Wednesday, 27 November 2013 15:54

Good Vibrations: Director Interview

'Good Vibrations' is the critically lauded, unmissable chronicle of legendary Terri Hooley — a chaotic but charismatic optimist, instrumental in developing Belfast's independent rock scene.

Just as the troubles of 1970s Belfast threaten to take over his city, music-lover Terri Hooley opens a record shop called Good Vibrations.

Hooley discovers a growing voice of resistance in the city’s underground punk movement, and before long he finds himself establishing a record label and leading a new community as the so-called ‘godfather of punk’.

Starring Richard Dormer, Liam Cunningham, Dylan Moran and Jodie Whittaker and co-directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn, this is a vibrant, triumphant story that will have audiences cheering for more and one that Barros D'Sa is so proud of..

How did you get involved in the project?
The screenplay writers, Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry, had the idea some years ago that the story of Terri and Good Vibrations would make a great film. But at that stage Terri was perhaps not quite ready to have his story told. We came on board some years later and we could see that here was a story not just about an extraordinary man living through extraordinary times but about something universal: youth and music and their power to resist and defy the darkest of times.

As the man who discovered The Undertones and Ireland's 'Godfather of Punk', Terri Hooley has had a huge influence on the Belfast music scene. Did you feel any pressure when you took on the challenge of telling his story?
Of course, it's always a big responsibility to tell the story of someone's life. We always knew that we didn't want this to be a hagiography - a great film character is a complex one, and Terri, like all of us, has his flaws, and there have been tough times in his life. We always wanted the film to be a celebration of what Terri achieved, both locally and in getting the voice and spirit of Belfast and Northern Ireland punk heard across the world.

With its focus on Northern Irish politics and the British punk scene, how do you think the film will go down with Australian audiences?
We never wanted to make this film only for a local, Northern Irish audience. As I've said above, we were attracted to the story for its very universal themes and we hoped that those would speak to audiences across the globe. To date we've been thrilled with how well 'Good Vibes' has chimed with audiences in countries from the US to the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, the UK and South Korea, to name only a few! We really hope Australian audiences will find something in it they respond to as well. We also wanted to make a film with fantastic music and a lot of wit, comedy and warmth and we hope those elements will reach Australian audiences too.

As a music biopic, the the soundtrack to the film is important. Was it difficult to choose the tracks and secure the rights?
Hugely important! We're so proud of David Holmes and Keefus Green's fantastic soundtrack which has recently been released by Ace Records and chosen as Rough Trade's compilation of the year, 2013. David's own encyclopaedic knowledge of music and eclectic taste reflect Terri's own; this was never going to be a soundtrack with just punk music on it.

'Good Vibrations' is screening as part of this year's British Film Festival from Nov 27-Dec 8.

Published in Film
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 12:18

Aloe Blacc

None More Blacc 

Cee-Lo who? The Good Vibrations bill has a new soul crooner - Stones Throw Records phenom Aloe Blacc. For the record, the Californian Renaissance man is neither an X-Box nor an Atari.

“I just wasn't into playing video games,” Blacc says of his high school days. “I wasn't really into sports. I stopped chasing girls. I just focused on music. I was on it; just on music as an artform and as a form of expression. I was doing it just because it was fun, and then I started putting it out and people liked it, so I kept doing it because they liked it. That was just another element of the fun; that other people were having fun. I started performing and getting better and it became my pastime. Music was my video game.”

That's not entirely true, of course - it's really boring to watch someone else play a video game, but there's never a dull moment in Blacc's performances. When he got tired of underground hip hop (Blacc's early releases came under the Emanon moniker with DJ Exile), he switched up his style and opened up his soul. His latest release, 2010's 'Good Things', is more Bill Withers than Ill Bill.

“Through hip hop, I learned about jazz and soul music,” he explains, “but my parents, of course, played soul music as well. They're from Panama; they have their own brand of Spanish soul. I think just learning about so many different styles of music made me want to be a better songwriter, and I felt like hip hop was stifling my songwriting abilities. I started listening to Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Nina Simone… just songwriters, basically. Then I started singing.”
Having said that, he's not ruling out a return to rapping.

“I've never abandoned it,” he insists. “I've already completed about 30 songs for the next album. DJ Exile is mixing the songs now. We'll probably release it at the end of the year. I'm going to continue to be diverse with my music, and figure out how to tailor my projects so they're easy to digest.

“The first album, 'Shine Through', was multi-genre, many different styles, probably really hard for a popular audience to digest. So 'Good Things', of course, focuses on one genre, soul music, and I'm seeing the benefit of doing that from a business perspective. I'll take that as a cue.”

It's not surprising that Blacc would pick up the machinations of the industry so quickly. He's always been a keen observer of social dynamics, and his best work tends to be politically motivated (the storming 'I Need A Dollar', popularised by HBO's 'How To Make It In America', may as well be the GFC's theme song).

“I like to watch documentaries. I saw this really good one recently called 'The Inside Job', about the huge financial institutions that caused the economic crisis at the end of 2008. That's the kind of stuff that interests me… I've been writing about this stuff for years. It's interesting to see it in such plain English. My job is to perform the same service as the directors and producers of 'The Inside Job'.

“Matt Damon narrated it. I feel like he's part of a class of artists that I call 'The Grand Scheme'. I named my band The Grand Scheme because I feel like there's this master plan to inform, educate, start discussions and hopefully cause some positive change. There are people doing it. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey… they're getting involved in different ways. We're not all connected, but we all are serving a purpose. We're trying to use our art to do what news media should be doing, while news media is running around trying to sell advertising.

“It was in junior high that I started recognising the power of social engineering, of cultural power dynamics. I started experimenting with them, because I was the 'popular' kid in school. I tried different things to see what other people would do. That's when I realised how important it is to use power in a positive way, because you can make people do some crazy things. They'll follow you.

“It's not really cool, but the people who recognise that need to use that for good and not for evil. We've all seen a lot of examples of people using it for evil.”

Aloe Blacc plays Good Vibrations at Gold Coast Parklands on Saturday February 19. gvf.com.au

Published in Urban
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 13:41

Nas & Damian Marley

Distant Relatives, Distant Destinations

Hip hop’s links with reggae are clear-cut. It was a Jamaican, Kool Herc, who brought the breaks to the steaming summer streets of The Bronx in the 1970s, taking what he’d learned from the Kingston sound systems, applying it to soul music, and putting in place the framework for a whole new genre.

With such a clear connection between the two styles of music it’s a little baffling it took until 2010 for a fully-fledged cross-genre collaborative album to appear. But what ‘Distant Relatives’ lacked in expeditiousness it made up for in craft, Nas and Damian Marley fusing together their artistic know-how to create one of the most distinctive listens of the past 12 months. â€œDamian called me to record on his last album on a song called ‘Road To Zion’, and from there we were cool,” Nas explains from his home in New York. “We just had a big respect for each other and a big respect for each other’s work, so later on down the line we just thought about it and it just came to us. We were talkin’ and just thought about workin’.”

Until then, reggae and hip hop’s dalliances with each other had been limited to remixes and featured guest spots, so when Nas and Marley originally announced that they’d be working together on a fully collaborative effort that promised to open up new avenues of musical expression, fans from both genres began to get excited. It didn’t help, then, that it would take over a year for the record to finally appear. â€œI dunno why it took so long, really. I think we recorded a little bit, we took off for the holidays, we toured a little bit to let people know that it was coming and we just took our time to get it right. I can’t remember what other things that might have come into play to slow it down, but I guess we took our time.”

While ‘Distant Relatives’ is a record that crosses hip hop with reggae – the United States with Jamaica – its real focus is Africa, the African diaspora, and the shared ancestry of the entire human race. The album includes some heady samples from African artists such as Mulatu Astatke and Amadou & Mariam, and a significant portion of its proceeds has been directed to a schools project on the continent. Nas’s interest in Africa and African music came at an early age. â€œI have a personal connection to African music, and mainly to [Malian Afro-pop singer-songwriter] Salif. As a kid, because my pop [jazz musician, Olu Dara] would play that kinda shit sometimes, and I’d say, ‘What is it?’ – and it’s not shit,” he laughs. “I mean it’s beautiful music".

But I had all kinds of musical love as a child, from The Police to Boy George to Prince to Michael Jackson, but African music has been in there also. â€œIn my adult life I listen to a lot of Marvin Gaye and also listen to a lot of Salif, the African artist. And with the Marleys who produced the album, I think that their connection to music is really strong because they were born into it and I think they just have a really strong connection to African music, which made them the right people to produce the record. They produced the record, not me.”

After the release of ‘Distant Relatives’ in May of last year, Nas and Damian Marley hit the road to let their obvious chemistry percolate onstage. The eight-month tour is now set to check in to Australia, something that Nas is obviously excited about. â€œI love, love, love Australia. Love it,” he says. “I first toured there with Kanye West and I went on before him. Kanye couldn’t believe that I would go on before him because he started out a lot later than I did, and he’s like a little brother to me. So I’d tell him, ‘I have no ego’. Kanye, he has a huge, huge audience, and it was great for my first time in the country; it was just an honour to tour with him. That time and then when I came back with Damian: it’s just been a great experience every time, so I’m lookin’ forward to getting back out there.”

Nas & Damian Marley play Good Vibrations, Gold Coast Parklands, February 19. gvf.com.au

Published in Urban
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 13:06

The Ting Tings

Hardcore Pop

Jules De Martino and Katie White are Ting Tings. The dancefloor monster-creating group, now based in Berlin, are doing great things in genres they hadn't even imagined being a part of.

Katie explains she got into music as a result of there being nothing else to do, growing up in a small town near Manchester. “I was about 15 at the time; I got obsessive about music and formed a little band with a friend and played a gig, mainly in mum's kitchen! Jules had been in bands and had formed in London and when we got talking, he moved down to Manchester and we started to hang out!”

After a time, the duo decided a move to Berlin would be more appropriate and as such, packed their bags. “We realised it was freezing and depressing in Berlin in January and that we tended to write songs when we're more reflective so it was a good move for us. We got there early (in 2010) and have stayed. It has really influenced our new album too; everyone we have played it to says it has a Berlin kind of feel; it's a little bit darker and each track is different.

“The only concept we had was that we wanted to write every song completely independently. We would make our own little albums and have these random songs; we were so used to getting a quick fix from music where every song was different and we wanted something that was dance based and then something from the 60s sounding like Velvet Underground!”

Indeed, every note and instrument is implemented differently to the first album. It's still what Katie calls a pop sound, but it's more grown-up and experimental in places. “As I said, right now we're focused on finishing the album so from now until we get out there, we'll be rehearsing a bit more of a show. We're bringing two people on stage with us for some of the shows. We're obsessed with artists like Fleetwood Mac - the way they do harmonies within their music. Even though we don't want to sound like them - they are just fantastic.”

The Ting Tings play Good Vibrations, at the Gold Coast Parklands, Saturday February 19.

Published in Pop/ Electro
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 12:33

Miike Snow


Down The Rabbit Hole

Still riding the wave of acclaim that accompanied their 2009 self-titled debut LP, Miike Snow’s lead singer Andrew Wyatt reveals the new year will see the three-piece launch a second assault on the international charts.

Singles 'Animal', 'Silvia', 'Black & Blue' and 'The Rabbit' have all enjoyed success outside Miike Snow's traditional indie-pop audience, but it's hardly surprising given the group's links with the commercial and electronic scenes.

Miike Snow's production team of Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have previously worked with Madonna and Kelis, and even won a Grammy for Best Dance Music Recording for their work with Britney Spears on 'Toxic'.

Mark Ronson, Italy's Crookers, Tiga and Netsky, meanwhile, are just a few to have remixed Miike Snow's singles, making their music accessible to tech heads and drum & bass aficionados alike. It's this broad appeal which no doubt contributed to the success of their first visit to Australia earlier this year. â€œWe were quite pleased; never having been down there before we didn't know what to expect at all,” Wyatt recalls. “Our first show was at Splendour In The Grass and it was 2pm or something … and we didn't think there were going to be that many people there. 

“We didn't really expect anything and then we came out there and there were 12,000 people out there and they all knew most of the songs.”

Confirmed to play next year's Good Vibrations festival, Wyatt reveals that tour will mark the end of a manic 32 months of touring and will be the last time the first album is performed live before he, Winnberg and Karlsson bunker down in the studio to work on the follow up. As he explains, the mixture of a hit first record and being signed to renowned Downtown Records does create some pressure. â€œYou feel like you want to change it to suit yourself but you also don't want to lose your audience that likes what you do already,” he says. “You're never content to just keep doing the same thing again so there's always this temptation and that balance that you have to walk.

“It's a little daunting but also very exciting [and] we do have a bunch of songs and a bunch of ideas. We're always constantly putting ideas down in one form or another.”

Miike Snow play Good Vibrations, at the Gold Coast Parklands, Saturday February 19. gvf.com.au

Published in Rock
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 12:57

Fat Freddy’s Drop


Towers Above

Fat Freddy’s Drop perform like no other thanks to owning one of the most dynamic live shows going around.

“I think live performances are the key to what we do,” saxophonist Scott Towers says. “Every time we go out on the road different parts of different songs get re-arranged or approached in a different way. So it’s a pretty fluid sort of approach we have and it only rises over years of playing together.”

A typical Fat Freddy’s performance contains hours of blended reggae, soul, jazz and dub. Playing at such intensity requires the Wellington seven-piece to maximise their energy. “Our songs are long and they’re quite intense. And if we’re doing one of our headline shows, we’re normally playing for up to two and a half hours at a time, sometimes longer. So we’ve really had to work out how to focus our energy towards those performances.”

This year marked a decade that the group has been playing together. Scott explains how the band has developed over time. “The process of playing together, writing, recording and all those things has become more refined over the years. I mean the band basically started as a very loose sort of jamming. And as we’ve come along we’ve become better and better at writing songs; working out how to keep some of that loose improvisational approach, and when you’re meant to pull back and deliver some songs that people are kind of pretty familiar with. So the band’s become a combination of those two things and that’s something we really enjoy.”

Fat Freddy’s are in the early days of making album number five, and will most likely use a different style this time around. “We’ve been back in our little studio in Wellington doing some writing and recording of what will hopefully be the start of the new album … I think our approach to making records will probably get a little leaner and meaner. We’ll probably fuss over them a little less than we have in the past.”

The band’s hectic touring schedule often includes trips to Australia, a fact that makes Scott quite happy. "The weather’s heaps better than New Zealand. And the audiences in Australia are really great. We sort of notice everywhere we go the audiences have quite a different energy. And Australian audiences like to party. Every time we come back we say we should tour there more often. But we don’t want you guys getting sick of us.”

FAT FREDDY’S DROP PLAY GOOD VIBRATIONS, AT GOLD COAST PARKLANDS, ON SATURDAY FEBRUARY 19.

Published in Jazz/ Fusion
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 14:11

Faithless

The Dance

It’s been six years since Faithless last toured Australia, but as the response to the announcement of their headline appearance at 2011’s Good Vibrations Festival confirms, absence only makes the heart grow fonder.
‘The Dance’, their sixth album released earlier this year, saw Sister Bliss, Maxi Jazz and Rollo produce an LP aimed squarely at the dancefloor. First single ‘Not Going Home’ demonstrated the group responsible for modern-day classics like ‘Insomnia’ and ‘God Is A DJ’ can still, after 15 years, make bodies move.

Remix album ‘The Dance Never Ends’ – released last week – only strengthens Faithless’ club credentials. Featuring remixes of tracks from ‘The Dance’ by the likes of Tiesto, Toolroom’s Mark Knight, ATFC, Armin Van Buuren and Australia’s own Temper Trap, the album, as Sister Bliss explains, is designed to take full advantage of the electronic music renaissance.

“This album has been a real blessing; it’s reignited a lot of passion in the fans,” she says. “[But] Faithless has always grown and adapted with the times. When we first started we weren’t even a live band. We were just a studio project; me, Maxi and Rollo in the studio. We only put a band together because we were so incredibly unsuccessful selling our albums. We were selling like 15 copies a week of ‘Reverence’.”

How times have changed. At last count Faithless has sold over 12 million albums and their live show is now regarded as one of the most exciting and energetic spectacles in music. They will headline Creamfields in Buenos Aires this weekend before embarking on a massive UK tour. As ‘Blissy’ explains, on stage is where Faithless are at their most lethal.

“It’s brilliant to be touring again; it feels like it’s a really strong show at the moment,” she says. “We’re playing music from all six of our albums [and] it’s just a great vibe on stage … the show just feels really strong and really powerful.”

Australian fans will experience this powerful show come February, but why so long between tours? “I’m ashamed to say it’s been far too long and that’s down to our own mismanagement and chaotic setup,” she says. “[But] that’s also been part of the joy of Faithless, to be a bit irreverent and a bit chaotic. Having been around for 15 years we still feel really relevant.”

Faithless play Good Vibrations at the Gold Coast Parklands, Saturday February 19. ‘The Dance’ and ‘The Dance Never Ends’ are both out now.

Published in Electronic
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 13:57

Surecut Kids Interview 10.11.2010

That Couple

Surecut Kids are Mikey Likey and Benji, a Gold Coast duo killin’ it in the Aussie music scene at the moment.

Their ever-increasing popularity means the two spend ridiculous amounts of time together. “We push the limits. Because our job isn’t a nine-to-five job, stuff happens at all times of the day. It’s like nine o’clock at night and you check your email and there’s some exciting thing that’s happened or some crazy gig thing, so you call the other one and be like ‘dude, check your emails, what do you think we should say about this’.

We have to be in contact all the time,” Mikey Perry, one half of the Goldie duo says. “Yeah we’re like a couple. We see each other that much,” Benji Honey adds.

With That Festival coming up to kick off the summer season, the boys will definitely be bringing a party. “We plan on just getting loose hopefully. I’d say it’d be four turntables and an MPC kind of routine. And we’re hoping to have a few mascots and funny things going on, on stage,” Benji says.

“We bought this full body vagina suit, it’s like a human sized vagina, and we got one of our friends to wear it like a mascot and jump around on stage at some of our shows. And it’s becoming a permanent hit. It’s even got a friend now, a lion. So they might be coming to That Fest. You’ve got to give the fans what they want,” Mikey says.

Though the pair are continually distracted they’re aiming high production-wise, starting with the release of an EP. “It’s getting there. We get so busy that it just sort of ends up being put on hold for a couple of weeks and then we get a chance to get back on the hustle. And then end up travelling so it gets put on hold again. But we’re happy with how it’s sounding and everything,” Mikey says.

“And I’d definitely rather it come out a couple of months later than it come out and either of us not be totally happy with it,” Benji continues. “We haven’t even got this EP finished but we keep talking about making an album next. We’ve got our eyes on the prize as far as production goes.”

CATCH SURECUT KIDS AT THAT FESTIVAL, CABARITA BEACH, NOVEMBER 20 AND AT GOOD VIBRATIONS, GOLD COAST PARKLANDS, FEBRUARY 19.

Published in Electronic
Wednesday, 13 October 2010 10:31

Rusko Interview

Dubstrp's Dancefloor Banger

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the impact that Rusko has had on the evolution of dubstep.

His inimitable and heavily debated style has spawned its own sub-genre and has garnered a lot of attention from many unlikely corners of the musical world, including one Miss Britney Spears.

Commonly associated with the mid-range heavy, wobble sound that inspires mosh pits on dancefloors and makes dub purists whimper in their bassbins, his current output tends to belie his original musical upbringing. Born and bred in Leeds, a city noted for its strong West Indian culture, he was raised from an early age on the heavy reggae and dub sound systems of his hometown.

“I come from dub, really. The whole studio ethos behind making dub is what got me into making electronic music. I started off by making tunes and Mark from Iration Steppaz started playing some of them. That was before dubstep was really dubstep,” he explains. “Then I remember Digital Mystikz doing a set at Sub Dub and that was it. Dubstep was like what I was doing musically, but it was just a little bit more - made the beats a bit faster and harder.”

Originally producing under the name of Rusk, his work grabbed the attention of Caspa who was one of the earliest producers of dubstep and head of the trend-setting Dub Police label. Rusko’s first release on the label came in 2006 and would see him channeling his roots in dub through his love of video games for the half-step work-out ‘SNES Dub’. The single’s success propelled him to make the move down south to London where he would begin to build a very successful working relationship with Caspa.

“I moved down the street from him and started helping on board with Dub Police, helping out with the label and that kind of stuff so it kind of rolled out from there. It was a proper gamble moving down to London; I didn’t know a single person in London apart from Caspa so I was literally leaving my family, my girlfriend, my home, everything. The first few months were hard – no job, no money, all my friends were still living up north. It was hard work. Luckily it has all come back together now, but it was a real gamble – on one release, it could either go one way or the other and it’s gone further, way further, than I expected it to.”

The relocation would prove to be worthwhile. London’s darker, more ravey, garage-inspired scene would have an immediate effect on Rusko’s sound, moving him away from his dub roots towards the jump-up dancefloor style with which he is now more commonly associated. Taking the reins for the first ever dubstep Fabriclive compilation alongside Caspa signalled a real coming of age for both the genre and the producers themselves. It would also introduce the world to the tune that would become Rusko’s biggest global banger, the anthemic ‘Cockney Thug’, a rave-inspired wobble fest that had the gurners pumping their fists with glee while the dub traditionalists were left shaking their heads wondering what had become of their scene.

The track’s instant accessibility meant that it appealed to many DJs outside the genre with artists like Pete Tong, Switch and Santogold finding ways to drop it into their sets. Most notably, it would capture the attention of Diplo, who welcomed Rusko into his influential Mad Decent family, a pairing that would culminate in this year’s unveiling of his debut album ‘O.M.G.!’. The album showcases Rusko’s developing production skills and sees him move outside the strict dubstep template to which he has stuck to in the past.

“I think the reaction was good,” Rusko muses over the release of his debut. “It's cool that it got released on Mad Decent as we're all good friends. We've done some production work together, which was fun. Being around other great artists always inspires me and gets my creative juices going.”

Championing such a heavy club sound means it is inevitable that Rusko spends countless hours away from home, flying around the world ripping up dancefloors wherever he goes. Though the way he sees it, it’s all just part of the attraction of what he does.

“I just love the energy from the audience. That really keeps me going. Seeing the faces of all the people raving and having fun is like the best gift ever. All of the above gives me that boost I need. Obviously it’s hard to be on the road and away from home all the time, but I think I’ve found a cool balance!”

Not simply content with touring the globe and releasing his first artist album, 2010 has also seen him delve into the pop world by producing tracks for the likes of Rihanna and T.I., with recent reports hinting he is also laying down some beats for none other than Britney Spears. It’s a wonder how he manages to separate his conflicting musical personalities when it comes to producing music.

“I try and purposefully stay on the fence, one foot either side. I think musically my Rusko beats and my DJ sets will never be super commercial. It will always have that edge that keeps it from being fully mainstream because at the end of the day we are all just getting together to take a load of drugs and jump up and down. I have Rusko who makes the dubstep bangers and then I have Christopher Mercer, the musician. I am always up for a challenge and I really don’t feel limited to just making dubstep. I’m a musician first and did not come from DJing so I just want to make music!”

So, what can we expect from Rusko in the future?

“What can't you expect to see from me in the future?! That’s a better question,” he boldly proclaims. “I am planning on debuting a new live show, working on a tonne of beats for big time artists and eventually I’m going to sit down and crack on with my second album! I’m designing some awesome new merchandise and turning everything up a notch!”

Rusko will play the Good Vibrations Festival 2011 at the Gold Coast PARKLANDS on Saturday February 19.

Published in Electronic
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 11:18

Cee Lo Green Interview

F**k You

A funny thing happened around the 20th of last month. You might have been at home. You could have been at work. Either way, you would have received a long line of emails urging you to watch a particular music video.

Cee Lo Green wasn’t spamming you, even though it probably felt that way. The bang-up job by Warner Bros. art department was only meant to be a stopgap video while the artist shot the real thing, but Cee Lo’s ‘F**k You’ dominated the internet, racking up over a million views in its first three days and over two million by the end of the week.

On the face of it, the first single off the forthcoming ‘The Lady Killer’ is sprightly 60s throwback about losing your girl to a richer guy. But there’s the sneaking suspicion that Cee Lo has tapped into something a lot bigger with ‘F**k You’ – an all-American angst directed at anybody who hasn’t paid their dues during the recent financial brutality.

“I still don't know what it is about this song,” he told Urlesque’s Jason Newman a couple of weeks back. “But maybe with times being so trying and tensions being so high, we all sometimes need an opportunity to say ‘F**k You’ out loud and break rules, just for a moment. Even if you're not breaking the rules and just bending them, something can be bent into an art form.”

He may now be at the centre of cultural zeitgeist but Cee Lo wasn’t always so easily charismatic. The man born Thomas DeCarlo Callaway suffered young the deaths of both his mother and father, and at one stage had a dubious habit of beating on itinerant tramps.

“Yeah. It sounds terrible,” he told Andy Morris, writing for GQ. “But it's real. I'm not proud of it and I don't want to glorify it at all. But I don't mind it being known: people need to see what's possible. My music is done out of redemption and these are redemption songs.”

Other aspects of Cee Lo’s younger days are interesting for different reasons: he went to school with Andre 3000 and formed an early association with Outkast. And he was just 20 when his own group, Goodie Mob, released ‘Soul Food’, their outrageously brilliant debut album. Cee Lo, along with Outkast, soon became something of figurehead for Southern hip hop, and his now near omnipotence is perfectly in tune with the subgenre’s domestic dominance of both the underground and the mainstream.

Cee Lo carries the attention admirably, his charming self-confidence always stopping just short of hubris.

“With everything that’s happening at the moment, I think I’m going to be getting some calls,” he quipped to NME’s Louis Pattison when asked about possible plans for collaboration. “Some people are gonna want to sit down with me.”

“Honestly, this face of mine will always be familiar to people,” he went on to comment in his GQ interview. “It's that unique quality, man. If it's a dark and crowded room, people are just able to point me out. I think I'll always be famous. I just hope I don't become infamous.”

And it’s probably that quality that translates most to Cee Lo’s onstage performances: confident without being cocksure, assertive but not quite swaggering. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have seen him live with Danger Mouse, the duo forming the unstoppable Gnarls Barkley. If so, you’ll know that the guy gives his all in a live setting.

As if to underline the point, Cee Lo is heading south this summer for Good Vibrations. It looks suspiciously like being a brilliant day out, with the line-up also featuring Faithless, Phoenix, Nas and Damien Marley, Kelis, Erykah Badu, Miike Snow and Janelle Monáe. Experienced hands will know not to miss Cee Lo’s set, but if the most live you’ve seen him is on YouTube (the Gnarls Barkley Abbey Road sessions are recommended) then make sure you don’t miss the guy. He may only be 5’6” but he knows how to leverage his distinctive charisma for maximum effect. Perhaps the man himself said it best with his closing comment for GQ.

“I'm rare,” he said. “Which is not a good or a bad thing. I'm just incomparable.”

Cee Lo Green is part of the line-up for Good Vibrations, which hits Gold Coast Parklands February 19. ‘The Lady Killer’ is out November 5.

Published in Urban
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