Everyone in This Wheelchair Sports Camp Is Stoned and Making Beats
Kalyn Heffernan is 42 inches tall, has been diagnosed with a brittle bone disease, is confined to a wheelchair, smokes lots of weed, and won’t hesitate to publicly shame anyone who gets on her bad side with a brutal rap track. Kalyn is the emcee and driving force of Denver’s Wheelchair Sports Camp, a hip-hop group that mixes classic beats with jazz and avant-garde sound experiments. The group formed while Kalyn was in college, with just her rapping and a DJ supplying the beats, but has evolved into a shifting lineup that sometimes features drums, a saxophone, and even a sitar.
Her music deals with social inequalities relating to handicap people, as well as getting blazed as fuck and how much cops suck. On her song, “This Bitch…” Kalyn attacks problems with healthcare, and on “Party Song” she taunts, “rock, let the midget hit it/cops on my jock, make ‘em, cough/cus I’m sicker with it.” More recently, she’s started to make beats for rapping Haitians who were displaced by the 2010 earthquake, and called out Goodwill for paying handicap people less than minimum wage.
Photo by Adrian Diublado
VICE: Hello, Kalyn. What is your writing process? Kalyn: I’m a pretty slow writer. Sometimes I write faster, but more than not I have to sit down… well, I’m always sitting down, but I just have to go at it.
You used to sneak backstage at shows and meet people like Xzibit, Ludacris, Erykah Badu, and Busta Rhymes. How did you do it? It was pretty easy. I would play the wheelchair card and say “oh, so and so” told me to come back here. I was a pretty good scam artist back then. I think, because of my disability and because of my advantages, that I’ve been able to milk the sysem. I could get backstage to almost any concert.
The Last-Ever Interview with the Leaders of Peru’s Shining Path Guerrilla Army
This August, newspapers in Peru splashed headlines across their front pages about the huge blow the government had dealt to what is left of the infamous Shining Path—a brutal Maoist guerrilla group who have spent the last 20 years hanging out in the jungle slaughtering peasants and smuggling coke. The headlines announced to the world thatComrade Alipio, the group’s military leader, had been killed.
Alipio’s death was as cartoonish as it was emphatic. A cocaine trafficker who had links to the Shining Path, but who’d turned informant for the police, lured an armed column of rebels towards a hut that he owned. Most of the fighters stayed outside, guarding the building while Comrade Alipio and two other Shining Path bigwigs, Comrades Gabriel and Alfonso, went into what was meant to be a safe house, expecting to meet some ladies of the night that the drug trafficker had organized for them.
Crucially, what Alipio and company didn’t know was that the army had rigged the house with ANFO explosives. As soon as the three rebels had made themselves comfortable, the whole hut went up in one big blast. The charred bodies had to be identified through DNA tests.
As soon as news of the killing came out, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing: I have the arguable privilege of being the only journalist to have met Comrade Alipio, and the local media were desperate for a soundbite.
Back in September 2010, I received a call on behalf of the leadership of the Shining Path, who had agreed to meet me if I travelled, unaccompanied, to Peru’s Valley of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro rivers, known by the acronym VRAEM. It’s a jungle region that routinely serves as the battleground between armed forces and drug lords. The Shining Path contacted me after I sent them a message while I was reporting in the area, tailing some anti-narcotics police patrols a few months prior.
What was your first reaction when you heard the name “Dick Wolf?”
A dangerous person. Wolves and dicks are dangerous. The man matches up to his name. When you meet him, he’s a big guy. He looks like he’d sit at the head of a table at a mob meeting or something. He’s very serious. Thank god for Dick Wolf. His checks clear, I don’t have nothin’ to say bad about that guy. In this business, if you have one powerful executive that likes you, he can basically help your life. Dick Wolf has bought me a lot of cars, paid for a lot of vacations… I ain’t mad at the dude.
Piss and Root Beer: An Interview with Marcel Dzama, with contributions from Raymond Pettibon
Depending on your familiarity with—or curiosity about—the current state of visual art, you may or may not be familiar with Raymond Pettibon or Marcel Dzama. Raymond Pettibon is a great artist. Marcel Dzama is a great artist. My name is Nicholas Gazin, and I would like to be a great artist, but for now, I’m totally OK with being a great opportunist.
A few months ago, someone told me that Marcel had a big monograph coming out. It’s called Marcel Dzama: Sower of Discord, out in early November from Abrams, and Raymond wrote the foreword. I selfishly interpreted this information as an excuse to spend time with two of my idols, and so I proposed a three-way interview as a way to subtly interrogate them and, hopefully, learn some of their secrets. Luckily they agreed.
The interview took place at David Zwirner Gallery on West 19th Street in New York, where Raymond was working on some new pieces. There were tables covered in paint, scraps of food and bottles of booze were scattered about, and a couple of dogs were running around, scampering between pieces of very expensive art resting on the gallery floor. I guess I looked hungry, because Raymond kindly gave me an extra hot dog that he’d ordered before I arrived. Marcel showed up shortly after that, and I pressed the record button on my phone. We talked a lot about dog pee, and I’m still unsure if I should apologize about that, but hey, when your heroes want to talk about canine urine, what are you going to do about it?
VICE: Raymond, one thing I like about your work is its lack of preciousness. The last time I interviewed you, a dog urinated on one of your drawings, and you seemed mostly unfazed.
Raymond Pettibon: Well, I wasn’t into my dog doing that, but it’s happened a handful of times. I said on Twitter recently that one of my dogs pissed on my drawings and their value went up twice over. Marcel Dzama: I had a rabbit that used to spray his urine all over my paintings. I thought he improved them.
My grandfather painted a family portrait for one of my mom’s friends, and there was a problem with what they thought was dripping varnish, but actually one of his cats had sprayed it. Marcel: When I have drawings lined up, my cat will scratch the sides like a scratching post. Raymond: When dogs take a leak on a drawing, it’s so acidic that you just have to throw everything out or cut out the urine stain. I don’t want to make it hard for people who do conservation. With some artists, there’s no question of their arrogance. Like the abstract expressionists purposely made it hard on posterity by painting with house paint with no thought as to how it would get preserved down the line. I don’t want the people who buy my work to worry about preserving it.
My mother saved my art that I did when I was three, four, five, six years old. This was done on the back of mimeograph sheets, and they’re in impeccable condition. It’s not hard to get paper that’s entirely acid free… Unless you’re drawing blotter acid, which is an entirely different thing.
How old are you guys? Marcel: I’m 39. Raymond: I’m 39. I’ve been 39 many times.
Are you nervous about your 30s ending? Raymond: I’ll be 39 for a while still. Marcel: I’m fine with it. I just had a baby last year. I think if I hadn’t had my son I’d be more nervous about aging. I had a lot of friends and relatives who had passed away the year before, and I was so depressed.
There was a time in skateboarding when what you said and did off the board was almost as important to your career as the tricks you did on it. The intense and colorful personalities of guys like Mark Gonzales, Jeff Grosso, Jason Jessee, and Neil Blender captivated my entire generation as much as any skate photo of them. Characters like that are rare in modern skating. The new mantra is smile, don’t say anything, and let your skating speak for you. The problem is every kid’s skating is saying the same thing, making it a very boring conversation.
San Jose’s Jerry Hsu is one of my all-time favorite human beings and definitely one of my top favorite skateboarders. Jerry possesses all the things that used to count for something as a skateboarder: creativity, style, integrity, an opinion, and a personality. He is also, of course, an unbelievably gifted skater. His part in Enjoi’s 2006 video Bag Of Suck remains seven and a half minutes of the smoothest, most stylish, and gnarliest skateboarding ever.
Back in June the entire VICE staff was invited to a theater in Brooklyn to watch a new film made by Madonna. Most of us didn’t know what was going on, what the film was, or what VICE had to do with it. All we knew was Madonna herself was going to be there and we were all expected to show up. Our other plans were canceled, happily. After all, what sort of goober would blow off Madonna? Once we arrived we learned that VICE and Madonna were embarking on a new partnership in support of global artistic expression called Art for Freedom, and her film was kicking off this beautiful union. Titled secretprojectrevolution, the black-and-white short is visceral and sexy. It has gunplay, old-timey costumes, and beautiful women. Madonna stars in it, and she’s fierce and radiant, of course. She also supplies the film’s inspirational voiceover. You should take a minute to download the film right here via BitTorrent. After the screening there was a brief Q&A during which Madonna graciously answered a cringeworthy question from someone in the audience about whoring herself out to commercial interests. Thanks for putting up with us, Madonna!
VICE creative director Eddy Moretti recently interviewed Madonna in London. They talked about Madonna’s tendency to provoke people as a teenager, her inspirations, and her desire to foster free speech around the world. Watch the interview above, and then check out secretprojectrevolution and get involved with Art for Freedom.
If you’ve ever had a near-death experience, chances are you’ve been fortunate enough—depending on how you look at it—to hear music that sounds identical to the blissed-out tones produced by the mononymous minstrel Iasos. In 1989, a scientist at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire discovered that Iasos’ music—in particular a piece called “The Angels of Comfort”—bore a remarkable resemblance to the divine strains heard by people as they dipped a toe into that sun-dappled dimension between the present and the not-so-present. Yet that information would not surprise Iasos one bit, because the 66-year-old believes he is an earthly conduit for the musical expressions of a being named Vista, who transmits ideas to Iasos telepathically, which he then turns into song. Iasos, who was born in Greece but raised in California from the age of four, has enjoyed these visitations for some 40 years, during which he’s released many albums of enlightened instrumental music and held workshops around the world on the restorative qualities of sound.
A true outsider and in many ways a visionary artist, Iasos is up there with the likes of Vangelis, Brian Eno, and his old pal Steven Halpern as one of the electronic pioneers of what became known as new age music in the mid-1970s. In recognition of his restless spirit, Chicago’s Numero Group recently put out Celestial Soul Portrait, a selection of tracks from the first decade of Iasos’ career that draw attention to the experimental nature and uncanny beauty of his work. For a cosmic voyager, Iasos was surprisingly easy to get hold of—we spoke on the phone—and came across as pretty normal and, as he puts it, “grounded.” He lives in Marin County, north of San Francisco, where his daily routine includes meditation, yoga, feeding the local deer, and spending time in the studio making music and visuals.
VICE: Greetings, Iasos! How are you? Iasos: I’m fantastic! I just came back from a concert in Los Angeles and it couldn’t have gone better! It was sold out; standing room only. It was a young, playful crowd. There were a lot of beaming, happy faces. I had quite a time.
Do your concerts always go so well? The one before, in Portland, Oregon, was even better. You see, I measure the dramatic impact I have on the audience by how much stillness there is when I take a bow to signify that the concert is over. Because if they really get it, they’re really zoned out and no one gets up. In Portland it lasted so long it was almost embarrassing. I bowed to signify it was over and then I went to the front of the stage and nobody got up. Then one minute went by and nobody got up, there was silence. Two minutes after, six minutes after… I thought this is too much and walked into the lobby and that broke the spell.
A lot of people will encounter Iasos for the first time through Celestial Soul Portrait, which shines a light on your earlier work. Is there renewed interest in your music? It’s funny you say that. Ever since I started, my close friends have always said, “Iasos, you’re way ahead of your time.” And now that it’s 2013, people are getting interested in music I released in 1975. So it kind of verifies them saying that.
I have to say it’s encouraging to hear you talking like a completely normal person. Having seen photos of you and listened to your music, I had the impression you’d be a pretty zoned-out individual. [hysterical laughter] That’s very funny! It’s funny that you expected me to be zoned-out. I am grounded and present.