Featured Album: Resolution (2017) by Krisis

Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Krisis (aka Shannon Michels) is a Wollongong-based music producer who’s been tinkering away in his studio on beats and soundscapes for the better half of his life now. His new instrumental album Resolution is the culmination of this work.

“I had 17 years of my work to make something from. I chose to choose tracks from the last five years to give it some sort of coherence … my music has evolved.”

The Gong, as it’s known, is a seaside city of almost 300,000 on the east coast of NSW characterised by picturesque beaches and surrounding bushland. This natural beauty cocoons Wollongong’s heavy industry, the city’s beating heart that lights up the night sky like some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare.

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By Robert Montgomery [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In Resolution, the influence of his hometown and the hip-hop sensibilities that Krisis was weaned on are evident. The tracks It Isn’t Any Fun and Respek reflect these roots and from track to track, you can feel the evolution. The Bottom, Got Dark and Hard Labour thump, brood, and evoke imagery that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Philip K Dick novel, and the lighter, more contemplative tracks Tribute, New Dawn and The End Is A New beginning speak a language that suggests maturity that only comes with experience.

Among its influences, the album draws on triphop, dubstep, trap and ambient music to present an eclectic collection of tracks that reflect urban living, science fiction themes, and the fragility of humanity. It’s a solid collection of sounds that illustrates the breadth of ideas and moods that Krisis is able to evoke through his soundscapes.

Pump up that bass and give it a listen.

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Follow and support Krisis on Facebook and Soundcloud.

Featured Podcast: Tales from the Mind Boat

Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

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Artist Trav Nash has achieved a lot in his time. I first met him in his previous incarnation as a comedian and room-runner for a modest little comedy night called Death Star Comedy back in 2011.

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When not weaving one of his high-energy comic stories on stage, you could find him each week, somewhere off to the side, making sure that proceedings went smoothly and drawing in his ever-present sketchbook.

Since then, among the many projects he’s managed to complete are, a point-and-click adventure game, and also an online comic.

The Trav Nash of today has moved away from the mantle of comedian but still tells stories that you can sometimes hear at storytelling events, like Bazaar Tales, in and around Melbourne. If you do manage to see him, you’ll find that he still carries his sketchbook (a necessary accessory if ever he gets made into a collectible action figure).

This sketchbook yields a bountiful collection of drawings that you can see and buy here on his Tumblr.

Sketchbook in hand, he’s still just off to the side making sure proceedings are running smoothly, but it’s no longer a comedy night he’s running but his day-by-day existence, chronicled in part by Tales from the Mind Boat.

Each episode features Trav’s musings and attempts of making sense of the world as he sees it. There’s also a story from his own past or that of a guest and the package is woven together by the soothing musical sounds of Tim Whitt. Sometimes funny, sad, poignant, or strange; what each story shares is that that they are all true.

With a list of guest storytellers that includes Justin Hamilton, Jon Bennett, Rob Hunter, and a huge variety of equally-entertaining people that you may not have heard of (but probably should), this podcast is well-worth the half an hour of your time that it asks.

Interested but don’t know where to start? Here are some recommendations:

Good-Grief-Peanuts-square-itunes-300x300If you want to hear Trav’s standup material, Episode 46 features a live recording of his 2011 show “Good Grief”.

Episode 50 is an off-script tangent on what the podcast means to Trav. Guest storyteller Gabe Hogan tells of a truly startling post-gig experience in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

In Episode 61, Trav documents the process of telling a story at Bazaar Tales. Included is a live recording from the night that has potatoes in it.

For more Tales from the Mind Boat, go to iTunes and follow the show on Facebook.

Iggy Pop and David Bowie – two decades of uneasy collaboration Part 2: the ‘80s

Music review / Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Iggy_Bowie_1986In this two-part series, I look at every album that, for better or worse, rock icons David Bowie and Iggy Pop share credits.

Find Part 1: the ‘70s here.

Tonight from 1984 is Bowie’s follow-up to the commercial success of Let’s Dance (1983).

david-bowie_tonightDavid Bowie – Tonight (1984)

Iggy’s presence on this record is not comparable to that of Bowie on the Iggy Pop records. However, including Tonight, Iggy is credited on five of the nine tracks with this mess of an album.

Don’t get me wrong, Blue Jean (with its mini-film Jazzin’ For Blue Jean by Julien Temple) is a classic pop song and Loving the Alien Doesn’t fair too badly either, but these two tracks show little to no evidence of input from Iggy.

For the title track, Bowie brought in Tina Tuner to duet with on this neutered (drug references removed) reggae version of Iggy’s song, and it sounds as bad as it looks on paper, believe me.

Neighborhood Threat, also from Lust For Life, makes the cut as well. Iggy’s 1977 version sounds very much like a precursor to what Bowie ends up doing on Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (1980). Perhaps if Bowie had delivered his version a few years earlier, it could have sounded better than it does here.

The third Iggy Pop cover present is Don’t Look Down from New Values (1979), his first solo record without Bowie. The original is a decent soul-influenced track that wouldn’t feel too out of place on Bowie’s Young Americans (1975). For some reason, Bowie gives this a reggae twist as well.

Two original tracks are credited to the pair: Tumble and Twirl and Dancing with the Big Boys. The former rolls along just like its namesake. With a heavy horn rhythm section, this track feels very of its time but solid, nonetheless. The latter includes Iggy on vocals and is very much a signal of what Bowie’s next studio album will sound like.

An album with less than fifty percent new material, Bowie said of Tonight:

…I thought it a kind of violent effort at a kind of Pin Ups.

Pin Ups was a collection of covers from 1973 released to cash in on the success of Aladdin Sane.

Blah-blah-blah_iggy-popBlah-Blah-Blah (1986)

Iggy says this is not his album. The most well-known song on here is the re-worked Johnny O’Keefe track Real Wild Child (Wild One). Half of the album is written with or by Bowie. It’s sound is a pop album with some kind of punk rock edge. It’s even got Steve Jones on it, how punk is that? Mind you, the tracks written with Jones don’t sound anything like the Sex Pistols.

Still, the tracks credited with Bowie sound like what he will do in future with Tin Machine (1988-1992). For those that don’t know, Tin Machine was Bowie’s attempt to shed his popstar skin to become one of the boys. Those boys included, not coincidentally, the Sales brothers—rhythm section from the Lust for Life (1977) album.

However Iggy feels about it, Blah-Blah-Blah is a solid album and his most commercially successful. Also, Cry for Love (one of the three songs co-written with Jones), is a killer track.

This is the last album that Iggy and Bowie will make together.


Never-Let-Me-DownBowie’s following studio album Never Let Me Down (1987) features a cover of Bang Bang from Iggy’s Party (1981). It pales in comparison to the original but it’s better than anything that features Mickey Rourke rapping on it.

Iggy Pop and David Bowie – two decades of uneasy collaboration Part 1: the ‘70s

Music review / Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Bowie_Iggy_1977In this two-part series, I look at the albums that rock-icons David Bowie and Iggy Pop, for better or worse, share credits.

Post_Pop_Depression_(Front_Cover)Iggy Pop’s album Post-Pop Depression (2016) was unfortunately timely. Recorded in secrecy with Josh Homme and friends the year before, it was released in the months following the death of David Bowie. Not only is it the poignant statement of a punk-rock god feeling that perhaps he’s not long for this world, but also a great addition to an already-impressive body of work. It was this album that got me thinking about the relationship of Bowie and Iggy.

Individually, the pair are no strangers to collaboration. Each have a string of recordings that draw on the talents of others, but among those, the entwined relationship of this pair is unique. It’s also fair to say that one may simply not exist as we know them today without the influence of the other.

This relationship tracks back to the early ‘70s. Before Bowie brought Ziggy Stardust to the world, Bowie saw something in Iggy that many overlooked, and that was the great song-writing at the core of the ensuing chaos that Iggy’s band The Stooges had become synonymous with. So convinced was Bowie of this talent, that he travelled to America to find Iggy, and while there persuaded him to sign with his own UK management. Bowie’s intention was to bring attention to Iggy’s music to an audience that he felt was deserved.

Lou-Reed_TransformerBy the time Ziggy Stardust hit the stage in 1972, Bowie was neck-deep in behind-the-scenes side-projects such as producing Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, as well as Lou Reed’s now-classic Transformer. The Stooges had, by this point, broken up and their future was unlikely, so when Bowie approached Iggy about joining him in England to do another Stooges record but with a different line-up, Iggy agreed.

Bowie learned the hard way that Iggy wasn’t quite ready allow him to step in on the process in the same way that prior projects had. Finally, he had no option but to step back and let Iggy record the album his own way. The completed recordings were then handed to Bowie for mixing.

Iggy-and-the-stooges_raw-powerBowie did what he could with what he had and Raw Power was released in 1973. Multiple attempts to mix this album exist, and Bowie’s version is certainly not the best. It would be another three years before he and Iggy would attempt to work together again.

During this time, Bowie’s career continued to blossom. Ziggy Stardust rose then fell, and Bowie found success in the US and it’s the hangover from this superstardom that started Bowie down the path toward his “Berlin trilogy” phase. In 1976, Bowie and Iggy began work on the tracks that would become The Idiot, Iggy’s debut album as a solo artist.

Iggy_Pop_-_The_IdiotIggy Pop – The Idiot (1977)

A wonderful piece of work. The angular sounds and electronic swagger that feature on this album is nothing like what Iggy has done before or since. Essentially, it works as a template for the musical direction that Bowie would explore further while in Berlin.

The opening track Sister Midnight would find its way onto Bowie’s 1979 album Lodger as the re-worked Red Money. More recognised, however, is the Side A closer, China Girl, which became the second single from Bowie’s 1983 album Let’s Dance.

To me, Bowie’s polished version always sounded like a karaoke cover, only emphasised by the accompanying video that features a suited Bowie crooning along with a microphone in front of what could be a wallpapered stage in the corner of a cheap bar.

Iggy-Pop_Lust-For-LifeIggy Pop – Lust for Life (1977)

This follow-up to The Idiot came quickly. Written, recorded and mixed in eight days, the sound of this record is far more in line with the sound with which Iggy is known. A true classic, the title track bounces onto the stage with an infectious energy that is still imitated today, but never equaled. Lust for Life sets the upbeat tone for this album, barely taking a breath between tracks.

Turn Blue is the exception to this rule. This Blues-based track is a confessional of how Iggy’s drug addiction thwarted previous efforts to collaborate with Bowie.

Bowie’s influence on this album is strong but far less imposing than it was on The Idiot and sits closer to what his presence was on Lou Reed’s Transformer (1972).

Once again, the last track of Side A would find its way onto a following Bowie album, as well as becoming said album’s title.


david-bowie_tonightFind out all about Tonight (1984) and beyond, when we explore the continued collaboration of Iggy and Bowie throughout the 80’s in part 2 of this article.

Pictures for Sad Children: the rise and fall of John Campbell

Article – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

pfsc_fireThe story behind Pictures for Sad Children is contentious. Was the Kickstarter scheme that raised more than USD$50,000 merely a hoodwink to swindle fans, or is John Campbell’s very public fall from grace merely the sum of the facts presented?

I first discovered Campbell’s webcomic in 2012, and like many, I became a little obsessed with it. So drawn in was I by the strip and its absurdist tone that, when I learned that I had five years of content to catch up on, I was like a little kid in a candy store (albeit, a little kid with some kind of ongoing mental condition).

Not unlike many other comics I had discovered, Campbell’s comic was captivating. But unlike those other comics, it was not for its artwork, colours, or even laugh-out-loud humour that I am often so fond of. No, Pictures for Sad Children stood out because it was precisely none of these things.

The characters were little more than stick figures, the colour scheme consisted of grey in a variety of hues, and its humour was far more contemplative and underplayed than, “Ha! That’s a funny one right there.”

Elegant in its minimalism, Campbell’s comic spoke to me (and many others) about depression and anxiety—dual conditions I deal with to varying degrees on a regular basis.

Campbell began the comic in 2007 and after five years, it had made quite an impact. You might even think that there was enough content to publish a printed collection. It turns out, in 2009, that’s exactly what Campbell did and it was met with some success. So much so, that in 2012, Campbell set up a Kickstarter campaign to release the follow-up, Sad Pictures for Children.

Campbell planned to raise USD$8,000 to publish and distribute 2000 copies of the 200-page hardcover collection. The campaign raised USD$51,615 in pledges.

In hindsight, perhaps the way this story ends is not all that surprising.

These are the facts as we know them:

May 26, 2012:

1,073 backers pledged $51,615 to Campbell’s Kickstarter campaign.

September 20, 2012:

Campbell posts this update on Kickstarter stating that they’ve been “pretending to be depressed for profit”.

September 22, 2012:

Campbell retracts prior statement with this one stating that they were “pretending to pretend to be depressed”.

October 25, 2013:

Campbell states that shipping has been delayed due to running out of money.

February 28, 2014:

Campbell posts this update stating that 75% of the Kickstarter rewards were met but no further books will be shipped. There is an accompanying video showing boxes of unsent books being burnt.


Since this update, all content on the website has been removed and any trace of John Campbell has disappeared from the internet.

Following Campbell’s online disappearance, a fellow artist and friend of Campbell was able to retrieve the surviving books (about 100 in total) and distribute them to backers still in need of a delivered product.

For anyone looking for remnants of the webcomic, it may still be out there if you can find it, but as these articles (How to disappear completely from the internet, Book burning, webcomics, and the fate of Pictures for Sad Children) can attest, Campbell has done a pretty good job of removing all traces.

Whatever the real story is here, I think it’s worth looking at the big picture. At the end of the day, John Campbell found success doing something they loved doing. Starting out, it’s easy to play the game your own way with little to no regard for what others might think. Success can come at any moment and if you’re not ready for it (mentally or emotionally), you may just find that you’re not be equipped to deal with it. But then, only you can know this and you won’t really know until it happens.

I guess, just look after yourself and only give what you can live without.

Artist Profile: Sam Kieth

Article – By Morgan Thistlethwaite

Maxx-01_Kieth

The Maxx (1993) Image Comics

You either get Sam Kieth or you don’t, and from what I can tell, Sam’s okay with that. Over the years, Kieth’s instantly-recognisable style has not only got him work with all the major comic publishers, but also a devout following for his stories and artwork.

He’s done everything from Batman to Wolverine, Incredible Hulk to Judge Dredd… The list goes on. He was also the first artist to bring Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman to life.

Over the years, he’s written and drawn many of his own books for various publishers but if you’re anything like me, you probably know his name from the comic, The Maxx, which was also adapted into an animated series in way back in 1995.

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Batman: Secrets (2006) DC Comics

His idiosyncratic style, along with the themes his stories explore, are often quite dark yet balanced with a whimsical humour and absurdity. Readers who connect with his material may, like myself, find this connection stays with them their entire life.

Kieth says he became a comic artist because he felt he was never really good enough to do anything else. He grew up reading comics and hung out with other artists, and always felt his work wasn’t up to scratch compared with what he saw other people doing. Despite this, he got himself noticed and scored a few gigs by ruthlessly shopping his work around at comic conventions. It was this effort that led to the Sandman gig, which wasn’t as big a deal at the time, as it might seem to be in hindsight.

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The Sandman (1989) DC Comics

Five years into his career and Kieth had made his mark, at least on his peers anyway, and when the comics industry shake-up of the early ’90s that gave rise to Image came along, Kieth was invited to join their ranks. It was here that he came up with The Maxx, who made his first appearance as part of Darker Image, a one-shot collection created to showcase original and more adult-oriented content. Kieth’s handful of pages were well-received and he was asked to develop The Maxx as an ongoing title.

This was around the same time that MTV were taking an interest in the ongoing production of animation. Having already found success with Beavis and Butthead and Aeon Flux, MTV approached Kieth to turn The Maxx into a series. Saying yes exposed his modest little comic to a whole new audience.

The Maxx, however, was a long time ago. Since then, Kieth’s stories moved away from the superhero imagery that this book played up to. His following books would delve further into the realm of character study (Zero Girl, Four Women) and exploration of themes previously only touched upon in The Maxx.

Additionally, Kieth has also produced the five-part comic series Ojo, with Chris Wisnia and Alex Pardee. He directed the film Take it to the Limit (2000) and continues today to work as a comic artist and has put together a number of special edition collected books of his work to unleash upon a whole new generation.

For more of Sam Kieth and his art, visit his blog.


References:

http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/dec01/kieth.shtml
http://www.comicbookdb.com/creator.php?ID=852
http://ifanboy.com/podcasts/talksplode-11-with-sam-kieth-of-my-inner-bimbo-the-maxx-batman-and-more/

 

How to: Publish an online comic without a PC (and for free)

How-to – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Online Comics - Main Pic

Creating online comics can be costly. Between software like Adobe Photoshop and hardware like a scanner or tablet, you’d be forgiven for thinking a small fortune was needed to enter the game.

However, if you’re just starting out, you’re probably not quite ready to make the next Wormworld Saga just yet.

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Daniel Lieske’s Wormworld Saga (2010)

With practice, that day will come but until until then, let me show you how to publish an online comic with nothing but the smartphone in your pocket and a little creativity.

Before we start, there’s one thing you need to do: Get drawing! You have to walk before you can run, and you need to draw some comics before you start publishing. All you need is paper, something to draw with, and the spark of an idea.

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Randall Munroe’s XKCD

“But I can’t draw that good,” I hear you say. Well, neither can these guys:

None of them have let their artistic shortcomings get in the way of making great comics, and neither should you. Need more convincing? Check out the early work of:

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Matt Groening’s Life in Hell

Yeech! Still, they got better with practice and now each is responsible for some of the most enduring and iconic comic and cartoon characters of the late 20th century.

So stop worrying about not being good enough and just do the thing!

Drawn some comics yet? Good. Now follow these simple steps:

1.      Photograph your work

IMAG0096You need your comics in a format that can be viewed online and photos are perfect for this.

It may take a little time to capture evenly-lit pictures so experiment; take your time and pay attention to what works for you.

2.      Edit your photos

It’s likely that your phone has a photo editing app. If so, use it to: crop, adjust brightness and contrast, and apply effects to improve the photos you’ve taken.

Note: Knowing what your editing tools do before you take your photos will make it easier to capture your comics at their best so have a play and see what you can do.

3.      Publish your comic

social media collageGetting your comic online is easy. What’s hard is deciding which social media platform to use. There’s an ocean of them out there.

Choose the platform that best suits your needs. For comics, you’ll need one that displays images nicely. My recommendation is Tumblr as it’s tailored especially for sharing art. You could also use Instagram (if you don’t mind the square image format) or WordPress.

4.      Share your comic with the world

Once your comic is online, it’s in a public space for everyone to see, but if you don’t tell people about it, you may only get friends and family as an audience.

To grow your audience, put your comic (and yourself) out there by:

  • Finding other comics on the same social media platform. Comment and let them know you exist.
  • Joining an online comics community and making yourself known.
  • Using other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote your comic.

Most importantly, keep drawing and keep posting new comics. Audiences love new content and this is the first and most crucial step in paving the way to a loyal following.

The sky’s the limit. Happy creating!

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Wazu the Streetfighting Lemur


Need more help with getting started on creating your own comic? I recommend: