a strong work ethic and took her responsibility to her audience seriously. She said she considered it her job to “get them off.”

She was always on the lookout for new material. John played her some of his songs and she liked the music but not the lyrics. So one night, standing in the doorway to leave, she suggested, “Why don’t the two of you write me a song?”

She looked at me and said, “You’re a woman, you’re a writer. Write me a song!”

“Half Moon,” written by John and me, was released on the posthumous Pearl album and was the B-side of Janis’s number-one single, “Me and Bobby McGee.” After that John and I continued to collaborate and wrote hits for John’s band Orleans, as well as songs for other artists, including Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Ricky Skaggs, the Doobie Brothers, and Chet Atkins. Our catalog of songs has been certified by BMI for over 10 million airplays worldwide.

Because of Janis, I went from journalist to lyricist. She changed my life and career by drafting me into the male-dominated music business and showing me a path to creative and financial independence. She was as generous with her encouragments as she was with her performances, “leaning in” until toppled by the weight of her pain and excesses, but not before she influenced a generation of artists. Her legacy is visible in rock singers from Eddie Vedder to Adam Lambert and Katy Perry to Lana Del Rey. We all owe her a debt.

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The Janis Joplin Forever stamp is now on sale, joining her with the likes of Elvis Presley, Rosa Parks, and next year, Steve Jobs. These postage-stamp icons changed our culture with their grit and individualism. Like them, Janis captured our imaginations indelibly and left us transformed. I’m glad the U.S. Post Office used a photograph, not an illustration. The stamp features an image of a triumphant Janis, in round rose-colored glasses, feathers woven into her flowing hair, arm adorned in silver bracelets. But I don’t want to reduce her to an image, to put her in a box.

There is already talk about a 50th anniversary Woodstock reunion. But it’s hard to imagine anyone who can duplicate the visceral power of Janis’s performance. Janis was complicated and flawed, always striving, always longing for what she didn’t have. That may be what made her so charismatic, so close to the mystery, as she worked consciously to give of herself and fill her own emptiness. Maybe Janis never found what she was looking for in life. But 44 years after her death, her place in rock and roll history and our culture is sealed.

Outside Lands 2014: BEST ’60S THROWBACK

CONSEQUENCE OF SOUND
COS EXCLUSIVE FEATURES

BY COS STAFF
AUGUST 11, 2014, 11:30AM

JANIS JOPLIN TRIBUTE (MARY BRIDGET DAVIES, KACEY MUSGRAVES, AND NICKI BLUHM)

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Photo by Joshua Mellin

Fifty years ago, a feisty Texan by the name of Janis left the Lone Star State for the swinging city of San Francisco. “I just had to get away from Texas,” explained Joplin. “My head was in a much different place.” Joplin’s unique vocal style landed her with local psychedelic rock outfit Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the rest is history.

Ever since Joplin first journeyed to San Francisco back in ’63, she’s held a special place in the city’s heart. So, to honor the “Queen of Psychedelic Soul,” Outside Lands lined up a tremendous tribute. Broadway star Mary Bridget Davies teamed up with singer-songwriters Kacey Musgraves and Nicki Bluhm for an exceptional homage to Pearl, treating early arrivers to a half-dozen impeccable covers.

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Photo by Amanda Koellner

Bluhm led off with “Me and Bobby McGee”, sashaying around the stage in a skintight, white lace jumpsuit and turquoise-studded belt. As the chorus came around, Bluhm’s smoky voice grew thick with conviction: “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to looo-hooo-hooo-zee!” Opting for a down-tempo ditty, Musgraves tapped “Mercedes Benz”, smacking her tambourine to the beat.

But despite strong efforts from Bluhm and Musgraves, Mary Bridget Davies stole the show. Davis, fresh off a stint playing Janis in the Broadway musical A Night with Janis Joplin, channeled the Texas singer’s quirks and flourishes to a tee. Harkening back to Joplin’s iconic performance at the 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival, Davis shrieked and screamed until her face turned beet red on “Ball and Chain”. –Henry Hauser

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