Tag Archives: dave tompkins


It’s a scattershot blogging day because I’m feeling particularly unfocused. In an effort to avoid revisiting 2010, the first fortnight of 2011 has passed in a curious blur of meetings, follow-ups and forgotten follow-ups. The byproduct is that I’ve done far less than planned. So it’s a good thing that I’m not one of those tits who spent New Year’s Day merrily declaring that “2011 is my year!” and other such doomed boasts. At least the Criterion release of Brian De Palma’s ‘Blow Out’ is something to look forward to. Since the fanboy boom for creating fictional Criterion fan art (as seen here), I can pretty much anticipate what a sleeve might look like, and ‘Blow Out’ is no exception, but it captures the film’s feel, from that studio to Travolta’s sense of isolation in a severe situation. And if that wasn’t enough, go check Criterion’s alarmingly talented real-deal designer, Sam Smyth’s self-designed posters for his top 10 films of last year.

My friends Grace and Al have executed some strong film work that appeared this week. I’m linking rather than embedding to avoid this turning into some kind of clip show, and while I love zombies but couldn’t give a flying fuck about bikes, the mini-velodrome is very impressive indeed. There’s good scope for a pretty spectacular accident too. I always wanted to work on film, but it requires a level of patience that leaves me agitated. On a cinematic subject, Korea seems to know how to pump out vicious thrillers with flair. Kim Ji Woon’s ‘I Saw the Devil’ is a tremendous-looking film that forgoes logic and common sense in favour of a succession of brutal set pieces that mix and match horror, action and drama.

Choi Min Sik’s psycho might be one of the best serial killer characters of any film, with a remorseless, unhinged performance that’s at odds with his blank-faced pursuer, and after ‘Oldboy’ and ‘The Chaser’ I can’t help but note that Korean cinema favours a bludgeoning as preferred mode-of-carnage. Running at nearly 150 minutes (with some severe cuts), I loved this beautiful-looking but thoroughly dumb slab of very, very vicious fun. The clip below isn’t for sensitive souls (and it’ll probably last about another 24 hours on YouTube, but it’s a fight set piece to match the ‘Oldboy’s corridor and claw hammer fun. What happens when a friendly taxi driver picks up a serial killer when —out of sheer coincidence—there’s already a psychopath in the back seat? Stabby, well-shot mayhem commences…

It’s tradeshow season, so expect more XXXXXXXXX action than Soho in its sleazy heyday. Will someone unleash the next shit that drags the industry out of its current mire in Milan, Berlin or Paris? One relic of last year is this Fox news piece on Camo fabric production at Michigan’s Duro Textiles from last summer. I’ve been thinking about technical materials, and while I’ve yet to hear any solid proof of MultiCam’s effectiveness in current conflict, TenCate have got some amazing technologies in their roster—Armourtex is a serious application and Defender M’s long-established self extinguishing properties minimise burns. I heard tales of infrared eluding, bloodstain-absorbing lunacy in the labs of those fishing for military contracts. if market shellsuits circa. 1990 had an element of Defender M in the fabric mix, those apocryphal tales of badly dressed folk being seriously scorched wouldn’t exist. Camo production looks oddly hypnotic…

I’m convinced that hip-hop dumbed down by at least 20% this week. Gucci’s celebration of frozen dairy treats placed across his face for life was a dimwitted highlight, but Worldstar’s user-submitted gems are upping the goonery. Who exactly is The President, with his Jeezy and Rick Ross-alike delivery? He’s made several appearances on there, but his Twitter follow game is weak. “The President Buys A Building In TX, Counts 50K In Cash On Iphone In Response TO Haters + Pulls Out 713 Motorizing Custom Made Bentley & Diamond Flooded WhiteHouse Chain [User Submitted]” might be the funniest of all the video titles thus far. Where’s the logic in such audacious displays? Did anybody care enough to hate in the first place?

Worldstar’s payola-led business model creates its own rap realm that’s confined to the site. The President’s gimmick appears to be that he’s supposed to be a rich man who decided to rhyme on some Ted DiBiase shit, but his impending Jim Jones collaboration might get him coverage that isn’t sandwiched between crackheads getting walloped and J-Hood freestyles. If the President was keener to reassert how much cash he’s got, he’d make like Homer Simpson in his lottery fantasy (“Look closer, Lenny!”) and have himself gold-plated. It’s funny to see gutter-sounding folk like grimy whiteboy of the moment, Action Bronson operating on the other end of the scale— with superior results—at the moment too. Thank god for the launch of ego trip’s egotripland.com—it’s in its early stages at the moment, but those blogs have the potential to amaze. Edan and Daryl Jenifer haven’t commenced yet, but Dave Tompkins is already on the case, with an excellent Full Force piece.


Further proof that Tumblr can be used for good rather than mere self-indulgence arrives in the shape of the Essayist (“Aggregated long-form essays from the world’s best writers & publications”), which is a trove of amazing writing across all subjects—Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s ‘Hard Core’ is a personal pick of the selection, but it’s well worth diving in. The Documentarian (“Aggregating unknown documentaries and free video content to broaden yo’ fuckin’ horizons”) is a sister site to improve your year. The incredibly grim 1985 BBC2 40 Minutes entry on ‘The Outcasts’ biker gang is all types of awesome.


Dave Tompkins is good. Really good. It’s worrying that the ability to edit blog posts and online content to your heart’s content could make writers complacent. The fear of editorial rejections and the finality of submitting to print is a fair motivator to improve your written word. Current hip-hop writing isn’t up to scratch – it’s all top 10s in bite size controversy-heavy morsels or a link-heavy sentence above a Sendspace link. I need more.

I haven’t peeped the new Vibe format, but using their site as a barometer, I imagine the “black Rolling Stone” elements of the magazine’s heyday have vanished – those lengthy features on white hillbilly gangbangers, or hefty prison visit chats. Dave Tompkins’s work isn’t some SEO-friendly nugget of facts and release dates. He’s been eclipsing other writers with splattergun bullets of facts, history and a real reverence for hip-hop culture for years now, somehow contextualising it, bringing together the sci-fi and street level in those final few paragraphs in Rap Pages, URB and Big Daddy. His Paul C article is a pinnacle piece.

You understand then, why the notion of Tompkins writing a book on the history of the vocoder created a buzz to match that of the speech synthesising subject matter. Chances are you don’t write like Dave. I suck by comparison, but I don’t let it get me down any more. Dave’s 1994 review of the debut Artifacts LP for Rap Pages opens with, “Too often unsung and un-MCeed are the masters of markers and aerosol-ballers with the gall.

My own, more sycophantic review of the same album (neatly sidestepping the 5 dull tracks on it), my first for SpineMagazine back in early 2000 is a leaden affair, opening with “‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ is one of those rare LP’s where everything is tight- the lyrics, the production and even the cover design.” Yeah, go Gary. Draw ’em in on the first sentence. Jesus. That’s why Dave Tompkins writes incredible books like ‘How to Wreck a Nice Beach’ (“How to recognise speech” misheard via the vocoder) while I jot down notes about sneakers. We know our places.

While I’d been holding out for the rumoured Tuff Crew book he was reportedly penning, ‘How to Wreck…’ delivers. It’s as visually arresting as it is linguistically lavish – old flyers, notes, military pamphlets, customised cassettes, machinery, ads and specially penned portraits of key personnel in the instrument’s lifespan. A scholar like the author could’ve left it wilfully clinical – nothing but words and the occasional diagram, and it would’ve worked somehow. Yet this is a hardback trove of information, written with the man’s usual hyper-factual flair as the warfare and political roots give way to overrated Brit-rockers, soul music filtered, Cylons and the Auto-Tune plague. Then there’s the fainting, the poisoning and the electrocutions. These things can make a man light-headed. Oh, and you’ll develop a new respect for Donnie Wahlberg.

As one who got giddy not at Kurt’s guitar but by local boy Mr. Troutman’s robo-gear in Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, this has made my year. I’m not flicking pages to reinforce what’s already filed in the cranium – I’m reading to be enlightened, and Dave Tompkins is an educator who lets the machine do the talking this time around, imbuing it with a real humanity. One of the best music-related books in a long, long time. Speaking of Spine – check the homie Zaid’s review here.

Check Dave Tompkins’s 1995 graffiti-themed editorial from URB below. A work-of-art in itself. Taken from the excellent ‘Press Rewind If I Haven’t…’ blog.

Plus Dave taught me that the 1979 film ‘Zoo zéro’ combines Klaus Kinski with a vocoder.



Having missed out on missing the increasingly prolific Danny Trejo (I’ve been a fan since he was fighting in ‘Runaway Train’ and getting offed in ‘The Hidden’ ) by a few seconds in Los Angeles last week, and blown away as I was by the signed machete Estevan Oriol had in his office, I’ve been following the controversies leading up to the new ‘Machete’ movie – Trejo is that dude. If you’ve read Eddie Bunker’s ‘Mr. Blue’ you know he’s no joke. Now Robert Rodriguez has announced he’s making a live-action version of Frank Frazetta’s ‘Fire And Ice’ alongside Ralph Bakshi. Serious news – Robert generally seems to deliver on his announcements, and this could be the ultimate Frank tribute.

Props to FirehouseSoundDK for upping some (too) brief footage of the great Conroy Smith, don of the digital age, performing ‘Dangerous’ at Sting ’88 a week or so ago. It’s been the soundtrack to this warm weekend. Apparently he’s currently incarcerated on drug charges. Stay up, Conroy.


Yep, workload means I’m still recycling Black Lodges blogs from last week…I know that’s lame, but I’m not reorting to shooting what I got free this week.

I don’t know if I stand alone in this sentiment, but I’ve got little interest in reading books or publications about anything I already know. I prefer to be in-the-dark about a topic and emerge either a zealot for the cause, whatever it was, come out the other side as confused as I was when I took the plunge. Too many magazines and books trying to pander to sectors of…uhhhh…I’ll whisper it, street culture, flop because enthusiasm outweighs ability, or they’re treading absolutely no new ground at all. Seriously, who fucking cares about the same old faces that have been done to death? All, without fail, have been covered in a far superior style back when they were unknowns.