Monday, February 28, 2011



Aled Lewis is a young, London-based designer and illustrator mashing up popular culture in style. His retro, pixellated work is a who’s who of my childhood. From Guybrush Threepwood to Donkey Kong, the nostalgia’s infectious. Most of the time, it’s the creativity of the idea and the fun in the execution that’s most striking. Besides video games, working with sites like Threadless and Woot, Aled’s also an in-demand t-shirt designer, responsible for one of the most popular shirts on the whole Threadless site. I caught up with him over a pint to find out more.

How long have you been designing and illustrating for?

For as long as I can remember, really. I studied graphic design at London Met, finished in 2008 or 2009.

Click here to read the full interview on Don't Panic Online.


Throughout popular culture, virtual Easter eggs work like inside jokes. Little hidden messages and references left lying around for fans to discover, blog about and argue over (and even name their bands after). Some are simple shout outs. Some are more elaborate. Like the Konami Code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start), used in games like Contra, Castlevania and Gradius (and on websites like Facebook, Google Reader and Digg). And then there’s Star Wars, with enough virtual Easter Eggs to give even a wookie diabetes. 

According to Atari, they coined the term in 1979, when Adventure programmer Warren Robinett popularised the idea using a grey pixel (on a grey background) to lead players into a secret room displaying the words “Created by Warren Robinett.” Obviously, others are laying claim as well.

Another aspect of virtual Easter eggs is hidden features on DVDs: an extra click here, a hidden treasure there. But enough jabbering, here’s a look at a few virtual Easter eggs we find particularly enjoyable.


Pixar movies are notoriously loaded with self-referential Easter eggs. From Pizza Planet and Dinoco, to the Luxo Ball. One of the most popular Pixar Easter eggs is A113, a reference to the graphic design and character animation classroom number at the California Institute of the Arts. To date, the number has turned up in animated shows like American Dad, Tiny Toons, South Park and The Simpsons. And live action films like The Phantom Menace and Terminator Salvation. Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), who’s used the number in every one of his films and two episodes of The Simpsons, called A113 his “Nina.” A reference to caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, who hid his daughter’s name, Nina, in his drawings.

Click here to read the full story on Don't Panic Online.


Thom Powers and the rest of New Zealand pop outfit The Naked and Famous are REALLY busy right now. My first attempt at an interview was rescheduled when I caught Thom checking out of a hotel in London. The night before, the band won the Philip Hall Radar Award at NME Shockwaves. And they were already on their way to Cambridge when I interrupted. When I spoke to Thom again the next day, he was in Bristol, 10 minutes away from another soundcheck.

From the UK, The Naked and Famous are off to the rest of Europe. Then the States. And besides Flight of the Conchords, they’re already the most successful band to break out of New Zealand (Split Enz?). Here’s what Thom had to say anyway. Their debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You, is out now (but not fully).

Every time I read your name I get The Presidents of the United States of America stuck in my head. I believe it comes from a Tricky song?

Ha ha… Yeah, Pre-Millennium Tension, 1996. From a song called 'Tricky Kid'.

How was the NME Awards show? Judging from your Twitter updates, things got pretty out of hand?

Heaps of fun. Big shock. I didn’t even know why I was there. We just kind of got invited at the last minute.

One of your tweets was, “Dear aggressive drunks, you are everything that is fucked. Ever”. What happened? A real life case of Passive Me, Aggressive You?

Click here to read the full interview on Don't Panic Online.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Woh! Crazy new trailer for Dead Island, out not soon enough...

Friday, February 25, 2011


Warp Films

Most of you know him as Moss, Dean Learner, Thornton Reed or Saboo. But Richard Ayoade's been directing for years, working on hip (read: weird) music videos for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, Super Furry Animals, Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys and The Last Shadow Puppets. He also directed AD/BC: A Rock Opera (with Matt Berry) and episodes of Garth Marenghi's Dark Place. Submarine, due out in the UK March 11, is Ayoade's debut feature.

All the Ayoade music videos I've ever seen don't make much sense. So a 97-minute feature film - you'd assume - would force him to tie up a tight, comprehensible narrative that even someone as un-cool as me could understand. In the end, it's the combination of Ayoade's odd, non-nonsensical style and the regular constraints of feature film that makes Submarine work so well. Really, the story's a perfect fit for Ayoade's unique style.

Based on the novel by Joe Dunthorne, the film tells the story of Welsh teenager Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a young boy dealing with all the regular (and not so regular) pangs of growing up. Desperate to lose his virginity, he scours his classmates for the most likely-to-say-yes. Then he meets Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige), an odd but cute-looking pyromaniac way beyond expectations.

Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets) wrote the music for the film. And there's a strange sense of 'Turner-ism' running through the whole thing. Roberts looks (and dresses) a lot like Turner. Paige even looks like a young Alexa Chung. And together, punctuated by Turner's voice singing the songs, Oliver Tate and Jordana Bevan look like an awkward, teenage version of the couple.

Overall, the film's a perfect blend of mundane and fantastical. It's like Wes Anderson meets Adrian Mole and Alex Turner (in Wales). Ayoade's style is light and heavy at the same time. And the film stirred up all those deeply buried teenage insecurities and emotions I thought I'd let go of so long ago. Afterwards, I heard some people calling Submarine "bleak" and "typically British." Instead, I found it hopeful and uplifting. A strong debut by a talented young filmmaker.

Oddly, the poster says "Ben Stiller presents." He's billed as an executive producer, been to all the premieres, done all the interviews and even makes a small cameo in the film on a TV screen as a fake soap opera star.


Camp London, February 23

Live, Suuns make complete sense. Fuelled by intensity and the grimy, basement surroundings, their dark mantras sound powerful and hypnotic. The kind of stuck rhythms zombies could dance to. Watching frontman Ben Shemie thrash his guitar, attack his amp and climb the peeling grey walls of Camp London, I kept thinking, "90s grunge (with a new-age feel)."

People keep throwing the word minimalist around to describe the hyped new Montreal four-piece. And on their debut album, Zeroes QC, you can hear it (or rather, can't hear it). Suuns use restraint like an instrument, lending an unsettling, almost ethereal quality to their music. But live, they're way more explosive.

Max Henry hops from keyboards to bass, Joe Yarmush swaps from bass to slide guitar,
Shemie switches from sane to nuts and Liam O'Neill's got a bag of tricks on drums. After a quick encore, Suuns hop off stage, push their way through a frozen crowd and disappear.


Sub Pop

You really have to stop what you're doing and listen for this one to make sense. The album title (I assume) is a tongue-in-cheek dig at fist-pumping hardcore loyalists. But on a deeper level, it's something I've thought about a lot. As in, "that bridge will be here in a hundred years, I won't." Mogwai's version is much funnier.

Like I said, the album's hard work to get into. It's attention seeking. A whirling daze of post-punk, atmospheric pressures and mostly-instrumental annunciations. Fuzzy distortion and feedback-infected, gentle dreaminess. Who else would write a (surprisingly) uplifting instrumental track with euphoric, orbital melodies and call it "White Noise"? Anything but.

It's a musical landscape, no... skyscape (spacescape?). And I'm sitting on the Board of Shaman's magic carpet with travel sickness, arguing with Tony Harrison...

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Animations by Lee Hardcastle. Check out his site for more info on how to donate and make his cult movie claymation dreams come true...



Publicity stunt, coincidence or just wishful thinking? Banksy's in Hollywood for the Oscars - and he's kept himself busy. Exit Through the Gift Shop's up for the Best Documentary Feature Award this Sunday, against Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo and Wasteland. Do you think he'll make an appearance if it wins?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Raised on a diet of Conan the Barbarian, Dark Crystal and Krull, Galway City local and “strict vegetarian” Michael Craughwell fell in love with fantasy weapons as a kid of the '80s. When he saw Mad Max, a light bulb flashed. "Everything in Mad Max was made out of junk. And I could get junk", he told a room full of kids and crying babies at his local library.

In 2007, Craughwell was commissioned to make a life-sized replica of the Buster sword from Final Fantasy 7.
When he posted the pics and videos online, the Internet did the rest. Or as he puts it, “a whole subculture of people crawled out of the woodwork and started contacting me.” Nowadays, Craughwell spends his time making giant swords to order, swords likely to have British health and safety authorities foaming at the mouth. We contacted him to find out more.

So how did you get into making crazy swords? Did you always fantasise about being a blacksmith?

I'm not a blacksmith, but I guess you can’t stop people wanting me to be. I always envisioned/hoped/dreamed I’d be some guy making medieval weapons in a hellish post-apocalyptic future. I started making weapons out of old junk. At some point it became easier to just make things from scratch than to find stuff that was already kinda weapon-shaped. Watching Mad Max 2 = pointy pants. Lord of the Rings = half mast.

Click here to read the full interview on Don't Panic Online.


Effervescence Records

French punk rockers Forus mix shredding modern influences like Protest the Hero and A Wilhelm Scream with straight-up melodic skate punk and a foreign accent that takes me back to a time when Millencolin were still cool. But despite the 10 tracks, it's still not a full length...

is a new digital EP compiling Forus' output so far: six tracks from their 2008 EP Aaron's Revolution, three tracks from their 2009 split Coalition and "The Bottom Line" (Forus' contribution to Bells On Records' 2010 Belvedere tribute). A smart move, really. I mean, who's even heard of 'em outside of Bayonne, right?

Overall, the sound's melodic to the nth degree. The playing's ultra-technical - from drum speeds that rival Fullblast, to fiddly, metal-inspired riffs and duelling guitars, to brain-slapping tempo changes and sudden stops. Vocally, the band's still developing. Finding their voice as captivating songwriters. Their edge. But with a few years under the belt and a real full length in the pipeline, things are looking good.


With his receding hairline, flannel shirt and glasses, Ben Ottewell's the least 'rock star' muso in rock 'n roll. But his voice is pure gold. His gravelly, wounded-knee melodies are what drew me to Gomez - and kept me there. Now, like fellow Gomez guitarist Ian Ball before him, Ottewell's decided it's time to unleash his first solo album on the world. Six years in the making, the record's called Shapes and Shadows. And I couldn't think of a more perfect name for the dreamy, patchwork collection of personal songs, written whenever he could steal a moment.

How long have you had these songs rolling around your brain?

The oldest tune on the record is 'Blackbird'. I started writing it about six years ago, on the same morning I wrote 'How We Operate'. The newest is either 'Lightbulbs' or 'All Brand New', both written in winter 2009. So they have been rolling around my brain for quite some time. It's great that they finally found a home.

Are they more personal than your Gomez output?

Yes, and I think that’s the whole point; to reflect something more personal musically and lyrically. Although some of these songs are co-written (with Sam Genders), they’re closer to me than they would have been on a Gomez record.

Who was the first person you played the finished record to?

My wife and twin boys.

here to read the full interview on Don't Panic Online.


Contender Films/Entertainment 1

Reading Welsh weed smuggler Howard Marks' cult autobiography Mr. Nice, my first thought was, "This would make one hell of a movie!" So it didn't surprise me when I found out one was due in 2010, starring Rhys "Spike" Ifans as Marks. What did surprise me was the film's hush-hush release. And by 2011, I'd totally forgotten about it. Until I walked into HMV and there it was...

Dressed up like Liam Gallagher, Rhys Ifans definitely looks the part. And who doesn't love Chloƫ Sevigny? But other than that, director Bernard Rose and co. have cocked things up big time. You see, the thing about Mr. Nice is, it isn't just the weed. It's an adventure. A thrilling crime drama told with eloquence and style by a natural, charismatic storyteller.

So straight away, the animated DVD menu of Rhys Ifans blowing smoke out his nose and mouth and the blue weed leaf bullets in the Extra Features section struck me as surprisingly cheap and tacky - they might as well have colour-coded the packaging red, green and yellow.

For me, the appeal of Marks isn't the amount of hash he smoked, smuggled and sold. It's his romanticised image as this moralistic, weed-only outlaw. The Robin Hood of stoners. There's this deep emotional struggle to his story, full of pain, suffering and, of course, good times.

My main problem with the film is how quickly it breezes over things. Marks' amazing exploits have been turned into such a dreary, voiceless, dream-like series of events they make you wonder what all the fuss was about in the first place. Ifans is good enough as a charming, '70s, rockstar dealer. But overall, Mr. Nice is bitterly disappointing.

official website

Thursday, February 17, 2011


From BoingBoing:

"It turns out that if you stitch together all the little over-the-top McBain movie clips shown in several seasons' worth of Simpsons episodes, they form a coherent mini-feature -- a little Easter egg planted by the fun-lovin' Simpsons writing staff!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Took some photos of Japanther, Bitches and Shell Shag for Vice last Friday. More here.


A well-executed, if fairly usual impressionist painting right? Wrong. The canvas is actually human skin, and the model has been encased in acrylic paint to create a '3D' take on a classic style. Taking the street show idea of painting skin and posing as a living sculpture way beyond its natural conclusion, 23-year-old Washington-based artist Alexa Meade paints people. Or as her website explains, she “perceptually compresses three dimensional space into a two dimensional plane”.

Either way, the end result – a transient combination of installation, painting, photography, performance, sculpture and video – is pretty unbelievable. Even as I type this, over my shoulder, someone in the office is going, “No ways, I don’t believe it!” We spoke to Alexa to find out more.

Why people?

I paint directly on people because I’m interested in exploring the tensions between being and permanence.

Being and permanence?

I like the idea of creating something that will be destroyed immediately upon completion. Once the performance is resolved, the model rips off the acrylic mask and all that endures is a photographic print documenting the time-based event. I don’t sell installations or anything with a painted surface. The only thing you can own is a photographic index of my representational painting.

Click here to read the full interview on Don't Panic Online.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011



When I read about Will Bingley and Anthony Hope-Smith's new illustrated, graphic biography of Hunter S. Thompson, my first thought was, "How much more to the story could there possibly be?" Even the title put me off. Gonzo. We get it. But after a quick chat with the graphic novel’s co-creators over a couple of pints, I was enthusiastic. These guys are the real deal.

Hope-Smith rattled off a list of dream inkers and letterers, Bingley confessed that if he had to sleep with a man it would be Bill Murray and together, they make an awesome pop culture-consuming duo. This time, it’s about giving Hunter S. Thompson a new voice and dispelling the cartoon persona that they admit Thompson himself is to blame for.

So why Hunter S. Thompson? Is he a personal anti-hero?

Will: He is... For starters, he’s an amazing person. Secondly, we felt that he’d been misrepresented, particularly with the movies and bigger US papers. His broader image is that pure kind of gonzo thing, which is a massive misrepresentation of him. So we figured we could go in and tell a more interesting story.
Anthony: He is very much perceived as a caricature persona, which, admittedly, is a persona that he came up with for himself. But it meant people didn’t take him as seriously as they should have.

Click here to read the full interview on Don't Panic Online



Howard Moon stumbles through the tundra. The icy blizzard whips his face. “So alone… Wind, my only friend”, he calls out, stooped in complete isolation. “I hate you”, whistles the breeze. If he had an iPod, he’d be listening to Suuns.

Joe Yarmush (guitar), Ben Shemie (vocals/guitar), Liam O'Neill (drums) and Max Henry (bass/keyboards) describe January in Montreal as “a dark time”. “We were just trying to stay alive”, explains O’Neil. And that’s how I picture them: holed up the snow, stringing together their dark, moody, icy post-punk debut Zeroes QC.

Starting out in 2007, in Montreal, the original band name was Zeroes. But after some early concerns, they settled on Suuns. I caught up with the band ahead of their February European tour. Check out their MySpace page for dates.

So what’s the story with the “Mexican Ramones”, did they actually threaten to sue or did you just change the name in case?

BS: Lets put this to rest. Nothing happened with The Zeros. They were very cool and accommodating. They had no problem with our original name. Those guys are the real deal. We ended up changing the name because there are other bands out there with all sorts of variations: Zeroes, The Zeros, Orez, whatever. It was too complicated. And we were warned of a possible threat from another less cool Zeros.

Was it important to still squeeze the name Zeroes in there somewhere, even it was just the album title?

JY: Yes. The album title references our past. We lived with the name for long enough that we didn’t want it to slip into the void.
BS: It was important, mostly because we’d built up our reputation locally and we’re proud of our independent accomplishments. But we don’t really care anymore.

Click here to read the full interview on Don't Panic Online.


Whoever said the meek shall inherit the earth was close. Off by one letter, in fact. See, once upon a time, geeks wore black-rimmed glasses, high-waisted trousers and pocket protectors. Like Steve Urkel. Nowadays, in the Google age, it’s the geeks that rule the world. The likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt have cash to burn and feet to protect. So why shouldn’t fashionable footwear reflect this New Balance of power?

If you’ve been paying attention, the Star Wars Adidas Originals range has been getting pretty insane lately. From Jabba the Hutt to Princess Leia and Chewbacca. And in December, Adidas unveiled their new George Lucas-endorsed range of kicks for 2011, including AT-AT pilot El Dorados fat tongues, Emperor ZX-8000s with Dark Side blue lightning and a pretty unmissable pair of Imperial Guard-inspired hi-tops. Here's a look at five pairs of nerd-drooling designer sneakers we found lying around the Internet (and couldn't resist sharing).

here for the full story on Don't Panic Online...

Friday, February 4, 2011




There's no point reviewing this one. If you're not a fan, you're not interested. And if you are, you've clicked the link at the bottom and hit order already. It's worth it just to see their logos side by side on shiny vinyl.

The let down: there's only two songs! Which translates to less than six minutes of actual music. So like I say, it's purely a labour of love. One for the collectors.

Bouncing Souls cover Hot Water Music's "Wayfarer," released on their 2008 compilation/b-side album Til the Wheels Fall Off. And Hot Water Music have a go at Bouncing Souls' "True Believers," from their 2001 album How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Mostly, they sound like themselves sounding like each other...

Click here to order the split from Chunksaah Records in all its various limited edition forms.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


There’s a buzz building in Camden, heard as far off as Boston and downtown Beirut. Yep, things are happening blindingly fast for new London band Tribes. Get this - they've been going for just over a year, haven’t even released their first full length, just joined Facebook and have already played with the Pixies. And now they're off to Tokyo, to play with Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Strokes. 

But first they’ve got XOYO tonight and the NME Awards show at Shepherds Bush Empire on February 9, with their old pals Mystery Jets. I caught up with Johnny Lloyd (vocals, guitar), Jim Cratchley (bass), Migeul Demelo (drums) and Dan White (guitar) backstage before their sold out XOYO show with Foreign Office and Paradise Point.

So how are you guys enjoying 2011 so far?

JL: It’s been great to see ourselves in the NME a bit. And to do that BBC Radio Maida Vale thing. We had a great time. And we’re really excited about the show at XOYO tonight.

How many bands to watch in 2011 lists did you make?

DW: We're on a couple but I find lists like that a bit misleading, to be honest. 

JC: They’re all very different. 

DW: And you seem to be able to buy your way on 'em. Everyone that seems to have a massive record deal’s on there.

JL: We were on the NME one, that’s the one that counts.

JC: Because they actually listen to the music.

Read the full interview on Don't Panic Online.


The place was crazy! My first London underground rave. Dubstep and other flavours, minimum lighting and a lot of drunk crazy people. The craziest? Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore ex-From First to Last). I kept picturing blood pouring from the sprinklers and ravers turning into vampires.

Have a look at the full gallery on


Jeremy Fish loves a good story. And every seemingly random character and spooky animal crest he creates fits in somewhere - from skull-carrying bears and gun-slinging owls to smoking whales and silly pink bunnies. Born in New York in 1974, Fish moved to San Francisco, California in 1994 to attend art school and fell in love. Nowadays, he wouldn’t live anywhere else. Known to his friends as the King of North Beach, he works like a maniac on a diet of coffee, beer and the “occasional well done burger”. I caught up with him between shifts.

You've been interviewed a lot. Surely there's one golden Jeremy Fish nugget you've waited ‘til now to share with the world?

That I’m a nice guy.

Okay... Where did the name King of North Beach come from?

Umm, my friend Lizzy, I think. I used to joke with her about it. Now I actually hope to one day be the king of the greatest neighbourhood in the world. I think Aesop (Rock) refers to me as the K.O.N.B. as well.

The bio on your site suggests a mad, bearded hermit fuelled by coffee, churning out new work like a human art machine. Is that the reality?


Right. And how do you take your coffee?

Espresso and a ‘lil cold milk - because I’m lukewarm.

Click here to read the full interview - Don't Panic Online.


Koefte DeVille - Mad Sin © Nondo

We shuffle into the Garage sheepishly, noticeably under-dressed without a Mohawk between us. UK band
Coffin Nails are on stage, preaching to the converted. In this case, a rabble of colourful psychobilly Mohawks, customised leopard-print jackets and studded faces. The female members of the congregation look haunting, in '50s, vampire Bettie Page getups.

Coffin Nails © RetroPhotoUK

Coffin Nails look the part and their take on things sounds pretty legit. But thanks to a combination of fat dick jokes and stupid lyrics, the "gravest band in the world" come off cartoon and comical. Not exactly what you're looking for when it comes to dark and sinister.

When Coffin Nails are done, Mad Sin appear from the shadows to set themselves up. The change over's the quickest I've ever seen. Because at 10:00pm, the Garage turns back into a pumpkin: the psychos get kicked out, the cobwebs get dusted and the staff brace themselves for another club night. Bizarre, I know. Usually, I'd imagine Mad Sin wiping the sleep from their eyes at 10:00pm, ready for their morning bottle of whiskey.

© Vipa

For an enormous dude, Koefte DeVille's surprisingly agile, popping shirt buttons as he kicks his leg up high above his head and bashes his face with his tambourine. Still, by song two he's pouring sweat and out of breath between songs. But when the band's in full swing, he doesn't miss a note - his personality and stage persona dwarfing his giant frame.

In the middle of the crowd, fat, sweaty, bald dudes with no shirts on punch at thin air. By now, Mad Sin have whipped up the fiercest, most unappealing-looking prison moshpit this side of a Ted Nugent show. They're gonna be sweeping up teeth tonight...

© Vipa

"In case you're wondering what happened to our drummer Andy, he got a hearing loss," says DeVille with a stunned, unsympathetic look on his face. "Apparently, we're too loud for him. Ha ha... This is Matthaeus," he concludes, pointing at the band's hard-working new drummer, who raises a stick in salute. Guitarist Stein just stands there, like the corpse of James Dean.

At the end, bassist Valle is denied his usual pyrotechnics by UK Health & Safety. And instead, he settles for a solo standing on DeVille's head. Suddenly, the lights are on and angry-looking staff are herding psychos out the door. It seems unreal. In an hour's time there'll be no traces left. Still, I knew they'd be good - they've been going since 1987 - but Mad Sin were incredible.