CitySearchNYC Explore the city with our editors
Whaddya want?
Nothing Now
October 27, 1998
This Week:
The Sound of Film
Jon Easley, RIP

CitySearch Music

The Sound of Film

As movies have eclipsed the stage in popular consciousness, film soundtracks have overtaken orchestral works. The scores to "E.T.," "Star Wars," and "Titanic" have not only topped the charts but are symphonic music to a generation. James Bond themes are bigger than Bach.

The Knitting Factory, New York's improvisational music mecca, has organized the first soundtrack performance festival anywhere. The DIVX Soundtrack Festival is the sound behind the film alternative to Cannes, Sundance, and the New York Film Festival. DIVX '98 will tour four cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco) with the biggest dates coming in New York City between November 10-14.

"Soundtracks are more important than ever," Knitting Factory and Festival spokesman Sony Aronson told Rockbeat. "Film scores combine musical forms in ways that are at once experimental and mass-market accessible. Look at the proliferation of soundtracks at the top of the charts. DIVX Soundtrack Festival '98 provides a rare opportunity to see major modern soundtrack composers perform live."

What's surprising about the current popularity of soundtracks is not that they merit a hip new performance festival, but the alternative heroes who write popular scores.

Singer/songwriter Randy Newman brought droll satire and rolling R&B piano to the pop charts ("Short People," "I Love LA") for almost three decades. His film scores include "Ragtime," "Toy Story," "Awakenings," and "The Natural," among many others. Randy Newman plays November 10.

Art-punk and skewed pop hipsters Shudder to Think have moved beyond underground club tours to score independent film hits like "First Love, Last Rites" and "High Art." Their latest soundtrack is for Todd Haynes' homage to '70s glam rock, "Velvet Goldmine." Shudder to Think's DIVX date is November 10.

Techno-pop innovator and Yellow Magic Orchestra founder Ryuichi Sakamoto has done everything from electronic experiments, to western classical, to world beat fusion, to hard-nosed funk. His film scores include "The Handmaid's Tale," "Little Buddha," "Snake Eyes," and the Academy Award-winning "The Last Emperor." Ryuichi Sakamoto performs his film music on solo piano on November 12.

"Fake Jazz" founder and improvisational music godfather John Lurie and his Lounge Lizards have been the downtown scene's talent barometer for over two decades. When he hasn't been acting in Jim Jarmusch's art-house efforts, Lurie has written scores for "Stranger Than Paradise," "Down by Law," and "Get Shorty" among others. John Lurie & the Lounge Lizards play DIVX '98 on November 12.

Velvet Underground co-founder, rock production supremo, and avant-garde icon John Cale is among the most influential artists in modern music. He has scored everything from Andy Warhol's early '60s experimental films to big-budget affairs like "Something Wild," "Basquiat," and—yes—"I Shot Andy Warhol." John Cale performs his film music on November 14.

See CitySearch's music listings for the complete DIVX Soundtrack Festival New York schedule.

Wham, Bam, Thank You Glam

When New York Times rock reporter Neil Strauss mentioned "the signing of half a dozen '80s glam-metal bands at Columbia Records" (NYT 10/15/98), many on the local music scene reacted with well-honed scepticism. The current glam rock revival has been largely limited to fringe stage and independent film. Musicals like "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and films like "Velvet Goldmine" have yet to show signs of cross-over success.

Actual glam band stardom is hard to find in the '90s. Seventies heavy metal makeup outfit Kiss' recent revival appeals to an nostalgic older group, but attracts few new fans. Marilyn Manson, with their ability to scare impressionable teens and their parents, seems the only real new glam rock success story.

New York has produced a slew of '90s glam rock revivalists. Trashy glam punk outfit D-Generation may have opened their own nightclub, Coney Island High, but their major-label deal didn't move units. Gay glammers Psychotica took full-blown Bowie spectacle to Lollapalooza, but met with mass-market indifference. Nancy Boy have T-Rex's riffs and Roxy Music's wardrobe, but never translated major-label cachet into anything more than a bloated guestlist. Other New York new glam contenders—Lunachicks, the Toilet Boys, various Fragglerock lineups—rock the cult club nights, but manage little more than fleeting vanity releases. If anything, new glam bands have been a universal flop.

When Rockbeat inquired about New York-based Columbia's recent signings and new glam's future, label representatives would only say, "It is too premature to comment."

Jon Easley, Downtown Rocker, RIP

Last month Crown Heights frontman Jon Easley died of an accidental drug overdose while visiting his family in Atlanta. In the early '90s, he played guitar in the Boston post-hardcore outfit Sorry before breaking into New York City's music scene with downtown noise rockers and cult favorites, the Dust Devils. Jon Easley recently came into his own as singer, songwriter, and guitarist with Crown Heights, one of New York's finest alternative rock bands.

Crown Heights released the well received "More Pricks Than Kicks" on celebrity producer Rick Rubin's American label last year. The same day their CD was released, the band lost their record deal when American suddenly re-organized and dropped most of its roster. Crown Heights dissolved shortly thereafter.

When Jon Easley spoke with Rockbeat in July, he was still bitter about American's "bad faith" but realistic about record industry intrigues. He also expressed an eagerness to move on to other musical projects.

Besides helping establish the then-new venue, Arlene Grocery, and stealing shows at other downtown clubs like Mercury Lounge and Brownies, Jon Easley was a respected DJ on the Lower East Side lounge scene, who refused to acknowledge artificial divisions between rock and hip hop, black and white music. Jon Easley was the quintessential New York rocker. He will be missed.


Send feedback here.