Frontier Psychiatrist

Posts Tagged ‘Interview

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I’ve known photographer Dan Farnum since pre-school in Saginaw, Michigan. We grew up sharing many of the same experiences, and in college we both turned to artistic pursuits. And although we hadn’t always remained super close throughout the years, we’ve kept in touch, mostly meeting up with friends back in town for the holidays. After seeing his photographs on his website, I realized that he was wrestling with many of the same issues that I was in my poetry: the American experience, landscape, and culture, especially as viewed through the lens of our hometown, which is poor and violent and stands in the shadow of a failed auto industry.

In his most recent series Young Blood Dan turns his eye toward Michigan’s urban youth. Over the years, he has shown his work in exhibitions and galleries in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York. He received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and BFA from the University of Michigan, and is now a professor of photography at the University of Missouri. Recently, I caught up with him to discuss Michigan, skateboarding, and the art of photographing strangers.

Frontier Psychiatrist: Your Young Blood series features portraits of Michigan’s urban youth. Where did the idea come from?

Dan Farnum: As you know, I was born and raised in Saginaw and have personally witnessed how the economy affected family and friends. So I have an investment in this region that I feel allows me to view the location in a more intimate manner. I focus on youth in particular in this region since they are the primary people who either have the ability to change urban communities or perpetuate the problems. Something positive that is happening in some urban neighborhoods is community farming and gardening. On the other hand, my hometown is known as having the most violent crimes (per capita) in the country for almost a decade. Much of the crime is associated with young people.

My background as a skateboarder is also an influence. I used to skate in several of the places I now photograph. I feel as though I am documenting a personal history as well as making a broader cultural statement. There is a lack of supervision in these kinds of locations that is great for skateboarding, but tends to also facilitate mischief. My teenage experiences serve as a common thread to open discussions with many of my subjects. This ability to bond with people helps them feel more comfortable while I take their portrait.

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Django Haskins, The Old Ceremony

Django Haskins at South by Southwest 2012

Django Haskins is the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for The Old Ceremony, whose fifth album, Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide, was recently released on their new label, Yep Roc Records. With his side project, a tribute to iconic 70’s band Big Star, Django has also shared stages with the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Ray Davies, and FP’s unrequited crush Sharon Van Etten. In anticipation of TOC’s Sept. 18 record release party at Santos Party House, editor Keith Meatto chatted with Django (whom he has known since they were students at Yale) about the new album, vibraphones and guitar solos, unreliable narrators and unusual holidays, mass avian death, politics, literature, and the power of stars.

FP: How is a fairytale a form of suicide?

DH: Well, the title isn’t meant to be taken too literally, but to me, the idea is that a fairytale (or a mythology) can either be an archetype that leads you toward greater things, a cautionary tale to keep you on the path, or — here’s where the song comes in — a hologram whose unreality you don’t always fully realize. It’s not that mythologies are inherently dangerous; but without a good understanding of the difference between real life and fantasy, they can be. You can kill someone with a glass of milk; it all depends on how it’s used.

FP: The new album seems to have a quieter and more subdued sound than previous records by The Old Ceremony, and perhaps some more country influences. Were these conscious choices?

DH: We’ve always had some country influences: my living in North Carolina and growing up with Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson means there will always be a bit of that. As for the subdued thing, I may not be the best judge, as I think of Sun Kil Moon as appropriate party music.

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Chicago-based cartoonist Bernie McGovern is an idiosyncratic worldmaker.  His work is a phantasmagoria through a jagged yet welcoming landscape populated with heartbroken archetypes as captivating as they are bizarre.  It’s as if Hayao Miyazaki were asked to fill in on Peanuts.In his latest work, DemonTears (Hic & Hoc Publications), McGovern uses his breathtakingly peculiar imagination to tell the very real story of his struggle towards sobriety.  Alternating between his daily humdrum life and his inner existence, which is anything but, DemonTears is a painfully honest and dizzyingly creative, if occasionally inscrutable, journey through addiction and out the other side.  FP staff  writer Jared Thomas recently sat down with Bernie McGovern to chat about DemonTears, independent comics, and catharsis.

FP:  DemonTears is obviously a very personal book.  It must have been a cathartic experience to create but what do you hope the reader will get out of it?

BM:  It’s strange that the book is so personal yet wasn’t cathartic at all. Working on this story definitely stirred up feelings, but did little to change them or make me feel better. It would blow my mind If this book could help someone realize that he or she has a drinking problem.   I would also like the book to stand as an experiment in personal myth-building. It’s something anyone can do. Invent characters to represent parts of yourself.

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Last week, we published Khaliah Williams’ What the Bay Broke, a somber short story about summer spouse swapping in Cape Cod. After its publication, we chatted with Williams via email about the inspiration for the story, her literary life, adultery, Vampire Weekend, and what her graduate work at Iowa Writers Workshop taught her about writing and whiskey.  

Where did you get the idea for “What the Bay Broke” and where did the title come from?

I pulled that story from a lot of different places, including my own struggles with learning to love someone besides myself, unrequited love, and standing up for myself. I also like the idea of someone who is slightly terrified of the beach owning a beach house. But the real inspiration for this story came from a trip to Cape Cod in September of 2009. I was there with a group of friends for a wedding and sometime around midnight (fueled by wine) we decided to go down to the beach.  I lost one of my sandals in the water and one of my friends found it two days later. That’s always stuck with me, that sometimes the water will take something away and it just might come back to you. This will sound silly, but I have no idea where the title came from. I’m terrible with titles, and I often run with suggestions from other people. T. Geronimo Johnson (whose book Hold it ‘Til it Hurts comes out in September) re-titled what eventually became my graduate thesis in workshop one day. The title story was “The Heart Stops Beating When You Least Expect It” and he suggested a more manageable “Until the Heart Stops Beating.” He probably doesn’t remember that. But the new title had so much elegance to it that I kept it and than began writing a lot of stories around that idea. Besides, I like titles that start with the word ‘what’.

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Ceremony live punk performance at SXSW 2012

Ceremony @ SXSW

My first published piece as a music critic was titled “Please History, Repeat Yourself”, and was written in maybe 20 minutes for my high school newspaper sometime in my sophomore year (2002.03) . Like an emo-Andy Rooney, I lambasted the radio rock we were stuck with, begging for some punk/grunge revival that I dreamt about. And this was before Green Day went off the deep end.

Now, in just the last two+ years, we’ve seen the release of some of the best high-profile punk albums of the last 15. The relative success and warm reception of records like The Monitor and David Comes To Life are bringing new audiences into punk, seemingly noting a rise in mainstream acceptance of quality punk. At SXSW this year, we enjoyed fantastic, enraging and frightening punk performances from new-classic bands like Ceremony, Titus Andronicus, The Men and Cloud Nothings, each willing to bend punk guidelines to best fit their message and approach. After all this time, it feels like my sophomoric wish is on the verge of being granted. Not everyone agrees, however.

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Van Hunt is a true artist and an anomaly,  just the sort of enigma we love at FP. His career has been rife with unfortunate twists and turns, all of which ended up fueling his creative fire, thankfully. Hunt first broke on the scene after being found by Randy Jackson, of American Idol fame. His first two records, one self-titled and the second the supremely smooth On The Jungle Floor were released on Capitol Records to a lackluster release, despite his forward thinking songwriting and commitment to quality music, likely because of Capitol’s insistence on marketing him within the waning neo-soul movement, a stigma he still rejects. After Jungle Floor, Hunt was dropped from the major label, to be picked up by the legendary Blue Note Records. His planned and recorded edgier third album Popular ultimately wasn’t what Blue Note was hoping for, and his efforts were shelved and subsequently never released. Following his bout of friction with two internationally renowned music labels, Hunt was obviously distraught, but not entirely discouraged. He reemerged last year with What Were You Hoping For? An excellent and idiosyncratic mix of soul, punk and psychedelia, What Were You Hoping For? deserves a spot on our Albums We Missed: 2011 edition. After catching his fantastic, eclectic set at Lincoln Hall, we had the opportunity to discuss his career. I’m still getting used to interviews, but the following exchange was entirely enlightening, and will be remembered as one of my favorites. A true individual, Van Hunt shares some brilliant ideas on the state of pop music today, and the roles that we all play.

Frontier Psychiatrist: Hey man, big fan. I’ve been listening to your stuff since we received On The Jungle Floor at Marquette Radio my freshman year of college in 2006. Really love that record and have been jamming to you ever since. That was a long time ago.

Van Hunt: Cool, thanks. That was a crazy time then, with On The Jungle Floor, but we got through it. We’ve been busy the last 5 years, making the time fly. I definitely have a bit more control over my life now than I did then.

FP: Speaking of being in control, I want to congratulate on your fantastic show at Lincoln Hall last week. You commanded a serious presence and everyone fell in line. And it was really great to hear the new music in a live setting; I’ve certainly never seen a show that incorporates all those different styles at once. Not to mention your superbly talented band.

VH: Thank you, man. That’s been a reaction that a lot of people have had to the show, that it’s like nothing they’ve ever experienced, and that’s definitely what I was shooting for.

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Frankie Rose

Frankie Rose just might have the Midas touch. Whether in Grass Widow, Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls or Dum Dum Girls, people have been (indirectly) listening to Rose for years. Since then, she’s stepped out of the shadows, kicking her chronic habit of playing in bands that find success upon her departure. In 2010, she began her solo career as“Frankie Rose & The Outs.” Here, two years later, she’s dropped “The Outs” and picked up her own distinct sound—out are the echoes of her grrrl pop resume, and in are lush, intricate soundscapes. Interstellar, her second effort for Slumberland Records, is unlike anything she’s done before, and music critics are rapidly taking notice. With a mountain of overwhelmingly positive buzz building up behind her, 2012 looks to be a big year for Rose. Frontier Psychiatrist chats with the multi-talented songstress about the new record. 

Frontier Psychiatrist:  Frankie! What have you been up to today?

Frankie Rose:  I’ve been getting ready for tour. But there’s also been a lot of press for some reason, just building up right now in these past few days. It’s been really crazy for me. It’s insane! I literally have a schedule—this person’s calling at this time, that person’s calling at that time, this person is calling via Skype… but meanwhile I’m also riding my van around trying to get stuff done for tour, and trying to mix these tracks that I have to mix to blah blah! Boring stuff.

I’m going to get a Madonna mic, I think, so I can just be one of those assholes who goes around walking and talking as they do the things they have to do during the day.

I feel funny saying, “I have an interview,” because I never thought I would be that person. “I’m sorry, I can’t go out to lunch with you, best friend, because I have an interview.” [Laughs] “I could pencil you in, maybe.”

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Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.