Archive for March, 2016

Excision’s the Paradox Tour Brings the Bass and Joy to Kansas City.

March 28, 2016
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Excision in Kansas City, 3/25/16

Canadian bass music DJ and producer Excision brought the Paradox Tour to Kansas City on March 25th. He sold out the 3,000 capacity Midland Theatre. There was no chill. I am not a big dubstep/bass nerd, but the energy and passion for electronic music showcased on the Paradox Tour couldn’t be denied. It was a joyous night of stunning visual production, quality mixing and 150,000 watts of bass mayhem

Bear Grillz got the show rolling with a diverse mix of tunes. He smashed through a set while wearing a bear costume. So much (literal) beasting. Damn y’all, Snuggle goes hard!

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Bear Grillz in Kansas City, 3/25/16

Bear Grillz was followed back-to-back by Figure. The Indiana-based DJ really got the crowd moving with his hard-edged version of EDM.

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Figure in Kansas City, 2/25/16

Excision hit the crowd hard with his heavy take on bass music. His hour and 30 minute headlining set proved why he is one of the best mixers in today’s dance scene. The production really helped to create a fully immersive show. Excision played a lot of the tracks from his excellent Shambhala 2015 mix. The balcony was bouncing with joy to his vicious tunes.

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Excision in Kansas City, 3/25/16

I’ve been a fan of electronic music for a long time. It’s wonderful to see people getting down, having a good time and raving hard. When it comes down to it, quality dance music is all the joy it brings you. The Paradox Tour filled the Midland with a glorious evening of bass music.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers Should Play “Hollywood (Africa)” at Jazz Fest 2016.

March 24, 2016

According to Setlist.fm, the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Hollywood (Africa)” has only been played live 39 times since 1985. The track is a cover of the Meters’ classic 1974 song “Africa.” The Chili Peppers version was featured on their 1985 album Freaky Styley.

The Chili Peppers have long had a love and appreciation of New Orleans funk. They jammed with the Meters at the 2006 Voodoo Music Experience, on a face melting version of “Handclapping Song.” The funk was insane. They also played “Apache Rose Peacock” live for the first time ever at that NOLA show. How epic would it be to see the Peppers break out their Meters cover at Jazz Fest 2016?

“I am convinced that different people awaken different beasts within you.”

March 24, 2016

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It’s important to draw inspiration from the people around you. I often meet people who are so great at their careers and passions. There are many different people in my life that help keep me inspired and focused. For example, I have a funk shaman that keeps me motivated to dive deeper in the funk and spread the glory of funk to the people. When you see someone doing something well, ask yourself, “What can I learn from their ability and success? Is there any way I can apply some of those qualities to my career and life?” Being jealous or envious can be counterproductive to your creative spirit. Knowing people that are so driven is inspiring.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to meet a few of my local journalism idols over the past few months. One of them told me, “Just keep writing.” It’s a simple concept, but he has a great point. The 10,000 hour rule has often been debated, but it is a solid idea. The rule was popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell. It basically states that if you practice your skill for 10,000 hours, around 10 years, you will have mastered your craft. If you keep working at something you are passionate about, you are bound to improve. You have to keep working on your craft and pushing ahead.

Look at the beasting of the people that inspire you and it can help awaken a whole new level of beasting inside yourself. Learn from people who are passionate about what they do and it can light a creative fire within you.

Interview: Excision.

March 23, 2016
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Excision (image via http://www.elseup.com

Excision is a Canadian DJ who combines many different styles of dance
music to form his own bass-heavy sound. His music transcends
genres and labels. From a mixing standpoint, he is one of the best live DJs I have ever seen. Excision discussed his first musical memory and his approach to creating a quality live show.
What was your first musical memory?
The first electronic music I heard that stood out to me was the
Prodigy’s “The Fat of the Land.” I loved it, but couldn’t find
anything else even close to it. It wasn’t until 2005 that I
discovered drum ‘n’ bass and the Vex’d album “Degenerate,” which
showed me the extent of what dubstep and all electronic music is
capable of.

I started producing and DJing at the time, dropped out of the business
degree program I was taking at the University of British Columbia and
decided that this was what I needed to do. My parents weren’t too
impressed, but they had some level of faith when they saw I was
putting in 12 hours a day to get better. Living in Kelowna, I didn’t
know a single other DJ for over a year and didn’t meet any other
producers until I was touring in 2007. It was 2005 when I started and
although the Internet had a few places you could read up on various
techniques, it definitely wasn’t like today where there is a YouTube
tutorial for everything. Learning how to produce the sounds of your
imagination is a long, arduous process that I wouldn’t recommend to
anyone who isn’t willing to sacrifice a big chunk of their life.

How is your live setup differ from your studio setup?
The new stage “The Executioner” has been in progress since April of
last year. When we built Xvision, we learned what projection mapping
is truly capable of, and with a bit bigger budget this year we were
able to produce something far more complex. We wanted to get away
from the 2D “trippy visualizations” as much as possible. My team and
I felt that we had learned enough from Xvision to tackle the entire
project ourselves.

I worked with Ben from Beama and went through 66 revisions before we
finally settled on the current design. I then went and hired 50 or so
animators from around the world, created storyboards of what we wanted
each animation to look like, how we wanted it to sync with a specific
song and spent a huge amount of time on each of them really dialing it
in. Justin is our Mr. Fixit guy who knows a lot about a ton of
different things. He handled the window to the DJ booth, which goes
up and down based at the push of a button, as well as the panels that
open and close to reveal lasers within the stage, as well as CO2 jets,
crazy, low-lying fog machines, and even snow machines! A Canadian
crew can’t truly put on a high production value show without snow.
Justin also helped with the Serato/Ableton dual setup.

I wanted to keep everything as close to a traditional DJ setup as
possible, and still have the freedom to play whatever tracks in
whatever order the crowd wants them. We use Serato music videos for
70 songs; usually I get through 55 in a set. Each of these videos stay
in perfect sync with the attached song and the Serato video technology
is perfect so far. Where we ran into trouble was creating a fully
synced lighting show. We bridged Ableton to Serato and hacked a bunch
of things in order to get the time code sent out to the lighting desk
and trigger all the cues. The result is a system that gives me full
freedom to cater to the crowd and still be a real DJ, but at the same
time give a fully synced audio-visual show.

You might think this has been done before, but every artist I’ve seen,
and I’ve seen nearly all of them, have a 100% pre-planned set that
they literally just press a play button at the beginning of the show
and fake it for 90 minutes. Fuck that!

Due to how long it takes for movie-grade animations to be created, I
had to be careful about which songs I had them made for. I won’t ruin
the surprise, but it’s going to be an epic set that stays true to my
roots, but still has enough diversity to make everyone happy. Expect
to leave exhausted.

The Executioner features every bit of cutting edge technology that we
can cram into it, and it’s our goal to deliver an experience that is
as close as you will get to the future of EDM in today’s world. As far
as the future years and years ahead goes, we will always be working
hard to stay at least a few steps ahead of the rest of the industry.

You tour constantly. What have been some of your favorite moments on the road?
The most memorable achievements that first come to mind are headlining
shows playing to 10 or 20 thousand people at epic venues like Red
Rocks in Colorado or The Gorge in Washington. Looking out onto the
crowd and the awesome view and seeing so many people rocking out to
such nasty music is a pretty righteous feeling.

McClain Approved: Underworld “Low Burn.”

March 22, 2016

Underworld is my favorite band. The English duo is composed of lyricist/vocalist Karl Hyde and multi-instrumentalist/producer Rick Smith. Active since 1980, Underworld has always had a more mature take on dance music. It’s still a party, but a weird and wonderful one. I collect Underworld live bootlegs and I have almost everything they have released. Underworld has a very signature sound. Some of their tracks focus on minimal ambient pulses, while others are full blown rave epics. The lyrics often float by in fragments, like a strange dream. Unlike a lot of other dance music, there can be a wonderful subtlety to Underworld’s music.

A recent piece in the Guardian describes a major turning point in Underworld’s career;

The following sounds like a convenient myth, but it’s true: in 1990 Smith’s total income was £120, and his wife, Tracy, convinced him to change tack and make music he liked. “The best thing that ever happened to me,” Smith says. Interested in techno, he started working with young DJ Darren Emerson, and his world turned around. Hyde went along with him: “After 10 years of being conscious of what’s in the charts, what the record labels want, what we think we should be doing, which people didn’t get anyway, the minute our music got honest and personal, it became open to people.”

Being true to themselves helped Underworld connect with people in an honest way. It’s inspiring. Hyde and Smith don’t create tracks with cliche buildups or chase EDM trends. Underworld exists within their own musical space. Their latest album, Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future, showcases many of the qualities that make Underworld so great. It is one of the best albums of the year. The slow building track “Low Burn” is my favorite song off of the album. The stream-of-consciousness lyrics and the rolling beats mesh together beautifully and could only come from Underworld. The future is shining and it will be glorious.

McClain Approved: Garmiani “Bomb A Drop.”

March 22, 2016
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Garmiani (image via http://www.salacioussound.com

When the weather gets warmer, my taste in tunes starts shifting back to my love of dance music. When it comes to dances tunes, I’m looking for forward momentum and quality production.  It’s always fun to see what new tracks stand out from the pack and really grab my attention.

Garmiani is a Swedish bass DJ and producer. I love the dancehall-trap fusion vibes of his track “Bomb A Drop.” He samples Ding Dong’s “Badman Forward Badman Pull Up,” but amps things up to a whole different level. It sounds like the kind of track Major Lazer should still be creating. The production is a bit left-of-center in places, but the tune still goes hard. Garmiani really brings the energy and “Bomb A Drop” sounds like a hard-hitting summer anthem in the making.

The Trippy Vibes of House of DeBoer.

March 17, 2016

I recently received my ceramics box from Kansas City-based House of DeBoer. House of DeBoer is comprised of Brock and Colleen DeBoer, a husband and wife design and manufacturing team. I donated to their Kickstarter. These ceramic works were created using a 3D printer. It was exciting opening up the box and seeing what surprises awaited under the bubble wrap. Brock and Colleen are an artistic power couple. The trippy vibes of the pieces really speak to me. It is always inspiring to see local artists creating art that is sleek and has such a strong visual appeal.

Blowing Up: An Interview with Balloon Artist Molly Munyan.

March 17, 2016
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Molly Munyan in her Royals-inspired balloon dresses (image credit: Bo Flores Photography)

Molly Munyan is a Kansas City-based balloon artist. She is known for her handcrafted balloon outfits. Munyan recently held a balloon fashion show. Molly discussed how she became interested in crafting balloon outfits, her creative process

Did you come from an artistic family?
Somewhat, my parents met through doing theater in college. They are artistic, but more on the performance side. I am definitely the child that is the culmination of the most artistic aspects of both of my parents. I am definitely the only one to try and make a career out of the arts. My two older biological brothers, neither of them are terribly artistic. I kind of got the lotto on the artiness.

What was your first memory of making art growing up?
I don’t really know, but I was always the kid that had my hands in something. Wrestling and soccer after recess, that wasn’t me. Staying late after art class, that was always me. I was always doing something. I haven’t had that much inclination towards 2D. It’s been origami, ceramics and Play-Doh, dumb shit like that. I’ve always been doing something like that.

What inspires your personal fashion sense?
Someone asked me, “If I was a combination of two icons, who would I be?” Easy, Pee-Wee Herman and Beyoncé. Getting dressed, I follow the motto of, “If I look like I would look good in a music video, I’m good to go.” Not all music video looks look the same, but they are extremely whatever they are. I want to look extremely whatever I look like. Just never settle.

What got you interested in creating balloon art?
I really just stumbled into it as a kid. I learned how to when I was bored in my parent’s basement. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I picked it back up. Everyone sort of asked me at once if I do parties. I was like, “Uhhh, I can.” The way I became a business professional is that I called Chick-fil-A and told them I’m a professional if they would hire me. They said yes, so I became a professional.

What was the first outfit you created out of balloons?
I was homecoming queen in high school. I made my homecoming dress out of balloons. I prototyped it a couple of times, but that was the first outfit I made. It’s what got me into it.

What is your creative process for crafting balloon fashion?
Making a balloon dress. Step one: Caffeinate. My creative process for the balloon dresses kind of varies. Sometimes, I’m like sitting at a stoplight and think, “This would be a great skirt design.” Then, I sketch it and I have it in the bank when I want to make a balloon dress. Other times, I sit down with a blank mental canvas and say, “What am I going to go for?” A lot of times, I have sketches in my balloon dress sketchbook. I pull from them, I pull from ideas that I’ve had. It always ends up a little different than you could ever plan. On paper or in your mind, it will never look the same as on the form. There are changes you do make along the way, but I do have a plan for it. Always.

How long does it take you to complete an outfit from start to finish?
It depends on what I’m making. A lot of the process is the creative process. Me sitting there going, “What am I going to do?” If I made a look and made the exact same look afterwards, it would take two-thirds of the time. It cuts out the creative process and I’ll I have to do is make balloons. Around 15 hours, often more, rarely less.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Honestly, my biggest challenges are just sort of being a real person. Responding to emails, being places on time, staying on top of the little things that aren’t fun. I’m much better at big artsy projects that I’m excited about. It’s always been hard for me to get shit done when I’m not passionate or inspired about what I’m doing. That’s a big challenge, getting things done to get me to the place where I want to be. The big art projects, the exciting, new things.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto that you live by?
“No one can be uncheered with a balloon.” -Winnie the Pooh.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases from being shared.” -Buddha

Also, “Be here now” is a thing I think about a lot. Living every moment to the fullest and that bullshit. My watch says now on it, so I can look down and remind myself that the time is now. No time like the present to be happy and make others happy.

What advice would you give to designers just starting out?
This is a piece of advice that I received from my favorite poet Steve Roggenbuck, “Make art that you like. If you make art that you think is going to attract the most people, you’ll find that your audience Is watered down with people that don’t like the real you or interested in the real you.” He also says that over time, you can’t fake passion. Do what you’re passionate about, things that you love. Your inspiration will never die if you’re still excited about what you are doing. You can even see with my Royals and Chiefs dresses, they were like marketing pieces. I don’t see them as sellouts because I loved what I was doing. I was excited about every part of the process. They were totally fun to make. I wasn’t making them for anyone but myself. It was fun.

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Molly in her Chiefs-inspired balloon dress (image credit: Bo Flores Photography)

A Journey into Pop Couture.

March 15, 2016

I recently attended my first balloon fashion show. The show, Pop Couture, was held in the hip Crossroads section of Kansas City, Missouri. The show was put on by Kansas City-based balloon artist Molly Munyan. Munyan is the co-founder of Pop Culture Sculptures. Molly is a whirling dervish of joyous energy. The passion and innovation within Molly’s work is inspiring.

The Future of Fashion: Sex + Ice Cream.

March 15, 2016
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Nicole Leth, owner and creator of Sex and Ice Cream.

What does the future look like? Probably a lot like Nicole Leth. Nicole is the creator of Kansas City, MO-based fashion line Sex + Ice Cream. She is opening a boutique in Kansas City, also called Sex and Ice Cream, in May. Nicole recently discussed how she became interested in fashion, her creative process and the qualities she looks for in innovative designers.

Did you come from an artistic family? Were your parents artistic?
Not really artistic, more creative I would say. Both my parents were in the medical field. My dad was a doctor and my mom is a nurse. I would say I got most of my creativity from my dad though. He was brilliant, like a literal genius. He wrote books on the side and made jewelry all while being one of the top anesthesiologists in the country and traveling the world. I definitely have his brain and learned how to be driven from him. He was an amazing human being.

What first got you interested in fashion?
I was always, always, always a fashion buff. As a kid I would read fashion magazines and then doodle the clothes on Sailor Moon look-a-likes in my journal and make up scenarios about where she would wear the outfits. When I got older I would mow lawns all summer long to make money and save up to buy some of the designer clothing I saw in magazines. I had it all calculated out. I knew that a Marc Jacobs bag = 7 lawns or a Kate Spade top = 3 lawns.

What inspires your personal style?
Everything. A lot of the times, its my mood when I wake up in the morning. You’ll know I’m having a good day based on how colorfully I’m dressed. Songs inspire me too. I’ll listen to a song and all of a sudden have an idea for an outfit based on the way the song made me feel. Lately, I’ve been really into the Beach Boys and have been putting together outfits with a lot of sheer neon, gingham, and kind of tropical-vintage silhouettes- all things the Beach Boys make me feel.

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Nicole Leth (image via http://www.sexandicecream.net)

Who are some of your favorite designers and why?
Someone who influenced me very early on was Betsey Johnson. I remember the first time I stepped inside a Betsey store and was blown away by the patterns and unapologetic femme edge to everything. As I got older and started to make fashion my career I started to find more designers / brands with brains like mine that really influenced me and helped me grow in my own way. Peggy Noland, Seth Bogart, Emma Mullholland, Jeremy Scott, and Lazy Oaf have been some of those for me.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
The biggest challenge, by far, has been being taken seriously as a professional. I’m a 23-year-old girl who embraces her sexuality but also has her own business – which is apparently a hard concept for people to grasp (and it shouldn’t be). A blonde in a crop top and hot shorts who is ALSO a motivated businesswoman, store owner, writer, artist, and has an 4.0 GPA!?!? WOW WOULD YA LOOK AT THAT!!!!?!? But all jokes aside, it’s been a struggle to work with people and have the respect factor there. I’m a very trusting person and its been a huge challenge to realize that people may not always be what they say there are/may not have your best interest.

How did the concept for Sex + Ice Cream come together?
It all started when I was 18 and going through a bad break up. I was absolutely heartbroken after I found out (who I thought was) the love of my life was cheating on me. I wanted to do something to empower myself and build something that would belong to me, and only me, for the rest of my life. So I decided that I wanted to start a clothing line. That boy and I used to do a thing where we would eat a pint of ice cream after we had sex and he would always tell me “Nicole sex and ice cream is OUR thing, you’ll never be able to do this with anyone else.” So that night when I decided that I was heartbroken and decided that I was going to start a clothing line I immediately knew that I wanted to call it “Sex + Ice Cream.” It was my way of telling him “No, sex and ice cream is MY thing and you can NEVER take it away from me.” I’ve obviously moved on since then and I haven’t talked to (let alone thought about) that guy for years now but to me the name “Sex + Ice Cream” is less about revenge now and more symbolic of a teenage girl choosing her dreams over a boy for the first time in her life and believing in herself for the first time in her life.

What was the first piece of clothing you designed for Sex + Ice Cream?
It actually all started with some fabric I designed with bras all over it. I did these little doodles in my journal of these bras that reminded me of some of the powerful female friends and family and then screen printed them all over yards of fabric. I absolutely fell in love with the process of taking personal drawings and turning them into repeat patterns and designing textiles. I ended up making an entire collection of clothing out of that bra printed fabric and showing them at my first fashion show when I was 19. I still get emotional when I think about that first collection, it represents so much to me.

You are opening a Sex + Ice Cream store in Kansas City soon. You are featuring clothing from female designers from all over the country. What qualities do you look for in the work of designers you are going to be featuring?
I’ve been picking brands that have been influential to me, my personal style, my womanhood, and my artistic career. I made a list before I ever knew I was going to open a store of brands and designers I wish were sold in Kansas City. They range from small scale independent makers I’ve found on Instagram to big-time clothing brands that I’ve been shopping online from for years. Its important that their aesthetic fits with mine in some way and I’m really excited to create a retail collective of pieces and objects that are meaningful to me!

What is your creative approach to designing fashion?
I design based on what I am experiencing at that given moment in time. Much like my personal style, the clothing I design reflects who I am, what I am thinking about and feeling and what I am interested in at this exact moment in time. I’m interested in the narrative qualities of clothing and treating it as a visual diary. I think about designing the fabric first and then I think about what type of garments I want to make from the fabric.

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by? What advice would you give to designers just starting out?
The most important thing you can ever do when something negative happens to you (whether it be in the professional world with your business/job or in your personal life with a romantic partner) is turn it into something good — something that you can learn from or better yourself from or just let go of. I’ve realized over the past years that a bad thing can only be bad if you let it be, but once you take the power away from the bad and turn it into something good that you can ultimately use to better yourself. You are capable of anything. This is empowering yourself. Knowing that nothing can ever break you down completely is a very stabilizing thought. For example, when I was 18 and going through that break up I thought that my life was over. I thought nothing good could ever possibly come from that. But without that bad break up, I wouldn’t have felt that fire to decide to chase my dream and start Sex + Ice Cream. That incident helped me see how strong I was and believe in myself more than I ever had before. And that’s the most important thing.