Monday, April 28, 2008

AVS #3 | Element "Fine artists" (1994)

As 1993 slowly morphed into 1994, skateboarding started to drop its most shapeless baggy pants, for life can't be a giant rave circus eternally. And Underworld Element dropped "Underworld" from its name, introducing Fine Artists vol.1, the swan song of its golden age -meaning: when Andy Howell was involved. But what a swan song ! A true masterpiece, featuring among others Billy Pepper, Doug Saenz, Andy Stone, Eric Pupecki, Stevie Williams in his first real video part, and, needless to say, Pepe Martinez in his legendary curtains segment. No communion with Mother Nature here. In its 1.0 version, Element was street tough certified, as one of skateboard vid's greatest street fights attests in the ending credits. What was that guy in the motorcycle helmet thinking? Nobody knows, but what's for sure is that 1/ It comes a close second in the skate flick's hall of fame bloopers, right after that one gentleman getting his cranium cracked by a bearded psychopath's board at the end of Right To Skate, and 2/ It fits perfectly Joe Jackson's desperately bluesy tune What's The Use of Getting Sober... Ah, the Droorstalgia !
Showcasing a mix of '90s hip hop, classic soul and the mandatory Sabbath track, the third installment of Visual Sound pays a double tribute to, respectively, the five years skateboarding's been missing Pepe, and an unplausible time period when a Champion sweat-shirt was actually not a fashion faux-pas.

(Couldn't find each separate part so here's the whole video right here. 24 minutes of attention. You can do it)

The Commodores: Commodores
Tune used: Brick House (Billy Pepper)
How can an editor use a tune already used in another skate video and sleep at night? Major no-no. Oh, the pathetic moment when Powell recycled McRad's Weakness from Public Domain! It's OK though if the second attempt gets a 100 times stronger impact, which is the case with The Commodores' Brick House. A forgettable background to a surprisingly front-foot double flipping Mike Maldonado in H Street's Lick (speaking of swan song...), the 1977's sick and slick soul tune made perfect sense, two years later, to underline Billy Pepper's compact, dynamic skateboarding.
With a moustache-emblazoned Lionel Ritchie singing the praises of a "mighty-mighty, waaw" woman, the track itself comes from the seminal, self-titled LP and describes a young creature allegedly "built like a brick house". Which is, hum, good. Probably. Funny enough, legend has it that the lyrics were written by William King's wife, who wrote them overnight after her husband fell asleep on the couch, trying to figure out a last song for the LP. On a more tragic note, Brick House also got re-recorded in 2003 for the movie House Of 1000 Corpses, by a stunning Lionel Ritchie/Rob Zombie duet. As bizarre as a woman made out of bricks.

Black Sabbath: Master Of Reality
Tune used: Sweat Leaf (Eric Rewadi)
A very brief part for a very brief career. Eric Rewadi, ladies and gentlemen ! As Element was going East-Coast crazy, it gave the Philadelphian a chance he never really pursued in the limelight - even though he still skates, with Fred Gall and Lou Metal these days. So. Black Sabbath. Again, a muddy terrain since Ozzy's band's repertoire has been over-dug into, from Henry Sanchez' to Fred Gall's epic parts to even naming a Zero vid, Thrill of It All. Yet, the less-than-a-minute part lets Sabbath's third album's first track resonnate all over Love Park -an abrupt contrast to, say, Stevie Williams' choice of scat jazz/rap pioneers Freestyle Fellowship (Project Blowed) on the same spot- and it kind of works.
The full LP, anyway, released in 1971 six months only after Paranoid, is part of the Sabbath classics everybody should own. Which means the pre-1980 ones, before the Ozzy-less band pathetically tried to compete with all these cheezy stadium metal bands. A blend of hallucinated, beefed-up, greasy rock, infused in the finest drugs available at the time. Even though Rolling Stone saw Master of Reality as "naive, simplistic, repetitive, absolute doggerel" when it came out, well, that's maybe exactly what you should be after. For intricate heavy metal (ie guitar solos), just invest in Dokken. And die.

Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth:
Funky Technician

Tune used: Funky Technician (Pepe Martinez)
Legends unite ! As much of a cornerstone as Pepe's switch back flips up stairs, the debut album from Finesse and Smooth will remain one of the turning points in the early '90s hip hop history. It doesn't take a specifically seasonned crate digger to understand that when DJ Premier, Showbiz and Diamond D are behind the wheel, the result might come out fine.
Released in 1990, these very 13 tracks shaped the way of many beats to come, and are still regarded as legendary in 2008. Of course, 18 years later people have stopped sampling only James Brown (in Pepe's tune's case :
Blind Man Can See It from the Black Caesar soundtrack) to widen their horizons, yet then, the whole approach was revolutionnary. As much as a f-side 180 nollie over a standing garbage can.
As an echo to this musical evolution, the most observant video nerds will have noticed on a side note that Martinez' clothes mutate throughout his part, going from potato-bag chic to tight(er) white t-shirts and semi-normal pants. Skateboard history in action, people ! "To many I might look like a hoodlum, but I'm a rapper and a pretty damn good one", Finesse stated. Pepe could have claimed the same status in the slateboarding world. From '93 til infinity, he will rest in peace as Pulaski's own funky techician...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Screen memory | Aaron Meza

Having picked the soundtrack to FTC's Penal Code 100 A, alone, makes you a permanent honoris causa citizen of this blog. Aaron Meza, of crailtap fame, did. So instead of talking about his greatest achievements, which we all know and revere, how about his greatest almosts? Here are some tunes that shoulda, coulda, woulda been in skateboard videos if only it was all up to the mullet-girded 8th grader on this photo.
5 great songs that should (or maybe one day will)
be in a skate video | by Aaron Meza

1. John Simon: Tannenbaum
"I thought Rick or MJ could have skated to it in Fully Flared. Damn it, outvoted again. I was going to use it for the JJ Rouseau part of The Déjà Vu Cliché video but they booted him off the team."

2. Belle and Sebastian: Fuck This Shit
"A sad instrumental that could be used for the bummer part of a bummer video."

3. Diamond Head: Am I Evil
"Alex Olson should have skated to this, you'd probably have to lose the intro though."

4. Sleep: Dragonaut
"But only if it were never used in Gummo and it was of two skaters, friends, skating through town hitting spots like in an old Powell video, and then they go sniff glue and kill cats. I'd cast Lennie Kirk and Josh Kalis from 1996."

5. Alice Cooper: Hello Hooray
"It'd really be at the front of the video and only on the premiere copy. It'd play while the audience was in the theater waiting to see the video that took another four years to finish. I'd be kind of an apology but it'd be triumphant as well. At least that's the way I'd see it."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Interlude | France's museum of horrors

Now operated from Tunisia, Yoann Cimier's site bares a name as plain (Skate Site) as its content is excellent. Besides his pretty cool photos and artistic manifestos, he's also been compiling a bunch of vintage books, mags (some erotic ones in there too, you sleaze balls) and LPs that once bared skateboarding on their covers. Music-wise, here's a small look at these doomed times when skateboarding in France was cool and all over the place. Makes you love these recessions even more...

Aimable : Un Air de Hit Parade
Alas deceased in 1997, French "suspended-piano" all-time champ Aimable ("loveable", yes) can be seen as yesterday's Pete Rock, as far as instrumentals go. For the anecdote, he recorded over 10,000 tunes and started as a sax player, until a soccer game with an empty can went wrong and broke all his front teeth as a kid. Rough and tough is the accordeonist life, dog.
Regarding this great cover shot, no idea how he came up with that daring concept, though. All the skateboarding world needs to know is that French balloche-style accordion's heaviest-hitter sends a shout-out to "The Saint-Nicolas D'Igny high school skate club" in the credits. Matt Hensley beware, Aimable is rolling 12-deep.

André Brasseur : Skateboard USA
Hailing from neighboring Belgium, André Brasseur's music was actually kinda super-cool. An acclaimed jazz Hammond player, he did experience success in 1965 with Early Bird Satellite, launched on the same time frame than the first telecommunications satellite. Today he probably would have composed The I Phone Boogie or something. Brasseur then went on to become very collectable to DJs/crate diggers for his handful of mid-60s sonic experiences, which happen to be very listenable, such as this 45.

Lady Skate & Les Skateboard Kids : Skateboard Baby
"The two feet on your skate, bend your knees, get ready/for the big slalom!" Lady Skate's enthousiastic energy is just awesomely scary. Like when you stumble upon these Mormon kids who try to lure you in by being overly nice and it gets all awkward, you know? Creepy.
Set to a hybrid country-ish/rock background, Lady Skate's only known 7'' was a stellar one-hitter. Only, it didn't really hit. Usually sells for under a buck on Ebay.

Topaloff : Les Rois du Skateboard
One of France's favorite buffoons, Patrick Topaloff got famous in the '70s, for his first single J'ai Bien Mangé J'ai Bien Bu got produced by disco-pop legend Claude François. He then proceeded to establish pure stardom by connecting to his fan base via breath-taking performances on camping grounds and/or supermarket parking lots. This all-out approach propelled the people's choice icon into some of France's finest slapstick movies such as Le Führer en Folie or Drôle de Zèbre, so surreal they might actually be worth something, some day.
More unbreakable than Zoo York, Topaloff relentlessly delivered the, mmh, "goods". A tune with the biggest amount of puns based on he word 'egg'? Check. Johnny Be Good adapted and sung in an Arabic accent under the name Ali Be Good? Check. The mandatory skateboard tune in 1978? Check. After Les Rois du Skateboard, Topaloff never forgot skateboarding : he later got this very chef 'oeuvre covered by the unforgettable, yet forgotten somehow, Patrick Dupin, before slowly disappearing from the limelight and becoming homeless. So that's cool, France had its Andy Roy too. Minus the tattoos and probably the projectile vomiting, though.

Don't forget to go see more on Skate Site, Yoann also has sound clips on there, and a ton of other songs, not all bad -JFA, Dead Kennedys and such. To complement it, also check the special Skateboard playlist on Bide&Musique, a website strictly dedicated to cheesy French tunes.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Visually collaborative (kinda)

It's not really a collaboration, since there's only been one issued, but I pompously pretend it's one, so one day it will sell for an unreasonable price at like Undefeated or Colette. Working on my retirement, folks !
As you might know, or not know, Traffic Skateboards skater and Direction East boss Henry Panza, besides being one of the highlights of the Via flick, is also linked to the Pennswood woodshop, where everybody can get some super sick custom boards made. Anyway, we were kind of talking about reggae, and Henry liked some of the photos I've been taking over the past ten years of the heaviest dub sound systems in London (Jah Shaka, Aba Shanti, Channel One, King Shiloh...), and the rest is not history at all. Just a cool board that I really like. Thanks Henry !

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Screen memory | Fred Demard

We all were going to keep on lamenting forever after the demise of Chill mag, made by these people of taste and fine defenders of the Droorstalgia themselves. So one day the French president called Fred Demard, the man, the legend, the tail-grabbing pop-shove it icon, and Soma magazine was born. Super nice layout, small format, available for 1 Euro only at all the fine skate-shops in France. Until a new real posting, in two weeks I think, here's Soma's editor in chief's little playlist...
5 songs that should be
in skateboard videos | by Fred Demard

1. The Beatles : Helter Skelter

2 Fugazi : Guilford Fall Demo (Instrument album's version)

3. Beefeater :
Wars in Space

4. Dag Nasty :
All Ages Show

5. Neil Young :
Southern Pacific

"Oh and also I would imagine Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA over a Bam Margera part, that would kill", Fred added. Just to give you a small, small glimpse of his kind of humour...

Only built for cuban links

Being new to the blog thing, not sure about etiquette dos and donts, might sound corny but I'd like to thank crailtap, slap, 1 fellswoop and you will soon for the link up. Without these guys I could never have bought that first Red Bull Range Rover.