One of my regular tasks at STUFF Magazine involved interviewing artists and other celebrities slated for an appearance in Boston metropolitan area. Two of these interview transcripts are viewable below.
I. ERIC PRYDZ
Back in 2004, a little-known Swedish DJ/producer named Eric Prydz took a vocal sample from a Steve Winwood song ("Valerie"), laid down some fat beats, and released a floorboard-busting single: "Call On Me." It ripped through clubs like a torpedo, earning Prydz international recognition among electronic music lovers. And its unforgettable music video has garnered more than 35 million views on YouTube, thanks in no small part to its cast of shapely aerobics students in '80s thong leotards. (As former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair put it, "The first time it came on, I nearly fell of my rowing machine.")
Since then, Prydz has become an esteemed regular at festivals across Europe, and he recently finished his long-awaited first artist album, Eric Prydz Presents Pryda, a three-disc set that incorporates both new tracks and previously released bangers. And this summer, he'll be sweeping the States as the headliner of the 2012 Identity Festival, a multi-stage EDM throwdown that hits the Comcast Center on Thursday, July 26. We caught up with Prydz to discuss America's dance scene, music trends, and the road ahead.
How does it feel to headline a show in America, where the EDM scene is so young?
It feels great! I can't wait to get back to the US. During my last visit in 2008, the EDM scene in America was very underground, so the people who came to the shows knew exactly which DJs were playing and were really excited.
I've read that you have a fear of flying. How are you handling all the travel for the tour?
It's still a big problem for me. I need to be heavily medicated. Luckily, it's only one flight to North America and then back to Europe. Most of this tour is going to be done by bus.
You just released a proper album, which is a relative rarity in today's EDM scene. What's an album that remains an influence on your music?
I would say Speak & Spell by Depeche Mode. I must have listened to it at least a few thousand times. I still love the format of the album. It's not about throwing 10 banging tracks on one disc, but recording a collection that flows as a whole. Each track has to make sense.
Your music has taken you to exotic locales. What's one of your favorite places to perform?
Location-wise, Ibiza is very cool because you don't play to a singular crowd of people. Not just the Spanish, not just the English, but a great mixed group bound by dance music, which is very special. The whole vibe is very out of the ordinary.
What can festival-goers expect from the Identity tour?
We've got a new stage and lighting setup, and the lineup is very well-rounded in style and age: Paul van Dyk, Nero, Madeon. I'm really looking forward to it.
How has the EDM scene changed since you started?
The Internet has changed music massively. Back when I released my first records, it was all about vinyl. There was more quality control then. People couldn't just release new tracks. There was all this red tape: record contracts, distribution, etc. And I think that gave music a much longer lifespan, which it no longer has now. After two weeks, a track is considered old, which is just crazy! Look at the difference between physical and digital music releases. Ninety percent of all music is now downloaded instantly via platforms like iTunes.
When you look at your contemporaries, who do you think rises to the gold standard of EDM?
I'm very hard to please. [Laughs] I'd say Trentemøller, Daft Punk - anyone who makes original sounds and doesn't try to follow trends. Let's say someone develops a cool new bass line: everyone jumps on that and tries to make the same track. It's a bit frustrating. Why should I listen to a Deadmau5 track if I can hear 15 others just like it, with only a few little changes? They're all chasing what other people are doing.
What's next, after the tour?
After North America, I'll be heading straight to Ibiza for September, and then I'm taking some time off to relax. Everyday stuff, that's a luxury for me: going grocery shopping, having dinner with close friends, or just sitting at home and having nothing to do. Maybe I'll rent a movie or go down to the park. It's nice not having a schedule!
II. MARJANE SATRAPI
Many of us remember our lives in pictures. So does Marjane Satrapi. Over the last decade, the Iranian author, illustrator, and filmmaker has received international acclaim for raising the profile of the graphic novel, a medium that can pack a powerful punch without a single "POW!" By turns humorous and haunting, her breakout autobiographical work, Persepolis, chronicled Satrapi's turbulent youth before and after the rise of the Islamic republic. Now based in France, Satrapi has since adapted Persepolis into an Oscar-nominated animated film and published additional graphic works, including Chicken with Plums, which depicts the final days of her musically gifted great-uncle, Nasser Ali Khan.
We caught up with Satrapi to discuss her life, her love of drawing, and the present state of her homeland. But you can catch up with her yourself at An Evening with Artist, Author, and Filmmaker Marjane Satrapi. On April 25 and 26, she'll make a rare stateside appearance at the Museum of Fine Arts, giving two 6:30 p.m. lectures about her fascinating life and work.
When did you begin drawing? And when did you decide to tell the story of Persepolis visually?
Well, everybody draws as children, but at the age of 10, 45 percent usually stop - kind of like natural selection. I've always been drawing, never really finished. I began Persepolis five years after I moved to France to put a face on Iranian people, because there are so many misunderstandings and prejudices.
Your illustrating style is both impressionistic and stark, like a newspaper cartoon.
For Persepolis, I tried to write via drawing. Knowing that I was going to make a story full of words, it was extremely important to go slow and sober. Too much text and too much detail make reading complicated. Visual reactions are most important. When you draw a face that expresses something, no matter where you come from, it means the same to everyone.
What are the advantages of telling a story like Persepolis in a graphic-novel format?
In today's world, images have more power. Before me, Art Spiegelman did something great with Maus, which was a big revelation for me: that graphic novels could be more than superhero stories. With Persepolis, I thought maybe 300 people would be interested and feel sorry about this girl and have a good Christian conscience and that would be it. I could never have even imagined a reception like this.
What are some of your favorite comics?
As a child, my favorites were Batman and Dracula. I loved Gotham City and all its dark heroes.
Persepolis deals largely with the repression and loss experienced by those who lived under both the Shah and the Islamists. Was it painful to revisit your experiences?
Of course! I had to redraw some pages five times after crying over the ink, but that was what I owed to my county. Humans survive because they can forget. I had to go really deep to remember how I was feeling at age 16. But at the same time, I try not to complain. I live a good life now, so if I complain, what does the other 99 percent of the world do?
When was the last time you visited Iran?
Twelve years ago. It's a country of contradictions, but for me, there's nothing abnormal about that because I've lived there. I have nostalgia for Iran. The revolution and the war were shocking, yes, but you get used to things like that. We have more power than we think as human beings. After six months, we learned to deal with war.
Many people will no doubt come away from Persepolis understanding that there is an underreported yearning for democracy in modern Iran. How would you respond to those officials who have suggested "exporting" democracy through military action against the current regime?
People have to look at history, because it repeats itself forever. Just look at the way George Bush attacked Iraq. The outcome is not only bad, but has always made the situation worse. It has never solved anything. It will be the people who want to make change who are killed. . . .It's ridiculous: "bringing" democracy by bombing countries, like it's a color of paint.