Hard to tell exactly what's gonna happen at Neumo's tonight.
What we know: Electro-rock crushers Truckasauras and boy-toy rap crew Mad Rad warm up for Junkie XL, aka The Dutch DJ Who Did That Ubiquitous Elvis Remix in 2002. There will be taiko drumming. The theme is Shinjuku Nexus--and that's where things get weird.
Shinjuku is the name of a graphic novel released by Dark Horse last year, written by a guy named mink (lowercase) featuring illustrations by a guy named Amano. mink--aka Chris Morrison--is an LA-based filmmaker and writer with ties to Quentin Tarantino's defunct A Band Apart production company who was pinned to an upcoming instalment of the Mortal Kombat franchise. Amano is Yoshitaka Amano, the Japanese artist and illustrator of cult comics like Vampire Hunter D and Sandman: The Dream Hunters.
What does all this have to do with a Noise for the Needy benefit at Neumos tonight? We talked to mink to get an idea (and still don't have one).
City Arts: Where did the idea for Shinjuku come from?
mink: I was in Japan for over a year, in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. While I was there I incubated this story about an American who was there, mixing east versus west. Visually I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it. I came back to LA in 2006 and was doing my stuff, a western and some other thing. But this idea kept ringing in my head. I was familiar with the artist Amano’s work, and my hope was that he would do one or two conceptual drawings. Through A Band Apart he’d done work with John Woo, so if he could do work for me it would be a road map. As I began to put the project together my first step was to get him interested. I met him at a party and threw the idea at him. He’s so sweet and polite, and was into it because of our mutual friends. He was supposed to do one or two drawings, but at a certain point he called me and asked if he could do the whole thing. The last time he did a project this size was The Sandman with Neil Gaiman in 1998. So it went from one drawing to 200 and one book o three. And then of course once he was drawing it, it changed the technique of how we told the story.
It's pretty out there. The art is beautiful and I like the presentation a lot, but the story was hard to follow.
The idea is that it’s a book within a book. When you finish the third book, that’s clear. The underlying metaphor is perception. If you read the book it changes your perception.
Junkie XL and I were working on an opera--I don’t know any other way to describe it. I'm taking the idea of perception to the next level. We have an opportunity with this story where we can take the audience into the rabbit hole in any number of ways.
So what's the deal with Shinjuku Nexus? That's how the show is being advertised here.
You're gonna have to wait and see. There's a line in the book that says "Shinjuku exists at the nexus." The next book is called Shinjuku Azul--it's coming around Christmas--and it answers a tremendous amount of questions from the first book. It continues Daniel Legend's quest to understand the perception that he now has--is it real or not? I was giving the reader enough space within a storyline to draw their own conclusion. This was not about trying to reinvent the wheel or create this epic. This was a personal journey of one guy, and as we've all faced in our lives, what you believe is what you believe. That was the extra part when Amano came to the table. He took what little words I wrote and extrapolated a tremendous amount of information. I worked with it over a year and I open the book today and see things I didn’t see yesterday. And that’s about that idea of perception.
And what about the concert? I hear you're gonna make Neumos look like Poppies, the nightclub from the book.
It's an audiovisual experience. If people will open up their minds, they will lose their minds. And hopefully this is the first of many. We'd like to make Shinjuku Nexus something that goes from city to city. The word Shinjuku means "new city." Wherever you are at that moment is a new city for you. What the audience brings to the experience is as important as what we do. In the book, Poppies represents a place where people in Shinjuku brought their experience into it, and all these things that are impossible can happen.
It has a lot do with what Tom [Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL] is about to do. He's about to do something he's never done before. Just like the red orbs in the book, it's about the energy in the room. And what Tom's done--which is nothing short of amazing--I wanna leave as a surprise. What we're doing is the art of theater.
Shows in the past were just as much about the audience experience as what you were paying to see. Over the years we've tuned ourselves out, we pay to see the spectacle that’s put on. I'd like to revert back to where the people that came to the shows were as integral as the show and both those pieces of art fed off each other. We're trying to put that first step down. You have to come under the impression that you're willing to change your perception about what you see and hear.
If you look at my book, Amano did something extra with the art. He took my idea and turned it into something timeless. Tom has done the same with the music. It's like, get the fuck outtahere. It’s a combination of everything you know about music and everything you don’t. Most people don’t understand that most of the beats in the world, from Lady Gaga to Kanye, most of them probably started at Tom's studio. He programs 60 percent of the electronic beats in the world. Shinjuku is where he's chosen to let his voice come through. It's like having the greatest actor in the world walk in the room and say I love what you're doing.
This will be the first of many shows to come. I hope to turn it into Rocky Horror, where everywhere it goes people wanna be a part of it. I wouldn’t be so proud if the shit wasn’t so hot.
Truckasauras, Mad Rad, and Junkie XL play Neumos tonight, 8 pm, $10.