Monthly Archives: November 2013

Book review: “The Squared Circle”

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The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling, by David Shoemaker, aka “The Masked Man”. New York: Gotham Books/Penguin. 386pp, ill.

David Shoemaker’s The Squared Circle is only the latest entry into a literary market already well-saturated with books about professional wrestling. Most of these books have been hagiographical scribblings by ghostwriters, passing themselves off as memoir; these books are useful, given their access to the subject at hand, but they often fail to pass muster in terms of actual readability. Others have been written by outsiders, by fans and nominal wrestling “journalists”, some of whom are legit, while others are hacks who lucked into a small-press book deal.

Shoemaker’s book, however, is something of an anomaly within the genre—a full-length, hardcover book about wrestling published by a major imprint (or, at least, a subsidiary thereof) and handled with the sort of care that makes clear that, however bizarre and ridiculous pro-wrestling can be, the author retains real passion for a business that, frankly, makes no sense to the average person. In entertainment terms, pro-wrestling may be the ultimate niche market.

“This is a book about dead wrestlers,” he writes in the introduction, as if he’s offering the reader a spoiler alert for a pre-taped wrestling show that you personally attended. That is, there is no way to tell the story of professional wrestling over the past 30 years with any kind of historical accuracy without directly addressing the unprecedented wave of premature death that has befallen the business in that time, starting with that of David Von Erich in February 1984 and culminating with what the wrestling media now euphemizes as the “Benoit Family Tragedy” in June 2007.

Writing as “The Masked Man”, Shoemaker has done some of the most interesting writing about pro-wrestling in recent years, working mostly for Grantland and Deadspin. This book is not an anthology of that material; it’s rather takes a fresh look at a subject that has already been covered extensively from almost every conceivable angle. The fact that he manages to consistently generate new original insights speaks to his skill as a writer and, more important, his almost-intuitive grasp of what makes the business click. Shoemaker is at his best when explaining why certain characters resonated with fans as well as they did, breaking down their inner motivations and our own subconscious affinity with their message. Basically, he writes like someone who actually respects pro-wrestling; imagine that!

To say that The Squared Circle is a page-turner would be a gross understatement. Making the point more finely, it’s one of the more interesting wrestling books ever written by a non-wrestler. It has a good bit of new material that even seasoned fans will be unfamiliar with, but much of the stories spin around plots well-ingrained in the memories of casual fans from the ‘80s and ‘90s boom periods. Even so, Shoemaker renders all his information in a peppy, easy-to-digest style that, in itself, offers an object lesson in how the wrestling business has managed to achieve a new level of mainstream appeal that, while not as lucrative as in previous eras, is far more pervasive in the long-term, as well as the tragic price that so many stars paid for their success.

November 27, 2013

sheltonhull@gmail.com

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Interview with Maitejosune Urrechaga, from Pocket of Lollipops

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Pocket Of Lollipops/Lake Disney/Legs

Burro Bar, 100 E. Adams St.

Friday, November 29; $5

Pocket of Lollipops have quickly made a name for themselves since springing fully-formed from the burgeoning Miami scene a couple years ago. Their music reflects their shared interests in art and fashion, as well as their shared experiences living in a cultural hub. The band is a duo, consisting of singer/guitarist Maitejosune Urrechaga and her husband, drummer Tony Kapel. There is a very kinetic sound, jangly and propulsive; the music practically vibrates, like a wino with the shakes or a kid about to meet their hero.

Opening for Pocket of Lollipops at Burro Bar will be Legs, from Orlando, and Jacksonville’s own Lake Disney, one of the many interesting new local bands of 2013. The band was formed as a trio of electronics (Greg Price and John Lackey) and bass guitar (Kareem Ghori, aka “Special K”), set in a Joy Division/Nick Cave sort of mold, but they’ve rapidly breaking that mold, with epic house-party jams that can last for hours.

Even with the holiday season approaching, and a couple really busy weeks ahead (including performances at Art Basel Miami), I was able to ask some questions of Urrechaga, who was kind enough to respond…

SDH: What does the name “Pocket of Lollipops” mean to you, in the context of the band.

MU: Multi-flavor, the options are endless. We can even be a surprise flavor.

SDH: How did you end up getting booked at Burro Bar? Who did you deal with?

MU: James Arthur Bayer III, we played with him at the Loft last time we were in Jacksonville and he reached out to us this past summer so we set something up. He runs the records label “Infintesmal”.

SDH: How would you describe the band’s aesthetic? What is Pocket of Lollipops about?

MU: When the natural and the dream collide. We are punk kids at heart with a love for the avant-garde. I would say we are the kind of aliens you can talk to and don’t have to fear. Or when you find a unicorn on your bike ride home. We do have a specific aesthetic for how we represent our material. Most of it is DIY; I like touching all the shirts, records etc. I will silk screening some of my drawings for t-shirt designs or for our current vinyl.

Sometimes I make things for our shows to give to everyone. It really depends on the setting and how we are feeling. We also like working with other artists. It is cool to see how they represent you. We currently released our video “Open Pirate”, artist Christopher Ian Macfarlane created it. All we told him was we wanted his style of work, and that I wanted an image of a goat, his family had to be in it someplace, I also told him what the song was about but told him that did not have to be in it at all. So we let him have loads of creative freedom. I love the new video. We also did a fan video for “Shelby Apples” like 2 years ago and fans had to take a mask we made download it and draw on them and video tape themselves. We enjoy that interaction with people.

SDH: How many tracks has the band recorded, all together?

MU: 23-25 tracks for sure. We may have one or two random tracks recorded on special cd’s that we give out at shows or sometimes we give free downloads of things we haven’t released if you win a prize from us. We are really into doing one of kind things.

SDH: What are your songs about?

MU: Some are about the education system/parents. Others are about parties. Running around abandoned train stations; Tony and I still do a lot of that stuff any second we can. Some is about dumb conversations you have with people.

SDH: Is there any one song that, for you, epitomizes the sound of Pocket Of Lollipops?

MU: Tony thinks it is “Sewing Circle”, but I think “Angry Kittens”. I think our fans would say “Shelby Apples”or “Cute Chaos”

SDH: How does the songwriting process play out? Is the band a full-on partnership, or does one of you act as the nominal “leader” of the group?

MU: We are both leaders at different time. I write the bass lines and organizes parts, then I share them with tony then he plays drums and I listen to what he does a bit and vice versa, Then I add lyrics that both of us come up with. Usually the ones I can’t sing are the ones he can sing perfect. After we write the song tony composes some digital violins, space sounds, etc. I just tell him some sounds I like and he just writes things. Eventually one of the digital tracks works with the song we are putting together. If it doesn’t work we save it and use it later. IT is a partnership almost all the time, unless we disagree then I just fight for what I want. I usually win, or he lets me win.

SDH: How long have you been married? How did you meet? Does your marriage pre-date the band?

MU: We got married on 11-11-01 I have a crazy thing with numbers. We meet at a third grade bake sale, but became friends later on high school. Yes, the marriage pre-dates the band, the band started in 2009.

SDH: Being in a band is a challenge, and being married is a challenge…

MU: I like challenges.

SDH: What kind of equipment do you use?

MU: Tony plays a Gretsch Drum set and I play an Acoustic 450 Bass/Combo. I use tons of pedals to create different distortion and other effects. All the extra sounds Tony makes are done on a Mac Computer with synths.

SDH: How long are your sets usually?

MU: 25-30 min…for a bar. For a gallery, sometimes we do 45 minutes-2hours. It really depends on the space and if we are playing with other people.

SDH: What artists have inspired your approach to music?

MU: My approach to music is more how I approach art; I take things I like and start to put pieces together. Tony and I are inspired by so many artists it would be really hard to pick one out. For example, Bjork for the way she can come out in some random outfit, or Brian Wilson how he was a studio nazi, or how Radio Head could sell their cd for whatever they wanted, the rule breakers or makers, whatever you wanna called them. But we are drawn to those who did what they wanted.

SDH: What’s been your favorite music to listen to this year?

MU: Julie Ruin, I just got into and I am enjoying that. Echo and the Bunnymen, Television, Pink Floyd, The Unicorns, Versus, Unrest and Dr. Dre.

SDH: What Basel-related stuff are you guys doing?

MU: We are playing for an opening party for one of the fairs. And I have an art show for a fair that is not a fair, and we are playing it also.

SDH: As a Miami-based artist and musician, what does Basel mean to you, in terms of business? Is it something locals look forward to?

MU: Yes and no. We complain about it and rest before it and always say we won’t do anything that year, and then you feel its presence, and you start saying yes to things, and it’s cool, ‘cuz so many things are going on, and you want to try and see all of it also.

SDH: Do you guys make your living fully through your art and music? Is that something the artists and musicians in your scene are able to do?

MU: Maybe a handful…they may take up an odd job here and there, but some are. But it is a hustle. Tony the other half of Lollipops(my husband) just quit his day job so one of us can put more time into everything we are doing. I also teach high school art for the public school system somehow–I just don’t tell everyone.

SDH: Which is more stressful: being a working musician or being an art teacher?

MU: I tend to look at things pretty positive. I think they both feed off of each other right now. I like going to work with kids; they have a great energy, and it feeds for good lyrics. I would say the stress is when i have a show and I am up till late, and somehow I make it to work the next day ‘cuz i don’t want to be a slack teacher ‘cuz of my other career, and vice versa. I do know a stress: one time we played at some crazy house party, and out of nowhere i saw students in the crowd. That was my two worlds combining. I was not prepared for that.

SDH: Does your status as a musician help you relate to the students?

MU: Yes. They love it. They always ask me why i don’t play our songs in class, ‘cuz i play music all the time with our lessons. I tell them I am there to teach art, not gain new fans.

SDH: What are your plans for 2014, personally and professionally? What do you wish to accomplish next?

MU: We have an artist/music residency in Rhode Island at the end of June at the AS220 Building, so we will also set up a little mini tour on the way. We are releasing another video. Working on a SXSW bill. Making new drawings and songs. Tony is writing another novel, which lends to our lyrical layout. Maybe figure out a way to make it overseas. Make more music and tour some more. I like visiting new places.

http://www.pocketoflollipops.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pocketoflollipops

https://www.facebook.com/LAKEDISNEYBAND

http://lllegs.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/events/595166023874725/605833002808027

[Update: Here’s the video of their set at Burro Bar on the 29th–any video sloppiness is my fault entirely…]