Lou Reed (1987)

In honor of Lou Reed on his birthday, born on this day in 1942, I present to you Lou Reed on Guns & Ammo, an interview with Joe Smith in 1987.

“I write a song called ‘Heroin’, you would have thought that I murdered the Pope or something”

Lou Reed

Here we bring you a rarely heard interview Lou recorded in 1987. It’s vintage Lou. Salty and sweet. Earnest and cocky. Grouchy and kind of endearing. Reed (and his legendary band The Velvet Underground) were those musicians who never got the extensive accolades or awards–nor the riches many of their contemporaries found. Yet he never seemed to waver in his search for the perfect sound and his quest “to elevate the rock and roll song and take it where it hadn’t been taken before.” Here we present some interview outtakes that give a taste for this iconic American musician. Lou Reed died of liver disease on October 27, 2013. He was 71.

In this animated film Lou Reed talks about chasing off nosy college kids on his porch with his shotgun, how he dreamed about writing the great American novel while at Syracuse University, “how savage the reaction against” the Velvet Underground was, the intention of taking books and putting them into songs, writing rock and roll you could grow old with, not thinking The Doors or the Beatles were up to the level of his band, and how he hoped to elevate the rock and roll song to where it hadn’t been before.

Happy Bob Dylan Day, 2021!

“I‘m never going to become rich and famous” – Bob Dylan in 1962.

Today we celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday. Thank you for the meaningful and relatable music and for the inspiration when I needed it most.

Dylan was just 20 years old when he appeared on the Folksingers Choice radio program on WBAI FM in New York City. He’d arrived in Manhattan just a few years earlier and was playing in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village, at one in particular he was paid “a dollar plus a cheeseburger.”

During this hour-long interview with Cynthia Gooding, Dylan played some of his own songs (“The Death of Emmett Till”, “Standing on the Highway”) and covers of classics by Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams, and Woody Guthrie. We scored this Blank on Blank with Dylan tuning up his guitar and playing his harmonica.

It’s a wonderful snapshot in time, with a young Dylan before he was famous and before he even released his debut album. He’s nervous and funny. He’s just a guy with a guitar with a little mischief underneath.

Listen to the full interview and hear some rarely heard songs on our website: http://blankonblank.org/bob-dylan/

Animated by Patrick Smith

The Night WE CALLED IT a Day from Bob Dylan’s album Shadows In The Night, directed by Nash Edgerton.

Happy Stevie Day, 2021!

“If God didn‘t want me to sing it, he wouldn‘t have given me the talent to do it“ – Stevie Wonder (2005)

Interview by Barney Hoskyns

Animated by Patrick Smith

Today the world celebrates Stevie Wonder’s 71st birthday. Thank you for the music and the message of love. Learn more about Stevie Wonder, some secrets of his career, and watch must-see performances here: http://blankonblank.org/stevie-wonder/

An Open Letter to Dr. King

Patrick Smith (1968)

“I feel more alive now than I ever have in my life. I have a chance to live, as I’ve dreamed.” – Nina Simone in July, 1968

Hear bonus interview outtakes, celebrate Nina’s style and impact on music and the civil rights movement here: http://blankonblank.org/nina-simone

Lilian Terry had a national radio show in Italy–everyone from Ray Charles to Duke Ellington appeared on her show–and there was one person she always wanted to interview: Nina Simone.

But Lilian had heard Nina didn’t enjoy speaking with white people. Thankfully Lillian had a confidant in Max Roach, the legendary jazz drummer, who introduced Lilian to Nina at the Newport Festival in 1968.

“Lilian Terry comes from Egypt, ” Roach said. This was was true; Lilian was born in Cairo to a father from Malta and a mother from Italy.

With that simple introduction, Nina waved Lillian over. Soon they were talking about nefertitti and the pharoahs.

Nina even told Lilian she thought she’d been in Egypt in a previous life.

A few days later Lilian went to Nina’s house in Mt. Vernon, New York. They sat by the pool, the tape recorder was turned on, and the conversation continued.

Executive Producer: David Gerlach / Animator: Patrick Smith / Audio Producer: Amy Drozdowska / Colorist: Jennifer Yoo

David Hockney (2019)

In this short and uplifting video, the influential British painter David Hockney talks about looking and painting for more than 60 years – and shares a story that made him reflect on our time.

In the video, you also get to experience the world premiere of an animation technique, which Hockney himself calls “time-based brush painting.”

David Hockney is a British painter, printmaker, photographer and stage designer, who is considered among the most influential and versatile British artists of the 20th century. Hockney is a notable contributor to the pop art movement in Britain, both in its foundation and growth, beginning with his participation in an annual exhibition called ‘Young Contemporaries’ in 1960, which also marked the start of his recognition in the art world. Hockney is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Praemium Imperiale for Painting (1989), and the Lifetime of Artistic Excellence Award (Pratt Institute) in 2018. His work can be found in numerous collections worldwide, including National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, National Portrait Gallery and Tate Gallery in London, Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, De Young Museum in San Francisco, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

David Hockney was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his home in France in March 2019.

Many thanks to David Hockney for providing the works and the animation shown in the video.

Kasper Bech Dyg (2017)

George Condo was part of the 1980s wild art scene in New York. In this video, recorded in his New York-studio, the iconic artist shares his life-long love of drawing and thoughts on his artistic expression, which he describes as “artificial realism.”

”I kind of draw like you’re walking through the forest, where you don’t really know where you’re going, and you just start from some point and randomly travel through the paper until you get to a place where you finally reach your destination.” Condo studied music theory at college, but soon realised that it was too formal and rigid for him, and that he needed an art form that would give him more freedom. However, he still approaches his art like a musician, working fast and following the rhythm of the drawing or painting without “missing any of the notes.” The tempo, he feels, is very important when it comes to art.

Condo wants his work to contain clear references to the different artists – from Picasso to Velasquez – they’re inspired by, but with a twist. His painting or drawings are about finding a way in which one can capture a person’s humanity through a portrait – capturing not just the outside but also the inside. Moreover, Condo aims to “turn negatives into positives”, portraying “the ordinary characters that make up our lives, whether it’s the janitor or the bus driver or the school teacher or the principal or the mailman or the truck driver. These are not the glamorous people that you see on the cover of Vogue Magazine, but they are what the world is composed of. And to give them a spot in the world is what I always admired about Rembrandt to a certain degree.”

“I love drawing as much as painting, so why not make your paintings from your drawings, but literally have there be no defined sort of hierarchy between the two mediums?” Condo started making “drawing-paintings”, where you can’t distinguish paint from pastel, or a line made with a paintbrush or a line drawn in from and thus making the two mediums equal: “There’s no real difference between figurative painting or abstract painting, ‘cause it’s all painting to begin with. You don’t have to follow any rules as a painter. If you’re making an abstract painting it doesn’t mean eventually it can’t morph into a figurative one.”

When a famous art historian asked Condo what he called the form of work he did, Condo thought of the description “artificial realism”. Artificial realism gives the painter the opportunity to go back and paint something in a realistic way while still portraying all that which is artificial in our world. In continuation of this, he finds that now everything seems to be “artificial realism” with the fake news that is all around us: “Art is the truth, and everything else is a lie.”

George Condo is an American contemporary visual artist working in the mediums of painting, drawing, sculpture, and printmaking. Condo mixes input from art history’s masters – such as Velasquez, Manet, and Picasso – with elements of American Pop Art. He distorts and renews this material so that it stands out and becomes his own: a kind of strange hybrid that blurs boundaries between the comic and the tragic, the grotesque and the beautiful, the classic and the innovative. As part of the wild art scene in New York in the early 1980s, Condo was close to painters such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and worked for Andy Warhol’s Factory, applying diamond dust to silkscreen. Condo’s work is in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Whitney Museum, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Broad Foundation in Los Angeles, Tate Gallery in London, Centre George Pompidou in Paris and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, among others. He is the recipient of an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999) and the Francis J. Greenberger Award (2005). Condo lives and works in New York City.

George Condo was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at his studio in Soho, New York City in September 2017.