Mags.

Magazine articles are usually short and easy to comprehend.

Magazine pieces are ultimately pieces of information, so you've got to make sure that every article being featured is pertinent to the audience they're intended for. That's why as a writer, I've spent a lot of time learning to vary my style to suit your disparate audiences.

The Asian Diaspora

Asians in AmericaA very insightful article I wrote in Singapore (with quotes collected by Sha Najak), taking a look at how Asians in Asia view Asian Americans, versus how Asian Americans view Asians in Asia.

This was an article a long time in the making and looks into the challenges faced by both groups.

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Underworld

Underworld

The Underworld story is one of dance music's most heroic tales.

The story has been told over and over again of how the duo of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith from the band with an impossible name, Freur (a small squiggle, if you can call that a name), hooked up with the superstar deejay Darren Emerson and became schooled in the art of bass beats.

Two of their earliest albums "DUBNOBASSWITHMYHEADMAN" and "Second Toughest In The Infants" set their course to superstardom by exploding upon the dance music scene at the height of it's massive public appeal. This attention then became worldwide with their work on the Trainspotting soundtrack. And when crowds thought 'how can they top that?' they exceeded all expectations with their follow-up "BEAUCOUP FISH".

The critical third album is where most bands fail, especially in the fickle dance music genre. With "BEAUCOUP FISH," Underworld took the best bits of the first two albums, and then added some new twists, giving their audiences that extra something which sealed their status as club land giants.

With stealthy beats and an infectious style all their own, tracks like "Cups" and "Push Upstairs" set the standard of quality that all other techno groups had to match to groove the audience's minds, bodies and souls. With this unique energy and build-up in each track, the listener is left breathless and grasping for more.

Many a drug addled road trip began with their music in the CD player, and ended the journey with some of their comedown tracks easing the car in the garage. With a twitching in the eardrums, perfect memories of the wide-open road can be reactivated with the simplest of samples from an Underworld song; such is the power of their music.

Coming to Prague to headline the Creamfields party, Underworld has gotten a lot of press in the local media, unfortunately focusing on the departure of Darren Emerson, and with the predictable (and most inane) question being; Is Underworld still Underworld without Darren? As if Darren was the whole of the group. Darren has left the group, but focus on that word 'group'. Everyone else that they worked with is still working on the new album, still in the same studio, still on the (JBO) Junior Boys Own label, still with the same manager.

Hell, they even have the same wives (but with a couple more children). As they explained it to Bassline Magazine, "Darren did not build the Underworld sound, we all did. If you want to know why he left, ask him. I think you have a very simplistic view of Underworld and how the three of us made the music if you put the sound down to one person."

And I have to agree. Contrary probably to what you might think from reading some of the interviews they've done, it's obvious that Underworld is still having a great time. I keep reading interviews of the band, stressing that no one person "made" Underworld what it is.

"When we started working with Darren, we started working with a number of new people; Darren Price, Malcolm Corbett, the JBO crew, these people are still with us and there are many others new and old. Underworld was always more than the three people on stage and it still is. Inspiration comes from the process not just the people."

But just how did they feel about Darren's decision to leave Underworld? "It was easy, he wanted to leave and we wanted him to go." And the effect on the group? "It affected the band because it was one less person to talk with, but the music has always been Rick's responsibility so there was no change in that respect," says Karl. "If people doubt us that's ok. We have never doubted, we made those old albums and we will make more. What can we say except listen to the record before judging." He pauses to chuckle, "But who are these people that doubt? We want their names and addresses..."

So with years of hit-making under their collective belts, what can we expect to find in this new good time album, made with a whole new set of records on the decks and a goal of overcoming the moans of the critical masses? "It's great! Someone said to us it seemed like all the albums before had been leading to the new one and that's how we feel."

Upon listening, it's obvious that this album is about rediscovering certain records from their past. When asked about which songs they expect to blow up large, Karl replied, "'Two months off' because of its huge summer sound, 'Little speaker' which is a big funky bass line track, and 'Dinosaur adventure,' a full on Underworld blast, like 'Moaner' without the shouting!"

Underworld

It's obvious that with their earlier albums they tended to get carried away by things, wanting to match and maintain their signature sounds.

Freed of Darren, they've had a chance to sit back and remember what they really liked when they started out. "It sounds like Underworld 2002 and is all about beauty, light, texture and new thoughts," Karl shares, "Same Underworld with some more funk and lots of love and happiness. I (Karl) sing and play instruments. Rick does everything. We think this is our best album ever. When you hear it you will understand."

Another difference that always separated Underworld from the rest of the pack is their refusal to play the commercial game. Many would have simply gone "lager, lager, lager" crazy and remixed as many "Born Slippy's" as was required. Not so with this crew, "We are still fans of all music. Some drum and bass is good, some bad, but that is the same with all music. But now, there's not a real d'n'b influence on this album, it has more of a Latin style.

But as for 'style,' dance music, pop music, whatever; we don't concern ourselves with thinking about that sort of thing. We worry about making music and let you worry about the scene or the latest fashion. We don't think about the scene really, who's scene? What scene? The scene in Germany? The scene in Japan? Thinking about that does not help you make music. We just try and make the best music we can, from the heart, and let the public decide if they like it."

But try to deny it as they might, people are watching their moods and hearing their music, from the dance floor to the CD collection, to the TV and even three of Danny Boyle's movies! And last summer you even had a chance to see them for yourselves, at the Creamfields Festival in Roudnice nad Labem on August 9th, where they performed with Czech faves like Loutka and La-Di-Da, as well as international superstars like Paul Oakenfold, Layo and Bushwacka Live, as well as SuperStar Corvin Dalek. What new should we expect from Underworld?

"We are looking forward to seeing everyone and will be doing some old stuff and some new also. It will be a real roller coaster ride, as it will be the first time we have played our material live." Yeah, but any special surprises? "You will see us doing our show (which will have elements of the old show but it will not look the same), and we think it's great! We are looking forward to playing to the people and hope they get into the show. We enjoy what we do and people seem to like it, so why change?"

Exactly...

Blue Meany

It was a sunny day in the Zizkov district of Prague, when I popped into local artist Jay Meany's studio, above Akropolis.

Jay MeanyIn a chaotic room with a spy's eye view of the inner workings of the antiquated phone switchers at STP's nerve center, I kept to the side and out of the way in order to avoid the flow of the lease holder's possessions as they prepared to move on, victims of a greedy, unscrupulous landlord.

Jay will be moving soon, too. Jay's paintings formed a jury along one wall, where they patiently awaited to begin their journey to a new home; an exhibition in Paris, France.

Jay's work is an exploration in free-form association, a large departure from his early training as a figurative painter. His unique process starts off by working a wooden back board (a bit) applying charcoal drawings of figures, shapes and images of different sizes, and then laying down acrylic paint in layers of colors in a manner of underpainting, on top of which he lays sheets of paper and paints over those.

The result of which is that when the acrylic sets, it acts as a glue, and as you peel off the layers of paper, they rip and tear forming a very unique texture.

Once the tearing is finished, he begins sanding through the paint and paper to bring the original charcoal drawings back up, which gives the piece a very muted abstractness, a feeling similar to being inside of an abandoned storefront, very old and neglected.

To add further to this sense of abandonment and decay, he then takes a torch and burns away at whatever paper remains showing. If the results are not to his liking, he applies more layers; two, sometimes three, and close inspection of his work reveals more questions than answers, much like the artist himself.

The shapes that form the centerpoint of his pieces are subjective to your interpretations, as he is philosophically a Relativist, a believer that what the viewer sees is dependent upon their life experiences; however, he is not so shortsighted as to only use images that have no particular relevance.

For example "Lord's Prayer/Pledge of Allegiance," explores the two first things most Americans are forced to memorize from a very early age, and is very powerful. An appropriate subject for a medium that involves painting, papering, tearing, burning, cutting, scrubbing, sanding and more cutting again in a non-stop process of transitions.

"That's why I like flames and papers. I want to give the feeling that you're discovering something. I definitely don't want to dictate what the viewer gets out of the artwork.

Definitely the viewer shouldn't have to suffer through it, and in that same vein, I don't believe that you have to suffer to be an artist. That's not to say it's easy. Quite the contrary. But unless you're prepared to make art your trade, what are you going to do?

You're going to teach. And then you're not an artist, you're a teacher. If you went through school because you wanted to be an artist, then you act as an artist; painting, sculpting, working, doing whatever you do, showing it, hopefully selling, generating some sort of income such as you can to buy more supplies and do more work, and eat and pay rent.

But if you can't do that, well, then you're gonna be a little bitter. If you went to school to be a painter, and then you're a teacher, then you're not what you wanted to be.

This doesn't mean that all teachers are failed artist: some want to teach. But there's so much stigma involved in being an artist; "You have to suffer for your vision" and all this bullsh*t, this romanticism. It's not romantic, it's stupid, ignorant.

You don't have to suffer. Suffering is a choice. You know what I'm talking about, those artists; "I'm so miserable", moping around; your art doesn't come from misery, you're miserable because you're a stupid f*ck!" He laughs. "I'm not miserable, I do what I want, what I like. That's my choice. Ultimately, it is about communicating on a different lever, a level that plays upon the spiritual. And this you do by making things a suggestion. You can't box people in.

I can't just stamp this and bamm, revelation, coz you won't get anything from it. The only way they can get something out of it is just to suggest what I'm trying to say." And this theory shows in his works.

The last piece from his current series is called "Oxygen Debt" and with its muted tones and sparse frantic approach you have no doubt that the artist himself was gasping for air as he painted it.

"That one was the last painting, and I was struggling to finish it; I felt like I had been swimming for a long time, a gasping for air. The feelings I was going through really came out in this piece."

Jay now lives in North America, and if you'd like to get a feeling of Jay's latest works, check out his website at JayMeany.com, or you could always hop on over to Paris to see his work in a group showing some day.


Photography by Jeffree Benet

These stars are shining

San Diego, that ancient sod of a city in the far south left corner of the world has always been a great place to see the stars shine.

Greyboy All-starsOn any clear, typically smog free, breezy night, the sparkling jewels of light shine brightly, and as of late there's a new constellation rising, and its one constellation you can see without a telescope.

It's known as the Greyboy Allstars.

Conceived in genius by the nimble mind of DJ Greyboy and saxophonist Karl Denson, they built the band member by member to its present half dozen plus one of the best talent in Diego Town.

Pushing that highly polished, top shelf sound is Zach Najor on skins, Chris Stilwell bassin' it, Mike Andrews stummin' strings, Robert Walters on keys, Craig Levitz perkin' the percussion, Karl Denson windin' the sax and a little flute, and Harold Todd on a whole lotta flute.

And like a pearl don't need no polishing, these soul jazz, funky on the forward-tip music makers have gotten tighter in six months than most bands get in a lifetime. That's cause they play for the groove, and just the groove. As Greyboy laid it on me, "To groove is the direction the band's goin' for, we're not going for commercial appeal or anything like that."

But still, with the recent 'mainstream' crossover of bands like US3, the labels are lookin' an' listenin' What does Greyboy think of this trend? "We're not lookin' for a record deal, we're just looking to make great music. I know it sounds like a clich?, but in this case it's really true. I think it's the one thing that comes across most with the All-stars.

"We're definitely avoiding commercial record company schemes like what Blue Note did with US3. What they're doing is totally opposite of what we're trying to do."

How does he feel about the recent media attention devoted an the acid jazz genre? "I think there's a lot of acid jazz that doesn't really qualify as jazz at all, it's more like hip-hop or R&B. Acid jazz is really a lame term anyway, but you have to say it' cause it's the only way a regular person that's not in the scene can identify with what you're talking about."

In a scene that's growing strong, it's only a matter of time before legendary entertainers bring us back to the days when outstanding talent was the rule and not the exception. The fact that there are more people into jazz now, but less qualified musicians is something Greyboy laments.?"It's not like 30 years ago, where the top ten performers in jazz, each was a legend in their own right; there was Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins and many others. The scene's strong today, but it's got a ways to go."

And this influence and, drive comes through in his progressive new tradition trip. He writes the music the old-school way, using samples and working by ear. Heavy into the recording side of things, he engineers the recordings for that specific sound that's "just right...," the sound that the All-stars are all about. This sound is just as important as the sound of the band itself.

Again, Greyboy; "Some people are concerned with the sound recordings, and some aren't, but it's definitely a big part of what we're trying to accomplish; bring back that big quality sound."

Having just finished mixing the All-stars' album, West Coast Boogaloo, on his private label, you know the proof will be in the pudding when it hits the shelf this month. And with a planned tour at the end of summer or possibly in the fall, plus more studio sessions, you'd be best to catch one of their Left coast shows.

Hit it up at either the Green Circle Bar in San Diego, Brass record parties and at the Dragonfly in LaLa Land, or places like the always a-house-on-fire Elbo Room in Frisko.

Catch 'em now and you just might have something to brag about to your grand kiddies, dig??


This article was published in Step Jazz Magazine

Richie Rich

Richie Rich

Born in San Francisco, Richie found his early calling as a professional ice skater. He toured with the Ice Capades until he discovered the disco lights, elevating his sights to the challenges of pop stardom...

He followed his dreams to New York. "I love New York. The sparkle ... there's room for everyone. And everybody here tends to pay homage to one another. The people here are all in such a struggle together."

Richie didn't just lie idle, or dance 'tit dawn at Disco 2000. Richie had a dream. That vision became reality when he connected with Larry T, who wrote "Super Model" for Ru Paul. The result, "Love You A Million," was quickly picked up and pumped out, paving the way for a fun little summer of Richie Rich music.

Released on Unique New York Records, other tracks included "SuperStar" (best described as synthetic Richie, with hard techno nuances), ad the unity theme "Everybody Is A Star."

Currently working on his latest track, 'Congratulations,' and shopping for a major label, Richie disdains being forced into the molds of musical conformity.

"I mean, country music right now, it's just blowing America away. That doesn't mean I'm gonna go country. You have to stick to what you like, and I'm definitely into that 'lollipop' kind of music."

He draws inspiration from both the DJs that drive the city's pulse, and from the hardy souls who go out every night because they live for it and love it: the unsung heroes of the club scene who perform as themselves.

Describing his philosophy, he says "You just need to do, and don't worry about what other people tell you to do. When drag became really popular, I saw all these kids out here trying to be just like Ru Paul. But the whole "You better work!" thing, that means you had better work on being yourself. You gotta put your heart into what you love and just be good."


Originally published in Surface Magazine

DEvolution to Revolution = Evolution - KaRavan

Pierre Ravan, KaRavan cover

Pierre Ravan's mission is spreading the love and creativity of house music...

Pierre is a music maestro who specializes in House Music, and in his hands, the turntable goes from being more than a piece of technology to a vibration generator which infiltrates every inch of your body. After many years on the decks playing venues as diverse as the biggest raves to the most intimate parties or the poshest fashion runways, Pierre's belief that house music is a spiritual journey that can heal the world comes through proudly on his latest 2-CD release of KaRavan.

With a soulful and deeper sound that explores a darker and progressive mood, he takes you on a journey across the sound spectrum, from Alpha to Omega, without ever missing a beat or an emotion. He ably shows that the thing about House music is that it is a genre of music that embraces all walks of life, regardless of racial or economic boundaries.

Having established itself over the past quarter century, it is understandable that some may dismiss it as being too focused on appearances and gimmicks. Nowdays if you have a certain look and can press a couple of computer controls, link them to some lyrical tracks, BAM!, you have a record. But that is not what real house music is. House music is spiritual and there is nothing better than getting on that dance floor and becoming engulfed with the sounds that leads you on a musical journey.

So we should all be thankful to Mr. Ravan for acknowledging the decline in the true elements and wanting to bring it back to the basics, and after the success of last year's KaRavan "Soul Liberation", Pierre has declared 2011 the year of "Evolution", conveying a true message of love through music that you can enjoy anytime of night or day.

Knowing he's creating music for a global audience, he's spent countless hours in the studios, while performing around the world, whether that's in Tallinn or Prague, Barcelona or Koln, or Dubai where he has a home. After the release late last summer on the Peppermintjam label, the urge to create led to a single for Conya label in Germany entitled "Eyes Should be Washed" in collaboration with SPIN SCIENCE of Estonia… truly a world voice for healing and peace.

As a DJ, he is more sought-after than ever before and celebrated all over the place, having spent more than a decade on the international DJ circuit. A well respected DJ, producer and remixer, he brings a new aura to the scene as well as different varieties of House music that he likes to call "Spiritual House". Depending on the location and crowd, he's able to either spin this unique mixture of fashion-friendly club house in plush bar sur­- roundings or his very distinguished version of house with a sly electro and progressive touch in big-room venues.

Pierre's history in Prague goes way back to the golden days of the House music scene here, and having long been a fan of his brand of House music, Think interviewed him when he was just starting out on his mission to bring more spirituality to the House music scene. (You can read it at http://tiny.cc/ravan). So it is with a special joy to see that he has indeed evolved his style and vision into a masterpiece of good grooves.

Having explored the music-scape, he comes back to us with a blend of only the finest of all styles of House music from Soulful, Deep and Tribal to Dark and Progressive, from all corners of the globe in his latest release; the 2-CD compilation completing his whole journey, and you can join him starting with CD 1, DEvolution, where the music explores the baser parts of Evolution with a softer & deeper approach, slowly elevating the mood on the second CD, REvolution, which takes you on a world wide sound trip, building to a more deeper, and darker, while still progressive sound, with a techno spirit to complete the whole journey with heightened energy.

Seeking to return to his House roots in Prague, he brings his old school energy back with the musical journey of his KaRavan, a monthly residency at Sasazu on?Sept. 24th, the first gig being a marathon 14-hour set (starting at 7pm), starting off the evening with more soulful sound explorations and building up the energy 'til the morning sun greets the day.

As a former resident and long time fan of Prague's orignal House music venue, he also guest-starred at RadostFX on September's "Remember House" night, the popular reunion of old school deejays that made the Prague music scene famous around the world. He performed brilliantly at both appearances, but his night at Sasazu is be where he is in his element, with a canvas of time to really take you one a journey certain to leave you high on the vibrations of higher being. If you were unable to catch what the memorable night in September, you MUST be sure to check out his future appearances, which will be a further evolution of great times and pleasant surprises.

When?I asked him his thoughts on the evolution of Prague's music scene, he shared that "2011 is the first time in many years that I've come back to play in Prague again, first at Roxy, and you can feel that there is a new consciousness and warmness towards quality House music again. For a while there, people forgot about House music, but this year has been interesting, because there's so many House music festivals happening, and so many people now are coming back to House again. That's why I'm happy, that it's coming back again to the Czech Republic,

"Now is the right time to come back again, you know, a return to where I be­gan my journey, a return to the basics."

"Until today, I have released six compilations, KaRavan. This year is Evolution, because I can feel the whole world is evolving. There is around the world, Evolution, and Revolution, not just political, but spiritual, it has many meanings and is deeper, a new light, and it's all collected here in the journey I want to take people on. Sazasu has really opened up to this idea, which is fantastic, to give something to people, something new, and I really commend them for this vision."

Feeling La-Di-Da

As a female Deejay in a world dominated by men, Deejay La-di-da is a bit of an enigma.

DJ La-Di-Da

And the enigma is that it doesn't matter that she's a woman playing records. When she gets up on the stage, her presence takes over the room and her music sets people's booties to bumpin'.?Drivin' the wheels of steel for over three years now, this model turned Deejay makes music from her own dub plates from places as far as Brazil and Norway to the neighboring countries of Germany and Croatia. Now La-di-da's back home and ready to take us on a few journeys. As the new resident DJ at RADOST FX on Thursday nights, she looks forward to find her roots...

Think: How did you get started in this whole Deejay business?

La-di-da: I had a boyfriend from Switzerland and he was a Deejay and I asked him for just one record. That was, I think, "Bonsai Rebirth Call", it was very popular in Germany and very popular also here. I asked him to send me this one record, and instead I get around 50 records!So at first I would practice and practiced for one month before I got my first gig at Radost, I was discovering my way while playing for the crowds, measuring the response with the crowd, who were willing to overlook any small mistakes in the mixing.

Think: Have you changed much from the beginning?

La-di-da: I think I've changed a lot. I'm very close with Afrika Islam and we play together, as well as Marusha and Deejay Sharon. I'm learning scratching from Afrika, I need more practice so I'm gonna train at home 'til he thinks I've got it down, which should be within a year, I believe.

Think: What female Deejays do you look up to?

La-di-da: Marusha is very special, she talks to people with the microphone and she has very special records. She has a very unusual sound, so she doesn't have to mix that good, because she knows the energy and she makes a very good party, it shows in the people's faces, you can see how they love her.

In Brazil, I've been with her, and they've seen Marusha in magazines, but they'd never heard her play, but within 10 minutes they were screaming, all hands up while she was playing, and even though there was a bad system in that club, she made a really good set, you know. The people who want to talk bad about her, maybe they should try to play and then they can criticize. It's always so easy to criticize somebody.

Think: What do you think of other women who get into the business?

DJ La-Di-Da on the decks

La-di-da: There are a lot of girls who try to be a Deejay because they thought 'Yeah, she was successful, I can be also', but if you just do it because you see somebody is good and if you don't do it with all your heart, you have to really want to make music, want to create a new sound with mixing two records together, or want to produce records, then it's not the right thing, just to copy someone. You can never be successful, if you don't do it because you want to do it, and do it from the heart."

Think: You play all over the world, how do you feel about the Prague club and music scene?

La-di-da: Prague is a very special place, it's not into techno music, here we love house music, techno music is a little hard for us. There are quite a lot of good record stores in Prague, which is not so big, and we have a lot of good parties here too; from Planet Alfa, Radost FX, from Lighthouse, and On-Strike, and also in the clubs in Pardubice and Liberec, the scene is alive and it's gonna keep on growing.

Think: Where do you play usually?

La-di-da: I play at Radost FX, and for On-Strike (smiles catlike), but never for Lighthouse, who will never book me, but believe me I'm not crying for this.

Think: Being a small city, do you ever come up against anyone here who refuses to accept you as a female Deejay?

La-di-da: They don't like me at Radio One, especially this one girl, but when I come out with my CD, she'll be the first one to get one. Then she can be even angrier with me. Again.

Think: How's the reaction to your style?

La-di-da: I just try to play it my way, and work with the crowd. " I like music, somebody else might like going to cinema, some like to go to the pub. It's the thing for relaxing, you know? I relax if I can play and if I can dance. It's part of my life, I would say I'm one of the people to who music is my whole life.

Think: What do you think of police repression of the club scene?

La-di-da: I was at a party in Germany where the police raided, going through all the Deejay's bags searching for work papers, but luckily some guys from the crew grabbed my bag and got me away from there.

Think: Do you think that can happen here in Prague?

La-di-da: No, never, never, never. I hope not. It's the extreme, because the government is too busy fighting themselves. Our generation which is in England around the ages 18 to 25, they're only partying, only clubbing and so nobody's working. And this generation which isn't working, there are big problems with the economy right now.

And I think the government thinks they need this law (the Traveler's Bill) because it's extremely uncontrolled you know, everybody is only partying, taking drugs and they try to find something to stop it, so that people won't go to clubs so much, and they would work and go to school and pay taxes.

It's the same as the drug laws though; if you're told you'll go to prison if you take drugs, it doesn't help you. So it's the same thing. They made these laws that their people cannot make a party, or you need a special permit, but it's not gonna work, because they people are having too much fun.

Our government has much bigger problems, for example with the banks, so I don't think they make a law like this.

la di da cd

Think: What about the raid on Club Propast this past year?

La-di-da: The police are doing this just to show the people they should be scared, to make people afraid of them. I didn't vote last time, but I go next time, because I never liked this idiot Zeman from the CSSD, now that he's near the top, I can never let this idiot win, no, no, no, I go to the next election!

Think: So you prefer Klaus?

La-di-da: I don't know what the people want, it's a big problem. I think they should look at how the Czech Republic looked five years ago before they criticize Klaus. Sure we have problems today, it's natural, you know, nobody's perfect, everybody makes mistakes, but he's trying to repair it. But this idiot Zeman, never, no!

Think: Enough about politics, do you have a boyfriend?

La-di-da: No time for a boyfriend, there's not time. I'm too busy and I think I'm a little bit complicated. If I'm in a serious relationship, the work is the second thing, and then it's difficult to have some progress with my work, if I put all of my energy into the other person. So I decided that my few relationships didn't work, so now I will make music and try and work on myself. I'm only 21 so I'm not hurried. And when I feel like I would like to go into some relationship, I will do it. Think:So it gets quite hectic on the road?

La-di-da: I meet every week about 500 people, everybody shakes my hands, or they call me and say, 'Oh, do you remember me?' You know, I have too many people around me, so I like to be alone sometimes.

Think: But around the crowd you want to share with them the good sounds and to move their butts...

La-di-da: Sometimes you have the people, who are not really into the music. They come to the party to just drink the beer, and then stand around the bar, and nobody's dancing. This is what I hate! For fifteen minutes I try everything I can do; play all different kinds of music, and if this doesn't work, the I just get pissed and then I just play for myself. This happens sometimes in clubs.

Think: These aren't just people chillin' in the clubs, these are the looky-loos who just stand aside and watch the people dance?

La-di-da: I hate it when they're all just watching, and nobody's dancing, good thing that rarely happens in Prague, I was in one discotek in Germany and for long time it was 90% standing, 10% dancing, and it's not because of the music, it's just that they go there and drink and watch themselves. It makes me pissed!

Think: What's the best party you've ever been to, that changed your life?

La-di-da: Outside of Prague, maybe it was the Street Parade in Zurich it was really good, and this year's Street Parade was a very big house party with all the big house Deejay's from America and England, it was really good.

As far as small places go, Live Klub in Pardubice, the people there might be young, but I don't care, the crowd makes a very good atmosphere, they react to each good mix, throwing hands in the air and screaming. And that can be unusual at parties.

Think: How do you cope with the Deejay lifestyle?

La-di-da: Another thing about being a deejay, the people get really jealous. I was playing at one club, and some guy came up and said 'Oh, what sh*t music you play, stop playing' and he was on hard drugs, and usually I'm very cool, you know I don't care what some junky says, but it hurt me.

It was four or five in the morning and I didn't play bad music and I was mixing all right, and I just started crying.

These moments, sometimes you're not strong enough, and you have to be very strong if you're a Deejay; you travel alone, you are most of the time alone on the road, you work sometimes and other times you don't sleep for 30 hours. It can be hard. Some people are a little bit afraid of me, they think I'm too strong-willed, too tough. But I'm totally normal, it might just be a cover for such idiots as that junky.

Think: So you're able to deal with the stress?

La-di-da: I live my own life, but sometimes it's hard when things like this happen, or if the promoters don't pick you up at the airport or train station, and you're trying to call someone and end up stuck at the airport for two or three hours. Even worse is when the airport is closed and you have to go to a totally different country to get to the place where you play. Sometimes it's too much, and I cry, and that helps. I cry 10 minutes and then it's all fine.

Think: It has to be rewarding though...

La-di-da: It's worth it although when people smile and go 'Yeah!', or want your autograph, writing on their skin and t-shirts and trousers. It can be too much when 100 people come at you wanting autographs.

Some Deejays don't give autographs, but I think if they like me and they want to have something from me to take home, if they don't have my record or tape, then I give them autograph. It makes them happy, so it's not bad.

Think: Finally, tell me about your CD coming out next month.

La-di-da: Lot's of different music on my CD, there are two house tracks, a couple of tracks are trance-techno and there are other different styles, it's not all one sound. I play from 126 Beats per minute to 146 BPM. I made one Break-beat track, and I'm really satisfied with that. This CD is a co-operation with Radost FX and Planet Alfa.

Bluesman Rennie Trossman

Rennie Trossman gives us the insight on what it takes to be great, while chilling on the seaside in Bulgaria.

Rennie Trossman

Known for his unique guitar style, he frequents all the jazz haunts of Prague, jamming with some of the greatest names in the game. If you're really lucky you can catch him at Chateau for a nice intimate set like no other..

GASHAUS: When was it, and what was it, that made you decide to become a blues man?

RENNIE: It was an Albert King record that I heard in 1969, called "Blues Power", recorded live and it simply killed me! I couldn't believe what I was hearing, so, I put all of my Led Zep and Stones LPs in a closet, and I never, ever listened to that sh*t again, since that day. Really.

GASHAUS: You recently spilt up with your band, and have a new project; can you tell us something about that?

RENNIE: I am putting together a bigger band, 7 musicians and a vocalist, making 8. It is bluesy-jazz, jazzy-blues, in the style of the 50s swinging bands led by T-Bone Walker, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, etc., with a Big Joe Turner, Joe Williams, Alberta Adams, type of vocal thing happening.

GASHAUS: Besides yourself, who is the best guitarist ever?

RENNIE: Whoa, I am by no means even on the bottom of the bottom of any such list man! Let's get that straight right away! Best... that is too hard for me to say, since it really depends on the style, blues, jazz, and the era, but I would include the following cats: Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and Barney Kessell for Jazz.

On the Blues side, BB King (the OLD stuff only), T-Bone Walker, Eddie Taylor, Earl Hooker, Pee Wee Crayton, Tiny Grimes, Bill Jennings, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Lowell Fulson, Albert King, Freddie King. I know I left out some great guys, but these are the ones who come to mind right away, and in no particular order by the way...

GASHAUS: You tour Europe quite a bit; do you play a lot of large stage shows, or mostly bars?

RENNIE: Mostly 100 - 200 person capacity clubs. Bigger stages for Festivals, of course.

GASHAUS: How does the music come across differently on the large stage, versus the small bar?

RENNIE: Good question! I prefer the small clubs for obvious reasons: Blues and Jazz is intimate music that comes across better in a smaller venue. I do not like to go see blues or jazz in big venues myself. I saw BB King in the Palace of Culture - Vysehrad, in Prague, and man, that was really the wrong place for a blues show. We once played at a festival in Sibiu, Romania, and it was set up in a huge place, and it was hard to do it.

GASHAUS: Are you working on a new album? Can you tell me something about that?

When this new thing comes together, I definitely would like to do a studio album, with a few different guest vocalists from USA who have been friends of mine for a long time, like Lorenzo Thompson, who is also from Chicago, and Eb Davis, who I met in Europe, and another old friend of mine, Sharon Lewis, from Chicago, as well. They have all played Prague with me in the past, with the band I used to play with.

GASHAUS: Where is the best jazz-blues scene in Europe?

RENNIE: Probably Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Germany and Austria.

GASHAUS: Where is the best place to play?

RENNIE: HA! Tricky, because the best response and reaction I ever got was in Budapest, Hungary, but we made no money. Best money is in German and Poland.

GASHAUS: Is it true the blues are better to play and or listen to while high?

RENNIE: Gee Jeffree, I wouldn't know much about that personally, but I have heard that a lot of cats have done it.

GASHAUS: Can you tell me something about the people you like to perform with, a little about their personalities?

RENNIE: The people that I have most enjoyed working with are the ones who truly eat, breathe, and sleep the music, and not people who play it for the sake of the show and the money, and the go home and listen to some crap fusion records.

Eb Davis is a blues-oligist, so to speak, and he has forgotten more songs than most people know! A total pro, and demands of it his bands. Lorenzo Thompson is a raw-voiced hollerer, in the Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf mold. He learned to sing in gospel in the church at a young age and then heard a Muddy Waters record in the neighborhood, and bang, that was that.

Sharon Lewis is a transplanted Texan who moved to Chicago, where I met her in the 80s. She, like Lorenzo, is more of a hollerer, in the Koko Taylor style, and she can send a chill right up your spine, believe me! She is a very sensitive individual and a grandma too!

GASHAUS: What do you think of the local Czech musicians who play in your genre... do they get it right?

RENNIE: Like anywhere and everywhere, some are better than others, and I ain't gonna names, because, hey, all the guys out there who are playing rock riffs and taking long solos 7 times around the changes, you know who you are! That sh*t is just on-stage masturbation. Wake up guys, nobody gives a sh*t...

They should maybe try and listen to the real and right stuff, instead of copying white rockers like Clapton, who himself tried to play like the greats, but something else happened instead. So, why copy Clapton or Stevie Ray? They are watered-down, b*stardized, rocked-out, sh*tty-toned, morons who thought they needed to re-invent Blues - BULLsh*t! Sorry, Jeffree, but those guys do NOT make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

I must add that I REALLY hate it when young players proclaim themselves Blues-masters in short time. The stuff takes a long time to play with feeling and sensitivity, and that is not my opinion; it is the f*cking truth man! Whenever I hear someone suggesting that, "Blues is easy to play", I really want to take a BIG swing at their head man! It is not instant coffee, you know?

GASHAUS: Are the blues really universal?

RENNIE: YES!!! While it is "niche" music, there are fans of Blues from Chicago - to - Japan - to Transylvania! Like Jazz, this great music will last. In a hundred years from now people will still know BB King and Muddy Waters are, but, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton, or a piece of sh*t like Eminem...? I seriously doubt it man!

GASHAUS: What make of instruments do you play? How long have you played them?

Right now, in Prague, I have a few guitars, I have a 1964 Fender Duo Sonic II that I have had since 1966, and a 1957 Kay archtop electric I picked up a few years ago, and a 1974 Epiphone - Riviera II, and I recently got rid of a 1974 Fender Telecaster, that I used to play for a few years. I want a Gibson ES-335 type of guitar, but they are expensive. Make that, over-priced! I used to like Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls in the 60s and 70s.

GASHAUS: And finally, describe the feeling, the moment, when you just knew you were gonna perform as your profession.

RENNIE: It was actually in a moment when I wanted to give up trying to play blues. My guitar teacher, the great Buddy Scott, a blues man from Chicago who died shortly after I moved to Prague in 1994, told me this:

"Man, you ain't nothin', but, I can hear somethin' right, and you is a whole lot better than most of them other cats hangin' around these jam sessions. So, if you work real hard, you could just make it"

Rennie TrossmanThis totally shocked me, here is this great guy, unbelievably great player, and he is telling me that out of all the "younger" guys hanging around the Chicago jam scene, that he thought I could make it. Well, that just made practice like a madman, and go out to the clubs in Chicago (Home of the Blues, for the uninformed out there) every single night, sometimes 2 or 3 places a night, and see all of these monster guys who were tearing it up in the 80s, in Chicago.

I got VERY motivated to make it as a blues player and when I did my first gig, I really knew it.

A guy named Lurrie Bell made a really big impression on me at that time, as well. I never saw a more intense guy, or a guy who could play so hard and emotional, straight from his heart and soul, like Lurrie Bell could.

He used to get up on his toes while playing a solo, eyes closed, forehead all scrunched-up, and just f*cking proceed to bear his goddamn soul up there, and it would just kill me and most everybody else in the place too. I wanted to play like Lurrie Bell, and I still do today!

Brahms and Co, music to move your soul

No one makes coffee like the French and nothing's more French than the musical duo Brahms and Co., who are are currently making their home at the Scotts Lounge of the Grand Hyatt Singapore.

Brahms & Co.

Like a good coffee, you gotta have the right ingredients, and bring it all up to a boil for it to come out right. You can search all around the world to find the perfect blend of harmony and soulfulness, but without the right people brewing it up, it's just foul brown water.

But then there's Brahms and Co (pronounced Ko), brewmiesters extraordiniare, mixing up a heady mix of Latin inspired jazz music with a good dose of house vibes, perfectly prepared to serve you up a steaming hot fresh sound which is guaranteed to hit your sweet spot.

And you can bet that his suave duo takes their music seriously, as evidenced by their minimal black or white attire when performing. To watch Co on the stage, focused on every inflection pouring out from his body, one is instantly reminded of the perfectionist Miles Davis; so comparable are the two in their intensity.

Besides the turntables, keyboards and horn, the duo make their act unique by cleverly peppering it with the trippy effects of the Vocoder, which updates their almost completely classicalist jazz sound with the modern effects of a robot's voice.

In Paris, the duo are well known around the nightlife and dinner lounge circuit, but you needn't have gone that far to have heard of them, as they are making waves in Asia as well. I refer to their fantastic performance during the first half of the year in Jpan as well as Bangkok's Bed Supper Club and V9, the trendy bar in the Bangkok Sofitel Silom, where they wowed the crowd with their unique sound stylings.

Just signed to the prestigious Blue Note label, which will be releasing Brahms and Co's first album soon, this is your chance to catch them and tell your children "I saw them when..." so get on your hipster gear, grab your loved ones and head on down for a heady cup of sonic brew...

A.J. Croce Comes of Age

Brick gin joints, gas lamps, baby grands and foot stompin', soul shouting blues all add up to one thing; A.J. Croce is hitting the ivories and raring up for his summer tour.

Timed to coincide with his self-titled release on Private Music/BMG (the first of six), his bright future is the payoff for years spent tinkering in jazz bars and nightclubs.

A.J., 21 years old, was born in Philadelphia to singing duo Jim and Ingrid Croce. Jim died in a plane crash while A.J. was just a small child. At this tender age, he and his mother moved to San Diego where she now owns a popular restaurant dedicated to her husband's memory.

It is in this environment that his interest in music was born, and like his father who played accordion at age six, A.J. played piano. But aside from the family resemblance, there is no confusing their unique styles.

It can be tough following in the footsteps of a music star parent, just take a look at Julian Lennon and Ziggy Marley. This has not been a problem for A.J. though, "I haven't encountered too much or too many questions, because when they hear the music it's so different they go 'O.K. it's something different!' I write differently, different songs. I love his writing, but it's just different."

Playing solo bar gigs since he was 13 years old, he formed Romy Kaye and the Swinging Gates with David Klowden and Romy in 1987. MC'd by pseudo-crooner Ulysses Flynn (Sean McMullen), they played the bar circuit and served up some pretty swinging entertainment.

After splitting up he formed his own combo with some of the heaviest guns in the game; Paul Kimbaron, Dave Curtis, Bob Boss, Paco Shipp and most recently, former Ray Charles's trumpeter Mitch Mankers.

The line up on his album is just as impressive, "The musicianship is really, really amazing; Jim Keltner playing drums (except the two cuts by Paul Kimbaron). On bass we, we had four great bass players. There was Ron Carter, Tim Drummond, Armando Compion and Dave Curtis. On guitar we had Bob Boss. Robbin Ford played most everything, and also Fred Tackett. Plus there's a cameo by T Bone Burnett, who produced it with arranger John Simon, who used to work with Janis Joplin."

And just how was the studio session? "It was fantastic!"

Recorded at the Oceanway Studios on Sunset, the sessions lasted a week and were recorded in rare form. Everything was done live, all arraigned big band style and conducted by John Simon with a rhythm section, five to ten horns, and it was all done, get this - in one take!

In a world where the average musician is 42, how did the ol' cats welcome such a young upstart like A.J.? "It's been very positive. I was very nervous when I got in the studio with Ron Carter because I had heard all these rumors about him that weren't true. About him saying 'You shouldn't respect young guys', and thinking that you shouldn't record before you're a veteran. He wasn't like that at all, he was very supportive, the same with Jim Keltner, Robbin Ford and Snooky Young."

His career sure has come a long way from providing background music for barflies to playing festivals with crowds up to 15,000. He has handled the transition well. Influenced by all forms of music, from country, funk and jazz to bluegrass, folk and classical, and even waltzes, A.J.'s style is definitely unique, born in his earliest days of performing.

"By the time I was 16 1 was playing a lot, and quite a few of the places I played didn't have a microphone for me so I had to sing over a grand piano. I adopted this style of singing that was really popular in the late '30s called 'Shouting'. It was invented by people like Jimmy Rushing and Joe Turner. Even if I'm not playing that style necessarily, it's a singing style I've adopted."

A.J. Croce, Private Music, BMG, When asked about the difficulty of busting into the big time, he offered, "It doesn't happen that fast, well at least it didn't with me. It's not too hard to adjust, but the hard part is going from no one paying attention, and then - blam!?All of a sudden it's a very serious thing when you're playing in front of thousands, they're listening and it's silent when it's supposed to be. It's great, but uncomfortable at first. It's a lot of pressure."

But pressure or not, he's up to par, and while nothing's finalized yet, this year is going to be a busy one for A.J. Planning on about three tours of America and Europe, he'll also be at the New Orleans Festival in San Francisco this June, Winterdale in Colorado and much more.

Bringing his showmanship into the public arena, A.J. likes to offer his fans the same things he expects from a player. "The entertainment point of view is a strange thing. It's what I like when I go out and see a show. I like to be entertained, not necessarily Las Vegas style, but to some degree I want the person to be interesting to watch, to listen to, as well as having fun. It's gotta be exciting or it's the same thing as listening to the record."

Not only does he set the criteria, he meets it as well. Catch him while you can while he's on tour, and if ya wanna take a listen to him at home, get A.J.

Croce is on the Private/BMG label, or better yet, invite him on over for dinner, 'cause he's just that kinda guy!?


Photography and text: Jeffree Benet. This profile was originally published in Sin Magazine in 1993 when A.J. just launched his career.

The Main Vein, Artery

artery: noun. 1 any of the tubes carrying blood away from the heart to all parts of the body. 2 an important transport route. 3 the freshest sounding trio to hit Prague in quite some time.

Artery

Who are they and where do they hail from? What important transport route brought them here to Absurdistan? Recently I caught up with the three of them at Marquis de Sade and had a couple of beers. Artery is Yanko, Chiko and Hubbi, and they've been together in the current line-up for the past one and a half years, coming here from different cities in Bulgaria, hoping to escape the bad scene there.

"It's very bad now, the situation with politics, with the police and everything. Everything is very bad. We are dreaming of the old west and America you know, so we leave. " laughs Yanko.

"We want to go to Holland someday [they have been located there now for several years], or the States, and if we can't do it, we'll stay here forever, because we will never go back to Bulgaria! "

And why not? They're gaining in popularity in this techno overdosed city, and the turn up often at the Marquis on Friday nights, where they play to a loyal following of dedicated and genuinely happy fans, where the energy gets to the boiling point and everyone needs to cool down quick. usually the shirts come off when they play, revealing interesting tattoo work, then the cold beers get poured down and they're off on another set.

On a little less humble, but none-the-less cookin' night, you can find them at Radost FX Cafe, wooing the crowds, and as of December 2nd and onwards, they'll be getting their chops in at the cozy jazz grotto known as "Little Glen's", a proving ground for those lucky souls with a musical spirit. And if you just got paid, why not take your wallet and a date to Diogenes Greek restaurant somenight and fill up on good food and good tunes?

Yanko, the charismatic and most tattooed frontman, is the only cat who knows his way around English; his mates Chiko and Hubbi do all right with the czech, but all three speak World-Beat most fluently. Their musical style spans the globe for influences; spirited Spanish fandangos, soulful folk ballads that I've personally seen bring a tear to the eye of an old Yugoslav, working their way all the round to songs by Nirvana, that hardens the nipples of pretty young Amexpats.

Artery

Yanko plays an unusual classic Greek instrument called the "Buzuki", which sounds banjo'esque, and Hubbi accompanies him on a bass guitar while Chiko, the percussionist, plays the hell out of a star shaped tambourine 'coz he's still earning his drums. They play popular covers, the fun stuff that gets the crowd in the mood for their original pieces, which speak volumes in hot, emotive sounds, arousing the listener like an eager young Casanova on his first date.

They've developed this polished style and virtuosity through many years of practice, Artery has actually been around in various manifestations since 1989, born in the dawn of long denied freedom. And while the line-up has evolved over time, the inspiration for their name reflects Yanko's views on life.

"The inspiration for the name means something living. It's life. I thought about this word I learned in school, and thought 'this is the name,' said "OK, this will be it, like half joking, and the guys said "OK."

And in keeping with this simplistic philosophy, the band has tow tapes of their earlier works from Bulgaria, where CDs are impossible to make, and are shopping around to finally produce one here. "It's good here in Prague. There is hope here, and that's different for us, 'coz in Bulgaria we don't get folks coming to see our shows regularly, and we used to just play for fun, not money. Our music is the stuff of the world, and we like it."

Well said.

Man of zines: Adriaan Nijen Twilhaar

Just one day before the Minister Mentor gave a great speech on how Singapore has to seek new ways (less prohibitive ways, he emphasized) of thinking, Think sat down with Adriaan Nijen Twilhaar, the Dutch founder of the controversial magazine Manazine for a coffee and a chat.

Adriaan Nijen Twilhaar

You would think that in this day and age of instant internet access, the censorship board of the Media Development Agency (MDA) would be a thing of the past. After all, anybody can simply type in a few words and read or see many things the government would rather you didn't.

And foremost on their list of no-nos is the Big Gay issue. As I spoke with Adriaan, I felt his passion to change the perceptions that the gay lifestyle is simply about hotpants and sex parties, which at the heart of it is why he started publishing Manazine; to show that gays are people just like everyone else, and to help people become comfortable with who they are.

"When I came to Singapore everyone was so depressed..." he shared, "The only way for gays to connect was the internet and clubbing, which isn't based on anything positive. They were falling into the trap of just sex, but the awareness wasn't there that there is so much more to life than that, so I decided to start the magazine as a way to show that there was more to life, to show people that they could be happy simply by being themselves."

A glance through the beautiful pages of Manazine makes you wonder what the big controversy is all about, considering that they they were called in four times before the MDA, the first right after their second issue, allegedly for promoting a 'gay lifestyle'.

"They asked me, if this is a men's magazine, why I didn't have any pictures of bikini-clad women, as if this was all a men's magazine could be about," he shares with a wry smile.

By issue three they decided to get bold, and ended up with the MDA ordering them to pull it from the streets, which did wonders for raising the profile of the magazine. They were ordered to restrict access to their magazine, meaning readers have to pick it up only in select locations with a membership card. But this didn't stop the popularity of the magazine, it only increased it. About this time, he also began focusing more on becoming editorially driven as opposed to simply visually driven.

The quality of the articles reflect a deep passion for the esoteric and the artistic, and (beside this magazine in your hands), is actually one of the few publications in Singapore actually worth reading.

"I didn't want to make your typical gay magazine, as I realised there were many out there who wouldn't appreciate seeing their son in hot pants on a float. I also didn't want to create a distance between the magazine and the readers, so in each issue we encourage the readers to follow their dreams, to accept themselves for who they are. For example, many of our models are just regular people, not supermodels, which lead to a few letters wondering why."

As a straight guy (and by the way, about 23% of their readership is female), I find there is nothing offensive in the content of Manazine, and only pity the small, closed minds that could think that a magazine which caters to the interests of a minority should not exist.

If Singapore is truly serious about growing up culturally, they need to accept the fact that upwards of 13% of it's adult population is gay, if international reports are to be believed. They also should realise that nobody "chooses" their sexual orientation, or that reading a magazine could make anyone straight or gay.

"I'm not pushing an agenda with Manazine, but am simply trying to create a sense of community, and show that we live normal lives like everybody else, and not the stereotypes you always see in the the local media."

And that he does. Manazine is about opening the lid on repression, so that acceptance can come out, so all people can just be themselves and not live in fear or repression. Seriously, how does that harm society?

A film about an actor making a film (Or, My Beautiful Demon).

Wilfred Prager's darkest effort finds Prague the backdrop to a haunting look at the personal struggles of one actor's rise to fame, his fall from grace, and then the making of the TV movie of his life's story.

cast of My Beautiful DemonIt is a story of artistic struggle, the commercial versus the artistic, and it is this struggle which typifies Indie filmmaking in general. Starring Prague's premier MC and stand-up comic David O'Kelly, prefessional extra James Babson and a host of others, coming together through love, passion for the art and the chaos of producing an independent film with a small budget and no Hollywood stars.

Independent film has now become so popular it drives decisions made in Hollywood, not the other way around. In fact, Disney, Warner Brothers, and Universal Pictures have acquired the independent distributors Miramax, New Line, and October Films, and many big-name actors would give their eyeteeth to be in a film premiering at Sundance, just because of the "independent film" mystique. So what if so many of them are awful?

Making a good movie is a difficult task. You must have a good story, an excellent script and terrific actors; money or access to thousands of dollars of in-kind donations; passion and a singular tunnel vision that compels you to make the film with whatever resources you can muster. It seems everyone wants to claim their ultra-low-budget film was made for less money and more insanity.

But beyond the romance and hype lies the fact that the chances of producing an ultra-low-budget film that will actually get distribution are slim. To raise post production funding, develop distributor interest, and see the film all the way to the festivals, the popcorn and the big screen requires some serious determination.

We spoke with some of the actors during the hectic filming of My Beautiful Demon, and had the chance to witness the struggle first hand. When the movie begins production, everyone is high and elated, and struggling to find their true positions in the company, as James Babson explains, "In a typical movie situation, there's kind of a hierarchy, there's a definite order; the director, the first AD, and down and down. With this film, everybody's kinda doing everything, I mean, the directors giving us cigarettes of his own."

He pauses to sip his cappuccino, "A lot of it's just disorganization, And that's part of the problem. I think a lot of the people are just running around, but it's getting done, although it's taking way too much time. In a normal situation you have somebody calling you, telling you where to be and when, and someone will pick you up.

Then you get dressed, there's someone in charge of make-up, wardrobe, boom, boom, everybody has a role, everybody plays their part, all the way up to the director, like clockwork, all the way down to the person driving you, everything is on time.

This is like crazy, the costume designer called me today, asking where are we meeting, calling me! I call someone else and ask where we're meeting at eleven, and they're like 'Oh, I thought we were meeting at three... ' So there's a lot of miscommunication."

But this is understandable, as the typical Indie film has to write, shoot, produce and distribute their film for micro-fractions of the catering budget of buzzbombs like Little Nicky. Enjoying a break from filming with Victoria Flidr, James Babson and Šárka Ullrichová, I got the low down on this interesting new film.

THINK: What is the story about?

VICTORIA: Actually, we don't have an ending yet... the end is missing! (laughs). It's a director's secret.

JAMES: He's not telling anybody, it's kind of funny in a way, it'll keep you informed about what the whole movie's about, it'll take form as we go, which is interesting, coz it reveals slowly what the whole film is about, because we don't really know where we're playing towards yet. There's something about going to the forest where everything turns crazy in the end.

VICTORIA: Nobody knows how it's going to end. I don't know if it's going to be a comedy, or a tragedy, or a drama or thriller, I just don't know.

SARKA: There's a lot of mystery, but I believe in the director's vision, because I've seen the directors work and there's a lot of feeling, it was a fine picture, and even though I didn't understand (because the people spoke French), in a good picture you don't need the words, to get the feeling from it.

VICTORIA: What we are doing here is completely different.

JAMES: There are pieces of this puzzle, and we don't know how they're going to be assembled, to make what picture. We don't know how he's gonna cut where, where what scene goes, there are a lot of different shots here, that depending on how it's set up, it might make a lot of sense.

I didn't see his last film, but apparently his last short film was beautiful. Wilfred Praguer (the director) is a wonderful painter, and I feel a lot of his vision comes from working with the canvas.

THINK: So, what is the story so far?

JAMES: The basic story evolves around this hero, Jim Maclane, an actor who has seen better days. He was famous 10 years before, a huge Hollywood star, an Oscar award winner, who basically goes crazy and started loosing it. And while I don't know what personally happened in this character's life, he lost it, fell from grace. One of those "where are they now?" things.

Along the way, he moved to Prague, started painting, took Tai Chi, became very organic or whatever, basically saying goodbye to the movie business.

Then the screenwriter character, this director Martin, apparently really always liked this guy's acting, and writes a screen play for this actor, wanting to bring him back. The movie is about an ex-actor's fall from grace, so he's writing a movie about this guy's story; he wrote it for Jim. Jim is wondering whether of not if he's interested in playing his own life's story, it seems he is, but we're left wondering if he really is, how committed he really is to this project.

I play this producer guy who's a friend of Martin. I read the script, I like the story, but don't know whether or not Jim, this kinda has-been, is the right man, so I've flown to Prague to see. We start gathering cast members to see if the thing's gonna go, and I may or may not produce this.

I like the story, but Jim worries me, and I have some doubts about the screenplay. So my character is really skeptical, but thinks it could be a winner, 'coz my father was a producer who'd worked with this guy before, and I'm just trying to figure out if I can make a buck off it.

Things get kind of hairy, I say f*ck off, but eventually things start rolling, I leave, there are some love interests going on, things progress, until the end...

THINK: The set and clothing is very nice, very stylish.

JAMES: The girl's beautiful outfits are by Katerina Beloun, and some guy named Roy. Most of it's on loan, except that dress which they had to buy because it will be destroyed in a scene in the forest.

THINK (To Victoria): What about you? You play the actress trying to get the big role?

VICTORIA: Actually, the actress I play, they ask her (Lena, a Scandinavian actress with a name in Hollywood already) to do this movie. She's famous already, and Martin asks her to play in this movie. So I come to Prague, and arrange a party (which we're shooting today), where Lena meets Jim for the first time, and it clicks, they fall in love, and... I don't know the end... (laughs), I know they f*ck in the end.

THINK (To Sarka): And you play one of the love interests?

SARKA: I play a beautiful escort ("not based on my real life story! " laughing) and even though my English is not so good, I can see she plays a part in the unfolding. Being in a foreign film like this, I'm lucky because I can improve my English, I really like the energy, and I like these people (the cast and crew).

VICTORIA: She's so sweet...

THINK: An accent can definitely add flavor to a film, and here we have Americans, Czechs, Scandinavians and Brits, which against the background of Prague seems like it will be a great mix.

JAMES: Many of Hollywood's stars, like Minnie Driver or Nicole Kidman have these accents which they can turn on or off and it adds to their versatility. Speaking English helps of course, but a real accent really adds to the mystique. We all know the American audience finds a European accent very exciting, it has appeal.

SARKA: The language is not so simple in this play. Like in this last scene, I think about my lines, and you can see that they were not all written by a native speaker. Wilfred is French. They are not made for me, when I'm tired, it's hard to keep it all clear, so I have to practice over and over again.

THINK: And the shooting of your dialog went alright today?

SARKA: Yes, perfect. I had a scene, which I learnt, but today, many things changed. Most of the ideas stood, but the director changed the location, and there was more improvisation. When you are able to improvise, then you can be very sincere in your acting. You can make everything when you take your role, very freely.

JAMES: The most important thing for an Independent movie is a good script, yet this script wasn't written by a native English speaker. But the story is really good. The script is understandable, these language issues, 'coz as I said, Wilfred is French, and as actors we have to retool our lines to be more American.

Like when the line says 'you know you're losing your time' which should be 'you're wasting your time' so we've had to fix these small things. A lot of us have to rewrite these ourselves. But as for the non-native speaking actors and actresses, it works, because they're not gonna be speaking perfect English anyhow, but my character, he's from the states, and it wouldn't be too realistic if I speak like a Frenchman.


Finishing our drinks, I said goodbye as they returned to the set for another grueling day of shooting, tired, yet full of hope. "All you need is a dollar and a dream."

So went the ad campaign for the New York State Lottery several years ago, and so goes the mantra of the independent filmmaker today and the low-budget Indie proves nothing beats a good script and a hell of a lot of determination.

A great script is the categorically essential element of any film attempt - period. If you can couple it with indefatigable passion and intensity, with a single-mindedness that no matter what happens, you will get this film made, then you've really got a hand to bet with. And based on this criterion alone, you'll be seeing My Beautiful Demon at the festivals soon.

The perfect bite, O'Briens.

The fine art of sandwich making finds a friend in O'Briens Irish Sandwich shops...

O'Briens CramboThe sandwich ranks in my book as one of the greatest inventions of the last millennium, for without the ease of eating on the go; many an inventor would have never been able to create the other things that make our life so easy. Without the sandwich, trains and cars would lie idle, workers would be less productive, and I for one, would weigh several pounds less.

But here in the land of noodle soup and satay, the perfect sandwich is a long lost art. I'm not talking about the mushy dough wrapped in plastic at the 7-11, I'm talking about a creation worthy of carrying the name of one of England's most famous Earls, who legend puts it, didn't want to stop playing poker to go eat, so he stuck his meat into a loaf of bread and history was forever changed.

Likewise, a great sandwich shop is not something to be taken lightly, and particularly when the store is a franchise, one might be wary, but worry not, for there is O'Briens Irish Sandwich Shop, run by father and son raconteurs Hugh and Robbie Hoyes-Cock.

As someone who once in the sandwich biz, I'll share the basics with you (and the new girl behind the counter better take notes:): The perfect sandwich is ALWAYS a savoury one. While this may be the least important part of a sandwich, under NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD DRESSING BE FORGOTTEN.

Unless you want a dry, choking, British sandwich, lubrication is the only way. It is one of the 4 cornerstones of a great sandwich, which must never be forgotten. Here they are in order of importance: bread, filling, sub-filling(s) and lubrication.

And the best sandwich in Singapore which meets these four criteria is the Crambo Club Sandwich; tasty, succulent and loaded with ham, turkey, tomato, cucumber, coleslaw, red onion & lettuce.

I'm no spendthrift, but for eight bucks a sandwich needs to be substantial, more like a meal than a snack. You will NOT be disappointed. Folks, the size of the thing is scary. Cut in quarters, laid out eight inches across, with thick slices of lunchmeats almost half inch-thick and tangy creamy coleslaw, picking this beast off the plate is a task in itself.

The side is simple: potato chips, resulting in a full plate and a full stomach every time. Good? Yeah, but that's like saying the Brooklyn Bridge is "ok," or that Catfish Hunter was a "decent" pitcher for the Yankees.

Try absofuckinglutelymindblowingsupersexysodeliciousfingerlickin good. Go there. Eat something. Your stomach and wallet will be happy. The decor is minimal and there wasn't a single copy of Think left in the big rack of magazines by the front window, but the food is really good.

You can be sure I'll be going back, with a stack of mags and an empty stomach.

Nectarie, for the sweet tooth

Sometimes my craving for sweets becomes so overpowering, my wife has to lock up the bags of sugar.

NectarieI'm not saying I'm a glutton or anything; in fact, it's a rare day when I can indulge myself. When I do, I want something special, and have I got just the place to tell you about. Nectarie, in Clarke Quay, is no typical sweet shop.

They have a wide variety of tantalising chocolates and cakes, freshly made in their kitchen using the finest ingredients. Cakes are thoughtfully served in bite-sizes so the weight-conscious can sample more than one of the 12 flavours on offer, without feeling like you've overdosed. Full cakes are also available for bookings made three days in advance.

If you're not counting calories and want to give yourself a treat, dive into such elaborate desserts as the Griottine Tiramisu or Chocolate Terrine with Coconut Mousse, which will pamper taste buds with a variety of compotes and sauces to accentuate the flavour of the dessert.

They have great coffees and teas, and for those who fancy a light meal that's healthier than sweets, they have an assortment of salads, sandwiches and soups like the Smoked Salmon and Egg Mayonnaise or Roast Beef with Caramelised Onions.

They have quiches so good it would make my French grandma weep, comprising wild mushroom, duck comfit with truffle or honey ham & cheese.

Of course, something so savoury has to be followed up by more sweets, so if you're not in the mood for one of their unique ice-cream flavours, try a delightful waffle or strudel, with a variety of toppings for the waffles like the Sarawak Pineapple Chutney, sweet Caramelised Bananas or Red Wine Pear.

Expect the unexpected when it comes to strudels with fillings of Alphonso Mango with Tamarind, and Wild Strawberries and Balsamic Thyme in addition to the traditional Granny Smith Apple and Sultanas. With sweets so seductive, who needs sex?


Nectarie: Block 3C, The Cannery #01-05, River Valley Road, Clarke Quay, www.nectarie.sg, +65 6305 6728, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Hours: Sun to Thurs from 12pm - 11 pm, Friday & Sat from 12pm - 2am

Making the rounds...

singapore dining and nightlife

Sometimes going out for a night means going to more than one place.

After all, who wants to park on a barstool for 6 or 7 hours looking at the same people meandering to and fro? So I set out to create an evening of diverse amusements. Step one was arranging the cast:

Two whipsmart divas, Kris and Farah, and Pete, our designated driver in a silver Benz. Our night was set. We started out at the newly opened The Tapas Tree at Clarke Quay. A sultry-yet-affordable Spanish style eatery featuring a variety of Latin foods and the perfect Sangria.

Did I mention the designated driver? The girls and I dove headfirst into the extensive wine menu, then got into the appetizers. We started with a Gambas al Ajillo (sauteed prawns in garlic and olive oil - $12).

The portions ARE big, from the regular entrees to the paellas which can be cooked for two, four or six people, (priced between $25 and $70). We bantered with the owner Clark Martin, and shared plates of Croquetas de Pollo (chicken croquettes - $8.80) and Salpicado (beef tenderloin chunks in spicy oil and garlic - $15).

This isn't your average Spanish Cuisine, but Manila inspired. The flavours are complex and the presentation artful. The room makes you want to dress up a bit - though it's not a jacket and tie required sort of place, a Mao jacket would not be out of the question. The third jug of Sangria finished off dinner nicely, and we were all feeling very very satisfied.

Pete suggested we walk over to his new favourite night spot, Gotham Penthouse. Dark and moody and promising fun in secret corners, we made our way up the stairs through the construction (they're expanding downstairs) and into a cavern of sexy girls and hungry eyes.

The huge ceilings spoke of days gone by, when elegance was a part of downing mouthfuls of cold liquor and toasting each other in the tongues of the well-travelled. Sadly, those days are long gone, and I toasted its passing with a vodka martini seasoned with lemon juice and gave my entourage a hearty gan bei!

The ambiance of the room can be a bit offset when it's crowded, and on the weekends it's always crowded. I recommend getting there early to get a prime spot at the bar or in one of their luxurious corner seats. Black-shirted barmen gave up their libations with a smile, and you get the glass and the shaker when you order up. If scotch is more your taste, they have an excellent list but be prepared, good scotch comes at a hefty price.

Then again, that's true of most Singapore bars, but few can serve up the ambiance of this flagship of yesteryear. We indulged in several rounds and discussed yachting and the demise of communism. Soon our love affair with Clarke Quay was growing cold, and let's face it, there are plenty of bars that you can go to without risking the metermaid mafia forcing you into a $115 additional tip. So we set our sites Orchard way and piled in the silver Benzo for Howl at the Moon.

Howl at the Moon's walls have an old world rustic feel aided by rough wood and wrought iron everywhere. I wished there was a Sergio Leone soundtrack for this cozy warren of rooms; instead we were treated to a deejay spinning trip hop and crunchy jungle. We settled down around a tall table for some serious people watching, libation and diatribe. The crowd was a mix of college kids, with actors and artists thrown into the mix. I was glad we got there early, as seating at Rouge can be tight.

Howl at the Moon really is the kind of bar you can sit and have a conversation in, and the multiple rooms add an air of mystery to the place. Doubtless you'll see old friends and make new ones in this Peranakan Place saloon. It's rather like drinking in your living room, only the decor is better. You can dress to impress or not, the staff will still treat you right.

Cocktails fueled our creativity and we discussed magazine publishing long into the night, well at least until the dreaded cry of "last call." We made our goodbyes, phone numbers exchanged hands and everyone shared a hug or a kiss. At last we hollered "hi-ho silver" as we sped off into the night on four wheels and liquor-fueled good vibes.

Coyote Ugly, Good, clean, wholesome fun

It's hard to turn down a ladies' night. Not that I'm an innocent shoeshine boy who keeps to himself or anything, but I really wasn't prepared for my night out with new wife Sherry and our model roommate May.

These hard rocking divas left my liver feeling like 20 miles of bad road, my wallet empty and my soul in mortal danger. Had I bought the farm, the paramedics and morticians would be damned trying to get the smile off my face.

Coyote Ugly SingaporeHow did it all start? Ladies night at Coyote Ugly. Sobriety had nothing to do with this night on the town.

I was chilling one Tuesday evening at Round Midnight, enjoying a Jack plus, when I remembered the invitation I had received from Fiona to come by and check out their smoke-free charity night. Pressing my wife and roommate into going out for free drinks was not a difficult challenge.

Sherry looked over my table flashing her coy smile. "Tonight you are gonna find out what its like to go out on the town with drunk Chinese girls." Before I could utter a response, I was ushered into a sleek silver City cab, destination Mohammed Sultan.

"Should have packed some vitamins"raced across my forebrain as we careened through the city, coming to a quick halt. We arrived and the place only had a small crowd, so we played some pool in the back.

Chatting with Terry, the owner, an hour later, I tried to comfort him with the old 'well, it's a Tuesday' speech when he just winked at me and hinted "Just you wait and see."

Sure enough, the crowds poured through the door. We had gathered at the end of the bar, nearest the life-giving beer taps, while the girls made a run at bankrupting the bar by pounding shot after free shot of tequila in time to the sexy girls dancing on the bar top.

You see, at CU, it's all about the bar top dancing experience, whose ban-lifting had infamously put Singapore in the international headlines.

For those fools who tell you bartop dancing is sleazy, let me just correct that impression: IT'S PLAIN OL' GOOD FUN! We're not talking about exploited Bangkok pole dancing bargirls here, but people having a great time dancing to the beat and getting their grooves on.

Sure, all the lovely bartenders and the men and women who love them get all sweaty as they shake their money makers, and some people get rightly drunk, like the ang moh louts who stay up dancing on the bartop just a little too long for it to be cute, but why shouldn't they?

They work hard for their money, and when night falls, they need to go and let off a little steam. And if there weren't great venues like CU around, just imagine what sort of bad things they would get up to... like smoking!


A quick and fun ad for the client, to get them to sign.

CU ad

Cugini Restaurant & Lounge Bar, a family affair...

Thinky discovers you don't have to sail for Italy to enjoy authentic Italian delights... just head on down along Robertson walk.

Cugini Restaurant & Lounge BarI'm going to let you in on a little secret. Did you know when you go to an Italian restaurant here in Singapore, at least 90% of the time the pasta you order will have been pre-made by about one of five companies? Frozen pasta!

Have you ever wondered what REAL Italian pasta tastes like, freshly made? Cooked by Italians, served in a restaurant run by Italians? Then you need to head on down to the Singapore river and check out Cugini Restaurant & Lounge Bar.

Aside from having one of the coolest intimate lounge bars, they also serve up some seriously delicious Italian cuisine. I popped in one quiet Saturday afternoon and met two of the owners, cousins Gerri Sottile and Mauro Muroni and discovered this new fashion concept restaurant can really dish it out.

Feeling a little hungry and wanting to whet my appetite, I opened a bottle of Chianti Reserve, Chianti being a must-have with any decent Italian meal. The starter was a good sign of what was to come, a Beef Carpaccio with Truffle Oil and Shaved Parmigiano, and this is not your typical carpaccio, frozen and then sliced thin.

No, this was the real deal... thin strips of beef, pounded by hand until tender, the way it's supposed to be made. Another starter I highly recommend is the Foie Gras with a Balsamic Vinegar reduction, absolutely delightful and savoury...

For a main, I sampled Fillet of Kobe beef with a Red Onion Marmalade, tender and succulent, almost as much as the Tagliolini (freshly made, I might add) with lobster and asparagus, each flavour a note in a symphony of taste.

The lobster was tender and I thought I'd tasted paradise until the next dish came, a rich Ravioli stuffed (pictured above) with truffles, potatoes, walnut butter and parmigiano, succulent and worth visiting Cugini's for by itself, if it wasn't for the desserts.

The pastry chef here is a man with a passion for his craft, and his creations would look better in a museum than a lot of what I've seen in the museums... If you're on a date, bring out seduction on ice, the Semi-frozen Ricotta Cheese and Shaved Chocolate with a Citrus Sauce (also pictured above), topped with a caramelised sculpture of sugar that is pure artistry, guaranteed to be the perfect ending of a fine meal, and a great start to a long happy night.


Cugini Restaurant & Lounge Bar: Unity Street #01-27/28 (next to BarCelona on Roberston Walk), Singapore 237995, Tel: +65 6836 954, Fax: +65 6836 9785, www.cugini.com.sg

Bonta Italian Restaurant & Bar

Thinky knows that well made Italian food in Italy is a joy, but there's one place in Singapore that is even better than Italy...

Chef-partner Luca PezzeraNot that many people know of this place, but enough do that you'll always find some happy diners enjoying themselves. And now I'll let you in on the secret. Bonta is the place. For the people at Bonta, eating is truly one of the great pleasures of life. It is something that they take extremely seriously. I had a chance to lunch there, and this latest incarnation of the Italian spirit at UE Square is a haven of pure eating pleasure and an absolute paradise for gastronomes.

The genius in the kitchen is none other than Chef-partner Luca Pezzera, a native of Bergamo who has infused his delicious Italian dishes with subtle hints of his adopted tropical home. After spending more than five years as the Executive Chef at Hotel InterContinental-Jakarta (where he pioneered and established Scusa), I noticed that this Luca is not your typical Italian chef

In his creations you won't find heavy sauces, chock full of heart-burning spices that predominate in most Italian dishes. Instead, subtle Asian influences permeate his dishes, bringing you a sweeter, lighter taste that is truly refreshing on the palate and of a quality unmatched anywhere else I have eaten. I don't know exactly what his secret is; perhaps this graduate of the San Pellegrino School of Hoteliers developed his style during his tours of duty in Turkey, Jordan, Switzerland, Scotland or Dubai.

I doubt you will find another so masterful at reinventing the ingredients and cuisines of Northern Italy with such a personal signature touch. Ranging from what could very well end up a world famous Lobster Tartare (with Sicilian olives, capers, wild rocket lettuce and tomato salsa, - $34) through to the muffin-shaped freshly baked bread with feta and sundried tomatoes, the aroma of which make the whole experience far tastier and delightful.

What are some of the famous dishes from Bonta? They range from some of the most complex Italian recipes, requiring time and precision to make perfectly, to some other fairly simple but extremely delicious dishes. For example the Roasted Mediterranean Sea bass Fillet ($42) was not your typically dry fish affair.

Served on top of sauteed garlic spinach, and a crispy pesto risotto bathed in a saffron emulsion, each bite simply dripped flavour and literally made my mouth water. Perhaps you've heard of the slow food movement, a philosophical belief that food should be savoured and enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

This movement originates in Luca's northern Italy, where pasta is king and you'll want to take your time to enjoy the savoury divineness of his homemade Tagliatelle ($32), completely wholesome with porcini mushrooms, spinach and a perfectly pan-fried goose liver. Delectable!

Bonta is not only great for it's main courses, but is exceptional also for their desserts and wines. I topped off the meal with a Chocolate Mousse ($12) with crunchy hazelnut and Bailey's syrup on top of caramelised bananas, not too rich, but tantalising all the same. Bonta is the latest Italian fine-dining venue in the heart of this overfed city, but their pride in presenting a repertoire of refined modern Italian cuisine, which marries the freshest quality ingredients with the soul of this northern Italian gent is sure to prove a winning combination for food lovers islandwide.


Bonta Italian Restaurant & Bar: 207 River Valley Rd, #01-61 UE Square River Wing, (junction of Mohamed Sultan Road and Unity Street) +65 6333 8875, Fax +65 6333 8655, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.bonta.com.sg

Barfly Singapore Review

Sultry and secretive, Barfly reveals its new menu. Thinky takes you on upstairs to discover...

Barfly SingaporeIf you're hungry and strolling that massive complex along the river known affectionately as CQ, don't get sucked up by the ground-floor venues, head on to some of the joints upstairs.

Why not try Barfly? This stylish restaurant cum bar is a place where the sophisticated atmosphere is matched only by the unique influences of their innovative menu, jointly created by The Cannery's Executive Chef Edward Voon and Barfly's Chef de Cuisine, Barry Lim. A lot of thought has gone into you can tell, it's sophisticated and diverse, inspired by the bold flavours of Asia, Mediterranean essences and worldly infusions.

With nearly one hundred items to pick and choose from, and a wine list of premium wines to match, it's hard to narrow it down to just one. How about their signature main dish, Crackling Suckling Pig, cooked in garlic puree and accompanied with a medley of vegetables & raspberry sauce?

Another delightful creation is the Saffron Risotto with King Prawn. Its key ingredients not only consist of this most precious and expensive spice, but the risotto is also combined with smoked bacon, sweet peas and parmesan cheese, creating an extraordinary gastronomic experience for the uninitiated diner.

Be sure to whet your appetite first with entrees like the coveted Aniseed Cured Scottish Salmon and Pan Fried Rougie Foie Gras from the main menu. For a raw ambrosia experience, have your pick from an assortment of fresh sashimi appetisers ranging from the hot favourites shiro maguro (white tuna) to the exotic kanpachi (yellow tail king fish).

What is a meal devoid of desserts? Barfly also offers delightful desserts that will undoubtedly satisfy any sweet indulgences you might have. The Hazelnut Tiramisu with its rich chocolate sable and double espresso is the answer to every chocoholic's desire for the ultimate indulgence. For something less sinful, try the tangy Sour Cherry Chocolate Pudding that comes with a scoop of Bailey's ice-cream and warm chocolate ganache.

Barfly's winning formula lies in being an uber-chic nightspot that fuses traditional Asian charm and modern western Zen together in one magnificent blend.

Together with its killer combo of eclectic decor, top-notch cuisine and intoxicating music, this haven for nightlife gurus and food aficionados alike is set to bring every aspect of the dining and chill-out experience to a new level. Chef Barry Lim explains, "With the new menu, we aspire to create a magical experience for diners by offering them the opportunity to feast on an array of cuisines hailing from different lands in a sensuous setting."


Barfly: Block 3C River Valley Road, #02-02, The Cannery, Clarke Quay, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +65 6887 3733, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.barfly.com.sg, Open Tuesdays to Saturdays. Dinner from 6:30pm to 10.30pm, Supper from 10.30pm till late.
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