I love me some docs

Ever since I first heard about the documentary Dark Days, way back in college, I had wanted to watch it–but it was hard to find, and so I eventually forgot about it.  Then for some reason the other day it popped back into my head, and I typed it into google video… and lo and behold, the whole film is there to watch!

If you’re not familiar with it, the film is a documentary released in 2000 which follows the lives of a group of homeless people living in an abandoned area of the New York City underground railway tunnels.  I’m so glad I was finally able to see it, albeit in the glorioulsy hi-def google video format.  At some point I’ll buy it when I lift my temporary financially-induced moratorium on purchasing new music and movies.  Anyways, the film is amazing.  It’s got an introduction reminiscent of another of my favorite documentaries, Style Wars, as a rickety NYC underground train shines it’s lonely headlight through a dark tunnel, leading the viewer into the depths of a world that is both surreal and ultra-gritty-real (and DJ Shadow’s soundtrack provides the perfect accompaniment).  From start to finish, it’s totally captivating, and the intimate portraits of these people’s lives, struggles, and personalities are unforgettable.  The backstory of how this project came about is also really fascinating–according to the wikipedia article, the filmaker, Marc Singer, became friends and lived with these people for a number of months before he decided to try to make the doc in order to help them financially.  And his crew consisted of the homeless subjects themselves, who learned how to operate the cameras and build their own makeshift equipment.  That’s on some Spencer Nakasako tip!  Can you tell I like documentaries?

Speaking of documentaries, these days I’ve been busy working on music for my man Tad Nakamura‘s upcoming film, a documentary on the life of artist & activist Chris Iijima.  It’s a really interesting and challenging project for me, because he’s having me re-create instrumental versions of songs from the 1973 folk album “A Grain of Sand” (the group consisting of Chris Iijima, Nobuko Miyamoto, and Charlie Chin).  I remember back in Asian American Studies class learning that this was considered the first ever album of distinctly “Asian American music.”  So it’s kind of weird now actually picking apart these songs and replaying each note.  It’s a job that definitley plays to the OCD side of me.

Published in: on October 21, 2008 at 3:16 am  Leave a Comment  

8 yr review

This is a fun little video to help us jog our collective short term memory.

Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 1:56 am  Leave a Comment  

it gave me wings

Last Friday around 6pm my friend Andrés called me up was like “What are you doing right now?  I’m in a recording session with Aloe Blacc and we need a drummer.”

I was like “I’ll be there at 7!”

The session was at this newly built studio that Red Bull built in the back of Red Bull Headquarters.  Apparently they built it just for fun, or so Andrés said.  For those of you wondering why the hell Red Bull would build a studio, it will make more sense if you familiarize yourself with the Red Bull Music Academy.  Their archive of lectures, by the way, are free to watch and super fresh–I’ve learned a lot from them, especially the Questlove and Hank Shocklee ones.

The studio itself is brand new, painted in Red Bull colors, and reminded me a bit like being on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.  I kept expecting Spock to walk out and be like “excellent take.”  Oh, and the fridges were all stocked with, you guessed it, endless amounts of Redbull (including a brand new Red Bull Cola which isn’t even out yet here).  My lady came along and she wanted me to bring home a bunch of extra cans for her midterm studying but I forgot… sorry.

Aloe, the other musicians, and the sound engineer were all really cool, and it was fun working on Andrés’ Jimi Hendrix-inspired psychadelic funk song.  I came in the next day to do some additional recording, and all-in-all it was good learning experience, having new songs thrown at you and having to lay down tracks as you figure out what to play and what will best suit the song.

The control room had a ginormous SSL mixing board plus all this dool-worthy outboard gear, and watching the sound engineer do his job, I imagined how fun it would be to work there.  But then I realized it probably wouldn’t be too healthy having unlimited access to that many energy drinks, having my days saturated in a taurine-induced haze.

Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 12:22 am  Leave a Comment  


OK, I know this is absolutely nothing new in a world of increasingly Orwellian politics and corporate-controlled/state-controlled media, but still it must be said: is one of the requirements for working in mainstream journalism to be, like, mildly retarded?  How can a person go on a VP debate and give nothing but illogically-strung-together, obviously canned answers that hardly ever relate to the question asked, and be praised with “standing her ground” by an AP headline?  I mean, it was like watching a poorly programmed animatronic character.  I kept waiting for a spring to pop out of her neck.

Anyways, enough venting and on to something more positive.  I present to you a much more shining example of female political prowess: my two shiny pennies.  Written by someone who thouroughly knows her politics, this is the place to go if you are progressive and want to learn more about some of the current ballot measures.

Published in: on October 3, 2008 at 11:45 am  Comments (2)  

it’s lunchtime…

When I first decided to quit my day job to pursue music full time, one of my friends who was really supportive and cheered me on was artist David Milton.  While he was living here in LA, I learned from him what a fixed gear bike was, how to change a bicycle tire, and the importance of getting up early to work on your craft (I have yet to really learn this one).  I think his work ethic has really paid off though, because since moving to NYC he’s managed to launch his own daily web comic, “Metal Lunchbox,” which he works on at every free moment (when he’s not slaving away for annoying customers at a store that rhymes with Tjader Hoe’s).

Last month, as David prepared for the launch of his new website, he asked me to compose some original music for the site.  The general tone he wanted was an 80s nostalgic feel with influences from New Wave, Electro-funk, and 2-Tone ska.  Of course, I was like “hell yeah!” and so began our collaboration.  Soon we began talking about fleshing out the short loops of music and creating an mini-comic/EP (a sort of mixed media release of a CD of my music with his comics).  I’m hard at work at this now, and I’m really excited at how it’s turning out.

So yeah, check out Metal Lunchbox.  Click on the little “music note” play buttons to hear my accompanying music.  To learn more about the world of Metal Lunchbox, check out his “ABOUT ML” and “CAST” page.  Day by day, panel by panel, David is building a story full of quirky, unique characters who will be facing very important and relevant issues (that are pretty much never represented in the media)–all told through his special brand of utterly unapologetic social satire and irreverent, offbeat humor.

Published in: on October 1, 2008 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment