Posts Tagged ‘not not fun’

Portrait: Jon Clark

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Jon Clark is a visual artist living and working in Los Angeles. His work has appeared on several Not Not Fun releases, including the video for Matrix Metals and LA Vampires “So Unreal” (credited to Image Masters Unlimited, his collaboration with artist Spencer Longo). Clark’s practice spans comics, graphic design and video. The culmination of his efforts to date is Spectrum Hunter, a just released thirty minute film with a striking visual style that compliments its loose narrative about a cult of drug-addled video warriors who film their exploits for sale on the black market. Spectrum Hunter captures the timeless atmosphere of youth while leaving the menace of childhood intact.  It is a vital document of the dark, nostalgia-infected vibe that colors the work of Not Not Fun artists and associated blurry-VHS style travelers like James Ferraro.

Spectrum Hunter Trailer from Jon Clark on Vimeo.

Visitation Rites: In addition to the cover art and other visual ephemera you created for  the film there is a lot of original 80s and early 90s graphic art in the opening sequence. Can you talk a little bit about how this kind of art has influenced your own design work?

John Clark: With the bedroom scene, I was referencing the type of art and graphic design that inspired the aesthetic of the movie.  In reality, that is my real bedroom and I own everything on the walls.  The products, symbols, and advertising of the 80s/90s era are interesting to me because I first experienced them as a child.  When you are young, everything is mysterious and new – there is a permanent suspension of disbelief.  Encountering aesthetics in this mindset is profound. Browsing video stores as a child had a huge effect on my subconscious. Since I was not allowed to rent an R-rated movie, I would imagine what might be on them based solely on the cover art.  I did my best to illustrate this idea with the video store scene in Spectrum Hunter. As a kid, I wanted to interact with the mysterious characters and artwork represented on VHS boxes.  As an artist, I’ve found a way to create a world in which that is possible.

A close friend said she thinks the best modern example of Black Magic lies within the advertising industry.  There is something very seductive and powerful about package artwork and design.  When making props for Spectrum Hunter, though we referenced the graphic art of the 80s and 90s, I think the pieces that worked best went beyond that aesthetic.  Those pieces in particular had a haunted feel, familiar, yet dark and ambiguous.  Since completing Spectrum Hunter, I have continued to make cover artwork for a series of imagined media called the Night School Collection. With these pieces, I want to move beyond the 80s/90s aesthetic and put more emphasis on creating work that evokes the haunted feeling I mentioned earlier.  You can view them here.

VR: Can you talk about the names of characters in the games and the videos shown in Spectrum Hunter. Were these created specifically for the movie or were they a result of ideas and design concepts you’d been thinking about for a long time in different contexts?

JC: Both.  Text and language are a big part of my artistic practice.  I’m as much of a writer as I am a visual artist.  I have a ton of aliases and names for projects that don’t even exist yet.  When I used to play in bands I would always make up fake band names and include them on our fliers.  A lot of times, the impetus for a piece comes from a name or phrase I’ve come up with that is interesting or evocative to me.  Names can carry a lot of weight, especially when juxtaposed with imagery.  Rotten Robbie is the name of a gas station on the way to San Francisco.  Their sign has a cool font.  Poison House is something I saw written on a Pog.  To me, a Poison House is a futuristic version of a haunted house.  If Spectrum Hunters are inhabiting a building or mall, it’s a Poison House.  Night School is the name of the production company that puts out the Spectrum Hunter videos.  Mizuno is the name of an athletic company.  Heather, who played Mizuno, actually wears a Mizuno batting glove on her left hand in real life.  I like the name Shuttlecock because it sounds very regal but also funny and homoerotic.

VR: Can you tell me how actor Dian Bachar got involved?

JC: I love living in L.A. and being close to celebrities.  I also think the idea of a cameo is a symbolic gesture within the context of the film.  Celebrities carry the same sort of weight that logos and graphics do.  They are recognizable symbols of our culture.  Dian was roommates with a close friend of mine.  I am a big fan of Dian’s work and as we got to know each other, he became a fan of my work too.  I knew I wanted him to be in Spectrum Hunter before I even wrote it.  The other potential actor to play our Store Clerk was Jason Narvy, the guy who played Skull on Power Rangers.

VR: The mythology behind the Spectrum Hunter  isn’t gone into much detail in the film. Could you give a little background on your own idea/concept for the Spectrum Hunter universe?

JC: The Spectrum Hunters are a cult that inhabit deserted malls.  They use drugs (represented by Pogs) in order to gain tangible magic powers.  They build mazes and then kidnap people, forcing them to fight their way through the gauntlets they’ve constructed.  Surveillance cameras document these affairs and the subsequent videos are sold in clandestine locations.  They sell for astronomical sums of money since they are rare and illegal.  We made the Spectrum Hunters mysterious intentionally, but I still think their core motivations are apparent: the Spectrum Hunters inhabit deserted malls, they have real magic powers that most normal people don’t have access to, and they have a subculture with its own rituals and hierarchy.  Those are the things that motivate them to do what they do.

VR: Can you speak briefly about the music in the film – what your initial ideas for the score were and how you collaborated on the project?

JC: I wanted the score to mostly be comprised of early synthesis type music.  Music and sound cues similar to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, A Clockwork Orange, 70s/80s TV bumpers, pinball machines, and video games.  I initially wanted natural noises to be represented with synth noises in order to abstract the imagery another level (sonically).  There are some instances of this in the film, but not as many as I originally planned.  One example is when Robbie spins the flower on the honeycomb prop and it bleeps out an atonal synth arpeggiation.

When I hear music that inspires me, I automatically attach imagery to it in my head.  This often compels me to illustrate music through video.  I am a huge fan of house and techno.  The scenes in Spectrum Hunter that incorporate dance music were conceived of with that type of music in mind.  I wanted to illustrate techno in a way that is based on my personal relationship with it, that would resonate with people in a different way.  Even if one isn’t a fan of that type of music, I wanted to work with it in a more conceptual manner that would transcend taste and deal with this music as an idea.  When the Spectrum Hunters baptize Tyler in the opening scene, it was important that techno be playing in the background.  Techno is hypnotic, ritualistic future music and it fits in with the vibe of the Spectrum Hunter cult.  I grew up going to raves, DJing, and making techno.  The synaesthesic experiences I had at raves, where images, sound, and humanity combine to create an alternate reality, have had an immense effect on my artwork.  In many ways, Spectrum Hunter is a heavily abstracted movie about rave culture, or subcultures in general.  Before I knew what raves were, I’d often pick up rave flyers at the mall because they looked cool.  On the back side, they listed all the DJs who were performing.  The names lists blew me away.  Adam X, Frankie Bones, Stryfe, Shredder, Tin Man, The Hacker.  “Who are these Demi-gods?” I wondered.  It would be years before I would find out.  That experience inspired the Spectrum Hunter flier that keeps reappearing in the movie: Apple Knocker, China Doll, Body Bag, Puss in Boots, Double Dude, Confetti Skeleton…Hugh Know?

Words: Max Burke

Spectrum Hunter is now available on DVD

Sightings: Dylan Ettinger, “Wintermute” (Video)

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

When I first came across the music of Dylan Ettinger, he was what you could call a New Age Outlaw. His compositions often possessed a rich, textured ambiance, that was often more tense than meditative. Ettinger’s pop potential first made itself know on last year’s 7″, “The Lion Of Judah.” “Wintermute”, the lead single from Ettinger’s upcoming LP Lifetime of Romance, continues to build on the dark wave ambiance, this time with a rhythm that is ripe for the goth dance club, and a Robert Smith-esque vocal line. The video itself is intriguing and nightmarish. While the images border on titillating and pleasurable, their surreal nature places them subtly into the space of sexual anxiety. This is certainly a testament to the directorial skills of Melissa Cha. While the overall sound might be more accessible than Ettinger’s past output, its power is undeniable, and with this video as a visual representation, we can gather that Ettinger is the type of artist who will always keep us on our toes.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

Lifetime of Romance will be out in March on Not Not Fun

Sightings: Psychic Handbook, “Dolphina” Video

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

A few months ago we posted Psychic Handbook‘s unabashedly New Age track “Dolphina.” Now Alejandro Archuleta (the man behind the handbook) has added some visuals to the pure moods, and dolphin calls of the song. The video is successful in capturing the playfulness of the music. It centers around a group of dancers, including Archuleta himself, journeying through a magic landscape. This landscape includes swimming with dolphins, surfing, and in a particularly exuberant moment, singing on stage with the women of ABBA. The imagery here is both a valentine and a parody of the New Age aesthetic, and it captures a joviality that we don’t see quite enough of.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

Psychic Handbook’s debut album will be out later this Fall on Not Not Fun

Sightings: Bruce Hart, “Hartwork”

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Vermont’s ambitiously prolific weirdo pop enchanter Zach Phillips, aka one half of Blanche Blanche Blanche, is also known for themed releases under alter-ego monikers GDC, Horse Boys, Sord, and Nals Goring. Music for Drawing, out now on Not Not Fun, introduces Phillips’ latest false prototype in the form of Bruce Hart– a “hard-edged lab rat renegade who’s engaged in an ongoing socio-psychological mind-war with nefarious invisible chemical-industro corporations.” Music For Drawing‘s superhero path of saving the world from its self-imposed dystopian nightmare isn’t always clear. With “Hartwork,” we travel through the steel-trapped doors of his laboratory and witness the scientist-gone-mad at work. Arpeggios bubble from beakers and high frequency organ notes mark the endless pistoning of a cyber-synth-fueled machine.

Wherever it comes from, “Hartwork”‘s energy is infectious. Perhaps the electro-industrial Atari-style synths of Bruce Hart’s minimal wave manifesto will inspire even the most elite gamers to hang up their controllers, pop the cassette into a boombox, and enter an alternate form of crime-fighting virtual reality against the atrocities of human/chemical waste.

Bruce Hart, “Hartwork”

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Words: Mary Katherine Youngblood

Order Music For Drawing from Not Not Fun now.

Sightings: Dylan Ettinger, “Lion of Judah”

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Dylan Ettinger – Lion of Judah from Nathan Vollmar on Vimeo.

“Lion of Judah,” the A-side of Dyan Ettinger‘s new 7″, sees the Bloomington, IN artist going in for some deep, terrestrial blues after the arpeggiated beam-scapes of his New Age Outlaws LP. Never thought I’d enjoy watching “action shots” of a dude playing a synthesizer, but this video by Nathan Vollmar and William Winchester Claytor makes every moment count, from the turn of a head to the opening of an eye and the choreography of a body lunging forward for a kiss. If the slant of the light and the group compositions remind you of clicking through slides in Art History 101, it’s because the artists were taking some pretty serious cues from Caravaggio.

Words: Emilie Friedlander

“Lion of Judah” 7″ is available from Not Not Fun, along with Dylan’s New Age Outlaws LP

Sightings: Gillette, “I” (Teaser)

Friday, April 1st, 2011

GILLETTE – I teaser from 100% Silk on Vimeo.

Amanda Brown (Not Not Fun, LA Vampires) has certainly been making strides with her new 100% Silk imprint. The young label has put out long-playing neo-techno releases from The Deeep, Maria Minerva, and Ital to name a few. This new track from Gillette is as smooth as your lover’s face after a clean shave. Although we are only given a snippet here, I am excited by Gillette’s enchantingly spacey minimal techno. The video, which was directed by Amanda Brown and Ben Shearn, takes you into a video feedback wonderland. We move from analog video imagery to outer space and into a realm inhabited by a curiously tentacled sea creature. Gillette’s music is an appropriate guide through this fantastical realm.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

I 12″ is out soon on 100% Silk

Sightings: Peaking Lights: “Key Sparrow”

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Another red-eyed Studio One revery from Madison, WI’s Peaking Lights, the husband-wife duo of Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, formerly of San Francisco’s Rahdunes. “Key Sparrow” opens with the squish of a record player booting up to 33, as though its base synth motif were playing directly from a raspy dub LP. In come some minor-key fingerpicking, a few screaching guitar flyaways, and Indra’s minimal sing-song vocals, midway between double-dutch chant and teutonic battle cry. Their new 936 LP on Not Not Fun, which also includes “Tiger Eyes” and “All the Sun That Shines”, just might be the most deadpan psychedelia to grow up on your playroom floor.

Peaking Lights: “Key Sparrow”

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Words: Emilie Friedlander

Sightings: Peaking Lights “All The Sun That Shines” Video

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Sometimes we have to cut the crap and just play around. This new clip from Madison, Wisconsin’s Peaking Lights, directed by Ben Shearn and LA Vampires‘ Amanda Brown, invites us to that whimsical place. Brown describes the video’s aesthetic as “Warhol dub.” Certainly the playful side of pop art is invoked here. When we’re taken to Rasta nation it’s through pastiches of album cover images. While the track’s drum machine and keyboard dub recalls the titans of Jamaican music like The Congos and Sister Nancy, David Bowie and Lloyd Dobbler also have a seat at the table. Rather than using dub for darkness, the track’s frantic drum machine taps and soft, mechanical organ tones take us to a light-hearted fan-space, where playtime and creativity go hand in hand. (Altered Zones co-premiere)

Peaking Lights’ new full length, 936 comes out February 2nd on vinyl, tape and CD from Not Not Fun

Words: Samantha Cornwell
Video: Amanda Brown and Ben Shearn

Peaking Lights’ new full length, 936 comes out February 2nd on vinyl, tape and CD from Not Not Fun

Co-Premiere: Psychic Reality, “Fruit” Video

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Psychic Reality – Fruit from Not Not Fun on Vimeo.

Everyone from Edie Sedgwick to Britney Spears will tell you that the life of luxury can be a trap. Sometimes having it all means nothing; in this new video for New York’s Psychic Reality, artists Ben Shearn and Amanda Brown (LA Vampires) find inspiration in this truth. The central figure is a glamorous woman of antiquity. She is part Cleopatra, part Kenneth Anger glamazon. Although her every whim is catered to, she is alone in her menagerie, and transfixed by the native fruits. The song, a half-cover of Abel Meeropol‘s condemnation of American racism, takes on a new life when filtered through Leyna Noel’s Bjork-like croon over a haunting house beat. According to Leyna, the band selected this “loaded quote to frame a discussion about gender, desire, organic/inorganic sensuality, and ways of living on the earth.” It certainly takes guts to use a song about lynching in such a way, but in this glamorous setting, dramatic irony runs amok. (Altered Zones co-premiere)

Vibrant New Age LP is out this month on Not Not Fun


Sightings: Matrix Metals, “Tanning Salon, Part Two” Video

Saturday, February 20th, 2010


Sam Meringue’s Matrix Metals project has been the extra cheese for pizza-sticky blogger fingers everywhere since Not Not Fun dropped it as a tape last spring, and pretty much everybody who writes about it has been singing the same tune: if all the artists in David Keenan’s h-pop pantheon got together and threw a party in a Malibu Hilton Hotel lobby circa 1985, Flamingo Breeze is what that party would sound like — plastic Piña Colada glasses, lopsided Monet posters, hallucinated DJ “take-overs” and all. And I used to agree entirely, until this new video by Luke Wyatt made me realize that the album’s closing track kind of pulls that swirling neon vision right out from under you. “Tanning Salon” is the killer hangover that comes with the dawn: we are still at the Hilton, but the ice sculptures have collapsed into puddles, the guests have all come and gone, and the hallucinated 45-year-old trophy wife who glided through the ballroom like an extra in a David Lynch film is lying inside the sensory deprivation chamber of a tanning booth, alone with her darkest thoughts as her 97-year-old husband takes a dip in the pool. Memories can really be quite horrific, when the last five years of your life get jammed in the VCR. And I’m afraid, Lady in Red, that you only looked real with your make-up on.