Sound Check

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Commercials

BACK WHEN MTV first channeled the emergent trickle of new wave into garish streams of pastel pastiche, rock purists griped that music videos were no better than mere "commercials." Ironically, the more intricately videos were arted up by film-school renegades, the more like commercials they began to appear. And as the synergy between the two media intensifies, so does the formal impact video directors wield over feature filmmaking, a trend that disturbs foes of both monopoly capital and accelerating jump cuts.

Video killed the cinema star: Ad maker and video director Michael Bodnarchek.
Video killed the cinema star: Ad maker and video director Michael Bodnarchek.

Yet east St. Paul native Michael Bodnarchek is more bullish about the fusion. "If you can tell a story in three or four minutes," Bodnarchek insists, relaxing in his Saint Paul Hotel room on vacation, "that's an incredible test of your talents." Of course, he would say so. Bodnarchek is a third of the triumvirate running the production company A Band Apart, which fits its exclusive stable of hotshot directors to high-profile video and commercial projects. Along with producer Lawrence Bender and some guy named Quentin Tarantino, Bodnarchek has scored commercial and video contracts with both the hip and the profitable, including unlikely ad guys Steve Buscemi and John Woo, among many others. A Band Apart has also capitalized on two inauspicious trends: blanded-out Latino electrodance and nuevo teenybop. Videos for Ricky Martin (you know what song) and Britney Spears top his company's résumé, which includes 21 nominations for this year's MTV Video Music Awards, airing on Thursday, August 9.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis's own Harder Fuller, who merged with A Band Apart last summer, hope to follow the larger company from videos into the feature-film world. And Bodnarchek's frequent visits back home have uncovered a secret producers on both coasts have overlooked: the sizable bastion of local advertising firms, whom Bodnarchek is hiring a Twin Cities rep to work with. "There are so many agencies here, I think it's important that we have someone targeting them--no pun intended." (Keith Harris)

We Gotta Get Out of This Place

WHILE SOME MEDIA move into town, clicking cameras and open microphones continue to drain local talent to the coasts, as if from a watershed. Soon, the City of Quartz will be luring away longtime local music fixture Willie Wisely of mod-poppers the Conquerors and the Willie Wisely Trio. Although the singer-performance artist will keep his local residence and continue touring with the Conquerors, he says he wants to try his hand composing for the theater in Los Angeles while dabbling in film soundtracks.

"I can't seem to draw like Matt Wilson, and I don't want to make commercial music like Chan Poling," says Wisely, referring to the ex-Suburb's recently launched advertising music house. "I don't want to sing for jingles like Kristin Mooney or Wendy Lewis. I would love to play in the Entry with Mark Mallman's band--he doesn't know this--but I'm a young 34 so it's now or never as far as making a new start."

Before hopping the plane, Wisely might want to check out two gigs this week. Current L.A. resident and beloved former Farm Accident frontwoman Barb Cohen returns home to perform a benefit for the homeless at Lee's on Friday, September 10. Or Willie could lend Mallman a hand during the latter's performance of a 26-hour song the same night (and the next) at the Turf Club. Mallman says he's been writing the ditty, titled "Marathon," for the past year, and he'll sing 312 pages of lyrics with 27 backup musicians, presumably working in shifts. Skeptics take note: He'll keep playing during the bar's closed hours, broadcasting live on the Web at www.mallman.com (what else). (Peter S. Scholtes)

Shock to the System

AFTER A FUN, if somewhat glum, all-day final concert, St. Paul's premier all-ages music venue closed for good on August 29. It was the coffee, not the shock that did in the Coffee Shock, says booker Steve Pedro, who organized the 17-band farewell, headlined by house favorites Arch Stanton. "The bands were pretty much the only thing bringing people in," Pedro explains. "Daytime business has been dead during weekdays."

Though the Shock was launched as a couch-and-coffee stopover for Christian bands, Pedro has booked increasingly diverse and national acts in recent months, including punk folkie Damien Jurado last month. Still, any music enterprise run on sheer spirit for years (the place has employed all volunteers since last summer) seems bound for resurrection in some form. (Scholtes)

 
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