Sunday, February 19, 2006 no Joke...

I have a picture of this doorway in an ancient building that still stands on Goree Island, Senegal. Back in "the good old days," there was a pier that led from that doorway and directly to the hulls of Portuguese, French, Dutch, Spanish and British ships with empty bellies awaiting newly "purchased" sepia-toned cargo...all of Europe, then, a couple hundred years out of the throes of what's now called "The Dark Ages" having not quite reached the Industrial Age
, needed a quick fix to get their economies competitive. (sound familiar?) At this point, humanity itself entered a new dark age -- one that we've yet to fully recover from...Just ask the people stuck on that bridge during Hurricane Katrina if they're feeling it...The pic that I have pasted on the wall just above my computer's monitor is framed by the image above with the silhouette of an African woman in head garb standing inside of it. In the days that it was most heavily trafficked by people, black humans were driven from the African mainland to the Senegalese coast to be sold and exported as laborers/human livestock in faraway lands that Europeans dubbed "the New World." I won't start rantin' and ravin' about all the shite that's been going on every since the Portuguese set foot on the soil of the shores of the cradle of humanity...I'll tell a joke an old, wise black man told me, instead:

There were two Africans chained together on a slave ship. Their white captors were mercilessly whipping the men, raping the women and throwing people in chained groups overboard. Those who weren't getting arbitrarily abused were forced to row the ship when the wind stopped blowing, below decks." "Among the groups of captives there were two West Africans chained side by side on the same oar. One slave, who was contemplating an escape, revolt or a suicide looked over at the other African chained to him. The second captive was smiling to himself but speaking to no one else on board. The first Aftrican looked over at the other and asked him - "Why are you smiling?" The second looked over at him and and replied: "Yesterday I was a king."

Note: I try to remember the poignancy and message of that joke to keep myself in check...that I don't forget where I come from...that I come from a noble people on par with any others'...that I know my worth and that I stay on the path...that's why I keep that photo in a prominent place. Laters, CP...

How Many More Times: Robert Plant & Led Zeppelin

I've been doing a lot of bike riding as of late and it's made me virtually one with my iPod. As of this writing I have about 2,500 tunes on it with enough space for an equal amount to add -- cool. That said, my hours long foray on my bike in L.A. traffic have availed me of tunes and groups I've loaded on it and forgotten about and one of the latter is Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin. I've said before that the Rock'n Roll that everyone in the mainstream crowd came to know and love in the late 60s - early 70s (the harder edged stuff) was lifted by whites from Black American blues artists from the 30s-40s. Still do, but not all of them sucked, I must admit. One day about two months ago I was rifling through my 'Pod while waiting for the subway doors to close at the Pershing Square Station during my morning commute, when I came across some Led Zeppelin I, Latter Days and a Best of -- albums that I'd scooped months ago and forgotten. I already knew all the tunes, obviously or I wouldn't have stored them, I realized that I hadn't heard any of them in a minute (I don't listen to the radio for music anymore, yo), so I rolled my thumb around to the play button.

I got off the train at Wilshire Western and started rolling along when "How Many More Times" started pumpin' and let me tell you it was beautiful. By the time I started climbing the hill that leads to the intersection of Western/ Venice I'd sampled "Immigrant Song," "Kashmir," "When the Levee Breaks" and "Rock and Roll" -- a tune that Cadillac now uses in adverts but still rocks when absobed in it's entirety, nonetheless. Suffice to say that by the time I pulled up to the front gates of the studio lot I was born again hard on "the Zepp," magic, son. While I've never condoned the manner in which big music companies ran roughshod over blues and R&B artists in the early days (some still do), I've got to say that there's never been a finer "appropriation" of the blues idiom made -- and yes, I've heard Cream, the Yardbirds, Paul Butterfield and the like but none of those other acts could or did pull it off consistently like the Ledd and that's word, kid. At the front of the group was vocalst Robert Plant, a dude that, surprisingly, studied accounting in school before running down the halls of Rock's Valhalla and chugging down the remaining juices in the goblet of Thor...Good muic is GOOD MUSIC...In the past I've utilized that old coin that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."I don't know whether that's here or there in this instance but it felt right when I thought it. Anyway, here's a little bit about Plant/ LZ that you may/may not know...Like he used to screech in the chorus of the tune he wrote in homage to J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional character Bilbo Baggins, in the world of music we've got to remember to "Ramble on"...Laters, CP...

Robert Plant Timeline:

1968 Robert Plant joins Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham to form the blues rock ensemble Led Zeppelin.

1980 Following the death of drummer Jon Bonham, the remaining members of Led Zeppelin announce that the supergroup will part ways.

1982 Plant makes his solo debut with the LP "Pictures At Eleven" featuring the singles "Burning Down One Side" and "Pledge Pin" which both chart modestly at #64 and #74, respectively. The LP itself, released on the Swan Song label launched by Led Zeppelin, cracks the top ten on the US album 100 on which it peaks at #5 at the zenith of it's 12 month run.

1983 In the summer, Plant debuts on his newly launched Es Paranza label. His sophomore solo set, "The Principle Of Moments" yields the pop hits "Big Log"(#20) and "In The Mood"(#39) which push the album to #8-US.

1984 In the fall of the year, Plant's supergroup "The Honeydrippers" formed with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Nile Rodgers release their sole LP together, "Volume One." The set, produced by Rodgers, parents the pop hit "Sea Of Love"(#3-pop).

1985 Early in the year, the Honeydrippers' " Rockin' At Midnight" reaches #25-pop which helps to push it's parent to #4-US at the peak of it's eight month run on the album 100. That summer, he and Page reform Led Zeppelin (backed by Phil Collins) to perform onstage for the Live Aid benefit concert in the US. Still later, Es Paranza releases Plant's new "Shaken 'N' Stirred" containing the cut "Little By Little" (#36-pop). The album goes to #20-US.

1988 In the summer, Led Zeppelin (with drummer Jason Bonham- John's son) plays Madison Square Garden for Atlantic Records' 40th Anniversary Concert. Later, Plant's new "Now And Zen", that holds the Jimmy Page collaboration "Tall Cool One"(#25-pop) hits the album 100 where it peaks at #6.

1990 "Manic Nirvana", Plant's new record, enters the US top 100 and reaches #13 at the crest of it's six month run on the charts.

1993 "Fate Of Nations" reaches #34-US on the album charts.

1994 In the fall of the year, Plant reunites with Jimmy Page to record for MTV Unplugged. The videotaped sessions also yield the material for a new album, "No Quarter", which climbs to #4-US.

1995 At the beginning of the year Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1997 Plant forms the group Priory of Brion.

1999 "Most High" garners Page and Plant a Grammy Award: Best Hard Rock Performance, at the 41st annual ceremony. Additionally, the LP "Led Zeppelin IV", released in 1971, is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Mo' Plant Facts:
  • After years of playing with local blues-rock acts in Birmingham, England, Robert Plant joins a group called Band of Joy- the drummer for the band is John Bonham. Around 1968, guitarist Jimmy Page was winding up the final chapter of the fragmenting Yardbirds. Page attempted to form a "New Yardbirds" ensemble with bassist Chris Dreja but were unable to get a vocalist to commit to the new group. After joining with session man John Paul Jones, singer Terry Reid, suggested that Page take a look at Robert Plant to front his new act. Plant got the job and suggested that they hire John Bonham from Band of Joy and Led Zeppelin was born.

  • Just before he joined the Led Zeppelin fold, in early '68 Robert Plant had began recording with British bluesman Alexis Koerner but the project never saw the light of day for obvious reasons. Koerner, a huge fan of the black American music (most specifically Chicago blues), has proven to be a huge influence on the blues rock bands that were forming in London at that time. He worked with rising stars on the London scene who would go on to reshape the world of rock, among them; the Rolling Stones, John Mayall, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton. In addition to the latter, Alexis Koerner is officially the first British act to record a full length blues LP ("R&B From The Marquee"-1962)- which was subsequently followed by the "British Invasion" precipitated by the releases from the many UK acts he'd influenced.

  • In the early 80's Plant began to collab with other artists to record blues and R&B covers, which he was unable to do while a member of Led Zeppelin resulting in the formation of a side project called the Honeydrippers. A side note: "Nugetre" who's credited as a producer on the Honeydrippers LP is actually a pseudonym/ nick name used by Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records.

  • Nile Rodgers, who played with Plant in the Honeydrippers was a member of Chic with whom he recorded dance hits like "Good Times" and "Le Freak." In addition to producing some of the biggest acts of the 80's, like Madonna, Duran Duran and David Bowie- he produced the Honeydrippers' sole outing as well.

  • Raphael Ravenscroft, who played saxophone on Plant's solo debut "After Eleven" in 1982, has backed a prolific list of artist
    throughout his career, among them; Marvin Gaye, Mike Oldenfield, Pink Floyd and even ABBA. He's also the saxophonist featured on Gerry Rafferty's '78 hit "Baker Street" (#2-pop) one of the most recognizeable sax hooks in popular music.

  • In 1988, Plant submitted the LP "Now & Zen" supported by a new band that held keyboardist Phil Johnstone. Together the two would pen practically every chart hit that the new ensemble over the next few years.

  • In a clear testament to the influence and staying power of the music recorded by Robert Plant's "other group", when 1994's "No Quarter" was released the album climbed into the top ten in the US (#4) - it was primarily comprised of new recordings of Led
    Zeppelin classics.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Harrison Ford - Firewall Q & A

What up, yo? it's been a minute since I've put anything up on here -- not because I haven't had anything to say; time's just been of the essence as of late but whatever. I thought I'd slink back on by posting a Q & A from a roundtable I participated in with one of my favorite actors -- Harrison Ford. Dude's been out of the limelight for a bit, so what better way to return to the blog than with a little back and forth with Han Solo/Indiana Jones? Notoriously secretive about his personal life, I always liked dude's straightforward interview style -- he doesn't mince words. It's been said that you should never meet your heroes because they always fail to meet your expectations, so when I walked into the Regent Beverly Wilshire I initially thought "I have a bad feeling about this" - to quote Captain Solo when entering the Death Star. Turns out everything was cooler than a fan (including a stint where one person got ahead of himself and got called on the carpet for it)'s some of what went down during the junket for his upcoming film Firewall.

Q: Coming from the world of carpentry as you do, what's your relationship with technology?

HF: I've been using computers for years for a variety of tasks just like [everyone else] as a calendar, phonebook -- all those types of things -- printing letters. Flight training and flight planning software is on computers so I'm fairly comfortable with computers. What was important in this case was to test the theory of our technology -- on people in the banking community and people in the computer world. And we found something that [the studio] agreed upon as a mechanism and if they were at all kind of iffy on whether or not our concept would work, the one proviso that we hadn't given them right at the beginning was that the family was being held with a gun to their heads -- now would it work? [laughs] ...and if you go further and you say to them -- I was talking to a guy that does the job [in real life] that I'm portraying [on screen] and I asked him 'what do you do about your own personal security?' and he says: 'well, not much.' I think some of them may reconsider how much personal security is necessary when you're holding that kind of a hand of know, we all have alarms in our houses and most of us don't set them.

Q: Do people lock their doors in rural Wyoming?

HF: People know where my house is, I sure don't want to tell them that I don't lock my doors. [laughter]...rural people, in general, don't lock their doors.

Q: I think the computer sequences in movies tend to be boring a lot of the time, now you have the good fortune to be in two movies where the computer scenes have been exciting - this one and Clear and Present Danger. What's the secret of making these scenes work?

HF: I make it not about computers. I make it about people. The computer's a mechanism but the story involves people -- people's emotions, people's understanding, people's gaining knowledge, people's attention -- that's why we were running out of paper for the printer in Clear and Present Danger...details of humanity [are important to the thrust of the story].

Q: Do you keep in shape just generally -- in case you're doing another action role?

HF: I don't do a lot of physical training. I suffered a lucky genetic accident -- I play a little bit of tennis but that's about it. When I'm going to do a fight scene I stretch a little bit's not about strength. Again, it's about acting. It's about knowing where the camera could be best placed to capture the energy of a particular mood in a physical scene like [fighting].

Q: Could you talk a little bit about working with Paul Bettany? He was excellent as the bad guy.

HF: Yes, he's a remarkable actor. He has all of the tools -- the whole kit, I think. He's got really solid intellectual equipment and knows how to understand a story and the problem of making a film. He's a very skilled actor and he's a very instinctive actor - a very professional demeanor. I think he conducted himself beautifully and it was a great pleasure for me to work with him. [speaking metaphorically] We were playing a game of catch in a lot of the scenes and he pays attention. He knows how hard to throw the ball back. He knows how to work.

Q: Why do you think you're so often drawn to these physical movies -- the action adventures?

HF: This is not a physical movie. This is a movie that has only very brief moments of physical confrontation. It's a movie about suspense and tension. It's not an action film, its a thriller with a brief bit of action. But I'm drawn to all kinds of films. I like to participate in a variety of different genres. I like to do something different. I want to work on the best dramatic material that I can and it often happens -- that when you tell stories of conflict between characters -- it comes to a physical confrontation. That is the nature of film.

Q: Could you talk about the house you got while you were shooting this movie?

HF: I didn't buy a house.

Q: Can you comment on Indiana Jones 4 and how your role will be played, given that you're getting older?

HF: I don't know how to relate to that...I can't tell you anything about Indiana Jones 4 but you just saw [Firewall] -- I hope you saw the film -- in which I performed physically to an extent sufficient for Indiana Jones.

Q: Has that been a frustrating process, though? Because you liked Frank Darabonte's script and [the studio] has ordered yet another rewrite.

HF: Did I? No, I said that I was anxious to make another Indiana Jones film -- I didn't say anything specifically about Frank's script. Not because I didn't like it or I did like it -- I didn't say anything specific about the script.

Q: Is there a certain point where you just say "enough already, we're not going to get it?"

HF: Why? The audience is there, anxious for the film -- I believe. Everybody involved is anxious to make the film again, make another Indiana Jones movie.

Q: Talk about being aware of where the camera is placed when you're shooting an action sequence -- you seem to have a really good grasp of it and I wonder if you've ever thought about directing a film yourself.

HF: I'm sure you have my glib answer memorized. [laughs] No, I haven't. I like what I'm doing. I enjoy what I'm doing.

Q: Why do you love acting?

HF: Because it's a complicated problem...I've spent my life acquiring some understanding of the process. Because it's challenging to me. Because I get to participate as an actor in film making which is a group activity and I like working with people on a problem. And because they pay me money to do it. [laughs]

Q: What have you found to be the biggest change in Hollywood over the years?

HF: I haven't been a student of Hollywood -- I don't pay very much attention to it businesswise, except to what presents itself to me. I'm not a generalist.

Q: How about the change in the ways that films are being made now compared to when you first started out?

HF: As far as I know, they haven't. If you want to talk about CGI or something specific, yeah, there's been a change in what is possible to present to an audience on film and the way of getting there that may have lead to an investment in technology that overwhelms humanity. I was just talking about fight scenes with no story in them -- it's just all about pow, bam. You see fists flying through the [camera] frame and you don't know what the hell is going on or where you are in the room, where you are in the midst of the fight, who's winning how it feels to be involved in it. So, the potential for going off into the world of bigger and bigger effect may, in some cases, diminish audience/human participation in the event. I guess that's a change, if it may be.

Q: Has this movie changed the way you look at your own personal security?

HF: No.

Q: Your character in Working Girl was quite enjoyable. Are you going to do another romantic comedy any time soon?

HF: Yeah. If the audience is interested in seeing a romance with a 63 year-old leading man. [laughs] Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau both made films that involve romance into their seventies -- it's all about the suitability of the script, the suitability of the casting. I like to do comedy and it doesn't necessarily have to be a romantic comedy. But I enjoy, as I said, variety different genres.

Q: I haven't seen it but how much does Firewall's preview trailer give away? If you'll remember, there was a lot of contraversy over What Lies Beneath and the fact that that movie's trailer gave away the whole story.

HF: I'm surprised you haven't seen the trailer, it's ubiquitous [laughs] and very well concieved. It has very little to do with the film, in a way. It's a different style and a different way of storytelling. I think it's very effective and a very good trailer --

Q: -- because it doesn't tell everything?

HF: Well, I mean, really, what is there to tell? Harrison Ford/ Paul Bettany and I think the audience knows -- in this kind of a story -- the good guys will win and the bad guys will lose.

Q: Did you like the trailer for What Lies Beneath?

HF: I thought it gave away too much. On the other hand, the film was very successful.

Q: If your nearest and dearest were threatened in ways similar to your character in Firewall, how far would you go to protect them?

HF: I have no idea and niether do you. Nobody don't know and I don't know until you come to that [critical] moment of: what're you going to do?

Firewall opens nationwide on February 10th.