Buffalo BEAST - Buffalo's New Best Fiend
 

Nov 2 - Nov16, 2005
Issue #87

  ..Buffalo's Best Fiend
   
All Day Suckers
Getting fooled again
Allan Uthman

The Undoucheables
Even Fitzgerald can't cleanse media pussies
Paul jones

All Eyes on Greenland
Global Warming continues to warm the globe
Alexander Zaitchik
Scalito's Way
Supreme Court loses its swing
Donnie Dobovich
Nuclear Terror goes Primetime
But who's watching?

Russ Wellen

Why 2K?
Lucky 200th dead soldier wins free autopsy
Jeff Dean

Slaving You More
A brave new world right next to the salsa
N. Sorrenti
An Evening with Malcolm McLaren
We got to hang out with him & you didn't
Paul Fallon

FAUX-TURES
Ask Kim Jong Il
Advice from the world's most colorful super-villain

LOCAL
Judy, Judy, Judy
An interview w/ Judith Einach, Buffalo's best hopeless Mayoral candidate
Vote for Helfer or He'll Kick Your Ass
The Buffalo News' Illogical Endersement

The BEAST Blog
Irresponsible vitriol on a near-daily basis

[sic] - Letters
Wide Right
Bills Football & other sports
Kino Korner: Movies
Michael Gildea
Page 3
Separated at Birth?
Beast-O-Scopes
 
 Cover Page

COMIX:
Idiot Box
Perry Bible Fellowship
Bob the Angry Flower

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An Evening with Malcolm McLaren
A BEAST Exclusive by Paul Fallon

If I had a key to the city of Buffalo, I would have presented it to Malcolm McLaren on his visit to town last week. His ‘80s hit “Buffalo Girls” alone should be enough to forever endear him to us. Still, McLaren is much more than that. This is the guy who brought us the Sex Pistols, ushered in punk fashion and played a hand in giving us the New York Dolls, Bow Wow Wow, and Adam Ant. When the impresario responsible for unleashing the Pistols comes to Buffalo it should be a big deal. It was for me. The BEAST was there.

It was Wednesday, October 26th, about 2 P.M. I was tending to my usual tasks at BEAST headquarters—begging advertisers for business—when I received an interesting call. The caller said he was a friend of Malcolm McLaren, that the punk icon would be in Buffalo that very evening, and asked if we might like to check it out. “The Malcolm McLaren?” I asked incredulously. “The manager of the Sex Pistols?”

McLaren, he said, would be touching down at The Saturn Club, one of Buffalo’s exclusive social preserves, to give a presentation about a new record company he was putting together. After the presentation there would be a small get-together at Prespa on Delaware. I assumed the posture of a professional journalist, and pumped him for times.

I asked one last, important question: “Who are you?”

“My name is Giles Kavanaugh—Kavanaugh with a ‘K’.”

Kavanaugh said he thought we’d met previously and mentioned he really liked The BEAST. I thanked him for the invite, assured him we’d be there and hung up the phone. Then I ran around looking for someone with whom I could share the news.

That night, BEAST Editor Al Uthman and I headed to The Saturn Club. We arrived early and managed to gain entry without being turned away as unworthy scum. The presentation hadn’t started, but McLaren, glass of red wine in hand, was already passionately expounding on his projects and ideas. McLaren was talking about putting the soundtrack together for a movie, filmed in Austin—get this—a dramatic rendering of Fast Food Nation, directed by Richard Linklater.

More people arrived. The presentation was briefly delayed so that Malcolm could procure a refill.

McLaren’s lastest “punk” venture is something called 8-bit chip music, or “bit-pop.” Much of it is produced by tapping into sound chips of old videogame and computer consoles, and manipulating the sounds programmed therein. It’s not exactly new, and McLaren wrote an article about it two years ago for Wired magazine.

Essentially, the gathering was a pitch, to raise starter money for a new record label. McLaren spoke enthusiastically about the new music to the small crowd of about 50 presumably rich people. “I think mostly that it’s really quite brilliant.”

Through the use of special cartridges designed by enthusiasts and produced in small batches, young musicians around the world are turning Game Boys into 8-bit musical instruments, producing “all the sounds that we once remembered when we first played Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Pac Man and a host of others.” Those early video games, Mclaren insisted, formed the first part of a new interactive pop culture, and a new music genre that rose unpredicted: “How stupid and cynical as human beings we are,” he chided, “not to realize in fact that today, such sounds are coveted by this new generation.”

He played some baroque classical music made by a French teenager using this retro technology, to illustrate “that this is not some cheap gimmick. That it has, as a genre, immeasurable depth and importance.” Other tracks utilized the 8-bit sound in different styles, most commonly reminiscent of techno or new wave. One standout track, a wild dance club version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” was recorded by The Wild Strawberries, an all-girl Chinese band McLaren’s promoting. The group, he said, was “greeted as this unusual and particular thing in China—what they know as kind of ‘post-karaoke’ culture.” The Strawberries took karaoke records they had been raised by their parents to perform to, “you know in their little party frocks every few weeks at some local karaoke lounge, singing those dreadful songs by Elton John or some other.”

McLaren was pitching his new record label, but he said it was about more than his personal plans. “We need to put our focus into what is really powerful in this generation [of kids], one that is unquestionably better informed than any generation…that has come before us.” Music and fashion, he says are two tiny, but vital parts of what “will inevitably lead this generation into a far better understanding of what is going on in this planet.” McLaren believes that this music is going to change culture—in a good way. Rebellion, he says, is the essence of the music’s popularity.

McLaren is obsessed with the idea of karaoke culture. We can’t conceive of growing up in China and being forced to mimic songs, in English, from Western pop culture. He’s adamant, however that doesn’t mean this is an Asian phenomenon. McLaren sees arcane copyright laws as interfering with the progress of the sampling, file-sharing phenomena. He sees the karaoke culture as averse to change and taking risks, averse to the authentic, and the same phenomenon can be observed everywhere. It’s what has caused commercial music, fashion, commentary and culture to become homogeneous and safe. McLaren sees the potential of tapping into the basic human need to be different and recognizing what this implies for shaping new universal cultural phenomena.

McLaren’s talk lasted a little over an hour and we heard a number of interesting sounds from some of his favorite artists. An irredeemable punk, McLaren complained continually about the lousy sound system and our prehistoric confines. Regardless, the drinks were plentiful and the sashimi tuna was superb. Hey, even punks can enjoy haute cuisine on occasion.

When the time came to move on to Prespa, the voluble McLaren had to be dragged out, so engrossed was he in conversation with us. At Prespa, there were people who had missed the presentation, many of whom apparently opted to attend a Kevin Helfer event. Go figure. Nevertheless, McLaren made the rounds amiably, accessible to all who were eager for a word.

It was a heartening experience. The man’s an innovator, pure and simple, and whether it’s punk or 8-bit, he knows it’s about a lot more than just music and fashion. It’s about not being afraid to challenge the status quo and recognizing new movements at their inception.

Maybe it was just a few drinks with another aging punk who’s not yet willing to go quietly into the sunset. Either way, it was an excellent time.

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