Yazoo is one of the most unique and powerful acts of early synthpop, and have been a big source of inspiration for me. Vince Clarke’s crisp, melodic synth and Alison Moyet’s powerful voice are a perfect match. Check out their music video for Don’t Go, a nice window into the early 80s, a time when talent mattered more in pop music than fitting into some narrow ideal of physical beauty. If you want to hear more of this style of music, there is a great BBC documentary called Synth Britannia which chronicles the rise of synthpop in the UK, where Vince Clarke and Yazoo are also extensively featured. Last time I checked it was available for free on Youtube.
My music has finally made its way out on the commercial market. Not that I’m expecting to make me rich anytime soon, certainly my expenses will be way higher than my income this year from music. (Unless I score a radio hit or something.) So here is a link to Duke Pope Zero on Spotify. My music is also available through all the other major streaming platforms, plus Bandcamp, Soundcloud and a few other minor music networking sites which I plan to write reviews of here soon. The focus on the blog will also shift more towards music related stuff from now.
Rap and Rock are musical genres with a rough edge, which lends itself to political messages. Pop music on the other hand is usually more light hearted, which might explain why love and romantic intrigue in past decades and nowadays partying and sex tend to be regular themes in pop songs. However there are artists who have had great success with political pop songs over the years. I have made a list of my top three pop songs with a hard hitting political message. Let me know in the comments what’s your favourite political pop hit!
Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution from 1988 by Tracy Chapman is one of those songs that keeps inspiring people across generations that there is hope for a better life for all of us, not just the super rich. The hope of a better future is a prerequisite for any positive change in society. Be sure to keep this song in your playlist for when you’re about to loose faith in humanity.
When You’re Gonna Learn from 1992 was Jamiroquai’s debut single. It questions the way we as a species are exhausting the resources of our fragile earth while wrecking it in the process. Politically conscious lyrics have been a common thread throughout their career, exemplified by their newly released single ‘Automaton’ that questions if we are loosing our souls as more and more of our waking lives are consumed by our internet presence.
They Don’t Really Care About US from 1995 by Michael Jackson was the last true super-hit released by the King of Pop. Was it a coincidence that his career declined in the aftermath of releasing such a hard hitting political song? No damning evidence was ever brought up proving that he actually molested any of those young boys. As a comparison, RnB singer R Kelly’s career seems to have taken little harm from the very serious allegations against him, including possession of child pornography and videotaping himself urinating on a 14 year old girl. But then again R Kelly was never involved in the tricky the business of politics.
Put on your conical hats, lean back and immerse yourselves in this music video, bringing you straight back to that early nineties post-modernist aesthetic. “Can You Forgive Her” features the typical Pet Shop Boys sound, mixing 90s dance with ambient and orchestral elements, accompanied by airy vocals and funny, yet poetic lyrics.
I shared this song with a friend on facebook a while back, and introduced the post with the question in the title. He told me: “Not sure if anyone ever said that.” Maybe nobody said it out loud, but I still feel like some people have harboured suspiciouns in this regard. Well, here is the proof that will have you discard your doubts if you ever had any; Break my Stride by Mathew Wilder from 1983. Take note of the crazy outfits, the interesting dance moves and Mathew Wilder’s proto-hipster moustache!
I finally have my own personal website, which I’m being told is a must for creative professionals in today’s competitive online marketplace. Here it is: www.dukepope.com
To be honest I’m still trying to figure out how to get ahead in this rat race of self promotion and social media mumbo jumbo. I sometimes wish we could go back to the time of knocking doors and calling up solid desktop telephones with gut shaking mechanical ringing and get through to a real person on the other side. In reality I guess there’s nothing stopping us from knocking doors and ringing up people, and despite the mantra of “online presence is everything” perhaps this is still the way that would actually get you somewhere as an aspiring creative professional. I guess it’s time to put it to the test! (And perhaps I’ll even let you know how it goes). In the meantime please have a look at my webpage and let me know what you think of it! (And as a side note, if you click the “music” link, it will take you to my soundcloud and my latest song, which I finished last week, called Believe in Love.)
It is so refreshing and inspiring to come across an artist with such a playful and creative catalogue as S. M. Samsu. Not bound to the western conventions of perspective or the intellectual blind alley of westen post war art, Samsu’s work sparkles with artistic freedom and the joy of painting. Of course Samsu is established within the genre of Bangladeshi rickshaw art, but he lifts the genre to new heights with his colourful symphony of animals, birds and people. Especially his paintings where animals take the place of people, as in his “Rickshaw workshop” and “school”, are just so playful and surreal they instantly make the viewer smile.
The images are taken from rickshaw-paint.net, where artwork by S. M. Samsu and other Bangladeshi rickshaw painters can be bought.
I have always been a collector of little things. My first collection was a shoe box full of pine cones. Later I found it more exiting to collect objects that didn’t all look the same, like stamps for instance. My grandfather was a diligent and proud philatelist and used to give me stamps for Christmas. As I child I spent hours organizing and admiring these little artpieces, which is a labour I appreciate now, many years later. As well as being amazing graphic design pieces, these stamps are also icons of a bygone era. A digital print of an Adobe Illustrator file will never be quite the same as a miniature engraving, as many of the old stamps are. Here are some of the favourite pieces from my collection; the rest of the set can be found here: Thirty Stamps
After briefly straying into the domain of protests and revolution, it’s time to get back on track with some funky R&B from the height of the carnivalistic madness of the 1980s. Behind this great track are the Bar Kays, a resilient band with a stormy history. They started out in 1966 as a backing band for Stax Records, and were chosen to support Otis Redding in 1967. Tragically, four of the founding members died in the same plane crash that also ended Otis Redding’s career much too early. The two surviving members of the Bar Kays however managed to re-establish the band – an admirable accomplishment. They went on to become a successful funk band in the seventies, and kept up the success with a more commercial sound as they entered the eighties.
“Her yer Taksim – her yer direniş” has been one of the main slogans chanted by Turkish protesters over the past weeks, literally meaning “everywhere is Taksim – everywhere is resistance.” It underlines how what’s happening in Turkey is not an isolated event, but part of a global movement, towards true democracy – without an invisible hand pulling the strings of political leaders and forcefully shaping history to benefit the very few who own the resources, control the banking sector and profit from never ending wars. Just as the police violence has been apalling, the courage and creativity of the protesters has been highly inspiring. Below are a selection of fascinating of pictures from the Turkish uprising.
Celeste Boursier-Mougenot is a French artist, trained as a musician and composer. His art installations revolve around peculiarly created soundscapes, where humans and animals interact with their surroundings to create the finest avant garde music (making eccentric composers and sheet music redundant, not to mention orchestras). In this installation from the Barbican Centre in London in 2010, a flock of zebra finches take the main stage, creating music by landing on, hopping around on and thrusting twigs between the strings of electric guitars. They seem to be having quite a good time!
The fascinating still life portraits of Guiseppe Arcimboldo were largely forgotten in the centuries following his death – until his rediscovery in the 20th century by modernist and surrealist painters such as Picasso and Salvador Dali. How could it happen that such a brilliant and original artist almost vanished from the annals of art history? The Renaissance was marked by a fascination with riddles, puzzles, and the bizarre, which is also evident in the art of his Arcimboldo’s contemporaries, such as Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Bruegel. As the Renaissance faded into Baroque and Rococo this fascination was gradually replaced by esthetic indulgence and dramatic displays, plump women and lavish interiors. In the meantime Prague, where Archimboldo had spent most of his life as a painter for the Habsburg court, was sacked by the Swedish army in 1648, and his work spread across Europe. Arcimboldo’s assembled portraits are playful, but also scientific in their representation of nature. He was certainly an eccentric, but his absurd, yet analytical portraits still capture us almost five hundred years later. For those wanting to read more about Arcimboldo, there is a great article about him at rhetoricaldeivice.com
Since Black Metal originated in Scandinavia in the early nineties, the scandal ridden metal sub genre has become a prime cultural export of Norway. The audience stretches from Buenos Aires via Teheran to Tokyo, and the biggest names still draw massive audiences on their world tours. At this point however I wish to wipe the dust of a Norwegian rock band at the total opposite end of the scale; Hair Rockers TNT. They never reached as big an audience as their Swedish counterpart Europe, but their tunes are equally catchy and the band bangs out a constant virtuosic overload. With vocalist Tony Harnell covering four octaves, and Guitarist Ronny Le Tekro possessing some wild guitar skills, they did however become very big in Scandinavia and in Japan (of course).
I scanned these images from a book found in Keith Fawkes Books in Hampstead, London. It’s the messiest and most chaotic bookshop I’ve ever been into, but those are the kind of places where strange treasures like “Visions of the Future” can be found. The subtitle reads: “An exciting and novel selction of science fiction art of today”. The book was a British publication, featuring at the time young British artists. Judging from a quick round on google, most of them seem to be active still. So there is plenty of inspiration out there! Here are five of my favourite artworks from the book, which stood out among all the weird and funky sci-fi kitsch.
This short cartoon from 1943 is considered in Japan to be one of the greatest anime movies of all time. Even though I didn’t watch an awful lot of anime, it makes perfect sense to me that this wonderful little movie has gained such a standing. Kenzō Masaoka, who created Spider and Tulip is an important figure in the history of Anime, as he was the first to introduce both cel animation and synchronized sound to the genre. He was also a master animator, rivalling his contemporaries in the USA and elsewhere with exceptional drawing skills and stylistic confidence. In Spider and Tulip, we meet an innocent, singing little ladybug, and the sly Mr. Spider, who cunningly tries to capture her in his web.
Allthough Wes Wilson is seen as the father of the psychedelic rock poster, the poster art of Victor Moscoso stands for me as the archetypal expression of the hippie era. With vibrating colours and psychedelic imagery, his posters take you straight back to that special vibe of the late 1960s San Fransisco. Victor Moscoso was born in Spain in 1937, but moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York three years later, where he spent most of his youth and childhood. He went on to study art at Yale under the supervision of Josef Albers, whose color theory later became an important inspiration for him. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was a motivating factor for Moscoso to move on to California and San Fransisco in 1959. But it wasn’t until 1967 with the Summer of Love that Victor Moscoso rose to international fame, with his posters for the Avalon Ballroom (whose concerts featured artists such as Janis Joplin and the Doors). There is an excellent interview with him at The Comics Journal, for those who would like to read more about his fascinating life and refreshing take on art. Victor Moscoso is still active as an artist.
If you happened to watch Dumbo as a kid, you might remember the scene where dumbo falls into a tub filled with champagne and accidentialy becomes intoxicated by alcohol. Dumbo’s hallicunations however are quite wild, and point in the direction of something else having found its way into the drink. Did Disney’s animators draw inspiration from some other, more exotic substance, back in 1941 when they created this segment of the Dumbo movie? I guess we will never know, but in any case “Pink Elephants on Parade” remains one of the most colourful and fantastic moments in the history of animated cartoons.
I discoverd Stelios Faitakis two years ago, at the Venezia Art Biennale, where he had painted a big mural on the wall of the Danish pavilion. His art captures the mood not only of the crisis in his native Greece, but also the global crisis of capitalism. Faitakis’ pictures look like something painted by a medieval monk beamed into our modern age, trying to document the society around him. The result is a striking visual language, which elevates the battles of our time to something much deeper than just angry young men throwing rocks at riot police.
I’m amazed by how simple and yet how cool this music video is. (Directed and animated by Ellis & Sac Magique). Norwegian electronic duo Ost & Kjex (cheese & crackers) have been around for quite a few years. I love their playful, unpretentious style and their quirky falsetto vocals.
Cooler, cheaper, better – the microcar is just a more sensible mode of transport than the gas guzzling giants that roam our highways today. Most cars in the developed world have only one passenger – the driver. The average European weighs 70 kgs. A typical car weighs 1-2 tonnes. In other words, the average car weighs 10-20 times more than what it’s transporting. Now that’s just insane. And the reason for it? Well, the car is more than just a mode of transport, it is a status symbol. The car is a napoleon’s horse for men without self irony, who take themselves too seriously and need a big car to compliment their ego.
I decided it’s time for me to showcase some of my own work, namely my digital collages. The first one was created in 2005 after a visit to a friend in Spain. Having collected all sorts of things since childhood, the flamboyant gay man with the baroque wig was responsible for turning my collection into a creative laboratory. I found him on a leaflet in Barcelona, announcing a major gay disco event. When I came back home, he just fit right in with the glossy collectable pictures I had gotten from my sister as a child. In the background I put a starry sky and space rockets from my father’s 1950s trading cards collection. The resulting piece can be seen underneath. Since then I have been steadily adding new works to my digital collage universe, with the herbal Jesus as the latest addition, made in 2011. They were all part of an exhibition in Mumbai, India in 2011, together with Ismael Sanz Peña’s animations. Himali Singh Soin arranged the exhibition and actually made it happen. To see more of my artwork, look here.
This surrealistic animation from 1978 is a real feast for the eyes, so full of wonky weirdness you can not avoid being amazed. It’s a bit like seventies counter culture meets Betty Boop and Koko the clown in outer space. In fact Sally Cruikshank has admitted to being influenced by Fleischer Studios (who made Betty Boop) – but that said, she is a one of a kind genius – owing her success to a wildly creative imagination. In addition to making her own movies, Sally Cruikshank worked for many years producing short animations for Sesame Street. The inspiration for this film seems to be the flimsy world of healing, astrology and new age hocus-pocus.