EUROPA – Now Available

August 16, 2011

I am very excited to announce that Dalton Gang Press has published its second novel, “EUROPA” written by Nicholas Faraday* and Heidi Fuqua.

EUROPA - Now Available

EUROPA - Humanity's Last Hope?

EUROPA is a challenging and thought-provoking science-fiction / Horror novel set on the 6th moon of Jupiter in the year 2123. Climate change has decimated the Earth’s most precious resource, her oceans. Worldwide droughts have created massive deserts where lush countryside once existed. The seas have turned toxic and the polar caps have all but disappeared. With its habitat quickly shrinking, humanity needs a silver bullet. Ten teams have been dispatched to Europa, and are tasked with retrieving a micro-organism, known as Archaelleonous, from the frozen moon’s sub-ice liquid ocean. This precious resource is believed to be the key to restoring life to the Earth’s oceans and resetting the climate.

Told from the perspective of each crew member, this is the story of the last days of Galileo Team 10. Six and a half years into a mission besieged with tragedy, complications and conflict, the diverse crew battles inner demons, mysterious afflictions, and each other in the quest for success. Millions of lives hang in the balance as the seven crew members risk everything in the harshest climate humans have ever ventured, on EUROPA.

Now available in all e-book formats for $4.99 and paperback for $12.99.
Amazon Kindle:
Barnes @ Noble nook:
All other formats (Smashwords):

Print Trade Paperback:

EUROPA Facebook Page:

*Nicholas Faraday is the pseudonym of author/filmmaker Nathan Wrann.

Tune in next week when I explain my reasons for writing under a pen name.

DMH | Special Edition Sale Price

July 23, 2011

Just found out today that the Dark Matter Heart | Special Edition trade paperback is on sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble for only $10.97, marked down from $14.99 (cover price is actually $16.99). I’m not sure why or how Amazon (and B&N, which I didn’t know was selling it) settled on this price, but there it is.

Dark Matter Heart | Special Edition

Dark Matter Heart | Special Edition

Dark Matter Heart Synopsis:

A new town. A new school. A new beginning. Seventeen year-old Cordell Griffin and his mother move from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest to deal with his “allergies,” and start a healthier new life. Cor has one goal: To blend in and be invisible. Unfortunately for him, no matter how far he goes, he can’t run away from his secrets. Secrets about who he is. Secrets about why he’s sick. And secrets about why so many people he meets end up dead, drained of blood. In “Dark Matter Heart”, the origin novel in the “Cor Griffin Bloodsuckers” Young Adult Paranormal Thriller series from filmmaker and author Nathan Wrann, Cor must uncover the mysteries of his past and conquer the secrets of the present in order to protect the girl of his future, and save himself.

This Special Edition includes the original, unproduced, feature length screenplay that Dark Matter Heart is adapted from.

IMAX 3-D… Movies Are Worth It Again

July 16, 2011

My movie-going attitude has changed completely.

For a few years I’ve been almost completely turned off from seeing movies in the theater. Whether it’s the cell phones ringing, or people texting or talking or the (literally) meth-head-ghetto-hillbillies sitting next to me. At almost every screening I fill with anger at some point due to rude audience members who think they live in a bubble and have total disregard for the other viewers. Or, in the case of “The Tree of Life” a groundbreaking, thought-provoking, philosophical film with an extremely (for the most part) respectful audience the projectionist used the wrong lens for the 2nd or 3rd reel so the total immersion of the film was completely broken. Paying $10.50 to increase my blood pressure and misanthropy is not worth it. So, for the most part I’ve dedicated myself to going to New Haven’s Criterion Cinemas on Tuesday night when the theater is mostly empty and it only costs $6. That’s worth it, right?

I used to think so until last night when I saw “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: part 2” at the IMAX 3D theater in the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford Connecticut.

Two weeks ago I saw the new Transformers movie in 3D at Criterion Cinemas. Throughout the movie I felt like I had to focus to be able to make out the 3D effects. It was like looking at one of those hidden-image 3D pictures. I expected the same of the new “Harry Potter” movie. The best 3D experience I had had to date was “My Bloody Valentine” in 3D, the movie looked great and the 3D really popped. I wasn’t too impressed with Avatar’s 3D. There were some good effects but it wasn’t a game changer for me, it was still just a gimmick.

“Harry Potter” in IMAX 3D changed all that. I cannot stress enough how amazing this film looked. I was truly transported and mesmerized throughout the film. The IMAX screen and massive sound blocked out the fact that I was in a sold-out theater. The 3D was impeccable and, dare I say, magical. It doesn’t hurt that the movie was fantastic too (I wasn’t much of a Potter fan before watching the last 3 movies over the previous 2 nights). But, I came away with the impression that even a crap-tastic film would move up at least one or two notches in my opinion based solely on the IMAX presentation. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. A true event movie-going EXPERIENCE.

Why ya gotta be so mean?

A ticket cost $16.50 which seems like an enormous price to pay just to go see a movie, and I choked when buying my ticket on-line but now I have a new value system applied to what I will pay for a film.

$6.00, Tuesday night discount at Criterion New Haven: It’s still pretty much worth it to see the top-notch art-house films or even the big budget blockbusters after opening weekend.

$8.00 – $11.00, Matinee – Regular priced at most theaters near me: Not worth it. The typical experience of seeing a movie in a theater is a waste of money at these prices. I won’t see a regular movie at these prices again. (add in the $3+ surcharge for standard 3D and it’s DEFINITELY not worth it)

$16.50, IMAX 3D – Truly the ONLY way to see movies going forward. I was on the fence about seeing Cowboys & Aliens, if it plays at IMAX 3D I’m there. Captain America, I’m there. The extra cost of the ticket pales in comparison to the experience. (edit: Just found out the next IMAX 3D movie scheduled is “Real Steel” which I wasn’t too interested in, but you can bet I’ll be at it now!).

At first I thought I would never see a “regular” movie in the theater again (My home viewing experience is just fine, actually it’s preferable to most of my experiences in the theater) but then I realized that “Another Earth” is out this coming weekend (July 22nd) and if it plays in New Haven I’ll go see it for $6 the following Tuesday.

Top 10 Reasons…To Self-Publish

June 23, 2011

First some housekeeping before I get into the meat of this blog:
**I recently started a tumblog for those times that I want to put a quick link, pic or vid out there. So make sure to follow me there. This wordpress blog will still be for my long-winded diatribes.
**There’s a Dark Matter Heart Facebook page now too.
**Dark Matter Heart is now available at iTunes for iPads etc:

Now, about that title up there. I had to shorten it. The full title of this blog is:

“Top 10 Reasons That I Decided To Self-Publish.”

Almost immediately after announcing Dalton Gang Press and DARK MATTER HEART the same question kept being asked of me: “Why did you decide to self-publish?” So I’ll use this forum to answer that question. Here are my top reasons why:

10) I’m lazy. I didn’t want to spend the amount of time and effort it would take to try to get an agent or publisher to like my work enough to work for me. The thought of formatting an e-book, designing a print book, designing a cover, and spending countless hours getting the word out to potential readers that the book actually exists is more appealing to me than writing a single query letter.

09) I’m impatient. I wrote my book. It’s done. There’s no way in hell I want to wait 2 or 3 years for a publisher to put it out. I’d rather take 2 to 3 years to build up sales for Dark Matter Heart.

08) I’m not good at asking permission. I’m not all that into asking (begging/pleading) someone (an agent/publisher) to read my work and publish it for me.
To lift a phrase from Jason Brubaker’s Filmmaking Stuff website, the old way of book publishing is “asking permission” for someone to put your book out for you. I don’t need to ask, I can just do. Why ask a half-dozen people (agents/publishers) to read your work when you can ask millions of people (customers/readers), simply by making it available and enticing them to read it.

07) I’m ‘hands on‘. I’d have trouble letting someone else design my covers, and do all that other stuff that publishers are supposed to do. That’s not to say that they would make a bad cover or that my covers are the best for my books, but that is to say, that I like to do that stuff. Like making promotional pins.

06) I’m greedy, possessive and I don’t like to share. It’s tough seeing my movie “Hunting Season” out there handled by someone else and only getting a cut of the proceeds. Do I appreciate Gravitas and Bosko Group’s efforts in getting the movie out there and available? Sure. Do they get it to an audience that I probably wouldn’t be able to reach? Sure. Does it suck that I can’t do whatever I want, whenever I want with my own movie? Hell yes. I want to be able to do whatever I want with my books. Like release a special edition of Dark Matter Heart that includes the original screenplay that it’s based on.

05) I don’t want to be pigeonholed. If you’ve seen my movies you know that I don’t do the same thing over and over. Yes, I will be putting out a second Cor Griffin Novel, but I’ve also got some hardcore horror stuff to put out, and some sci-fi to put out, and some dramatic stuff. I have a lot of different stories in a lot of different genres and styles. Signing with a publishing house would probably mean that I would have to stick with YA Paranormal. Without diversion. For at least a little time. Maybe that’s not true, but I believe it to be.

04) Here’s a quote from my pal Joshua Jabcuga: “You did it on your own terms. That’s art in its purest form, in my opinion. Fuck compromise.” I agree. Getting published means getting edited. Which means compromised for the purpose of marketability. Maybe that’s good for the book. Maybe that’s good for the story. I don’t know. All I know is that the book and story that is out there is exactly the one that I wanted to put out. Writing isn’t collaborative like filmmaking is (unless something is co-written). It doesn’t necessarily improve with more cooks in the kitchen.

03) Have you read J.A.Konrath’s blog? It’s a very convincing fantasy site about the gazillions of dollars a self-published author can make.

02) Have you read Dean Wesley Smith’s blog? It’s a realistic approach to the hard work and time that goes into building a self-publishing business.

01) To quote my pal Josh Jabcuga again: “Cor Griffin is proof-positive that the best investment you can make is an investment in yourself.” or as I’ve said in the past: “If I’m going to bet, I’m going to bet on myself.”

So that’s it. I’m sure these are the same reasons J.K. Rowling is self-publishing the Potter e-books. Let’s discuss.

Announcing: Dalton Gang Press – Micropublisher

June 7, 2011

I am proud to announce the launching of DALTON GANG PRESS, the micro-publishing arm of DALTON GANG PRODUCTIONS.

I’m also proud to announce the release of my first novel, DARK MATTER HEART. Now available for KINDLE, NOOK, and Trade Paperback. (note: you do not need to own a kindle or nook to read the ebook. Simply go to either or Barnes & Noble to download the e-reader app for free for your favorite platform: iphone, droid, PC, Mac, etc)

Here’s a little bit about DARK MATTER HEART:

A new town. A new school. A new beginning. Seventeen year-old Cordell Griffin and his mother move from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest to deal with his “allergies,” and start a healthier new life. Cor has one goal: To blend in and be invisible. Unfortunately for him, no matter how far he goes, he can’t run away from his secrets. Secrets about who he is. Secrets about why he’s sick. And secrets about why so many people he meets end up dead, drained of blood.

In “Dark Matter Heart”, the origin novel in the “Cor Griffin Bloodsuckers” Young Adult Paranormal Thriller series from filmmaker Nathan Wrann, Cor must uncover the mysteries of his past and conquer the secrets of the present in order to protect the girl of his future, and save himself.

Dark Matter Heart

Dalton Gang Press has also released two short stories: THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS by Nicholas Faraday (my darker, horror pseudonym) and HALFWAY HOUSE by Heidi Fuqua.

What about Dalton Gang Productions and THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER?

Nothing changes. I am still putting together the pieces for The Fall of the House of Usher and when they all come into place we’ll go before the cameras and shoot a damn fine short film. That could be this fall, this winter or next year. There is no expiration date for The Fall of the House of Usher so when we’re ready, we’ll make it.

It takes an army to make a film and it takes time to mount that army. There’s always downtime in between projects. I have decided to use this downtime to work on my writing and embark on this new path.

There’s plenty to look forward to in the future. I’ll be releasing a special edition of DARK MATTER HEART that includes the original screenplay that the novel is based on. Up next is my second novel, EUROPA,

EUROPA - Coming Soon

a sci-fi horror that I wrote with Heidi Fuqua. That should be out by the end of June. Then by the end of the year I’ll be putting out a novelization of my feature film HUNTING SEASON that will be dark, violent and scary as hell. Next year will start with the sequel to DARK MATTER HEART.


March 20, 2011
Vodpod videos no longer available.

See that video above? That’s my feature film “Burning Inside”. In its entirety. It is now potentially available anywhere on the web where embeddable code can be placed. To see it in its native environment, go to the official Burning Inside site.

Why did I embed it in this blog? Because it represents the ongoing process of getting a film out everywhere in order to find an audience for it.

A few weeks ago I had an hour long conversation with Jason Brubaker from Filmmaking Stuff that he recorded for his podcast. Basically, the theme of the conversation was the struggle to A) Make a truly independent low budget film. And B) Release that film and find an audience for it. This is a battle that seems to get more and more difficult every day. The difficulty for part B exponentially increases due to influence by everything from the economy (how much spending cash your potential audience has) to shopping habits (where does your potential audience buy their entertainment from). And all of these factors are constantly changing. You can listen to the in-depth podcast here. And make sure to check out the rest of Jason’s site and his other podcasts. He’s got a lot of great information.

One of the things that I mention in the podcast is that we’ve had more good reviews of Burning Inside, than units sold. What I would like to do now is list all of the on-line reviews that we’ve had. If you happen to know of a review that isn’t listed below feel free to put it in the comments and I will add it to the list: “Burning Inside Review”
Brutal as Hell “A Surreal Nightmare You Cannot Escape”
Fear Zone: “Fear Zone’s Final Film Review: Burning Inside”
The Liberal Dead “Burning Inside” also listed as one of their “10 Indie Flicks That Deserve Your Dollar
All Things Horror Online “Burning Inside: A Deeply Penetrating Surreal Nightmare” All Things Horror also screened “Burning Inside” in Boston on January 5th
Planet of Terror “Burning Inside”
Twenty Four Lies Per Second “Cult Review: Burning Inside”
366 Weird Movies “Burning Inside”
Cinesploitation “Burning Inside”

Burning Inside has also been reviewed in print magazines, Shock Cinema, Deadline (Germany) and Fangoria

There’s also an amazing essay at Zouch: “Extended Short Circuit: Nathan Wrann’s ‘Burning Inside“.

You can also find dozens of articles and interviews out there about Burning Inside or Channel Midnight.

All of this adds up to a list that is almost longer than the list of people that bought “Burning Inside” (whether as a DVD, download to own, or streaming).

Burning Inside is available at the following locations for price points ranging from $1.99 – $19.95:

Channel Midnight Instant Video DVD
YouTube Rental
iTunes (as an app)
Burning Inside Facebook Page
and now the Burning Inside website

and maybe a few other places around the web, if you find one, let me know.

I’ve also put the word out on all the social networks:
YouTube: Burning Inside trailer has 1,200+ views on my page and 370 views on the Channel Midnight page
Burning Inside Facebook Page has over 244 Likes (admittedly not a lot)

What I’m saying here is that Burning Inside is available and the word is out, yet success in the sales department has not yet found us. Does that mean I roll over and die? No, it means that I continue to find new ways to make it available in ways that might find an audience, hence using dynamoplayer to embed the film right on the Burning Inside website for only $1.99. However, Jason Brubaker has a recent blog post that addresses the main issue with this new technology. Ultimately it’s the overall problem plaguing all independent filmmakers. Findability.

I didn’t make a film with the dream that 14 people would see it, and I doubt you made your film with those hopes as well. If you are you an independent filmmaker and willing to talk about your numbers? Put ’em in the comments and tell me how you’ve found success. Or why you haven’t. Let’s get a real discussion going and not just the fantasy that you can find on most blogs talking about how great this technology is for us.

An Open Letter to the Families and Friends of Filmmakers, Writers, Musicians & Artists:

February 1, 2011

My friend and colleague, Shane Tea French, posted the following note on his Facebook page recently. I felt it should be shared.

An Open Letter to the Families and Friends of Filmmakers, Writers, Musicians & Artists:

SO . . . .

Most of you know me. What do I do? In my eyes? I am a FILM MAKER. Above all else. All I do leads down the path to making  films that better the world, change lives, express emotions, transform the human tapestry. To me. That’s what I want to achieve and strive to be in my LIFE. While you all get to get married, something I have forgone in the goal of MY ART, and have children….I make movies, videos, etc. (My children.) And everyone VERBALLY supports me. “Shane, you are so talented.” Thank you.

I worked on a film called BURNING INSIDE, an amazing film I am proud to have been involved with. More than the shitty MAIN STREAM crap I suffered through in L.A. (GARFIELD, FLICKA, THE CAT IN THE HAT, etc…) and sold my soul to SCUM who would soon turn the theater experience to an utter lack of originality in remakes and 3-D that you see today. Everything that that place represented disgusted me to such a degree, I like so many others, some call us “THE LOSERS,” could not take it and came back to the EAST coast. Now I live with my Mom (like a slightly more social Norman Bates) who supports me unconditionally and try to make films on the weekends when not literally wiping butts at my day job.


So, please. Acknowledge them. (Unless your kid is in dire need of braces?)

This is what I want to do with my life and have wanted since I was 14. I am 38 years old and still haven’t let this world BEAT ME DOWN. Me and my friends in CT made a film (“BURNING INSIDE”) that is one of the coolest and most proud I have ever been to work on. Would I recommend it to any of my relatives? Honestly. No. To my college friends? Most likely yes. To a film student. Definitely. (And I think you would LOVE it.) But whether you like it IS NOT the point. What I need to continue, WHAT WE NEED, as independent film makers, people who do this out of a GUT WRENCHING PAIN OF NEED, something you can’t control, something that pushes, punches, guides, destroys you, makes you move, gets you out of bed when there is NO reason to move: WE NEED SUPPORT! Whether you like what we do or not. IF you are a friEND or RELATIVE, I need you to donate $20 (if you can spare it) to BUY the movies we make so we can continue to get the funding for our next films we plan to make. $20 bucks? Is that a lot? Imagine it is a birthday gift? Imagine you are coming out to see a show. WE NEED THIS TO CONTINUE TO DO WHAT WE DO AND NOT BE CRUSHED BY THE HOLLYWOOD MACHINE THAT GRANTS YOU WITH FODDER THAT CHURNS YOUR BRAIN TO MUSH AND MAKES YOU FORGET WHAT YOU SAW IN A HALF HOUR???! Most of you want to come home and dissolve into your couch. I DEMAND TO BE PUNCHED IN THE CEREBRAL CORTEX AND LEAVE A FILM STILL THINKING. THIS IS ART!

I was granted unlimited access to the behind the scenes making of this movie and shot an HOUR LONG documentary which is featured on the DVD. I made my OWN movie to go along with the feature film. THIS IS A BIG DEAL FOR ME! THIS IS MY ARTWORK, the ARTWORK I CHOOSE to do in this world! THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE!!!! COULD YOU PLEASE SUPPORT ME AND PURCHASE A DVD SO WE CAN CONTINUE TO MAKE FILMS THAT DON’T COW-TOE TO THE MAINSTREAM WHETHER YOU WANT TO WATCH THE CONTENT OR NOT?! At the very least, my contribution/behind the scenes documentary  will show you that hard work, dedication, sweat, sacrifice, and the amazing people who go after their dreams and attain what should be unattainable by shear force of never giving in is a sight to see……And we have FUN doing it.

PLEASE SUPPORT ME. I DO NOT have the $$$$$ for advertising and I need to feel like what I am doing is not being ignored. If my friENDs and FAMILY don’t want any part of my achievement, then WHY would someone who doesn’t know me care either? THIS IS WHAT I’VE DONE WITH MY LIFE.

Very Sincerely, Shane Tea French


Antietam Resurfaces

August 8, 2010

Maybe this happens to you too. Something random happens to you and then suddenly, out of the blue, 2 or 3 or 4 more things connected to that one thing happen shortly after.

Here’s an example: As far as I know, before a month ago, I never, in my life, heard the word ‘Antietam’. As detailed in my previous blog, my wife and I and some friends took a day trip to the Antietam Battlefield last month while vacationing in the area. This past Friday my wife was at the hair salon and out of the blue someone says: “There’s this General that was injured at Antietam…” Antietam is not an everyday topic of conversation and is nowhere near as common as, say, Gettysburg in this area. So when someone starts talking about it, and we just visited there a month ago, it’s a pretty unique connection.

To make the connection even more interesting is the subject of the conversation about Antietam. The reason that Antietam came up in conversation is because a woman was in the hair salon earlier in the day with a book that her husband has written. It turns out that her husband Jeffrey Keene, is strongly convinced that he is the reincarnation of General John B. Gordon who fought for the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War and was injured during the Battle of Antietam. Jeffrey Keene has written a book,”Someone Else’s Yesterday“, chronicling his unusual discovery and the evidence of his past life identity. I was handed the book while in the salon and was quickly engrossed in the story. When it was time to leave I had difficulty putting the book down. It is a fascinating story and very well written, I’m hoping to be able to purchase a copy from the author so that I can continue. You can read a synopsis of Jeffrey Keene’s past life identity case here. And check out the video from the TV show “Proof Positive”

I don’t know if it’s just coincidence or if I’m more keyed in to noticing, or if it’s a true “connection” of some sort, but I find these ‘connections’ fascinating. And in the case of Jeffrey Keene, when he did the research he revealed that those random coincidences might not have been so random after all.

The Enemy of Love

August 4, 2010

A few weeks ago I met a young man (in his mid 20’s maybe) that seemed intelligent, educated and tech savvy. He has a skill set that I thought might be useful on our upcoming “The Fall of the House of Usher” short film shoot in December. At the end of our brief, informal, friendly encounter (in a neutral work environment) I suggested he contact me and maybe we’ll work together. A few days later the first e-mail from him arrived (NOTE: All misspellings and typos are exactly as they were sent):

On Jul 29, 2010, at 9:00 PM, Hawk wrote:

I enjoyed workon with you and tour wife today. I look forward to workin wit your company in the future. This is our companies email so don’t hesitate to contact in regards to any future projects.  Video production is one of our focuses but we have a variety of skills that are useful for filmakers. Be easy, ONE

Nice, right? I didn’t realize he had a “company” so I replied:

On Jul 29, 2010, at 10:27 PM, Nathan Wrann wrote:

Cool, we had a good time. Thanks for contacting me. What does your company do? Do you have a website?


His response:

On Aug 3, 2010, at 10:23 AM, Hawk wrote:

Our website is under construction.  We’re an entertainment company that specializes in audio and video production. We’ve also done some acting and modeling so as I said we could help out with different aspects of the industry. We look forward to workin wit  your company. The only bias that we have is there is no racist or homosexual content we will participate in.  Other than that we’re positive and willin ta work wit good people. Be easy, ONE.

That’s weird. A “bias that… there is no… homosexual content.” Really? I thought this might be a typo or maybe a miscommunication.

I replied:

On Aug 3, 2010, at 10:34 AM, Nathan Wrann wrote:

Do you mean no homosexual or no homophobic (anti Gay) content?

His response yesterday:

On Aug 3, 2010, at 9:27 PM, Hawk wrote:

We are a positive company that promotes the natural laws of life and the universe. Men and women are made for each other to continue that cycle of life.  As you may know, male and female counterparts are found throughout the universe to obtain the balance needed for existence.     Heterosexual relations are the only relations that we support, advocate and will participate in. I hope that is a clear enough explanation.  We would enjoy the oppurtunity to work with your company if your cool with our position. ONE

Well that cleared it up. No misunderstanding. No typo. No miscommunication. I had to reply today:

On Aug 4, 2010, at 10:43 PM, Nathan Wrann wrote:

While that is your position I don’t see any opportunity for us to work together. As you stated, It is true that a male and a female are needed to continue the cycle of life, however, at this point, the human race is not in danger of throwing off the balance of the universe due to the lack of natural conception and child births. Human beings are no longer at the mercy of our basest animal instincts. We, as a species on Earth, comfortably living in The United States, have transcended this “law of nature” and no longer need to dedicate our existence to propagation of the species. At this current, microscopic dot on the timeline of the history of the universe, we are free to pursue interests that elevate us above common wild animals. Interests such as art, science, philosophy and love. You claim your company is positive, yet love is the most positive force in our existence, whether that love is between a man and a woman, two women or two men. Your, so-called, “Positive” company would deny someone a positive, joyous, loving relationship? I don’t think it’s a “positive” position to discriminate against someone because they have found love and choose to dedicate their life to a relationship that you disapprove of based on some notion that relationships are only a means to procreate. You are an enemy of love. My wife and I are not planning on having children, which, according to your belief, will throw off the balance of the universe because we are in a relationship and will not be contributing to the continuation of the cycle of life.

If your company only works on projects that you feel promote what you call “the natural laws of life and the universe” then there are a number of other abstract aspects of modern society that you will probably be discriminating against such as: birth control, recreational consensual protected sex, modern medicine, monogamy, equal rights, animal rights, ethics, values, sharing, any form of government, laws, religion, charity and peace. According to your litmus test, the subjects that you approve of and promote include: “survival of the fittest”, heterosexual rape, dominance, male abandonment,  and murder. The list of distasteful subjects could go on and on.

It is clear that you have deluded yourself into thinking that an intolerant mindset is somehow “positive” so this e-mail is not an attempt to change your mind, but rather an explanation of where I stand. It’s unfortunate that you have taken a path of bigotry, because when we talked you seemed to be an intelligent, educated, tech savvy young man that I otherwise would have liked to work with. I have known too many wonderful, positive and productive gays and lesbians and been witness to too many loving, caring, respectful homosexual relationships to remotely consider working with someone that would discriminate against some of my dearest friends.

Maybe, as you make your way through this short life, you’ll realize that only through inclusion, support, respect and love will we truly obtain our balance.

Maybe living in the “liberal” Northeast has made me complacent and I take things like a belief in “equal rights” for granted. But I must admit I was shocked that someone, in this area of the country, working (or trying to) in the “Entertainment Industry” had an anti-gay, discriminatory manifesto (without an obvious or apparent anti-gay agenda). Or maybe I’ve been protected and sheltered because the people that I collaborate with are creative, intelligent, respectful and supportive of the right to live your life how you want and share it with whomever you want.

Today Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in a “duh decision*” that banning gay marriage (Prop “8”) was unconstitutional. I thought it was an interesting coincidence regarding the timing of the e-mail communication I was in the midst of  so I felt it was appropriate to share.

* A “duh decision” is a decision that seems so clearly logical and correct that it amazes me that it had to be determined in a court of law.

A Clockwork Sleigh Bells

July 28, 2010

I could never be a reviewer of films or music. I have a great deal of trouble sitting down to write something negatively about a piece of work. That doesn’t mean that I would write a good review of a bad piece, instead I would prefer to write nothing. I would ultimately only write about the work that I like. Time and energy to write is a precious commodity to me and I don’t want to waste it on negativity. I do, however, appreciate a good conversational debate and will gladly discuss my disappointments face to face (or through the occasional 140 character “tweet”).

With that being said my disappointment with Sleigh Bells’ “live” show that I attended at Boston’s Royale last week (where they played with Die Antwoord) has weighed on me heavily enough that I have to write about it. It wasn’t that the performance was “bad” outright, if that was the case I would have forgotten about it and felt no need to rant. Instead it was my disappointment that Sleigh Bells have so much potential to put on an amazing show and it felt squandered. Sleigh Bells’ debut CD “Treats” has been on heavy rotation in my life since it was released a few months ago. I like their tunes, my favorite tracks are “Tell ‘em”, “Treats”, “Infinity Guitars”, I can do without “A/B Machines” but overall it’s really, really good, full of energy, motivation and inspiration inducing. In fact listening to it in my car during my daily commute I’ve envisioned a conceptual, non-linear, short-film, full album music video that I would love to make. Bottom line is I really like what they do.

In a prefatory note to A Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music, Anthony Burgess wrote that the title “A Clockwork Orange” is a metaphor for “…an organic entity, full of juice and sweetness and agreeable odour, being turned into an automaton.” Unfortunately, that’s ultimately what Sleigh Bells’ “live” show is. For those not aware, Sleigh Bells is “noise pop” duo Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss. Miller composed and recorded all of Sleigh Bells’ music and Krauss does all of the vocals. Sleigh Bells’ music is loud, densely layered guitars, drums, tambourines, sirens, backing vocals and samples. For their live shows Miller plays the lead guitar parts of the songs and Krauss handles lead vocals. All other instrumentation is handled by a pre-recorded background track. Essentially, in basest terms Miller and Krauss play along with the CD.

Which is the root of my disappointment in their “live” show. When I see a live band play I expect and hope to be able to see and hear something that is different, more organic and unpredictable than what I hear when I play songs on my iPod, that is, to me, the point of seeing live music. The Sleigh Bells’ live performance is held captive by the uncompromising timing of the backing track. When the pre-recorded song ends, THE SONG ENDS. There is no room for fluctuation or improvisation or extending or variations. For example, during their last song of the night Alexis Krauss dove in and was crowd surfing. The crowd was going wild! The music was pumping, Miller was jamming on guitar and then… it ended. Period. Silence. That was it. Krauss was left stranded in the middle of the crowd, with no music to accompany her ride back to the stage. It’s really an unfortunate situation because Krauss clearly has the stage presence and energy to command a killer live show, instead she’s a slave to the pre-recorded backing track (in actuality the backing track is about 90% of the song, Miller’s guitar is about 5% and Krauss’s live lead vocals the other 5%). She also falls prey to having to compete with her own previously, perfectly recorded backing vocals, which makes her live vocals sound poor by comparison. Don’t get me wrong, Krauss has a great voice for the genre but competing against herself just isn’t a fair fight, and makes her sound worse than she should, by comparison. At least we know she isn’t lip-syncing, but if most of the music is pre-recorded anyway, would it really matter? Could someone really, legitimately complain that she was lip-syncing, but be okay with a previously recorded background music track?

During the show I had occasion to think about ways Sleigh Bells’ could improve upon what I was experiencing.

Touring Musicians: The conventional approach would be to hire musicians for support during the tour. I understand that Sleigh Bells are a new band and might not have the funds to hire a pack of touring musicians to support them. Make no mistake, they will need to at some point or risk simply being a loud karaoke show. Nine Inch Nails did it, Ministry did it, Sleigh Bells will have to also. At this point, there may be a few ways around outright hiring.

On-Stage DJ: Put a DJ on stage with all of the elements at his/her finger tips. This would allow the songs to organically move with the show. When Krauss is out crowd surfing the song could continue until she gets back to the stage. If Miller plays a solo the elements could be adjusted, and so on. Of course Miller might be wary about letting someone twiddle with his compositions.

Fan Support: Sleigh Bells’ songs are very heavy on the percussion side of the spectrum, what if they selected 10 fans attending the show to come on stage and handle percussion duties. Fans that know the songs would certainly be able to drum, tambourine and jingle bells. That kind of interactivity could be pretty awesome. Or Fans (or local musicians) could sign up on-line ahead of time and “audition” to join the band on stage when Sleigh Bells play their town. I’m sure there are plenty of fans that would jump at that opportunity.

Sleigh Bells’ well-deserved hype went into overdrive last year when they blew audiences (and reporters and critics and everyone else) away with their live show during the CMJ Music Festival in Brooklyn. It is easy to understand how seeing them in a cramped venue in Brooklyn before hearing any of their music could be a transcendental experience. For them to bring that experience to larger venues and bigger audiences they are going to need to expand their live show to become something more than a reordering of pre-recorded tracks from the CD played loud. I truly hope the hype and popularity of this band continues to rise so that they have the opportunity to grow. I know I’m looking forward to seeing their evolution and will be sure to catch them every time they’re in town.

I should make sure to point out that my wife, Kim, was very reluctant to go to the show but I dragged her anyway. About 15 seconds into the first song she was enthralled and energized by Sleigh Bells. Kim is generally not a fan of female vocalists but Krauss’ energy and stage presence won her over immediately and her new-found fandom was reinforced when she had the opportunity to meet the very charming singer at the merch table while Die Antwoord finished up their set.