In our year-and-a-half on the information highway, we had the good fortune of witnessing what was at once a very prolific time, a very confusing time, and a very exciting time in underground music. Instead of quoting ourselves, we combed through the 100 features and profiles we've published to bring you some reflections from the folks who inspire us.
Underwater Peoples' Evan Brody
I cite this moment when Sawyer and I were sitting outside our sophomore dorm room at college. We said to each other, "Man, we’re bored. We want to do something more exciting." --Interview with Jenn Pelly, May 2011
I see politics and art as separate trajectories. There's a political dimension to music, to the extent that it would be a disruption of the regime of the sensible... but it certainly isn’t collective mobilization against the state in the name of radical equality. The protest lyric is a poor substitute for radical political thought or a new idea of politics.
AZ: Is that why you have protest lyrics in your music?
The idea there is that sums up the impetus, lyrically, of all genuine art. It's an explosion. It's a Molotov cocktail in the fuckin' police station. It's rights for that which can have no rights, to the extent that it anticipates a world to come-- not this world. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander & Ric Leichtung, July 2011
All of these things operating in synchronicity: like ringtones, flat-screens, theater, cuisine, fashion, sushi. I don’t want to call it “virtual reality,” so I call it Far Side Virtual. If you really want to understand Far Side, first off, listen to [Claude] Debussy, and secondly, go into a frozen yogurt shop. Afterwards, go into an Apple store and just fool around, hang out in there. Afterwards, go to Starbucks and get a gift card. They have a book there on the history of Starbucks-- buy this book and go home. If you do all these things you’ll understand what Far Side Virtual is-- because people kind of live in it already. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander, November 2011
I remember during the [Harald] Grosskopf panel at Unsound Festival, Laurel Halo said something interesting about grappling with a world that is completely and totally inundated with technology. There's something about dealing with period technology that makes us feel more human or more relatable. Something about getting the whole machine purring feels very cosmic and brings technology back in harmony with art. --Interview with Daniel Gottlieb, June 2011
AZ: It’s funny that there are indie bands coming up now that would kill to use the equipment that was frustrating to you back then.
I like the idea of it as well, but there are too many problems! --Interview with Blondes, Emilie Friedlander, & Ric Leichtung, May 2011
People like to ask me where I live, and sometimes I give different answers. There is a new 7” coming on Baselic records, and the label guy asked me what city I was from. I was with a friend, and we were talking, and he said I should say I was from Djakarta. So I did, and then it was on many websites. On the High Wolf MySpace, it says that I am based in Brazil. Many times people think I’m from Los Angeles. When you hide something from people, they really want to know it. --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, March 2011
Cleaners From Venus' Martin Newell
I’m very flattered that people like my old stuff so much but really, it was me and Lol [Elliott, from Cleaners] in the kitchen! We were broke but inspired and enjoyed listening to it. But I think the biggest pleasure we got out of it at the time was that I used to make homemade beer, and Lol used to make these candles, 'cause he didn’t have enough money to pay his electricity bill. So I used to swap some of the beer for some dope that someone else used to grow, and we would make our own music on cassettes that Lol stole. And I thought one night-- stoned, drunk, listening to music by candlelight--, "We’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves tonight, and it’s cost nothing!" That was sort of the epitome of anarchy for me: generating our own everything. It was fantastic. --Interview with Richard MacFarlane, June 2010
After getting a sense of his musical tastes, I finally asked [Speculator's Nick Ray] what kind of music he played (I hate to assume genres these days). "Pop," he replied, then let a beat pass before explaining. “But not in the popular music sense. ‘Pop’ is no longer defined by what’s actually popular; it’s defined by a structure. You know, melodies, guitars, catchy hooks.” --Marissa A. Ross, December 2010
AZ: Recently you’ve toured and collaborated with Ariel Pink. How has that been?
He’s one of my best friends, and it was totally effortless. I think artistically we are the same. It’s like "skillful non-skill." The greatest advice that he’s given me was, “Whatever it is that you’re doing, don’t figure it out.” --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, January 2011
The core concept of now age is we're living in “ghost-modernism.” It's not really like post-modernism; it's beyond that now. It's gotten to a point where the past is just recapitulating itself through kitsch and nostalgia. Every new gesture is just an imprint of an old gesture. We're haunted by so many other past styles and tastes in so many ways. I'm interested in the creation of a new relationship to time, where it's not being recapitulated, but instead looking into the present moment and really seeking out music, materials, structures, people, fashion, and whatever is within this lens of the present. --Interview with Ric Leichtung, November 2011
I've always had a powerful sense of the space-- physiological, emotional, spiritual-- invoked by music. I've always used music that way in my life, using it to create, augment, and enrich experiences. I don't think of myself as a songwriter at all, because what I'm after is some distillation of that effect, creating environments with certain properties and relationships. So often those moments in music that have powerful effects on me are fleeting-- like an outro, or a couple bars right before the second chorus. I'm interested in evoking those spaces so that I can stay a while. --Interview with Michael C. Powell, September 2011
NNA Tapes' Matt Mayer & Toby Aronson
Matt: With harsh noise in general we both noticed a shift in the mid '00s. Like Toby mentioned, a lot of the dudes doing the harder noise started doing ambient, which seems like a total 180 shift. It created a lot of interesting results, where the noise influence would rub off on the ambient and vice versa, creating this cool hybrid. And now where we are in 2011, it's all become smeared together.
I feel like the pendulum has to swing back at some point. I’ve always really liked lyrics, and I’ve always really liked vocal stuff, and playing a lot and going to noise shows, I’ve felt in some ways unwelcome. There’s this unwritten rule saying, "You can’t use lyrics that people will understand." I thought there were supposed to be no rules. [Noise] turns into the most codified, regimented form of music, which is not what it should be at all. When Gowns first started off, some people didn’t know how to take us. They were like, "This band might be cool if they didn’t sing." I wonder if it's something about the idea of masculine, abstract sound experiments, and not allowing a range of emotions to come through. For a lot of people who are doing experimental music, at some point it becomes like, "I built this Max patch that does this." It's about the experiment, and the set of parameters. You’re supposed to be tuning out everything but your ears. --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, June 2011
Emeralds' Mark McGuire
We have always somewhat embodied our surroundings and our heritage in our sound. In Ohio, there’s a huge middle class, and a lot of people work their whole lives... there’s always a feeling of struggling, and the feeling that Cleveland's like the joke of the world... We're not a cultural mecca; it's not where all the big stuff's happening. There’s definitely a lot of people out of work, and there’s poverty: it makes people, it's a tough city. But people from Cleveland are proud that they’re from there... It's this kind of tense, dark, and industrial place that has a lot of hidden beauty and a lot to offer, and that comes across in our music. --Interview with Ric Leichtung, February 2011
I got an e-mail once after I was like, "Holy shit, I'm going on my first tour!" I put it on Facebook or something, and Dominick Fernow wrote to me saying, "Congratulations." He had just joined Cold Cave, things were happening for him, and he was like, "Best of luck to you, thank you for having the courage to succeed." It occurred to me that for so many people, it's very hard to feel okay with success, because success is not cool. It supposedly tarnishes your thing; it ruins little pockets of scenes and the self-importance that comes from thinking you're the only people in your town that are doing something. That's what stops a lot of really talented people from sharing their music and turning it into a career. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander, November 2011
[Photo by Megan Mack]
By Emilie Friedlander
The musician, video artist, and perennial drifter James Ferraro first appeared in my life in the form of an idea, passed on by a college friend of mine who had spent a few months couch-surfing with him during a semester abroad in Berlin. We were sitting in his mother’s SUV, listening to a slowed down version of “We Are On The Race Track,” a minor chart hit by the ‘80s Jamaican soul diva Precious Wilson. James had gotten my friend in the habit of playing old vinyl ‘45s at 33 speed and dubbing signal onto reams of warped cassette tape, and I remember being transfixed for the first time by the sound of a pop song in slow motion. The singer’s muscular alto had transformed into a mournful, slothful baritone; the upbeat disco instrumentals seemed to sag under their own weight. It was like uncovering a second song, a second existence, that lay dormant in the first.
If he does not suddenly decide to fall off the radar completely, James Ferraro will be remembered alongside folks like Ariel Pink, R. Stevie Moore, John Maus, and Spencer Clark as one of the musicians who, at the turn of the 21st century, elevated the crackle and grain of low-fidelity recording to a field of aesthetic exploration. They claimed outmoded technologies like the 4-track and the tape deck as their own, and made the vocabulary of pop music and the preoccupations of the avant-garde seem a lot less incompatible than much of the previous century had implied.
The particulars of James Ferraro’s biography escape even those who have lived and worked closely with him, and he would probably be more inclined to tell you a fiction about his own life than a couple straight facts about his working process. What we do know about James is that he was born in Rochester, NY sometime in the mid-‘80s, and was raised by a father who once ran a heavy metal radio show and worked in the legendary instrument and pedal emporium in that city called House of Guitars. According to Todd Ledford, founder of the New York label Olde English Spelling Bee, an innate affinity for travel has prompted James to settle, consecutively and for months at a time, in San Diego, San Francisco, New York, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Ohio, New York, San Francisco, London, Berlin, San Diego, New York, Belgium, New York, Los Angeles, New York, and Los Angeles. Explaining his most recent change in location, Ferraro told AZ's Samantha Cornwell earlier this year that he wanted to try his hand at being a Hollywood action movie star. One more plausible explanation in circulation is that he moved for reasons of the heart; another that he and Ariel Pink are working on an album together.
Ferraro’s most iconic features are his short, fluffy afro and his missing front tooth, which he says he shattered with a BB gun when he was a kid. In his quarter century on this Earth, he has released some 25 albums, splits, and cassettes under his own name, 25 more as one half of The Skaters (his band with fellow sound collagist Spencer Clark), and countless others under various pseudonyms. He has no website, did not have a reliable phone number until recently, and has a bothersome habit of not showing up at his own concerts. Aside from the occasional tongue-in-cheek foray into straight-ahead pop-punk (as in 2010’s Night Dolls With Hairspray), James Ferraro’s muddy sound collages are as hybrid, unpredictable, and compassless as your typical drift down the information highway-- especially if your designated road markers are ‘80s radio rock, video game music, and campy b-movies of the Street Trash variety. What unifies his work is a consistent impression of overhearing somebody turning a static-y radio dial in the apartment next door-- of being struck by the familiarity of a strain here and there, but never being able to concretely identify any of it (I'm pretty sure Ledford once told me that Ferraro has never sampled other people's songs).
I met up with "the man with the moon-lit pompadour" in late October, a few hours after he had kicked off the first night of the Neon Marshmallow Fest at Brooklyn's Public Assembly. I was there to chat with him about his recently Zoned In Far Side Virtual LP, which, as Michael McGregor explains, pretty much pulls the rug out from under any descriptions of his work like the above. Ferraro's Hippos In Tanks debut is clear as a bell, constructed greatly from what sounds like cheesy MIDI presets, and melodic to an almost comic extreme. After finishing an interview with Elle magazine, he took a walk with me down to a small manicured park at the foot of The Edge, a massive, glass-paned condo complex on the Williamsburg waterfront. As actual condo pets trotted by on designer leashes, we talked about life in Los Angeles, far side virtual reality, and what was actually going on in his head when he recorded the LP. (Hint: Far Side is a record about 2011).
What is noise at the end of 2011? The term is too narrow to encompass the evolution of the genre and its vast scope, but harsh skree remains the defining facet of its genetic makeup. Although, maybe not? This is one of the questions that James Ferraro's Far Side Virtual asks. The former Skater, who is largely responsible for moving peaked noise away from its dogmatic roots, eschews the tape hiss psych, gunk glam, and oozing new age in favor of digital compositions so clean, serene, and outrageous that its sure to hit purists in the gut. And it does.
Ferraro, who’s always merged consumerism with his work, has crafted a record that could sit at the absolute center of New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix. It's both high brow and low brow, brilliant and despicable, using 21st century bourgeois liberties to craft a record so entirely of the moment that it's almost inconceivable. It's as shallow as a power lunch at Jamba Juice and as visceral as a trip up-and-down the coast of California. In many ways, it's similar to Ray Lynch's 1984 platinum album Deep Breakfast, which stands in inter-dimensional relation to Far Side Virtual, both products of consumer-focused New Age. As with Deep Breakfast, many will have trouble getting past the ever-present "cheese"-- here provided by MIDI-sequenced compositions, many of which seem to have been recorded on, or with sounds from his new Mac Pro. The “everyone can make music” program Garage Band is just one of the many products made at 1 Infinite Loop that finds its way into Far Side Virtual-- be it in the album art, the song titles, or the various samples.
And this might be why Far Side Virtual is so far-out, so mindblowingly accessible, and, at times-- especially for those who've followed his warped, ultra no-fi output for years-- so difficult. As always, it’s Ferraro using consumer electronics, but this time around, they are those of the present (Roland Juno DI, Laptop, Soft Synths) rather than those of yore (Casio sampling keyboards, cassettes, VHS). The impression of pop cultural primitivism gives way to that of an insanely polished, seamlessly composed master work. Each note of Far Side Virtual is meticulously crafted, to the point where it almost feels as if it were produced by a team of engineers, branding strategists, or social media gurus trying to make a pass at the Post-Animal Collective/Altered Zones generation.
To virgin ears, it sounds like anything but "avant," "experimental," or "psychedelic" music, and more like a collection created specifically to introduce power point presentations during board meetings at Pinkberry or Red Mango. And therein lies the LP’s most fascinating element: while it feels like it was crafted for the masses, Jim's outlandish but insanely "telling of the times" production is still just as biting, surreal and outrageous-- perhaps even more so than before. This is coming from a man who has released material under so many pseudonyms that there is no way his discography is correct, who released two different records with the same art (and more, or less, same sounds). He's a post-modern surrealist in the vein of Cory Archangel and Jon Rafman who featured logos for Best Buy, Monster Energy, and Cleatus the Fox Sports Robot on the cover an LP with a title inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger's Last Action Hero, itself a satire of genre films and their indulgent cliches.
Once again his work pinpoints the state of consumer culture at large, so much so that you’re likely hearing warped sounds from your MacBook as you read this on your MacBook. (Note: Jim uploaded the entire record, track-by-track, to YouTube and posted them on his blog yesterday. Additional note: You should follow him on Twitter, where his handle appropriately includes the extension for the Zip File.) The most fascinating element of all this is that there is no trace of bourgeois Billyburg irony on Far Side, but rather an unbiased, clear report on the state of culture and society as we head into the year of the Media-created apocalypse. The joke isn't on us, it is us. Which makes you wonder, is James Ferraro our Geppetto, or is he simply telling it like it is?
There's something so charming about James Ferraro's brand of electro-mash orchestration. Even when drawing from a wide palette of classical and electronic sounds, Ferraro makes complex instrumentation sound deft and light. If a composer with less of a grand vision tried to cram all of these sounds into one track it would be overwhelming and clumsy.
"Earth Minutes" is a late-album instrumental cut and the second single to appear from Ferraro's forthcoming LP for Hippos in Tanks, Far Side Virtual. Here, he's taking things to the maximum, further toeing that line between the real-world and the mediated that he loves so much to dance on-- a sample near the end actually says, "iPad!" "Minutes" builds carefully, moving from crafty synth percussion and strings to timpani to French horn to saw leads to more strings…and it all makes sense. --Dale W. Eisinger, Altered Zones via Dummy Mag
Far Side Virtual comes out proper next Tuesday, October 25 on Hippos in Tanks
Pitchfork premiered a highlight from James Ferraro's upcoming Hippos in Tanks full-length, Far Side Virtual. Refocusing his new age lens on something a little more adult contemporary, Ferraro rushes through a happy town of '90s Casio presets that I can't say I look back on with nostalgia yet. But with that undeniable piano hook, Ferraro's somehow got me both nodding and scratching my head at the same time. Kudos Jim. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
James Ferraro's already announced his upcoming Hippos In Tanks LP, Far Side Virtual, slated for October 25th. But the new age slacker pulled a fast one on us and dropped FSV's seven-track companion EP, Condo Pets, on iTunes last night at midnight out of nowhere. This digital-only "futuristic symphonic prelude" is said to be "a musical mirror of our virtual 21st century cultural landscape of fusion and consumption," and encourages listeners to "ponder out identity as media-molded citizens of a simulacra city." Big words from a dude who fearlessly namedrops Carrie Bradshaw. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
James Ferraro: Condo Pets tracklist:
01 Text Bubbles
02 The Secret World Of Condo Pets
03 Eco - Tot
04 Life In A Day
05 Smoothies, Foodies, Flat Screens And Virtuality
06 Find Out What's On Carrie Bradshaw's iPod
07 Saint Prius
It was a safe bet that Vol. 7 of RVNG Intl's FRKWYS series was going to be a special one when it came out this past July; the prospect of gathering David Borden, James Ferraro, Samuel Godin, Laurel Halo, and Daniel Lopatin in one place is incredible. Luckily, that first fateful meeting won't be their last: the synthesizer super friends will make their live debut as the FRKWYS 7 Ensemble at the RVNG Int'l showcase in this year's VIA Festival in Pittsburgh. But until that momentous occasion (October 6th, see you there), return to the dense improvisations of their LP with the levitating "Just A Little Pollution." The vaguely ominous title could mislead, but this vibrant concoction of electronics is liberating and euphoric. Suspended in mid-air, floating among planets, is this ensemble's powerful synergy. --Matt Sullivan, Altered Zones
FRKWYS Vol. 7 is out now on RVNG Int'l and remember: FRKWYS 7 Ensemble makes their live debut on October 6th at this year's VIA Festival
Brooklyn's RVNG Intl. doesn't just pay lip service to music as ongoing dialogue between past and present; it unites the pioneers of yore with their contemporary admirers, and facilitates that dialogue in the literal sense. Earlier this year, the label recruited an all-star line-up of millennial synth revivialists to remix the entirety of Harald Grosskopf's 1980 Synthesist LP and perform alongside him as he recreated the album in full at NYC's Unsound Festival. Through its long-running FRKWYS 12" series, RNVG has also facilitated collaborations between The Psychic Ills and Juan Atkins; Excepter, Chris Carter, and Cosey Fanni Tutti; and more recently, Julianna Barwick and DNA's Ikue Mori. For Volume 7, the imprint brought minimalist composer David Borden together with Dan Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never, Ford & Lopatin) at Atlantic Sound Studio in DUMBO for two days of straight jamming in August 2010. Laurel Halo, James Ferraro, and New York composer and sound designer Samuel Godin rounded out the group into a full-on synth ensemble, and the tapes were edited down into a limited edition 12". "People of Wind," part two of which you can hear below, is one of the calmer, earlier takes in a session that eventually culminated in a "Fourth World Freak Out." --Emilie Friedlander, Altered Zones
FRKWYS VOL. 7: BORDEN, FERRARO, GODIN, HALO & LOPATIN comes in CD and LP formats, and is available for pre-order now via RVNG Intl.
Tonight, Los Angeles bids adieu to Show Cave, one of its most vital and active DIY venues. Founded by Eric Nordhauser and Hazel Hill McCarthy in 2006, and located at 3501 Eagle Rock Boulevard, it was the kind of place locals would pack into on a Friday night to catch musical performances, video art shows hosted by pygmy goats, dance parties, and people in little black wigs doing god knows what. Tonight's send off features performances by Zones favorites James Ferraro and Matthewdavid, in addition to some ghostly electro from Octavius and a plethora of dark dance sounds from DJ M.E. The reasons for the venue's closing have not been publicly disclosed, though it certainly represents the end of a gloriously weird era for the Los Angeles scene. Fortunately, according to an announcement posted on the Show Cave tumblr, a reincarnation may be in the works:
"Thanks to all the amazing artists and people that have made this last year at Show Cave so very fun, weird, abstract, obscure, hilarious, dirty, and danceable. Do not shed too many tears…….Show Cave will continue to live in a new location(s) in a future space and time." --Samantha Cornwell, Visitation Rites
Underwater Peoples is re-releasing Jim Ferraro's On Air, which, originally out in 2009 on CD-R from OESB, is getting "totally re-mastered, occasionally re-recorded and with some added tracks." As you can hear from these zonked out Gary Glitter pile-ups appearing on his "virtual" single, Ferraro's certainly on the same ramped-up pop frenzy that led him to the stiletto heights, smeared 90210 romance, and warped predilection for "knees-up" fun that predated last year's Night Dolls With Hairspray. --Richard MacFarlane, Rose Quartz
UP's deluxe double vinyl edition of On Air hits the streets June 14th
I was hoping to see Jim Ferraro play at the Harald Grosskopf Synthesist/Re-Synthesist performance at the Unsound Festival last month, but he never showed up. This did not surprise me in the least, though do I remember being puzzled when I inquired after his whereabouts, and somebody told me that he was not in New York City at all, or in LA, but somewhere in the middle of the Great American Desert. This could have been a fiction, through I like to think that Ferraro recorded Far Side Virtual, his forthcoming LP for Hippos In Tanks, during that lapse into the steaming white void. That's right, Ferraro's just signed on to a new stable. We don't have much information on the album other than the release date ("coming soon to a summer near you"), but Ferraro did tell us what he plans to do with the profits: "All the proceeds from Far Side Virtual are going towards my facial reconstructive plastic surgery, my new face will be fashioned after CCTV's satellite queen, Princess Diana. and you will be able to see it live in concert on the Far Side Virtual World Tour.. Always coca cola." --Emilie Friedlander, Altered Zones
Check out a short biography of "the man with the moon-lit pompadour" on the Hippos site. Ferraro also has a re-issue of his On Air double album slated for release on Underwater Peoples June 3rd, and is rumored to be producing Ariel Pink's next album
One of the few AZ favorites to have achieved international name recognition with virtually no online presence to speak of, supreme cosmic joker James Ferraro seems to have finally grown his very own "digital_skin", which happens to be the name of his new SoundCloud page. Brooklyn's Impose hipped us to a new tabloid-inspired, power-pop pearl that he up'ed yesterday, following last month's digital re-release of his iAsia CD-R. We could ask what happened to "Taboid 1," but the answer would be about as hard to come by as Ferraro himself at one of his own live appearances.
(img credit: Weird Magic)
Fresh off the release of Night Dolls With Hairspray, alien vessel James Ferraro is back with more transmissions from some twisted place far, far away. Labeled "iAsia 2 RAVER" on his digital skin SoundCloud, this extended 30-minute piece is similar to "Casino Neptune" from his iAsia CD-R, which he describes as "new sounds from 107.7 Hyppereal Radio XM Mars." The theme continues here with shards of warped digitalism that bounce back and forth like cosmic pinballs, accessing zones usually only probed by molecular beings...whatever the fuck that means. Anyway, new Ferraro. Jam it. Digest it. Jam it again. Then call the Toddfather and snag Night Dolls With Hairspray. (via Chocolate Bobka)
A cycle of bubblegum pop songs, the latest full-length offering from West Hollywood’s unlikeliest action hero is ostensibly less “vast” than his Edward Flex or iAsia hypnogogic ragers, but it’s certainly his most ambitious work to date. In addition to realizing the entire cast, script, and set of his own, Troma-style midnight mind-movie, James Ferraro proves that he's ridiculously good at singing like a girl. He’s on the cover sporting blush, magenta lipstick, and his signature, studded jean vest; sometimes, listening to Night Dolls With Hairspray, it’s hard to believe that it’s really him behind all the stiletto divas and gum-chewing Brittneys (Ferraro's spelling). Killer nerds, bondage teachers, and lovelorn teens also make an appearance, and it’s this interest in alternate personalities (or just plain acting) that defines this supremely listenable batch of hits.
Most of the jams on the LP are bouncy and sickly sweet, but late-night, b-movie horrors occasionally surface in hilariously perverted ways. “Flog me, flog me, in front of the class!”, wails Ferraro in “Leather High School”; he sings in the brattiest and most nasal of tones, backed by dark, chuggy guitars and a lone backup singer-- also played by Ferraro. Super ramped-up '90s guitars roll 90210-style through “Buffy Honkerburg's Answering Machine”, which retains the same modern-alienation-via-technology feel that runs through perhaps all his work.
Night Dolls cruises out on “Radio Cherubs”, recalling the epic “Chrome Wave Arena” on his Do You Believe In Hawaii? tape, where rapid cartoon fragments and tropical jungle cacophony bend back to reveal some of the most staggeringly beautiful, TV theme tune-sounding moments around. This hazy, dream-pop sunset is so poignant that it’ll leave you wondering how you (actually) chuckled at the roach-infested creeps that populated the album before. It’s hard to say how much this afro’ed voyager seeks out those transcendent moments; Night Dolls certainly isn’t focused on them. But despite all the other voices at work, this gunk-covered vision comes out wholly cohesive.
"Killer Nerd" lyrics, as submitted by Ferraro himself, and a "sampler" of five tracks from the album:
(img credit= James Ferraro)
By Samantha Cornwell
James Ferraro: "Leather High School"
On a gray December afternoon, I caught the 780 bus at the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Figueroa and headed West toward the neon lights of Hollywood. The purpose of this journey? An in-depth look into the bizarre world of James Ferraro. I’d arranged to meet the enigmatic star at the Hard Rock Cafe, located right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I got off the bus and made my way past drifters in Batman costumes and out-of-work actors offering “free” admission to a variety of late-night shows; I stood guard outside the entrance as an elderly Chinese man posed for a picture next to Jackie Chan’s star. At last, the radiant orb of James Ferraro’s afro appeared in the distance. We made our way through the glass doors, and sat down to dine in the belly of the glamorous beast.
Ferraro, who divides his time between New York and Hollywood, just released the phenomenal Night Dolls With Hairspray, which is possibly his poppiest effort to date. Since his days as one half of The Skaters, James has produced a hefty catalogue of tapes and CD-Rs, ranging from New Age drone to bizzaro collagist power-pop. Here is some of what we discussed.
AZ: So what brings you to Los Angeles?
James: I’m out here mainly to become an action movie star. I don’t have that much experience and I’ve never acted before, but I’ve been informed by certain movies. I’m interested in it for a lot of different reasons. That’s the main reason why I’m here.
AZ: What are some of your favorite action movies?
James: I mainly try to focus on action stars. I’m more infatuated with that part of it-- the acting part of it, and the aesthetic, and certain directors. [My favorites are] probably Van Damme and Stallone. I like the hyperreality of it, the fantasy of it. The aesthetic is something I’m really interested in, and the heroism of it all. It's pretty deep I think. There’s one movie called Stranglehold. It’s pretty good.