Cannes 2013: My Conversation On Creativity With OK Go Lead Singer Damian Kulash

June 28, 2013 — 0

As part of Viacom’s trip to this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, I sat down for a conversation with Damian Kulash, lead singer of OK Go. Last year, Damian and the band won 7 Cannes Lions, 4 of which were gold. Here’s an excerpt from our chat:

Also check out OK Go’s new app, which is super fun to play and shot to the top on iTunes. Here’s the video the band made to explain how it works:


Bjoern Ewers’ Berlin Philharmonic & The Vast Expanses Of Benny Chan

January 27, 2013 — 0

We spent yesterday afternoon having brunch at Nancy and Michael’s house, talking with our friend, photographer Benny Chan.  More about Benny, later, but something in the scale of his thinking, particularly his older compositions of the LA Philharmonic…

…and the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center:

— remind me of  this print campaign for the Berlin Philharmonic:

Using macro photographs taken inside the cramped spaces of instruments, art director and photographer Bjoern Ewers makes the inner space of a violin, cello, flute, and pipe organ appear vastly habitable.

Inside Instruments photography music instruments design advertising

I need to walk inside as chords ring through and bounce off the light. You can see more at Behance.

Inside Instruments photography music instruments design advertising


Your Final Status Update

August 5, 2012 — 0

Just before she died of Cystic Fibrosis, 25 year-old Eva made a video saying goodbye to all the friends and family who had loved and supporter her.  It’s as difficult to watch as you’d imagine.  So are the thousands of videos just like it.  And those are from people we don’t even know.

When someone we know dies, more and more often they’ve left for us some enduring message on the web (a goodbye, a space for memories, an album).  Sometimes, as in the case of the inspiring Jennifer Goodman Linn, their legacy endures — grows, even — as friends, family and supporters carry on their message.

For most people who die, their web presence remains disturbingly still, no life behind the pages, the social graph, the empty feeds. The comments spike with loving memories, then fade.  Months pass and no one updates a thing.  No one takes anything down for fear of burying them deeper.  Finally, the web domain expires, Facebook deactivates the account, Twitter shuts the handle.  They fade, harder to summon in the results of a search.

That fade is slow, and it’s painful.  For example, a popular lecturer and ethics professor died a few months ago, yet you can still go to his site and book him for a speaking engagement.

Of course, hip-hop artists (and their labels and managers) figured all this out long ago.  Remember when PBS found Tupac and Biggie alive and well in New Zealand?

So did Nostradamus, whose voice lives on even today in blogs recalling his “vision” premonition of the Penn State atrocities:

Paterno will hear the cry from Sicily,
all the preparations in the Gulf of Trieste;
it will be heard as far as Sicily
flee oh, flee, so may sails, the dreaded pestilence !


I wouldn’t be thinking about any of this had I not come across this video, which I suppose is an advertisement for life insurance?  Watch, and when you’re done laughing at the music, ask yourself, what will become of you…

Also, here’s Adam Ostrow’s TED talk on the subject.


Blasting The New Album By “Fore” This Morning

March 13, 2012 — 0

 It’s Tuesday morning, I’m in the office blasting tracks 25 year-old Mutaurwa Mapondera, a.k.a. “Fore” (formerly “Foretold”), just sent me from his underground debut called GOING BACK IS NOT THE SAME AS STAYING.

Fore, born in Zimbabwe, describes it as “an album about Distance. Distance from the people and places you love, and Distance from the life you feel you should be living.”  Fore produced the album largely himself. 


Listen for influences of Big L, Big Pun and, of course, Nas, alongside samples from the Cocteau Twins, Mali’s Amadou and Miriam.  The schemes are complex, the writing’s true and the emotional depth belies Fore’s age.   Listen for the “Zim in him…”

Here‘s where I downloaded it.  Here‘s Fore’s Tumblr.  And you might recall Fore freestyling in my office, last year, which is here.



“Sleep No More” Isn’t Content, It’s User Experience

January 26, 2012 — 0

I spent half the day today with the leaders of our digital music group, at the space where Sleep No More is running.  An inspiring background for us, as we planned some crazy shit for later this year.

(Take an interactive tour of the space, here)

It gave me a chance to consider what we’re trying to accomplish in digital in a new, disembodied way.  As Sleep No More‘s director helped break the show down to its component parts, I thought about the visceral connection audiences have with a breakthrough interactive experience.  What those audiences users give, and what they take away.

From a social perspective, Sleep No More raises questions all programmers, developers, storytellers and marketers must struggle with, now more than ever:

– Why beginnings, middles and ends?

– How do we hold space for viewers to co-create the narrative, and why is that so important?

– Which variables must we control so that we don’t have to control the ones we shouldn’t?

– How do we provoke emotionally satisfying experiences for audiences who wonder if something more compelling is happening in the next “room.”

– How do we “share” an experience?

The storytellers we love most don’t strive to create “content.”  That’s because content = matter.  And matter doesn’t move you.  Experiences do.

Experiences are moments in time and space that are here, then gone.  They are “never before” and they are “never again.”  The greats — Homer, Shakepeare — gift us experiences that cause change in the universe and in our selves.

What Sleep No More teaches reminds us is that the path we take through an experience is the experience.  And when we preserve the order of our perception, we can come close to remembering what it felt like.


MTV Hive Presents: Zambri

November 15, 2011 — 0

Last year, the band Zambri performed a live show in my office.  Now check them out on MTV Hive!  And they just hit the MTV Music Meter!

Zambri “Glossolalia” EP by kaninerecords

From MTV Hive:

Just because Jessica and Cristi Jo Zambri share a last name doesn’t mean the sisters are always on the same page. “We don’t really talk about the music we make, which is odd. We tend to just make it and make it our own, but sometimes I wonder what’s going on in her head,” Jessica says of the songwriting process behind the group’s debut EP, Glossolalia. “We’re both constantly confused by each other.”  You wouldn’t know that just by listening to the



September 6, 2011 — 0

Former MTV music snob (in a good way), Courtney Smith’s new book, RECORD COLLECTING FOR GIRLS, comes out today.

Why buy it?  For starters, Courtney knows her shit.  Girl’s got a music library (bigger than your ipod’s) in her head and in her heart, and a trigger finger so intuitive it just knows when to push play for the mood you’re in right now… or now… or now.

Or you could just buy it because you like this new trailer for the book.

I asked Courtney some questions about the book:

Courtney, your book’s incredible, I’ve read it. How do you remember all these songs?

How could I forget any of these songs? There are many songs I wish I could forget, like everything by Soulja Boy and “The Pina Colada Song (Escape)”, but they’re all stuck in my head forever. What I really love are when songs get tied to people in my mind and they don’t even know it. We’ll talk about that with you, Ross Martin, in a few questions.

When you look back at your time here at MTV, what pops into your head?

When I’m answering questions for Ross Martin the first thing that pops into my head is the mtvU Woodie Awards. Two specific memories come to mind. The first time we met in a planning meeting for the Woodies and you got up and shook my hand, then we all argued for an hour over what the categories would be. That was one of the most fun conversations every at MTV. And when we taped the segments for the first ever Woodies, watching back The Killers accepting their award. It is a classic awkward moment captured on film that I strongly feel more people should get to watch in retrospectives when the time comes.

I think of you as someone who’s so insightful, you could find multiple songs for any emotion or moment. What would Ross Martin’s theme song(s) be?

You know you are forever linked to Matisyahu in my  mind, because you were such a huge champion of his on mtvU. Your first theme song is “King Without a Crown.” I would also have to admit that you are a very “Eye of the Tiger” person. You’re always so energetic and nothing seems to get you down. You never said no to one of my bad ideas ever, that I recall. But I may have just blocked it out if you did.

In 140 characters or less, how would you describe the book?

“Because girls get their hearts broken and make mixtapes about it, too.”  (That’s my tagline, it’s pretty good right?)

What question did I forget to ask you?

So, are you going to write any more books?

Me?  Uh, yeah.  My next book is called “AWARD-WINNING CARE FOR NON-HEALING WOUNDS.”  For serious.

As for Courtney, I hope she writes more books.  In the meantime, buy this one and check out Courtney’s awesome blog.