Posts in technology
[SONG OF THE DAY] Miro Shot - "Leaders In A Long Lost World"
Miro Shot (live performers, from left to right): Alex Parsons, Kashman Harris, Jamie Keegan, Roman Rappak, Tom Carter, Hinako Omori, Jay Udo-Udoma, Timothy Han

Miro Shot (live performers, from left to right): Alex Parsons, Kashman Harris, Jamie Keegan, Roman Rappak, Tom Carter, Hinako Omori, Jay Udo-Udoma, Timothy Han

Today sees the launch of global collective Miro Shot and their debut single, "Leaders In A Long Lost World" along with its accompanying music video, courtesy of AllPoints/Believe. The genre-bending track carefully weaves together a variety of textures, from orchestral movements to delicate synths, all layered atop a bed of pulsating electronic beats. Do not be thrown off from them releasing a single and assume that Miro Shot is a band that just calls themselves a collective to sound cool. One quick glance at the video and you'll see that there is much more to this than just music from the erratic nature of the dazzling visuals that showcase the essence of their live performance as the compilation demonstrates the open source mixed media collaborative ethos at the heart of Miro Shot.

Music is merely the nexus to centralize the group of artists, graphic designers, and coders who flesh out the current roster of the collective and focus them on their primary objective. For the video specifically, the full scope of the collective was utilized, including award-winning VR filmmaker Nicole McDonald, VFX supervisor Haz Dullul, artist and roboticist Charles Aweida, and graphic novelist Oliver Harud. At the helm of the collective is frontman and de-facto leader Roman Rappak. Speaking exclusively with Some Kind of Awesome, Rappak shared the collective's origins, his optimistic outlook that technology will have on our future, and Miro Shot’s aforementioned primary objective.

In 2017, the early members of the collective located a space for them to collaborate in Dalston, which acted as a “lab” of sorts as Rappak would refer to it. It was a place where they could tinker on multiple levels. They developed the early versions of their app for their immersive VR experience, test AR and VR ideas, and also work on music. Feeling eager to put their efforts to the test, they applied for and were awarded a grant by the Dutch government. As Rappak explained, “[The Dutch government] is really into AR/VR events. And we said [to them], “Look, we’re gonna put on a concert that’s like a different take on a normal music show.” In May of that year, Miro Shot premiered a VR show at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Amsterdam. The performance lasted around 8 minutes and the band played to roughly 10 people. As luck would have it, BBC happened to be in attendance. As they would later describe the performance,

“The band became graphic versions of themselves before the audience was suddenly flying over an empty landscape and then a giant blue head of a woman emerged.

The show is designed to appeal to every sense: Electric fans wafted specially-concocted fragrances over the audience. Some people were quicker than others to work out that the event is 360 degrees: It's a good idea to look up or down and turn to see what's behind you.”

After the debut performance, a major visual effects company reached out to offer their services and they began to work on writing more music. “Suddenly we’re in Macedonia recording an orchestra,” Rappak recounted, “Then we were having to learn Cinema 4D and all these different tools that we hadn’t used before.” Since then, the band has continued to perfect their immersive VR show at various locations in Amsterdam, Paris, and London, ranging from galleries, cinemas, theaters, and even squats.

Miro Shot’s focus on technology comes from the collective’s notion that technology makes things better, or in this case specifically, how technology can enhance your appreciation for music. While the public majority views the ever-rapid technological advances as the means to the demise of humankind, Rappak has a more optimistic approach to the onslaught of breakthroughs. “It isn't because there is “too much technology” or because human beings are lazy or evil,” he explained, “It’s because tech is so new and so powerful. We are adjusting to a new world that is being built around us. As much as your phone has more computing power than the computers that sent rockets to the moon, it is incredibly primitive compared to what’s ahead. Not only is it primitive, it is badly designed, it is bad for your eyes and your world view.  But every day it improves.”

We are adjusting to a new world that is being built around us.
— Roman Rappak, Miro Shot

As we discussed the inspiration that informed his personal contributions to the music portion of Miro Shot, obvious renowned shows like Mr. Robot and everyone’s favorite techno-paranoia Twilight Zone rework Black Mirror came up. These are not the kinds of futurism-centric art that Rappak gravitates to. “I actually don’t like science fiction that’s really kind of… ‘light saber-y’ *laughs*.” In his mind, these futuristic worlds that are clearly a different timeline from our own make us feel inherently bad about our present because that particular future is essentially unattainable. “I actually like [science fiction] things that feel like they can happen,” he gushed, “Because that’s more optimistic and makes me think, ‘Maybe we’re not fucked!’”

Which leads us to the purpose of the collective’s existence. “War, poverty, pollution are not there because someone evil decided to ruin our day - they are organisational problems,” Rappak explained, “Problems that really well-made technology can help us fix.” As ambitious at it may sound, Miro Shot aims to be a catalyst for impactful change on society by leveraging their network and pool of resources to present a window into a world that could be. They understand that it’s unrealistic to assume they can do it all themselves, but recognize that by showcasing the future’s potential for greatness on a smaller scale, they have the opportunity to inspire action in someone else.

They're literally acting as leaders in our long lost world.

Miro Shot does not end at the current collaborators that worked on the the variety of multimedia elements that one can currently experience, but eagerly encourages newcomers to sign up to be part of the collective on their website. Pre-today’s public launch the collective has amassed around 450 already (including yours truly). You can head to their website to sign up now.

You can also find the band on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

[WATCH] The Chemical Brothers - "Free Yourself" (Official Video)
Still taken from “Free Yourself” video.

Still taken from “Free Yourself” video.

UM

THIS VIDEO IS MY EVERYTHING.

WOW.

If you haven’t watched the new video for The Chemical Brothers’ latest single, “Free Yourself”, please drop everything that you’re doing and do not navigate to any of your other tabs once you press play because there is a LOT going on here.

Directed by Dom&Nic, the creative duo who have worked with The Chemical Brothers over a period of twenty-two years on videos like “Hey Boy Hey Girl,” “Block Rockin’ Beats,” “Setting Sun” and the award-winning video “Wide Open”, this video is either going to be an absolute delight or your worst nightmare, depending on your stance on robots.

Speaking on the music video, the duo explained, “We imagined a near future where robots had become a sentient underclass and we felt sorry for them and wanted to imagine them finding a way to free themselves, have fun and dance.”

I will admit, as someone who would consider themselves the brand of nerd who feels like they align with the beneficial AI movement I was starting to get a little jumpy near the end, but that’s why YOU GOTTA WATCH IT TO THE VERY VERY END. Watch it like it’s a Marvel movie, you feel me?

[SONG OF THE DAY] + [INTERVIEW] Too Many T's - "Patterns"
photo credit: Phoebe Montague

photo credit: Phoebe Montague

The loveliest London lads known as Too Many T’s are some of the most creative people I’ve had the pleasure of coming in contact with. When they’re not releasing cheeky videos rapping about bees to the tune of Destiny’s Child’s “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” or enlisting Alexa (yes THAT Alexa) to rap with them, the duo have been working tirelessly on visuals to accompany their debut full-length, South City, which was released last year. I delightedly tuned in for the debut of “Hang Tight”, the first ever one-take video shot on Facebook live and have been consistently inspired by their persistence in taking their innovation to new heights with the release of every video.

Their creation to accompany “Patterns” is their latest tour de force, which will be premiering live on YouTube Premier, a feature that allows the creator set its upload like a premiere and watch together with their viewers when the video goes live, and like a live stream on YouTube, both the creator and viewers will be able to engage in a discussion at the comments section. 

Yours truly got a sneak peek of the stunning video, which is the first time that gaming hardware has been used to both capture and render a music video. Get this, y’all: it was painstakingly put together over the course of over 600 hours of production and rendering with the help of triff (born Stuart Trevor), a video game artist who had been exploring motion capture using an Xbox Kinect camera, more conventionally seen attached to a games console. His work repurposes the camera to capture both movement and depth, which he then places within CGI environments created using visual effects software such as 3ds Max, Redshift and After Effects – which is then output through two powerful gaming-orientated graphics cards.

The final result is nothing short of insanely impressive. “Patterns” is a song about overcoming mental health issues and the struggle to escape patterns of bad habits which the band fell into on tour. The scenes throughout the video are meant to showcase how dark and isolating this uphill battle can be. I’d say they absolutely nailed that aesthetic. As if this wasn’t already mind blowing enough, the jaw dropper of a video is set premiere at the prestigious BBC Amplify event at The Rattle in Tobacco Dock with three daily screenings on November 8th - 10th. The screening will include a presentation by the duo on how new artists should innovate and collaborate with emerging technology, and will also include a demonstration by Play On Player - a new interactive app allowing users to immerse themselves within the song by experimenting with the stems of the track, creating their own fan versions. 

As can be expected I had too many Qs for Too Many Ts about all of this but managed to contain myself enough to only shoot over a few to these dope ass dudes. Peep our convo below!

still from “Patterns” video courtesy of Too Many T’s

still from “Patterns” video courtesy of Too Many T’s

How did you manage to link up with triff?

Standaloft: On the information highway.

Leon Rhymes: We knew we wanted to create something special for the “Patterns” video - something we’d not seen before. So from the start we knew we needed more brains than just our own.

Standaloft: We began by reaching out to our extended community to see what and who people knew. One of those people was the legend that is Stuart Trevor or as we like to call him, Triff.

In the past you guys have rapped with Alexa, now with Triff's help you've essentially hacked a Kinect to shoot mo-cap for "Patterns", what inspires you to tinker with new technologies in unconventional ways? 

S: Creativity and limitations. 

LR: And the desire to explore opportunity. 

S: We always want to create something that we’re proud of musically and visually and by incorporating new technologies it forces us to think outside of convention.

LR: Couple this with financial limitations of an unsigned band and you get to a special place of creative innovation. 

We always want to create something that we’re proud of musically and visually and by incorporating new technologies it forces us to think outside of convention.
— Standaloft, Too Many T's

How does video extend the narrative of your music? 

S: With the rise of affordable professional camera equipment the accompanying music video to the track has become almost expected.

LR: And the a visual is such a powerful tool - just take a walk down the street or a train across town to see the amount of adverts everywhere. Not only is the visual expected we’re also fighting against more visuals than ever to stand out. 

S: So it’s important to do try and make something different or something only you can do. 

LR: I think the idea of a story is important - it’s why stories are still read and will survive all digital technology. So if you can create a storyline to run alongside the song I think that’s really strong. 

S: That’s something we did with the music video for “Panther”. 

LR: For “Patterns” the video enhances the mood and feeling within the song. For “Panther” it was more of a simultaneous (and different) storyline running alongside the track. 

still from “Patterns” video courtesy of Too Many T’s

still from “Patterns” video courtesy of Too Many T’s

What's the symbolism behind the different scenes depicted in "Patterns"? 

LR: This was very much led by Triff. We’d always seen the song as a whole but he broke the track up into  6 scenes + an epic intro. 

S: What this did though was treat all the scenes and characters in isolation which really works in the world of the song and that feeling of being alone with no one to turn to but your demons. 

LR: It enhances the overall feeling throughout the song.

How do you manage life on tour so you don't fall into the same patterns that inspired the song?  

LR: Honestly!? Not gonna lie, it’s difficult - can resist anything but temptation! 

S: Late nights can help you lose the days and we’ve had to be professional when on tour this year. We’ve grown up (slightly) and learnt to know our limits. 

LR: You need to make mistakes sometime to learn about yourself. 

What's next for you guys? 

LR: We’re certainly not stopping here and really excited about the next 12 months!

S: We’ve had a really successful year in France so we’re working on a French connection project with our label Banzai Lab and all the artist we’ve met out there - stay tuned for that cos its gonna be sick! We’ve recently started writing some new tunes for the second album as well. Watch out 2019, you’re getting had!

LR: More immediately we’re going on tour in Australia and South East Asia for three months January to March with gigs in Melbourne, Sydney, Bangkok, Chang Mai, Hanoi, Phnom Pehn, Tokyo and more TBC.

UPDATE: “Patterns” premiered LIVE today (11/6) on YouTube at 7:30PM GMT (2:30PM EST). Check out the video below!

[Interview] Goo Goo Dolls Bassist Robby Takac: "Life's Good In The Bubble, Man"
Robby Takac @ Beacon Theatre 10/15/2018. Photo credit: Angela Cranford/MSG Photos

Robby Takac @ Beacon Theatre 10/15/2018. Photo credit: Angela Cranford/MSG Photos

After speaking with Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac the Friday before their show at Beacon Theater as part of their 20th Anniversary Dizzy Up The Girl Tour, I can confirm that he is indeed Some Kind of Awesome. The music community, not just Goo Goo Dolls, are truly beyond blessed to have someone so passionate about music the way that he is. In addition to his rhythmic duties in a band whose career spans across more than three decades, he's also been running the music non-profit Music Is Art and the boutique record label Good Charamel Records for over 15 years in addition to owning the recording studio GCR Audio in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. "You know, owning a recording studio is very akin to owning a boat," Takac jokes over the phone last Friday, "You do it because you enjoy it. It's not necessarily a cash cow, that's for sure."

Some people would find keeping themselves so busy to be exhausting, especially given the extensive amount of touring that Goo Goo Dolls do (including the tour they’re currently on), but it actually has the opposite sort of effect on Takac. "All these things, Music Is Art included," he explains, "helps to exercise parts of my brain, my emotions, my creativity, that probably might have driven me crazy to not be able to exercise." 

He went on to detail the beginnings of the Goo Goo Dolls from a business standpoint, " We did everything, you know, Johnny [Rzeznik] and I did 30 years ago. Everything. We had this hilarious briefcase that we used to carry around with us like all our papers, and it was pretty much our whole world was in that briefcase." As the band became more popular obviously the briefcase became an inefficient form of handling the band's business."Little by little we let started letting go of parts," he recounted, "It took many many years, but since then we found people who did it better (...) and all these people took a little piece of what we did in the beginning and started doing a much better job of it, but that didn't mean that those things weren't still inside me, you know, clamoring to be exercised, and so I think that that's why I still keep up with all of this stuff. Because it allows me to be better at being in the Goo Goo Dolls if that makes sense at all."

Of his three side passions, Music Is Art is by far his biggest focus outside of the Goo Goo Dolls. The most admirable part about his approach to the non-profit is his acknowledgement for the need for art/music comes from personal experience. As he shared:

"(...) There are some people (and I was one of them) whose lives could not be shaped correctly if they weren't exposed to these things because that's just where your mind operates. Their minds don't operate in the classroom all that well. You know, they're not debate team folks. They're not gonna star on the college basketball team or even be able to dribble a ball for that matter, you know? BUT, you put a paint brush or a guitar in their hand and they realize that they can move on. So they have that. I think if you rob young people of that then you're really doing an unbelievable disservice to a huge amount of kids out there." 

"(...) There are some people (and I was one of them) whose lives could not be shaped correctly if they weren't exposed to these things because that's just where your mind operates. Their minds don't operate in the classroom all that well. You know, they're not debate team folks. They're not gonna star on the college basketball team or even be able to dribble a ball for that matter, you know? BUT, you put a paint brush or a guitar in their hand and they realize that they can move on. So they have that. I think if you rob young people of that then you're really doing an unbelievable disservice to a huge amount of kids out there." 

To be clear, Music Is Art does incredible things for the music community. In addition to its yearly cornerstone event, the Music Is Art festival, which boasted 20 stages this year, they also organize a variety of battles of the bands both in corporate and public settings. Most importantly, they've been doing instrument drives and to date have donated a half of a million dollars worth of both new and refurbished instruments to schools and communities in the Maryvale School District in Buffalo, New York. While the organization never has an issue with finding volunteers from both musicians and the general public, even with it's rockstar affiliation they share the same struggles that arts-centered not for profits have when it comes to funding. "The hard part is actually keeping it going, you know," he admitted, "and all the realities that you have to face when you go to a lawyer or an accountant. As the festival grows bigger it becomes more and more of a responsibility."

It's not often that I get to speak with someone who has been in the business of music for as long as Takac has, so obviously the conversation drifted to technology. Like any music lover who was  actively collecting music pre-iPod, living in this new era of streaming services is the biggest change in music that has him buzzing with excitement. "(...)Coming from a guy who collected records when I was younger like that is MIND BLOWING man.(...)If you and I are talking about something I could play it for you right now just on my phone. That is MIND BLOWING. Seriously." 

He also had nice things to say about our friend The Algorithm™. He even shared that Discover Weekly had gotten him into The Heavy and Beach Slang recently. He raved, "(...) The ability for Spotify to build algorithms and like expose you to things that it's discovering that you might like, I think that's unbelievable." A kindred spirit, he too has mixed feelings about how algorithms like Discover Weekly are lessening the emotional connection that is made between people when they share music with each other. "(...)It's a little bit sad because I used to have those same experiences but I would have it with my friend Gary Sperrazza down at Apollo Records in Buffalo, or I would have it down at The Record Mine with my friend Dave, you know? It's sad that human interaction is taken from it, but I think the resources that are at hand with music is just unbelievable." 

Another big difference is obviously the way social media has shaken up the music landscape. To an extent Goo Goo Dolls were pioneers in the early age of fan interaction, dating back to the early America OnLine days. Now the band has amassed a massive online fan base, with over 3 million fans on Facebook at the time of print. When they started, fan engagement was primarily about promoting a single, album, or tour. These days Takac observed that having a digital presence has a different impact on musicians, specifically when it comes to access. "You know, we always laugh about guys like Jimmy Page, like you've got this image of Jimmy Page living in his castle somewhere, you know, like whatever," he observed, "Or this weird image of what Led Zepplin was like or all of these bands cause there was a mystique to them, but this current social atmosphere of immediacy, you can't really be that way anymore." He's also a realist when it comes to fans having their smartphones at concerts, as he noted, "It's all out there and it's all out there in unprofessional, unairbrushed, you know, like 'here's our pimples' kinda world. It's changed."

In Takac's mind the archetype for the modern day musician on social media is Kanye West. He further clarified: 

"Kanye makes some cool music but like it's not so much about that with him, you know? A little bit of it is, but it's more about everything else, you know it's about his social media. It's about his wife. It's about his wife's family. It's about their TV show. It's about his sneakers. It's about like all these things that the music is sort of in the background as something that he sort of does, you know? It's why he's such a big star, 'cause I don't think the music can make you that big of a star anymore... It's all this stuff, you know, that figures in now that, you know, didn't figure in when I was thinking about Jimmy Page in his castle. I never thought about any of that stuff with him. He was just that dude in Zepplin. That's what he did, you know? It's way more than that now."

I don't think the music can make you that big of a star anymore...

Things that are also very different than when Robby and Johnny started Goo Goo Dolls over thirty years ago: the two are both sober, with Robby over ten years sober and Johnny around four years sober. It's easy to assume that backstage while on tour is packed with opportunities to slip back into substance abuse, but Takac was quick to shut that fallacy down:

"It is what you make it," he said, "It's your bubble man. You're in a bubble when you're out here [on tour] but it's your bubble. Like we say 'life's good in the bubble, man'. You know, for a lot you get to choose what's there and what's not, you know? So we just kind of keep it sane back there, and there's not a lot of parties and that kind of stuff. Not that there's not but there's not a lot."

Like we say 'life's good in the bubble, man'.

While they've admittedly had a few decades to get heavy partying out of their system, it was refreshing to hear that there are legacy musicians that acknowledge their ability to be personally responsible for the toxicity level of their touring environment. These days Takac's number one tour essential is his teapot, which is his way to bring a piece of home with him while he's out on the extensive touring schedules with Goo Goo Dolls. "It's just you need those kinds of things to keep you warm, you know, keep you happy," he offered, "It's tough but you try to get a little bit out here." 

Make sure you catch Robby Takac with Goo Goo Dolls while they're still out on their 20th Anniversary Dizzy Up The Girl tour. I can attest that it is an energy packed night that you won't want to miss even if you're a casual fan. 

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

GooGooDolls_20thAnniversaryTour_TourPoster1a.jpg
[SONG OF THE DAY] Big Data - "Monster (feat. Jamie Lidell)"
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I. Am. So. Happy. These. Dudes. Collaborated. Again. 

Y'all remember the awesomeness that was "Clean" off of Big Data's 2.0, which featured vocal stylings of now Nashville-based powerhouse Jamie Lidell. Well the two have teamed up to REALLY own the Black Mirror pop genre that I playfully invented when "See Through" materialized a few months back. I happened to be starting in on the mini stack of books that Big Data mastermind Alan Wilkis has been casually recommending via his Instagram stories, starting with his #1 recommendation: Life 3.0 Being Human In The Age of Artificial Intelligence  just as "Monster" dropped on Friday. 

Y'all.

The second I got to the chorus of "Monster" I couldn't grab that book fast enough. First of all, I was covered in goosebumps because this first person narrative as sung by Lidell is the kind of story that technologists everywhere : creating technology that we later deeply regret because it ends up being really harmful to mankind. We are definitely living in peak "just because we can make it, SHOULD we make it?" era right now. It's very obvious (and honestly really comforting) that Wilkis has spent a great deal of time pondering this about various technologies we're semi-normalizing in culture and giving us plenty to reconsider before blindly believing that every technological advance is inherently good for us. 

Suffice it to say, every second that I have downtime I am reading that book. Already two chapters in I'm already starting to gain a deeper understanding of the concerns Wilkis' has. It's made me hope that other Big Data fans get curious and equally concerned about our future. 

We're currently 3 songs deep into 3.0's album cycle with no concrete release date in sight, BUT our favorite data driven dude will be hitting the road as he headlines the Sirius XM Alt Nation tour starting in mid-October, so my Kibbe-sense says we'll probably have the whole shebang by then. 

Also in 310 pages I will be making our impending interview official, so know that's coming too. 

BIG DATA Tour Dates:

October 14th - Shelter - Detroit, MI

October 15th - HiFi - Indianapolis, IN

October 16th - Chop Suey - Chicago, IL

October 18th - Rumba - Columbus, OH

October 19th - Cambridge Room @ HOB - Cleveland, OH

October 21st - Space Ballroom - Hamden, CT

October 22nd - Brighton Music Hall - Boston, MA

October 23rd - Foundry - Philadelphia, PA

October 24th - Gramercy Theatre - New York, NY

October 25th - Songbyrd - Washington, DC

October 27th -  Underground - Charlotte, NC

October 28th - The Cowan - Nashville, TN

October 30th - Cambridge Room @ HOB - Dallas, TX

October 31st - Bronze Peacock @ HOB - Houston, TX

November 1st - Antone’s - Austin, TX

November 2nd - Lowbrow Palace - El Paso, TX

November 4th - Valley Bar - Phoenix, AZ

November 5th - Voodoo Room @ HOB - San Diego, CA

November 6th - Resident - Los Angeles, CA

November 7th - Chapel - San Francisco, CA

November 9th - Dante’s (Take Warning) - Portland, OR

November 10th - Chop Suey - Seattle, WA

Let The Algorithm™ Move You: Musings On Spotify Related Things Coming Soon

Ever since I went all in on my support for Spotify I have increasingly become obsessed with how music consumption is changing based on the technologies that have been developed. It will not surprise you to know that I am a person who is always frantically looking for new music. My mission has always been the same since I was a #teen: find the best stuff, support the best stuff, share the best stuff. 

Prior to digital music rising to its current prominence, I used to stroll aimlessly through record shops looking at album artwork inquisitively and buying things at random hoping that they would be good. The features Spotify have rolled out over the past couple years have both broken my brain and my discovery/consumption habits. Sometimes it's in a good way, sometimes in a way I worry will negatively effect the music community. I often wonder if this happens to other people, so I have decided to include this as things that I talk about here. 

Do you do interesting things with Spotify to discover music? Have you made a friend with someone who followed you on Spotify? Has streaming changed your music consumption habits for better or for worse? These are things I want to explore. 

More soon! In the meantime, please enjoy the delightfully random things The Algorithm™ delivers to me. :)