EMOTION ON CANVAS :: Exclusive Interview With Artist Zac Franzoni

Artist Zac Franzoni Barrel-dEM
Artist Zac Franzoni
Chicago is a top notch city full of talented artists. One of those artists, Zac Franzoni uses his own technique and different mediums to create colorful explosions of passion. Zac took some time to talk to us today about his craft, technique and influences.

So, how did you get started making this incredible art?

Well, there are a few layers to this answer, actually. I've been making art since I was a kid. My uncle was an artist and I grew up living next to him, so I'd always go over and instantly be emerged in this surrealist world that was his basement studio. It started from there, it's in my genes.

And your family, they all support what you do?

Oh of course, my parents have always been amazingly supportive of my choices. Their house is full of my paintings.

The art I currently make is influenced by necessity, a few years ago I had to put down the paintbrush due to arthritis and tendonitis in my hands, I had to change my style. So the current incarnation of my art came about because i had to come up with a way to paint without manual manipulation.

So your current style - can you tell me a little bit about that - let's say if the canvas was blank, where do you start or is it different each time?

It's different each time. Sometimes I start with a dry, white canvas, sometimes I will paint a base coat to work with, and other times I'll cover it with water and go from there. It depends on my mood, or what effect I'm going for.

Would you call your style free-form or do you have a plan for each piece, or is it somewhere in between?

I'd say 3/4 free-form, I have actually coined the term "Abstract-Feelism". I do whatever I feel like doing at the time. It's all about the flow.

and speaking of the flow ... I once read somewhere that you often listen to The Rolling Stones, get into a trance and let the art practically make itself ... is that accurate?

Ha, yes! I'm all about the tunes, man. Music is a big part of my life, I'll throw on some Kid Cudi, some Stones and go to town. It is like a trance, an hour will go by and feel like 2 minutes. I'll come to, covered in paint with an empty beer and wonder where my mind just went. Sometimes I believe the paintings want to make themselves. That's another reason I love this organic style I have recently adopted so much, the paintings have a life of their own, I just provide the environment. The Renaissance sculptors believed the subject of their sculptures lived within the marble and their job was just to set them free, I believe that is true with a lot of art.

That's a great philosophy - it sounds like an awesome way to live. Have you ever gotten attached to a piece and had a hard time selling it?

Now Children, Let's Share
There are only 2 pieces I have ever been attached to and kept. One is from high school, the first time I really felt something click in my mind while making a piece of art. That piece won me 'Artist of the Month', and the prize was having it professionally framed for free. The second is a piece called "Now Children, Let's Share", it was made while I was in a community college art class. It's hanging in my hallway in my house right now. It embodied all the turmoil of first love, a shitty time in high school, and attempting to find myself artistically. It made me cry when I finished it, no shame in that, the only thing better than crying after making a great piece of art is burning it.

OK, so how do you go about selling your pieces in or around Chicago?

I go about selling my art by hustling, by not only selling my art but selling myself as a product. I'm not just selling a pretty painting to you that matches a couch ... I'm selling you a pretty painting that matches your couch painted by THIS guy right here, by a sometimes overly honest and open struggling artist, by a real person with fears and rent to pay, and mostly likely I've had a beer before talking to you because this type of shit makes me nervous.
But, to be more practical about that answer, I sell wherever I can! I display in coffee shops and galleries, I have been doing street and art festivals for 3 years now, and I have a manager who helps hook me up with shows and leasing out my art. It's a combined effort, it's not easy.

I've also seen you create art live, it's amazing to watch ... how often do you do live art?

I don't do live art as much as I used to. It began about 8 years ago when I started painting live at a weekly event at a gallery called Dulcenea in Wicker Park. Then on to painting monthly at local Burning Man parties. I had to slow down because of my previously mentioned struggled with my hands. I do however had a huge, huge project in the works at the moment. I am painting an 8 foot wide painting on stage, live, at the Joffrey Ballet with 8 dancers for a 12 minute piece. November 8th. It's for a charity called EMBARC, they help underprivileged youth on the southside of Chicago. It's definitely the biggest moment of my artistic career. I am also showing a new series of 9 pieces in their event space for the cocktail party after the performance.

Now you have many fans out there and they had some questions to ask as well, do you mind?

Woah ... fans? That's an odd sensation. Yes, bring it on!

What is hard that people don't understand about making art for a living?

People have this misconception that painting and making art isn't actual work. Well, I go to the lumber store, I buy wood and build canvases. I work late nights, I spend hours upon hours online filling out applications and updating the dozen websites I use to try to build my online presence. I wake up at 3 am with designs and ideas in my head and can't sleep. I spend way more than an average work week actually working, it's more than just physically draining, it's an emotional process as well. Also, you gotta learn to life like a poor college student again.

Do you sell a lot of reproductions? Where do you get those printed?

I only recently had prints done, and I've only sold a handful. I'm definitely more into selling originals. Texture is a big part of a painting. But my buddy Franklin has a print shop and does a bang-up job.

Dead In The Water

If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?

Wile E Coyote. I'm a hopeless romantic and love dynamite.

Hahaha ... well I hope you catch that pesky roadrunner!

If i did catch him, I'd just want to have a cocktail and play a game of chess.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I aim high, so I'd say either hiking on top of a mountain or a rich, wildly successful artist with a warehouse sized studio and a Warhol-like following.

Well, Id say that you are definitely on your way. Is there anything else you want to add?

I'd just like to say to all the youngins out there, if you're in art school or otherwise - never, ever titled your art "Untitled". It drives me insane, I will find you, I will hunt you down. I will make you take a shot of whiskey with me and title your art. That drives me nuts.

Also, thank you Noble, this has been fun.

Thank you so much Zac for your time!

Check out more of Zac's work at www.zacfranzoni.com/

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BOWIE KNIFE :: Radio Soulwax - DAVE

Radio Soulwax DAVE Barrel~dEM
Radio Soulwax - DAVE

The Brothers Dewaele are never a pair that won't go to the extreme to present their art in the way they want to see it presented. Case in point, DAVE, a mix / movie created by Radio Soulwax, with the visuals put together specially for the piece by film maker Wim Reygaert ... and Bowie is played by a woman. Here's what the brothers had to say about it -

"Our homage to the man whose ability to change whilst remaining himself has been a massive influence on us. There are many legends in the music industry but for us, there is no greater than the mighty Dave. We’ve included all things Bowie, whether that is original songs, covers, backing vocals, production work or reworks we made, to attempt to give you the full scope of the man’s genius.
For the visual side to this mix our friend Wim Reygaert (who also made the amazing film for Into The Vortex) came up with the most ambitious film for RSWX, taking us on a fever dream time travel through the man’s career starring the amazing Hannelore Knuts as Dave. We’ve got to extend a special thank you to the cast and crew and everyone involved for putting so much time and energy and heart and soul into this amazing film, it is a pure labour of love for the phenomenon that is Bowie."

Such a great homage to a great man!

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FKA Twigs:: Pendulum

FKA Twigs Barrel~dEM
FKA Twigs
Up and at'em, my housemate is ironing in the kitchen/laundry room, I'm working on my field notes (a week late). It's midday and I hear the tinny sounds of a shy iPhone personal party start to reach beyond the laundry. It's smooth, soft, classy. Guess this is why this guys irons.

It's FKA Twigs and you need to share this with me. C'mon, let's get smooth

Her videos are insane.


you remember 'pacify', yeah? (holymoly this video is kinda.... well... trigger warning)


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW :: Ori Kawa / The Entals

Ori Kawa

Ori Kawa is a DJ / Producer based in Chicago by way of California. He's been involved in the music scene as an artist for a few years and is now putting a group together to record and tour. The Entals are a group of rotating musicians under his artistic direction. They are crowd funding their costs on the IndieGoGo platform, with just 9 days left to reach their goal.

I had a chance to interview Ori, available here after the jump -

Let's go way back ... what are some songs or artists that drew you into the scene?

My older brother was a big influence in my early days in the bay area underground scene. He followed a lot of trance DJs. Mars & Mystre were favorites ... Dyloot, DJ Denise.

That was in San Jose, CA?

Yes, we had a really good local record store, Solid Grooves, that imported a lot of high quality techno/house that I didn't know at the time was from Chicago. When I branched out from my brother's tastes, I was listening to Donald Glaude and DJ Dan a lot, funky west coast house DJs.

Derrick Carter was the first Chicago DJ that I got really into. From there, I started to get into the roots of the culture and wanted to come here and study! Guys that got me into the scene here were Rees Urban, The Sound Republic, Bryan Jones. We could go further...one year for xmas, my little brother got a Talkboy. It had pitch adjustment...

So, you get to Chicago and start hitting Smartbar and eventually started working there ... yet, you were also booking for a club in San Jose from Chicago?

Yes, for a little while before I moved..maybe a few years..I was running the lounge for this place in SJ called Blowfish. Sushi joint, but was very clubby. I would book DJs, handle the equipment, etc.

Free sushi?

Yes. They treated me and the DJs well. For us local DJs, it was a solid paying gig, with a bar/food tab. Moving to Chicago gave me the connection to bring DJs from here over there.

I would work for sushi! 

So what are some of the highlights from your time at Smartbar?

Definitely working with Mr. Scruff and the Switch NYE stand out. Mr. Scruff is a vinyl junkie and brings all kinds of stuff, even 45s. He only plays the whole night, no time slots. He brings dance music from all eras and will start off the night with old jazz, authentic dub...all kinds of stuff. He makes it a journey from the beginning of the set to the end. My Blowfish days gave me a big appreciation for this, because there, we would play 3-4 hours. But during the beginning of our sets, people would still be eating dinner. So, you can't play bangers, you had to sculpt a mood to have the people dancing by the end of the night.

Mr. Scruff does all that and more. My experience was not just showtime...He brings his engineer, Ben, on all his gigs, and they do a proper sound check way before the show starts. During one of his sound checks, Ben was walking around SmartBar's dance floor. He went back and forth between all four of the Funktion One stacks and finally stopped at one, signaling Scruff to stop the music.

He said the phase was reversed. We had to open up the speaker, and sure enough, it was flipped. (The speaker had just come back from the shop)

A perfectionist?

You could say that. Just wants to set the scene right. As a DJ, you of course have to be able to go with the flow. But prepping goes a long way.

I've got to say Smartbar is my favorite club in Chicago, if not the world. They always bring the best artists, the dress code is casual, the staff is friendly. If you were the the owner and if you could change one thing about Smartbar, what would it be?

It's hard to say what could change with SmartBar...I guess if I was to change one thing about SmartBar, it would be the location! It's right by Wrigleyville and a bunch of sports bars.. but then again, I guess that's what gives it a "diamond in the rough" quality.


You've frequented there...I think I met you there actually! Would you change anything?

Maybe just the location, as you said but I'm not sure there's a better neighborhood.

So tell me about The Entals ... who are some of the musicians you are working with?

So I've got a bunch of music that I've written over the past five years or so. The Entals is the way to deliver this music. The only musician so far that I've worked with a lot before is my big brother Monte. He plays guitar. The others are friends that I've met working at restaurants here in Chicago, or other various industry connections. What I love about Chicago is that there is a lot of talent here, but it does not feel over-saturated. Most people that work at restaurants, or maybe just people in general, have some kind of creative outlet.

I agree.

To make a variety of tracks, sometimes it takes a variety of contributors.

So "The Cosmosis" is your first attempt at releasing music? And you are crowd-funding it?

I've released some music before, solo stuff. Nothing really sprouted though. So I decided I needed to improve my songwriting and performance skills. After a bit of musical solitude, I am ready to go at it again. But this time, I'd like to make it a group effort!

You also worked at Cajual Records. Are you looking for distribution through a label like that?

Yes, that was a great experience. Distribution has changed quite a bit, and it has become easier to release things independently with success. One of the great things about running the crowd-funding campaign is that I was able to get in contact with people who can help with that side of the business.

By the way, it's good talking to a fellow Mighty Boosh fan haha...

Haha yes

They're a bit too out there for some people, but that's what I like. They take risks.

I actually discovered the Boosh through a sample in a DJ mix.

That's dope! what sample was it?

I'm old GREG!!! I've got a MANGINA!

oh it was that one!! hahah yeah my favorite ... mmm Baileys!

So, I got a few questions from mutual friends - Do you have any secret awesome skills that nobody knows about? What are some of the craziest events you have ever performed at? In today's times, is it more about talent or followers?

Hahaha ok first one, skills ... i can gun sling like a western cowboy. I tried to make a music video one time, and the theme was cowboy mixed with postal worker. Don't quite know what I was thinking there, but I got a hold of a couple of authentic replica pistols and a holster belt from this cowboy shop on Chicago Ave.

That's awesome!

It's actually a good workout, the guns like those little 5 lb. dumbbells. Good aerobics.

Craziest event? DJing: probably closing for Mark Farina at Evil Olive. The crowd was already putty by the time I went on, I just rode the wave!

Non DJing: I played taiko drums in this group Ho Etsu taiko a while, and couple years back we drove to Lexington to play 6 shows in 2 days at a summer festival. The heat was intense and the stage was burning our feet through our footwear! It was an exhausting gig but rewarded with authentic bourbon in the heartland of it.

And third question, more about the talent or the followers? ... that's an interesting question. you won't get completely decisive answer from me on that! As I can only answer for myself, it changes at times. At times I have wondered why I have a small following, and it has pushed me to try and polish artistic abilities. A desire for that following can be very motivating. It has also pushed me to change hats in the industry, and figure out some of the logistical stuff that goes into building that following.

In the end, I know I must have a quality product that showcases the talent of my cohorts in The Entals. This is not the case with every act.

Our goal is to take this show on the road, so we can play music for the people and have fun and confidence doing it. So it's circular. And in the music business, sometimes you can get eaten up by the madness. Demands of fans can be harsh and lead artists to lose their own self. In this case, they must take sometime and focus on themselves. Use their talents to do what they and only they want to do. At other times in this business, we become a little TOO much about ourselves, and we have to remember to do it for the fans, for the followers.

All this is why it is important to us to have friends in the crowd. It is OUR crowd, we are YOUR band.

Without them, there would be no business.

Yup! no business, no energy, no participation

Anything else you want to add?

I had 2 rules for myself when I started DJing... 1. Have fun--if you don't enjoy it, how can you expect a room full of people to? 2. Make the people dance. That's it, only 2 rules. I still apply them to my performance, although rule 2 has become Move the people. Gotta plug my campaign of course.

Yes ... Please go and support these guys through this link and share with your friends - http://igg.me/at/orikawa

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FAVORITE MIX EVER :: Lary Breaks - Sub-Strata (Sub Side)

Lary Breaks - Sub Strata
Good things truly do come to those who wait. Back in the mid 90's, I picked up a Jungle mixtape - Lary Breaks - Sub Strata ... somewhere along my journeys in the mid-west rave scene. I played that tape so many times. I blew my speakers in my car. I made my fellow companions listen along the journey. Somewhere along the way, that tape met its demise.

Cut to many years later, I managed to get in touch with Lary via email. "Please send me another tape." I pleaded. "Sorry, but I don't have any more copies." A few years after that, I tried again. "I might be able to re-create the mix." he said. I waited. Then tonight, I'm mindlessly going through Facebook, then OMG - what's this?!?! Lary has uploaded your favorite mix to Soundcloud!!!

So, here I am listening ... reminiscing ... thinking about friends I've lost.

Starting at 25:00 is when this thing hits pure magic. I just wanted to point out. But, listen to the whole thing. It purely is old school jungle at it's finest. Thank you Lary! Thank you ... thank you ... thank you!!!!

In memory of Ajani "Burt" Ellis ... rest in peace my friend.

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