Friday, June 24, 2016

The Day The Funk Died

Bernie Worrell with method Of Defiance,
Brooklyn, NY, August 2009 (photos by me)

Growing up, music was such a part of me that I can hear a song & immediately be transported back to the first time I heard it, complete with all of the feelings and memories that it evokes. Music is part of my soul, without which I wouldn't be the person I am today. One such song that changed my life was "Flashlight" by Parliament, off their album "Funkentelechy vs The Placebo Syndrome". The sounds were from outer space, like nothing I ever heard before: a heavy bass groove, choppy guitars, howling vocals & harmonies, some bopping saxophones, & the craziest keyboards I had ever experienced. All of the individually magnificent parts mixed together to form a cohesive sound, an anthem, the start of a movement. It was at that exact moment in 1989, as a 13 years old, that I fell in love with funk.

Since that time I have seen George Clinton nine times in some form that I can account for, either billed as a solo act, with Parliament, Funkadelic, P-Funk or The P-Funk All-Stars. Every single time I have seen George, he had his secret weapon & Musical Director in tow: the man, the myth, the pioneer, the legend, Mr Bernie Worrell.

In addition to the nine times I've seen George, I've seen Bernie play several more times than that, as he was (which is hard to accept at the moment) one of the most prolific musicians I've known. He loved throwing in on a musical stew, mixing it up to see what magic could bubble up. I was lucky enough not only to have been in the presence of the man those 9 times with George, but also solo, with the Woo Warriors, Bootsy Collins, The Horny Horns, and most recently Method Of Defiance (in 2009).

My funk collection consists of almost extensively music that either directly features Bernie Worrell, or music that was spawned by songs that Bernie had a hand in. He was the master of the keys, whether it be a Wurlitzer, the Hammond B3, various synthesizers, or the Moog. He was considered such an important person when it came to progressing music that when Robert Moog invented his Moog synthesizer, Bernie not only was one of the first to receive the instrument (well ahead of production), but he also had a hand in helping Mr Moog figure out the space sounds that would become the synthesizer's signature. To say he was a massively influential figure to his peers but also thousands of artists who followed him as well is an understatement. He invented these sounds and styles, & no one who followed him can say he didn't play a part in the art that they produced.

Some of my favorite projects Bernie worked on were of course Parliament & Funkadelic's catalogs (both of which he was a founding member), but also his work with Bill Laswell (Material, Method of Defiance, Praxis, Axiom Funk & Funkcronomic), Brides Of Funkenstein, Sly & Robbie, Golden Palominos, Afrika Bambaataa, Botsy Collins, OG Funk, Cibo Matto, Fela Kuti, Doug Wimbush, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mos Def, Baby The Elephant & the list goes on & on & on...

He was so prolific, in fact, that by 2008 his official discography showed that he had already been featured on an astonishing 475 projects (post-2008 is conspicuously missing, though I know he continued to work as I own several of the albums, including his brilliant Method Of Defiance albums). For most artists, this would be about 50 or more careers, but Bernie refused to stop or slow down until the very end. His Bill Laswell & Karsh Kale collaboration, Funkcronomic, was released just 2 weeks before his passing, on June 10th, 2016.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, music is ingrained in my soul, so today, June 24th, a part of my soul died. Even though it is easy to be sad over a loss to the music world like this (& believe me, I am gutted by it), it's hard to argue that his music won't continue on forever & continue to illuminate generations & generations to come. His music always sounded like it was from the future even 40+ years later for some of it, & I have no reason to believe that 40 years from now, it still will sound like it is advanced technology from an alien race. So tonight, I raise a glass to the pioneer, the Doctor, the Wizard Of WOO, & thank him for everything he has done to make my life better, the joy has has put out into the ether, & his contributions to making the world a funkier place. We will always love you, Bernie.

April 19, 1944 - June 24, 2016

Me with Bernie, August 2009

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ego - Eventually You Run Out Of Tomorrows...

For those of you who know me, I've probably either shown you a picture of a piece I previously purchased by Ego, or you've seen the real thing at my house. It is one of my favorite pieces, & has even earned a permanent spot on my "art wall". My house is full of art, but it takes something really special to secure a place in that little nook.

Well, Lord Ego has a new show that opened tonight at the Flatcolor Gallery in Seattle. I was lucky enough to get a preview of the collection this morning before the opening & scored one of his new works (which I didn't even realize at the time was the show piece for the exhibition). I am thoroughly psyched to have it join my art wall once the show closes, & I'm sure I'll be showing pics of it too. In the meantime, enjoy the preview pics HERE & tell 'em Skillcrane sent you.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pricing Artwork For Sale

I saw this video on YouTube, & found that it is extremely helpful for the new artist all the way to the most established. Many people wrestle with how to price their work, & it is nice to see someone give a piece by piece breakdown to compare how he derives at his prices. Hope you get as much from it as I did!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Double Damn. (Giger's Birth Machine Sculpture)

Anybody who knows me fairly well knows that I am a huge HR Giger fan. One of my favorite paintings by him is "Birth Machine". It is a remarkable statement that resonates long after viewing the piece. Today I discovered that there is a full-size sculpture outside of the HR Giger Museum in Switzerland. I am marveling in it's majesty...

(sound Hallelujah chorus)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Palehorse Smashes! (Picks Jaw Up Off Ground)

Christos Mysterio Jr

Our Lady Of Lucha Libre

I have been a huge fan of graphic designer/artist Chris Parks (aka Palehorse) for a while now, ever since I first saw his "Christos Mysterio Jr"/"Our Lady Of Lucha Libre" series through the website Zazzle. I immediately picked the 2 prints up since they were insanely cheap, & have been in love with his work since then. Apparently he has set the bar to epic heights, with his new exhibition "Gods & Monsters". Check out this video (& pay attention to "The Kracken" as well as the MASSIVE spraypaint/vinyl collaboration with Allen Hampton)...

Some pics from the show...
"The Kracken"

Pale Horse--Allen Hampton Collab

Chris Parks stands next to the collab piece

Pale Horse--Allen Hampton Collab

Finally, take the studio tour here (older video):

Go visit Chris here:
Buy Prints On Zazzle

Monday, May 10, 2010

Frank Frazetta: R.I.P.

Self Portrait

While looking around for Frank Frazetta artwork online today, I found out the sad news that the legendary fantasy artist has passed away. He has been in steadily declining health for many months, & had been spending his last few months surrounded by the family that he loved dearly. Sadly, Mr Frazetta had been in the news recently due to a legal battle stemming from an incident that put his son in jail for theft of millions of dollars of his father's art, which may or may not have been authorized by Frazetta Sr himself. Thankfully the issue was resolved amongst the family members, without it having to go to court. While Frazetta may no longer be here, his artwork will live on forever, & the Frank Frazetta Museum will continue to house a permanent collection for all who want to take the trek, & a source for authorized, inexpensive prints for those who can't, but still want to help contribute to keeping the museum open for years to come.

Here are some of my favorite Frazetta pieces...
Dark Kingdom

Death Dealer

Savage Pellucidar

The Huntress

Fire & Ice

Cat Girl

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Art Of Leon Botha

"The Flow Of Time"

Unless you've been in the midst of a self-imposed media ban for the last few months, it is hard to escape the wave of blissful mania that has followed the South African rap-rave sensations Die Antwoord. Since they were unleashed upon an unsuspecting world via a seemingly harmless Boing Boing post, millions have adopted the group as their new favorites. If you are like me, you've watched the "Enter The Ninja" video ad naseum since then. Between insanely catchy beats, helium filled vocals, ironic haircuts, gangsta posturing & an enigmatic figure substituting for their perpetually-missing in action DJ, you can't help but sit up & take notice.

Leon Botha, On The Set Of Die Antwoord's "Enter The Ninja" Video

The enigmatic figure in question is artist Leon Botha. I'll say this once, & once only, since otherwise I would be the only person who hasn't felt it necessary to preface discussions of Leon by mentioning, is that he has the extremely rare disease known as Progeria. I could get into details (see Wikipedia for that), but let's just say it is a real concern. I hate to even mention it because it has absolutely no bearing on whether or not the man is a gifted artist. Not in that "he's good for a guy who [fill in the blank]" type way either. The man is just plain talented. While he may not be able to blend into a crowd easily, he really distinguishes himself even further from the pack by rising to the top with his work.

"Midnight Marauders"

A huge portion of Leon's work originates from his love of hip-hop (mostly of the American variety), & that passion shines through, informing the pieces in the sense that they have a lyrical flow that many artists are never able to effectively capture.

"Liquid Sword/Caduceus/Chakras"

Added to the fact that it appears that nothing Botha does is done without seeking deeper meaning, he wears his spirituality on his sleeve. (read: not necessarily "religion"). He peeks behind the veneer & instead seeks to further understand the unifying principles of the universe. Beyond the initial impressions that one reaches on cursory glance, each painting tells a multi-layered story that must be pondered before finally reaching a conclusion.

"Flower Of Life"

Time is also a recurrent theme in Botha's work, & being that he is a bit of a medical miracle, he understands better than most that we do not have infinity to explore our Earthly vessels. Time can either be our biggest ally or our biggest enemy, but it is up to us to decide. Applying this knowledge, he is energized by this defining principle.

"Guardian Through The Duat"

(The video accompaniment to the painting)

He is also acutely aware of the theories of transcendence & legacy, which he actively explores throughout his body of work. Instead of me trying to paraphrase, I'd rather let the man speak for himself:

At the ripe old age of 24, Leon has accomplished more than most people have in their lifetime. He's achieved wild internet fame, he's collaborated on a t-shirt project, & he recently wrapped up his third gallery show (his first two were solo exhibitions while his most recent was a collaboration with photographer Gordon Clark).

"Angels Of Polarity" (Collaboration with Gordon Clark)

To top it off, I would be entirely remiss if I didn't mention that besides the gift of the brush, Leon is a sick turntablist, cutting & slicing through the South African underground hip-hop scene for the last several years under the alias DJ Solarize. Watching this clip makes me realize just how much I need to bust out my own tables & practice...

I'm pretty sure this cat has perfected Mantis Style. Speaking of...

"Mantis Style"

There's one thing that can be certain, the future is open wide for Leon, & I guarantee he's not going to let the opportunity slip through the cracks.

Pay him a visit at the following:

Wiki Wiki Wiki