Brad Bischoff

12 × 12 × 12: Brad Bischoff

1 2 x 1 2 x 1 2 : Twelve Interviews. A Dozen Answers. Posted Monthly.

Just after the new year, I started making a list of people I’d like to interview in 2013. The first person who came to mind was Brad Bischoff. Having just watched his latest film, he was fresh on my mind, but Brad’s an auteur I’ve admired and respected for years. I met him in 2008 at Columbia College Chicago during the screening of his student film, Eyelids, and have watched his films (and progression as a storyteller) ever since. Most recently, I got involved in Brad’s work as a Kickstarter funder for his latest project, Where the Buffalo Roam.

Bischoff in Wet (2009)

Bischoff in Wet (2009)

1) Where the Buffalo Roam was really great, man. I actually watched it for the first time with my parents and sister over the holidays. As a family, I think we all got something special and deeply personal out of it. I’m sure our familial, shared experience had a lot to do with the intimacy and sincerity you used while writing, directing (and acting in) it. According to IMDb, Buffalo marks your fifth film as writer and director. Besides a few commercial exceptions, you seem to prefer playing both roles on projects. Are they one in the same? How would you characterize the two?

BB: Writing is a very isolated thing. And I like it that way because there’s no one around telling you how weird it all sounds, or nonsensical it is. You have permission to dream and you can stay there for however long you want. Directing is a very different thing. At least, for a while it was. I always felt there was a certain way you had to act. A certain angle you needed to point your finger to get the crew thinking that you’re not an idiot. But, I’m learning that was all wrong. That’s why certain films are wrong. And it’s getting much more beautiful for me. I don’t pretend to have all the answers when I write, and I try to do the same when I direct. I choose to write and direct because I want to keep the dream dreaming. They were very beautiful to me when I was in my cave painting them, and I want people to see them that way.

Where the Buffalo Roam (2012)

Where the Buffalo Roam (2012)

2) Buffalo vignettes a few twilight hours in the lives of two brothers. You alude to pivotal events leading up to their night together, but leave things relatively vague—which works really well for a short film. In fact all your work up to this point has been very poetic, intimate short-form slices of life. What’s kept you from longer projects? Funding? Timing? Preference?

BB: The Feature Film is a club. And I always end up forgetting my ID when I show up there. But, I’ve been listening to all the music they play, I’m fucking ready to dance, and I got some friends inside who are waiting for me. Just a few more things, few more things, few more things… but it’ll happen. I’m not concerned about money or time. I just want to make sure I’m ready.

3) Well I think you’re ready in terms of vision and talent! And I’d happily and proudly help fund another (longer) film when the time comes. You seem to favor specific themes in your short films—nostalgia, memories, family—what about those topics interest you?

BB: I’m a very forgetful person, really. I like to remember things. I like to see a photograph and remember that things were good once. Or listen to a voice recording and remember the dark hole it was recorded in. You learn from these things, or at least capture emotion in these things. I’m eager for human connection. Whenever I watch someone’s home movies, I see it. Or when I look at people’s photographs, or listen to someone tell a story. Or watch an old guy shuffle into the jazz club and sit next to me quietly. I like to know where people come from and why they are going to wherever it is they are going. I try not to let my past dictate how I live today, but it certainly allows me the ability to laugh, cry, blush or grit my teeth. And these emotions are what keep me going. And it helps me understand other people in a way.

Where the Buffalo Roam (2012)

Where the Buffalo Roam (2012)

4) So having worked exclusively in dramas—albeit fantastical, semi-autobiographical dramas—are there other genres you’re interested in exploring? Anything you wouldn’t touch?

BB: Genres are like ice cream and pizza to me. I appreciate them all—maybe even love—but I will mostly stick to vanilla ice cream and cheese pizza. It’s just what I like. I like fictional stories about real people, or fictional people living real stories.

5) Nicely put. But I’d still like to see your take on the horror genre! You mention the value of stories (real and fictional), who are your favorite storytellers?

BB: Charles Bukowski, Chet Baker, Charlie Kaufman… they all just express what is coming from inside them. And they do it in different ways.

6) Your films have done really well in major international festivals like CIFF. In fact your student film, Eyelids took you to Festival de Cannes’ short film corner. What’s that been like?

BB: The festival experiences have been interesting. I never went to a lot of parties in high school or college, but I imagine it was a similar feeling. Walking around uncomfortable at first, then having a beer. Then two, three, or four, and suddenly you’re dancing. You’re friends with them all for a few days after the whole thing is over, and then it’s back to studying for tests.

Where the Buffalo Roam (2012)

Where the Buffalo Roam (2012)

7) Besides taking you to the festival circuit, your films—and film career—moved you to Los Angeles for a while too, right? Why’d you return to Chicago?

BB: I spent a little bit of time in L.A. with Nick Santore while I finished school. It was a nice place. A lot of people I talk to dislike it, but I smiled a lot while I was there, sang some karaoke, and saw my friend Jake Infusino a time or two. I decided to come back to Chicago because I was broke. But, I would have anyway. I want to make films with the guys I grew up doing it with. We have a good thing. I feel if I were to spend some time in L.A., which I still might, it would be for other reasons. Either selfish reasons or to wear another hat for a while.

Where the Buffalo Roam (2012)

Where the Buffalo Roam (2012)

8) Yeah, the Chicago team (and loyalty) behind your films is pretty amazing. Tell me more about the “good thing” you’ve built and where you see it going?

BB: Rubbish was no more than a graffiti tag that my friend, Bob Zegler, and I used on the videos we produced back in high school together. It was a fun and beautiful thing. After high school, we met Nick Santore and Jake Zalutsky and kept producing more content together while working other jobs. It wasn’t until Alex Hidalgo got involved that we really decided to make it a business. Maybe subconsciously as a viable way we could all stay together and create something in Chicago. Our goal has always been to keep making films together and having this company is certainly allowing us the opportunity to do that. It would be nice in the future to have a roster of directors on Rubbish, a production company that produces commercials, music videos and feature films.

9) I really respect what you guys are building and your dedication to the concept of a film collective. I always prefer to collaborate in creative endeavors. The successes (and lessons) are always better shared. Along with your independent work and music videos, Rubbish has a growing commercial portfolio with projects for major clients like Intel, Wrangler and Hammer. Do you see these films as sustenance or sacrifice?

BB: My goal for a long time was to start a production company in Chicago. And with my best friends Alex, Nick, Jake, and Bob, we were able to do that. We’ve been in business for a couple of years now, and the commercial side of things has been very interesting. I’m glad that we came into it from a storytelling perspective first, and business second. To keep it from becoming sacrificial, we just make sure our heads are in the right spot regarding the types of projects we choose. If we didn’t like what we were doing, we wouldn’t do it. I think we’re all too bullheaded for that. I have no problem going back to packaging adult diapers. Well…

10) Ha! Please don’t go back to that! Seriously though, I think it’s easy for the average moviegoer to see the writer and/or director as the sole creative force behind their favorite films. But it’s clear from how you describe Rubbish and the camaraderie you seem to have as team, that everything’s a big group effort—a family affair. Can you explain how less-considered roles like production designer and cinematographer bring films to life?

BB: Nick Santore and Jake Zalutsky are vital to the films Rubbish makes—more so now than ever. We have conversations we wouldn’t touch upon before. We talk about the meaning of it all. The building of a world to live in for a while. What people need to understand is that they are not “just” a production designer or a cinematographer. And that’s why their work is great, including their own personal work. They transcend the pointless titles that are given—I don’t see them with those titles. And I think any great collaborator would understand that.

11) Absolutely. Before I let you go, I want to circle all the way back to the start of the interview and hear your thoughts on using Kickstarter to fund Where the Buffalo Roam.

BB: Friends and family. I’d be nothing without them. They’re always there for me when I need it most. And the Kickstarter experience reminded me of that. It’s really nice to know people want to support you. I didn’t know everyone that donated, but I truly thank them all. It was a very important film for me, and it’s nice to know that people wanted to see it get made.

12) So in a word, what’s it all about?

BB: LOVE

Follow Rubbish @rubbishisgold

Snarled Lips

Download: Snarled Lips

Tony Junior – Snarled Lips (Face Melt)

Track List:

  1. Jedi Mind Tricks – “Violence Begets Violence”
  2. Shafiq Husayn – “Go Nuts”
  3. Deathface – “The Horror VIP”
  4. Skream – “Ice Cream Jelly Roll” / “Nefariousa”
  5. 12th Planet, Skrillex & Kill The Noise - “Burst feat. GMCFOSHO”
  6. Distal – “Eel”
  7. AlexisK – “Playa Haters Club”
  8. AC Slater – “Calm Down”
  9. Dead Prez – “It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop (WTF? UK Mix)”
  10. Kreayshawn – “Gucci Gucci Remix feat. Giggs”
  11. Major Lazer – “Hold The Line (DJ Edit)”
  12. araabMUZIK – “Rubber Band Stacks”
  13. Dibiase – “Renegade Slap (Devonwho Collab)”
  14. Gangrene (The Alchemist & Oh No) – “Vodka & Ayahuasca”
  15. 50 Cent – “I Just Wanna feat. Tony Yayo”
  16. Dexter – “Saybe Mo, Naybe Mo”
  17. Battles – “Futura (The Alchemist Remix)”
  18. Big Freedia – “Booty-Whop”
  19. Chokr – “Getting The Flow”
  20. Stripper – “Stuka feat. Sirreal”
  21. Far Too Loud – “Wake Up L.A.”
  22. Computer Juice – “Compute Juice”
  23. Tai – “Paradise Poltergeist feat. Steve Aoki (LA Riots Remix)”
Mark "Exit" Goodchild

12 × 12 × 12: Mark Goodchild

1 2 x 1 2 x 1 2 : Twelve Interviews. A Dozen Answers. Posted Monthly.

A while back I got an voicemail from my friend Mark Goodchild about a new social media concept he wanted my opinion on. I actually hear a lot of these sorts of pitches (mostly from non-designers and mostly half-baked) but with Mark, I knew it would be thoroughly vetted, totally fleshed-out and completely well-conceived. That’s because he’s always been the hardest working, most selfless pro I know. Which isn’t easy to do in the highly competitive, egomaniacal music industry.

1) Damn. We’ve been friends for 14 years… That’s crazy! I remember our early collaboration started while I was still in college. I designed the covers for the last two mixtapes in your Walkman Relief series: “Clully Wong Style” and “Jesus Piece Rentals”. The funny thing is, I can’t really remember how we actually met.

MG: Ha! I’m pretty sure we met through DJ Hope. I ended up moving in with him, and he was friends with Travis McCutcheon who was cool with you. We started choppin’ it up and kickin’ it. Actually, the first time I really made an effort to hook up with my now ex-wife, was when you and I went and saw her at a dance tryout outside on Peachtree Street in Buckhead. Who woulda’ known I’d marry that bitch!

2) Oh, man! That’s right. I remember hanging out and listening to you play all sorts of dope hip hop I’d never heard of. You were the first to put me on to Necro(!) and explain how record pools worked and what whitelabel releases were all about…. Where’d you get the name Exit?

MG: The name is short for DJ Exit 6. When I was in high school I was part of this club called Distributive Education Classes of America. It was basically Future Business Leaders—but for marketing—which I was studying in high school. With this club I won my way to national competitions 3 years in a row with other delegates from my state. I fell in love with a girl from the other side of the state. I always remember she said she lived off “Exit 6″ off the highway that passed through. I doodled it all over my papers. At that point I was either DJ Mischief or G Wanna B. One day I started playing with the idea of DJ Exit 6. Shortened and kept it. I knew that would be my name forever when I met DJ Enuff at a party at UMass Amherst and told him my name and he said it was fly.

All of this took place back in my home state of New Hampshire. I was born and raised in a small city of 30,000 people called Keene. In junior high I caught the music/hip hop bug, and by the time I graduated in ’95, I was out the door to a city with a music industry. I landed in Atlanta. Atlanta was where I became ME. I chose Atlanta after high school because of The Source magazine. There was an issue all about Atlanta, and it intrigued me.

3) Nice! A small town kid with big city dreams. You’ve always been an ambitious dude. So once you got to Atlanta, how did you make the transition from DJ to engineer?

MG: My goal was always to be a mixture of Roc Raida, Kid Capri and Cut Chemist as a DJ. When I first came to Atlanta I was attending AIA to get some kind of music education. Over time I realized that’s what I would rather do. I first started working at DARP (Dallas Austin‘s studio) there in late ’95/early ’96. When we first started getting our education at AIA, they would talk about internships a lot. There weren’t a lot of studios in town. My buddy Rick Scott got one at DARP so I decided to bite his style and go there. It took me a couple months of phone calls and even an unsolicited visit on my part to show the assistant manager how serious (desperate) I was. From there I went the typical engineer route: intern at studio; get hired for small work around studio; move up to assistant; spend time learning from other engineers; move on to be your own engineer. That’s basically how it happened for me. Although I will say I’m constantly reevaluating everything I do. Every year I compile all the songs I mixed and critique every single one of them. I work on my weaknesses and reinforce my strengths. I’m pretty tough on myself. But I am who I am professionally and personally today because of DARP. Most notably for the influence manager Monica Tannian and engineer Leslie Brathwaite had on me.

4) Working with colleagues (and friends) who motivate and inspire you is so critical. As I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve realized how important it is to build on the positive, supportive relationships I have and trim away anyone and everything that pulls me down. It may sound harsh, but I just don’t have time to be held back by unproductive people and pastimes. So what does an engineer actually do? Is it more complicated than having an ear for how music should sound and sweetening the mix?

MG: There are two main engineer functions: Recording and Mixing. I do both. When you’re in recording mode, you are in the studio with the artist, producer, and musicians. It is your job to capture a great sounding performance. Nowadays you are also responsible for TUNING that performance. You have to make sure you are ready for possible scenario in the studio if someone wants to get creative. Case-in-point: I’m at a studio now with a great Steinway piano. I knew that everyone would see it and want to play it so the first thing I did was set up mics on that. I pick what mics are used, what outboard gear is used to amplify and compress/EQ those mics, then record them to whichever medium is in use. Protools being the standard now.

As a mixer, your task is much different. You are given all the parts to a song and must make it all sound good. You normally work for hours on end alone, then call in the client when you get close to satisfied. From there you work together on the finer points of taste until it’s finished. Mixers make more. Sometimes exponentially. But being a recording engineer has its advantages. You are there from the idea conception and have a closer working relationship with the artist. You become a big part of the project. Sometimes the mixer doesn’t even meet who he is mixing for.

5) You’ve lived in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles for work. And have done a significant amount of touring as both DJ and engineer. What are the highlights/lowpoints of all that moving around?

MG I’ve toured once as Phife‘s DJ, and toured several times with Cash Money Records and Akon on studio recording buses. I was young and dumb on tour as Phife’s DJ. I brought my own Techs across all Scandanavia. That was dumb. But I was told to. A great experience that makes me cringe. Touring as an engineer with major acts is much different. We outfit tour buses with full recording studios because these guys want to keep capturing ideas and working on music. It’s great, but stressful. Touring is not necessarily glamorous. You don’t get to see much except the back of stages, the bus and hotels. I think I’m at a point now where I wouldn’t again, under most circumstances. It wears you out greatly moving so much and working on a bus while it’s traveling.

6) Client privacy and discretion is a big deal in your line of work—but who would you love to work with that you haven’t yet? And who’s been the best to work with so far?

MG: Paul McCartney. No-brainer. So far though, the best would have to be Lionel Richie. He’s probably also one of the richest people I’ve ever worked with! I was actually more scared to work with him than Michael Jackson! Something about guys that have been doing this THAT much longer than me is a little intimidating. Luckily, he’s pure class and extremely professional, and also works hard to get the songs done right. He’s a trooper. After a career like his, you could totally mail it in. But no, he still gives a great amount of effort.

7) Yeah, your client list is pretty amazing—especially to someone outside of the music industry. How do you define success in your work? Is it client rosters? Awards? Or just making “good” music?

MG: I don’t really keep track [of awards] because, to me, they don’t matter. But I know I have a Grammy certificate (not a statue) from Outkast’s “Stankonia.” I’ve got so many nominations I can’t remember though. Grammies are what a lot of people measure themselves by in this biz, but I measure my success by whether I’m still working tomorrow or not. I will say this though: I’ve worked on probably 250 albums, with them selling a combined 150+ million copies!

And what’s “good” to some people is crap to me, and vice-versa. Some people think Mumford & Sons is incredible. I think they are terrible. The Black Keys are horrible musicians but have cool sounds and melodies. So are they good? I’m a huge John Mayer fan but he has a very strong anti-following. For my own personal taste, I would say music that can instantly change my mood is “good” music.

8) I love that you’re not afraid to name names. You’re always very frank and honest on Twitter and your Life of a Studio Rat blogs and now your process on #TweetMix. How does social media play a role in your career?

MG: I think everyone wants to be heard, and I’m no different, so that’s the easy part. It’s funny because someone recently said they love following me on Twitter ’cause I’m such a hater. I had no idea I was a hater! I have an opinion, but I don’t think I’m a jerk about it. I think I post more movie quotes than anything. And song lyrics. I like throwing things out and seeing what comes back. But I also feel the need to call bullshit sometimes. And that can be often. I’ve seen success in my business and I know which attitudes work and which don’t. I have to speak on it! I think the other part of my social outpouring is that my social life actually sucks. Well, it sucks to someone who doesn’t understand my job. My friends are very scattered. I don’t have a “happy hour” group of friends. In fact, when I want to go out, it’s a struggle because most of my friends do what I do so they’re in the studio! I use social networks to keep connected and sane. I’m usually in a windowless studio 12+ hours everyday. That’s not healthy, socially.

9) True. For so many people, Facebook et al keeps them from connecting in a meaningful to real people, way but for you it seems like a healthy lifeline. Keeping with Twitter for second, tell me more about your #TweetMix project.

MG: This was something I started when I wanted to find a new angle to my mix career. Basically offer a free mix per month. There were multiple motivations for this. a) Good way to advertise myself as a mixer, b) great way to educate people on mixing, c) works as an A&R tool to discover new talent, d) possibly open myself up to gear sponsorships. There’s more angles but those were the core. It got off to a great start and it was definitely a labor of love. I have huge plans for it, but unfortunately I’ve become so busy that I can’t maintain it at the moment. I was going to have other engineer features, but I didn’t want to introduce that until I was already a year in and had established myself. It’s something I’m going to bring back and give more attention to but right now I’m very busy with recording Usher’s new album. It requires a lot of my attention so I have to prioritize!

10) I love this concept. It’s like a mash-up of Twitter, American Idol and reverse-crowdsourcing! What are your thoughts on the RIAA and the MP3 format? How can we fix the current system/ways of doing things? How do you motivate people to pay for music? What trends do you see emerging in terms of technologies, social media, business models, etc.?

MG: I think the RIAA and major labels can’t keep up with technology and aren’t being honest with themselves how music is really being consumed. Buying musical digitally is way too expensive. I don’t think one song is worth $.99 or any more for that matter. I would say the best digital price for new music is $.49. There are so many reasons for this, but I’ll try to keep it simple:

  1. The cost of making music has come way down because of digital tools.
  2. The cost to distribute music is come way down because of the internet.
  3. There is so much new music to be consumed because of both A + B that it’s only right that the price of digital music comes down to make it more sensible to be purchased.

People that love artists will still spend extra to support artists, whether it be special releases for Radiohead, or Third Man Records vinyl… BUT, if you want to sell your stuff in an online major retailer like iTunes or Amazon, I say drop the price. I also think that we are now close to seeing streaming actually working with Spotify. For a very low or free price point, you can have a whole ton of music right at your fingertips. Because of the massively low price point, you will see people exploring and compiling music that they never would have before. This will turn people back into music buyers, but at that lower price point. I believe the future will be a mixture of subscription and hard copy music (vinyl, CD) that will live in harmony. The whole accounting system in the music industry and the actual price of that music has to be scrutinized though. That’s my short answer.

11) What advice do you have for young artists and people interested in the behind-the-scenes work like production or engineering?

MG: My advice for young artists is not going to be engineering related. It’s career related. If you want to “do music,” you have to realize it’s a marathon, not a race. Your goal shouldn’t be to become a millionaire. It should be to make the best music you possibly can over a long career. Just because you have a song and you throw it up on YouTube, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it. How many tours have you been part of? How much have you actually performed? I think artists are looking for that instant media-fame related boost. I say concentrate on writing good songs and performing them greatly. The rest will fall into place.

For people that are interested in the music production side: Get a core education from one of the numerous music programs available. Then, find the album you love the most, read the credits. Wherever it was worked on most, go there and don’t turn back! Give yourself an honest two years for anyone to really pay you attention and make a real living off of it. Realize that even the best producers and engineers are constantly evolving.

12) In a word, what’s it all about?

MG: SMILING

Follow Mark “Exit” Goodchild @exit1200

© IshootRockstars

12 × 12 × 12: Kyle LaMere

1 2 x 1 2 x 1 2 : Twelve Interviews. A Dozen Answers. Posted Monthly.

The summer heat right now reminds me of an amazing (sweaty) fashionshoot I was part of last year at Kyle LaMere‘s studio. Kyle had just moved IshootRockstars into a small loft in the Pilsen artists corridor and agreed to style and shoot new designs and models for my t-shirt company, Good Night TV. There was no A/C, blazing hot lights, greasy takeout and lukewarm drinks, but the shoot was perfect. And even though none of us were, Kyle made us all look and feel like rockstars that night. He’s an amazing talent and even awesomer human being. I’m honored to have found myself in front of Kyle lens on many occasions and I will always stand behind his work.

© IshootRockstars

1) Let me start with some major congratulations: Refinery29 just named you one of “Chicago’s Hottest 30 Under 30″ and you just released VISITORS, your first-ever book of photography. You’re at the top of your game! Where do you go from here?

KLM: Haha… thanks! The VISITORS book was exactly what I had envisioned it to become when the project was started. It was a two year process from the start to delivering the book and it felt great to have the book as a stamp on the end. Where do I go from here? It’s a great question. I have some pretty big plans this summer which I’m really excited about. I am excited to be working on a year long project with Berlin nightclub photographing and capturing the vibe of such a historic Chicago nightclub. We’re hoping to turn that into a book next year.

© IshootRockstars

2) You’re a busy dude! And you just returned from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! What took you to Africa?

KLM: I did! What a sensational place Ethiopia is. My Ethiopia trip was conceived and executed so fast. I was having a chat with my good friend, Paul Chadha who started the Awassa Children’s Project about 10 years ago. The Awassa Children’s Center houses/educates over 80 children orphaned by the HIV/Aids epidemic. He had just returned from Ethiopia and was telling me all about the center. He expressed the need for professional photos of the center and the children. The center makes 50% of its income based off donations and with nothing really visually to show for, it made it a bit tougher to raise awareness. I told Paul that I would go on the next flight possible…. Less than 7 days later I was on a plane to Addis Ababa. My vision for the trip was simple from the start: capture childhood as it should be—happy & free. The kids couldn’t have made it any easier for me to photograph. They were little angels with so much happiness and hope. They forever changed me.

I always wanted to travel to another country and shoot for something that had impact and weight. In fact, I thought about photographing kids in Africa before I met Paul and learned about the Children’s Center. So, when that project landed in my lap, I said to myself, wow… this is the exact project I have always dreamed of. And there might be a returning visit to Ethiopia next month where I plan to continue shooting and volunteering at the Children’s Center.

© IshootRockstars

© IshootRockstars

3) Incredible. You’ve been part some pretty amazing shoots—everything from a fashionshoot of transgender social workers for the Broadway Youth Center to the Chicago Bears Training Camp—and now Ethiopia. How do you capture the essence of such a wide range of subjects? Are there shoots you leave off your website? If so, how come? How do you decide what to show and what to classify as “something I did to pay rent”? ;)

KLM: I like to think of myself as a very open minded person. I always accept everyone for who they are. It’s important to be open minded about meeting new people and experiences. I am heavily influenced by the people around me. Shooting different topics/subjects is really important in the creative field. At the end of the day, you’re just trying to connect with who you’re shooting and the message you want to send. And as any creative will tell you, there are always a few gigs you take for the “money.” The reason why I don’t show those shoots is that I want to show the work that really interests me and show what type of work I’m really passionate about. Your passion is everything. You have to have a passion for the subjects that interest you. Music and Fashion go hand in hand. They are those escape type shoots. It’s like being a child again and playing pretend or dress up.

4) So true. Clients will always ask for more of what you show them and what’s in your portfolio or on your website. So it’s critical to include the types of project you want to do more of! Speaking of passion and doing work you love, you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer but actually studied graphic design at The Illinois Institute of Art. When did you realize you should change directions? What triggered it for you? And how do you know you made the right decision?

KLM: Around the summer of 2006, I bought my Rebel XT (which I still use and love). I was designing CDs and posters for bands and didn’t really know any photographers in the city at the time. I started shooting so I could design around it. I had my first band shoot with some good friends of mine and it was one of those “ah-ha” moments. The photos turned out really well and it just kind of snowballed from there. I kept getting asked to shoot more than design which is a great thing because I wasn’t a really good designer. I quickly started developing a passion for photography. Not so much because of the art of taking/making a photo, but because I realized this career could really connect me to other people. I was so attracted to that aspect that from that point on I went full force with it. Photography in the last five years has completely changed my life. How I communicate, collaborate and experience life, is all due to a piece of plastic with a button on it. It’s quite amazing.

5) Hell yeah! I know so many people who’ve change directions after receiving their degrees—especially artists and designers! What advice do you have for people looking to make the transition from “academically-trained” to pursuing something new they’re more passionate about?

KLM: When you have that intuition and passion for something, changing your career can easily be accomplished. It all depends on you and how serious you are about making that change. I am still very young in this profession. I barely quit my job as a graphic designer a year ago so that I could take my work to the next level. When I was at my 9-to-5, I never thought I would ever have a chance to leave. It was hard to keep myself motivated sometimes, but at the end of day, life is terribly short and if not now… then—never.

6) I agree 100%. Ditching your day job (and the perception of security it offers) takes conviction. In a sense, your studio name is a declaration of purpose. Does a name like IshootRockstars limit you to just rockstars? How do reconcile that for clients who don’t consider themselves “rockstars”?

KLM The cheesy motto I use is that “anyone and everyone can be a rockstar.” I didn’t want to go by my personal name when I started shooting professionally. IshootRockstars is basically an homage to that dream of being in a rock band. I’ve always loved how musicians can be whatever they want to be under their band name. It’s their alter ego. That’s how I try to view ISR and my photography. I don’t know where I’ll end up in my career or what it will become, but the name will stay with me. Plus, it’s fun and easy to remember.

7) And ISR isn’t just you by yourself. Tell me about your relationship/friendship with Elizabeth Neish: how did you meet, when did you decide to start working together, how do you compliment/push each other? What are the pros (cons?) to working so closely with a partner as you develop your body of work and expand your studio?

KLM: Elizabeth and I met at the very beginning of 2008 at group photographers shoot. We instantly hit it off and have been working together ever since. Our styles and interests are very similar. She’s really, really talented so I usually just tell her what the concept is and just let her run free. It’s important to have a great, trusting, creative relationship. You have to be able to trust someone and let them do what they are good at. The pros are that Elizabeth always knows what I’m looking for. I can focus on other things during the shoot without having to see what she’s doing. The con for us is that potential clients sometimes want to hire us but want to get their own make-up artist. I sometimes have to turn down a shoot if Elizabeth cannot be involved. It’s hard trying to tell people that ISR isn’t just me. In my mind, without Elizabeth’s touch, the photo just isn’t as strong as it could be. We love working together and want to make that happen as much as possible.

8) When I saw your portfolios for the first time, I was immediately reminded of David LaChapelle‘s (the vibrant colors, the outlandish vignettes, the conceptual styling) besides having “La” last names in common, what attracts you to DLC’s work? Who/what else inspires/influences you?

KLM: Yeah, it’s pretty simple to see he is a huge influence of mine. Besides his outlandish concepts—that are nearly impossible to replicate—the one thing that inspired me was his use of color. DLC is a true artist. The way he boldly uses color is sometimes more controversial than the subject matter he is shooting. There are a few other photogs I follow but my biggest inspiration comes from everything around me. Mainly the people I encounter in life. I get so much motivation in my career when I see someone completely killing it in another creative or for that matter, non-creative field.

© IshootRockstars

9) Speaking of other creative fields, I know you’ve art directed film and video projects before, but have you ever considered directing a movie or documentary? Your images have so much energy in them as it is!

KLM: I love video. It’s something I am looking to get more into. I like more of the directing side of things. Last year I co-directed & art directed a music video for my friends, Ornery Little Darlings. I loved shooting it. Video is a grueling process. I have seen many friends shoot videos and the stress level is pretty crazy. I think that will slowly and naturally develop, but nothing for the immediate future is planned. I am in heavy pursuit of tracking down Billy Corgan. He’s next on my list of people I want to shoot and work with. We are Facebook friends so that’s a legitimate start, right??

10) Ha! I really want to collaborate with a few stars myself (John Leguizamo and Simone Legno), and decided to reach out via Twitter… We’ll see what happens, right? But sticking with the media for a second, do you have a preference when it comes to digital versus film?

KLM: I obviously shoot mainly digital based on the demand of the market. We’re in a digital era and most shoots need a quick turn around. I separate digital and film. I so wish I was shooting more film. I used to shoot film a lot but time and money have become a factor. Film for me will always be for personal exploration. Film to me should always be dirty, raw and real. I love that about film. Digital and film I think will always exist together in photography—kind of like how digital music and vinyl co-exist.

11) I know you just moved into the EP Theater and probably have a ton of unpacking to do. But before I let you go, what’s your advice for the people just getting started in photography? What’s the best way to promote/position/market yourself as an up-and-coming photographer? How does someone start landing gigs?

KLM: Shoot a lot for yourself. Create your own shoots. If you want to shoot bands, start contacting them and shoot. If you want to shoot fashion, look up a local fashion designer or jewelry designer and find a model. Just keep building that portfolio and keep practicing. Zack Arias spoke in Chicago last summer and stressed, no matter how big you become as a photographer, you’re always going to have to do pro bono work. It’s great because it keeps you creating. The other side to promote yourself is networking. If you hate meeting people, this isn’t a career for you. You have to be able to communicate as a photographer so it’s important you open yourself to meeting new people. You never know where that next gig might come from.

12) In a word, what’s it all about?

KLM: COMMUNICATION

Captain Marvel Shazam logo

12 x 12 x 12: Shazam Bangles

1 2 x 1 2 x 1 2 : Twelve Interviews. A Dozen Answers. Posted Monthly.

Spring has sprung in Chicago and that means rolling around with your windows down and your speakers up. Thankfully, fresh sounds seem to surround this month’s subject, Mike Reuter a.k.a. Shazam Bangles . The Chicago soundsmith and I go all the way back to elementary school and the Arlington Heights Youth Basketball Association. I don’t remember much from those days except for the color of our jerseys (red and white) and that Mike was the best player in the league (we might’ve even won the Lakeman Tournament). Fast forward 20 years later to a rowdy loft party in Wicker Park, and I bump into a bearded Bangles behind the decks cuttin’ and scratchin’ with the same speed and dexterity he dominated the courts with when we were kids.

1) You’re a man with many monikers. Tell me about the titular evolution leading up to Shazam Bangles. How’d you get your start?

SB: I first invested in DJing in high school after being interested in the bubbling battle circuit across the globe at the time. I was listening to college mix shows and buying all the mixtapes I could get my hands on at stores such as Gramaphone, Beat Parlor, Dr. Wax, etc. I initially bought some Gemini belt-driven turntables and was given a meager, hand-me-down mixer. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I really enjoyed mixing acapellas with different instrumentals, so I stuck with it. I saved up until I could get myself some Technics. That’s when I started to get serious. DJ’s are often given their names, while others come up with their title on their own. You don’t necessarily have to earn it, but it definitely helps your name to hold more weight if it fits you as a DJ. My first name was D.J. Tanner, as suggested to me by my girlfriend at the time. That name came from Full House and I thought it was pretty funny back then and many people agreed. I wasn’t really sure if I was just an enthusiast at that point, or if I really wanted to take this profession seriously, so it worked. Then, when I was in college I noticed this weak DJ was using the same name so I added “The Surgeon General”. I thought of that handle because of an old Ronnie Gee record and the classic introduction: “Warning. The Surgeon General of Chilltown, New York has determined….” Kevin Beacham gave me the nod of approval and added that my cuts were surgical—so it fit. I was then known as D.J. Tanner The Surgeon General. Fast forward to 2006, I was sitting listening to “Clipse of Doom” by one of my all-time favorite MCs, Ghostface Killah. During GFK’s last verse he spits: “SHAZAM BANGLES/in the vault deep/and cruisin’ deserts mad heavy in assault Jeeps!” I loved the way it sounded. He said it with such ferocity that the line struck a chord in me. I first thought of the 70s TV show, Shazam! Tying that together with GFK, I thought of dinner plate-sized medallions with the lightning bolt logo and giant gold bands on the wrist, similar to GFK’s giant eagle piece he wore on his wrist from time to time. When you caught a glimpse of this super human truck jewelry it would gleam like, “SHAZAM!” It started as sort of a joke, but it began to catch on. For me, that name came to represent the most authentic expression of hip hop culture. Those that have the most outrageous jewelry are often revered, yet I wanted the music I played, manipulated and presented to be my “bangles” instead.

2) Damn. That’s quite a journey! You mentioned Kevin Beacham was an influence on your early career. Who are some of your mentors/heroes? Who would you love to DJ with that you haven’t already?

SB: I would say my mentor was Kevin Beacham. He put me on to so many records and taught me how to listen to music in a different way, not to mention how to blend and count bars. His undying commitment to the quest for good hip hop while understanding that a dope MC can come from anywhere helped shape my tastes. As far as scratching, I would say D.ST, DJ Magic Mike, DJ Joe Cooley, the Philly DJs of the 80s and DJ Supreme from Hijack were heroes of mine as I was coming up. The X-Men vs Invisibl Skratch Piklz era was pretty influential. D-Styles (formerly of ISP) continues to inspire me to get better along with many in our own scene. Hip Hop and House Music were still separate in many ways in Chicago during my formative years so I wasn’t that aware of our city’s mystic influence on dance culture. I have earned a new respect for Chicago’s Disco and House pioneers along with the next generation of selectors such as Ron Trent after speaking with him and realizing how serious he is about his craft. DJ Spinna and J Rocc have been favorites of mine for a while. I would love to play with DJ Anonymous, DJ Day, Eli Escobar or Cosmo Baker.

3) DJ Day and Cosmo Baker are two of my favorites, too. So let’s talk about your new crew: Cutz on Cuts. Who’s in it? How’d it start? What’s it all about?

SB: Cutz on Cuts! Our crew is DJ Moppy, Rice the Sound Transmitter and Shazam Bangles. Constance K is our lovely host. She provides a unique personality and sense of humor to put a smile on your face and let everyone know we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I know that Gloria, the host of the Discofunk radio show Ebony Cuts, was an influence on her approach to our show. She ties the segments together and adds a level of professionalism. She gets on the mic and introduces each episode and our guests for the week with a special brand of enthusiasm. The show started innocently enough after we all had a scratch session. Moppy and I had been discussing how we like to scratch to all kinds of music. We realized that people in the city aren’t really having fun with creative DJing as much as they could be. Rice brought a very sharp style of cutting that fit in perfectly with our concept. We decided to have a go at a Ustream show that focuses on quality—with one DJ/beatmaker/musician providing the groundwork and the rest of the DJs adding layers/cuts/samples in a tasteful way. I think we found our own lane by applying this formula to nearly any genre, at any speed. Many DJs will have scratch sessions, but only scratch to one BPM, only one type of beat. We wanted to be able to rock any kind of party with our sets while still being able to go off on the cut. By inviting our friends on the show, it has expanded and gained momentum due to the fact that our sound is always changing. Playing with Rob Swift was a definite highlight for us, and we are expanding on that, playing more live shows. We hope to establish a residency at a club implementing our own brand of turntable manipulation and continue to stimulate more energy in the scratch DJ scene.




4) Tuning into Cutz on Cuts at the end of a long Hump day completely transforms my week. And that Rob Swift show at Darkroom was ridiculous. I gotta admit, you have the best/widest taste in music of just about anyone I know. Since your sets are so eclectic, what shapes your sound? Is there anything outside the realm of possibility for you musically?

SB: Thank you! That means a lot coming from you. The drum influences me. Chicago influences me. This city is a capital of DJ culture. I love the fact that we have “bedroom” DJs of all kinds that can cook world famous DJs from just about anywhere else in the world. That lets me know that I always need to remain humble. Ego has no place in this culture. I have learned to pay respect and truly learn from the pioneers in the disco and house scenes which we created. Many of these DJs are playing their hearts out whether the sound is trendy or not, and have been doing it for years. I respect that type of dedication. My love of music and the sheer amount of great music out there to discover keeps me from getting too stuck on one style. We have a great world music scene here, too, and that is inspiring. I know a lot of vinyl collectors here that make me want to keep digging. I try not to limit myself. Of course other DJs/selectors are always inspiring me to tell a story through the music, finding songs and presenting them in an original way. I love playing hip hop, because that was my first love and can take you into other sounds through samples and influences. I have recently really enjoyed playing deep disco, modern funk and house because of the groove you can find when you are mixing. Music is my sanctuary.

5) That’s what’s up. With all the inspiration you just listed, what advice do you have for young DJs trying to get started. What’s it take to be recognized as worth a damn?

SB: If you are a young DJ looking to play out, learn your craft. Be versatile. One style = no style. Learn what you are worth and don’t play for free drinks. If you play for free, you will playing for free more often than not. Try to find a mentor or someone to look up to to show you how to play to different crowds and how to pace your set. You should also practice quite a bit before you play out because playing in your home is a lot different then playing in front of a crowd. While you’re practicing, work at developing your own sound and dig for music, get your fingers dusty. There are a lot of microwave DJs these days, and you need to be original if you want to make an impact. Grinding out shows with a level of respect for what you do and keeping your mouth shut will help you earn respect as you are coming up. We all know that every event is not going to be memorable, but you need to fight through those gigs and learn from them. Have fun and make your events the place to be and learn how to promote the right way.

6) Nice! I think that advise works for all types of creative pursuits. For people sleeping on Chicago’s DJ scene, tell them what’s good, what sucks and how you think we can make it better?

SB: Chicago’s scene is a dichotomy. It’s pretty damn segregated and that is NOT healthy. I have noticed an improvement, with more North Side kids heading South and vice versa, but it still could be a lot better. It sometimes seems like South Side footwork crews are in a completely different city when others are partying in Wicker Park. Many DJs look at the game as “me against the world” and forget that we can support one another without being in the same crew. We also have a lot of competing nights around the city, so developing a following can be more difficult. On the other hand, we have an impressive range of talent and I am endlessly amazed with new discoveries just by stumbling into a bar I haven’t been to on a specific night. It can be frustrating due to the mass audience’s desire to go to the bar/club with the most people instead of the best vibe/music/theme, but we also have something for everyone. The people here typically understand what a good DJ is and often allow you to play what the people should hear instead of what they are used to hearing. The listener needs to trust their guide in that respect. I think if Chicago’s government recognized the impact our music has had on the world and embraced the entire city that we could come together a bit more and have more city-wide events that would really help our city’s scene prosper.

7) Speaking of bars and clubs with the best vibe/music/theme, what are your top 5 spots to DJ in Chicago?

SB: Double Door, Darkroom, The Brickhouse, Simone’s and Rodan in no particular order. I like to go to Rude One’s Goodness events because I know it’s the “good” shit! Danny’s brings in world-class Deep Soul/Funk DJ’s and Disco Heads even though I haven’t been able to make it there much lately, the music is top notch in a relaxed environment. Push Tuesdays at LoKaL always provide something new. Also, private events/house parties seem to be the most fun when done right.

8) How would you characterize the differences between DJs, turntablists and selectors?

SB: A DJ is someone who mixes music but does not consider advanced turntable techniques such as scratching/beat juggling/drumming as part of their core skills. Meaning they mix and blend for the most part and focus on that. I never liked the term “turntablist,” although I guess it does make sense. Someone classified as such focuses on scratching/tricks/routines in their performance/set often times in addition to mixing, sometimes not much mixing at all. However, the lines are blurring because someone such as Rob Swift plays a cohesive set of music, then goes off into a beat juggle and then brings it back to a scratch routine that sounds like a new form of music without breaking stride. In addition, traditional DJs are incorporating cuts/trick mixing into their sets more and more. A selector is someone not as concerned with beat matching, but more with quality of music. It’s easy to get caught up with what mixes well together instead of what’s the best song I can play at the moment. So, we can all learn from each other.

9) Now that you defined those labels, how about taking a stab at settling a more complex score: vinyl, Serato or digital controllers? What’s the future of DJing?

SB: I would strongly recommend learning on vinyl. Learning how to mix without visual cues is key. Then, you can “earn” the right to use Serato. If you choose to go straight into Serato/Traktor/etc., learn how to mix before you start thinking you are out here doing it! As long as you are good at what you do, it doesn’t matter to me. I will say that vinyl will last a very long time, (albeit in niche markets) due to sound quality, feel and packaging. Digital controllers seem to be the next standard following the Serato era. The future of DJing is somewhat open-ended. I see more buttons, knobs and tidy designs, while purists dive deeper into vinyl collections and analog parties. I did have a dream that I was using a program that instantly loaded any song on a record just by thinking of the song. That would be nice. Ha!

10) I bet there are sonic scientists working on that technology right now…! You mentioned digging deeper into analog options. Have MP3 blogs replaced the mixtape? What are your top 3 music sharing sites?

SB: I love cassettes. I think cassettes are, to a lesser extent, in the same boat as vinyl. They will last because of the sound and the nostalgic format. I’ve noticed DJs in Japan putting out mixes on actual tapes. But CDs are pretty dead. SoundCloud is now the accepted platform. It’s a pretty decent format, but my top 3 music sharing sites are USTREAM, Podomatic & Stickam. I like the addition of live video feeds along with the audio. It’s more personal.

11) Sticking with the web for a sec, your Twitter feed (@shazam_bangles) moves faster than the NYSE stock ticker and yet the quality of your tweets remain top notch. How big a role does social media play in your music?

SB: Thank you for the compliment. I feel like Twitter is a blessing and a curse. I love the fact that you are instantly aware of events and the discussion can be entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time, but it also supports a cheapened sense of value. For example, a trendy rapper will have a million followers while many of the true leaders are relatively unknown. I do use it when I want to write something without as many filters as Facebook for example. Twitter is also the reason we were able to link up with Rob Swift. He heard our Cutz on Cuts broadcast after getting linked by a friend of ours. Social media in general is an undeniable force in music right now, but I have noticed people are getting sick and tired of it. I was thinking the other day: “We should be busy living, not stopping in the middle of life and tweeting about it.” But, I’m as guilty as the next person. It’s not that difficult to promote an event without it, but people are so used to inviting an outrageous amount of people and people are used to finding out about parties this way.

12) In a word, what’s it all about?

SB: HONESTY

Chicago Marathon 2009

How I Prepare For Marathons

Last week I achieved Purple status. Which in Nike+ land, means I logged over 2,500km (1,553mi) since joining NikeRunning.com.

This year I’m training for two marathons: the Illinois Marathon on April 30th and the Chicago Marathon on October 9th. Ramping up my mileage and hitting this Nike+ milestone made me think about all the concerns and questions I had when I ran my first marathon in 2009. I had no idea how to prepare, what to eat, what to buy or how to do it. So today I thought I’d post a blog mapping out the 5 things what worked for me. If you’ve never run a marathon before, hopefully this will help:

1. Strategy

Have a plan and stick to it. Training for a marathon may mean rescheduling plans with family and friends and changing how you book your calendar. Most programs require a commitment of between 40-60 miles per week during peak training. Preparing for the 2010 Chicago Marathon, I downloaded the Nike program developed by Coach Jenny Hadfield, co-owner of Chicago Endurance Sports and columnist for  RunnersWorld.com. It includes different types of runs as well as cross-training days, core strengthening and rest days. If your marathon doesn’t offer a training program, there are tons of great programs available online for beginner marathon runners.

2. Equipment

New sneakers. Get custom fitted at a store like Fleet Feet where they actually watch you run in the shoes before they make recommendations. Resist the temptation to buy the brand you recognize or the coolest colorway. None of that matters. Buy the ones that feel the best. I discovered the New Balance 1060 series (recently replaced by the 1080) years ago and have worn them ever since—they just work for me and my feet. I’ll skip the debate between the barefoot running scene and traditional footwear and just say, invest in two pairs of the same shoes. That way, three-quarters into your training, you can start breaking in a fresh pair in time for the big run.

Wicking wear. Polyester synthetics draw sweat away from your skin, keeping you more comfortable and helping to prevent chaffing. Nike’s Dri-Fit is pretty popular but I get the same results from the less expensive Duo Dry gear from C9 by Champion. In fact, all my running shorts and socks are C9 (although I just bought some Hyper Thin Drymax socks recommended to me by Brynn Freeman and I love ‘em!). Besides moisture-wicking apparel, another good way to avoid “ouchy” parts is generous application of BodyGlide.

Portable Hydration. As your long runs get longer, you’ll need to drink along the way. Water fountains and water bottles work fine for many people. But I hate stopping to wet my whistle and feel completely off-balance running with anything in my hands—even my house keys. So buying a hydration belt made sense for me. For anything longer than 12 miles, I wear a 4-bottle Helium Fuel Belt filled with GSeries Pro 02 Perform Endurance Formula.

I started running with Gatorade instead of water after my marathon friend Brian Kelly pointed out that when training hard, water by itself sweats right out of your body before really having a chance to provide significant hydration. Plus, the Endurance Formula is what’s often served at big marathons and I like the idea of making my training as close to race day as possible.

3. Diet

Food & Drinks. Besides staying hydrated during and after your run, it’s important to “refuel” your muscles too. I always chug a 50g whey protein shake within 30 minutes after a run. But just like running barefoot, I’m not going to try to make any prescriptive recommendations here. If you’re not sure how you should be eating during training, consult a nutritionist, trainer or dietitian. Remember, you’ll be burning thousands of calories on long runs and pushing your body harder and farther than you ever have. So take good care of it and keep track of your eating! My friend Maris Grossman loaned me Michael Pollan’s great little guide called Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual—and that’s pretty much how I eat now.

Another food-related thing is the use of performance energy gels like GU. The science is compelling but I don’t like slurping goop from plastic packets so I gobble the GU Chomps gummy snacks instead. The blueberry pomegranate flavor is pretty tasty.

Finally, don’t do anything stupid before the marathon. People get weird about the last meal they eat the day before the marathon and eat piles of pasta. The key is to keep it light (avoid dairy and heavy sauces) and not introduce something radical you’re not accustomed to eating.

4. Preventative Maintenance

Stretch. Soak. Ice. Massage. I stretch after every run and if it’s more than 6 miles, I like to soak in a hot tub for a while, then ice my knees with ColdOnes. And every month (whether I’m training or not) I treat myself to an hour of deep tissue sports massage. This “proactive pampering” feels great and makes training a whole lot easier!

5. Motivation & Mental Stamina

When the miles get major, nothing’s more critical. Find what works for you. I’ve done almost all my training solo; but other people really love running with a group or partner. Running for a charity is an awesome way to team up with others and raise money for a cause you believe in. There’s great motivation in that. For the same reason, I love running with my iPod Nano and Nike+ for both the music boost and positive feedback from Nike+ athletes. The documentary Spirit of the Marathon always gets me amped to run. I watch it every year:

This blog is dedicated to my good friend Jared Reeder who got me off my ass for the 2009 Chicago Marathon and taught me just about everything I know about running 26.2 miles without stopping. Thanks, man.

Strategist + Storyteller