Material Girls and Boys looking forward to Madonna’s Confessions shows at Tokyo Dome this week may soon get the chance to “strike a pose” on their own. Television producers are putting together a Madonna special as part of 15 Films, what they say is a new style of show that will “take the short film genre to another level.” Each week the one-hour program will present 15 different takes on the life of a celebrity that will be “surprising, original, funny, intelligent, diverse, sexy and provocative, but free of empty spectacle: comedy skits, lifestyle features and fluff,” according to the producers. “One might be grainy, black and white, and look like a 1920s silent film, the next full color and filmic, the next a hip-hop music video, then a computer animation.” If you think you are the No. 1 Madonna fan in Japan, they invite you to apply to audition for this flagship program.
Contact Risa Morimoto of Zig Zag Productions: email@example.com AV
Theres more to Iceland than Björk or even Sigur
Ros, says Bardi Johannsson on his first visit to Japan
You can pronounce Bang Gang like you
want. Whatever makes you happy, offers Bardi Johannsson
casually. Im in a vast conference room at Universal
Records, interviewing Johannsson about his unit Bang Gangs
forthcoming first release in Japan. Johannsson is here for
a concert at the Aichi Expo, and his local record label ICELANDia
has organized a day of publicity in Tokyo with the help of
Created as a surf band for the Arctic Ocean by
Johannsson and a friend in high school, Bang Gang became a
one-man rock-tronica production unit when Johannsson, later
asked to contribute some tracks to a compilation, couldnt
come up with a better name.
Bang Gang first came to attention in 1998 when one of those
singles, Sleep, was noticed by Warners East-West
imprint in France. A further single, So Alone?,
became an MTV hit in Europe, leading to the release of Johannssons
Like many Icelandic artists, Johannsson has had to set his
sights on a worldwide market from the start. Its
impossible to make a living in Iceland unless you make shitty
records that sell a lot domestically. Thats why we have
separate pop and indie scenes, because the pop crowd just
thinks about selling records, they dont think about
how they feel when theyre making the music. But there
are only 350,000 people, so why try to make some shitty music
just to sell 8-12,000 records in Iceland?
Needless to say, Johannsson puts himself firmly in the indie
camp, which he describes as small but cooperative. The
indie people are the ones selling either 50 records in Iceland
or a lot abroad, like Sigur Ros.
But Johannssons indie leanings dont mean his music
is inaccessible. On the contrary, his new album Something
Wrong is full of simple, striking melodies and hypnotic electronic
beats, made doubly approachable by the presence of a number
of come-hither female sirens.
For the first time, the album also saw Johannsson stepping
up to the mike himself. I was singing on the demos,
and everyone said I should just sing it myself. But some of
the songs I thought would sound better with a female voice,
so either I had to cut off my ballsbut that would create
a problem because when I have to sing with a lower voice,
Id have to sew them back on; I would need testicles
that I could plug in like a microphoneor just have a
female singer. I decided that would be easier.
Johannssons longtime contributor, the enticing singer-actress
Esther Talia Casey, remains a force on the new album. She
sings on two tracks, including the forebodingly seductive
title song, in which she coos, Can you feel what is
wrong? Can you do what you want?, and answers, accompanied
by sexual sighings and evilly acidic guitars, I can
feel what is wrong. I can do what you want.
Pressed on the meaning of his lyrics, Johannsson is reticent.
I dont want to explain them. Its for me
to write and you to understand. I have my way of understanding
and Ive never wanted to talk about itand its
not fair to some people.
Since hes not fo rthcoming, its impossible to
know exactly what Johannsson is getting at. But its
clear that he hasnt shied away from controversy in his
career as a musician and video producer. I produced
and co-wrote the first Icelandic erotic show, he boasts.
It was hard to get people to be in the show because
everyone knows everyone. The program, he says, became
the highest rated on its TV channel.
The moodiness of Something Wrong is also a product of Icelands
dark climate and Johannssons nocturnal lifestyle. It
fucks up your head a bit. But I go to sleep at six in the
morning anyways. Sometimes I dont even notice the difference
between the seasons because I stay inside too much.
Icelands violent history is also in the background.
The Icelandic sagas are very rocknrollvery
brutal and nice, he says without a trace of irony. This
is what we are raised withand drinking some stuff and
vomiting in someone s face and pulling out his eye.
But dont expect Johannsson to call on Icelandic tradition
in his songs anytime soon. If you have a fetish, you
might like it. But for me its like bad rap. I like the
guy who does it with Sigur Ros, but you can like the guy and
not like what hes doing.
Something Wrong is available on Alljos
Entertainments ICELANDia Records, which is releasing
a number of albums by Icelandic artists previously unavailable
Discuss music with
METROPOLIS readers at http://forum.japantoday.com