Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

As the August 4 publication date for Alice In Chains: The Untold Story approaches, several people have discovered this site or my book for the first time within the past several days and weeks.  I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity to (re)introduce myself and my previous work about Alice in Chains to date, and address recent developments and some of the feedback I’ve received so far.

First, I have no knowledge of or involvement with a possible Alice in Chains book by Duff McKagan.  Beyond that, I won’t comment on it until I’ve had an opportunity to read it, if it should come to pass. I would also refer you to this recent tweet from Duff himself:

Second, several people have contacted me and told me they’ve already pre-ordered the book.  I am profoundly thankful to each and every one of you for spending your hard-earned money on the unreleased first book of an unknown author, and for your trust.  It means a great deal to me.

Several others have contacted me to ask questions about the book or to express their skepticism, such as if the band members were involved with the book (they weren’t), or asking why they should buy it, or telling me I shouldn’t expect people to buy it just because it’s about Alice in Chains.  All of these questions and critiques are valid, and I will address them as best as I can for the time being.

I am well aware of the fact Alice in Chains and their fans have been burned by other writers in the past, so I can understand these questions and doubts you have about me.  I can’t say anything about what’s in my book until it’s out, but I can refer you to my background and my body of work. In particular, I would refer you to this story I filed for The Atlantic several years ago, which I think is the best example of how I write and put together a story.  Although it is about a very different subject, try to imagine a book length version of that story about Alice in Chains. If I felt I couldn’t write something about the band of that quality or better, I wouldn’t have done it, or I would have abandoned the project.

If you still have questions or doubts, I would say wait until the book is out and skim through it at your local bookstore, and make up your own mind if you think it’s worth buying/reading or not. I’m happy and confident in how it came out after three years of hard work and I am eagerly looking forward to everyone finally getting an opportunity to read it.

I was fortunate to be able to see Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck this weekend in Hollywood, and I can’t emphasize enough how good it is – good enough that I saw it twice.  The second screening I went to also had the added bonus of a Q&A with director Brett Morgen, who spent eight years working on the film.  Based on interviews with a handful of people who knew Kurt best, as well as access to a treasure trove of personal effects owned by the Cobain family, this film is probably the closest people are going to get to a Kurt Cobain autobiography.  With the exception of a handful of soundbites from interviews with his parents, sister, ex-girlfriend Tracy Marander, bandmate Krist Novoselic, and wife Courtney Love, most of the film is narrated by Kurt himself, collected from audio recordings he made for himself as well as interviews, home movies, excerpts from his journals, and his artwork.

His life story – and that of Nirvana – has been told and retold many times, so in terms of factual content there isn’t much new that most Nirvana fans didn’t already know.  Without giving anything away, Morgen does an outstanding job of trying to portray such a complex, contradictory and revered figure as Cobain within the confines of two hours and fifteen minutes.  Worth noting are the rearrangements of Nirvana songs like “All Apologies” and “Lithium” by composer Jeff Danna (you can hear a few snippets of these in the trailer), and the animated sequences created by Hisko Hulsing and Stefan Nadelman, who animated some of Cobain’s artwork as well as create original sequences to illustrate life experiences recounted by Cobain himself on his audio tapes.

I would strongly recommend people go see this film in theaters if they can – mainly for the sound. During the live performance sequences, it feels like the closest thing to actually being at a Nirvana concert, and sounds absolutely incredible. For those of us who never got the chance to go to a Nirvana show, this is probably as good as it’s ever going to get.

Update: One more thing worth mentioning – the companion book to the movie has scans and photos of the artwork, journal entries and artifacts, as well as outtakes from the interviews which were not used in the film.  I have a copy and highly recommend reading it.  There is supposed to be a soundtrack for the project with material from Kurt’s tapes, but no release date or further details yet.

Update II: Here’s a blog post from a few years ago.  During the course of my Alice in Chains research, I found a copy of the November 1988 issue of Backlash which had the review for the Love Buzz/Big Cheese single – Nirvana’s first single.  Enjoy!

Ding! Dong! The witch king is dead!

I’m a few days late on this, but for those of you who haven’t heard, the most reprehensible inbred brat in television history got whacked at his own wedding.  For the back story from the show perspective, I would recommend reading Entertainment Weekly’s interviews with Jack Gleeson, George R. R. Martin, and David Benioff/Dan Weiss. Naturally, the Internet had to chime in, here are a few responses via Twitter [full disclosure/shameless self-promotion: some of the tweets are mine]:

And last, but certainly not least – here’s a clip of Tyrion slapping Joffrey around for 10 minutes, set to Led Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand.”

Today marks the 20th and 12th anniversaries of the deaths of Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley. Take some time to reflect on them, their music, and their individual legacies.

Kurt Cobain:

Layne Staley:

Beyond these links and videos, if you want to know more about both of them and the broader Seattle scene in general, I would highly recommend reading Greg Prato’s Grunge Is Dead and Mark Yarm’s Everybody Loves Our Town.

Ever wondered what your favorite bands might look like as Legos? Now’s your chance.

In terms of the look/accuracy of the figures, my personal favorites are Daft Punk, Tupac, Joy Division, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.

  • The Big Kahuna: This guy may well have pulled off the greatest surfing trick of all time.
  • The New Pravda: Buzzfeed has an excellent look at the propaganda editorial standards and management practices at Russia Today.
    On a related note, see this Twitter flame war between former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul and RT staffers over the network’s coverage of the events in Ukraine.
  • Your Next Vacation Spot: I’ve added Navagio to my bucket list based on the photos at this Huffington Post article alone. I still hate myself for the fact that I lived in Italy for four years and never went to Greece in all that time.
  • It Was Twenty Years Ago Today: One of my favorite albums of all time, NIN’s The Downward Spiral, turned 20 last week! They grow up so fast… One more year and TDS will be able to drink legally.
  • Game of Bieber: It turns out the two most insufferable people in popular culture have a lot in common… E! compares Justin Bieber to Joffrey.
    On a related note [SPOILER ALERT], somebody at Buzzfeed compiled the 14 most brutal deaths on Game of Thrones as animated 8-bit GIFs. Take a wild guess which is number one.

In a single frame, cartoonist Milt Priggee manages to describe the situation over Syria:

Reminds me of this scene from a John Woo movie. I nominate John Travolta for the role of Assad.

There have been some developments regarding the Alice in Chains project I’ve been working on for nearly two years. I recently signed a deal with a publisher. Here’s the official announcement, it ran in Publisher’s Marketplace yesterday (it’s behind a paywall, text is pasted below):

July 9, 2013

Non-fiction:
Pop Culture
Journalist David de Sola’s TOUCH ON THE DARK, the first and only biography on the band Alice In Chains, promising countless never-before reported stories on the band with exclusive access to producers, journalists, musicians, and many others who have never gone on the record about their time working with the band, to Rob Kirkpatrick at Thomas Dunne Books, by Anthony Mattero at Foundry Literary + Media (NA).

In the meantime, work on the project continues. We are hoping for a late 2014/early 2015 release.

You can read some of my previous reporting on Alice in Chains here, here and here. All of this will be covered in greater depth in the book.

Update: For visitors who have questions about me, I would recommend they read about my background and look at some of my previous work from over the years.
Even though it’s completely unrelated to Alice in Chains, if you want a general idea of how I’m writing the book, I would recommend reading The Man Who Volunteered for Auschwitz.

Priceless find in one of my drawers: a program for a @UNICEF awards show I went to in Amsterdam when I was 13, signed by the late great Audrey Hepburn.

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2011 Update: I found this unpublished draft of my review of GNR’s “Chinese Democracy” album sitting in my WordPress posts, originally written in 2008 but never published for reasons I’ve since forgotten. I’ve tweaked it a little for clarity, but the fundamental editorial points remain unchanged.

 

So it looks like hell finally froze over and Axl Rose finally released the much anticipated Chinese Democracy, which has been in the works for well over a decade.

One of the sources of friction between Axl and the rest of the original Guns lineup, besides the fact that by the end of their heyday, he owned the name and the rights to the band exclusively and could hire and fire people at his will, was musical direction. Axl was very much influenced by industrial music (listen to the Use Your Illusion II track “My World”), particularly Nine Inch Nails (historical irony: one of NIN’s early breaks was as the opening act for Guns n’ Roses and Skid Row during a European tour back in 1991) and that influence is abundant on Chinese Democracy.

Thankfully I didn’t have waste time or money buying or downloading the record, but it’s still an hour of my life I’ll never get back again. The guitars and vocals, which were the driving force of every previous Guns n’ Roses record, are an absolute mess. It’s not that the musicianship is bad or amateurish. It is high quality production and technically proficient, but there’s no attitude or groove to any of it. Rolling Stone’s David Fricke gave it a rave review recently. I read it and am left wondering whether he and I listened to the same record.

I remember reading an interview with Slash ages ago where he said something to the effect of, “I thought The Fragile was an amazing record, but I wouldn’t want to make it.” The bottom line here is Axl tried to make a Nine Inch Nails record and failed. Call it whatever you want, but don’t call it Guns n’ Roses.