Posted by: on March 9, 2009 at 9:00 am

watchmen
The groundbreaking comic series Watchmen redefined what was possible with the comic medium. Written by Alan Moore and drawn by David Gibbons, Watchmen is set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes have been outlawed. The story takes place in 1986. Richard Nixon is still in office and riding high off of the victory in Vietnam thanks to two “heroes” employed by the U.S. government, mad mercenary The Comedian and molecular master Dr. Manhattan. The narrative of Watchmen is a murder mystery. When The Comedian is killed, fellow vigilante Rorschach makes it his business to find the culprit. Based on Steve Ditko’s character, Question, Rorschach is so obsessive about justice that he makes Batman look wishy-washy on crime. The story follows Rorschach on his quest, introducing the reader to Watchmen who hung up their tights when vigilantism was outlawed. Described by many (including Moore) as “unfilmable,” it was only a matter of time before the underground comic made its way to the multiplex. Hollywood loves the quixotic notion of making movies out of impossible properties that have the potential for a massive box office.

Sam Hamm (1989)
The transformation from printed page to silver screen hasn’t been easy. For years, the project languished in the hands of 20th Century Fox. The studio gave Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm the thankless task of adapting Moore’s epic in the late ‘80s. The basic structure of Watchmen remains in place in Hamm’s draft insofar that the characters are the same, though far fewer in number and with less complicated relationships. Hamm’s bizarre decisions on which complex areas to eliminate and which to keep molds the story into an odd shape. This pushes the setting from one that was rooted fairly close to reality into a clunky science fiction realm, evidenced most at the film’s finale.

Subsequent drafts of Watchmen screenplay by David Hayter (X-Men) and Alex Tse (Sucker Free City) also splintered at their conclusion, but none so spectacularly as Hamm’s. In Moore’s graphic novel, Silk Spectre struggles to convince Dr. Manhattan to come out of a self-imposed exile on Mars to save the Earth from imminent destruction. It’s ultimately the miracle of humanity and its struggle against insurmountable odds that convinces the deific Manhattan to return for a literal deus ex machina finale. Hamm changed this scene’s conclusion, removing the redemption of humanity.

It gets worse. Seeing Manhattan’s existence as the cause of more problems than the solution, mastermind Ozymandias opens a hole in time to assassinate Manhattan before the accident that made him omnipotent. This essentially takes the former Outer Limits “Architects of Fear” ending into something closer to the Twilight Zone episode “No Time like the Past”. By shooting Manhattan, Ozymandias unravels a timeline and deposits Rorschach, Silk Spectre and Nite Owl in a world where they never existed but where Watchmen is just a comic book. This ridiculous twist leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth. Hamm’s draft was rewritten by Charles McKeown when Terry Gilliam agreed to direct the project. Ironically, McKeown did an uncredited rewrite of Hamm’s work on Batman.

David Hayter (2003)
David Hayter took over the reins of writing a Watchmen adaptation in 2001. He stuck closer to the original source material, making his additional flourishes stick out like sore thumbs. The strangest augmentation includes a “Memory Mirror” that Dr. Manhattan creates for “Slingshot,” the renamed and powered-up Silk Spectre. This mirror shows Slingshot scenes from her past, introducing flashbacks that never fit into the plot. Hayter also gives Slingshot the ability to shoot balls of energy from between her fingers, eliminating the pesky use of a handgun during the film’s climax.

Hayter’s attempt to tone down the finale has Ozymandias shooting a beam of concentrated solar energy into Manhattan Island, killing the population but somehow leaving everything else intact. This attack results in a city bereft of population but decorated with the kind of silhouettes of bodies that Rorschach sees on one of his patrols. Ozymandias’s plan also includes the dispersal of black boxes to every world leader (a clever nod to the comic) which Nite Owl later uses to send a worldwide message of peace and love via a quote from The Beatles. This gesture comes off as syrupy and regrettable.

Alex Tse (2006)
Eventually, Alex Tse was brought in to rewrite Hayter’s script. Tse’s draft sticks fairly close to Moore’s original story. He strays occasionally in scenes where the U.S. government uses Silk Spectre as a human tracking device to discover Dr. Manhattan on Mars. While Hayter moved the world of Watchmen out of its alternate history to something closer to our own timeline, Tse addresses 9/11 via dialogue about Dr. Manhattan saving the World Trade Center and by pitting him against a gang of terrorists whose stolen uranium he turns to sand. During the climax, Tse has Ozymandias beaming concentrated energy from Dr. Manhattan into “the hearts of nine key regions around the globe, crossing all traditional politics and ideologies,” leaving the same black silhouettes and thus eliminating the carnage and horror of such an event.

In all three drafts, the most startling departure from the Watchmen graphic novel is the death of Ozymandias. Apparently, the writers found it simply abhorrent that Ozymandias, after murdering millions, would be allowed to live. In Hamm’s draft, Dr. Manhattan vaporizes him. In the Hayter and Tse scripts, he’s eliminated by a razor sharp boomerang owl, allowing Nite Owl further redemption and virility. Like Rorschach, the writers knew that evil must be punished. The death of Ozymandias simplifies Moore’s original work from a multifaceted examination of fascism, storytelling, and hope into a derivative “good guy versus bad guy” shadow play. The subtleties of Watchmen are lost in all of the drafts, making the label “unfilmable” all the more appropriate.

What You Saw (Theatrical Release)
While there’s still a 204-minute (at least) director’s cut of Watchmen yet to make its appearance (perhaps with the death of the original Nite Owl), the theatrical version did well to correct a lot of the errors still found in the scripts. Ozymandias managed to survive, though he still seems more like a  corporate raider than an egocentric superbeing.  While the Twin Towers still stand, looming in the background of Ozymandias’s office and the cemetery, it’s not called out that Dr. Manhattan saved them. Having Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozymandias recall three different aspects of The Comedian while attending his funeral were a great way of giving backstory in a satisfying way.  Also, the opening credits do a good job of providing the history of the main characters along with placing the world of the movie in the right alternate history (especially when Silhouette is at the center of the famous VE day photograph).

Some will go to their graves bemoaning the loss of the “squid” from the graphic novel but would that have really played in Podunk?  As it was, the least of three evils was chosen as Ozymandias’s masterstroke and most of the other changes in the adaption were laudable.  In all, the Watchmen film triumphed over the evil plans laid out by its screenwriters.

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Posted by: on March 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm

underdogs500

Fashionably late — it’s a term everybody throws around when discussing the appropriate time to show up for something. When this year’s Hamtramck Blowout rolls around, it ain’t gonna be much different. We can see the text messages now…

“Dude, when R U going up there?”

“I dunno, dude. When does it start?”

“9?”

“K. Be there @ 11.”

Yep. Typical. But that’s where most of us go wrong. Sure, you’ve got all your trusted Cobras, D-Bombs, and Silent Years rounding out the headlining spots, all sure to pack ‘em in. But hey, haven’t we written about them before? The real blood, sweat, piss, and vinegar of the Blowout experience lies just under the radar, nestled in the early slots — a place where Detroit’s weird, eclectic, underrated, and often-new, future headliners tread. Below are Detour’s picks for Blowout’s underdogs — 25 reasons to get off your ass and hit Ham-town early. Think of this list as that alluring light socket you know you want to stick your finger into, just to see how it feels. And let it be known: Fashionably late is now officially fashionably lame.

See you at the shows,
-The Detour Crew

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allanjames

ALLAN JAMES AND THE COLD WAVE (Friday, 10:20 p.m. / Painted Lady)

Sure, it’s cool to be all weird and shit (‘sup, Timmy Vulgar), but sometimes nothing beats husky, baritone vocals gliding over gentle, slightly shoegazey-yet-tastefully-emotional pop. If Radiohead is the band that launched a thousand ships, Allan James and the Cold Wave is the little tugboat in front, quietly leading the way.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Good buds, good beer, good times, and strong songs. Also…we look good.”

MP3: Slammin’ Beers

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blueflowers

THE BLUEFLOWERS (Friday, 9:20 p.m. / Painted Lady)

Formally known as the under-appreciated Ether Aura, the Blueflowers woozy concoction of reverb-heavy guitars and American Gothic country-isms speak to the inner Cowboy Junkies fan in all of us. Columbia House 1 cent CDs 4-Ever!

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Come get your fix of Americana/alt-country/melodramatic/indie music with the Blueflowers who just released their debut CD, Watercolor Ghost Town.

MP3: Any Three Words

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kellyjean

KELLY JEAN CALDWELL (Friday, 10:40 p.m. / K of C Lounge)

Speaking of Cowboy Junkies, Caldwell takes that band’s rustic ideals and sprinkles it with the kind of lo-fi folk that makes old Iron and Wine and Vashti Bunyan so appealing: a nice mix of the smooth and the strange. With local psychos like Craig Brown (Terrible Twos/Mahonies) and Todd McNulty (LMCA/Sugarcoats) now backing her up, add some dirt and grit to that last comparison.

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darts

THE DARTS (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. / Paycheck’s)
Sometimes a band’s name just says it all — think sharp, spastic, pointed riffs, soaring basslines, and crash ‘n bang drums, all making a bee-line for your asshole.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Lansing heart throbs, the Darts, give high quality HJs.”

MP3: Dancey #19

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ponyexpress

THE DETROIT PONY EXPRESS (Friday, 10:00 p.m. / New Dodge) Tack the word “Detroit” onto your name, and you’re setting yourself up to fill some pretty big shoes (the Detroit Wheels come to mind). But hey, these guys opened up for Peter Frampton once, so maybe they’re on to something. Listen to their blues-y/rock hybrid, and let them show you the way.

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devilfish1

DEVILFISH (Thursday, 9:20 p.m. / K of C Lounge)

Devilfish’s Pierce Reynolds has probably served you coffee before. Or maybe he saw you eating at Quizno’s once — alone. He’s also in Oscillating Fan Club — the D’s resident psyche/surf/pop weirdies. If you’re down with that group, think of Devilfish as OFC’s mute little brother — sans vocals, but still riding on blissful waves of salty-sea psyche.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Devilfish is a freak of nature and the Blowout shall be no less freakish as our set will include: Dinosaur frontmen, elf juice, a possible name change and the drummer of Wildcatting sitting in for Rez. Monster house 98 style. Also, this will probably be the only show for quite sometime. Skeletons!”

MP3: Sugar Sandwich Monster

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divinecomedians

DIVINE COMEDIANS (Thursday, 9:40 p.m. / Bar Carbon)

Forgive these youngsters if Neil Hannon’s Divine Comedy isn’t on their radar — this ex-Dollface (plus some Decks and some Marthas) is too busy digging on vintage garage pop to care much about some Scott Walker-wannabe in a nice suit. The DC’s are cardigans and jeans, all the way.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “People should come see us because our songs are catchy, we’re good looking, and we will really LISTEN when you want to tell us about your day.”

MP3: I’ll Take A Page

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elle

ELLE & THE FONTS (Friday, 9:40 p.m. / Kelly’s Bar)

There’s lots of reasons to love Elle and her Fonts, but anybody who adores 90s lady-pop (think Juliana Hatfield, Breeders, Veruca Salt, and Letters to Cleo) as much as we do is tops in our book. Now, get to work on those listings, yo.

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fidyrich

FIDYRICH (Thursday, 8:40 p.m. / Bar Carbon)

FUCK. YES. This is what we’re talking about — drunken, Replacements/Husker’s/Uncle Tupelo-style drunk ‘n roll, falling all over the place and being all awesome and shit.

Why they think you should see ‘em: You should come see Fidrych because a) It is our first show, b) we are 1/2 ex-porchsleeper and 1/2 ex-offramps and c) we are ready to bring the rock!

MP3: Throwin’ Stones

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1592

1592 (Friday, 10:00 p.m. / Trowbridge House of Coffee) We’re pretty sure they didn’t have reggae or dub back in the year 1592 (they didn’t have much of anything, really, except maybe some fuckin’ chores and shit), but the band 1592′s straight-up Rastafarian jams make up for their goofy nom de plume. Think Toots, Tubby and Desmond Decker — none of that 311 bullshit.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Take the vibe of Jamaica with the soul of Detroit and you get the Rocksteady madness of 1592.”

MP3: Rise of the Fallen

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lasttourist

LAST TOURIST (Thursday, 9:20 p.m. / Paycheck’s)

Some band’s thrive on being unorganized. They show up late for gigs, don’t bring all their gear, drink all your beer, and try and bang your girlfriend. Not Last Tourist, though. These dudes are total pros; nice guys, with nice songs that sound a bit like early Radiohead, except with the guy from Semisonic singing. Good. Pure. Never late.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Last Tourist: Proving naysayers that snarky gorillas CAN play bass since 2001.”

MP3: Again and Again

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leiferikson

LEIF ERIKSON (Saturday, 10:00 p.m. / The Belmont)

Like the Nordic Viking explorer that he takes his name from, rapper Leif Erikson navigates his rhymes like a sturdy wooden battleship bound for undiscovered lands. If his set at last year’s Blowout is any indication, you’re going to want to show up early for more lyrical pillaging.

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manatarms

MAN AT ARMS (Friday, 10:40 p.m. / Kelly’s Bar)

Nevermind that Man At Arms was one of the most badass “He-Man” characters ever (tho Moss Man was kinda sweet, too). We’re more interested in the bizarre skronk this Cleveland/Ann Arbor duo are throwing down. Equal parts Shellac and Mr. Bungle, MAT is proof positive that not all Michigan bands are content with aping Iggy.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “We’re your best choice for short, repetitive songs that fall apart before they really go anywhere, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get stuck in your head, annoying you for days.”

MP3: Everything is Getting Better/Worse

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mattjones

MATT JONES (Friday, 9:20 p.m. / Atlas Bar)

By now, everybody knows the story about Mr. Matt Jones drinking an A&R guy into the gutter (literally) at last year’s SXSW. But what many Detroiters might not realize is that Jones — besides being Ann Arbor’s go-to sideman for all things folk and chamber pop, playing in such luminaries as Misty Lyn and The Big Beautiful, Elm From Arm, and Dabenport — is perhaps one of our state’s best examples of nimble-finger guitar plucking and delicately sung laments. Ex-pat Sufjan Stevens should watch his ass. separator.jpg

noman

NOMAN (Friday, 9:20 p.m. / The Belmont)

While seeing a white guy standing up on stage with an acoustic guitar usually conjures up images of Jack Johnson, hemp necklaces, and, more than likely, a beach ball being bounced around somewhere, Noman’s catchy acousti-punk makes a case for getting unhinged while being unplugged. Plus their new disc, Broadcast, was recorded by Steve Albini, so you know that the drums sound real good.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Noman delivers high energy, covertly acoustic fronted indie/punk anthems. D.C. meets Bob Dylan.”

MP3: Broadcast

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oldempire

OLD EMPIRE (Saturday, 9:40 p.m. / Baker’s Streetcar) The vocals may sound slightly like Mike Ness, but that’s where the Social Distortion comparisons begin and end. If the Von Bondies dug on Son Volt, Varnaline, and Centro-matic instead of the Misfits and the Jonas Broth…er, oops, we meant instead of Cheap Trick, then they might sound a little like Old Empire. Fans of guy/girl vocalizations and dusty-road pop that follows in the great Detroit tradition of the Volebeats, Blanche, and American Mars should welcome Old Empire nicely to the club.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Two reasons. You can choose which one you like better. We like porn as much as you do, [or] the first 50 entrants are eligible for free bubble gum.”

MP3: Sweaterdress

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plaindealers

THE PLAIN DEALERS (Thursday, 10:20 p.m. / Painted Lady)

A band that is self-deprecating enough to claim, “We’re so underdog we don’t have anything recorded,” has to have been around the block a few times, right? Right. Ex-members of Justamustache-era Thunderbirds are Now!, bluegrass kingpins the Salt Miners, and long-gone bubble-punkers the Trembling get together and conjure the ghosts of Quicksand and Jawbox. The 90s ruled; The Plain Dealers will remind you why.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “My brother said we ‘sound like Fugazi if Ian drank and had kids.’”

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roguesatellites

ROGUE SATELLITES (Thursday, 9:00 p.m. / K of C Hall)

Ever wonder what Brendan Benson would sound like if he re-imagined his saccharine power-pop as the soundtrack to a classic Nintendo vid, and also had a sense of humor? If not, don’t worry, because Rouge Satellites have gone ahead and done that for you. Wow…what a stress relief.

Why they think you should come see ‘em: “You should come to our show at the Blowout because you don’t want to miss those resonant sounds that pulse and throb and shake your teeth from their sockets while your bones rattle and your hips sway eternally…or maybe you just want a great fucking rock show!”

MP3: Dead and Cold

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ruemoor

THE RUE MOOR COUNTS (Thursday, 10:00 p.m. / The Belmont)

These dudes used to be called the Birdogs, but let it be known that the Rue Moor Counts is a much better name. Sounds sinister, kind of like their music (a blistering mix of psyche, punk, and devilish folk). Also, somebody drinking cans of Coors in our van said that they “fucking rock.” This dude had a crazy beard and wooden earrings, so we’re going to trust him.

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runningwithpanthers

RUNNING WITH PANTHERS (Friday, 10:40 p.m. / Small’s)

It’s a classic story — bartenders and the buddies they give free drinks to form a band, get wasted, grow mustaches, and give their songs stupid names (“Fuck Party And Fight”). Every town’s got one; we affectionately call ours ours Running With Panthers. Also: “Awwwww, what’s wrong with his ass? Look at his ass. It’s all fucked up!” (go to their Myspace page, and you will understand this)

Why they think you should see ‘em: “RWP is the type of band that you don’t simply flirt with, you either completely buy into their majesty or call it schlock and move on.”

MP3: Take Me Home

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alanscheurman

ALAN SCHEURMAN (Friday, 9:40 p.m. / K of C Lounge)

Scheurman’s days of toiling the basements and VFW halls of the often-thankless emo underbelly may be long gone (and so his old band Rescue, whose members have gone on to join Child Bite and the Silent Years, respectively), but his passion for music and art has gone unscathed. It’s just that now, instead of blaring guitars and complex time signatures, Scheurman gets his ghost on, singing haunted freak-folk that would probably sound awesome during that one sweat lodge scene from the third season of “Lost.”

Why he thinks you should see him: “You should come see me play if you’ve ever consumed mushrooms or LSD or if you’re wondering what happens when a folk singer eats both and plays a show!”

MP3: Starless

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siksiknation

SIKSIK NATION (Thursday, 9:40 p.m. / Smalls) These dudes talk their fair amount of shit on the local blogs, but listening to their grimy mix of B.R.M.C. fuzz, the Troggs-esque skuzz, and Rolling Stones shimmy, they have to goods to back it up. Also, this will likely piss them off, but sometimes they remind us of Tiny Music-era Stone Temple Pilots…which is totally a compliment in our book (seriously, “Big Bang Baby” fucking rules). Home-dude just sounds like Weiland, is all.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “We make make space rock for agoraphobics.”

MP3: Lord Is My Gun

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wildyears

WILD YEARS (Thursday, 9:40 p.m. / Whiskey in the Jar)

There must be something about living in Washtenaw County that drives boys with beards inside their homes to pick up acoustic guitars, fire up their four-tracks (or, more than likely, the ProTools software they just stole from the Internet), and lay down chunks of lo-fi, orchestral folk. Must be those ol’ collegiate blues. Anyways, we’ve already seen it work for Chris Bathgate, Matt Jones, and the (we think) now-defunct Canada…so let’s welcome Wild Years to the party, and keep enjoying this refreshing trend from our bros out west.

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wolfbait

WOLFBAIT (Saturday, 10:40 p.m. / Small’s)

A discussion was recently had: Is Wolfbait seriously funny, or just funny about being serious? We’re not totally sure, but we’re going to go with both. Either way, WB will probably show up to this show dressed like Meatloaft-meets-the-dudes-from-Mayhem, and will likely rip your dick off and pulverize it to bits with the sickest riffs this side of Harpos.

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woodman

WOODMAN (Friday, 9:40 p.m. / Paycheck’s)

Detroit’s best-dressed-Dad Frank Woodman leads his ragtag family of freaks through a raucous set of ramshackle tunes that make the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Danielson Family seem normal.

Why they think you should see ‘em: “Come see Woodman because we’re a high energy family band that plays loud, cathartic, freewheeling Americana garage anthems with occasional drunken drama high jinks.”

MP3: 5-Second Rule

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Did we miss somebody? In a band and don’t think you’re an underdog? Go by the name Bryan Metro? Please, feel free to comment below.

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Posted by: on November 24, 2008 at 8:00 am

Bruce Campbell will stand out in the freezing cold after a screening to make sure everyone who wants to say hello or get a picture with him get their time. His fans love him and that adoration has been reciprocated by Bruce in his latest motion picture project, My Name is Bruce. Not to be confused with the 1982 film They Call Me Bruce? about an Asian fellow who keeps getting mistaken for Bruce Lee, My Name is Bruce is about a fellow who looks a lot like Bruce Campbell who’s asked to save the town of Gold Lick, Oregon from an evil Asian spirit.

Similar to the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle JCVD, My Name is Bruce has Campbell playing an alternative version of himself. Here the hard working Michigan native is a hard drinking slob who’s content to take any role offered to him as long as it pays the bills. The well has run dry and his inept agent (Ted Raimi in one of several roles) can’t line up any new gigs. Through a series of misunderstandings, and the handy use of a baseball bat, Bruce ends up on a Podunk town in what he thinks is just another B-movie role.

Bruce has been touring his sophomore directorial effort around the country. This past Friday, he made his way back to Michigan for a series of screenings at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak. He took time on the road (literally) for a quickie interview.

Mike White: What interview question are you getting sick of hearing?

Bruce Campbell: Mostly Evil Dead 4. It’s such old news. What do you do with it?

MW: It seems that you’d have to let the life go out of Spiderman before Sam Raimi would get back to that.

BC: It’s not even that. I’ve got a TV show I’m committed to.

MW: Which sounds like a hell of a gig. You’re shooting in Florida, right?

BC: Shoots in Miami!

MW: Very nice. Last time we spoke you talked about doing every touristy thing imaginable while working down on Congo.

BC: All on their dime.

MW: Do you get that question during your Q&As a lot as well?

BC: Of course I do. People can ask whatever they want. They’re paying customers.

MW: I imagine you’ve gotten a lot of questions about how similar the Bruce Campbell of My Name is Bruce is to the real Bruce Campbell.

BC: Well, you’d better hope he’s pretty damn different! This is always the danger of doing this sort of thing. Some idiot in the audience is going go, “Wow, I didn’t know he drank whiskey out of a dog bowl!” There are similarities all over the place, but only I know them and I will never reveal them. There’s a sequence in the movie where I’m talking with fans outside of a studio and every bit of dialogue is verbatim from real life.

MW: It had that feel, especially the guy in the wheelchair.

BC: I met the rudest man on the planet so what are you going to do? Kick the wheel chair under a bus? You can’t really do that but in the movie I can!

MW: How do you feel about Jean-Claude Van Damme ripping you off with this whole “meta movie” idea?

BC: I’m going to have to kick his ass.

MW: That, I’d like to see. Sounds like a sequel. Where can I find one of those Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way standees like I saw in the film?

BC: Limited edition only. Try Craigslist.

MW: How’d you get in with the guys from Dark Horse Comics?

BC: I’ve known Mike Richardson for years. They put out the Evil Dead comic. They’re good quality and I always favor the littler guy. They’re a smaller, cooler company. I live in Oregon now and Mike lives in Oregon and Mark Verheiden. who wrote the movie, is also from Oregon. We had our own little state bond going on there.

MW: Did Dark Horse also put out the Man with the Screaming Brain comic book?

BC: Yeah, they did. It really was what the movie wanted to be and we were able to do it in a comic. I’m not going to make fun of my own movie, though, there are plenty of other people who will do that for me.

MW: How’s the My Name is Bruce Tour going so far?

BC: Good. We’re about halfway through the tour now. I’m headed to Birmingham and in Monroe now. If it sounds weird for a second; I’m going through a car wash. Life must continue on the road.

MW: Who all is on this trip with you?

BC: I’m going with a buddy of mine.

MW: Are you going to be home in time for Thanksgiving?

BC: No, I’m doing that with family in Michigan. Some things you get screwed on but other things work out great.

And, with that, the car wash jets began and Bruce Campbell signed off.

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Posted by: on September 25, 2008 at 8:00 am

By Paul Serilla

Today, the world gets its first look at a product that some people who probably know little about “business” or “music” are calling, ahem, the “SAVIOR OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS” (dun-dun-du-dah!).

But in case you haven’t heard, we’ll fill you in: MySpace, partnering with Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group, is launching MySpace Music: an iTunes-esque music service that will offer DRM-free downloads, ringtones, concert tickets, t-shirts and other merchandise for us all to lap up with saliva-dripping tongues. And yes, that MySpace — the Fox/News Corp.-owned social networking phenom that is ironically part of the same Interweb that was, until recently, seen as only stabbing the music industry repeatedly in the face.

What MySpace is purporting to offer may sound familiar to users who frequent similarly minded services like Pandora, Last.FM, and subscription services like Rhapsody, but it also could end up being a fair step beyond those services in the evolution of music supported by advertising.

MySpace is, of course, already a big deal in popular music. To date, they have something in the neighborhood of 600,000 artists signed up, giving the tens-of-millions of MySpace users Read more

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Posted by: on September 17, 2008 at 10:48 am

Unless you’ve been sequestered at summer camp, you know that Detroit bands have put out some stellar records of late. For those of us in Washtenaw County, it’s sweet to see Ann Arbor keeping pace.

“I’ve been here seventeen years and what’s been going on just in the last two years is the real thing.” So says recording engineer Jim Roll about the current state of music west of I-275. And we’re not going to argue. From his Ann Arbor-based studio, Roll has had a front-row seat, recording many of the best local releases over the past year. Several more are on deck for the fall. His studio is booked solid for months purely on word of mouth, mutual interest and a crop of record-ready acts. “I think I would go nuts if I had to record bad bands, but I’ve just got one after another coming through that are Read more

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Posted by: on August 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Before “Power Pop Day” is officially over, we thought it might be cool to point you in the direction of some new kids on the block, who not only swipe moves and give nods to the power pop greats of yesteryear, but are also paving the road to the genre’s bright future. Also, we know that p-pop kind of gets a bad rap, mostly for being a little bit lame, and a lot bit cheesy. What we tried to bring you here are people doing something a little different with the formula than just ripping off the Knack and putting a Rickenbacker guitar on the cover of their album.

So with that said, here’s some links, YouTube clips, and Read more

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Posted by: on August 19, 2008 at 10:12 am

By Paul Serilla

An open and frank discussion of music has not always been encouraged in this country. Back in the day, if you had a sound opinion, you kept it to yourself for fear the Newspaper Guild would knock you around or the Mimeograph Alliance of America would execute the “full-mulberry” on your friends and loved ones. Still, the slightly more emboldened types of the era might dare jot their thoughts in code and leave them tucked between the wooden slats of a park bench for a fellow “music cipher” to discover. We’d still probably be engaging in this practice today had the technique not been discovered and stamped out in the 19th century.

Pittsburgh, PA’s George Washington Johnson was one of the most prominent of these proto-bloggers. However, when Johnson mistook a gentleman (who happened to be a local Justice of the Peace) switching his monocle from the left eye to the right as the secret sign of the cipher, he inadvertently called attention to the practice and unfortunately sowed the seeds of his own demise. After Federal Marshals decoded his simple substitution code three days following his capture, he was hung for illegally attempting to invoke the First Amendment. A true “people’s critic” to the end, his finals words were, “I’d rather hear horseshit blown out of trombones than suffer through another rendition of John Philip Sousa’s equally crappy ‘Liberty Bell March’.”

As is often the case with critics, it is said that the composer had the last laugh. Though no primary evidence exists, rumors persist that Sousa himself led his famous band through a pants-less version of the “Liberty Bell March” over Johnson’s unmarked Allegheny grave every July until his death in 1932.

As the twentieth century began, so did the widespread use of recorded music — first as a promotional tool for sheet music and live performance, then later a product unto itself. Still, widespread discussion of music by non-professionals remained underground. To keep a step ahead of the fuzz, the opinionated got two Dixie cups and a long piece of string, walked one of the cups over to a friend’s house and then walked back Read more

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Posted by: on August 6, 2008 at 9:00 am

By Paul Serilla

Much has been said about Lollapalooza, so we’ll save you a lot of sweaty (though fully enriched with electrolytes) details of set lists and stage banter. But we will say that it’s a pretty well oiled machine; logistically speaking it is something to behold. While it feels like a bare minimum that acts go on when scheduled, trash gets picked up, Porta Johns aren’t overwhelmed, decent food is available for $5 or $10, and the beer flows freely through manageable lines from open to close, it’s still impressive and adds immensely to any attempt to enjoy the festivities.

In a scant few years, it feels like Lollapalooza has taken on the persona of its permanent home in the Windy City of Chicago. Lolla has a pleasant pulse with Gen-X-er’s in Threadless shirts and punks mingling with a few of the NPR tote-bag set; folks who certainly could be their parents. If you were to raise a complaint, you’d probably point towards a shadow of the old Midwest homogeneity cast over the proceedings, but it’s not overwhelming.

Apart from the bro-on-bro violence/foreplay that reportedly caused Rage Against the Machine to halt their set in an attempt to get their fans to do what they told them, the festival was largely well mannered and free of the large scale distractions; ones that make for good war stories, but are pretty irritating in the moment of the heat.

While we weren’t as laid back as the festival-mandated hacky-sack players, we made little attempt to race from one end to the other just to notch yet another band on our belts. We were even accused by some fellow concertgoers via text of being on our couches back home. Of course, as our only contact with Read more

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Posted by: on August 5, 2008 at 10:12 am


Thoughts on Lollapalooza 2008

By Johnny Loftus

Kanye West‘s ego should be Barack Obama‘s running mate. The candidate never showed Sunday night, or on any other night of Lollapalooza 2008. But in a lively, often captivating, and occasionally surreal set that closed out the concert’s final evening, West used the outsized wattage of his own ego to power a performance that pulsed on multiple levels. He appealed to casual fans, which most of the festivalgoers at this designed-for-mass-consumption event were all weekend, with athletic, high-volume versions of hits like “Gold Digger” and “Stronger,” the latter’s Daft Punkian underpinnings also serving as his opening vamp and a nod to Lolla 2008. He appealed to his hometown, with shouts to the South, West, and North sides and numerous allusions to “Chi-town,” “Summer in the city,” “Lolla,” and even “Lake Michigan.” And he appealed to the curious and the critical with a micromanaged, likely multi-million dollar production that used precision timing and the high technology that glares at the core of so many of West’s songs to manufacture our perception of him in 2-D, even as he performed with the kind of singular fury that much of contemporary hip-hop can’t seem to muster anymore. “Me” is the driver of every Kanye song. But on Sunday night he was Read more

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Posted by: on July 23, 2008 at 9:00 am


In a short time, Ann Arbor’s Quite Scientific established itself as the go-to label for Michigan’s blossoming orchestral, indie-folk scene. With releases from Canada and Chris Bathgate and upcoming salvos from Frontier Ruckus, Maryland’s Cotton Jones Basket Ride and Philadelphia’s Hezekiah Jones, Qui Sci continues to spread the gospel while broadening its reach. Run by affable brothers Brian and Jeremy Peters and Justin Spindler, the Qui Sci boys not only Read more

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