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Ben Affleck - The Interview

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BEN AFFLECK
The Interview

Ben Affleck, 42, stars as the iconic Batman in the upcoming movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and he clearly has been working hard in the gym, completely cut and looking great, when we had a chance to sit down with him and discuss the upcoming film and the success of his mystery thriller, Gone Girl, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Gillian Flynn.

Affleck stars opposite Rosamund Pike, who plays his very complicated wife in this thrill-ride of a film. Affleck is an acclaimed actor, writer, director and activist, and has garnered some of the best reviews of his career for his role in Gone Girl, and is expected to be called upon, to make numerous acceptance speeches again during the upcoming award season.

In real life, he’s been married to wife, Jennifer Garner, since 2005, and together they are raising their three beloved children: Violet, born December 2005, Seraphina, born January 2009, and Samuel, born February 2012. They live between a ranch-style home in Los Angeles, an apartment in Manhattan, and a holiday home on the secluded Hampton Island near Savannah, Georgia, on an 83-acre estate. He was in previous relationships with Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow before settling down with Jennifer Garner.

STRIPLV: Let’s start off with some questions about your film, Gone Girl. What does this movie say about marriage? Is it a cautionary tale?
AFFLECK: I think this movie says really provocative things about marriage. If you look at them together, it says that marriage is fraudulent in some ways, and it’s based on lies in some ways. And I think in this story a real marriage means you have to go through this crucible of hurting each other and loving each other and hating each other and lying to each other and telling each other the truth. And then after you’ve done everything possible to each other, you can truly be married. Now, I don’t believe that, but that’s some of the more provocative things that the movie says.
STRIPLV: Your character deals with sudden fame and notoriety. You know something about that yourself, other than the fact you haven’t been accused of murder. But did you relate to that?
AFFLECK: No, I’ve never been accused of murder, which is about the only thing (laughs) but yeah, notoriety, as you say, and it is the American version of fame. You have people going out and committing crimes just so they can be famous and hoping that happens, because we treat criminals like celebrities, and because we cover them so much in the media and we focus on them so much, and in America everyone can reel off everyone from OJ Simpson to Amanda Knox to Scott Peterson, and the whole gamut in between. They’re famous killers and the way we obsess over them is interesting. And it goes back to John Dillinger and Al Capone. I don’t know why we want to make people like Jesse James a hero, people that murdered other people, but it is what we focus on. I don’t know. We watch these things on TV and I can identify with the tabloid media fame part of it, but I think it’s a whole other thing when you get into this cable killer twenty-four hour news cycle.
STRIPLV: Your wife in the movie is a very complicated woman. Have you met anyone like that in your life?
AFFLECK: No, not really. I think it’s put together from different pieces, but I’ve been really lucky in my personal relationships. I look back and think the major relationships I’ve had were all with really good people, who I like quite a bit still to this day. So I’ve ducked that landmine of romantic encounter in this way, but the movie paints with this big brush a story of murder and so on, but at the end of the day, this movie does talk about how we as men and women see things differently. We have different expectations and we act like different people when we’re getting to know people than who we really are, and you eventually find out who the real person is.
STRIPLV: You’re currently working on the epic Batman v Superman film. That must be a childhood dream for any guy!
AFFLECK: Yeah. It’s definitely a dream. I’m excited to do it and it’s a real challenge. The thing I’m most excited about is the script and the director.
STRIPLV: How have you dealt with the teasing, that no one escapes from when they put on the Batman suit?
AFFLECK: Yeah, again, it’s this thing where these huge projects like Star Wars or Batman or even 50 Shades of Grey, anything where fans have really intense feelings about it and they want to vent them and get them out there, and that’s part of the give and take. And they’re entitled to voice their opinions. I’ve never done a movie where I’ve had more people come up to me. In fact, with all the movies combined, I’ve never had more people come up to me with more enthusiasm, so it’s a movie that gets a lot of attention. But the truth is, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s how you make the movie and that’s what I’ve discovered about anything I’ve done is that if you do the movie well, people will like it. And if you don’t, people will appropriately let you know.
STRIPLV: In Gone Girl, how did you find your way to being an authentic couple?
AFFLECK: Well, Rose is so good that it was easy to play opposite her. It’s not that difficult and what was really interesting was that the book asked really hard questions about marriage and relationships and it didn’t sort of want to gloss over the things that we don’t like to look at – whether it be at others or ourselves – and sometimes you find out ugly things when you ask hard questions and that’s why they were hard. And so Rose definitely had the courage to go toward that and we wanted to sort of give truth to a really dark look at marriage and David’s (Fincher) subversive take on that dark look at marriage. (laughs)
STRIPLV: As a director, what did you discover through working with David Fincher? And also for playing Nick, did you see him going from a transition from being kind of a stupid guy at the start to somebody who wises up at the end?
AFFLECK: Well for the first part of the question, I definitely kind of at this point in my career as an actor decided that it’s all about the director really. So when David called me, I thought, ‘I would have done the phone book with David,’ so you could imagine my relief when I read Gone Girl, that it wasn’t an alphabetical list of names, (laughter), but to get a chance to work with a guy you admire a great deal. Before all my movies that I directed, I watched Seven, and I feel like it’s the most perfectly meticulously Swiss Watch made thing, and I thought, ‘What kind of person makes a movie like this?’ And it was great to work with David and l learned a great deal from him. It was a pleasure to be around him and it was a true learning experience and I loved it and I would do it again and again and again a million times. It was a joy! And David is also, in spite of his reputation, a very funny and nice guy, not just a demon. (laughter) Smart and sweet. And as far as Nick being a dick or a jerk or whatever and becoming smarter later, it’s interesting. I have seen different reactions to the Nick character and I think that it’s complicated. He does change, but a lot of it has to do with the audience perception of him changing as they learn more about him. I don’t think you can play anybody that you think is a dick, because then you are not going to do a very good job. So my job was to empathize with him, and really what I found is that women and men have a very different reaction to this character. Like, most of the women journalists go like: “What was it like playing a dick? (Laughs)
STRIPLV: Was there one particular benefit that will stay with you about working with David Fincher?
AFFLECK: For me, there were two benefits: one as a performer – and I was really learning a lot as a director and sort of standing next to David and watching what he did and why he did it and being really interested in learning why he did it, because I truly do, without jerking him off, I think he’s one of the greats working today. And what’s interesting is that there’s this bifurcation with directors, they are sort of like technical, shooter, music video commercial guy and girl directors who sort of come from that world and speak that vocabulary and have that expertise and the other side of that line: your performance directors, your writer/directors, your actor/directors, and they tend to be too camped. And David is the only guy that who straddles both camps. He is genuinely an actor’s director. And he’s got one of the deepest and proficient understandings of the technical aspect of filmmaking of anyone I have ever worked with. So, he’s got this engineer’s mind and yet this taste of an artist. And I didn’t think there was that filmmaker out there, so I was really impressed by that duality. And that’s the last time I say anything nice about David. (Laughter)

Reese Witherspoon - Wild

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REESE WITHERSPOON
Wild

Reese Witherspoon admits that she’s struggled to find meaningful roles of late. In recent years, she’s preferred to devote herself to family life, following the birth of her son, Tennessee, now 2, her first child with second husband Jim Toth. But things changed when she came across “Wild”, the best-selling 2012 memoir by Cheryl Strayed about her soul-searching, epic eleven-hundred mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon saw in the novel a triumphant tale of female empowerment that made her determined to bring the story to the big screen. Wild has already earned the 38-year-old actress rave reviews, and namely, plenty of buzz as a likely Oscar nominee.

 

“This was such a powerful and beautiful story of a woman who saved herself,” Witherspoon says. “It’s an important movie about female sexuality… So many times we as women are told to be ashamed that you kissed that guy, or you had sex with that dude in college. And I feel like this movie just says ‘It’s gonna be okay’. It’s just such a liberation I think, particularly for young women, to know that it’s really okay to have these explorations.”

Directed by French-Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), Wild sees Witherspoon pushed beyond her “comfort zone,” appearing in sexually-explicit nude scenes for the first time in her career. But that’s precisely the kind of challenge the ambitious Southern belle set for herself in the making of this film.

Witherspoon grew up as a part of an affluent family in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was a distinguished surgeon and her mother was a top surgical nurse and later teaching nurse.

She was famously married to actor Ryan Philippe for nine years, until their bitter 2008 divorce, following allegations of his chronic infidelity. Witherspoon would later recover from that breakup and marry Hollywood agent, Jim Toth, in March 2011. She has two children from her former marriage to Ryan Philippe: Ava, 15, and Deacon, 10.

In addition to Wild, Witherspoon also starred in The Good Lie this year, the film about four orphaned children from the second Sudanese Civil War in 1983 that eventually make their way to the U.S. Witherspoon plays the U.S. aid worker who helps settle the orphans in America.

STRIPLV: Reese, what made you want to take on a very gritty role like that of Cheryl Strayed in Wild?
WITHERSPOON: I was looking for a project that had a strong female character. I wasn’t very happy with a lot of the scripts I had been reading and the kinds of projects I was being offered, so I decided to find something on my own. I was sent Cheryl’s novel before it even came out, and as soon as I finished it, I knew that this was something I had to do, even if it scared me. The next morning I called my agent and said: “I need to speak to this woman right away. Her book is extraordinary.”
STRIPLV: How did that first conversation with author, Cheryl Strayed, go?
WITHERSPOON: We had a great chat. I told her that her story was so moving and meant so much to me. I felt that I had gotten to know her and that I wanted to turn her story into a movie and that I would do it in a way that would honor her journey and her struggle. What I also loved about it was that this was a story about a woman going alone into the wild and living by her wits, rather than a man, which we’ve seen before. It’s not that often that you see a woman talk about her life in such a raw way, and who is so honest and unafraid to admit to her mistakes and how she was able to find herself in the end.
STRIPLV: How did you feel about the sex and nudity in the film?
WITHERSPOON: It was tough for me. At first I was thinking how ‘Finally, I get to do these very tough scenes,’ which I’ve never really done before. Then when it came closer to the shoot, I started having a breakdown and I was thinking that I ‘just couldn’t do it; it’s too emotionally and sexually explicit for me.’ But fortunately, I had good people around me, who calmed me down and reassured me, and then I just went for it.
STRIPLV: Why did you want to develop this project on your own?
WITHERSPOON: I wanted to develop it with my producing partner because I knew that if I took it to a studio first and had them finance it, they wouldn’t want me in the role. They would say that audiences wouldn’t want to see me play that kind of role or that they would want to tone down the material and make it a lot less raw, which was precisely why I wanted to make the film. But I’m very proud of this film and the way Jean-Marc (Vallée) kept pushing me and didn’t let me lighten the backpack or let me wear pants when it was freezing. (Laughs) I needed a strong director like that. I even remember calling my husband one night, complaining that it was too cold, and I was never going to make it through this film.
STRIPLV: Did you feel like you were experiencing a lot of the physical ordeal that Strayed herself went through?
WITHERSPOON: I don’t want to compare anything I had to deal with to what Cheryl lived through. But, for me, it was by far the hardest movie I’ve ever made. We were shooting very wild and remote locations and the crew was slogging lots of heavy equipment, just as I had to carry a backpack. Jean-Marc actually made me put on a heavier, 65-lb backpack, as opposed to the 45-lb one I had on at first. He told me, “Hey, that doesn’t look heavy enough.” And then I would have to go hike up a hill with that backpack and keep on doing that until we got the right take and could move on. But what keeps you going is that you know that you’re telling a real story about someone who actually lived through all that and endured much worse conditions. You don’t start feeling sorry for yourself with that in mind.
STRIPLV: You’re also playing in another interesting film, The Good Lie. You took your children along to Kenya while you were working on the film, didn’t you?
WITHERSPOON: I wanted to have my family close by when I was shooting over there. When you tell this kind of a story, it makes you truly grateful for all the advantages you have in life. The people in this region went through indescribable suffering, and I’m so thankful that I have a wonderful and supportive husband and wonderful women in my life that help me. Also, everyone (in Kenya) was just so sweet to my baby.
STRIPLV: What made you want to tell this story?
WITHERSPOON: I think it gives you a different perspective on the privileges and opportunities we overlook every single day. We’re so lucky to have jobs and education – and even for grown-ups, I think it’s important for us to remember these things. Hopefully the film will bring this to light for a lot of people, what this experience is like.
STRIPLV: Are these two new films a sign that you’re changing your approach to your career and the kinds of stories you want to be a part of?
WITHERSPOON: My frustration had been building up over a period of time, and even though I didn’t know exactly what types of projects I wanted to make, I knew I wanted to find and develop movies with strong and dynamic female characters. When you look at what Lena Dunham has been doing with her series (Girls) and the kind of book that Cheryl Strayed wrote, you can see that there are so many interesting and powerful female-driven stories out there waiting to be told. I give a lot of credit to those female writers who are willing to discuss female sexuality in a very honest and open way. They don’t hide anything about what women are thinking about and our feelings related to sex and guilt and a lot of issues around that. It’s important that we tell these stories, so women will be able to relate to these feelings.
STRIPLV: You’ve often credited your mother as a major force in you wanting to achieve great things in your life…
WITHERSPOON: My mom was my inspiration because she was very hardworking and disciplined, and I get my work ethic from her. That’s why I never take my career for granted and I am very aware of how fortunate I am to enjoy this kind of life. I’m grateful for my success, but I’m even prouder to be able to have a wonderful home and family around me. That means the world to me!

 

 

Roller Coasters and Resurrections of PHIL VARONE

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BY EDDIE RIVKIN

There is a saying among religious people:  “God will not put more on your plate than you can handle,” or something like that.  I am not a religious person, nor am I sure if Phil Varone is.  What I do know is, if that saying is true, God gave Phil Varone one of the biggest plates ever in mankind.  From the height of rock ‘n’ roll stardom with bands like Saigon Kick and Skid Row to literally being on skid row in the throes of cocaine and sex addition and $1.57 in the bank, Phil Varone has survived more twists and turns in life than any man deserves, and finally seems to be coming out on top.  I sat down with Phil at this year’s AVN convention at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino where we discussed everything – including rock ‘n’ roll, celebrity sex tapes, sex addiction, and the best and worst lays of his life.  Enjoy the roller coaster ride!

ER:  We are at the porn convention, so let’s get right to it – who are the 3 hottest chicks in porn?

PV:  Allie Haze, Melissa Jacobs and Brittany Andrews.

ER:  You’re a Howard Stern fan, let’s play “F, Marry, Kill”.  Fuck one, marry one, kill one… Go!

PV:  I would probably marry Allie Haze.  I’d hate to kill either of the other two!  I just ran into Melissa and she looks so damn hot, I am going to have to fuck her tomorrow, so I guess I am going to have to kill Brittany, but I want to fuck her before I kill her!

ER:  You released a celebrity sex tape last year through Vivid, what’s that all about?

PV:  It’s called Phil Varone’s Secret Sex Stash and it’s basically my personal movies.  The original concept was to get a bunch of tour footage, which I have, but without getting releases we couldn’t put it out.  So I went to my stash of girls I regularly have sex with and a few of them wanted to try it, and I even got a couple from Facebook!  These chicks were like, “Hey, I saw you in Playgirl, and I really want to get with you in a movie.”  So we put together all these scenes, and when the movie was released, we started getting even more e-mails and we decided since the first one was nominated for an AVN award, that we are going to do part two.

ER:  Is part two going to be all groupies, porn chicks, just random hookups?

PV:  It’s all random groupie chicks, but no real porn chicks.  Some of the girls might have done a scene or something, but no one you would call a Porn Star!  One chick in particular… I think I created a monster.  She did her first scene with me, now she is out of control doing scenes.

ER:  Do you get a piece of her income now that you made her, like in vampire movies?

PV:  No piece of the action, but I do get to fuck her pretty much whenever I want to.  So that’s pretty much the plan:  I want to do part 2 on tour, when I am out promoting my toy line.  We are going to do a bunch of in-store promotions and then later at night go to rock clubs and pick up girls and shoot a bunch of scenes on the tour bus.

ER:  So this is kinda going to be like the old Bus Stop Tales porn, a bunch of regular girls down to do their first scene with you?

PV:  Yes, that’s pretty much it.  Most of the girls we meet on the road are into it.  I am just gonna ask them flat out:  “You want to fuck and be in the movie?”  And funny enough, we are kind of routing the national tour around girls who have already said yes.  I am constantly getting e-mails from girls who want to get in the business, know I am with Vivid, and want to be with Vivid, so it works out really well.

ER:  So between the Secret Stash and the Swingers Series you are shooting, this has pretty much become your own cottage industry?  All porn all the time?

PV:  Pretty much, I really love the business.  I am only a year into it, but I have to say, a few things really surprise me.  First, how great the business really is.  Now granted, I am with the greatest company in the world – Vivid, and Steven Hirsch (Owner / President) is an amazing businessman.  When we sit down to talk, it’s all about long-term plans, how we make money together, for him and for me.  There is no gimmicky bullshit.  They allow me to come to them with ideas, and if it makes business sense to Steven, we do it, simple as that.  I am really really grateful to Steven and everybody at Vivid for how professional they are and how well they treat me.  Second, most of the Vivid girls I have met are fantastic business people.  Whether it’s the signings, the movies, the contract deals… these girls are sharp.  I heard about the days of all the super-hot super-drugged-out porn stars, but personally, I haven’t seen it.  These girls have their husbands and boyfriends helping them with their careers and they are just total pros.

ER:  Do you look at Steven as a mentor you wish you had during your days in rock ‘n’ roll, or as a business advisor, friend, manager?

PV:  From day one, sitting down with Steven, I have learned so much about business.  Yes, it is the “adult” business, but no matter how you slice it, it’s business.  We’re selling a product just like when you are selling music.  The difference is that because it is my own production company, I handle everything.  Unlike in the music business, where you have managers and labels ripping you off, and band egos and all that other bullshit, I am pretty much my own boss, even though I work for Vivid.

ER:  The reason I am asking about managers and mentors is because I read your blog about “74 days with Bill Aucoin” (legendary manager of KISS).  He left us way too soon.  What did Bill give you in the very short time you knew him, which seems to have propelled you out of a very dark place (which we will talk about in a bit) to where you are now?

PV:  The thing Bill gave me the most was confidence and a new perspective, and to look at what I am capable of – especially when it comes to my comedy show called “The Sex Stand Up Rock & Roll Comedy Show”.  I have a great friend in New York, named Barbara, who made the original introduction.  When Bill read up on me, and listened to a couple of radio interviews, he really thought I had something special.  He loved the comedy angle, and the product angle, and everything I was trying to do with the show.  Then he compared what I was doing with how things were with the very early days of KISS.  Outside of phone conversations, I only met Bill for about an hour and we went over everything.  He came up with the idea for the tour, the product line, how big it could be, basically everything I wanted to do.  Then he told me that I had to do it bigger and better than everybody else.  It’s all about selling your product.  Bill gave me the confidence to believe I could really do this.  Sadly, a week after we met, he went into the hospital and we lost him.

ER:  Best and worst celebrity lay?

PV:  I dated a supermodel named Kylie Bax.  She was absolutely gorgeous, on the cover of Vogue like 80 times, and I dated her for a good while.  Man, we had a lot of fun.  She had a dog named Fendi, and we were here in Vegas on tour with Poison.  She met us in L.A. and rode on the bus with us and when we got to the hotel, we just went at it.  And Fendi is scratching away at the door – wouldn’t fuckin’ quit scratching – and finally figured out how to get in.  At the time, Kylie was the hottest chick on the planet, and in order to get her off, I mean really get her to orgasm hard, she liked it in the ass.  So I’m like, “I can oblige that.”  So we’re going at it hot and heavy and Fendi jumps up on the bed and starts humping my forearm while I am balls deep in Kylie.  So I’m like, “FUCK IT,” and just let the dog go until we finished.  Now I don’t know what category that falls into, threesome, bestiality, whatever…  all I know is, I wasn’t stopping for shit, no matter what! 

ER:  The worst?

PV:  I love her to death, Mary Carey.  She wanted to get together, so I went over to her house and we were going for it and she was just way too porn star for me.  All she wanted to do was cum.  Once she came, she was like, “Okay, I came, we’re done.  You gotta hurry up and finish.”  I was just getting into it and I could barely even finish, because I was under all this pressure.  And she was literally like, “You gotta finish.”  I was literally getting dressed with a boner still in a condom shoving it in my pants and she kicked me out of the house.  I absolutely love her to death, but that was a really weird experience.

ER:  Best and worst groupie story?

PV:  Best was for sure a mother/daughter in Detroit.  It was so good, I wrote about it in my book.  Short version:  I was flying from Florida to Vegas for Thanksgiving.  I was meeting my girlfriend here;  we were having Thanksgiving at Vince Neil’s house.  So I am sitting in Florida waiting for my flight and a really great looking older woman (I would say mid-50’s) approached me.  She sits next to me and she was DRUNK!  She starts telling me about her weekend where her and two other friends would come down to South Florida and just fuck a bunch of young guys while their husbands stay at home.  So I am like, ‘Who am I to judge?’  So we take off and she starts with, “I see by all your tattoos you must be a musician.  My daughter would LOVE you;  she is really into rock and roll.”  So I tell her we’re on tour and going to play Detroit, so maybe she could bring her daughter, and I would give them tickets to the show.  The flight goes on, she gets even more drunk and starts asking me how big my dick is.  I tell her I don’t talk about it and she says it must be really big, because most guys want to talk about their dicks.  She keeps rambling about her daughter and asks me if I am in the Mile High Club, and do I want to go in the bathroom and bang.  Now, we’re in First Class with 8 seats and EVERYBODY can hear her.  It was so embarrassing, I can’t even tell you.  Thankfully, the flight lands, we exchange numbers and I tell her to call me when we are in Detroit, and I will put her on the guest list.  Twenty minutes later my phone rings and it’s HER, telling me her daughter is here picking her up.  “I told her I met you.  She said she knows you.”  I said, ‘She knows the band?’  “No, my daughter said you fucked her 10 years ago.”  I was like, ‘I fucked your daughter 10 years ago?’  She said, “Yes, when you were in Saigon Kick.”  So how ironic is it that I had already had sex with the daughter?  Fast forward to the show in Detroit:  the mom and daughter come backstage, they leave the father out front, and mom says, “Listen, we want to blindfold you, and we are gonna both blow you, and we want you to tell us which one is better.”  Of course, for the goodness of mankind, I do it.  Mom wins, HANDS DOWN!  Now I gotta find a place to bang these two, because we were out in the parking lot.  So I go to Vince Neil’s dressing room and ask him if I can borrow his bathroom.  We start going at again, Mom on the toilet blowing me, me eating the daughter out, the works, when I realize I don’t have any condoms.  I can’t bang them, so I just figure I’ll let them finish me off, when the Mom slides underneath and starts eating the daughter’s pussy.  I’m like, ‘That’s it.  I’ve seen enough.’

ER:  Check, please!

PV:  I am thinking I can’t even tell this story;  no one is going to believe me!  We get out of the bathroom, I’m traumatized.  I get on the tour bus and I am telling the story, and the guys are like, “FUCK YOU.  You’re full of shit.”  So while I am telling the story the phone rings again and it’s them.  I put it on speaker and they thank me for bringing them closer, that they were going through some tough times and being with me really helped!

ER:  So you are a humanitarian!

PV:  Yes, I helped a family get closer!  I am giving back to society, and the band believes me!  

ER:  So is that the best and the worst? 

PV:  Maybe, I can’t really think of a worst.  I have an oddest.

ER:  Oddest will do.

PV:  I think we were at Sturgis, playing at the Full Throttle Saloon and this girl picks me up.  We go back to my room and while I’m fuckin’ her she starts telling me shit like:  “I bet you think you are Tommy Lee.  I watch you play and you are like a Tommy Lee Bitch.  You try to look like him, and act like him, and you are nowhere near as good as Tommy Lee.”  I ask her if she realizes she is fucking me right now?  She keeps going, calling me an asshole and a poser – shit like that.  So in the middle of fucking, I pick her up and throw her into the hallway, nude.  I grabbed her bag and threw it as far down the hallway as I could.  The tour manager opens his door, sees what I am doing, and just shakes his head and closes the door.

ER:  Who is on Phil Varone’s “To Do List”?

PV:  Heather Graham, I have it bad for her, man.  Julianne Moore, I have a fetish for red hair and freckles.

ER:  Lindsay Lohan?  She’s probably a really dirty fuck.

PV:  Hell yes, Lindsay Lohan, I would love to fuck her!  But Heather Graham is my bucket list.

ER:  Lindsay, if you are reading this, contact me and I will get you Phil’s number!  So you did last season on Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew.  Any great stories that ended up on the cutting room floor?

PV:  There really wasn’t much.  I kept my mouth shut.  I didn’t say a word, tried to lay low and to not to look like an idiot.

ER:  How was Californication with David Duchovny?

PV:  I gotta say, it was probably the coolest thing I have ever done!  I originally auditioned for the pilot and didn’t make it.  They called me back a year later and told me they had a part for me as a hungover rock star.  I didn’t need to go to method acting for that one!  So I went down, did the scene with Duchovny, and it was the coolest thing.

ER:  You have a big Facebook following and your Twitter is growing fast, any hookups via social media?

PV:  We met two or three that we ended up shooting for the video.  We are swingers, so we get a lot of messages on our swinger sites.  I mean, if I got a message and the chick was totally legit, I would definitely be down to meet with her, but really, not too many.

ER:  You did a movie called Waking Up Dead, chronicling your life on the road as a rock ‘n’ roll drummer and drug addict.  It was almost a tutorial for parents on what NOT to let their kids get into.  What was it really like for you during those 4 years?

PV:  When we were kids, it was SEX DRUGS and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.  That’s what sold it.  Mötley Crüe is what got me into it.  Yes, sure we all wanted to be the rock stars and get all the chicks and get away with whatever we wanted.  However, there is another side.  Brett Michaels told me he didn’t know who he was anymore.  Was I this thing I created and played on stage every night, or was I this guy at home with a family?  You kind of live two lives:  my rock star guy, I named Hans, and then I was Phil.  I had a really hard time figuring out who Phil was until I finally quit the music business and got away from all the mayhem.  Finally I was able to adjust back to the guy I was when I started to play the drums, a young kid with a dream of being a drummer – not this crazy rock star drug addict nut-job that I turned into because I got my dream and I wanted to live it as hard as I could.  Luckily, I survived. 

ER:  So you got the dream, but you also got all the demons.  You were addicted to coke, you bottomed out, you busted out financially, and I remember seeing a picture of you with a bank statement with $1.57 on it…

PV:  That’s reality for a lot of us.  People think everybody is rich in the music business, but the reality is that only a very small percentage of people in the business are making all the money.  Even the biggest bands are broke.  The label gives you millions of dollars, but it’s an advance.  You have to pay for all the videos, the recording, the promotions, the everything.  Until you get out on the road and do some merchandising and some numbers, you never can really make any money.  The only way you can make money on the record deal is if you sell millions and millions of units consistently.  Saigon Kick sold millions of units, had gold records, and we still owe $900,000 or $1,000,000 to Atlantic

ER:  Are the Hip Hop guys doing it right?  The guys like Jay Z and Eminem, who own their own labels and brands?

PV:  Absolutely!  They are the REAL rock stars right now, and what’s great about them is they are great businessmen.  They own everything, no middlemen, and unlike bands and traditional record companies, they have total control over their product.  They are business first.  We were rock stars.  Rock bands would never do anything like a clothing line or an energy drink.  All we wanted to do was play music, do drugs, and get laid.  I really admire how successful some of those guys are.  

ER:  What is on Phil Varone’s iPod?

PV:  Believe it or not, only old stuff:  everything from Led Zeppelin to Chicago, ELO to Elton John.  I just like songs, great songs.  That’s the stuff I listen to.

ER:  You have been pretty much out of the music business since 2004.  Do you miss it, have an itch to get back in a band and go back on the road?

PV:  Sure, if I get a call to go back and do a few gigs here and there with some of the bands I played with, that might be fun.  But as far as getting a band together and trying to do it again, absolutely not!  I don’t want to be in a band with four other assholes anymore.  Because any way you slice it, you’re gonna hate the guys in the band, you’re going to have to deal with their attitudes and their bullshit.  I like the fact that I am running the show now, because since I started running the show I have done well for myself.  I’ve done a lot better than being in bands. 

ER:  So nothing to do with addiction, fear of relapsing, anything like that?  The fire is out?

PV:  No, I will say I do miss playing live, and I would play live if something came along that was FUN.  I would NEVER start a band again, start writing, recording, doing all the shit it takes to get started.

ER:  Who is the best musician you ever played with?

PV:  There have been a lot of really good musicians I got to play with.  One that stands out is when we toured with Cheap Trick and I got to jam with Rick Nielsen – that was really cool.

ER:  Road stories?

PV:  We had some fun stories when I was playing in Vince Neil’s solo band.  One night we were playing “Girls Girls Girls”, and all of a sudden I didn’t hear Vince anymore.  We’re playing and everybody is looking around wondering, “Where’s Vince?”  Then the tour manager, Jack Carson, tapped me while I was playing and told me to cut the show.  I asked, ‘Where’s Vince?’ and he said, “Oh, he’s on the bus, he didn’t want to sing anymore.”  I think he eventually came back out and we did a couple of songs, but that was hysterical.  But that’s why I love Vince.  Another time was when we were out on the Poison tour (with Skid Row) and Vince’s solo band was with us.  Poison had this strict rule that you couldn’t have any girls that Poison passed, (put a backstage pass on/marked their territory).  These girls – they were off limits.  So I guess my friend Alan who was playing bass for us broke the rule and banged one of the girls.  Well he got taken into a room with Rikki Rockett and Big John and they confronted him about the girls.  Now, it was the last day of the tour, and Vince Neil found out about it.  (Now this is vintage Mötley Crüe, and why I love Vince.)  Brett Michaels was signing autographs on his bus, sitting on the steps, and there was a huge line.  Vince barged right through the line, grabbed Brett by the neck and started choking him!  Brett was like:  “Vince, we can talk about this!”  Vince was like:  “FUCK YOU!  Don’t you ever take one of my fuckin’ guys that’s my band.  Big John came over and Vince punched him, then he punched Bobby Dall, and basically tried to beat up Poison by himself.  I was thinking this was the coolest thing ever!  It was unbelievable, but that’s Vince Neil.  And that’s what I love about him so much, he lives it, and what you see is what you get. 

ER:  Who haven’t you played with that you would like to?

PV:  Wow, there are so many.  Paul McCartney, for sure.  I auditioned for Ted Nugent – that was really great.  Too many to name.

ER:  Let’s get back to talking about your Comedy Show.  What makes it different and unique? 

PV:  My show is different because it marries different genres of entertainment:  music, comedy, and a little bit of sex.  What I found out when I started doing comedy is that it is very routine:  host/feature/headliner/goodnight – and it’s very boring to me.  So I thought, and I am a huge fan of the old variety shows, ‘Why not make it current and do a new version one-stop shop for entertainment?’  If you like rock stars, we got rock stars.  If you like adult stars, we got adult stars.  We have “A” list comics;  we put everything together and it worked!  In between acts we would give away gift bags with adult toys, we had audience participation, AND we have the hottest all-girl band in the world, JUST THE TIP, as the house band.  These are three smoking-hot chicks that shred, and I jump on the drums.  We started doing the show at midnights at The Improv, not knowing what we were doing.  Three years later, packing the place at 8pm, they moved the show to 10pm and packed every single night, but midnights were the best.  Dave Atell did the show and said it was the best crowd in L.A., hands down. 

ER:  Who are your favorite comedians?

PV:  Of all time?  Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Lenny Bruce… Carlin was the most brilliant writer.  More recently my friends are:  Chris D’Elia, Owen Benjamin, and Craig Gass.  There are so many great comics that the people haven’t really heard of yet that are about to break big.  I like edgier comics, so guys like Nick DiPaolo, all the New York guys. 

ER:  Where is Phil Varone going to be 5 years from today?

PV:  I honestly don’t plan that far, I make it a rule not to.  I am a Universe guy – if something is meant to happen, it will happen.  What happens, I don’t know, and I really don’t want to know.  I know about my right now.  Other than that, I don’t care.  I don’t schedule, and I don’t want to be disappointed.  I find that if you look forward to ifs and maybes, you get disappointed. 

ER:  Let me ask it this way.  You took a really bad beat in the music business;  it almost killed you a couple of times.  It busted you financially, and now you are in a place where your life has focus and structure and you still have the ability to have a great unique life.   But you have to have some goals?  Do you think the Universe owes you something?

PV:  No, I don’t think the Universe owes me anything.  I fucked up lots of times.  I am a karma guy and believe I am paying my debt back to the Universe.  The Universe has been very good to me lately.  It comes down to what you put out.  I do a lot in my private life to help others, do a lot of volunteering and charity work because I feel I need to give back.  Let’s be honest, I fucked A LOT in my life, and you have got to be accountable for what you do in your life.  I am not apologizing for what I did.  I am just giving back because I know what I did.  I can’t take it back, but I can pay it forward.  In 5 years, what I would like, is my production company to be successful.  I’d like to have a nice house to come home to and say, “WOW, I am living a good life!,” to be able to pay some bills, and spend time with my kids.  That’s all I want to do, live a good life, do what’s right, the best I can.  I am still gonna fuck up;  we are only human.  I want to the best I can with what I have learned.  That would be it for me.

Jon Hamm - Mad Man

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JON HAMM
MAD MAN

He’s a television Colossus, a Dostoevskian figure helping tell the story of human fallibility from the perspective of a sixties’ ad agency guru. Jon Hamm has played existential road warrior Don Draper for seven seasons over a period of ten years and now it’s all coming to an end.

Over the course of seven episodes this past spring and another seven next year, Mad Men will have delivered its final slogan about life. Last year saw series creator and writer Matthew Weiner push his Everyman Don Draper to the brink. Fear and self-loathing saw Don’s carefully constructed universe fall apart amid heavy drinking and being pushed out of the merged ad agency he helped build. So will there be redemption and resurrection for Draper and how will Jon Hamm survive without his Madison Avenue alter ego, as the hit series prepares to close with its final season in 2015?

“I’m going to be just fine,” Hamm smiles. “It will be sad not to see my close friends on the set anymore, but Don is not the easiest character to live with. He’s nothing like me and it’s going to be fun to play different roles and be able to let loose in ways that Don never could. I’m not a dark guy at all!”

Moving forward, Hamm carries the heavy burden of having turned Don Draper into a television icon whose legacy will always mark his career. Series mastermind and writer Matt Weiner concedes that Mad Men would likely never have attained such greatness without Hamm’s “genius.” Weiner shared: “(Jon) is very brave. He so commits, intellectually and emotionally. Let me tell you, it’s hard to play (Don Draper). There is a physiological cost.”

Although it would now be impossible to imagine anyone else as Don Draper, it took Jon Hamm six auditions before he landed the role and before Weiner “finally understood” that he had found his man.

In person, the 6’2” and impossibly handsome Hamm is far more outgoing and good-natured than anything in Don Draper’s imagination. For the past 18 years, he has lived with his actress/screenwriter/director girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt (Numb3rs, Friends With Benefits) and has also enjoyed a 24-year friendship with actor Paul Rudd, who helped Hamm get his start in Hollywood.

STRIPLV: Jon, the obvious question to ask is how you’re feeling as Mad Men comes to an end.
HAMM: It’s not going to really hit me until we begin shooting the last seven episodes. Then the reality that these characters will no longer be part of our lives will sink in. But the most difficult transition for all of us will be the fact that our family will be heading in separate directions. We’re a very tight-knit group of actors and crewmembers, and it will be very sad to see our time together come to an end. I have made so many close friends on this show and obviously I will miss that regular contact and camaraderie. But this has been a very large slice – about one-quarter of my life – and that’s enough. You need to move forward.
STRIPLV: What can you say about Season 7?
HAMM: It’s going to be an interesting time. What I’ve always admired about Matt is how he has been willing to upset expectations and take the characters down roads you would not have expected. It all connects, and when you see certain things happen (in the final season) you will be able to identify other events or moments that occurred in previous seasons and realize how it makes sense or at least there was some foreshadowing taking place. But I can also say that even though I’ve spoken with Matt about how the series would end, whenever I’ve imagined how things would actually work out, I’ve often been mistaken.
STRIPLV: Looking back now, what are your thoughts about playing Don Draper?
HAMM: It’s been one of the great roles that any actor could have had the opportunity to play. Not only is he a very complex and tormented figure, but I’ve been able to explore so many different aspects of him over the course of seven seasons. You rarely get to develop a character that way over such a long dramatic arc. I’ve loved playing Don and being part of one of the most brilliantly written series in the history of television. TV’s been an incredible journey for me and I’ve become a much better actor in the process.
STRIPLV: How would you sum up the tragic qualities inherent in Don?
HAMM: Don Draper is a self-made man who rises to great heights, but whose inner self is fundamentally damaged and broken, and he needs to find and fix himself before it’s too late. Everything that goes wrong in his world can be traced to that darkness inside him, and no matter what he does, he can never escape that sense of dread. He needs to repair that very shaky foundation that he’s built his life atop of. That’s why audiences are so drawn to him.
STRIPLV: Beyond your obvious sex appeal, why do you believe women are so drawn to Don Draper?
HAMM: (Laughs) Don’s a throwback to the old school code of conduct, where men didn’t talk very much about themselves and exuded a very perceptible sense of command and determination. He doesn’t indulge in self-pity, although he does run from his past. Women sense something is broken inside and that’s why they want to help fix him and make him happy, even though he’s very resistant to that. He doesn’t want to confront those demons, although I would hope that he ultimately finds some peace of mind and harmony.
STRIPLV: Tell us about Disney’s “Million Dollar Arm”. Was it a big deal for you to be appearing in your first lead role in a feature film?
HAMM: It’s something I’ve been hoping and waiting to achieve for twenty years. When you struggle in this business as I did when I first arrived in Los Angeles, you have a lot of hopes and dreams, and it can be tough to keep believing in them. But I’ve been very lucky with what I’ve been able to accomplish up until this point and I hope to keep building on that.
STRIPLV: You’re a huge baseball fan. Is that part of what appealed to you about the film?
HAMM: It’s a great story, and it’s a true story. The reason I was attracted to doing the story is it’s a good old-fashioned coming of age father/son type of story, even though there are no fathers and no sons, really. It’s just a nice story, about hard work, and coming up with a big idea and seeing it through. The fact that it worked out for these guys from India is a testament to not only the guy with the big idea, but also the work ethic of these two. They were just willing to apply themselves and commit to the program and maximize the opportunity.
STRIPLV: You achieved rapid rise to fame and fortune with Mad Men. Can you relate to these two young athletes from India? Their rise as baseball players happened very quickly. Do you see any parallels there?
HAMM: Yeah, sure. Nothing in this world happens without a fair amount of luck. Then, of course, the corollary to that is you make your own luck. It’s a combination of the two, and finding the right balance between those two, and waiting around for it, but putting yourself in the right position for when the luck happens. I’d auditioned for Don Draper six or seven times, and any one of those times I could have failed, but I was prepared enough and ready enough, and it’s the same thing with these guys. They got ready and were able to really capitalize on it.
STRIPLV: Much has been made over the years about the loss of your parents and how your own early twenties in many respects paralleled the kind of wandering in life that Don Draper suffered. (Hamm lost his mother to cancer when he was 10 and his father died ten years later.)
HAMM: It was different, but obviously the loss of your parents are moments that are going to shape you and lead you to see the world maybe more starkly and more warily than other people. I certainly can understand Don’s sense of feeling lost and being hurt by his upbringing, but it’s not directly comparable to my own life, and I never exploited my own feelings about my parents with how I built the character and played him. I’m sure that having had to struggle for a while, living on couches in homes of surrogate families, and having to get on with my life gave me a good perspective on what Don suffered through.
STRIPLV: Do you share Don’s anxiety about the state of things?
HAMM: I know what it’s like when your world kind of collapses and I don’t have necessarily the most optimistic bent on life. But how that has affected the way I’ve portrayed Don is hard to pinpoint. I probably share his sense of not wanting to believe that things are really that good or that you shouldn’t let yourself get carried away by success. It makes you more apprehensive, although I’ve had a pretty happy life.
STRIPLV: Did acting provide you with a means of finding some comfort and sense of purpose?
HAMM: I enjoyed doing theater at college, because you do form a strange family-like bond with the other actors. One of my high school teachers had given me a boost of confidence years earlier by telling me that I had talent and that acting was something I should consider pursuing. And after I finished my studies at the University of Texas, after my father had died, I had no family left and no real place to live in St. Louis. I drifted for a few years there and then thought that Los Angeles was a good a place as any to pursue my dreams.
STRIPLV: How did you make your way to L.A. and get into acting?
HAMM: I moved to L.A. on a Thanksgiving weekend (in 1995) with basically very little money and the idea I would find whatever work I could to survive. I was 25 at the time and I knew (actor) Paul Rudd through a mutual friend from university, and so when I arrived in L.A. I hooked up with him, although he was moving to New York around that time. Paul went out of his way to help me and he found me an agent at William Morris and then I spent three years waiting tables, going to endless auditions, and not getting any work! (Laughs)
STRIPLV: It was at that point that you met your girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt?
HAMM: I met Jennifer at a premiere of one of Paul’s films in which he was starring (The Object of My Affection) and we’ve been together ever since. At the time I met her I was kind of at a low ebb. I was still struggling as an actor and driving around in a beat-up Volkswagen Rabbit that didn’t have a roof, and my agency had dropped me – nothing really was happening for me. But being with Jennifer kind of opened my eyes again and she encouraged me to keep looking for parts, although basically I had set a deadline for myself that if I hadn’t established myself as an actor by the age of 30, I would quit. And then I got the part on Providence (2000-2001) and I started getting more work.
STRIPLV: Success came relatively late with Mad Men. Did those earlier years struggling to find work prepare you better for dealing with success?
HAMM: I don’t know. I was pretty serious and level-headed when I was working as a waiter in L.A. and looking for work. I wasn’t going to become a wild man if I had gotten a good role in a film or a TV series! (Laughs) I would have just put the money in the bank and maybe bought myself a slightly better car. I also knew that I looked older than I was and that I was out of sync with what TV series casting directors were looking for at the time. But I also had a lot of people telling me that I should keep auditioning and eventually something would click. And by the time I was 30, I was working regularly, earning a decent living, and I remember that on my 30th birthday I was working on a movie with Mel Gibson (We Were Soldiers) and my girlfriend Jennifer came down from New York to celebrate with me and a few of my friends. That was a very good moment.
STRIPLV: Now that your Mad Men days are coming to a close, do you think you’ll experience any sense of loss that Don is no longer part of your life?
HAMM: (Laughs) I’ll miss the beauty of being part of a great group of people and doing some very good work. But Don has his life and I have mine!

SLAINE One Hundred and Eighty Days

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SLAINE
One Hundred and Eighty Days
Interview and Photography by
SANTODONATO

Walking down Fremont to meet up with rapper and actor Slaine, I was thinking a lot about my days back in D Town, running my studio and producing rap tracks for Esham, Natas, Kool Keith and The Dayton Family, and hardcore rockers The Workhorse Movement, Universal Stomp, and 20 Deadflowerchildren; Fresh from playing “Gathering of the Juggalos”, I knew he’d have much to talk about, as I’d walked that road, touring with ICP in the ‘90s and experiencing some of the same things. I was very much looking forward to our conversation, so I opened our meeting with buying this Bostonian a slice and a Coke.

Coming up from the streets, Slaine, born George Carroll 37 years ago, is a very deep person. Rough and edgy in one sense, but open and soft in the other – a virtual Tony Soprano in person, his large physical presence is softened by his honest blue eyes as they speak the truth, baring his soul and revealing sincerity amid his tough-guy exterior.  Known for edgy content, street credibility and his work with super rap groups La Coka Nostra and Special Teamz, and Slaine spreads his wings and pushes the envelope of the genre on his solo projects, taking risks and beating the shit up seriously. Not surprisingly, but surprisingly, Ben Affleck reached out to George to act in his 2007 film, “Gone Baby Gone”, taking him off the streets and literally throwing him into the fray of mainstream moviemaking. Later to come would be roles in “The Town”, “Killing Them Softly” with Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini, and his newest film with Harvey Keitel coming out this December: “By The Gun”. Who knows what’s next, but judging from the company that Slaine is keeping, big things are on the horizon for the man from the streets of Boston, and we sat down with him here in Las Vegas to discuss just that. —Santodonato


SANTODONATO: What year did you move to New York?
SLAINE: 1996.
SANTODONATO: And you grew up in Boston?
SLAINE: Yeah, I grew up all over Boston, really. I was born in Dorchester, grew up there as a kid. But I moved around quite a bit, especially after my parents got divorced – grew up mainly in Dorchester, South Boston, Roslindale – three neighborhoods. They were blue-collar neighborhoods, depending on your viewpoint, but to me, they’re blue collar, tough neighborhoods, Irish Catholic. Dorchester is a little more diverse in race and stuff like that, but South D. is pretty much Irish Catholic.
SANTODONATO: Did you go to church as a kid?
Slaine, eating his pizza, taking a break from my questioning, his large hands devouring the slice of Vegas pizza.
SLAINE: Went to Catholic high school in Boston – a place called Don Bosco. It was a technical high school. Most kids didn’t go to college after it. You know, you learned a trade, so I did woodworking, whatever. And it was in the combat zone in Boston, which was like the high porn area where there was like all the porn theaters, and the whores, and crack-heads and drugs and stuff like that. It was at the end of that era. The combat zone was extinct about two or three years after I graduated, but when I started going there, it was still there.
SANTODONATO: Were you into drugs at that point as a kid?
SLAINE: I was just getting into drugs. I started doing drugs when I was fourteen. That was all around, but it was everywhere.
SANTODONATO: What was your drug of choice?
SLAINE: I tried it all when I was that age. I think I smoked weed for the first time when I was thirteen, and I had already smoked crack and fuckin’ angel dust, and fuckin’ everything else… done acid, mushrooms, by the time I was fourteen, fifteen. Cocaine and alcohol were my favorites. Those are the ones that stuck with me until about six months ago.
SANTODONATO: So you’ve been clean for six months?
SLAINE: Mm-hmm. Tomorrow – six months.
SANTODONATO: Congratulations, that’s fucking awesome!
SLAINE: Thanks. You know I had a lot of fun, man. You know like, I don’t have this story where like… Look I did, like to some extent… but… I had two-dozen friends die from drug overdoses, suicide, things related…
SANTODONATO: That many?!
SLAINE: Yeah, a lot. I always say, I didn’t fuckin’ lose everything before I had to get sober. I just had like a moment, where I was in the emergency room 10, 12-times a year and my body was giving up on me. I was throwing up 3 or 4 times a week… for about 10 years. It was just like, I was drinking two fifths a day, and I was doing coke every day, and I was doing molly, and fuckin’ different drugs would come in for like six months at a time. I just had to stop, man. I wasn’t gonna be the person I wanted to be. But you know, that being said, I don’t look down on anybody else for doing that shit. Like people I’m around still do it. I’m not like waving a flag for sobriety or anything. I need to do what’s right for myself.
SANTODONATO: So does it make it more difficult for you gigging and being around people like that?
 
He’s real and open, not guarded and scripted – refreshing for a Vegas interview.
 
SLAINE: Not really, ‘cause I don’t care what anyone else is doing. Like the sense memory sometimes, with writing… when I’m writing in the studio… ‘cause I used to go in the studio at eight o’clock at night and stay until eight in the morning, or noon the next day. They were like marathon cocaine sessions. Like I really thrived on writing with the manic nature of it. I’d write like three or four songs in a night. And I’d fuckin’ pace around the studio with my phone, before the phone, I’d write but… I could write really fast on cocaine, you know? So that’s been an adjustment, because now I might finish a song in a night, and I gotta kinda prod through it a little bit. I’m a little more analytical when I’m writing, as I write it, whereas when I’m fucked up, I can just fuckin’ cruise through it. So that’s been like the only big, major adjustment, as far as like, where if I feel like if I get in a zone in my head, where I’m frustrated and shit, I just shut it down. And I’m not used to shutting anything down. I mean, I fuckin’ just go full steam ahead all the time in everything in life. So I just had to learn to do that a little. As far as shows, it’s easy kinda… There’s so many people that are fucked up at shows, in like an embarrassing way… that it makes me feel like, eh… You know, I’m glad I’m not getting fucked up, because I could be like that guy. You know, people get annoying and pushy, telling the same stories over and over, and it’s like, “Alright, man…” So the shows haven’t been bad, but my music is about getting fucked up… it chronicles like… In a weird way, it still works to do sober, because like, I’ve kinda done a whole scope of what alcoholism and drug addiction is like. You know it’s kinda like an epidemic where I’m from in my neighborhood. So like everything that I’ve written about is in some way, shape or form related to it or if not directly about it.
SANTODONATO: Well that, to me, makes it way stronger. You gotta write about the things that you know. That’s what matters. That’s what makes it real.
SLAINE: Yeah, it still works, because like, I was talking a lot about the pain and the loss and the depression and stuff like that, and the only stuff that feels weird sometimes are the songs that celebrate. You know – ‘cause when you’re getting fucked up, you’re not fuckin’ miserable all the time. You’re happy, too. You have a lot of ups and downs. I think I chronicled like a lot of that experience. And this is another extension of what that experience is for me. Not that every song I make is gonna be about fuckin’ getting sober or whatever, but it’s all part… it’s a part of the completion of the story… The only other way to complete it is… die, and I ain’t tryin’ to do that.
SANTODONATO: A lot of creative people get fucked up – artists, writers… Have you had any anxiety about wondering: ‘Maybe, if I’m not high, I can’t write as many songs,’ like you said it. I know you said you shut it down, but is there another way you’re dealing with it?
SLAINE: I had to be ready to give it up.
SANTODONATO: So, honestly, you came to that point?
SLAINE: I had to come to that point, because it was a big hang-up for me. It was my main hang-up any other time I tried to get sober. I was like, well look: “Music is first to me, no matter what. And if I can’t fuckin’ do music sober, then I fuckin’ don’t want to get sober.” That would always be the hang-up. And this time I had to be able to say, being sober has to be No. 1 for me, because if not, I’m gonna lose… I’m not gonna… I don’t think I would have lost my relationship with my son completely…
SANTODONATO: You have a boy?
SLAINE: Yeah, I have a six-year-old son. You know, it was starting to become apparent to me that he was coming of an age where my lifestyle was gonna start affecting our relationship – one way or another. You know what I’m saying? That was the last straw. That was the thing that I wasn’t ready to concede. I could live with the pain of being sick and the anxiety, even though that was getting worse and worse. I could’ve lived with all that shit, because it was what I was used to in my life. I was used to fuckin’ people dying all around me. I was used to feeling sick all the time, and fuckin’ being a slave to that shit. I managed a life around it, but fatherhood was one thing that I couldn’t figure how to do that at the same time. You know what I mean? My son is the most important thing in the world to me.
SANTODONATO: You started rapping really young, at like nine?
SLAINE: Yeah, Beastie Boys! I listened to the first Beastie Boys album and I fuckin’ started writing right away. I started writing like the Beastie Boys.
SANTODONATO: And who else has influenced your flow and your style?
SLAINE: Early on, it was Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Eric B & Rakim, Slick Rick.
 
I think his style also reminds me of Kool Keith and the Ultramagnetic MCs, but not sure if they actually influenced him.
 
SANTODONATO: So, all the old-school guys.
SLAINE: And then, as I got a little older, (when I say older, I was fifteen, sixteen): House of Pain, Cypress Hill, Nas, Biggie Smalls, Wu-Tang.
SANTODONATO: So you were already being influenced by House of Pain and Cypress, before you met them?
SLAINE: Oh yeah, before I met those guys, I had pictures of them all over my walls. I used to cut pictures out of magazines like High Times. They had the “Be Real. How to Roll a Blunt” on the foldout, middle page. I had a House of Pain tour poster. I had the album covers from the old cd’s that used to come with the big artwork. I cut those out. I had all those up. That was my favorite shit. The first hip-hop concert I ever went to was Cypress Hill / House of Pain in 1993.
SANTODONATO: Were you already recording a little bit at that point, or were you just rapping?
SLAINE: I wasn’t recording in the studio or anything like that. It was something I kept to myself, because my neighborhood, like when I was growing up, it was still very racially segregated and we all listened to hip-hop, but like, you were a wigger if you were like a rapper or something like that. It was something I kinda stayed away from. There weren’t a lot of outlets for me. I was more like running in the streets and doing drugs. I didn’t think about… I mean, I thought about it, like in the back of my mind, I guess, but I didn’t… I wasn’t like out on the corner rappin’ and shit. But I did record in my house. I had a two-player-like tape player and then a recorder on one side. So I would get the singles at Tower Records that had the instrumentals on them, and I would rap on them, and I’d put the blank tape on the one side, and then I would take the blank tape out, and put another blank tape in and take like my vocal track, and then I started overdubbing, which I didn’t really understand what I was doing, but I soon learned was overdubbing, and what was a technique that was used in the recording studio. Soon after, I had my first live gig.
SANTODONATO: How’d it go?
SLAINE: It went well. And I was in front, free-styling with some guys on the corner, and it was like I was immersed in this culture for the first time. But I had been doing it for nine years by that point, so I was good at writing. I had a lot of good rhymes. So I blew people away by the time I was spittin’ and the guys who were impressed were all these guys who were like, to me, they were somebody on the underground scene of New York, and they were impressed, and the rest is kind of history. I just started going into studios after that for the first time, and MC Shan (who’s kind of a legendary dude from the eighties), he started managing me, and I started recording with him. Eventually I started working with the Lordz of Brooklyn, and Brooklyn introduced me to Danny Boy from House of Pain. Years later that turned into Danny getting me a deal with DJ Lethal (this is kinda the fast version of it), and that ended up over a couple of years turning into me doing some solo stuff with Lethal that Everlast jumped in on, and Ill Bill and La Coka Nostra started. And things have taken their own progression from there – but it’s kind of a very fast version.
SANTODONATO: So you’ve got this whole other thing going on too: acting. You’ve been in some big fuckin’ movies – surrounded by some big fuckin’ stars – how did this all happen?
SLAINE: After I had the pre-production deal with Lethal, I actually went into rehab (not rehab – detox). Rehab is, I guess, for like people who have money. I went into detox. It’s like three days, a bunch of homeless people… I went to this place in Roxbury called The Dimock. I got out, I was sober for like three weeks or something like that, and then right back at it. But it inspired my first mix tape that was called “The White Man Is The Devil Vol. 1”, and it was kind of about my troubles with cocaine and stuff. I made Vol. 2 after that. I started to gain some steam in Boston, and people started to know who I was, and I got a buzz in the streets. I pressed up 50 cd’s (I didn’t have any money behind me or anything like that), and I gave them to different drug dealers in the neighborhood. So if you bought a $40-bag of coke, it was $50 to get my cd. If you didn’t want my cd, you didn’t get the coke. I gave them to my friends. So I sold 13,000 cd’s like that.
SANTODONATO: Wow!
SLAINE: I knew my audience was going to be people that did drugs and stuff like that. And I figured that was the best way I could reach them, through drug dealers.
SANTODONATO: That’s a great story!
SLAINE: I imagine there’s probably some guy in Dorchester who has 75 copies of “The White Man Is The Devil Vol. 1” all covered with like fuckin’ white powder and shit all over it. (laughter) So I started gaining a little bit of notoriety, had a buzz in the streets, and simultaneously was working with Coka Nostra, and with this guy, Ed O.G., who’s kind of a Boston legend.
SANTODONATO: What a great fuckin’ story!
SLAINE: Yeah, I think everyone needs to find their audience. And I think that’s my audience – people who’ve kind of had the same experience as me. I probably have a bigger audience than that at this stage of the game, but it was definitely a way for me to reach the people who I knew would like the music. And it wasn’t just coke. It was heroin, ecstacy and stuff. My thought was like, you could have people who were coked out of their heads, like fuckin’ playing the cd, and if they like it, they’re gonna be “up” all the time talking about it. It probably contributed heavily to my buzz in Boston. Then the Boston Herald did a story about me. I started working with Coka Nostra right around the same time, and Ben Affleck was in town. He was in pre-production for Gone Baby Gone, which was his directorial debut. It was like the beginning of his comeback. There was a story about me in the paper with my picture, and I was livin’ in a… I hadn’t made really any money yet. I was making money just off the cd sales and stuff like that, but that was over some time that I sold 13,000 of them, and I also had a drug habit of my own. I couldn’t work anymore, because I was putting so much time into my music, so I was living in the… basically squatting in this warehouse that this guy was gonna build a recording studio in. But he ended up not – he ended up catching a case, and so I was like basically squatting in there. And there was no hot water or electricity, the guy hadn’t been paying the rent where he was gonna build or whatever. And I was just staying there, and at the time that that article was written, I was charging my phone up the street at this after-hours bar that had just been sold, didn’t have a liquor license anymore, but I knew the girl whose father owned it and we used to stay in there until like six in the morning. So I come home one night, and I went and stopped at the gas station, and I grabbed all the newspapers, ‘cause it was the first time I was ever in the newspaper. And I remember reading it, and I was just kinda laughing to myself. I climbed up this ladder to this place I used to sleep in, and I woke up on the mattress I was sleeping on with all the newspapers there, and I had 66 missed phone calls. Mr. Affleck had put out an APB on me, like with all the media outlets and everything. So I went in and I did the first audition. He had me in five more times to read, and I ended up getting the part for Gone Baby Gone. So that was pretty cool. I also worked with him on The Town, which I don’t think he envisioned casting me again.
SANTODONATO: So how did that go down?
SLAINE: A friend of mine worked in the casting office actually, and told me, ‘I don’t know. Ben doesn’t think you really can play a Charlestown guy. You’re a little too urban for him.’ You know, Charlestown is an urban area, but I think he thought I maybe talked too black, or you know, he kinda saw me as being like a hip-hop guy or something like that. It was great working with him on the first movie. We got along really well, and we stayed in touch and stuff like that. But uh, he was like, ‘Ah, I’ll find something for ya’ in it, but I don’t know if it’s gonna be one of the bank robbers,’ because that’s what I wanted to play was one of the bank robbers. So he was like, ‘Alright, well come in and read it for us.’ So I kinda went over the top with the scene that I had to read for, where I was being interrogated by the police. It said: ‘You got it all fucked up. I’m trying to make this sound authentic.’ But I went over the top with it and put in the “authenticious”, and just kinda white-trashed it out a little bit so it was like: “Yous got it all fucked up – I’m trying to make this sound ‘authenticious,’” and he gave me the part on the spot.
SANTODONATO: Fuck – that’s cool!
SLAINE: And they used that in the movie…
SANTODONATO: And you made all the trailers, too.
SLAINE: Yeah, it was cool. Even in Killing Them Softly, which I had a small part in… The first thing they released, actually, was when I throw Liotta through the window, and that was before the trailer came out. So that was fuckin’ cool.
SANTODONATO: What was that like working with that crew, and who directed it?
SLAINE: Andrew Dominik. He’s Australian and half the crew is Australian, too. He directed the movie, Chopper, and Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and he was great, man. And Affleck, to me, is just a great communicator. He’s an amazing director. And I think, 15-20 years from now, you’re gonna mention him in the same breath as Scorsese and Clint Eastwood, and guys like that. I can’t imagine doing a movie for the first time with no acting experience… you know, I got kicked out of film school, and I didn’t pursue film after that until Ben saw me in the newspaper. So I can’t imagine… I never acted in my life… I wasn’t in a high school play or anything. I couldn’t imagine going onto a movie set for the first time without the experience that he gave me. And I think he knew… he obviously thought I was talented and he saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily even see in myself. He kinda molded me, but also gave me the freedom to make my own choices and stuff like that, and to kind of build this character in a way that was authentic. It just gave me a lot of confidence. I can’t really explain like how important that was to me early on. To work with him first was amazing. And enter Dominik, who was just like very manipulative, but like in a good way, but like, you could feel him trying to get something out of you. I had this scene with Brad Pitt and he’s like: ‘Mate, I want you to tell him that you love him.’ And I was like: “That’s not in the script.” And he was like: ‘With your eyes, mate. With your eyes.’ (laughter) And then he would stay over there, and he would say something else to Brad Pitt. The way he worked with actors was very manipulative, but I feel like that’s a derogatory term for it. It was just kinda like he wanted to get two different motivations and see how it worked, and then you’d come back with a different approach after the cut. And then he’d be like: ‘Let’s try it like this this time.’ It was an interesting way to direct. It wasn’t quite as transparent, but it was a very interesting approach.
SANTODONATO: Can you tell me about your upcoming films?
SLAINE: There’s a new movie called By The Gun that I did with Harvey Keitel. And it’s my first experience as a lead character in a movie. It was with me, Ben Barnes, Leighton Meester, Harvey Keitel, Toby Jones (who’s in a ton of stuff – he’s a great actor, too). It’s just a really cool cast. I was with that one from the beginning. My friend, Emelio, wrote the script. It’s kinda like a modern day mob story, but the mob is not what it once was. The lead character is Ben Barnes. He’s a kid who grows up in the “neighborhood” and he idolizes the mafia, and loves all the movies, and loves the whole lure of it. But in 2014, that’s not what it is anymore. It’s been ripped apart by all the different FBI… starting the laws… rats… and they’ve dismantled it, so it’s not what it once was. I play his best friend, and I play an Irish gangster, but I’m a lone wolf assassin type of dude. I don’t really fuck with the Italians, but he’s my best friend. We did time together, and he’s about to get made, and then it kinda goes from there. We shot that in December of 2012.
SANTODONATO: No shit – you’ve got quite a resume started! As you’re getting older, do you see yourself transitioning out of rap, or do you have aspirations to do more production?
SLAINE: My plate is full with the music and the acting, but in the future, like as I do less music, I want to write and direct, but I’m still a baby with the acting. I feel like doing this music shit independently has given me like a great education. I’ve learned so much. I don’t have a college degree, but that’s my college degree.
SANTODONATO: Hard knocks.
SLAINE: I’ve learned a lot on how to build my career – I’ve learned from the bad choices I’ve made – I’ve learned from the good choices I’ve made. And I’ve learned kind of that you have to do this shit independently. And when kids come up to me and they like want to give me a demo tape (not that it’s a tape anymore), and I’m like: “Listen kid, I can’t do anything for you. As a matter of fact, nobody can do anything for you anymore. You are the only person. You need to build your fan base. You need to take the project you feel passionate about and perfect it, and master your craft, and then bring it to the world – when it’s mastered. You want to go out and audition and be part of that system, but you also don’t want to sit around and wait for good shit to happen to you, because it’s never gonna happen. Chances are, you might get lucky here and there, but I think I need to create my own name, just like I did with music. And maybe that means that… I’m pretty sure that I’m never gonna be like of the caliber of a Brad Pitt, or somebody like that when it comes to a movie star. But I learned that with my music career. I’m just interested in being me – and being the best version of myself. And who knows where my art is gonna grow to – you know like, anything is possible, but I just wanna take the journey with it and give myself the right shots and right opportunities. “Give myself” being the key phrase there. You know what I mean? ‘Cause nobody’s gonna give me shit. I learned that from a very fucking young age. You know what I’m saying? In fuckin’ Boston, growing up in the streets, I learned nobody was gonna give me shit. In the music business, I learned nobody was gonna give me shit and I had to make my own bed. I don’t think that there’s any fucking thing different now that I’m doing the movie stuff, too. I think the same rule applies.
SANTODONATO: It’s a fucked up time – it’s weird. But it’s kinda good, too, because it’s like what you were saying: If you’ve got talent, and you can put your shit out there – maybe you can build a following, right? If you’ve got the shit. Like you said, just fuckin’ do it. So tell me about the new record – what you’re saying in it, what it’s about, and what your favorite tracks are.
 
My favorite track is “Getting High”, which you can check out on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCahkWFYH1o, where Slaine and girlfriend Cadence St. John speak to why it’s not so cool to get high all the time.
 
SLAINE: On this album, I felt like I was so heavy content-wise. I mean, when I first mixed it, it was about my first struggles with cocaine. You know what I’m saying? And then just taken from there, like even my maturation as an artist, like “A World With No Skies” album was about how I didn’t believe in God, but then like, how I came to… You can listen to that album and know that’s not what it’s all about – so it’s not like this preachy thing. But it was kinda like my life story up until that point. I don’t like to tell stories like: “This happened. This happened. This happened, and then this happened.” I like to tell a story very subtly. On the new album, there’s a song called “Our Moment”, and it’s kind of about me and Cadence’s relationship. It’s about kinda like a love that’s out of your control – that you didn’t expect. It can be destructive sometimes. But it’s setup against a backdrop of her being like in the adult industry kinda, and me having my relationship with my son – with you know, my ex-wife – and still wanting to have a relationship, so kinda not wanting that relationship to be “out there” like that, because whatever stigma comes with that type of thing – and with the music I do, and with the career that she had, whatever. That was kinda something that I didn’t want out there like that. And that was something that I struggled with, because I didn’t want to lose the right to see my son. But you wouldn’t know that 1,000% that that’s what that song is about. You listen to the song, and you hear it very clearly, to me. But I’m writing it, assuming that everybody knows everything around it, because to me, that’s like the coolest way to tell the story. That’s like from my perspective. But I don’t give you all the information with it. And that’s how I like to put all my music together, because it just allows me to be the most honest and tell the story from the coolest perspective. So this new album is not so heavy as “The World With No Skies” and “The White Man Is The Devil”. Although I think this is my least dark album, everybody is saying: ‘It’s fuckin’ still dark, man.’ That’s I guess where I was. I was in a dark place for so long, that seemed like the light version of the story. I just wanted to have a lot of fun with that album. I got divorced almost four years ago now, and you know, I spun out of control for a minute, and then I reeled it back in, and I was having a really good time. I came out of having nothing, built a career for myself, done some movies, toured around the world, made some money, and I had fun! And that’s what this record was – like the king of everything else. So my life was all like falling into shambles and I told my friend, Richie Skam, when I was in the studio, and I was like: “I don’t pay my bills. I don’t fuckin’ open up my mail. I don’t fuckin’ go to the dentist, don’t fuckin’ go the doctor. I’m a horrible husband. I’m terrible at fuckin’ regular shit in life.” He said: “Yeah, but you’re the king of everything else.”
SANTODONATO: (laughter) So he said it just like that?
SLAINE: (laughter) Yeah, and I started laughing when he said it. And I go, “Maybe that’s the name of my next album.” So this album is kinda just about that lifestyle where I’m just kinda like wildin’ out. You know, I finished the record before I got sober, pretty much. It took me like six months to put out, because I had to like reel myself back in and get my head back together and all that. This album almost killed me, but it was a picture of kinda where I was at. I mean, trust me, from a music standpoint, like it spans so much. I had problems with sample clearance in 2010 with “The World With No Skies” and I couldn’t put out that album as I originally wanted to.
SANTODONATO: So that’s why you remade it? It was a sample issue?
SLAINE: Yeah, that’s why like half the songs are taken off, and I had to replace it with another half, and another couple of them are remixed. So over those couple years since then I had to learn how to make music without sampling, because I couldn’t put shit out on Suburban Noize with the samples.
SANTODONATO: Run me through your working process with your producer, Lu Balz, in the studio.
SLAINE: You know, I used to write all the time. I used to write on napkins at the bar, write on my hand. I’d have lyrics everywhere. And I stopped doing that, and I started only writing in the studio, because I had started to learn how to write in the studio, like maybe in 2003. And I’ve become so good at it that I only wanted to write in the studio. I’d just live my life, and I’d just go into the studio, and I’d write about it. And that worked really well for a long time. And you know, I used to load up with the booze, get some drugs, whether it was coke… usually coke I’d have always. I didn’t do like tons of it, but enough to keep me drinking. It was more like to facilitate my drinking. I never did coke without alcohol.
SANTODONATO: Sure, to keep you awake.
SLAINE: Yeah, it keeps me awake working, my brain firing, and it keeps me from being like this (acting intoxicated, dangling his body over the chair) when I’m drunk. You know? So that, and over the past few years, molly, too. So I would have that, and parties at the studio. Depending on the night, like if I felt like being around people… Sometimes we’d go out to the bar and bring some people back to the studio, some girls, whatever. We just had a good time. So I would have ideas for certain stuff or maybe a situation that happened to me that week, and me and Lu would start going through sounds. And you know, he plays everything. So sometimes I come up with the melody. He’ll start playing it, and always makes it better than I had it in my head.
SANTODONATO: So how many tracks might you make to whittle down to what actually ends up on the record?
SLAINE: Well, you’d be surprised. I used to throw out a lot more songs than I do now. I rarely throw away a song now, because if there’s a verse and a hook in a song, and it’s just not working – then we just throw it away – start again. Start again and make it right!
 
Check out more about Slaine at SuburbanNoizeRecords.com and Noskies.com
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