Friday, July 30, 2010


Dazed Digital sits down with the controversial director to talk about his two polar opposite films of 2010 and who the funniest politician in South America is
Text by David Hellqvist | Published 28 July 2010

"And this is where we're building the Iranian atomic bomb" President Hugo Chavez says smiling, pointing at a building in Venezuela's capital Caracas. For a man who's sincerely disliked by a big portion of Western society, Chavez has a great sense of humour. And when he's not hanging out with super model Naomi Campbell, he's showing American film director Oliver Stone where the army officer come politician grew up (hilariously, Chavez's weight breaks the BMX kid bicycle he sits on while riding around the spot where his childhood house used to stand). The chat, plus Stone's trip to a handful of other socialist countries on the continent, is part of the filmmaker's second 2010 cinema release, South of the Border. After interviewing Fidel Castro in 2003, Stone must have felt like infuriating right wing America even more, and went to Venezuela to find out for himself what was going on 'down south'.

Only months after the release of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Stone is back in the headlines with South of the Border, which he pitches somewhere between a documentary and a feature film. The first half an hour is a collage of comments from US news readers and opinion makers. No matter what side you agree with, it is painstakingly clear that there's a high level of media ignorance towards both Chavez as a person and the beliefs he, together with a few other South American politicians, stand for. Like many other Stone films, this one will evoke emotions. Not everyone, many Europeans included, have failed to be impressed by Chavez and his political comrades. In the film, this suspicon is dealt with by the former Argentinean president, Néstor Kirchner, who said he "hadn't seen any other dictators win as many elections". Dazed sat down with Oliver Stone and fellow film maker and South American expert Tariq Ali...

Dazed Digital: What was the main ambition, the main thought behind making the film? Did you want to show Americans and Europeans a different side to South American politics?
Oliver Stone: Yeah, I did. I think that was the motivation, I think Chavez made it possible because I went and interviewed him, he was very accessible and open and he said 'don’t just believe in me, ask others', He sent us to six of his neighbours and we heard it from them too that there’s a change going on in this continent. I’ve obviously heard huge criticisms of Chavez that seemed to focus on him as another dictator. It’s a real 'right' versus 'left' battle in the sense that it’s been focused on Chavez and his personality cult as opposed it being about a real structural reform.

DD: So you went down there to see Chavez and you ended up seeing all these other guys…
Oliver Stone: More importantly, we went to see the economy, to see the change in the mentality, the concept of independence from the United States!

DD: The change of mentalities in their own countries?
Oliver Stone: Yes, the mentalities in their countries. Independence from the United States, not a fear of mutual respect. This is a very important concept that we have not, that the United States, have not learnt. Mutual respect. If the guy from Ecuador says to the US 'I will give you a base in my country, but I want a base in Miami', he’s saying it very clearly, why should you have a base, why should we have six or seven bases in Columbia, why? We should ask ourselves what gives us the right to interdict our point of view on their situation.

DD: But did you feel that also want to show the American audience what was going on in South America?
Oliver Stone: I wanted to show them enough already, can’t you wake up? Is this Empire completely insane? That we are actually harming the people in the world, we’re constantly fighting against the people that are trying to help them.

DD: I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but there were scenes that were actually quite funny, we found ourselves laughing in the audience.
Oliver Stone: No, I think we took the approach to keep it relaxed - which we don’t do, we don’t get that in our country, but I don’t know about England.

DD: On that note, where did you have the most fun, where did you enjoy yourself the most - who was the funniest President to hang out with?
Oliver Stone: I think they're all very honest people, they’re people from the people. They represent their countries, they want change so they tend to be serious reformers. It’s a hard job because they’re always being criticised. Evo Morales [Bolivia's President] is an Indian, he doesn’t laugh very much…
Tariq Ali: He can be lighthearted but he’s very restrained whereas Chavez has an enormous sense of humour.
Oliver Stone: Yeah, I’d say Chavez is probably the funniest out them all!

DD: Is it a coincidence that you’ve released two films this year that are about financial opposites in a way? There’s one about capitalism and one about socialism?
Oliver Stone: Yeah, there’s a lot of truth to the fact that Wall Street is responsible for a lot of the economic misery of South America. But Wall Street is a dual use system, like nuclear weapons, and it is an engine for much good in the world. The movie is a different beast altogether, because it’s an entertainment vehicle. But in that movie, Shia LaBeouf is a young man who is an idealist trying to good with capitalism. He’s basically working for advancement of a clean energy company.

DD: So you’ve managed to find an angle in that as well?
Oliver Stone: Oh, Wall Street does a lot of good, my father worked there. I’m not condemning everyone at Wall Street.

DD: And, obviously with the first bit in South of the Border with the news collage showing news readers and so on…
Oliver Stone: It’s a matrix. The reality has been flipped on its head. They really have achieved an Orwellian world where peace is war and freedom is slavery, kind of concept. [Laughs]. Think about it - Orwell couldn’t have written it. Orwell would think this is a nightmare. If you confuse people if you say the earth is flat and the earth is circular, well it can’t be both therefore the earth is going to be kind of a combination. The concept of the earth is flat is acceptable. No?

DD: Do you think that the political landscape has change greatly since Obama took over? I mean the American attitudes towards Latin America?
Oliver Stone: No! [laughs]

DD: But is that because you think he hasn’t done enough?
Oliver Stone: No, it’s the same state department down there, the same group of people, there’s been no reform. Obama has kept the same people in power. Hilary Clinton has gone down there several times. She’s been more to the right than Obama has. [Bold] She’s been critical of Chavez, she’s been trying to divide these people from each other.

DD: Can you see any change on the horizon?
Oliver Stone: No, not yet, but Obama did shake their hands, and that gave them hope.

DD: What was the reaction to the film in the United States?
Oliver Stone: At best they said ‘Oh, I like the film, it’s engaging, I follow it’. But it’s obviously not true!

DD: Looking at the films you’ve done over the years – both feature and documentaries – there are often political undertones. Are you driven by a social or political agenda?
Oliver Stone: No, I think for me it’s been a personal journey towards enlightenment or trying to find out what happened. I was raised completely on the other side, in a republican, ethno centric American privileged school. Castro was a bad guy, communism was monolithic, I grew up with the standard clichés. And in the 60s I went to war in Vietnam, as a willing soldier. And I don’t think my education really began till I got brain washed in the 70s.

DD: So you wouldn’t say that you have some sort of radical plan?
Oliver Stone: No, I’m trying to find out what works. I mean I didn’t know about South America till I went there. You have to find your way in this life. Castro is a monster in the united states, what I did with Castro is amazing because I still can’t believe I did it. I didn’t realise I’d get in to such hot water. I am rather naïve.

DD: What's next for you?
Oliver Stone: We’re doing a 'Secret History of the United States'. It's a ten hour long documentary. I’m trying to show the bigger patterns, the story and the things that were reported but unremembered. And im trying to go into the whole issue of how the US shaped itself from 1900 to 2010 into this empire...

DD: Wow, and when is that due?
Oliver Stone: It comes out in the cinemas next year hopefully...

Louis Vuitton - Interview with Pietro Beccari

The new Louis Vuitton store in London boasts three mighty floors, plus a top apartment where special customers are ushered in. When you enter the premises, which you will able to do from tomorrow Friday, you are greeted by the smell of quality. It's everywhere you turn; the building, staff, interiors and, of course, the products. We already knew what levels of luxury Louis Vuitton are capable of reaching, but this new 'Maison', as it's referred to, ups the ante - not only in London but for the rest of the world. And it isn't only the clothes and accessories that will blow you away. There's an amazing array of art that would make the most avid art collector envious. Jeff Koon, Damien Hirst and Gilbert & George, to mention but a few, makes the store a cultural joy to visit.

Moving drawers, floating Louis Vuitton planets, a Katie Grand curated Vuitton parade and a book shop covering all the literal ground between Walter Benjamin's art theory and Don McCullin's war photography are only a few of the things that will keep customers entertained. That's without even starting on the first floor women's wear, a ground floor full of hand bags and accessories, and the men's collection in the basement. Someone who's had a pretty big hand in making all of this happen over the past 18 months is Louis Vuitton's Vice President Pietro Beccari, who kindly sat down with Dazed Digital for a few minutes to talk about this new chapter in Louis Vuitton's long history with London...

Dazed Digital: This refurbishment is an amazing statement of intent when it comes to Louis Vuitton's relationship to London. What role do you think London plays in worldwide fashion?
Pietro Beccari: London plays an amazing role in fashion. It’s not an English city, it’s a city of the world, just like New York and Paris, and our relationship with London is very old: our first store outside France was in London’s Oxford Street 1885.

DD: If anything, London is famous for young, exciting and avant-garde fashion - what is Louis Vuitton's role in that style environment?
Pietro Beccari: There is a little a bit of everything for everyone in here. We mix tradition and modernity. For us, it’s a natural but powerful mix. Our brand roots are so strong that we can play around. At the end o f the day, both mature and young customer can discover something.

DD: How would you describe the core values of Louis Vuitton, what's the brand's USP?
Pietro Beccari: I recently had lunch with Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, and he was telling me that he sees Louis Vuitton as a life style, not only a brand. We offer a world of Louis Vuitton, touching on art, books, fashion, sport, so it is difficult to mention one USP. Graydon said that the only other brand that influences contemporary culture in the same way is Apple, which is a great compliment. We inspire with our lifestyle, not only our products.

DD: You have great art collaborators in the store - what's the relation between art and fashion for Louis Vuitton?
Pietro Beccari: Marc always says we are doing nothing else but reinventing what our ancestors did. The Vuitton family was friends with impressionist painters and bought their art, which was outrageous a the time. Our recent collaborations with Stephen Sprouse, Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami are all examples of what was done in the past. And except for product collaborations we also work with art in our shop windows.

DD: You have also worked with FIFA on designing the travel case for the World Cup trophy. How does Louis Vuitton fit into such a sporty and athletic environment?
Pietro Beccari: We are perhaps more associated with sailing through the Louis Vuitton Cup. But we have worked with football stars before, like Maradona, Zidane and Pelé. In this case the angle was that we are experts of packaging and shipping, and making sure that the most precious things travel in secure elegance. That’s what we bring to the FIFA collaboration because, for the next two months, what is more precious to the world than the trophy?

DD: Who do you think will win the World Cup?
Pietro Beccari: Spain or England, maybe?

DD: You have an amazing selection of people as the face of your campaign - everyone from Andre Agassi to Keith Richards - how do you choose them?
Pietro Beccari: It’s a celebration of great personalities and encounters in life. We sit down with a couple bottles of wine and think about who we want to work with and try to figure out who most fits with the brand.

DD: The one that stood out the most for me was Mikhail Gorbachev. How did that come about?
Pietro Beccari: I met him in Geneva, I still remember the encounter. He said ‘no’ first, but he changed his mind in the spirit of celebrating life. He agreed on the condition that he was photographed in front of the Berlin Wall, because it had changed his life and that of many others. It’s maybe our most impressive campaign.

DD: I always think there's a sense of understated luxury and beauty in a Louis Vuitton collection - did you take the same approach when designing the store interiors?
Pietro Beccari: There is a parallel in the sense of obsession for quality and materials. An obsession for details characterise both, a certain degree of simplicity and pureness.

DD: You have worked with the architect Peter Marino on the New Bond Street store - what brought you two together?
Pietro Beccari: Peter understands luxury and he manages to translate that sense of luxury to the stores he has worked with, through the artists, pieces and materials he chooses to work.

DD: There have been a clear focus on Eastern markets in the last years across the fashion market, does this new store signal the return of LV's mighty fashion force to Europe?
Pietro Beccari: We never abandoned Europe, because that’s where the luxury world was born and belong. This store doesn’t counter balance our presence in Asia because both are important.

DD: Any favourite rooms, details or artworks in the store?
Pietro Beccari: I especially like the light and roominess in the upstairs Apartment for special customers, and there's an amazing Jeff Koon piece there as well...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Dazed Digital, the online sister of monthly magazine Dazed and Confused, has just hired David Hellqvist to be its commissioning editor. Dazed Digital posts exclusive videos interviews, behind-the-scenes fashion reportage and exclusive features. PRWeek catches up with Hellqvist to find out what he wants from PROs.

David Hellqvist: Dazed Digital editor
Describe Dazed Digital
Dazed Digital is a unique editorial platform; a web-based magazine with daily updates of original content. Like the Dazed & Confused magazine, we focus on in-depth and intelligent coverage of worldwide fashion, music, art and photography, using our network of contributors throughout the world.

You have just joined. Are you planning any changes?
There will be a Dazed Digital design overhaul later on this year, but in terms of editorial coverage it won’t change a great deal.

Who are your competitors and what makes you different?
There isn't really any direct competition. Other sites might have either a bigger audience or a more niche expert area, but we cover our brief in an insightful way with original content. This means no one else can claim the same authority in our line of work. We have made it our job to unearth worldwide talent using all the means that make the digital presence our strongest asset.

What makes a good story for you?
A new angle, an interesting person, a boundary-pushing brand or an exciting event.

Of which story are you most proud?
Personally, I like the stories with a slight current affairs angle. I was happy with our election coverage, because we made it appeal to a younger audience. I’m also pleased when we can give a young designer, musician or artist his or her first bit of press and media attention.

What tips can you give PROs to get coverage?
Try to imagine if it would fit our audience. Often PROs just take a chance and email over completely irrelevant issue, events and brands and end up wasting both mine and their own time.

What are your own personal media must-haves?
Dazed & Confused, The Guardian, Twitter, Fantastic Man, Monocle, Fashion in, AnOther Man and Nowness.

What is your latest circulation figure?
We have 2.5 million page views a month and 200,000 unique visitors, but we also use our ever-growing social media network to communiacte with our audience. Currently, the Dazed Twitter following is 102,000 and the Facebook page have 46,000 fans.

What is the best contact email for the editorial staff?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Subversive Glamour & James Gardner on Dazed Digital

The New York City-based digital media entrepreneur might very well be the best connected photo blogger ever as his Subersive Glamour site shows...
Text by David Hellqvist | Published 24 May 2010
Photo by James Gardner

Who's the most connected New Yorker? Who goes to all the best shows and the most exclusive parties? Well, that's impossible to say, but James Gardner, AKA Subversive Glamour, sure is a contender to the title. Born in the UK, Gardner has been NYC-based for many years, and when setting up the photo blog two years ago he made it his mission to get all his famous friends - and celebrities he just bumped into - to pose with him in front of his Blackberry phone. That's right, Subversive Glamour isn't fed by some state-of-the-art technology, just a normal camera phone. But the low-fi feeling of the equipment is easily matched by the glamour and flamboyant hedonism that Gardner documents by night. During the day though, Gardner is busy setting the agenda of digital media and opening up the boundaries of internet consumerism through his work at Createthe Group, a creative and interactive web agency that Gardner founded and is now the CEO of. So whatever time of the day you find him, Gardner is always tinkering away in cyberspace, working hard to entertain you. Dazed Digital spoke to him about Subversive Glamour...

Dazed Digital: How would you explain Subversive Glamour to an outsider?
James Gardner: Subversive Glamour is an alter-ego that has become a caricature of myself.

DD: What is the main objective behind Subversive Glamour?
James Gardner: To entertain!

DD: Do you take all your images on your Blackberry? Why?
James Gardner: Yes! Always with me, instantaneous, intimate... And that's my thing!

DD: How, When and Why did you start Subversive Glamour?
James Gardner: I was at my upstate house one weekend in late 2008 and set up Tumblr and Twitter accounts. I quickly became obsessed, and it gave birth to Subversive Glamour. We talk about the power of social media to our clients and my Creative Director, Diana Hong, said I had to embrace it. It turned into something that is a lot of fun and people seem to enjoy it...

DD: A lot of images feature yourself - do you treat it as a diary blog?
James Gardner: I guess I would call it a tongue-in-cheek diary blog, I know it's a little ridiculous... especially the Subversive Glamour 'Blue Steel' pout!

DD: What's Subversive Glamour's USP compared to all other blogs out there?
James Gardner: I'd like to think that there aren’t too many CEOs with an alter-ego, a micro blog and a fashion addiction out there.

DD: Sometime I get the feeling I'm flicking through a magazine when I look at Subversive Glamour - is that the reaction you want?
James Gardner: Sure... if it’s digital, glamorous, glossy and a little naughty...

DD: You work with digital pioneers CTG; do you think the future of media is totally and unconditionally digital?
James Gardner: Not totally, but it's certainly a huge part, as I think people now realise.

DD: As a Brit living in NYC, what do you miss the most with the UK?
James Gardner: I'm very lucky to have clients like Burberry and Dunhill in the UK that require frequent trips back so I don't miss too much...but my family of course...

DD: And the least?
James Gardner: Grey skies!

DD: A lot of your images are party snaps - how does NYC compare to London (and other world cities) in regards to their party scene?
James Gardner: NYC is high-glamour-cool-downtown-strong-cocktails, London is high-fashion-street-looks-hot-music-lots-of-not-so-strong-cocktails, Paris is tres Gay and Milano will not be the same without Plastic!

DD: Do you see yourself as a photo journalist, a fashion observer or more of a business man?
James Gardner: Can I be all three?

DD: What's next for Subversive Glamour and James Gardner?
James Gardner: For Subversive Glamour, a cocktail and some BB snaps.... for James Gardner & CTG, lots more exciting digital innovations!

Catch Subversive Glamour on the blog, Twitter, Vimeo and Blip FM

Richard Kern interview for PONYSTEP

Richard Kern: Stern stuff!
by David Hellqvist
Photo by Richard Kern

Photographer slash filmmaker slash pornographer; New York-based artist Richard Kern can proudly raise his hand and claim all three titles. From the 1980’s and onwards, Kern made his name mixing the true original rock ‘n’ roll ingredients of sex, music and drugs in his work.

Kern’s bi-monthly fanzine ‘The Heroin Addict’ and collaborations with Sonic Youth, Black Flag’s Henry Rollins and poet Lydia Lunch set the tone for his future work. Since then, Kern’s photos have been synonymous with nude, honest and semi-sexual material. For the last few years Kern has been most prolific as a photographer, and his work has more often than not been appearing in Vice Magazine – a match made in heaven, as anyone familiar with Vice’s relaxed attitude towards undressed models will know. ‘Shot by Kern Europe’, a documentary-style film and accompanying photo exhibition of Kern travelling around Europe shooting naked girls, is now being released in conjunction with Vice, and Ponystep spoke to Kern in the run up to the London-leg premiere of the exposition.

David Hellqvist: Why did you focus this expo/book on Europe?

Richard Kern: I shoot in Europe all the time so it was no stretch, and in this case it was organised by the UK office of Vice. I have worked with Vice all over the world – Mexico, Brazil – but the UK wanted to take it a step further and make a film about it. I was happy, I got loads of content out of it!

DH: The film revolves around London, Barcelona, Paris, Milan, Antwerp and Berlin. How and why did you choose these cities?

RK: Well, it was because Vice, as a multi national organisation, has offices in all of these countries, and they sorted out all locations and the girls. But the project was originated by the UK branch of Vice. It turned really well, and I’m happy with the result.

DH: What city did you like the best and why?

RK: Two things decided what city I liked: the girls and the food! In Italy, the food was great and the girls were good – but it was hot and dirty and I didn’t like the hotel. Paris was good across the board but I had one very good girl. I suppose each city had its moments and places. In Barcelona, for example, we found a perfectly empty pool that we shot a girl in. Antwerp had amazing light, so now I know why there are so many great painters from that region.

DH: What did you set out to explore with the film and do you think it was successful?

RK: I was just along for the ride. I wanted great photos, which I got, so in that sense it was a success. I got maybe 10-15 good photos from the trip. We were on the road for 14 days, so that’s one a day!

DH: What’s the relationship between art and photography?

RK: Artists watch pornography bur pornographers don’t look at art!

DH: Why do you think that people are so fascinated with sex and porn?

RK: Well, I know exactly why guys are; they just want to masturbate. I don’t know about girls, but for me porn serves that purpose. But my work is not about jerking off, my stuff is soft-core compared to what’s out there.

DH: Is your work seen differently in the US compared to the UK?

RK: It used to be, but now everything is more unified. But there are still some differences – in Italy and France, for example, they don’t think twice about nudity. In Europe in general, except for maybe the UK, it’s to easier to talk about nudity and sex compared to in the US.

DH: Is your work a form of rebellion towards conservative views of what art is supposed to be about?

RK: Perhaps, but art history is full of nudity: always have been and always will be!

DH: Is punk still alive and prosperous?

RK: It still exists, I hear the music occasionally, and in one way the attitude is still the same. After all, an 18-year old acts the same whatever year it is! But at the same time I’m not sure if the Sex Pistols would have been as controversial today as they were when they launched back then. All I know is that they were a big deal for me when I was 18 anyway!

DH: I have seen your work in Vice for many years – is there a special Kern/Vice relationship?

RK: I just like Vice and it has been a good collaboration ever since they first asked me to shoot for them. Vice is the kinda publication that doesn’t step back from my ideas but instead are keen on realising them.

DH: ‘Shot by Kern’ has been an ongoing project since 2007: is there more or was the book and expo the culmination?

RK: Hopefully not. I know Vice in Berlin wants me back, so I’m hoping it can generate some more trips.

DH: Are there any other photographers whose work you rate?

RK: I like Ryan McGinley and Terry Richardson. I also like some of the new and young ones out there, but I couldn’t tell you their names: I look at the images, not the signatures! In the last issue of Vice there was a shoot with hypnotised girls that was great – I wish I had come up with that idea…


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jacob Zuma / The Spin / AnOther Mag

The Spin | Jacob Zuma
— May 11, 2010—
David Hellqvist tries to make sense of the sartorial choices of World Leaders in his fortnightly column The Spin

South Africa has a long tradition of charismatic and colourful leaders. Everyone knows Nelson Mandela; and FW de Klerk has also gone straight into the history books. But both men can learn a thing or two from the current South African President Jacob Zuma when it comes to making the most of an entrance.

The 68-year-old Zuma took power exactly a year ago and visited the UK only a few weeks ago. Zuma, like Mandela, represents the African National Congress (ANC) which not that long ago brought out their own line of fluorescent leather jackets. The collection brought on a fashionable media storm, that is until punters noticed the jackets were by ANC, not APC.

Zuma’s own personal style is best described as eclectic. When he got married in January – to his third wife – Zuma was pictured performing the ritual dance moves of his Zulu tribe, wearing a leopard skin, several animal tails as a skirt and a leopard head band. To enable the dancing, Zuma wore fresh-from-the-box Reebok trainers and Reactolite glasses.

The President is an avid believer in frequent reproduction, and has fathered 20 kids. Open about his polygamy, he says: “There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children who they hide so as to pretend they are monogamous. I prefer to be open. I love my wives and I am proud of my children.”

During his political career, Zuma has been accused of racketeering, corruption and rape. No charges have been pinned on him and he was acquitted in the rape case. In fact, the only thing Zuma has ever served time for was his attempt to overthrow apartheid, which in 1963 resulted in a 10-year prison sentence that he served on Robben Island, together with Mandela. Still, he should have been sent down for those leather jackets.

David Hellqvist is a freelance journalist for AnOther Man, Dazed & Confused, i-D, ZOO and a Contributing Editor to American website JC Report

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Citizen Journalism crusader Munthe defends free speech but worry about the future of media ....from a plane to Kazakhstan...
Text by David Hellqvist | Published 30 April 2010

Sometimes you can't trust anyone but yourself. Everyone has agendas, even major news organisations. Why are they telling us this, but avoiding saying that? News, like everything else, can be angled and made to sound and look a certain way. Who better to tell the world of events but us, the people. Now, in our technologically advanced world, this has been made possible. High speed internet, digital cameras, mobile phone videos, constant travelling - those are the means by which Citizen Journalism is created. But the will, determination, stubbornness and courage must come from inside us. Turi Munthe not only have those qualities himself, but also the ability to help others develop their own Citizen Journalism skills. Through his Demotix news organisation, thousands of people are now able to tell their version of what's happening around us....

Dazed Digital: What's the purpose of Demotix?
Turi Munthe: Demotix is an open news wire: it connects freelance reporters, photo journalists and video makers, as well as amateurs and activists, with the global media. Demotix was established to do two things: 1). Create a free-speech platform where anyone anywhere can safely upload their news stories, photographs, video and soon audio. 2). Provide a truly global, instant, multi-media, 2.0, collaborative, alternative newswire service to the mainstream media. We want to massively expand the pool of news sources available to the global news media.

DD: When and how did you set it up?
Turi Munthe: Demotix launched in January 2009, from an attic (rather than the proverbial garage). I set it up with my partner, Jonathan Tepper. I had the journalism and politics background, and Jonathan had years of finance and banking behind him. Since then, we've won and been nominated for about a dozen international awards and have seen our contributors' stories on the front pages of the New York Times, Guardian, Wall Street Journal and around the world. It's been an extraordinary ride.

DD: Where did the name come from?
Turi Munthe: 'Demos' means people in Greek. It's where we get the word democracy from. 'Demotic' simply means 'of the people' - and that, of course, is what our newswire intends to be. 'Demotic' is most commonly used to describe demotic Greek and demotic Egyptian - the languages of the street in ancient Athens and ancient Thebes. It was using these 'street languages' that Champollion was able to read the Rosetta Stone and ultimately decode hieroglyphics. We loved the idea of a language of the people - a 'street language' - that opens up the world, and that's how we got to Demotix. The final 'x' was a nod to the web (and to Asterix, Jonathan and my favourite cartoon as kids).

DD: Citizen journalism - what's the biggest Pro compared to 'normal' media?
Turi Munthe: I think there are three massive Pros to citizen journalism - and they are the reasons citizen journalism will continue to be a critical resource to news gathering going forward.

- 1. Accidental News:
No professional journalism organisation can pretend to be everywhere at once. In fact, most of the big organisations are stripping back. An open platform like Demotix is able to cover the 'accidents' of news in a way no mainstream news organisation could cover - like the now infamous picture of Henry Louis Gates being arrested in front of his home. That image made the front cover of Time Magazine, and the snapper (who made many $1000s from it) was a neighbour who just happened to be look out of his window at the right time.

- 2. Censorship:
Whether it's because of violence, or political crack-downs or simple logistics, there are a lot of critical news stories that professional journalists just can't get to. We saw it in Iran in June 09, in Haiti with the earthquake, in Afghanistan with the elections in Taliban-held country: in each case, Demotix had local reporters and courageous amateurs on the ground sending us stories and images.

- 3. Collaboration:
We love this shift in the way news is reported. Before the web, you could write in to your local paper on the off-chance they'd publish your letter. Today, the comments stream of any halfway decent article is crammed with information, and all serious media has realised how important 'civilian' participation can be. One of my favourite examples is the Guardian's treatment of the expenses scandal: where the Telegraph trickled the information out drip-by-drip, the Guardian put it all online and built a widget so that everyone could get stuck into deciphering the mess. The advantages for us at Demotix in having dozens of contributors in every city is that, with big news stories, we get a 360 degree view and a collaborative news story.

DD: Any Cons?
Turi Munthe: Most of the news on Demotix is produced by local freelancers, professionals and a few highly dedicated amateur news reporters. It takes a certain eye both to find a story and to tell it properly (not to mention the time and dedication), and these are skills that most people do not have.

DD: Where are getting most reports from right now? What's the Number One hot spot on the globe?
Turi Munthe: It changes with the news stories of course. As I type, Demotix is deep in the thick of Thailand's Red-Shirt movement, all over the troubles in Greece and of course the UK election. Last week it was Iceland, next week who knows. But, I suppose we have really particularly good coverage from Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Africa is difficult for us because of internet connectivity, and Latin America is slower because we haven't yet launched in Spanish.

DD: Do you travel around yourself?
Turi Munthe: I'm typing this response in a plane to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where I'll be talking at the Eurasia Media Forum. Next week, I'll be in Caracas talking at a Digital News conference, the following week in Thessaloniki to talk about innovation, and the week after that in Rio where I'm moderating a big UN conference on cross-cultural dialogue and new media. So yes. I tend to spend 3-4 days in a country, trying to meet as many journalists, photojournalists, editors and political activists/opposition figures as possible. We're not trying to tell the official story. We are always looking for the underbelly.

DD: It's mostly picture based, or do you have pure copy journalists working for you?
Turi Munthe: All our stories are picture of video led for two reasons: multimedia is much easier to verify than text, and it's also far easier to licence. We will get to text, but that will be after audio. Text is, as you suggest, the trickiest element in the equation because it's so difficult to verify.

DD: Your aim is to 'rescue journalism' - from who?
Turi Munthe: Today, only four US newspapers even have a foreign desk (NYT, WSJ, LA Times and Washington Post). The BBC doesn't have single staffer in Latin America. Industry reports suggest that over 100,000 journalism jobs were lost in the UK and US in 2008-2009 alone. The same picture emerges all over the news world. Who is responsible? - some combination of the recession, and an advertising nose-dive, but most of all the internet and free content: in other words, money. Demotix, which already has 3,000 active contributors in 190 countries around the world, runs on almost nothing and is based on a variable cost model, unlike all the big legacy players out there. We have broken stories from Gaza to Ghana, and we think we have found part of the solution.

DD: Is this the future of journalism?
Turi Munthe: The future of journalism, in our view, is collaborative. I see professional journalists becoming more and more independent, newspapers and broadcasters run by editors more than by journalists, and I see a huge role for participative media like Demotix. Our aim is to become the 'AP' of freelancers, only bigger, deeper, quicker, more local and more global, and a lot more democratic. That we can only do because of forces - economic and technical - that are revolutionising the news media today. It's an extremely exciting time to be involved in the news.

DD: You want to promote individual citizen journalism - do you think that the mass media today is too closed and reliant on only a few key players?
Turi Munthe: Read Nick Davies' Flat Earth News and you'll see how reliant today's media is not only on a few key journalistic players but on the gigantic machine that is PR. Yes - definitely - there are far too few players in news media today and they give a monolithic view of the world. In the hard news space today, only AP and Reuters (with Agence France Presse a poor man's third) even pretend to cover global news and the two big players don't have anyone in over 40% of the world's countries. That's appalling in a 21st century that is supposed to be defined by connectedness and information overload. 

DD: What's next for you and Demotix?
Turi Munthe: From a media perspective, we're launching Video, Audio, and eventually text. From a business perspective, we're looking at a number of really interesting partnerships now around the world (from South Africa to Latin America to Egypt to the US) which will give us access to reporters and distribution all over the world. And from a personal perspective, more travelling and talking. Demotix is activist on free speech and civil liberties issues, so it's good to get out and shout about it. Plus I seem to get in the way in the office...

Fashion Jury in Grazia

Steve Mason interview on Dazed Digital

Former Beta Band singer launch eponymous and career-best solo project in collaboration with pop producer Richard X
Text by David Hellqvist | Published 28 April 2010

For the lucky ones to catch it, Beta Band's Farewell tour in 2004 was a sad moment. The UK lost one of its finest, daring and experimental bands, but gained - as it turned out - several musical offspring in the Scottish band's immediate break-up period. The other Beta Band members formed The Aliens whilst singer Steve Mason started up a handful of solo projects; Black Affair and King Biscuit Time being the most successful ones. All good, but Mason, and his fans, were missing something. That little extra ounce of confidence that Beta Band had when they were at the top. Along the way, it seems, that missing piece of brilliance found its way back home and now, recording under his own name (always a good sign), Steve Mason presents 'Boys Outside', an album that distinctively leaves you with that great Beta Band taste in the mouth, but still manages to push on through to the other side, ie forward pushing music and new grounds to explore for Mason. Produced by Richard X, of Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens' fame, it has just enough pure pop ingredients in it to melt perfectly with the experimental sound craze that Steve Mason is finally serving up.

Dazed Digital: What’s the main difference between this album and your previous solo project under different names?
Steve Mason: On my previous records I was unfocused, it was me trying to find a sound I felt comfortable with. I enjoyed Black Affair, but for a while there I had five or six MySpace accounts going. Way too many to keep track of…

DD: Are you using your own name now because you have finally found a sound you’re comfortable with?
Steve Mason: Yeah, I wanted to bring it all together. I feel comfortable with this sound, it’s almost like I’ve grown up. I have no longer any pseudonyms to hide behind and I take full responsibly myself for this album.

DD: How did this change come about?
Steve Mason: Age, I suppose, and I was running out of band names…

DD: Isn’t Richard X an odd producer choice for a predominantly acoustic album?
Steve Mason: Well, it’s not all acoustic - half of it is electronic. It’s also piano led and inspired by R’n’B music. The aim was to make seamless and forward thinking music, so Richard fitted perfectly in! This is my most complete solo album - it feels properly finished.

DD: How did you two meet?
Steve Mason: Richard came to see Black Affair play live and said he’d be interested in working together. I had always wanted to use a proper pop producer, even when I was in Beta Band; high glossed pop mixed with very experimental music.

DD: Is the collaboration continual?
Steve Mason: Yeah, I would like it to be, but next time he might charge me for it!

DD: What influenced the album?
Steve Mason: Me, how I feel, my relationships. People I meet and see. Things I hear, politics and the state of the country.

DD: There are definitely similarities between 'Boys Outside' and older Beta Band stuff - Do you miss the band?
Steve Mason: I don’t think it sounds like Beta band, it might have echoes of it, but that makes sense since I wrote the music for Beta Band. But I want to go forward, not backwards. I would be ashamed if I had to go back in time to find inspiration for my music

DD: Any chance of a Beta Band reunion?
Steve Mason: Yes, when hell freezes over! You should never say never, but I would have to be a madman to reform Beta Band now….but then again, I am quite mad…

DD: What do you reckon about The Aliens?
Steve Mason: It’s not bad but it’s not my bag.

DD: Lost & Found is a great single, tell me about the video!
Steve Mason: It’s not about me as you might think. It’s a about a dream I had where a suicide pact between a boy and a girl goes wrong. It’s directed by a couple of guys who call themselves John Major’s Daughters. They showed me some French films with a hint of slight danger in them as inspiration. I just love the old man in it – no one has old men in their videos these days!

DD: Someone labeled the album ‘electronic soul’ – what would you call it?
Steve Mason: I don’t agree or disagree with that. Journalists love making up names for different kinds of music. They called Bets Band’s music for Folktronica. This album is me, it’s Steve Mason. That has always been the thread running through my music.

DD: You have fought off depression several times, is music a good or bad weapon for that? There is that age old question if ‘we listen to pop music because we’re sad or are we sad because we listen to pop music…
Steve Mason: Dunno if it helps, but what I do know is that there is an enormous feeling of satisfaction after finishing off an album. There’s a feeling of not having wasted away my entire life…

DD: Favourite track from the album?
Steve Mason: It has to be Stress Position!

'Boys Outside' is out Monday 3 May on Domino/Double Six

Monday, April 19, 2010

US rapper and producer takes on furniture design in chair collaboration with the Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery in Paris
Text by David Hellqvist | Published 16 April 2010
Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli Courtesy Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris & Miami

When super producer and big time rapper Pharrell Williams suddenly got an urge to design furniture, there was no stopping him. Thanks to his friendship with Parisian gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin, Williams has been able to see his design ambitions come true. The chairs presented at the Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery are actually Williams' second batch. They were preceded by a chair inspired by Love and a sculpture in collaboration with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. This time around, Williams looked towards War for inspiration. Dazed Digital spoke to the multi-talented creative....

Dazed Digital: Is the War theme a natural progression on from Love, which was the theme for your last furniture project, or were you just influenced by the state of the world we live in?
Pharrell Williams: I don't think that it's a natural progression, the series is called Perspective and they were both based on the way I felt at the moment I designed them. My inspiration and ideas are often based on curiosity stemming from things that I don't know about, or things I like to explore.

DD: Is it an 'angry' chair then?
Pharrell Williams: No, not at all. I'm not angry about anything. The Tank Chair follows the first design concept of me putting myself in someone else's shoes to understand what and how they are feeling. Here I focused on young men and women who join the military and put themselves in a position that can not be reversed, and end up in wars far from home, often not understanding why. The chairs are also in baby colours which clearly steers away from anger on purpose.

DD: How does the War theme show itself in the chair?
Pharrell Williams: Hmmm, the tank tracks?

DD: Are you moving on to other interior design ventures?
Pharrell Williams: Yes, I'm willing to accept any challenge that I'm curious about, especially artistically. I have been blessed to be introduced to people who believe in me and give me the opportunity to challenge myself.

DD: How did this project come about in the first place?
Pharrell Williams: A good friend of mine, Sabina Belli, introduced me to Emmanuel Perrotin. When I explained to him the ideas I had, he was very supportive and after teaming up with Domeau & Pérès, we created the first Perspective chair which was shown at Emmanuel's Paris gallery. The rest is history, as they say...

DD: Your 'main job' as a musician is creative as it is - does your creativity know no bounds?
Pharrell Williams: I don't believe that there should be any boundaries to creativity. If that was true, I would not be where I am today.

DD: Any new music coming our way?
Pharrell Williams: Sure, I'm basically in the studio everyday. I recently switched over to Logic which allows me to keep working while I'm on the road or at home so I'm never away from creating music. Besides working with other artists, we are putting the finishing touched on the new N*E*R*D album "Nothing" which will be out late spring. I'm really excited about the album: Shae, Chad and I are ready to take N*E*R*D to the next level!

Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin
76 rue de Turenne, Paris, 75003