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L.A. SLASHER: Director Martin Owen On The Making Of A New Horror Icon

L.A. SLASHER: Director Martin Owen On The Making Of A New Horror Icon

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Written, directed and produced by Martin Owen, “L.A. Slasher” brings death to reality TV in his directorial debut. This director on the rise initially joined the industry as a performer but decided to make the jump to a position behind the camera. His short film success paved the way for the next step in his career working in music videos, idents and commercials. Logging years behind the camera allowed him to establish a clear identity as a director, creating work with an edgy shot choice and vivid color palette but at no point jeopardizing the narrative; all of which are showcased in in his full-length feature film debut — ‘L.A. Slasher.’

Incensed by the tabloid culture which celebrates it, the L.A. Slasher publicly abducts a series of reality TV stars, while the media and general public in turn begin to question if society is better off without them. A biting, social satire about reality TV and the glorification of people who are famous for simply being famous, “L.A. Slasher” explores why it has become acceptable, even admirable, for people to become influential and wealthy based on no merit or talent – purely through notoriety achieved through shameful behavior. The film boasts an ensemble cast featuring Dave Bautista (of the blockbuster hit “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Mischa Barton (“The O.C.”), Eric Roberts (“The Dark Knight”), Drake Bell (“Drake & Josh”), Brooke Hogan (“Hogan Knows Best”), Tori Black (“Not Another Celebrity Movie”) and Marisa Lauren (“Superhero Movie”), with the voice of Andy Dick (“News Radio”) as the L.A. Slasher.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with director Martin Owen to discuss the making of “L.A. Slasher,” the challenges involved in bringing it to life and what he has in store for us in the near future!

Director Martin Owen

Director Martin Owen

Lets go back to the your beginnings for a moment. How did you get your start in the film industry?

I actually started on the other side of the camera. When I was younger, I wanted to be an actor and I did that but, at a very early stage in my career, I became aware that I was more suited for the other side. I think I came to that realization because I am a bit of a control freak and I prefer telling people what to do rather than being told what to do. [laughs] That is how I cut my teeth in the industry. I was fortunate enough to make a lot of contacts and friends. I found my way into making short films, commercials and those sort of things. Ultimately, that was the start of my journey toward making my first feature film, which was “L.A. Slasher.” That is my career very succinctly, in a nutshell! [laughs]

When it comes to other filmmakers, who had a big impact on you early on?

Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors but the most influential director for me, when it comes to decision making as a director, is John Carpenter. His commitment to making the type of films he wanted to make was a big inspiration to me as a director.

How did the idea for “L.A. Slasher” come about?

The movie came about from the idea of exploring the idea of modern celebrity culture in terms of people wanting to be famous for being famous. I find that to be pretty fascinating. I don’t personally have any deep-seeded hatred for reality TV stars and the concept isn’t coming from a secret place of anger. [laughs] I am just fascinated with this whole reality/celebrity machine. That is at the core of the movie in terms of what it is about. The movie is very much a nod to the slasher movies of the ‘80s.

'L.A. Slasher'

‘L.A. Slasher’

Did you have any particular goals or aspirations you wanted to achieve with your feature film debut?

I really wanted to, and probably always will, make movies that I would like watch. I think it would be difficult for me to make a movie to appease all audiences and keep everyone happy. I have no real interest in making movies that people see and say, “Oh, that was OK.” For every one person that loves the movie, there will be a person that hates the movie. That is sort of the movie I wanted to create. A great example of this is a product we have here in the UK called Marmite. Marmite is a spread on toast. You literally love it or you hate it. It has a weird and unique taste, so that is probably the best way to describe my filmmaking! [laughs]

You landed a wonderfully talented cast for this film. Was it difficult to find the right mix of people to embody these roles? What other challenges did you face on your first feature?

Getting the cast was a big challenge for us. It was a mix of casting people who gave a slight nod to characters in the way of art imitating life, should we stay. Then I also wanted to cast some people who were great for the roles, talented people who people didn’t know. In the end, I think we got a good blend of new talent and existing talent who are well suited to the roles.

As you mentioned, “L.A. Slasher” borrows a bit from some great slasher films of the ‘80s. When you are creating a new horror icon, is it difficult to get the right look for the character?

The L.A. Slasher

The L.A. Slasher

Absolutely! We tried all sorts of things. Sometimes, I feel the best way to find the right answer is to find the wrong answer first. We definitely found a whole bunch of things we didn’t like. Everything we tried early on felt quite cliche, which was incredibly frustrating. Finally, we came up with an idea and Brittany, who was our costume designer, said, “What about putting him in a white suit?” We had a conversation early on about putting him in a suit because it borrows from the ‘80s, we were thinking “Miami Vice.” It quickly became, “Why not put him in a white suit!” I could tell you we had all of these cool, deep and meaningful reasons for why white looked best and it could be a metaphorical anti-hero angel who descends upon Los Angeles to wipe out all of these terrible people. However, it came down to a white suit splattered in blood! I thought that would look great! [laughs] I would love to give you a deep and meaningful reason but I would be a liar! I just thought it would look fantastic!

Andy did plays an interesting part in the film as the voice of the killer. How did his involvement come about?

It was strange. We had always planned to cast The Slasher’s voice at the very end. We wanted to get everything else down and right to make sure we knew the identity of The Slasher to help us find the right person. I can’t remember who mentioned it but his name did come up early on. At the time, I dismissed it because it didn’t make sense to me. As the character formed and we nailed down his identity, it became more clear. The Slasher had this slightly odd and comedic element to him, so when Andy Dick’s name came back up, it made total sense to me! Having him play this part is another case of art imitating life.

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Looking back on the project, what were the biggest challenges you faced with your first feature? Did you learn any lessons that will carry forward to future projects?

Getting the cast was a big challenge for us. It was a mix of casting people who gave a slight nod to characters in the way of art imitating life, should we say. Then I also wanted to cast some people who were great for the roles, talented people who people didn’t know. In the end, I think we got a good blend of new talent existing talent who are well suited to the roles. For an indie movie, the rules are don’t have a lot of locations and don’t have a big cast. For “L.A. Slasher,” we had a huge cast and a whole bunch of locations! [laughs] Being overly ambitious and constantly pushing ourselves to get every cent out of the budget was a challenge. You want to get the best out of yourself, so you push yourself. Looking back on the project, there were so many things that had me pulling my hair out but I would absolutely do it all over again. Long haul, everything I took from the experience were things I can build on for future projects. On a more practical note, I am always looking to improve what I am doing from a workflow perspective. I just shot my second feature film. I feel you are always growing as a director. You have to be!

'L.A. Slasher'

‘L.A. Slasher’

What can you tell us about your second feature film?

The second film is a science fiction thriller called “Let’s Be Evil.” It is about of group of children who the U.S. government workflowing augmented reality glasses from a group of kids. They are trying to improve the U.S. education system with these glasses. It flows these adult chaperones who are there at the facility to observe and things do not go as planned. The movie is very much a concept movie. Once the characters put the glasses on, the movie is entirely shot in point of view style. It has definitely been a challenge! The whole movie was lit practically with LED lighting on all of the sets.

Wow! Sounds ambitious to say the least! You certainly like to dive in head first! [laughs]

Oh yeah! Exactly! To answer your earlier question, I did not learn any lessons! [laughs] I just do it again and again! It has been a lot of fun filming that picture and I am really excited for people to see it when it is finished.

It is definitely inspiring to see what you are doing with your career. What is the best advice you can pass on to aspiring filmmakers?

Just keep going! Try not to look at the tenth rung on the ladder and concentrate on the first one. If you get to the first rung, the tenth one will come very quickly. I think I spent a lot of time in my 20s always trying to get to the tenth rung on the ladder. Had I tried to get to the first one by doing it right and focusing on one thing, it would have ultimately moved things along much quicker.

Thanks so much for your time today, Martin. I really enjoyed the film and thought it was definitely a fun ride. I can’t wait to see what you bring our way in the years to come!

Thank you, Jason! I really appreciate your time and kind words.

The L.A. Slasher is bringing DEATH TO REALITY TV. The film hits select AMC theaters June 26th. Check out the official website of the film at www.laslashermovie.com. Connect with the film via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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THE DANDY DEVIL: Director Tom Six Discusses ‘The Human Centipede’ Trilogy!

THE DANDY DEVIL: Director Tom Six Discusses ‘The Human Centipede’ Trilogy!

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Love him or hate him, you can’t deny director Tom Six created a pop culture phenomenon with his dark concept — The Human Centipede. His films continue to polarize audiences and spawn legions of dedicated fans around the globe. Weathering the storms of success and criticism, Six remained focused, inspired and unwilling to bend to pressure from the censors. In talking to Tom Six, several things become clear: his passion to create original content, his love for the horror genre and its dedicated fanbase and his passion for filmmaking. Now is the time for him to unleash the final piece in his disturbing trilogy, “The Human Centipede: Final Sequence.” The film focuses on bully prison warden Bill Boss (“The Human Centipede Part I’s” Dieter Laser). He is a man with many problems, prison riots, medical costs, staff turnover, but foremost he is unable to get the respect he thinks he deserves from his inmates and the state governor (Eric Roberts). He constantly fails in experimenting with different ideas for the ideal punishment to get the inmates in line, which drives him completely insane. Under threats of termination by the governor, his loyal right hand man Dwight (“The Human Centipede Part II’s” Laurence R. Harvey) comes up with a brilliant idea. An idea based on the notorious “Human Centipede” movies, that will literally and figuratively get the inmates on their knees, creating the ultimate punishment and deterrent for anyone considering a life of crime. The film serves as Six’s most ambitious, challenging and button-pushing project to date. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Tom Six to discuss the origin of “The Human Centipede,” the success of the franchise, his evolution as a director and where his dark imagination will take him next!

Director Tom Six

Director Tom Six

Let’s go back to the beginning and focus on your early years. What was it that intrigued early in life about the world of filmmaking?

When I was a little boy, I walked around with my grandfather’s 8MM camera. I was fascinated by making my own little films. I saw tons of films in the theater as well. I think it is like a virus. I don’t know where it comes from but, when people have that, they just want to make movies! I really want to dedicate my life to making movies. I started out in television but there came a time when I had to quit. I said, “I have to quit. I want to make movies.” My sister, who was in law school, we said, “We are going to make movies!” That is how we started!

Ultimately, that decision would pay off and lead you to the creation of a cult phenomenon. How did the concept for “The Human Centipede” come about?

One time I saw cowboys on television and one was a really nasty guy. He got a very low punishment. I was with a couple of friends and said, “They should stitch his mouth to the anus of a fat truck driver! That would be a proper punishment.” Everybody was like, “My God! What kind of imagination is that!” That idea kept lingering in my head and I thought it might be a genius idea for a horror film. Starting from that idea, you can imagine, it was really tough to get it off the ground. You have to be like a heavyweight boxer. You have to fight investors, censors and the whole gang to make it happen. As you can imagine, it was a rough pass but I believed in it so much and I believe it will be a virus that will spread over the whole world once it is out there.

What do you think it is about these films that resonates so greatly with audiences?

It is the idea of punishment. You can imagine colleagues from work or anyone being put into a Human Centipede. It is a sadistic pleasure. You can imagine your own person in a Human Centipede which gives you much more pleasures, whether it is friends you hate or people you hate. The idea of being attached to someone’s anus and having to live on the turds of another person, is very sadistic, crazy and out there that it sticks in your head. It is so global, from Japan to Australia to Chile and so on. Everyone has that same reaction to it and I think that is why it is so successful, I think.

'The Human Centipede: Final Sequence'

‘The Human Centipede: Final Sequence’

“The Human Centipede: Final Sequence” is the final entry in this franchise. Did you have goals you wanted to achieve as a director with this film?

Yes! What I wanted to do is be original. When I had the idea of making a trilogy, I wanted each film to be completely different in style, way of acting and look because I want to challenge myself. I think a lot of sequels or films that get made are just films that are the same one done again and a lot of times even worse. I think it is great to get a fresh start, so part two is totally different than part one. Part three is so much different than parts one and two. This time I really wanted to go out with a bang! I wanted to go full force and do it XXL American style! It is all shot in a very Hollywood kind of way, the music is very Hollywood and I hadn’t made a film like that! It was a big pleasure to make!

What can you tell us about the casting of this film and how the process changed since you started out on this trilogy?

You can imagine the casting for part one was so hard! Once the popularity started, everybody wanted to be in “The Human Centipede.” I had no problem at all! Everyone wanted to be on their hands and knees! When I went out looking for actors for part three, we had so many offers from actors saying, “I want to be in! I want to be in!” It was amazing! This time I needed so many actors to be in the Human Centipede, so it was good to have so many requests from actors and extras. Finding the amount of people was no problem at all. For example, Eric Roberts was very easy to convince to play the part. I think he was made for this part because he loved the films so much. He knew about the films and he wanted to be on board. I had no trouble at all getting the right people for part three. Part one was a whole different story! [laughs]

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Looking back on the trilogy, what is the biggest thing you learned about yourself as a director?

I never bow for censorship. There are a lot of people who will tell you, you should not make the film so horrible so you could maybe reach a bigger audience or things like that. I always stay with my own ideas and I never censor myself. As an artist, I just want to do the film I want to make. I don’t think art should be a democracy. This is really my baby and everything that is in there is because of me and from me, which is the highest goal for me as a director and a writer can achieve.

Was there anything you might not have been able to achieve with these films?

No. Absolutely everything I wrote down I made! There was no holding back whatsoever. I was able to make everything! You can imagine, sometimes you have to convince actors to play it because there are some troubling things in there. If you are charming and know exactly what you want and can prepare the actors for it, they want to do it! I had no trouble getting my things done at all!

Filmmaker Tom Six

Filmmaker Tom Six

Obviously, “The Human Centipede” trilogy features some disturbing content. Do you think that leads to misconceptions about you as a person?

People are really taken off guard when they see me. When they see me I am always dressed like a dandy. I did that from the time I was a little boy. They can’t believe I made these films! Lots of time people who made horror movies wear black, have long hair and look like hard rock fans or something. For me, I like contrast! I think I am a dandy devil, which is a nice exterior but, on the inside, it is very dark and very sick! I can’t help that. It is my natural way of thinking. I think that is a little bit awkward for the audience to understand but I think, for them, it is also fascinating. I am very proud of that contrast. In my work, it is like this, you absolutely hate me or you absolutely love me. There is nothing in between. There is no grey area. I wouldn’t want that because I think it would be terrible if the audience is indifferent about your work. I love that I get such strong reactions to me and my films.

How have you most evolved as a director throughout your journey?

With each film, you learn new things. That is the cool thing about it! With each film, you progress and fine tune your way of working. I think the flow of working with the films became much more easy to do. You obviously get better and better at your job the more you do it. That is a good thing, so I can’t wait to go to my next project that will be even better than “The Human Centipede.”

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Where do you see yourself headed in the near future?

Oh, yeah! I always want to explore the dark sides of humanity. I would never direct a romantic comedy or something like that! I like the dark side but with a lot of black humor in it! I think humor is very important. Some people see “The Human Centipede” trilogy as comedies, like myself. I really appreciate that. I am working now on “The Onania Club,” which is a psychological horror film with a lot of comical elements but it will be very disturbing. It is a very original concept, which again, people have not seen before. I can’t tell you exactly what the plot is yet but it will stir up the world again! I bet I get a lot of strong reactions to that one!

Tom Six

Tom Six

Where are you in the process and when might we expect this new project?

We hope to shoot this at the end of the year or the beginning of the next year. It will definitely open by the end of next year.

What can you tell us about the support you received from horror fans? What has that been like?

It has been incredible! I absolutely love the genre fans! They are so dedicated! They have tattoos, make cakes with “Human Centipede” things on them and so on. I am very humbled because the fans have been the ones who have made me so huge. It is very important to acknowledge that! They are so dedicated and I absolutely love that. I don’t want to have other audiences because these fans are the absolute best.

How do you feel about the current state of the horror industry?

I am very disappointed by the unoriginality. It is all about remakes or cheap rip-offs. I am sad that there aren’t more original concepts out there. In the ‘80s, there were so many original things but today it is hard to find original movies. I must be honest, I don’t see many horror films anymore because they don’t spark me in the way they once did. I usually look for comedies and documentaries these days but hardly any horror films.

You are a self-made man and the driving force behind your own content. What is the best lesson we can learn from the story of Tom Six and your journey so far?

Tom Six

Tom Six

I think you should always write your own work. Write, direct and produce, if possible. When you write, you should always aim for originality. I would say to young writers, if you write something down that resembles something else or is a copy of something else, burn your script immediately! It will take longer but when you find something original, you know the world will be pleased to see something new and you will be noticed. If you make another film about a guy with a chainsaw chasing teenagers, you know it won’t be picked up because it has been done before you and, most of the time, it has been done better. Come up with something original and then direct it yourself so you don’t have to compromise with studios or other people who fuck up your ideas. Then go to the festival circuit. If it is original and out there, you will get noticed! That is the most important tip!

Thanks again for you time, Tom. I really appreciate your honesty and originality. I wish you continued success!

Thank you, Jason! I appreciate your continued support!

‘The Human Centipede [Final Sequence] opens in theaters & on VOD May 22, 2015. Follow Tom Six on Twitter and learn more about him at www.paintfartsbytomsix.com.

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New Trailer For ‘The Human Centipede Part 3: Final Sequence’ Unveiled

New Trailer For ‘The Human Centipede Part 3: Final Sequence’ Unveiled

'The Human Centipede 3'

‘The Human Centipede 3’

On of horror’s most memorable franchises is headed back to theaters. Check out the theatrical trailer debut of IFC Midnight’s new film THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3 (FINAL SEQUENCE) directed by Tom Six and starring Dieter Laser, Laurence R. Harvey, Eric Roberts and Bree Olson.

The film will be released theatrically and on VOD/digital streaming services starting Friday, May 22nd. 

Synopsis: Bully prison warden Bill Boss (The Human Centipede Part I’s Dieter Laser) has a lot of problems; prison riots, medical costs, staff turnover, but foremost he is unable to get the respect he thinks he deserves from his inmates and the state Governor (Eric Roberts). He constantly fails in experimenting with different ideas for the ideal punishment to get the inmates in line, which drives him completely insane. Under threats of termination by the Governor, his loyal right hand man Dwight (The Human Centipede Part II’s Laurence R Harvey) comes up with a brilliant idea. An idea based on the notorious Human Centipede movies, that will literally and figuratively get the inmates on their knees, creating the ultimate punishment and deterrent for anyone considering a life of crime. 

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Keaton Simons Releases Live Performance of “Beautiful Pain”

Keaton Simons Releases Live Performance of “Beautiful Pain”

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To celebrate the release of his new album Beautiful Pain, Keaton Simons has just released a live performance of the single “Beautiful Pain.” The clip can be seen here. The clip features Keaton accompanied by his full band, bassist Darwin Johnson, and drummer Paul Allen. Fans can purchase Beautiful Pain on Amazon or iTunesand can stream the album in full here.

Recently, Keaton premiered the visually stunning video for current single “Beautiful Pain.” The video was directed by Nick Spanos and executive produced by long time friend, and star of the Showtime series Californication, David Duchovny. The video can be seen here.

“This song has tremendous personal meaning to me. I wanted to show the extraordinary side of real, everyday people, and illustrate that love is worth fighting for,” said Simons when asked about the video’s concept.

Keaton will be performing two record release shows in NYC and DC on the following dates:

Wednesday May 15th @ The Bitter End, NYC NY
9:00-10:00PM; $10 / 18+

Sunday, June 2nd at Jammin’ Java
227 Maple Ave E | Vienna, VA 22180
7:30pm, all ages, $10 advance/$15 day of

To stay current on all things Keaton Simons be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Keaton Simons Releases ‘Beautiful Pain,’ Appearing On AXS TV Tonight!

Keaton Simons Releases ‘Beautiful Pain,’ Appearing On AXS TV Tonight!

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Former Maverick and CBS recording artist Keaton Simons has just released his new album, titled Beautiful Pain. The album was co-produced by Mikal Blue (Colbie Caillat, One Republic) and mastered by Gavin Lurssen of Lurssen Mastering. The album features co-writes with friends and peers Jason Mraz, Jason Reeves, and Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) amongst others. Fans can purchase the album on Amazon and iTunes, and can stream the album in full here.

Earlier this month Keaton premiered the visually gorgeous video for current single “Beautiful Pain.” The video was directed by Nick Spanos and executive produced by long time friend, and star of the Showtime series Californication, David Duchovny. The video can be seen here.

“This song has tremendous personal meaning to me. I wanted to show the extraordinary side of real, everyday people, and illustrate that love is worth fighting for,” said Simons when asked about the video’s concept.

Keaton recently announced a string of record release shows in Los Angeles, NYC, and the Washington DC area.

Show details are as follows:

Saturday May 4th @ The Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles CA
10:30-11:45PM; $10 / 21+

Wednesday May 15th @ The Bitter End, NYC NY
9:00-10:00PM; $10 / 18+

Sunday, June 2nd at Jammin’ Java
227 Maple Ave E | Vienna, VA 22180
7:30pm, all ages, $10 advance/$15 day of

Keaton will also be doing a very special live performance on AXS TV today (April 30th) at 7PM PST / 10PM EST. Go towww.axs.tv/subscribe for channel listings and to see if your cable provider carries AXS TV.

To stay current on all things Keaton Simons be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Keaton Simons Teams Up With David Duchovny For “Beautiful Pain” Video

Keaton Simons Teams Up With David Duchovny For “Beautiful Pain” Video

Keaton Simons

Keaton Simons

Former Maverick and CBS recording artist Keaton Simons has just released a video for current single “Beautiful Pain”. The video was directed by Nick Spanos and executive produced by long time friend, David Duchovny.

“This song has tremendous personal meaning to me. I wanted to show the extraordinary side of real, everyday people, and illustrate that love is worth fighting for,” said Simons when asked about the video’s concept.

“Beautiful Pain” is available on iTunes here.

Beautiful Pain (available April 30th) was co-produced by Mikal Blue (Colbie Caillat, One Republic) and mastered by Gavin Lurssen of Lurssen Mastering. The album features co-writes with friends and peers Jason Mraz, Jason Reeves, and Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) amongst others.

Keaton will be performing a free all-ages show this Saturday (April 6th) at Universal City Walk in Los Angeles. He has also just announced two very special NYC and LA record release shows. Dates and details are as follows:

Saturday May 4th @ The Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles CA
10:30-11:45PM; $10 / 21+

Wednesday May 15th @ The Bitter End, NYC NY
9:00-10:00PM; $10 / 18+

To stay current on all things Keaton Simons be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Beautiful Pain: Keaton Simons Discusses The Creation Of His New Album

Beautiful Pain: Keaton Simons Discusses The Creation Of His New Album

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Keaton Simons is truly what the Los Angeles Times terms “a triple threat.” He captivates audiences with an authentic voice, compelling and soul-baring songs, and a true command of both acoustic and electric guitars in every genre. The energy and passion that Keaton brings to his work (whether in the studio or performing live) are as infectious and stirring as his lyrics and melodies. This multi-faceted artist is gearing up for the release of his sophomore full-length album “Beautiful Pain,” co-produced with Mikal Blue (Colbie Caillat, One Republic) and mastered by Gavin Lurssen of Lurssen Mastering. Beautiful Pain also includes co-writes with friends and peers Jason Mraz, Jason Reeves, Glen Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket) and Mikal Blue among others. The highly-anticipated album will be released in the Spring on Keaton’s newly formed label, Best Revenge Records. The label’s marketing efforts will be headed up by Croshal Entertainment Group, who have assisted a number of prominent independent releases including those by Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Collective Soul, Elliot Yamin and Gnarls Barkley amongst many others.

A regular in The Hotel Café singer/songwriter circuit, Keaton Simons has been recognized by Examiner.com as achieving “cult-like” status in his hometown of Los Angeles, CA. But as most know, Keaton is far from being just an ”L.A. guy” let alone a “new artist” on the mainstream map. His debut EP Currently was released on Maverick Records in 2004 and his debut full-length album “Can You Hear Me” was released on CBS Records in 2008. Since then, he has toured nationally and internationally, opening for Coldplay, Train, Guster and REO Speedwagon amongst others. He has also worked as a writer, musical director, singer, bassist and guitarist with such notable acts as Gnarls Barkley, Snoop Dogg, Josh Kelley and Tre Hardson (The Pharcyde.) In addition, Keaton’s music has been heard in dozens of feature films and television shows, including “Sons of Anarchy,” “Private Practice,” “NCIS,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Numb3rs” and “Hollywood Heights.” His stellar live performances have landed him spots on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and “Last Call with Carson Daly.” In 2011 Keaton appeared on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew alongside stepfather, actor Eric Roberts, who was a patient. A performance of his song “Unstoppable” on the show resulted in over 10,000 iTunes downloads in only two days.

Keaton Simons and Best Revenge Records have a big year planned for 2013, beginning with the release of “Beautiful Pain,” the first single and title track of the new record. Fans can also expect to see Keaton back on tour throughout the US, performing both solo acoustic and with his full band at a venue near you. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this inspiring artist for a quick Q&A to learn more about the creation of his powerful new album, songwriting process, influences and much more!

Keaton Simons

Keaton Simons

What are your first memories of music in your life?

My first memories are of hearing my mom sing and play Joni Mitchell’s songs on the piano.

Who would you cite as your biggest influences as an artist?

The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters.

What made you pursue music as a career instead of going a different route?

Just sheer passion. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to play and make music for the rest of my life.

Your latest album is titled “Beautiful Pain”. How did you arrive at this title and what does it mean to you personally?

“Beautiful Pain” is the feeling of being so overwhelmed by beauty and/or love that it hurts. It’s something that I’ve experienced all of my life, and only now figured out how to put it into words.

What can you tell us about the writing process for this album and your songwriting process in general?

When I write songs I’m wide open. I love writing alone, with other people. Had the opportunity to do some great co-writes on this album including “Is There Any Other Way” with Jason Mraz and “Gonna Shine Brighter” with Glen Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket). Every time I write a song I let out a sign of relief because it feels like a small miracle.

Are you an artist who is always writing? If so, what do you find inspiring you these days?

I’m always thinking about writing new songs and messing around with ideas in my head. I have a song on “Beautiful Pain,” which my dear friend Tyler Hilton is singing with me, called “Inspiration.” The lyrics are, “If you want to find inspiration, let it find you…” I try to just leave myself wide open and let it enter me.

Keaton Simons

Keaton Simons

For the album, you worked with producer Mikal Blue. How did you two originally cross paths and what did he bring to the table for this project and bring out of you as an artist?

After being aware of each other for years, Mikal Blue and I were formally introduced by Angelique Sheppard and David Garner of GreenRoots Productions. Mikal brought a tremendous musicality and sensibility to the project, as well as a gorgeous recording studio in Thousand Oaks, CA. He and I are both huge Beatles fans, and became close friends immediately. He hooked me up with some great writers like Shari Short, who I co-wrote “Hearts Don’t Break Themselves” with, as well as Josh Zegan, co-writer for “Thrill Of It All.”

You have some impressive cowries on this album with the likes of Jason Mraz, Jason Reeves and Glen Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket). Can you tell us a little about the creation of those songs?

A few years ago I was invited by my friends, the band Hanson, to a writing retreat that they host called Fools Banquet. There were a ton of great artists and writers there including Jason Mraz who I co-wrote “Is There Any Other Way” with on the album. One night Jason and I found ourselves awake at 4AM, wanting to write a song that tackled the concept of feeling alone. We asked ourselves, “How do you feel about yourself when you’re not concerned about other people’s opinions of you?” That kind of lead to a larger concept and the song very naturally flowed out as a true collaboration. We’ve been friends ever since.

As an artist, what was the biggest challenge you encountered during the making of “Beautiful Pain”?

The biggest challenge was choosing which songs to cut from the album; a good problem to have, but difficult nonetheless. The good news is, they’ll find a home really soon!

What is the biggest thing you have you learned about yourself while putting the album together?

Recording this album allowed me to rediscover my love and passion for all different instruments, and give me a boost of confidence to play them. With the exception of the drums, which are played masterfully by the amazing Robin DiMaggio, as well as some other special guests like Alex Al on bass and Zac Rae on keys, I played everything on “Beautiful Pain.”

Keaton Simons

Keaton Simons

You have also worked as a writer, musical director, singer, bassist and guitarist with such notable acts as Gnarls Barkley, Snoop Dogg, Josh Kelley and Tre Hardson (The Pharcyde.) What jumps out at you as the most memorable experience working with talented artists such as these?

One of the most memorable experiences of my life was dressing up as a scarecrow and performing with Gnarls Barkley at Coachella. Working with Cee Lo Green and everyone else in that band was incredible and awe-inspiring.

As an artist based out of Los Angeles. What is the current state of the music scene there? Anything you see that you find inspiring?

I think the state of the music scene in LA is fantastic, and I find a lot of things inspiring. There are a few venues in particular, Hotel Café in Hollywood and Witzend in Venice, that are fostering a scene for up and coming artists. They’re doing an extraordinary job supporting and fostering talent.

As everyone does, you have surely had your share of ups and downs along the way. Looking back on your body of work so far, what do you consider your biggest milestone to date?

Starting my own record label, Best Revenge Records, and releasing this new album on it is a pretty huge milestone for me, both personally and professionally. Everything I’m doing right now is a true culmination of everything that brought me here; I’m able to apply elements of all that I’ve learned over the years, including the ups and downs of past major label deals.

How do you feel you have evolved as an artist since you first started out?

I always say that if I’m not better today than I was yesterday, then I’m doing something wrong. My goal is to continuously evolve in everyway for the rest of my life!

What do you hope that people come away with after seeing your live show?

I hope that people feel inspired, connected, enlivened, loved and hungry for more.

Keaton Simons

Keaton Simons

When might we expect to see you on the road in support of the album?

As soon as possible! I have some dates coming up, including April 6th at Universal City Walk in Los Angeles, April 11th in Denver at The Soiled Dove Underground, and June 6-8th in Outer Banks, North Carolina at Pat McGee’s Down The Hatch festival.

It seems like almost everybody has one. Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap Moment” on stage where something totally unexpected has happened?

I was in Seattle a few years ago playing Hemp Fest. This one guy jumped up on the stage while I was playing and completely passed out. The security guards, who I’m assuming were stoned at the time, didn’t even notice, so in the middle of my song with one hand on the guitar, I went over to check his vitals. He was all good!

You have opened and worked with for some huge names in the industry. What is the best piece of advice someone has given you along the way that you can pass along to artists looking to to someone who wants to pursue a career in music?

The entire conversation is too much to include here, but to paraphrase, Joni Mitchell once said to me to keep it real and everything will be cool. I definitely take that to heart.

In your opinion, what does the future hold for Keaton Simons? Both long term and short?

The future for Keaton Simons is full of music. Writing music, performing, traveling the world, performing, meeting and connecting with people along the way, learning and exploring!

Anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go?

I appreciate you guys more and more every day. I hope to see you soon!

Keaton will be performing a very special free show at Universal City Walk on April 6th.

To stay current on all things Keaton Simons, be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter. His official website is located at www.keatonsimons.com.

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Norman Reedus and Mark Boone Jr. Shine In ‘The Beatnicks’

Norman Reedus and Mark Boone Jr. Shine In ‘The Beatnicks’

A decade after its initial release, writer/director Nicholson Williams’ film, The Beatnicks, is finally headed to DVD on on April 6th, 2010. It is rare in the entertainment industry that an overlooked independent film gets a second life years after it’s released, but unique journeys are what this film is all about.

The story focuses on the Beat Nicks, a musician Nick Nero (Norman Reedus) and poet Nick Beat (Mark Boone Junior) who make their home in the very laid back, quirky, dreamlike version of Los Angeles. Together they spend their days living hand to mouth, honing their craft and chasing their dream to become the next big thing on the hipster scene. The tide begins to turn for duo when they unearth a strange box on the beach, which contains the power to captivate any audience. With their discovery, the wheels of fate are set in motion and it seems that the duo is on there way to the top. Along the way Nick Nero crosses paths with a mysterious woman who is the fiancé of mafioso nightclub owner Mack Drake (Eric Roberts), while Nick Beat exchanges existential back and forths with a new agey restaurant owner. The road to success is a long, strange trip that leads our heroes to the bottom before they get their final shot at the gig of a lifetime and can return the box to its source.

Fan demand for this film is what brought it to DVD and for good reason. The biggest treat that the film provides are the incredible performances put in by Norman Reedus (The Boondock Saints) and Mark Boone Junior (Sons of Anarchy). Both actors bring a realness and humor to their characters that endear them to the viewer and make them spring from the screen. In my opinion, both have been overlooked by Hollywood in the past decade. However, in the time since the film’s release, both Norman Reedus and Mark Boone Junior have continued to grow in their craft. ‘The Beatnicks’ provides one of the first glimpses of their depth and range as actors. There is something to be said for hard work and dedication. It is something that makes you stand out in your field. Judging from their more recent work, both actors are making the Hollywood system take notice and seem primed to tackle even more ambitious projects. If you’re looking for a unique independent film, with a interesting style and soundtrack, ‘The Beatnicks’ is definitely worth your time.

Rating: 4/5

Be sure to check out the official site for The Beatnicks at www.thebeatnicks.com. Be sure to add the flick to your queue on Netflix, or pre-order now on Amazon.

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