The Boy Kicks Out At The World Meets Keeley Hazell

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2011 by The Boy Kicked Out At The World

Stereotypes and preconceptions are rife in show business and few have more to overcome than former page three star Keeley Hazell. At only 24 she has become an icon of lad mag culture and has now set her sights on Hollywood. On face value it is a familiar story, glamour model establishes brand and decides that a career in film or pop music will be an easy next step. And while many fail there is something different about Keeley’s determination to move into cinema.

We have arranged to meet at a bar in London’s East End to discuss her first lead role in the upcoming short film Venus and the Sun, a comedic retelling of Ovid’s tale of Venus and Adonis.  She arrives in unassuming fashion for our meeting in black jeans and loose fitting shirt; she turns down a glass of wine in preference for water. She explains that she is suffering the dual effects of a family party at the weekend and jet-lag, having just arrived back from her base in LA.

Keeley’s involvement with Venus and the Sun began with a chance meeting at the premiere of Interview, starring Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller, in 2007. “I met Andy (Brunskill, producer of Venus and the Sun) at the premiere; I was only there as I was thinking about moving into acting. We had a conversation about doing something in the future, he went away and put something together with scriptwriter Reuben Grove and sent it to my manager. When I read it I thought, “This is great, let’s do something.”

The film portrays Keeley as a fictionalised version of herself, taking to the library and studying Latin to escape the pitfalls of celebrity, and there meeting her Adonis in fellow newcomer Ukweli Roach. The cast and crew are largely made up of some of the brightest and most promising lights in a burgeoning British film scene. “It was good because it was a learning curve for everyone. We all had a chance to learn from the experience, it was like a really good support group, a great team, and it was so much fun to work on.”

Keeley left school at 16, worked at a hairdresser’s for a year before starting a fashion course at college. Three months into her course her modelling career took off and in December 2004 she was chosen as the winner of The Sun’s Page 3 Idol competition, which proved a launch pad to a successful career as the darling of the British glamour scene. Then, two years ago, it was announced she was giving up modelling to pursue a career as an actor and Keeley moved to LA to study at the world famous home of method acting, the Lee Strasberg Film and Theatre Institute. With an intense focus on drawing on personal experience to convey emotion and submergence in the role this is hardly an easy approach to becoming a Hollywood starlet.  “It’s the hardest technique, method is the most difficult way to act but I think, once you get to grips with it, it is the most effective.”

“The whole thing of going back to school was so bizarre. I left school at sixteen and went straight to work so going back into a classroom was weird. I loved it though and it was one of the best experiences. I didn’t really want to leave. As you get older you discover knowledge is such an empowering thing. I now want to know about everything. When I was younger I just wasn’t interested – I hated people with knowledge.”

In a 2006 interview Keeley was quoted as saying she felt she was creative and when asked whether she found posing for photos a ‘drag’, she pointedly said, “not at the moment”. “I always wanted to act. I did GCSE drama at school and I went to a dance and drama class once a week in the evenings. I wanted to get signed to Spotlight (London-based audition agency) because a kid at my school had. I was so envious when other kids I knew went to auditions.

“When I started modelling at eighteen I thought it would be an opportunity to get my foot in the door. Then I went through a phase where I thought the modelling did more harm than good. I was thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. Then I thought “Fuck it, this is what I want to do.”

The world of modelling, and in particular glamour, revolves around creating a brand and establishing a name that sells papers and magazines. I want to know how brand Keeley will affect her movie ambitions but what becomes apparent is if there is a ‘brand’ it is not something that sits easily with her. “They’re very different things; there is no room for it in acting. In modelling they build you up as this brand so they can put you up there to sell things. It’s weird, it’s nothing I ever aspired to be, I don’t want to live and breathe the Keeley who is in the papers. It’s difficult when you venture through into acting, people don’t know whether or not to take that brand and use it in a film. Venus and the Sun brings up a lot of these things; it takes glamour and fame and then plays with those ideas.

“When I first read the script it coincided with everything I was going through. I was trying to move on with my life and into acting – which in effect was my Latin in the film. There are a lot of levels to the film that bring up different points. I thought it was really smart as well. It is the hardest thing to get a short film that is interesting, funny and brings up so many thought-provoking points. It is very clever to do in 30 minutes.

One of the recurring features in modern film and TV is the inclusion of actors and/or celebrities playing themselves. And while this is often done for comical effect, think Extras or The Trip, they are usually established acts and can afford to open themselves up to public dissection. Is it brave of Keeley to play herself in her first role? “I had to detach the character from me; I had to play someone else who was appearing to be me. People see pictures of me and they think they know me; it’s very different to how I am – or at least I think it is.

“In the film we had to show the other side of celebrity. It’s hard to just be open, to just be me. I tried to see the character as an impulse version of me. I saw it that I was playing Venus and then chose things I liked to make it personal. In a way it was easier to play that part, not as much work, but I had to see it as someone else, not me.”

As we chat, it is Keeley’s total normality that shines through. She comes across as you would expect any young, ambitious woman to. She talks comfortably about the strangeness of staying at her Mum’s while she’s back in the UK after having her own space for so long, how she’s not sure she likes shepherds pie anymore, and how since she moved home her bank no longer sends her a diary. With such a relatively normal life friends and family must have a view on her career. “They haven’t really got to see things I’ve been in as they haven’t come out yet. The only person to see anything is my younger sister; she saw an early version of Venus and the Sun and thought it was hilarious.

“Everyone’s been really supportive and said, “If that’s what you want to do that’s great.” I went to a family party at the weekend after getting back from LA. A lot of people said, “I remember when you were younger and all you carried on about was this, I can see you doing it.” So it hasn’t been a surprise for a lot of older family members. It’ll be good to get feedback when they eventually see the film; my family will be very honest – people in the industry see things differently.”

Despite all this normality things could change very quickly as a number of projects are coming to screen in the next few months and with it an increase in publicity. Keeley played a supporting role in Like Crazy, winner of the grand jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “I haven’t even had a chance to see it yet as I’ve been so busy and the makers have been busy at Sundance. I’m desperate to see how I performed and how much screen time I’ve got. It will be really interesting as the whole film was improvised from a 50-page outline.”

With further roles coming up in How To Stop Being A Loser and St Georges Day this very serious career move is building momentum but Keeley remains grounded, “Everything I’m in at the moment is small parts. Baby steps but I’m really learning how things work.”

And how does Hollywood fit in with this desire to learn and become established while maintaining her normality. “LA is very strange; it’s like a factory that is the entertainment industry. Everyone is involved one way or another and you find yourself living and breathing it. Conversations with friends so often come back to films, “have you seen The Fighter” then you end up reeling off a list of films and offering a critique, “have you seen this actor, have you seen what they’re doing.” But then I think it seems more glamorous from the distance. I’m completely anonymous when I’m out there. To be honest I don’t find it that bad when I’m back here, a lot of people know me by name and hardly by face; I lead a very normal life here.”

And there we have it again, so often in our conversation Keeley comes across as being modest, having a normal life, not being recognised. She is very earnest in this and I believe her but how does this sit alongside her career as a glamour model and all the exposure (excuse the pun) that goes with that. “There is such a negative connotation to the term glamour model. The whole stereotype gives it a negativity which is why I prefer pin-up. It is funny how a word can change something but I do think there is a difference between pin-up and glamour model. Celebrity doesn’t interest me; it isn’t something I ever wanted and everything that came my way, like reality TV, I turned down. They still offer it to me. I think it baffles people as they think it’s the job I do, that it’s a money making machine and I should take anything that comes my way. That was never my intention, I can’t think of anything worse than just being known for being known.”

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Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2011 by The Boy Kicked Out At The World

The first album of 2011 that I’ve been desperate to hear, how can it match expectations. Zonoscope is the follow-up to 2008’s In Ghost Colours, an album so brilliant that it still sits high in my ever revolving list of greatest albums. I know that seems like high praise but the album stands tall as a cornerstone of dance/rock crossover, a success story that stands apart from many of drab attempts that have followed in its substantial wake.

It starts with Need You Now, a slice of genius that promises much – a solid gold classic that may one day be regarded as their best. The track touches on psychedelic influence that may hint at where this album should be heard – the festival field. Then they revert to type, new single Take Me Over could sit comfortably on In Ghost Colours, and while it isn’t bad it just feels too familiar.

The album contains some undoubted high points but at times it seems to drip into a diluted version of Cut Copy that clashes with the very reasons this band stood apart. While there is undoubtedly a pop sensibility that shines through there is also a shortage of standout moments. Where I’m Going is a pleasant enough song but it isn’t enough for a band of this ability.

Those hoping for a repeat of Lights And Music or Hearts On Fire may be disappointed. Having said that, the epic 15-minute closer Sun God is good enough to make you have another listen. And second time round the whole thing sounds better.

Best covers in the world ever #1

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2011 by The Boy Kicked Out At The World

The merit of cover versions can be debated forever. Some are new takes on old classics, some are faithful renditions of a forgotten gem, some are lazy rehashes. It’s up to you where you think this 2008 recording by Kitty, Daisy and Lewis sits but one thing it should do is put a big smile on your face. For the original check out Canned Heat’s 1968 album Living The Blues.

Creation Records – The story, the music, the film

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2011 by The Boy Kicked Out At The World

This spring sees the release of Upside Down, a new documentary charting the story of Creation Records. And with interest so high, founder Alan McGee has stated that discussions are underway for a new feature film which will further explore the myths and legends that surround the influential record label.

Founded in 1983 as a response to what McGee saw as ‘manufactured’ music that was dominating a scene that had risen following the success of late seventies punk and new wave bands. Creation was treading a similar path to Factory Records, itself immortalised in 2002 in Michael Winterbottoms 24-Hour Party People, and in many ways was more successful and influential.

The label gained a cult status in the late eighties through Jesus and the Mary Chain and Primal Scream. With an emphasis on its DIY ethic artists signed to creation were able to experiment with styles and ideas. Few labels would surely have found a place for My Bloody Valentines mix of distorted guitars, reverb and ethereal vocals. And while My Bloody Valentine gained near-legendary status, their success led to the Shoegaze scene, with leading lights Slowdive and Ride signing to Creation.  In another parallel with factory it was the rise of Acid House – which McGee and Creation’s leading lights enjoyed to the full – that led to a change in direction as dance influences crept in the labels roster of acts culminating in Primal Screams classic Screamadelica.

However, the label was threatened with bankruptcy after funding the two-year recording of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless in 1991 – once again mirroring Factory’s own financial crisis with the Happy Monday’s label-crippling Barbados recordings. Creation was able to enjoy a resurgence following the signing of Oasis and the critical and commercial success that first Definitely Maybe and then (What’s The Story) Morning Glory – the decade’s biggest selling album – enjoyed. In fact, McGee’s influence in mid-nineties Britpop Britain was deemed great enough for the Labour Party to employ his services as a figurehead for the youth-aimed media campaign in the run-up to the 1997 election.

Yet two years later rumours were circulating of McGee’s dissatisfaction with Creation. A once proud independent label had turned into a commercial machine that had enjoyed unprecedented success with some of the most influential acts of a generation. As the Nineties drew to a close it was announced that the label would close and how fitting that its final release was Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR – perhaps the first great album of the Noughties.

While this is where the creation story ends it is certainly not the end of McGee’s story. Within months he formed Poptones who signed The Hives – who helped kickstart the garage rock revival. His club night Death Disco enjoyed international success, he continued to publish songs by Creation acts and he managed a new generation of influential bands including The Libertines, Beta Band, Mogwai and The Kills.

Upside Down, which premiered in London last year, will be touring film festivals throughout 2011.

Creation Records – Six Of The Best

My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow from the album Loveless

Primal Scream – Loaded from the album Screamadelica

Ride – Twisterella from the album Going Blank again

Oasis – Live Forever from the album Definitely Maybe

Super Furry Animals – Northern Lites from the album Radiator

Primal Scream – Kill All Hippies from the album XTRMNTR

Pop songs that should have been more popular #29

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6, 2011 by The Boy Kicked Out At The World

Cult band record cinematic video for single from cinematic-styled album. Is it a bid for stardom; art-school pretension or a band doing just what they want and having fun with it. And while this statement that accompanied the album release doesn’t clear things up, few could argue with its view of pop music, and this is great pop music.

“All rock music is a sort of dramatic music. And since the times are tough, it makes sense to have that “drama” be something more like a version of Taxi than something like a version of Titanic. We like Taxi better than Titanic anyway. So we hope that some of the songs on this record can be used as theme songs to folk’s own personal versions of Taxi. Because—ideally—the dramatic setting of the music isn’t provided by the story or image of the given act or band. It’s provided by the lives of the people who use—listen to—the music. That is pop music’s promise and problem, or danger. So be careful and don’t get canceled.”

Return of The Go! Team

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2011 by The Boy Kicked Out At The World

One of Brighton’s finest exports return later this month with their eagerly anticipated third album, Rolling Blackouts. In support of this album will be a UK tour that promises to deliver even more than this unique band can ever truly produce on record.

While Ian Parton is the brains behind the band and largely responsible for squeezing such a diverse range of influences into their studio output, it is the irrepressible Ninja that drives their live shows through pure stage presence. Playing on the joyful blend of blaxploitation samples, distorted guitars and schoolyard chants, Ninja’s free-styling frontwomanship lifts The Go! Team to another level.

When The Go! Team burst from the studio in 2004 with their classic debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike, it was breath of fresh air for an indie scene that was caught-up in the Pete ‘n’ Carl (Libertines) saga and the idea that retro only consisted of Marquee Moon. What is most surprising is that The Go! Team still stand alone, and while it would be hard to brand them as original with such a dependence on the past, it is their choice of samples that sets them apart.

Album opener T.O.R.N.A.D.O sticks to their template and will surely be a high point at the inevitable festival shows this summer.  Secretary Song welcomes Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki to the party in what is the first of two inspired collaborations.  The second collaboration is the utterly excellent Buy Nothing Day featuring Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast fame which perfectly blends these very different artists interpretation of West Coast pop.

While this is not an album that is going to suddenly lift The Go! Team to superstardom it should win them a wider audience. And if you get the chance, see them live. It may just be a highlight of 2011.

Three alternative Christmas songs

Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 by The Boy Kicked Out At The World

Sick of Slade, Wizzard or even The Pogues. No, I’m not sure I am either, it is Christmas after all; the season of tradition, nostalgia and bickering because “that’s how we do Christmas in our house”. Still, if you are after something a bit different, here are three festive crackers.