Monday, September 27, 2004

Sparks Convention Oct 16th 2004

The Sparks Convention 2004 will be held on October 16th 2004

This is being organised by two fans, Lynn Bastian and Steve Gore, and
will be held at the George and Pilgrim Hotel in Glastonbury

Events will include a specially recorded message from Sparks, VIP
guests, a Sparks Quiz, auction of memorabilia, rare photo's and vinyl
recordings plus a Sparks disco and will be a fantastic day for all
Sparks fans!

If you are interested in going to the convention please email Lynn

Thursday, September 23, 2004

VIDEO: My Baby's Taking Me Home

An amazing animated video for My Baby's Taking Me Home has been created by the animator Shaw Petronio

The video will initially be available online through various sites - presently:

Shaw Petronio - Director and creator of The Sparks music video 'My Baby's Taking Me Home'.

Shaw Petronio was brought up with both parents working in the animation business (in the time when it was all hand drawn and painted) and so had little chance ending up anywhere else except art college at 19 (St Martins - big deal). Art college lead to a band (obviously) and while he still continued to paint and draw he pursued a somewhat unsuccessful pop career with the band Lo Williams. During the eight or so years of getting this out of his system, 'doing stuff' on computers became alot easier i.e. Animation and Video and Shaw started taking his ideas into the digital arena. So as the band life started fading away he found the artist in him turning towards Animation and Digital Video where it still is today and has been for five years.

Shaw met Sparks via chance encounter with one of Sparks' road crew and heard that they were looking for some new stage visuals. Shaw and a mate ( VJ Ben Cowen) pitched against a couple of big production houses and got the gig! Shaw worked closely with Ron and Russell to produce the projected stage visuals and animations for the Little Beethoven world tour and after its' success was asked to do the music video for My Baby's Taking Me Home (His first music video).

' Animators tend to make the more bizare stuff because in the world of animation the canvas is unlimited.'

Shaw's style is 'different' to say the least but he's not without influences, namely Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, Fear and Loathing), Stephen Johnson (Sledghammer) and David Lynch (Wild at heart). He likes to 'mix it up' combining animation and filmed action with grainy effects, but also looks forward to making completely filmed videos (with a twist).

Shaw Petronio is a animator/filmmaker who likes pushing boundries and escaping stereotypes and prefers working with like minded people.He is based in southern Sweden and shares a studio with fellow film maker Anders Weberg with whom he is collaborating on his next music video.

Friday, September 10, 2004

DVD : Lil' Beethoven - Live in Stockholm

The Guardian

Sparks, Lil' Beethoven Live in Stockholm


Good old Sparks - you can always count on them to bring some carefully controlled lunacy into your day, and their latest offering doesn't disappoint. A live concert DVD recorded in Stockholm this year, it comes in two halves. The opening segment features a full performance of the band's most recent Lil' Beethoven album, and the second half contains all the old hits.
In addition, you get a brief peek inside the band's dressing room, where the ever-inscrutable Ron Mael is eager to show you his portable potato patch and collection of imported tangerine trees. Is he entirely taking the piss? Who can tell?

The concert itself is part rock gig, part unclassifiable performance art event. Arched windows contain images of ticking metronomes, two statuesque timpani players flank the stage, and Russ Mael delivers the bizarre, repetitive songs with a portentous urgency that completely belies the absurdity of the lyrics. The new stuff sounds wonderfully avant-garde, while golden oldies such as This Town Ain't Big Enough are transformed into steamrolling techno-rock epic.

James Griffiths

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Sparks in "The Guardian"

TalkTime: Ron and Russell Mael

The Guardian

Sparks, aka brothers Ron and Russell Mael, have released their 19th album, Lil Beethoven

Interviewed by Hamish Mackintosh
Thursday September 2, 2004

Is the computer integral to the Sparks' studio set-up?

Russell: We have one of the 2GHz Apple Mac G5s - of course, they've just brought out the 2.5GHz so every week you're obsolete! The one we have was reputed to be the fastest computer ... up until two weeks ago obviously! We use Digital Performer as the backbone because it handles the Midi and digital audio recording together ... effectively, we're using Digital Performer more as a means of capturing the actual performances instead of a tape recorder.

So is the G5 as good as we are told it is?

Russell: For digital audio, it's really great because it's powerful enough to give you more tracks or plug-ins, and everything's still smoother. It is by no means perfect because it still crashes, which is frustrating given that Apple assures us it is the fastest computer available. The other side of that is that it is miles beyond the computers we've had previously.

How do you feel about the move towards downloadable music?

Ron: Aside from the issues of music being stolen, one thing that worries me is this idea of people being able to select whatever they want from what you present ... like in iTunes. Even if listeners skip over tracks, I want them to have to accept the entire work I'm presenting as an album.

Any other concerns?

Russell: It's also completely eliminating the tangible aspect of what's cool about pop music, such as the album artwork. If your whole life is centred around iTunes or its equivalent, then you see a 1 inch by 1 inch digital representation of some artwork, and that's it. There's no back cover or liner notes. I've heard authors say the same of ebooks and downloads, that there's just something about a tangible book ... the feel of it, the smell ... and you can't replace that no matter how convenient it is to have in your Palm Pilot or music in your iPod. Technologically, that is all quite cool but you can't replace that experience of opening a new CD. I was on iTunes for a look around and was disappointed because it's just an interface, and there's no real background to the artists and nobody's really got a visual statement to help you figure out the sensibility of the group. That's a shame.

How about the ringtone phenomenon?

Ron: That's bizarre ... they're not even downloading the whole song, just the main hook. It sounds almost Japanese - like slicing things up into razor-thin segments so that nothing is ever really complete, and everything is taken out of context. It's not enough that there isn't time to go through a whole album - there isn't even time to go through a whole song! Once you've got that ringtone, that may be amusing to yourself but it tends to be quite irritating to anyone sitting next to you on public transport. They're becoming very intrusive in cinemas, too.

Lil Beethoven - Sparks Live in Stockholm (DVD) is out this week.