In DanceHall, Kingston leads, New York follows.
Ele, Ele, Ele!” someone shouts across the West Side photo studio. But Elephant Man, Jamaica’s next dancehall superstar, who’s offering dance lessons to some journalists and hangers-on, barely notices. The dances are surprisingly sweet and old-fashioned: One looks like it could have been borrowed from the Temptations. “There are new dances invented in Jamaica every week,” explains one of his entourage. “We count on Ele to teach us all of them.” This good-natured sensibility is at the heart of Elephant Man’s appeal, but it’s his delivery that sets him apart. The songs on his upcoming album Good 2 Go are full of oddball, Tourette’s-like ticks—coughs, hiccups, and heavy doses of nonsense words like (memo to Snoop: He didn’t cop this from you) “shizzle!”
“I’m always looking to extend my style, my vocal patterns,” Elephant Man (as a child in Kingston, he was teased about the size of his ears) says, finally sitting down. “I want to have the craziest style in the universe.”
And he knows where he’ll find his audience. “New York has always had the greatest vibe,” Elephant Man says. “Even on my first trip here, in 1994, when I played out at a tiny place in Queens called Q-Club, the crowds were ready for me. After the show, the Wu even invited me to their mansion!” He brushes a yellow-colored braid from his face. “Now I think the world is ready for me, too.” —Ethan Brown
The Bitter End
Legend, yes; “Empire State Building,” no.
Scraggly, chain-smoking, infinitely influential experimental composer Glenn Branca, 54, was a founding member of the seventies No Wave movement, the source of “the idea that New York musicians can’t play their instruments,” Branca says with some pride. The symphonies he writes these days (and conducts with an intoxicatingly spastic dance) are complex, exciting, and as innovative as ever.
YOU MUST MAKE IT HERE: “I said I was sick of New York in 1985. Now I’m more sick of it than ever. How can I put it? I can’t afford to get the hell out of here, frankly. You pretty much have no choice, no matter how much of a shithole this may be. The kind of stuff that I wanted to do in Boston was out of the question. The audiences would have walked out. But in New York, they loved it! They wanted more! The more fucked-up, the better.”
NOW AND THEN: “I really think there is a kind of poverty of creativity at the moment. The city is a playground for the rich. I mean, maybe it always was, maybe I just didn’t notice.”
PATRONAGE SAINTS: “It seems as though the rich have created their own art world, which is entirely separate from the rest of the world, and now they even create their own artists. I mean, an artist like Matthew Barney. Matthew Barney is of and about the world of the rich. In his last film, he was destroying Rolls-Royces, right? I mean, Jesus God, where is this money coming from?”
LOW-PROFILE LIFE: “I’m expected, because I have a certain reputation or notoriety, to become a New York institution, to make myself available to the tourists. I think John Zorn has done an amazing job at that. You come to New York, you see John Zorn. I can’t do that. I’m not the Empire State Building! If I was dead, no one would be bugging me.”
Royalty in the capital of excess.
Princess Superstar, née Concetta Kirschner, was born on 172nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. After a few years in suburban- Pennsylvanian exile, she fought her way back to New York to reinvent herself as the self-crowned head of dirty-mouthed hip-hop.
FEAR FACTOR: “My first gig as Princess Superstar was at the Pyramid. I was so scared, I stood completely still in the middle of the stage and did the whole show like that.”
UPTOWN VS. DOWNTOWN: “Uptown, someone will come up to me and say, ‘You look like a movie star!’ Downtown, they say, ‘I’m a movie star.’ Or, ‘Oh, wait, maybe you’re a star—can you help me?’ ”
IS NEW YORK STILL SEXY? “Hell, yeah. I’m living here.”
Afrobeat is alive and well and living in Bushwick.
‘The headquarters” is in Bushwick, on a street dotted with Rottweiler-guarded auto-repair shops—the clubhouse–frat house–recording studio–political hub of the fourteen members of Afrobeat band Antibalas, passionate disciples of Fela, the Nigerian singer who gave birth to the Afrobeat genre and used it as a platform for espousing his political views. Antibalas, similarly, set their politics to a horn section and a James Brownish, polyrhythmic beat. They’re at work on their third studio album and preparing for an appearance at the World Music Expo in Spain.
ROCK THE VOTE: “The music is inherently political,” says drummer-percussionist Dylan Fusillo. “We’ve definitely fought a lot amongst ourselves trying to answer questions about what we’re trying to do. Everybody is very much against war, the military-industrial complex, the Bush administration, and commercialization. I don’t want to say the obvious progressive-liberal shit, but definitely the obvious progressive-liberal shit. We’re not revolutionaries, and we’re very conscious of that. We’re musicians and that’s all. But it’s political music. Anything that gets people off their asses a little bit is kind of political.”
FELA AMERICANS: “If a few people buy a Fela record, they’ll learn a little bit about what he went through,” says trombonist Aaron “A.J.” Johnson. “His life could really open someone’s eyes as to how easy Americans have it.” “Here we spend 30 hours without power,” Fusillo adds, “and it’s a fucking disaster. People are making T-shirts about it. Liberia’s been in a fucking blackout for 40 years and they don’t get any T-shirts for it.”
FOOD FIGHTS: “When we’re on the road,” says Fusillo, “we spend a lot of time fighting about where to eat, because there’s so many dudes traveling together. It’s like summer camp, in a way.” “The best restaurant,” bassist Nick Movshon says to a chorus of approval from his bandmates, “is Matamoros on Bedford Avenue.” To Johnson, it’s “Dok Suni, the Korean place on First Avenue. My God, I love that place.” “Pakistan Tea House,” keyboardist Victor Axelrod chimes in. Tenor saxophonist Stuart Bogie’s pick: “The Diner on Broadway, in Williamsburg.” Adds Bogie, “Sometimes you’ll walk into a restaurant with a dude, then you just look away. You’re ready to kill this guy already, and now you have to watch him eat! Or, even worse, hear him eat.”
Yo La Tengo
Heaven, Hell, Or Hoboken?
Manhattan Bohemia’s colony to the west.
Yo La Tengo is the most enduring band in indie rock, helmed for nineteen years by Ira Kaplan and his drummer wife, Georgia Hubley, Hoboken’s answer to Thurston and Kim. Since leaving Manhattan in the mid 1980s, the two have lived a lifestyle almost as suburban as their surroundings, coasting into their forties in an old Buick, watching The Simpsons, listening to jazz. And in the eleven years since they picked up bassist and Brooklynite James McNew, they’ve done a slow swan dive from their early Velvet Underground–inspired, dissonant indie rock to a blissful, jazzy, soul-searching sound.
BEYOND PUNK: “I started going to shows at CBGB when it was the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television,” says Kaplan. “People thought these were the next Beatles and Rolling Stones, that the Ramones were going to have hit records any day now. Like, everyone here knows how great ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’ is—it’s only a matter of weeks until it’s coming out of every radio. It really felt that way. What I liked about it was that was only one side of things. Television and the Talking Heads were dressed normally. Even the word punk didn’t describe a genre of music but was a euphemism for the underground.
PAPER BOY: “Writing for the Soho News was my first job,” says Kaplan. “And I was pretty proud to be part of New York Rocker, but I didn’t do much music writing after that folded. Soon after, I was working at Maxwell’s, and with a friend of mine from New York Rocker, I was doing a series of shows at Folk City, mostly in 1982. We were the first non-punk venue to book Hüsker Dü, and we had an amazing show with Sonic Youth and the Meat Puppets. But the club started getting in trouble with their neighbors and had to stop having loud music and go back to being a folk venue.”
Is this year’s model a New Yorker?
A flurry of recent Elvis sightings—not Presleyan but Costelloid—in Manhattan has led to speculation that pop music’s great overachiever has taken up residence here. But Costello is resolutely unrevealing on this matter. Perhaps revealingly so. “That’s privileged information,” he says. “I’m not at liberty to tell you.” Got it.
“I remember coming to New York for the first time quite clearly, and it being as powerful and mythic an experience as it is in films and songs,” he says of the early, oxygen-depleting club tours with the Attractions. By the eighties, Costello was headlining Madison Square Garden (“We played so much the wrong set for the venue. Perversity. It was a dreadful night”), but it’s the old Palladium on East 14th that he loved best. “That was just a ferocious treat then,” he says. “You knew you were somewhere.” Visiting Nick Lowe once in his dressing room there, Costello was shocked to stumble upon Andy Warhol (“I mean, what the fuck?”).
To Costello, New York is a safe place. “The only time I ever felt a bit anxious was once when the pavement was frozen in ice, and I became aware that I couldn’t get away quickly—that if someone asked me for my wallet, I’d probably have to give it to him.
“But I feel at ease, strangely enough, in such a teeming place,” he continues. “It’s so tumultuous, but at the most unlikely hours, it can all fall away. And that experience is repeated at different times, in different emotional circumstances. It is a properly evocative place.”—George Kalogerakis
A southern rocker raises the bar.
At Black & White, the East Village bar owned by his best friend and drummer, Johnny T, alt-country pioneer Ryan Adams, 28, is ripping through a pack of American Spirits and watching his girlfriend, Parker Posey, Rollerblade around the room. The high-school dropout from North Carolina founded Whiskeytown—think Raleigh’s Nirvana—when he was 19. By the time of the inevitable breakup, Adams was living in New York. His third solo album, Rock n’ Roll, is out on November 4.
BRIGHT LIGHTS: “I always knew I wanted to live here. When I was 18 or 19, I came up to play a gig at Under Acme. You always see those refinery fields with the lights on them in the distance, and I kept saying, ‘Is that New York?’ The first thing I did here was buy a tall boy and sit on the corner of Great Jones and Broadway going, ‘Fuck! Dang!’ I was just freaked out.”
DRINKING LIFE: “I hang out at Black & White and Niagara [a bar co-owned by his other best friend, singer-songwriter Jesse Malin]. They’re not bars to me—it’s like extended living rooms. It would be the same if my two best friends ran flower shops. Then I’d probably be into botany.”
Life With John
The Dakota as good memory motel.
Her hair is still black, her glasses still rectangular, except now she is 70, born the same year Adolf Hitler took over Germany. This is late in the game to have a No. 1 dance track, but Yoko Ono, who finished recording the original, unremixed version of “Walking on Thin Ice” hours before her husband, John Lennon, was shot dead in front of their Dakota-apartment home in 1980, is a singular little old lady. Daughter of a wealthy Japanese banker (the emperor’s sons were her classmates), survivor of the Tokyo firebombing, often deeply underappreciated visual and aural artist, real-estate magnate (asked if she’s bought up all the Dakota apartments, she says, “Not yet”), Yoko has lived a life.
“My situation now … is … unique,” she says in her softly accented voice as she sits, a tiny, oddly nervous woman in a forest-green sweater, on a giant snow-white couch in an art-filled, sun-swept living room that overlooks Strawberry Fields, where the vendors hawk postcards of John wearing his famous New York City T-shirt. It isn’t anything you get used to, “this strange type of fame,” says Yoko.
This is one of the reasons she is so gratified by the success of “Walking on Thin Ice,” she says. When they laid down the track, John turned to her and said, “This is going to be your first No. 1 hit.”
It’s satisfying, too, since despite the griping about Yoko’s supposed tuneless caterwauling back in the Day, the Plastic Ono Band material has aged better than much of the later Beatles catalogue, not to mention vast chunks of Paul McCartney’s oeuvre. “I never thought of it just as screaming,” Yoko says, adding that she’ll be calling The Guinness Book of World Records to make sure that she is the oldest artist ever to have a No. 1 dance hit.
Not that she plans to return to the stage. Rather, her days are often spent “working 10 o’clock until 5” on legal and commercial aspects of Lennon’s never-ending career. With the advent of the Iraq war, Yoko thought of restaging the couple’s famous anti-Vietnam War “bed-in.” “But I thought, How can I do this without John? I considered using a cardboard John. But that would not be very nice. And who wants to stay in a bed for a week by yourself?”
Yoko likes to take long walks in Central Park. Does it bother her to pass the tourists who congregate around the “Imagine” mosaic at Strawberry Fields? She sighs. “Perhaps people think it is morbid, me still living here … They look up to my window and think, Oh, she’s right up there. While they’re looking up, that’s when I go by, very quickly.”
Then Yoko smiles again, wryly and winningly. If John had lived, would they still be together, celebrating Yoko’s surprise No. 1? There were so many nasty stories about sleeping around, but in the end, their love affair—two immigrant artists in the city because this was the best, maybe only, place for them—remains one of the great love stories in New York music.
My audience up, standing by the door next to Yoko’s sculpture of a dozen blue Siamese cats with yellow glowing eyes, I tell her: “You know, my wife was the biggest Beatle fan. From the beginning. She really loved them.”
“Oh,” Yoko says, almost with a wince. “Does she hate me?”
It is an old saw: that Yoko used some avant art spell to steal John’s rock-and-roll heart and break up the world’s most beloved band. “No,” I say. “She said that anyone who made John Lennon happy must be a very good person.”
Yoko looks relieved. She extends her hand, touches mine. “Thank her for that, please.” —Mark Jacobson
Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Older, Not Dirtier
The Wu-Tang legend looks back. But the view isn’t exactly clear.
Amid the variegated chambers of the Wu, home to RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard—a.k.a. Big Baby Jesus, Joe Bananas, Dirt McGirt, Osirus, and the Unique Ason—has always been the major off-angle, the Clan’s most arresting and arrested member, the Ringo of the group.
“Sometimes I was the clown, sometimes I was the thug, that was what I was,” says ODB, yawning, his diamond-encrusted gold teeth glinting in the dim room light of the Rockland County “luxury rental condominium.” Usually Dirty can be found under watchful eye at his mom’s house in Brooklyn, where he has lived since his release from prison last spring. But Mom, recently married, was on her honeymoon, so the Dirt found himself transported to this manufactured suburban nowhere for “a vacation.” Soon to turn 35, about 200 in rap years, he needed the rest. He was very, very tired, he said.
It has, after all, been a hectic decade for the erstwhile Russell Jones. Father of many children, ODB has a police record that’s equally fecund. It got to be joke after a while, the rapid-fire busts for crack, missing child support, driving without license plates, wearing “body armor” (ex-felons can’t wear bulletproof vests, even if they’ve been shot several times, like Dirty). Hip-hop is lousy with talkers, but few take it to the wall like ODB, who recorded the scabrously entertaining Nigga Please on the lam, later turning up onstage with his Wu brothers at Hammerstein Ballroom while the object of a nationwide manhunt—only to be caught outside a Philadelphia McDonald’s. With the hip-hop mags fearing for his well-documented tenuous mental condition, jail did not agree with the rapper.
“Some ups and downs, but I feel good about being a legend,” remarks the still-handsome Dirt, sitting stiffly on the condo couch, fingering his Five Percenter pendant as he watches Mrs. Doubtfire on TV. Once a more manically profane Redd Foxx, ODB rarely exceeds a sentence in his responses these days. No matter; he is in the midst of an improbable comeback, making a disc for Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella label and an MTV pilot called Everybody Loves Dirty, a nice bookend to the infamous MTV spot in which he took a limo to cash his welfare check. There is also a new line of Dirt McGirt–wear, jeans and athletic shirts, “the usual stuff,” ODB says.
Still, perhaps fearing fun deficiency in the Dirt aspect, Jarred Weisfeld, his current co-manager (and producer of the MTV series, which he calls “an urban Osbournes”), tries to open up his reticent client.“Drop some Dirtyisms on us. What’s your favorite part of a woman?” the manager cajoles the notoriously lascivious rapper. After some prodding, ODB blurts the name of a prominent private part and follows it with a quick jab of laughter. Then, after returning to Mrs. Doubtfire for a moment, Dirty shouts, “Jarred! Sushi!,” which means he wants Weisfeld to drive to the local Japanese restaurant.
After saying that when he is old and “sitting on his porch,” he will tell his grandchildren “I was a rapper for a living”—not that they’ll know what that is, “because rap will be gone with the wind like everything else”—ODB excuses himself to go into the other room, where he sits on his bed and slowly lights a cigarette. He takes a puff, coughs awhile, and then sighs. —Mark Jacobson
Just Plain Folk
Keepin’ it real on the UWS.
After more than twenty years on the scene, Suzanne Vega is the epitome of the New York singer-songwriter, not only a throwback to a time when Joan and Bob strummed solemn chords at Gerde’s Folk City but also a New Yorker who’s made an ordinary life here—she can be found weekday mornings on the Upper West Side, loading her daughter on the school bus.
SALON KEEPER: “I go to the folk singer Jack Hardy’s house on Monday nights and hear a lot of different songwriters there. That’s an important part of the New York scene—it’s just that it’s not available for purchasing at the moment. There isn’t anything else like it. When I go there, I know people will notice the melody, the metaphors, the alliteration—they’ll hear everything and notice everything. Many of the songs on the first album were influenced by Jack’s style of writing. There are other songs that feature him as a character; he’s the one I had the midnight picnic with in ‘Tom’s Diner.’ ”
SOUNDS AND THE CITY: “New York inspires abstractly. There are specific songs that are New York–influenced—Luka lived here, Tom’s Diner is here. In other songs, there’s a sense of humor, or a sense of privacy or intellectualism, that comes from growing up here.”
A Hard Day’s Stroke
A fan’s guide to New York’s new Beatles.
Julian Casablancas, front man, 25
PEDIGREE: Blames father, Elite Modeling Agency founder John Casablancas (who divorced his Danish-model mother and shacked up with Stephanie Seymour), for his misery.
WHAT’S TO LOVE? The group’s sole songwriter and biggest boozer (he spent eight months in rehab during high school). Used to puke before most shows. Can school almost anyone in chess and billiards. Lives with Albert. Sometimes styles hair with beer.
SOUND BITE: “Looking relaxed makes me feel weird.”
The Hotheaded Pretty Boy
Nick Valensi, guitar, 22
PEDIGREE: Raised by mother on Upper East Side.
WHAT’S TO LOVE? Tall and cocky. Has given up—for now—fighting with hecklers. Girlfriend dumped him for former Weezer bassist. Dates ex-wife of Duran Duran’s John Taylor, Amanda De Cadanet. Claims, believably, never to have made his own bed.
SOUND BITE: “I’d like to think that we’re all fucking classy guys, you know, like sort of fucking gentlemen, and not some fucking crass American rock band.”
The Genial Clotheshorse
Albert Hammond Jr., guitar, 23
PEDIGREE: Son of Los Angeles songwriter Albert Hammond. Met Julian doing 6 a.m. runs in the snow at a militaristic Swiss boarding school.
WHAT’S TO LOVE? Big, big hair. Arbiter of the group’s fashion and musical tastes. Like Stevie Ray Vaughan, sometimes Superglues his raw fingertips to his arm to rip off fresh skin.
SOUND BITE: “If we’re up there with Britney or Justin, that’s what it’s about. If you don’t dream big, what’s the point?”
The Intellectual Dreamboat
Fabrizio Moretti, drums, 23
PEDIGREE: Born in Rio; met Julian and Nick at the Dwight School.
WHAT’S TO LOVE? Calls girlfriend Drew Barrymore “one of the most perfect people I’ve ever met.” Twice hosted Christmas for the boys at his apartment. Is Julian’s favorite target for biting and dry-humping. Compulsive doodler and accomplished sculptor. Throws Latin into everyday conversation.
SOUND BITE: “I’d be an ignorant fool if I didn’t realize that Julian is primus inter pares.”
Nikolai Fraiture, bass, 24
PEDIGREE: Met Julian at Le Lycée Française at age 6.
WHAT’S TO LOVE? Seeks out the darkest corner upon entering any room. Considers Jung and Dostoyevsky pleasure reading. Lives with brother in parents’ old apartment on 84th Street. Is lookout for Al and Jules when they piss on the street.
SOUND BITE: “I would pay to go to see the Strokes. We would be my favorite band.”
The Sixth Stroke
Ryan Gentles, manager, 25
WHAT’S TO LOVE? Roomed with Fab. Gets a sixth of the band’s money. Looks like Nikolai, only much, much smaller.
Holden Caulfield Was Never Like This
The singer as seeker.
Talk about the duality of man: Rufus Wainwright can evoke both heartbreaking innocence and startling debauchery within just a few lines of a song. His new album, Want One (out this week), was written as he got over a drug habit: “I had to go through my own personal September 11 and heal myself a little bit,” he says. “So I seem to be in the same biorhythm as this city.”
MY KIND OF TOWN: “I have to live in New York for many reasons: I like eating food at two in the morning, I’m gay, and I’m totally addicted to architecture. I used to come to New York on the weekends. I went to Millbrook, and a lot of my friends had Park Avenue apartments. So I’d come here as much as I could to check out everybody’s private elevators. I think my first impression of New York was that it was really gay. I didn’t quite know what it was at the time, but I definitely remember it being very sexually charged.”
LET’S DO THE TIME WARP: “One goes through a lot of time warps in this city. You can hang out with Edith Wharton, and then spend the afternoon with Dorothy Parker—or you can go to Starbucks. I first lived on Park and 82nd, with a Broadway producer, a couple. I lived in the maid’s room and would do errands for them and play piano at their cocktail parties. It was a very Six Degrees of Separation lifestyle. I was also working at the Film Forum and at the Lion’s Head. A lot of my feeling then was a sort of Holden Caulfield Waspy alienation. I would wander alone around the West Village, around Bleecker Street, and go to Caffe Reggio. It was a bit lonely. But I got that full dose of the uptown society women getting really drunk and hitting on me and telling me that they liked anal sex, too. That was kind of interesting.”
BABY, PLEASE DON’T GO: “I moved to L.A. to do my first record, but after my second one, I moved back to New York in earnest and stayed in the Chelsea Hotel for about a year. I started playing gigs at bars—as in just drinking with friends. I really do believe that socializing in New York is itself kind of a performance. I was here after 9/11. I was maybe gonna move to Paris, and the kind of reaction I got was, Please don’t leave, we need you! And I think that’s in a weird way where you’ve got to live, where you’re needed. And we live in kind of a damaged place, so part of this is an obligation. And part of it is, you know, the center of the world. At times. It’s the center of all of the bullshit of the world, too.”
FAVORITE THINGS: For live music, the Bottom Line, Fez, the Living Room, and Arlene’s Grocery. For home listening, “Radiohead’s new album is great. I like Sigur Rós when I can’t sleep. And my sister, Martha, is an undervalued, underappreciated artist right now. She should have her fair share.” For eating, Souen. For going out, “I used to love the Cock, but I haven’t gone there in a long time. I’m trying to move up in that department. I love Chez Es Saada on East 1st Street. Veselka seems to be timeless for me. And you definitely need to be somewhere timeless when you’re drinking a lot of coffee.”
This Ain’t No Disco
LCD Soundsystem’s star succeeds by staying small.
James Murphy is contemplating the coming backlash. He’s standing over the most recent issue of Time Out New York, which rests on a fold-out table in his label’s crowded corner office on West 13th Street. A review of a new album by the Rapture—DFA’s premier band—ends with the line “The backlash starts here.”
Murphy, whose band LCD Soundsystem skewers the cool crowd’s pretensions, relishes the dis as song fodder. “I’m working on a song called ‘Here Comes the Backlash,’ ” he says, laughing, “so this is perfect.” He then turns slightly serious. “The backlash thing is so easy,” he explains. “I mean, I love the Strokes. I know that ten years from now, I’ll be barbecuing for my kids in a KISS THE COOK APRON and a Strokes record will come on the radio and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, that was great.’ And then I’ll say, ‘Don’t hit your sister!’ ” He doubles over laughing.
It’s this sly, self-lacerating sense of humor that made LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” one of the best singles of 2002. In the song, Murphy plays a past-his-prime hipster (himself before DFA took off, Murphy says) who spins one exaggerated tale of coolness after another. But it’s Murphy and partner Tim Goldsworthy’s inventive remixes and productions for bands like the Rapture, Le Tigre, and Metro Area that have made DFA the New York scene’s most in-demand producers.
The basement recording studios are packed haphazardly with vintage musical instruments like “Fun Machine,” a keyboard from the seventies that makes Kraftwerkesque sounds. An adjoining room is for recording “disco hand claps.” This sense of musical sprawl is the key to the DFA’s unique sound, which is simultaneously disco, punk, funk. And it’s why stars like Janet Jackson are calling: “She said [affects whispery Jackson voice], ‘I like your sound. It’s simple and it’s funky.’ ” Murphy worries, though. “With the big artists, it’s [affects gruff manager’s voice]: ‘She’ll be there from two to four. Make something funky.’ I can’t do that.”
This ethic means that a major-label deal for DFA is probably out of the question, too. “This is a real democracy,” he explains. “Any one of us can refuse to do something, even without a valid reason. Our goals are modest. I want to own a home, not rent a Hummer. We can do this forever as long as we keep our heads straight.” —Ethan Brown
Hanna and Her Sisters
In NYC, girls rule too.
The original riot grrrl, Kathleen Hanna moved to New York from Olympia, Washington (by way of North Carolina), in 1998, the same year her hugely influential feminist rock band Bikini Kill broke up. Since then, her music as the leader of electronic act Le Tigre, which mixes fun, danceable beats with savvy lyrics straight out of Queer Theory 101, has been no less political. But Hanna—who lives in the West Village with her longtime boyfriend, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz—can most often be found relaxing over a game of Scrabble or squiring her beloved dog Freddy around town.
ART ROCK “I took the train up to go to Apex Art to see this Laura Cottingham movie about seventies feminist art called Not for Sale,” says Hanna. “It’s my total thing, being obsessed with seventies feminist art—and eighties and nineties. It was ten hours from Durham to New York, and I went and saw it five times. I was like, I have to move to New York because I have to be near this.”
HER FIRST TIME “I was in Bikini Kill, and I remember being like, Oh, yeah, this is CBGB’s, I’ve read about this in books, it’s supposed to be this big deal. And then backstage was the size of a phone booth covered in vomit, and I was like, This is the fabulous CBGB’s? And everyone there was so rude.”
SUB POP “One time I was going out to that Mermaid Festival in Coney Island. I was wearing my bikini and I had my headphones on, and it was one of those perfect moments when the subway comes up out of the ground and the light hits you in the face. I knew I was going to the beach and I was going to ride a roller coaster and I was really excited. That moment is what I write for. I want to write the perfect thing to be on someone’s headphones when they come out of the subway into the light.”
Jon Spencer, Cristina Martinez
They Are Family
From sleaze to parenthood—and sometimes back.
The sexy, dark-haired power couple formerly of influential eighties artcore band Pussy Galore, Jon Spencer, who heads the reunited and now-touring Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Cristina Martinez, who fronts their band Boss Hog, now have had a son, Charlie, 6, and have moved to Gramercy Park. But they still love New York’s underbelly.
No sleep till Chinatown
C.M.: “Our very first experience when we were looking for an apartment in 1985 was, we were driving down Bleecker Street looking for Mott. We pulled over to ask somebody, and it was Mike D and Adam Horovitz. We said, ‘Hey, do you know where Mott Street is?’ and they said, ‘Yeah, can we get in? We’ll show you where it is.’ So they got in our car and we drove them to Chung King.”
Dreams of sleaze
J.S.: “I grew up in New Hampshire, in the country, and the image of the city was of a dirty, dangerous place. When I was in college, I’d come to New York and wander around the East Village aimlessly. The things you could find!”
C.M.: “We spent many summer nights hanging out on the sidewalk in front of CBGB’s and sneaking in through the back door.”
Six and the city
C.M.: “Unfortunately, Charlie hates New York. It’s embarrassing. We’ll be on vacation, driving through, like, Maryland, where Jon’s brother lives, and he’ll be sitting in the car going, ‘This is really great! You have such beautiful trees!’ But the other day, he said, ‘It’s not so bad, I guess.’ So I think he’s coming around.”
Old friends, bikes, and a lot of rocks.
Some 30 people—designers, window washers, event planners—are frantically readying the unfinished Haitian-themed meatpacking-district lounge P.M. for a private party (it has yet to open), but hip-hop’s reigning goodwill ambassador, Wyclef Jean (whose new album, The Preacher’s Son, comes out on J Records on October 28), is just watching, his arms spread over the leather booth like he owns the place. Well, technically, his childhood friend Unique owns the place, but they’re so tight, Clef explains, “if he’s opening a place, it’s my place. It’s like, if I pull up in a Ferrari, he’s like, ‘Yo, where’s the keys?’ If he crash the car, it don’t matter. We can buy another car.”
AIR APPARENT: “I’m coming from Haiti. I’m on American Airlines. We’re about to go to JFK, and the pilot turns off all the lights. To a 9-year-old kid, New York looked like the land of diamonds.”
FREE RIDE: “In Coney Island, the best thing to do to escape the misery was going to the amusement park. You have the roller coaster that’s probably still broken. You’ve got this one ride, Hellhole, you go in it and you stand. Whenever I had a chance, I would go. You free your mind, you know what I’m saying?”
FIRED UP: “When I was 15, I worked in RCA’s mailroom for a year. Just out of curiosity, I read somebody’s mail. It looked like a pink slip, and I was praying the person got fired because they were such an asshole. So I accidentally—well, not accidentally, I opened it, definitely—and I got fired.”
WHEELS OF FORTUNE: “My motorcycle crew’s the Refugee Riders. We go all over—135 miles an hour on the West Side Highway at 2 a.m. We got jackets. And I got a crew that I ride with in Jersey called Cowboys. I got a Spiderman motorcycle.”
LAND OF DIAMONDS: Who made the giant diamond ring on Jean’s right pinkie? “That’s my man, Jacob the Jeweler. He brings the imagination to the jewelry. Just the energy of what he comes with.”
A Band Hits the Big Time, via the L.I.E.
How much Mcdonald’s does a million dollars buy?
The swag in their dank Roseland dressing room may consist of a pack of gum and a bag of chips—both half-eaten when they got there—but even as the opening band for Dashboard Confessional, Levittown natives Brand New look the part of emo’s next hope. Their second album, Deja Entendu, has sold 95,000 copies since June, and though they take the stage at 7:30, the packed and crowd-surfing house is singing the band’s heartbroken prose poems so loud that singer Jesse Lacey just stops.
GUIDING LIGHT Lacey: “Playing New York is one way you can really gauge how you’re growing. We played Brownie’s and there were like ten people, and the next time it was half-full and the next time it was sold out. Now you get up onstage at Roseland and you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s not very roomy.’ ”
LEAN DAYS Guitarist Vin Accardi: “When we were making our first record, I was leaving high school, working at a restaurant until midnight, driving straight to the city to record tracks, and driving straight from the city to school in the morning.” Lacey: “Touring, we used to have three cars. We finally got our own van, but it didn’t have fenders. The radiator was totally exposed.”
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY Their recent deal with DreamWorks is estimated at more than $1 million. Lacey: “You get paid in lump sums, and you’re just going to go on tour again and, like, eat McDonald’s and live on a bus. You don’t spend at all.”
Straight Into Brooklyn
Andre 3000 plots a move.
In the greenroom for a taping of BET’s video countdown show 106 and Park, Dre, one half of OutKast, drops a bomb: He’s moving to Brooklyn. This would be stunning news on any other day. To start with, Big Boi and Dre (an artist who’s currently known as Andre 3000) are both proud Atlantans who virtually invented the “Dirty South” hip-hop movement. Today, however, the announcement is even more surprising: A few days before, Dre told the New York Times he’d set up shop in Los Angeles. “L.A. is like a big-ass vacation,” he says, shaking his head. “New York City’s just the opposite. It won’t let you sit on your ass. I spent three days in New York after the Video Music Awards and I just fell in love with it. I walked around downtown and just took in all the people. It’s like a big-ass melting pot.”
He’s looking at brownstones in Brooklyn and searching for the right music class. “I tried to play a little sax on the album, and it was like”he makes a bleating, discordant noise. “I don’t want a tutor. I’ve got to be in a class, with people who are all struggling with the same thing.”
Then he does a little hip-swaying dance to Chingy’s “Right Thurr,” which is playing on TV. He looks at me and nods his head encouragingly. Suddenly, I’m dancing with Dre.
A moment later, a pair of BET production assistants burst in. It’s showtime. “Y’all know OutKast?” the show’s host barks to huge cheers. But first I’ve got to know: Where in Brooklyn is Dre going to put down roots? “Clinton Hill,” he says as he’s hustled out the door. Clinton Hill will never be the same.