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Background Noise, Episode 75: Plastic Jesus by Matt Valerio

THE BACKGROUND NOISE PODCAST SERIES FOCUSES ON THE MUSIC THAT ARTISTS LISTEN TO WHEN THEY WORK, WHAT MUSIC INSPIRES THEM, OR JUST MUSIC THEY LIKE. THIS WEEK, IN EPISODE 76, THE FOCUS IS ON LOS ANGELES STREET ARTIST PLASTIC JESUS

THE BACKGROUND NOISE PODCAST SERIES FOCUSES ON THE MUSIC THAT ARTISTS LISTEN TO WHEN THEY WORK, WHAT MUSIC INSPIRES THEM, OR JUST MUSIC THEY LIKE. THIS WEEK, IN EPISODE 76, THE FOCUS IS ON LOS ANGELES STREET ARTIST PLASTIC JESUS

Some have called Plastic Jesus the "Banksy of LA." I suppose it's easy to do that theses days.  Anyone doing stencil-based street art with a message, or intricate street installations meant to provoke thought could be called the "Bansky of (whatever)."

Plastic Jesus has gone a bit viral as of late, due to his commentary on celebrity culture in this day and age. Putting up "Kardashian Parking Only" signs all over Los Angeles got him a bit of attention, as well as his "Stop Making Stupid People Famous" campaign, which emblazons everything from walls to stickers and t-shirts. The phrase resonates so much with people, due to it's simple, but to-the-point statement that says exactly what most of us non-reality tv-watching folks have been thinking the whole time.

He made a bit of a stir in Hollywood a couple of years back due to his life-size depiction of an Oscar statue shooting heroin outside the Oscars. The sculpture featured a placard at the bottom reading "Hollywood's Best Kept Secret," a not-so-subtle statement following the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman's tragic drug overdose that happened a mere few weeks prior to the award ceremony.

Not all of his work is quite as heavy, but all of it does force you to stop and think for a few moments, whether it's about celebrity culture or consumerism, which is something more people should be doing instead of sitting idly by, doing nothing.

What was your first concert?
The Yellow Magic Orchestra, Hammersmith Odeon. London 1980

Last concert/show?
Above and Beyond - Acoustic at the Greek LA

First album you bought?
David Bowie - Scary Monsters

Last album you bought?
Jean Michel Jarre - Equinox released 1978 - Changed electronic music for ever.

Was there one album that made a significant impression on you?
Placebo - Without You I’m Nothing.

Who is your musical hero?
David Bowie

How important is music to your creative process?
Hugely. Music has been a huge part of everything I do. I taught myself to play keyboards age 12 or 13 and built a number of synths. I still write and record my own material. I think everyone needs a creative outlet, without we wither and die. I usually have Absolute radio (a London station) on in the studio, playing anything from Radiohead to The Clash

(VIA RYOT)

Radiohead - Creep
New Order - True Faith
The Clash - I Fought the Law
Happy Mondays - Loose Fit
Edith Piaf - Non je ne Regrette Rien
Placebo - The Crawl
Counting Crows - Long December
Underworld - Born Slippy
John Lennon - Mind Games
Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side
The Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love With Someone
Rui De Silva - Touch Me
Athlete - Wires
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Catatonia - Road Rage

Check out Plastic Jesus's mix below, download it directly here, or subscribe to the Background Noise podcast on iTunes. Be sure to like Background Noise on Facebook for updates on future episodes. You can browse ALL the Background Noise episodes here.  Check out Plastic Jesus's website here.

Background Noise, Episode 40: Travis Somerville by Matt Valerio

The "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 40, the focus is on San Francisco-based artist Travis Somerville.

The "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 40, the focus is on San Francisco-based artist Travis Somerville.

independence day

independence day

Travis Somerville's work is challenging. The art he creates is deeply rooted in his southern Christian upbringing. Born in Atlanta in 1963 to civil rights activists, he experienced racial tension firsthand, something that obviously made a lasting impression on him. He's been incorporating all of this into his work for 25+ years now, although his home base has been San Francisco for quite some time.

The overall theme of his work is oppression and greed. When he juxtaposes his work onto particular surfaces, they seem to become even more powerful than if they just stood on their own. For example, his Independence Day series, which places Work Projects Administration images of African-Americans on authentic cotton-picking sacks. The Work Projects Administration being the former federal agency that existed from the mid 30s to the early 40s, and employed millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works jobs. 

Or The Love That Forgives, a set of 4 wooden school chairs, each depicting the face of a young girl who died in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. This event was a racially-motivated act of White Supremacist terrorism, and a major turning point in the Civil Rights movement.

BORN INTO IT

BORN INTO IT

His Born Into It piece is particularly powerful. A collection of 12 canvas bank bags, each with a graphite painting of a slavery-era African-American, causing you to really think about the connection between old money and slavery, and how many slaves simply had no choice in the outcome of their lives, they were born into it. It's all up to the individual's interpretation though.

I personally love his work. And this mix he put together is impressive. It's interesting to see the work he chose for this. Ranging from good ole Americana to rootsy blues, to the more gritty Killing Joke, PIL and The Jam songs. It's a fun ride.

 

 

What was your first concert?
I grew up going to see folks like Linda Ronstadt and Kris Kristofferson but the first one I got to choose was America. I think it was my 10th birthday. 

Building balanced children

Building balanced children

What was your last concert?
Merle Haggard with Dave and Phil Alvin.

What was the first album you bought?
Jackson 5  Goin Back to Indiana  (I really wanted one of their jumpsuits on the inside cover to wear to school)

What was the last album you bought?
Tom Petty. Hypnotic Eye. Good ol' rock n roll again. 

Was there one particular record that made a significant impression on you?
Sex Pistols   Never mind the bollocks here's the...... Could also say London Calling. I bought it as an import when it came out. They both were turning points for me musically and socially.

Who is your musical hero?
Elvis. Is there any other?

How important is music to your creative process?
I listen to it all day in the studio. I would say music and film have a huge influence on my work. Most of my friends are musicians, artists are too hard to hang out with.

Check out Travis's mix below, download it directly here, or subscribe to the Background Noise podcast on iTunes. Be sure to like Background Noise on Facebook for updates on future episodes. You can browse ALL the Background Noise episodes here. Check out Travis Somerville's website here and find him on Instagram

1. Shovels and Rope - The Fall of Charleston       
2.  Jim Carroll Band  - People Who Died
3. PIL - Analisa
4. Chuck Prophet - Willie Mays is up at Bat
5. Faces - Ooh La La
6. Killing Joke - S. O. 36
7. Rolling Stones  - Star Star
8. Ramones - 53rd and 3rd
9. Junior Kimbrough - Release Me
10. The Jam - Billy Hunt
11. J. Geils Band - Must Have Got Lost
12. Lou Reed - Strawman
13. Black Angels - The First Vietnamese War
14. Dave and Phil Alvin - Key To The Highway
15. Mott The Hoople - I Wish I Was Your Mother