ATN's Music News of the World: China Bans Artists in Tibetan Benefit
Tide Of Sublime Releases Getting HigherBand plans to release a documentary and a live album nearly two years after lead singer's death.Senior Writer Gil Kaufman reports:Nearly two years after the death of Sublime leader Bradley Nowell, the parade of the band's releases continues unabated with a soon-to-be-released documentary and forthcoming live album.First up for release is an hour-and-a-half documentary about the now-legendary Long Beach, Calif., trio, whose fusion of punk, reggae, ska and surf music continued to carve an indelible niche in music culture long after Nowell's May 1996 drug-related death at the age of 28.Currently in its final editing stages is "Stories, Tales, Lies and Exaggerations," a documentary on the band (which also included drummer Bud Gaugh and bassist Eric Wilson), directed by friend Josh Fischel and currently slated for a late May release on video. Fischel, who co-directed the "Doin' Time" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Wrong Way" (RealAudio excerpt) Sublime videos, said "Stories, Tales ... " is an attempt to tell the story of Sublime by interviewing the band's extended family of friends, heroes, hangers-on and kin."One thing I always noticed in hanging out with them is that it really is a family," Fischel said. "It wasn't just those guys, but the 70 people that make up Sublime. Everyone was a catalyst in some way, either by inspiring them or being inspired by them." Among the inspirations interviewed for what Fischel said was the more than 70 hours of raw footage he has to edit down by the end of this week were the bandmembers' families, Nowell's widow, Troy, members of fellow Long Beach surf/punk band the Ziggens, members of fellow punks Pennywise, Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal of No Doubt and former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt.Also slated for release in the next few months is a live Sublime album, Stand By Your Van, tentatively due on June 16, according to Eric Stein of MCA Records. The album is slated to feature material recorded at a number of shows in the spring of 1996, some of which were recorded shortly before Nowell's death.Stein said the album, being compiled by longtime Sublime producer/guitarist/right-hand-man Mike "Miguel" Happoldt, will feature material from the band's final, multi-platinum album, Sublime (1996), as well as earlier work from their two independent releases, Robbin The Hood (1994) and 40 Oz. To Freedom (1992). Steve Bloom, editor of the marijuana-friendly magazine High Times, will be writing the liner notes for the album."It has examples of them road-testing some of the material that ended up on Sublime and lots of never-before-seen photos," Stein said.Meanwhile, Fischel said the documentary also features a host of never-before-seen live footage, rare interviews -- including a new one with adult-video legend Ron Jeremy on the site of a porn shoot (Jeremy appeared in the "Date Rape" clip) -- obscenity-laced MTV outtakes that the music-video station couldn't air and footage of Happoldt doing a live remix of the song "Miami" using recordings of Nowell freestyling verses that never made it onto the finished recordings.The movie is also slated to contain rare footage of Sublime playing a backyard house party in Long Beach in 1990."It really is like a tapestry," Fischel said. "That's why I interviewed Watt, because they were huge Minutemen fans. The sample at the beginning of [Sublime's 1992 album] 40 Oz. To Freedom, 'punk rock changed my life,' is from a Minutemen song. Watt puts it best, 'it's like a thread that just keeps on going. You're just building the blanket.' That's what this documentary is, it's really just casual and personal."An album of Sublime outtakes and rare tracks, Secondhand Smoke, was released last year.The album was released after surviving members Gaugh and Wilson signed on for three posthumous MCA-released efforts from the band, the final one of which is expected to be a Nowell acoustic effort. "I think there's some good music that we have left over," Gaugh said last year, before the deal was signed. "We have endless sound-board tapes, a couple of bootlegs and some good live recordings from some shows."***PBS 'American Masters' Series Profiles Lou Reed Former leader of the Velvet Underground and rock icon is subject of TV documentary.Senior Writer Gil Kaufman reports:You have to sit through the entire 55 minutes of the PBS documentary "Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart" to hear the definitive answer to why the pioneer of the urban ambient sound so clearly encapsulates the spirit of rock.In his typically arch, New York style, it is only within the final few minutes that Lou Reed turns the tables on the unseen interviewer and forces him to answer the question "How long can you be a rock 'n' roller?"At the end of the special -- which airs Wednesday on the Public Broadcasting Service and profiles the acerbic singer/poet from his early days as a contract songwriter through his heady years in the seminal rock band the Velvet Underground and on through his lengthy, prolific solo career -- Reed responds to the question by saying, "the problem disappears if we don't call it rock 'n' roll. How long can you be a musician?" he asks his interrogator." 'Til you die?" comes the unseen response. "There you go," Reed says with a grin.If the special, which was directed by photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (New York Times Sunday Magazine, Vanity Fair), a friend of Reed's, establishes one thing through its starkly shot interviews with friends, confidants and admirers of Reed, it is this: that Reed is not merely a rock star and a writer of songs but a poet who happens to wield a guitar as often as he does a pen and pad of paper."I had dreams of writing certain things," Reed says in the film, counting among his influences Beat author William Burroughs and novelist Raymond Chandler. "That's what I wanted to do, except with drums and a guitar."The documentary is part of the 12-year-old PBS "American Masters" series, which has previously profiled everyone from jazz great Duke Ellington to actor Buster Keaton and jazz singer Lena Horne but -- with the exception of Paul Simon and R&B great Aretha Franklin -- has never before tackled such an unabashedly rock artist. A slightly longer version of the film has already screened at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals."For me, the most interesting thing about Lou is what he did to rock," Greenfield said. "He brought adult themes to it and changed the direction of rock as far as themes are concerned. If I were to do a documentary about a 'rock star,' with the typical sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll, it would be the biggest clich imaginable. Lou is so much more, and I wanted to show why he is so brilliant and inspiring to people like Sonic Youth and Patti Smith."Greenfield met Reed eight years ago while photographing a cover for GQ magazine and said he eventually became friends with the singer, to the point where he would "jump on a plane and catch him when I could, always dragging along a high-8 video camera." Over the years, Greenfield accumulated a huge archive of behind-the-scenes footage and photos of the reclusive Reed, many of which became the backbone of the documentary.In keeping with the indelible legacy of the late pop artist Andy Warhol on Reed - - Warhol was instrumental in spreading the gospel of the VU by making them the house band at his New York Factory art space -- Greenfield made the intriguing choice of filming many of the interviewees in the static, one-minute "screen test" style of Warhol's infamous, dialogue-free '60s tests.Among the peers and admirers sitting for interviews in the film is punk- poet/singer Patti Smith, who says of the VU song "Heroin " (RealAudio excerpt), "it is one of the more perfect American songs." Also contributing commentary to the special are ambient punkers and Sonic Youth guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, former VU bandmates John Cale and Maureen Tucker, poet Jim Carroll, magician Penn Gillette, David Bowie, composer Philip Glass, novelist Mark Leyner, new-wave punk David Byrne, folk songstress Suzanne Vega, President of the Czech Republic and vocal VU fan Vaclav Havel and former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart.Like Warhol, first-time director Greenfield seduces one-of-a-kind performances from his interview subjects, including two Warhol "stars," transvestite Holly Woodlawn and "Little" Joe Dellasandro, who un-self-consciously and lovingly hum along to the lyrics of Reed's solo hit "Walk on the Wild Side," in which they feature prominently."For them, this is a new direction," Greenfield said of PBS. "But I certainly think of him as an American master. I think it's exciting of them to be hip enough to do this."For Reed, who has made a career of challenging the status quo, the special offers him a chance to be understood by a segment of the population who may have never before been exposed to his art."I really disliked school, I disliked groups, disliked authority," Reed says deadpan into a microphone at the beginning of the documentary, shoring up what Greenfield argues is a misperception of the "funniest guy" you'd ever want to meet.Reed then finishes the thought with the simple phrase, "I was made for rock 'n' roll."***China Reportedly Threatens To Ban Tibet ArtistsABC Radio Network reports nation's embassy is condemning any performer scheduled to play benefit show.Senior Writer Gil Kaufman reports:In what is believed to be its first acknowledgment of the Tibetan Freedom benefit concerts, China's government has reportedly condemned Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Beastie Boys and any other artist joining in the upcoming all-star rock benefit in Washington, D.C., warning that all participants will be banned from entry into that country and Tibet."Western artists have no right to intervene in the internal affairs of our country," read the statement reportedly issued Wednesday on behalf of the Chinese government by a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in London, according to the ABC Radio Network. "Any of those performers who do will not be permitted entry to China, including Tibet, and their works will never be welcome in our country."In a response to what it called the Chinese government's "rare state of publicized agitation," the Milarepa Fund said Friday that "the banning of the artists performing at the Tibetan Freedom Concert demonstrates the Chinese government's intolerance for the most basic of human rights."Erin Potts, co-founder of Milarepa, said that the fund was awaiting confirmation that the statement had originated from the Chinese government. Potts verified, however, that the statement would be China's first official response to the concerts.Representatives for the Chinese government could not be reached for comment at press time."As much as I would love to visit China, it's not going to keep me from playing," said R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, in response to the reported threat.Among the artists scheduled to perform at this year's benefit concert to raise awareness about Chinese oppression of Tibetan people are: R.E.M., the Beastie Boys, Beck, The Verve, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, the Wallflowers, Patti Smith, Radiohead, Tracy Chapman, Pulp, Luscious Jackson and others. The event is scheduled for June 13-14 at RFK Stadium.Tibet concert alumnus Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, said he wasn't shocked at the tone of the statement. "I guess it isn't that surprising," said Morello, whose political thrash-punk band performed at the first concert in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 1996. "There is certainly a very repressive element in that regime that have been inhibiting freedom of expression there. What is a little shocking is that it's a rock concert which speaks to the fact that they have rightly realized culture and politics are inextricably linked."Morello said one positive outcome of the Chinese response is that it proves that events such as the Tibet concerts, whether targeting political abuses in the U.S. or in Tibet, can have an impact. "We've been supportive of people throwing off the yoke of oppression wherever it is," Morello said.Bertis Downs, manager of R.E.M., said he doubted that the threat would have any impact on the band's plans to perform at the event. "Oh well. We've played Hong Kong and Taiwan and I think it's nice to think that you can play anywhere you want in the world," he said. "But if this is supposed to have a chilling effect on things, it feels chilled. I'm sure the band will still play. We will be there to play music, let chips fall as they may."Milarepa, which has organized the past two all-star Tibetan Freedom shows in New York and San Francisco, distributes funds to organizations that contribute to the Free Tibet cause.The statement from Milarepa, which was co-founded by the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, continued by saying that "It is unfortunate that [the Chinese government] find the idea of people exercising their freedom of speech so threatening. We hope that the Chinese government officials will come to the concert so they can witness democracy in action."If they refuse, they're going to miss an incredible show."The two previous Tibetan Freedom concerts have raised more than $1 million for the Milarepa Fund.