The coolest woman in rock and roll today celebrates her 70th birthday. Happy Birthday Debbie Harry! She’s a music icon, an actress, a stunning beauty, a champion of LGBT causes, a philanthropist, a long-time resident of NYC, and according to a mate of mine who worked with her, one of the nicest and funniest women you could ever meet.

I’ve loved Debbie Harry since I was a teenager and she remains a huge inspiration for me. Debbie has always chosen to live life in her own way and that includes how she ages. Although she’s in her seventh decade, she’s still performing, still doing charity work and still dresses like a rock star. Just check her out at Glastonbury last year and imagine being that cool at sixtyeffingnine years of age! Whatta woman!

Dan Deacon’s last album Gliss Riffer has been played in my gaff a lot over the last while. Deacon is an American composer, musician and producer based in Baltimore, Maryland, who has been pretty prolific since he released his first album in 2003. Deacon has dabbled in many genres, from contemporary classical to film scoring, and his live shows are apparently amazing. He played last weekend at Body and Soul in Ireland and the reports are great. (And kudos for his brilliant Twitter username.)

Shades of the Beta Band and Boards of Canada are evident in Gliss Riffer. ‘When I Was Done Dying’ is my favourite track so far. In March of this year ‘Off the Air’, a programme broadcast on Adult Swim, asked nine of their favorite animators to each animate one section of ‘When I Was Done Dying’, a premise which sounds like it has the potential for a ‘too many cooks’ type disaster!

The end result is one of the most interesting and perfectly expressive music videos I’ve seen for a long time. The artists obviously worked together closely and each section is sympathetic to the one that went before, building on colour and theme while still retaining individuality. It starts with a black and white hand drawn illustration and ends with a blur of neon and digital trickery and it’s just wonderful.

On Saturday last I went out to Dalkey to see Paul McGuinness, ex-manager of U2, interviewed as part of the Book Festival. The talk was titled ‘The Business of Music’ and obviously McGuinness, having managed one of the biggest bands in the world since its infancy, had a lot to talk about.

The talk mostly centered on U2 and his experiences working at the top level of the international music industry. There were a lot of fun anecdotes and little-known facts. For example, one audience member asked why U2 had never played in China, a question that had been put to McGuinness years before by the Chinese Ambassador to the UK. The answer was that they are banned from China as a result of doing a Free Tibet concert years ago. So there’s a bit of music trivia for your next pub quiz!

McGuinness also gave sharp insights into the future of the music industry and problems facing artists now. He made a great point regarding the proliferation of music festivals in recent years and the impact they are having on stadium tours. He says that most artists don’t get the chance to craft a huge stage show these days, in the way that U2 did with their Zoo TV and PopMart tours. Instead they play a series of festival gigs in Europe and North America which has its drawbacks. The band don’t connect solely with their own audience and they’re expected to play a festival-friendly set, i.e, one that is mostly comprised of their greatest hits to satisfy the masses. In addition they are limited in terms of the creativity they can bring to the production; huge props and intricate lighting displays just aren’t feasible when you’re doing an hour at a festival. McGuinness reckons that when the current rock acts like Springsteen, Rolling Stones, and U2 (whose 360 tour was the highest grossing concert tour of all time) aren’t on the road anymore, stadium tours will be a thing of the past. A great observation.

There were a lot of music talks at the festival including Viv Albertine of The Slits whose memoir was published last year. It’s a great festival set in a gorgeous part of Dublin and well worth checking out next year.

My mates know my weakness for disaster movies and a couple of weeks ago a good friend asked me if I had seen World War Z. I hadn’t, so I remedied that the following weekend and very much enjoyed it. Another very well read friend told me to check out the book that the movie is based on as she thought it was miles better. She wasn’t wrong. I raced through the book in a night and have since recommended to lots of people.

World War Z takes the form of an oral account of a plague that infects the world’s population and turns the infected into zombies. The book is compiled by a fictitious United Nations agent who interviews survivors of the Zombie War, from government officials, scientists and military personnel to members of the general population.

Zombies are not a subject that generally attracts me to a book or film as it conjures up ideas of schlocky horror movies and bad genre fiction. But the zombies are the only unbelievable element in this book. Everything else is utterly plausible, from the way the governments ineffectually try to control the initial outbreak, to the mass panic that ensues once the zombies have invaded every continent, and the frantic efforts to find a cure.

The film differs from the book in that it focusses on one main character, played by Brad Pitt, and therefore shrinks the scope of the book and makes it more personal. I think the film suffered as a result and I would love to have seen it produced as a faux-documentary to reflect the style of the book. As Brooks has said in interviews, the movie relates to the book in name only. Once a writer signs over the film rights that is where their input ends and the production company will hire a screenwriter with a pedigree to adapt the book. Fans of the book were disappointed as several key scenes were left out of the movie, but that’s often the risk with seeing a film adaptation of a novel you loved.

Here’s a reddit interview with Brooks from a few years ago, where he discusses his work and the movie. (And if he reminds you of anyone, it should help to know that his parents are famed actors Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.)

I have a confession to make. Up until yesterday I was a DJ without a decent sound system at home and without a set of decks, and a writer without a printer. But now part of that problem has been solved because a bunch of my amazing friends got together and bought me some bluetooth speakers for my birthday.

Last night I tested the speakers fairly comprehensively and listened to a lot of stuff, including albums I’ve neglected for a long time mostly because my shitty laptop speakers were completely busted and distorted the bass horribly. In the process I came across this tune by Cagedbaby, a favourite of mine for a long time.

I first heard Cagedbaby ten years ago when I was living in London and working on a music conference called Encompass. I caned the album in the office in the months leading up to the event and then saw the band play live in a small venue in Shoreditch during the festival in April 2005. The gig was electric, the band were so powerful live. This tune in particular reminds me of that time in my life, living in London, immersed in music, looking forward to the summer and having a lot of fun.

 
 

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my favourite books as a child and now it’s also the name of a gorgeous furniture store in Dublin. The shop is the brainchild of Zoe Carney, a fashion and design professional from Dublin, and its first incarnation was a pop-up shop on Baggot Street for a few months last year. Spurred on by its success, Zoe has created a warehouse space in Harold’s Cross and an online shop, showcasing the collection of furniture and decoration for sale, and items available for prop hire.

There are stunning pieces sourced from France, Hungary and Sweden, and Zoe has reconditioned some of the antiques, putting her own distinctive signature on the collection. The shades of blue and green and the aged patina give the pieces lots of character. Zoe also offers a reupholstery service so if you fall in love with a fauteuil but don’t like the colour, you can have it changed to suit.

The Velveteen Rabbit is located at Home Studios in Harold’s Cross and open by appointment from Wednesday to Saturday. Click on the pics to be taken to the items on The Velveteen Rabbit site.

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1930s White Patine Louis XVI Fauteuil

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Green Transylvanian Table

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Vintage Siphon Bottles

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Vintage Dutch Trestle Table

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19th Century Hungarian Printer’s Drawers

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Antique Hungarian Sideboard

On 5th June Muse release their seventh studio album Drones and ‘Dead Inside’ is the first single taken from the album. I was very excited to hear it as Muse are one of my favourite rock bands; I adore Matt Bellamy’s operatic vocals and Queen-influenced harmonies.

‘Dead Inside’ sounds more stripped back than previous albums, less orchestral and not so electronic. It sounds more like three guys returning to their rock and roll roots having experimented for a long time. ‘Psycho’ is the B side, which is based on a guitar riff that the band have been working on for years. I actually prefer ‘Psycho’ to the single so I’ve linked to it below. Enjoy!

Pic by Lili Forberg

A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of DJing at the Dundrum Town Centre Spring/Summer 2015 fashion shows. I’ve been working with the team there for five seasons and it’s always a lot of fun. Plus Colm Corrigan’s impeccable styling generally makes me want to spend my fee there and then!

I love researching tunes for shows, trying to find the perfect songs for the brief and the perfect tempo for the models. Dundrum shows happen on the mall and the audience ranges from two to eighty-two, so the music was fun with a summery vibe.

I usually end up with a shortlist of twenty songs and have to narrow it down to six. This tune was one of the ones that didn’t make it as it gets a bit heavy towards the end but I really like this RAC remix. It’s got an 80s electro feel, plus the ‘beautiful girl’ lyric would have really worked with models stomping the runway!

The rereading continues. I have recently raced through A Confederacy of Dunces (one of the funniest books ever written), Lolita (a masterclass in style), and Disturbing the Peace (a harrowing account of a man descending into alcoholism and madness).

After all that I took Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates out of the bookshelves, one of the books on the Ten Favourite Books list. Blonde was first published in 2000 and I first read it in 2002. The book was a bestseller and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Oates herself thinks that this is one of the two books that she will be remembered for; a serious statement given that she has published over forty novels, as well as plays, short stories, poetry and non-fiction. (Anyone else feel like an underachiever?)

Blonde is a fictionalised account of the life of Marilyn Monroe and it’s a whopper of a novel; the edition I have comes in at almost 1,000 pages. Even the most superficial fan of Monroe knows the history of her life and these familiar events are explored in the book. Oates writes about Marilyn’s chaotic childhood, her film experiences, failed romantic relationships and miscarriages, and above all her desire to break out of her one-note bombshell persona.

Given that this is a fictional memoir, Oates writes from Marilyn’s perspective and this is where the book becomes exceptional. Through Oates’ eyes Marilyn becomes a real person, not just a fluffy sexy two-dimensional film star. Blonde creates a completely authentic reality for Monroe and also shines a light on little known relationships such as the ménage à trois between Monroe, Charles Chaplin Junior and Eddy Robinson Junior. One of the last chapters, ‘Special Delivery, 3 August 1962′, is a powerful imagining of Monroe’s death that sent shivers up my spine the first time I read it.

Blonde could have been a voyeuristic tabloid disaster in another writer’s hands but Oates’ extraordinary talent transforms it into an empathetic exploration of an eternally fascinating woman. Marilyn will be an inspiration for the ages; a woman who was ahead of her time, a tragic figure who craved long lasting love and never seemed to find it, and a talented actress who was just finding her way when she died. Blonde is perhaps one of the best works inspired by her and it’s a phenomenal book on its own terms too.

Here’s a famous interview with the woman herself recorded a month before her death. Monroe is honest on the subjects of sex, fame, and her experiences of the Hollywood system, and I find it interesting that her real life voice is more assured and adult and animated than the breathy child-woman voice we hear in her movies.

As regular readers of the Multiverse know, Alex Gibney is one of my favourite documentary makers and his latest film Going Clear, broadcast last weekend in the US on HBO, has been the subject of much discussion and controversy. The film is based on Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief published in January 2013. Given the fact that 1.7 million people tuned in to watch it last weekend (HBO’s biggest documentary premiere in almost a decade) it would appear that interest in Scientology is huge and for many viewers, including me, this is the first time they have been made aware of the abuse, violence, brainwashing and fraud that the church has been involved in.

Gibney interviews eight former Scientologists, some of whom were high ranking members, and many of their experiences are horrifying. They recount how they got into the church, the methods of mind control, brainwashing and isolation that the church utilises, and their reasons for leaving. The ‘auditing’ process is explained in detail, whereby the church learns each member’s weak spots, secrets and vulnerabilities, and uses this information to keep members in line. 

Gibney also uses footage of Scientology events (some of which look like the Nazi propaganda rallies) and archival footage of two of Scientology’s most prominent members, Tom Cruise and John Travolta, who are used as recruitment tools and as the public face of the religion. Through recruitment of celebrities and crucially the 1993 designation of Scientology as a recognised religion by the IRS and therefore tax exempt, the church is an incredibly rich organisation having amassed billions of dollars in assets and property.

Many of the ex-members speak of misconduct and abuse by church leaders, especially David Miscavige. It is alleged that Miscavige encourages harassment of journalists and ex-members of the church, has humiliated, intimidated, imprisoned and in some cases physically beaten members, and knowingly exploits vulnerable people. Particularly disturbing are the accounts of ‘The Hole’, a facility where dozens of members are imprisoned and subjected to reindoctrination. What this seems to mean is extreme physical and mental abuse, and hours of interrogation with the aim of getting the members to ‘confess’, i.e. relate criticisms of the religion or of David Miscavige, or confess homosexual tendencies and sexual fantasies. It sounds a bit like a POW camp.

Unlike some previous criticisms of Scientology, this documentary has real weight and therefore the power to affect change. Alex Gibney is an Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker, someone who is highly respected, someone who has built his reputation on thorough research, not some fly-by-night with a video camera and a grudge. In addition the film was produced by HBO who employed over 150 lawyers to review it before broadcast. Although the church, Tom Cruise, John Travolta and others declined to be interviewed and have denied the claims in the documentary through their lawyers, an injunction was not taken out before broadcast leading us to believe that the film is factually correct, truthful and therefore must be taken seriously.

Hopefully Going Clear will be the catalyst for authorities and the media to investigate Scientology further, the start of which should be the IRS reconsidering the tax free status of the church.

 

The Multiverse

is a blog from an Irish writer and DJ which takes in a wide range of subject matter as follows: Monday’s blogs are related to literature and writing; Tuesday is fashion, style and beauty; Wednesday is music; Thursday is TV and cinema; and Friday is a miscellany.

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Spent this morning training for my next match. I might be small but I have fists of fury. The back of my new business cards designed by the very talented @morganart. (Whenever people ask to spell my surname my standard response is, 'Donald, as in Duck.') With one of my favourite people in the world @robertjecoffey. He's going on holidays tomorrow for two whole weeks and I'll miss him. #nephew #fbf #aunt Chilling out with my niece in a hammock at Bloom last week.
 #tbt #Bloom #niece #aunt These may be both the best and worst recent discovery of my life. #icecream #oreo #downfall

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