all dressed up in dreams.

stephen coates is the real tuesday weld. since we discovered him in the grim year of 2001, we have found much escapism and comfort in his whispery croons, crackly old-fashioned melodies and his fine pop platters. he is the sort who needs a theme to get the tunes moving — and a recent theme is dreams. together with the band he has written, performed and recorded a score for the surrealist film dreams that money can buy with david piper and cibelle narrating. I witnessed it at the nft but it all really came into place at the grand-scale turbine hall in the tate modern last year, where listeners sat on pillows and sipped champagne whilst watching the film and hearing the score. the real tuesday weld is playing a few dates soon in london, russia, edinburgh and some summer festivals. they’re nearly finished with their third album. stephen is collaborating with alex budovsky, who is doing the animations to teach kids to read — see he just did a track for the rothko room at the tate modern as part of their tate tracks series. stephen’s best mate glen duncan wrote a novel called I, lucifer, which is now filming on the streets of london and starring terence stamp and ewan mcgregor so if they have any sense the filmmakers will use the real tuesday weld’s soundtrack which was created years ago. we caught up with stephen to find out what he was dreaming about…

chickfactor: why did you choose dreams that money can buy to score? was it your idea? what was it like playing it at the tate modern? will you collaborate with cibelle again?
stephen: I was introduced to it by marek pytel of reality film — it was that or the amazing f for fake by orson welles — but the look and subject matter (dreams. art. psychotherapy. loss) of the richter film seemed perfect. the tate show was amazing — I never imagined we would do something like that — and I love that building. it was immense and it felt like a unique experience — can’t imagine playing somewhere that tall again. I hope to do something else with cibelle — we keep talking about it. we are still doing the dreams show — belfast film festival this month.
it seems like dreams play a big part in your waking life. apart from that one about waking up in bed with the proclaimers (I love that one), what dreams have you had that you still remember today? do you ever hear music in your dreams and try to remember it when waking up?
the proclaimers one was worse than you remember — I dreamt that I was asleep and woke up between them — it was awful. they were both just staring at me through their glasses. I still keep my dream diary and I think that something from the dreams infiltrates the work but my attempts to write songs about dreams haven’t been particularly successful except in a couple of cases — and they were really more like songs about dreaming. to catch a dream needs quite a lot of words and subtlety — maybe not best suited to the song structure —- it just sounds like bad poetry. I have very beautiful music in dreams and usually it leaves you on waking but the tune from that song ‘dreaming of you’ I heard in a dream — or maybe the vibe of it at least. the other night I dreamt of a horse with a woman’s head down by the thames again — that’s a repeating one. I dreamt that the fleet river flowed again — in the valley down behind gray’s inn road. I have been having apocalyptic london dreams — walking through the city in darkness with all sorts of people from all different times crowding around.
you seem to spend a lot of time travelling all over england/wales/scotland etc. what are your favourite places to see?
I had some very peculiar experiences in the cambrian mountains west wales a few years ago and like to go back there. I did a kind of archaeological survey of a particular valley and identified all the prehistoric sites there. it’s very beautiful and strange. we have been going to skye a bit — most recently for a funeral. nix’s uncle died and her cousin hugh became the new clan chief of the macleods — like in highlander your favourite film. the west coast of scotland is mind-blowing — the perfect antidote to (and appetiser for) london.
how has the internet changed the way you find out about music and the way people find out about you? do you sell any records? or is it all from mp3 purchases? and what about this podcasting stuff and blogging? do you do that? is it fun?
I rarely use it to find out about music myself — because I seem to have plenty to listen to already but I think it’s been very empowering for musicians — you can bypass the normal distribution channels blah, blah, blah… I hate the way myspace looks but it’s an amazing thing and there is no doubt that many more people have heard what I have been doing because of all that. the records seem to sell fairly steadily in small quantities. I’ve got no idea about how many downloads there have been. I can only assume from your question that you haven’t been keeping up with my podcasting and blogsite — shame on you gail… but I love that — I think that was the most enjoyable thing last year and I am gearing up for another series now.
how many commercials have you done (don’t be ashamed)? are there any products you would refuse to give your music to? do you make a living off music?
maybe 10-15? most of the ones you see on tv which sound like the real tuesday weld aren’t. I have turned down several — including something very lucrative – much to the chagrin of certain people. I won’t do meat — or guns. I have mostly made a living from music for the last three / four years.
which artists are you keen to collaborate with? did you ever hear back from jane birkin?
you know, I never tried jane b — but I loved her latest — that was really great. I am doing a few collaborations for this next record — shirley bassey would be my fantasy.

photograph: the real tuesday weld live in berlin, 2004, gail o’hara

elder statesmen: in and out of trouble.

I have a neighbour named ray davies, I see him sometimes when I have brunch in highgate village, or walking around or sitting on a bench with his tiny blond ladyfriend. ray looks so much like ray that it’s unmistakable. I like seeing him. I love living where I live, it’s one of the best places ever to live. however, it’s a shame about ray’s haircut. I want him to get a new one. I didn’t take a photo to show here, but it basically accentuates the largeness of his face, so if you see ray, suggest he get a chop.
another one of my neighbours is named shane macgowan, who I see whenever I’m in the vicinity of the boogaloo bar. he was never the handsomest of fellas — let’s face it, he looked a bit like howdy-doody when he was young. but he’s a damn talented man and booze is a big part of his image. but pics such as this might give the youngsters a reason to lay off the sauce or they may end up looking like this — and appearing to be tipsy at all times like mr shane here.

another one of the greats of pop, phil spector, seems like a bit of a jerk it has to be said, but the man was a genius. altering his hairdo might make him more accessible to a jury of his peers and a little less scary to small children:

another former huge star of british pop, adam ant, also gets into bar brawls pretty easily, but it’s not surprising. here in britain, the only thing worse than being an 80s pop icon is being a former 80s pop icon who adult bullies down the pub might want to take the peace out of. those whose hotness has faded (boy george, george michael, etc) don’t stand a chance. better to move to a castle in france than to show your face in this tabloid-loving city of london!

gary glitter, who has had some serious troubles with the law, has tried to change his look in hopes of getting a lesser punishment. exhibit A shows his former criminal look:

while exhibit B shows the new mr glitter, ready for the courtroom drama. what a difference a new coif makes!

any pop stars and former pop stars interested in hiring me as a fashion + beauty consultant, please do. I am brutally honest, but you will thank me in the end! (and if anyone knows my neighbour terry gilliam, please tell him I want to interview him rather than give him a makeover, but I might bring some haircutting shears to remove his tiny rattail!)

mini interview: joan as police woman!

joan wasser has been around chickfactor’s world for many years. she played at our second ever live gig with mary timony — they used to make an amazing sound together with just violin and guitar and singing, and of course she played in dambuilders, black beetle, etc. these days I see her solo project posters (she’s called joan as police woman) all over london and she’s getting raved about everywhere we look. her real life album is coming out in the states on cheap lullaby records on 12 june, and before that you can find her playing sxsw, headlining her way across the EU and then touring the US and australia (see her website for dates) — joan is busy! — before she starts making another record in autumn for a 2008 release. we checked in with the foxy lady for to see what’s going on…

chickfactor: are the other members of your band scared of you, or are you scared of them?
joan: I think everyone in the band has moods that the others would not exactly beg to experience. but scared? not yet.
which member of your band is the one who gets picked on by the others? it’s got to be the drummer guy, right?
I guess so ben looks like he’s asking for it, doesn’t he? he’s also the most gullible at times, so we can all get him a little riled up. but really he’s also the sweetest.
what’s it like being in a band with rainy?
it’s like getting to the top of mount everest.
do you plan any other identities — joan as astronaut, joan as paramedic?
oh god. I think being a police woman is enough. it’s funny now when I see cops I have a completely different feeling about them. I feel like madonna co-opting all the faggotry for her own uses except I am just using the police dept. sometimes I think they are the biggest bottoms and are somewhere begging to be used. you are certainly welcome to disagree.
you’ve always had fabulous (and at times BIG) hair. do you have any beauty secrets?
ummm, I try to walk in a straight line nowadays it’s easier now that I stopped drinking. also, I know that it’s been touted as a bonus for hair, but I found that beer does NOT help voluminous hair stay voluminous. so stay away from that PBR girls!
got any crushes? what is the secret to getting what you want in love and sex?
I think that loving yourself is the greatest way to get whatever it is you need, in love and sex and in life in general. when you are honestly happy with yourself and the way you carry yourself in the world, it is then that you attract the kind of person you want to be with and you naturally develop the ability to ask for what you want and need. this concept has taken me until NOW to figure out. and I have finally fallen in love. for the first time. because I can now look myself in the eye without flinching. previously, I was just running. I finally got tired enough to face myself. here’s to exhaustion!

thanks to peter momtchiloff for question help!
photograph: courtesy joan as police woman

tie it up tie it down.

who doesn’t love an apron? I have a great collection of vintage ones that my grandma made (some pictured here) and a heavy canvas one from muji that I wear for extreme baking. what happened to aprons? they became a lame novelty item in recent years but they seem like a good thing to make for yourself. we adore this blog that is about all things apronific: tie one on (thanks ms braverman for pointing it out). back when we lived in trendy shoreditch we predicted a full-on apron revival and like many things it’s happening slowly. make one now!

photograph: pam berry

music to your eyes.

I have fond memories of going to the tate modern at xmastime in 04 I believe for the christian marclay evening ‘the sounds of christmas.’ I knew something of his work before that but I was superimpressed that he brought 1,200 actual christmas vinyl LPs to a tent on the thames and there were DJs there using the records. it was pretty fun — you could even flip through them like you’re in a record store. he is one of those people who used to be fairly obscure in the music/art axis but has shot to superstardom in the art world. good for him. we like some of his music-obsessed stuff since we are in fact music obsessive (and what’s wrong with that?). anyway, white cube epitomizes everything that is silly about hoxton but they had the good sense to sign him up so head there if you want to see his latest london exhibition — it’s on till 10 march 07.

images: christian marclay

sidelady to the stars.

margaret white: the chickfactor interview

above: margaret while touring with belle and sebastian (nice sideburns!)

margaret white is an all-around great gal who happens to be an extremely talented violinist and singer. we met as bandmates on a sparklehorse tour in 2001. it was a zany year, and bonded us forever. since then she’s moved from chapel hill to brooklyn and has become an in-demand multi-instrumentalist, touring the world and recording with some pretty fabulous bands: the comas, cat power, belle and sebastian, portastatic, calexico and many, many others. recently she’s done a record with a band called ghosts I’ve met, singing beautiful boy-girl country duets that are so pretty that her dog likes to sing along. interview: kendall meade

chickfactor: who are you playing with now? all the a-listers, no doubt…
margaret: oh, but of course! I guess the ones that are kind of the constants right now are portastatic, kevin devine, jennifer o’connor, ghosts I’ve met, and of course mascott. and then there are always the random shows I get called in for – a few weeks ago I played with calexico at lincoln center and had a blast – and I’m hoping that there will be many more of those kind of things. they keep me on my toes! makes my life a bit crazy and scheduling can be a bit tricky at times. especially when you factor in the day job as well…but luckily all the people I play with are extremely understanding so if I have to miss shows I don’t get in too much trouble!
what are your favorite cities to play in/visit?
hmm, that’s a tough one because there are so many that have their individual good memories or friends or places, ones that are walking-friendly are definitely a plus since I usually don’t have any other transportation on tour! the ones that immediately jump to mind are portland and seattle (probably mainly because I was there last week). I have friends in both of those so it always makes it fun, and the cities themselves just feel really comfortable and friendly. chapel hill is a given because I lived there for 11 years so I have tons of friends and I still think of it as home since I can walk anyplace and probably know at least half the people there. and athens feels like home since it’s the nice southern college town and I know where to go for the good veggie food options. oh, and london and dublin are filled with friends and there have been some great shows in both, plus I’ve gotten to actually spend more time in those places! I always smile when I think of edinburgh because of that carousel you and scott and I discovered on the sparklehorse tour, best pound spend on that tour!
please tell the world about your singing dog.
he’s the best! he’s so talented. I think I’m going to have to bring him on tour with me and we can sing duets. maybe when ghosts I’ve met goes on tour. samson loves singing to those songs… I got him last january from one of the shelters in new york and he was somewhere around 2 1/2 or 3 years old. the first time I heard him sing I thought I was imagining it because it was just really briefly when I was getting ready for work one day. I think he was feeling shy since we didn’t know each other well so once I noticed he stopped. it was probably another month or so before it happened again. the first song he really got into singing was sloop john b from the beach boys pet sounds (of course) album. now he’ll sing to tons of stuff. not everything – he’s selective – but a lot. countryish songs, or really anything with harmonies. and the other morning he was singing along to opera on npr. it sometimes makes it difficult when I’m trying to learn songs (like for the calexico show the other week) because, though he doesn’t sing all that loud, he blends in well so it’s harder to pick out the parts I need to learn… he’s just amazing because he actually has really good phrasing and sings pretty much in tune! I took a little video on my phone a couple weeks ago and played it to musician friends, in part so they would believe me, and everyone was duly impressed with his talent!
north carolina vs brooklyn?
right now I’d have to say brooklyn. I really love north carolina and am so happy that I have reason to go back pretty regularly since portastatic is based there and pretty much any tours through the south go to the triangle area (raleigh, durham, chapel hill). it’s great to see everyone and I have so many amazing friends down there, and I do still think it feels like home a little more than brooklyn. but I love it up here and really have no desire to move back south, at least right now. plus so many friends are moving here from north carolina and other places that sometimes it feels like chapel hill here, and of course there are way more of the random recording and show opportunities here for me. with touring it never really mattered where I was living since it’s all traveling anyway, but for one-off gigs and whatnot it definitely helps to be in the big city!

margaret and kendall playing a chickfactor gig (mon gala papillons) in london, 2004.

margaret and interviewer kendall out on the town.

photographs: courtesy of margaret white; alistair fitchett

girls on film.

several very chickfactor photography exhibitions are happening at the international center of photography in manhattan. the woman who inspired the statement hairdo of chickfactor cofounder pam berry, louise brooks, is getting a special show devoted to her ahead-of-its-time style.

also on show are the ebullient images of hungarian lensman martin munkacsi, whose work we hadn’t seen before.