Interview: No Age Talk Spike Jonze, Live-Action Animal Films, and Playing the New Museum


No Age’s week beats your year. Last Tuesday, the duo of guitarist Randy Randall and drummer Dean Spunt released their new Losing Feeling EP on Sub Pop. They also lined up four shows in the five boroughs that are so random and far-flung as to appear the work of four different bands. Tonight, they play West Village club (le) poisson rouge, before making a cameo at MoMA’s Spike Jonze Retrospective on Thursday, soundtracking director Jean-Jacques Annaud winsome eighties flick The Bear at the New Museum on Friday, and performing at Above the Auto Parts Store out in Bushwick on Saturday night. Right as Randall was packing up both his arthouse cinema and punk-rock hats, we called to discuss what sorts of DVDs the duo take on tour, and why his band didn’t score Milo & Otis instead.

What DVDs did you bring out on the road this time around?

The Simpsons 12th season on DVD.

No Adaptation? How did the gig playing the Spike Jonze retrospective come about?

I’ve gotten a chance to meet Spike a couple times. He’s friends of friends. My friend Patrick O’Dell, who is an awesome photographer who has this skate photoblog thing, Epicly Later’d, was asked by Spike to put together the skate films for the event at the MoMA. Patrick then asked if we would be up for it and it worked out that we were already going to be in town, so it was perfect.

Did you come up knowing Spike’s old-school skate films?

Yeah, definitely! Dean and I both grew up in the early nineties skateboarding, just being teenagers out in the suburbs of LA. We totally memorized all the parts and all the songs and the tricks on our old VHS copies of Spike’s skate films. We knew those films inside out.

Was it weird for you that he transitioned into Hollywood feature films from those days?

I feel like it’s always been there under it. His features are so cool. It’s not like I expected him to make The Skateboard Kid Part II. The real films are separate from the skateboarding lifestyle. Even in those old skate films that he made, there was always something cinematic about them, something fun and different about them. He was documenting the tricks that people were doing, but he had more style. You could see his creativity and inventiveness in between the pure skating footage. There was always more going on: he wasn’t just a dude with a video camera. For this one awesome video he did–one of my favorites, called Mouse–he had Eric Koston dressed up like Charlie Chaplin, or shots of them out skateboarding in the woods. There was always something more going on: epic slow-motion, or skaters exploding through walls, like a Michael Bay film!

Does it seem uncanny for you guys, within a week’s span, to be playing at the MoMA and then at Todd P.’s venue, then at the New Museum?

No, it’s not strange at all. For us, it’s something we’ve always wanted to do. We come from a world of Todd P. auto-part store shows, yet we’ve always been fans of going to museums and galleries as patrons. We’ve always played places like Death By Audio, a venue with totally fun energy in the room. But sometimes, the rooms are too small and not everyone can get in. So we have to play (le) Poisson Rouge, a place with a bar, where your feet won’t get stepped on, and money is paid to security guards and whatnot. That’s more strange to us. The museum events we’re playing are going to be fun and we’ve been fortunate now to get booked in places like that. It’s hard to book those yourselves.

What made you decide to score The Bear?

The Bear by Jean-Jacques Annaud is an amusing film. That comes from this venue in LA Cinefamily, who asked us to do a live score for a film. Originally, I wanted to do Milo & Otis. I wanted it to be a film without a lot of dialogue. My brain went back to childhood, to these live-action animal films of the eighties, where you didn’t have all the animals CGI’d: talking, playing cards, skateboarding and stuff.

Like Benji Plays Poker in Black Velvet.

Exactly! Now everything looks “not real.” I was looking at films with live animals. Milo & Otis has this traditional style, with a voiceover by Dudley Moore. So it just has these cute animals running around, getting into shenanigans.

So I did some research online and was shocked to find that there are some pretty scathing allegations about the film and the lack of documentation about how the animals were treated in the film set. It was a Japanese production, filmed in a small island. You assume that everything is fine, but without documentation, or no one on-site insuring their protection, it no longer felt like the fun, furry childhood film that I remembered. You watch that poor cat get flung off a cliff into the water and it doesn’t quite feel right.

Especially after watching The Cove, you get that feeling of: “Man, can I trust the Japanese to protect such cute and cuddly animals?”

Oh, fucking A, that movie is sooo disturbing! I saw it with my mom and walked away completely horrified.

So after crossing Milo & Otis off our list, The Bear was the next one on there. All things being equal, it’s a better film, it’s a better director, a better storyline. It’s a little darker, which makes things more interesting, that visual landscape. It’s really a beautiful film. There are some amazing landscapes in it, in the wild with these bears. While Bart the Bear is well-trained in the film, I sure wouldn’t want to face one of them in the wild myself.

Follow No Age’s New York exploits this week over at their MySpace.