Nick Pittom talks about developing for Oculus Rift and his Studio Ghibli’s Demos

Nick Pittom worked freelance in Video Editing, Motion Graphics and Visual Effects. He wrote, directed and edited a short film called ‘PROTO’, which appeared at the London Short Film Festival and Sci-Fi London Film Festival. He is currently creating Virtual Reality experiences, with two small demos currently released for the Oculus Rift, based on Studio Ghibli films “My Neighbor Totoro”‘ and “Spirted Away”. He is also working on a full VR game called ‘Crystal Rift’, with Jon Hibbins, which is expected to be released some time early next year. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Nick about developing for Oculus Rift and his Studio Ghibli demos.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your work with Oculus Rift VR gaming?
Nick Pittom: I’d started playing around with the idea of making games with Unity3D, a game engine, and working up some prototypes, but it was after seeing the Rift and people’s reaction to it that I ordered one. After getting to try out the demos that had been made that I decided this was the direction to go on. I’d been trying to get into making films for a while and I suddenly realized that perhaps VR could be an exciting new way to tell stories and build experiences in a way that I could carve out my own path, and it’s going quite so far. I started out making some demos, and after getting some attention from them I’ve moved over into making full games and more substantial experiences. The final consumer version of the kit is some time next year so I hope to have a couple of things ready to go by then.

MG: You have made demos from Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” and My Neighbor Tortoro”; what made you want to recreate these classic scenes?
NP: Starting out working up VR demos I wanted to create something that would grab people right away. I had a big enough challenge creating something that worked in VR, so choosing something that already had great art direction seemed a good way of avoiding some big problems. From there I needed something that was not realistic, as my own level of experience and the technical restrictions of VR would make that problematic, so it felt natural to take something like a cartoon and make it 3D, which would be quite an original take for those films and also for VR. Studio Ghibli has such an awesome style it felt like a natural fit and with Spirited Away being my first film of theirs I decided to go with that. I needed a scene that was enclosed, to keep things contained and manageable, but also recognizable and the Boiler Room was perfect. I first hoped to just make the location, but as I created it I realized it was painfully empty without the other characters, so added in the soot sprites and then quickly Kamaji. The latest version of the Boiler Room also has Chihiro, which was good fun to make! I quickly moved on and realized Totoro would be the most obvious choice to go next, as it’s effectively the mascot for Ghibli. The bus stop scene itself is iconic and had to be the scene to make, including both Totoro and Catbus, both iconic in their own rights. The Boiler Room is not interactive in any way so I felt I had to include something for the player to do and so of course handing over the umbrella became the obvious choice. Really most of the choices with both the demos wrote themselves!

MG: How much time went into each of these demos?
NP: The Boiler Room I got through pretty quickly, getting it out in 6 weeks in all, Kamaji himself I managed to pull together in three or four days. But Totoro was much harder. Being exterior the trees and landscape are not as simple in Unity3D and it has it’s own system that can be tricky at times, certainly less flexible than plain geometry of walls and floors. The animation however was where things got tricky. I modeled and textured the characters, but for that demo I managed to get an awesome animator called Keith Sizemore to help out. He did a great job, as you can see in the demos, but we had some real challenges getting the animations to go over to Unity3D from Maya where they were animated. There’s some tricky technical elements involved in how characters are rigged and set up, and many ways the software can choose to mess that up. But I think perhaps two and half months start to finish for that. All of this was done in my spare time outside of work.

MG: Do you have plans to expand on these at any time?
NP: I actually added Chihiro to the latest version of the Boiler Room demo, which was fun, but I am considering animating the entire scene start to finish. I guess I need to find the time! Otherwise I have other projects that need my attention.

MG: Why do you think these films are so beloved with fans?
NP: The art style is a big part of it of course. There’s such wonderful artistry and talent and craft put into every part of Ghibli’s films, they really are masters of the hand drawn animation. But it’s story, character and design, all working together that really shine through their works. I am sure books can, and indeed have been written about every aspect of what makes this true, but one aspect that stands out in Miyazaki’s work particularly are his strong female characters, all of whom ring true and genuine. I think perhaps in Miyazaki we have an artist perfectly fitted to his art form and every part of his films works so well. On a personal note, I think Princess Mononoke is the strongest film, at least from a storytelling standpoint, but equally it has strong, morally complicated people in a dangerous exciting setting. Good times.

MG: I hear you have one more demo in the cards; can you spill some details?
NP: Originally I had hoped to make a Howl’s Moving Castle demo after the original demo, but someone else got in contact to request I should not, as they had already started on their own. I was happy to oblige, as I was interested in seeing what they made. I’ve not seen it yet, and perhaps it will never be completed, which is a shame. I then decided to work on Cowboy Bebop, but by then I had been in contact with a few interesting people, circumstances changed and I decided to move onto original projects. I’m still considering working something new up as I have Howl’s Castle complete already.

MG: What can we except from your first full VR game “Crystal Rift”?
NP: So, I’m working on three projects actively at the moment. The first is a game called Crystal Rift, which is a VR dungeon-crawler in the form of old-style games like Eye of the Beholder. Jon Hibbins, the creator, demoed it to me at a meetup at Bossa Studios (who make Surgeon Simulator) and asked me to join his project in a creative role. I’ve never worked on a game before so it seemed like a good opportunity to be a part of one and to put my own mark on it. We actually have a Kickstarter up currently for this!. The second project is actually my own Kickstarter that I created to fund a trip to Oculus Connect, a conference in Hollywood. Being from the UK this was quite a distance to travel and expensive, so I made a Kickstarter, the goal of which would give me the money to travel, but would also result in a game I would create that backers could give me ideas to put in. That’s in early stages of design and production, but coming together nicely and should be quite interesting. I’m working with a talented coder and we’ve got some great stuff working out. Nothing to report yet, but hopefully soon!

MG: Do you think that VR gaming will be the future of gaming?
NP: It’s certainly ‘A’ future. I doubt it will replace all gaming, just as consoles have not stopped people playing cards or board games, and just as mobile gaming has not yet wiped out 3DS-style handhelds. But it’s here, it’s amazing and it’s not going anywhere. Anyone who has doubts or believes it is a fad or destined to fail as in the past has certainly not tried the latest prototype (Crescent Bay), which convinced me that the hardware itself is there. It’s ready. It’s the software and experiences that are important to get right now.

MG: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced developing for this format?
NP: Optimization. Performance. Games struggle to reach 60fps at 1080p HD on consoles, and indeed most run 30fps. We need to be hitting 75fps in 1080p in stereo just for the DK2, and the consumer kit is likely to be 90fps and 1440p. That’s a BIG ask, and means that graphics must adapt to fit that. Looking at something like GearVR, the headset from Samsung that works with the Note 4, that’s an even bigger ask as we have to get 60fps 1440p out of a mobile GPU! Other issues are around usability and experience. What works in games and film or indeed any medium will not work directly in VR. You have to craft experiences and games for VR especially if you want them to work, or at least not cause motion sickness! But I’ve seem some amazing demos and games in VR and in the coming months and years there are going to be a lot of people blown away and very surprised by what VR has to offer.

Former Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver drummer releases new video for his song “Ode to Nick”

Drummer/Frontman Matt Sorum has just released a new video for his song “Ode to Nick”. The somber track is the latest in a series of video releases from Sorums new solo project “Matt Sorum’s Fierce Joy” and come in the wake of the group’s debut album “Stratosphere” which was released in March of this year.

Sorum recently had this to say about the new video: “Ode to Nick was written as a love song to my wife Ace. I have always loved Nick Drake from the first time I heard the Song “Riverman” from the “Five Leaves Left” album. His poetry was beautiful, deep and honest – the way love should be. I used Nick Drake as a metaphor for love, and the romantic sentiment of his song titles are used throughout. I thought of the most peaceful place that I spent my childhood, at my grandmother’s lake house on Green Lake, Minnesota and the sound I would hear in the distance … a loon. Hence the chorus, “Love is a boat on a lake, Just you and me and Nick Drake”.

“I’d like to dedicate this video to the actor that played the Riverman on the bus stop bench Vince Guarino who passed away August 5, 2014. “There are things behind the sun.”

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Nick Swardson talks about film “Back in the Day” and FX new series “Chozen”

Nick Swardson is probably best known for his role in “Grandma’s Boy” and cameo appearances in numerous Happy Madison films, but a quick look at his career shows that he’s an incredibly busy guy. For people who aren’t familiar with Swardson’s work, he started doing stand-up at age 18 and since then has gone on to produce, write and act. Die hard fans have known this for years that he’s constantly writing, acting and working on fresh material for his stand-up. Media Mikes had the chance to catch up with Nick and ask him about the numerous TV and movie projects he’s been working on for 2014, as well as a new comedy special.

Jeremy Werner: It looks like you got a busy year ahead of you…especially this month. Let’s start off with “Back in the Day” which comes out on January 17th. How did you land the role of Ron?
Nick Swardson: Michael Rosenbaum, the director/writer, is a buddy of mine and he just called me up and he’s like, “Man I got this passion project I’m doing. It’s low budget. We have no money.” He goes, “It’s a great character. You’ll kill it. We’ll shoot in Indiana. It’d be fucking great to have you.” So he sent me the script and I thought it was a really funny character and it was something different than what I’ve done in the past. Ya know, it wasn’t a crazy character. It was a grounded, real dude. So I was pretty stoked. So as a favor to Michael too, I wanted to help him out. So I did it.

JW: Was there anything you had to differently than in past roles?
NS: It was just a lot more understated. I didn’t have to come in to the scene and be insane. This role is also based on a real guy so I was kind of interested to play a real dude…and I talked to Michael a lot about what this guy was like. So it was fun to play a real person.

JW: Was it a role that he had you in mind for the entire time he was writing it?
NS: He had the script for like 10 years. He had it for a long time. So I don’t know who he had initially envisioned, but he called me first.

JW: Now also this month, you have a big release on TV. “Chozen” premieres January 13th on FX and you play Troy. What can you tell us about that character?
NS: Troy plays Chozen’s nerdy, minion friend. He kind of saves him from bullies and so they become pals. Chozen shows him this whole world of sex and drugs. It’s pretty funny. The show’s pretty crazy..it’s one of the craziest things I’ve done and I’ve done a lot of crazy shit. Working with Danny McBride is awesome. His company is amazing. I love all the “Eastbound and Down” guys…it’s FX, so they really push the envelope.

JW: As a comedian, does voice acting provide you a lot of opportunities to improvise or are you restricted?
NS: No. I’m never restricted in anything I do. I only do projects where I can bring a lot to the table. I use to get fired just because I improvised a lot. It’s the main thing I do, I love improvising.

JW: I’ve read that usually in voice acting, you’re just kind of in a booth on your own. Who were you able to bounce jokes and ideas off of with your character?
NS: Usually you’re all alone…you’re just sitting in a booth and the producers are in the other room, so you just kind of run with it. They’ll give you a thumbs up if it’s good or they’ll do the heads up and tell you if it works. They’ll just feed you ideas…but it’s a great gig.

JW: Later this year you’ll also be voicing a character in the animated movie, “Hell & Back”. You actually voiced a character in the kid’s movie “Bolt”, but based on the premise I was reading…this is not a kid’s movie.
NS: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s pretty insane. It’s stop motion, so it looks like a kid’s movie. So if a kid saw it on TV he’d be like, “Oh! I wanna see this!” But it’s a hard, hard ‘R’. That’s another project that me and Danny McBride are both in with TJ Miller and Mila Kunis. It’s a great cast and that one’s gonna be really awesome. We’re finishing that up this week. I’ve got like one more record session…we’re really excited about that.

JW: Now with all these projects, are you working on any comedy specials this year?
NS: Yeah, I’ve been developing for the last two years, a new hour special and a new tour. So we’re looking to tour in the Spring…early Summer. Shoot the special maybe sometime in the Summer. It’s definitely in the works. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m really excited..it’s coming together really well.

JW: Anything you can tell us about it?
NS: It’s just more stories, drinking jokes and it’s nothing too out of the box. I’m not all of a sudden really political. If you’re a fan of mine, you’ll be happy with it. The new hour’s going really well. I think the title of it is gonna be, ‘Taste It’.

JW: I know last year you were talking about a show you were working on called “Bro-Sassin”. How is that coming along?
NS: Bro-Sassin’s done. It didn’t fly. The network just didn’t get it. They thought it was gonna be too expensive…so they kind of backed off it, which bums me out, man. I wrote the pilot and it was really funny. People loved it, I’m gonna save the idea for a movie. I sold a new show to FX. My own show with the director of “Grandma’s Boy” and Danny McBride’s producing it. It’s called “Game On”. It’s like the office of a video game company…so we’re developing the pilot right now.

JW: Does that have any connections to “Grandma’s Boy”?
NS: Not really.

JW: Looks like you got a lot of stuff going on, is there anything else you’re working on for later this year?
NS: A lot of it depends on the pilot with FX and shooting that, seeing if we get picked up. That’s the primary focus right now. I’m developing two other feature scripts. So if this FX pilot grows, I’m gonna jump into an idea I sold to Sandler and Happy Madison and I’ll hopefully write that next Fall and start developing that.

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright talk about “The World’s End”

This Friday sees the US release of The World’s End, the final installment of Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto” trilogy. It’s the third comedy following 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and 2007’s Hot Fuzz, to star Simon Pegg (also co-writer of all three) and Nick Frost. While the films are standalone stories across wildly different genres, they’ve been consistently hilarious variations on common themes. Hence, more comparable to Cornetto flavors—a British ice cream that found its way into all three movies—than narrative installments. The trio of Pegg, Wright and Frost sat down in New York to discuss the completion of the trilogy with this apocalyptic pub crawl.

The movie centers on Gary King (Pegg) who is dead-set on reuniting his old schoolmates, now grown men, in an attempt at completing an epic pub crawl they left unfinished as youths in 1990. He faces the most opposition from his onetime best friend, Andy, played by Frost.

How would you each describe the other’s characters?
Nick Frost: I would say Gary King is a forty-one year old man stuck sadly in…1990, it never got better for him than that night. I like to think about Gary in the space between then and when we meet him. What he got up to. And what I think is getting pissed on a kibbutz a lot, being like a rep in Portugal in like a resort, maybe traveling to Australia, doing the same thing there. You know, I think he did a lot of drinking and a lot of fornicating and then he reaches a point where he, he was just sadly empty. And I think where we meet him…that gear that he wears in the film, I don’t think he wears it all the time. He’s like a general who’s going to commit suicide on telly and he puts all his gear on. He puts his gloves on and his medals. That’s his last hoorah and I think he has a suspicion that he knows he’s not coming back.
Simon Pegg: As an addendum to that I think there’s a lot of parallels between World’s End and Scent of a Woman. Gary is like Colonel Frank Slade.
Andy is you know this guy who was, who had his heart broken by his best friend when he was very young and has never been able to let go of that anger about that. And he’s moved away from it. He’s excelled in his job, he’s married and had children, he’s created a life for himself. He’s a success in many ways, maybe not emotionally to a degree. We find out things later on. But he’s a guy who has been let down by someone he loves and hasn’t addressed that yet. So when we meet Andy he kind of seemingly Gary’s enemy, they’re not friends anymore but really what underpins that enmity is a deep affection which we eventually learn the truth about.

Lauren Damon: In both Shaun and Hot Fuzz Simon was the more straight-laced character at the start of the film, was that reversal of roles fun?
Pegg:
It was yeah.
Frost: Yeah I mean those other roles, the central character is not always the craziest or the funniest even though Simon is incredibly funny, but this time it was. And it was always going to be Simon and I never look at it and think ‘oh why am I this again?’ It never feels like that. Its for the good of the film, but this was you know—Simon’s gonna laugh when I say this because I said it lots of but—[Pegg joins in in unison] We are actors!

The chance to play any different person or different character is what you want to do as an actor. And I’d kind of argue that Danny and Ed are very different characters. Ed is quite cynical and lazy and Danny is just a big, lovely labrador, you know? And so the chance to be a kind of hard knot and to be the kind of moral voice of the audience essentially at certain points in this film is a great challenge. And also I get to kick arse.

LD: And rip your shirt off.
Frost: That was the only thing I put my foot down. Edgar wanted me to rip my whole shirt off so essentially I would be topless for the second half of the film and I had to say no.
Pegg: Which was a relief because it was winter.
Frost: Well I’ve got quite a lot of tattoos so the coverage of tattoos would have been an issue. And also, it don’t look s’good!
Pegg: I beg to differ!
Frost: But it got cold it got up to minus ten at night when we were shooting.

All three men elaborated on the amazing stunt work in the film, choreographed by frequent Jackie Chan collaborator, Bradley James Allan:
Pegg: The important thing for us was that we, in all the fight sequences in the movie, we retained the characters. Often in films when you cut to action sequences, stunt performers have to take over and as such, the characters that the actors have created vanish slightly in favor of the action. What we really wanted to do was make sure that the characters were maintained throughout the action and that meant us doing it…And we always wanted it to be the case where it’s like we’re—particularly for Nick’s character—all this simmering rage that he has, all this resentment towards Gary, all this kind of dissatisfaction that he has with his own life it just bursts out of him like—we used to call him the Pink Hulk because he had a pink shirt on underneath—and Andy turns into the pink Hulk. And each of them have a different—like Gary fights one handed because he’s trying to protect his pint. Andy, you know, fights like a berserker. Paddy [Considine], because he’s a boxing fan, uses all these great big haymakers like a brawler. Martin [Freeman]’s always wriggling out of stuff—
Frost: Like a hobbit!
Pegg: Which he picked up from somewhere, I don’t know. So yeah, it was all very much there in the script.
Frost: Eddie [Marsan]’s the coward.
Pegg: Eddie hides under tables. Which is funny because Eddie’s pretty handy. Eddie’s got some good punches.
Frost: Yeah he is, he trains a lot to be a fighter.
Pegg: He’s a little East End boxer.
Frost: He does “Ray Donovan” so he spends a lot of time in the boxing ring
Edgar Wright: What we tried to do is not actually use like…If you have a scene in an action film and you have like there’s a waiter who looks particularly tall and muscly, you know that he’s going to go through a window at some point. So like you can kind of pick out, that’s a stunt man, that’s a stunt man, that’s a stunt woman. What we tried to do with this was have people you wouldn’t—when you see those five kids, you don’t expect it. They’re kids. And the lead guy is fifteen years old. So you don’t expect him to be in a fight. And then they do all of their own stunts… And that was something I said to Brad Allan, our choreographer. I did a scene in Hot Fuzz, I ended up cutting out of the movie because it didn’t really work, it was a scene where Simon arrested some kids and so I said ‘I really wanna do this fight scene, but do you think we could get teenage stunt men?’ He goes ‘Absolutely, we got circus schools, tumblers, gymnasts, martial artists…’ and so the kids in that sequence are from the ages of fifteen to twenty. And they’re amazing.

LD: Going way back to Lee Ingleby’s crew in “Spaced” [Wright’s 1999-2001 sitcom starring Pegg and Frost], through the hoodies in Hot Fuzz, do you just have a distrust of youths gathering anywhere together?
Wright:  think a central theme is no matter how young you think you are, there’s always someone younger. That fear of being usurped by the people like are sort of like ‘Oh my god, that fifteen year old is gonna kick my ass!’ The emasculation of being beaten up by somebody younger than you, I think it’s that kind of fear. I think once actually Nick in London got mugged by a bunch of teenagers which is like an extremely distressing thing because hey, you know, you might be twenty-eight but these fifteen year olds…they’re are gonna kick your ass! And it’s just a horrible horrible thing. I think it’s just a part of the nightmare of emasculation of being beaten up by teenagers, people fifteen years younger than you.

At what point in working with Edgar did the word trilogy come up?
Simon Pegg: I think probably on the Hot Fuzz press tour when we realized we had been able to make two films and those films were in essence connected. You know, sort of tonal sequels in a way, in that they were not directly sequels—not the same character stories obviously—but they were definitely variations on a theme. And we figured if we could possibly be able to do it again, we could wrap it up as a sort of nice Hegelian whole. As a threesome as it were. And do it again. So we refined the ideas we had started on. It wasn’t like we set out to make the trilogy. We would never be so arrogant as to assume we would be able to make three films.
Nick Frost: I think one was enough.
Pegg: Yeah.
Frost: I think we thought, being British filmmakers we were lucky to make one, you know. [laughter] It’s true!
Pegg: We didn’t think it would come out there, let alone here.
Frost: We thought, if we could sell it to Lufthansa and they show it on the flight, we’ll be lucky. And you know, we get a chance to make Hot Fuzz and then that seemed the logical thing to do really.
Wright added:  …The fact that Hot Fuzz was shot in my hometown so I’d had that experience of being back in my hometown very vividly. So it was very much preying on my mind and that’s where it starts to factor into this of the idea of the homecoming…But then we decided we would go off our separate ways and do separate projects and in a way I think we wouldn’t have written the same script six years ago. Because the nice thing is actually, not to get older, but to actually deal with that in movie. Shaun of the Dead, which we shot ten years ago is a film about he’s a twenty-nine year old about to turn thirty. And then in this film, they’re forty…I feel like when I watch a lot of the American “man child” comedies, sometimes I always think it’s kind of forced because there are people who–there’s that thing of being a big kid forever is always glorified– but never really scratches below the surface. In reality a lot of those actors are married and have kids and so I think it’s a good thing to do these movies and actually acknowledge that the characters are older. So I think in that way, me and Simon, it was great going away—it’s not like we didn’t see each other in six years, we’re like best friends– but it was the first time we’d written together in like five years.

Was it different coming back to write together after so long?
Wright: No if anything, I think it was easier in a way. I think out of the three, Hot Fuzz was the most difficult one to write. Because I think we realized that Agatha Christie is a genius and that murder mystery is really hard! We would have kind of the constant headache of trying to figure out the mystery plot…But the nice thing about this is we had the story, we had the plot and then like it was just like a huge outpouring of personal experience. Of like everything from our upbringing. Once you’ve got the story, I think the first thing that we did when we started talking about it was just start talking about personal experience. All of that stuff goes straight into the movie. So it is like, Shaun of the Dead too, but this one is definitely the most personal because so many themes of it are just straight from our experience. Everything from the sister [Sam, played by Rosamund Pike] is based on a real person…the bully is based on a really person. The experience of—I went back to my home town and a number of times after I’d left to live in London and I remember vividly one of the things that sparked the whole thing was going back to my hometown, going to a pub, and seeing your school bully, who didn’t recognize me. And I wasn’t sure whether he didn’t know who I was anymore or didn’t care. But the fact that he didn’t acknowledge me at all made me so mad. I didn’t want him to acknowledge me! And I certainly didn’t want to get into anything. But I was so mad because I was thinking ‘does he not recognize me, this guy?’ So things had just stuck. That’s something that happened like fifteen years ago, but it stuck with me. And so that’s what’s great about doing these films is that things you’ve been thinking about for a long time then just come flooding in. Then it just becomes like a whole like ‘this is the plot of the movie.’

Is this the end of the trio?
Wright: I think this, we thought would be nice to be a piece. It’s not like a trilogy in terms of they’re three of the same movie, it’s more like a triptych of three separate films that can be viewed separately or together. You know, separately they can be Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce, but together they’re Destiny’s Child.

LD: Who’s Beyonce?!
Wright: I don’t know! I don’t want to pick any favorites!

It might be a few years until we do another one. But this is not the end of us working together. Because we love working together so we’d like to do other stuff. But it might be something radically different next time.

The World’s End releases in the US on August 23rd, you can read our review of it here.

CD Review “Nick Cave & Warren Ellis Present: Lawless – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
Lawless: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Distributed by: Sony Masterworks
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Tracks: 14
Running Time: 39 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis have collaborated on many films including “The Proposition”, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and “The Road”. They all seem to have the same feel to each of them, though all unique. The film is based on Matt Bondurant’s 2008 novel “The Wettest County in the World” and that novel was adapted into a screenplay by Nick Cave. The soundtrack is a nice mixture of original songs written by Nick Cave for the movie and performances by Country legends Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris along with Grammy Award winner Ralph Stanley (O Brother, Where Art Thou) and Mark Lanegan from Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are best known for their work in the critically acclaimed rock band, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Cave and Ellis mixed their original music with innovative vocal under the name of The Bootleggers, which was the band they formed for the project. After listening to this album on loop a few times, I did start to dig it a bit more, but I feel it still runs a little too short for my taste. Nonetheless, it definitely captures the essence of the film very well. It also has a real period feel of country mixed with bluegrass. I would actually recommend listening to it and THEN seeing the film, since it will definitely get you in the mood.

The track from country legend Willie Nelson was actually previously unreleased and packs a mean harmonica. There are two versions of Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat”, one by Mark Lanegan and the other by bluegrass veteran Ralph Stanley. The two new songs that Cave and Ellis specifically wrote for this film was “Cosmonaut” and “Fire in the Blood” featuring versions from Emmylou Harris and Ralph Stanley. The album ends on an instrumental track called “End Crawl, which is a brave move but is a good close.

Track Listings
1. Fire and Brimstone
2. Burnin’ Hell
3. Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do
4. Fire in the Blood
5. White Light / White Heat
6. Cosmonaut
7. Fire in the Blood / Snake Song
8. So You’ll Aim Towards the Sky
9. Fire in the Blood
10. Fire and Brimstone
11. Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do
12. White Light / White Heat
13. End Crawl
14. Midnight Run
15. Midnight Run (Buddy Cannon Mix)

Nick Nicholson talks about debut album “Stronger Than Whiskey”

Nick Nicholson is a country singer, who recently released his debut album “Stronger Than Whiskey”. He also appeared in the documentary “Off the Boulevard” directed by Jeff Santo. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Nick about his album and what his love for music.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the release of your debut album “Stronger Than Whiskey”
Nick Nicholson: We put that song out a year before the release of the entitled Cd and it did well on the Music Row Charts hitting 103 Nationwide for around 16 weeks total. I believe it could of done a lot better if it were promoted properly but again…..Indie pockets aren’t deep and you wanna believe in your promotions team but in the end it fell into yet another statistic of this business……MONEY…. Aint that a bitch.

MG: Now that “Stronger Than Whiskey” is released, what is the next step for you?
NN: Right now I am just kicking back collecting my thoughts [laughs]! I really can’t answer that one.

MG: What do you enjoy most about getting up on stage and performing?
NN: Having people believe what I’m saying.

MG: If you can perform like with any musician on stage, who would it be and why?
NN: It used to be Elvis Presley but he has faded out of this generation’s eye. Since I have performed with a lot of people already including singing Whiskey Girl with Toby Keith himself. (Wow) I would enjoy doing a song or two with Keith Urban. Mainly because I re-recorded Freedom’s Finally Mine on my 1st CD in Nashville around 2005. I really dig his alternative bluesy take on Country Music. He isn’t standard and neither am I [laughs]!

MG: What do you have to say to other struggling independent artists?
NN: Try not to fall into the standard money traps in this business. Go straight for the “gate keeper” not for the middle man. Ass kissing is part of it. Believe none of what you hear and only ½ of what you actually see. Stay true to who you are, don’t fall short and sell your soul, because one day when or if you succeed you will have done it your way. If you don’t get what your after well…you still did it your way. Most importantly, just Have fun because a recording contract isn’t everything.

MG: Tell us how you got involved with documentary “Off the Boulevard”?
NN: I met Jeff Santo about 5 or 6 years ago while he was in post production of “Jakes Corner” and promoted the movie at my shows because we hit it off from the start. He contacted me a year or so later and said he was filming a documentary on Indie artist ofall genres and wanted to include my struggles as an indie musician in the movie. So he started shooting my footage two years prior to the release. We really got to be great friends throughout the filming process. He hit the road with me and the band gathering footage and interacting with the process of dragging your ass from town to town selling units outta the back of your car.

MG: What do you have planned for the rest of 2012?
NN: Acoustic shows promoting Stronger than Whiskey “Grass Roots” style. Keeping the overhead low as well as the stress. Being happy and falling in love with music all over again with the bullshit buffer on 11! I have been cast as 8 ball in an awesome film called “Dead In 5 Heartbeats” (due out later this year) from the book written by Sonny Barger. Not a real big role in this movie but hey maybe I’m on to something with this acting stuff. It will also feature my song “Can’t Get Here From There” (Co-written with CJ Watson and David Norris) on the soundtrack to the film. So keep an eye out for this release from Santo Films!