2012, New York
Patrick Swayze passed away on this date in 2009. Jennifer Gray (his co-star in Dirty Dancing) said of him: “He was a real cowboy with a tender heart.” He was a rugged alpha male, yet he was as lithesome as an Estonian ballerina. He was a warrior poet. He was a supernova in a galaxy full of stars. I make no apologies that the first cassette I ever purchased was the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack. When Hollywood decided to make a movie about a bouncer at a hillbilly bar in Missouri, they knew that only Swayze could handle the role. In 1989, more people went to see Road House than Do The Right Thing in theaters.
Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director (The Hurt Locker) was also behind the camera for one of the greatest expressions of art ever exhibited in the civilized world – Point Break. Playing the role of “Bodhi”, Swayze portrayed the leader of a gang of bank robbing surfers, preaching a spiritual ethos of adrenaline energized consciousness. The philosophy of Bodhi inspires and illuminates to this day. This weekend mix tape is mystically guided by his teachings.
Bodhi and Johnny Utah’s final showdown. (Spoiler Alert)
“It’s basic dog psychology. If you scare them and get them peeing down their leg, they submit. But if you project weakness, that promotes violence, and that’s how people get hurt.”
“Fear causes hesitation and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.”
“If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price. It’s not tragic to die doing what you love.”
“They only live to get radical.”
“This was never about the money, this was about us against the system. That system that kills the human spirit. We stand for something. We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human spirit is still alive.”
“You want me so bad, its like acid in your mouth.”
“Why be a servant to the law, when you can be its master?”
Vaya con dios, Brah.
Following the release of their fourth full length album and in the midst of a U.S. tour, NYMN was able to grab a moment of time from the busy Mike Sempert, the musical and spiritual guru of Birds and Batteries. The band will be playing two shows in NYC, so we decided to check in with Birds and Batteries and ask some questions about their new album, their tour, and their ability to swim in shark-infested waters.
NYMN: I first became aware of your band when I heard “Ocarina” on a Paste Magazine Sampler CD nearly five years ago. Now you’re sitting pretty with your fourth full length album Stray Light released earlier this month. When you complete an album do you start to think more about what you’ve accomplished or does your mind start racing with what’s in store for your future?
MS: When I finished Stray Light I was definitely enjoying that sense of completing an album. That seems like a long time ago though.There was a lot of time and a ton of work that went into self-releasing Stray Light. So at this point, I’m definitely thinking about the next thing.
NYMN: You play instruments, use machines in place of instruments, and add samples to your music. You also whistle. People freaked out when Dylan went electric. Now people complain musicians can only play music using a computer. You’ve obviously embraced differing forms of expression and media. How do you determine what sound and what vessel to use when recording?
MS: I’m a big fan of immediacy. So I try to go for the most direct path towards fulfilling an idea, though it’s easier said then done. Certain things, like live drums and real strings are worth planning for, booking studio time around, etc. Also, in truth, the budget for an album influences how far I can go with recording in a studio and how much the home studio set-up is used, i.e., electronic sounds.
NYMN: Stray Light came out roughly a month ago and you’ve been touring rather extensively during that time. How has it been taking songs from the album on the road?
MS: We’ve been playing these songs live for a while and they’re really fun to do. A lot of the album was recorded and written around the idea of what would be exciting to do live. The song “Evolutionary Step” was the only song that we played live for a while before tracking it. The rest were adapted from recording to live, but when they were recorded, the question of “Is this gonna be sweet live?” definitely influenced their creation.
NYMN: “Be My Girl” is a song title you might see on any random radio pop album. But when you first listen to the song it is dark and heavy with your whistling adding an eerie loneliness. How can a love song sound this scary and yet be effective?
MS: Hah. Yeah, its not the most eye-catching song title, but it’s straight up which was the whole point. I don’t really see the song as scary, but I understand there’s a darkness to it. In many ways, within my own personal narrative, this song is about love overcoming rough waters. So, it makes sense that those rough waters come through.
(Editor’s note: A music video for “Be My Girl” was released yesterday – video contains NSFW images)
NYMN: The album appears to be be preaching self-acceptance and self-realization in many of it’s songs. Was this a conscious choice? Was there a spiritual breakthrough prior to or during the creation of this album?
MS: Well, I’m not preaching anything. And there haven’t been any spiritual breakthroughs, just moments of clarity amidst a lot of other feelings. My goal with this album was to focus on that clarity and hopefully give the listener something bright and positive. It’s tempting and easy to write music that comes from the opposite place. I decided to filter out the darker songs and put them on a digital EP called Unfold. So in a way, the totality of the story is in both the EP and LP combined. But for the sake of a continuous listening experience, and sort of as an experiment, I split off the songs by their emotional vibe. Still, life and love are complex and there’s plenty of darkness on Stray Light and light in Unfold.
NYMN: You are coming to Brooklyn on September 2nd to play at Union Pool. What do you like to do when you come to NYC for shows?
MS: Real Brooklyn pizza. That’s what we like to do. Like to do that pizza.
NYMN: You’re a Bay Area guy so here are some rapid fire questions about NorCal:
Earthquakes are (fill in the blank): not a joke
I (blank) the weather in San Francisco: I actually live in Oakland. The weather is great.
Sonoma or Napa? Neither
If you paid me (blank), I would attempt to swim from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf. I’d do that for a thow-wow. Probably less actually, but I thought I’d high-ball it. I just looked it up, its less than a mile swim, which is doable.
So I Married An Axe Murder is my favorite movie to take place in SF. How wrong am I for making that statement? Haha. That’s a good one actually. Vertigo was shot in SF and rules pretty hard, as a movie. Apples and oranges though.