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How to "Unstage" Duran Duran: Conversations With David Lynch and American Express' Jessica Igoe

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A Conversation with David Lynch

Mike Ragogna: David, please can you tell us about Wednesday night's convergence of David Lynch, Duran Duran, American Express, and the "Unstaged" concert series?

David Lynch: Well, American Express puts on these live concerts and webcasts, so this will go around the world. The last one was Arcade Fire in New York City, Duran Duran will play at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles, and it will be webcast live, going around the world. My job is to provide visuals to this event, so we've been working quite some time now. We were going to do something with fifty cameras and have things going in a tent, but they technically weren't able to do it. So, we've been pre-recording many, many things that will be double-exposed over Duran Duran while they are performing. It's a chance for some very cool, happy accidents, and we start the experiment at 7pm PT, (10pm ET).

MR: Have you had any kind of rehearsal for this event?

DL: Tonight is our first rehearsal, and we will see how it goes.
(Note: This interview took place Tuesday afternoon.)

MR: There is also an association with VEVO and YouTube, do you know how all of that is functioning together?

DL: No, I know that tomorrow the audience at The Mayan Theater will not see the show that the audience in the world sees, so they'll get a chance to see it, I think, on Duran Duran's site for a while. I'm not sur how many places it will be available in the near future.

MR: How did your association with American Express come about? Did someone approach you?

DL: Yes, (they) approached me.

MR: Are you working on anything musically right now?

DL: I'm working with my engineer and buddy Big Dean Hurley on a blues album that will come out this year. I'm also working with Angelo Badalamenti on our Thought Gang album which will come out this year. And I just launched the website www.davidlynch.com, which was down for a while. It's primarily music now, maybe the weather report will come back...I'm working with a girl named Christabel, I just finished an album with her, which I produced. So, there are lots of things, and you can find out about it through www.davidlynch.com.

MR: And by "The Weather Report," you mean the jazz group?

DL: (laughs) No, I mean a literal weather report that I used to do.

MR: (laughs) Now you know how often I visited, sorry. (laughs) So, when you look at the current musical landscape, it seems pretty interesting, something's up not only in the experimental and indie realms, but even in straight-up pop. What do you think is going on in music right now?

DL: I think something is going on, like you said. I just happen to like this girl Christabel and a girl named Lissie. I also like Lykke Li, who I met for the first time the other night. I also like Duran Duran's new album...I really like it. It grows on you, it's really cool.

MR: Yeah, I saw them at SXSW and they still were impressive. Actually, I was a little shocked at how good they were.

DL: It's good, I think it's going to go good for them.

MR: They still have the spark.

DL: They still have the spark.

MR: Who else you got?

DL: Alicia Witt--who I've known since she was in Dune--is not only a great actress but you have to check out her singing. Also I really like Au Revoir Simone. They come from Brooklyn.

MR: Just curious, with your own stable of artists, do you really have the time to be working with all of them in addition to everything else you're doing?

DL: Sure, there are twenty-four hours in a day.

MR: (laughs) But don't we have to meditate a couple times a day?

DL: We do, but that gives you more energy and more happiness to do all of the stuff.

MR: Is there an outlet for your artists, like a label?

DL: No. I sort of had a thing called The David Lynch Music Company, but I think the indie labels know what they are doing. They get behind a thing and that's what you want, but it's a lot of work. So, I think we all have to find labels. On Sunday Best Recording, I've got two songs with..."Good Day Today." Sunday Best Recordings--they are incredible. Mostly, they are into dance music, but they have all different kinds of artists, and they got behind these two songs and they were big around the world.

MR: I have to confess that I came into your work through Dune. I loved it, I'm sorry, David. What can I say.

DL: That's okay, Mike. Bless your heart.

MR: And Blue Velvet, oh my God. What is your advice for new artists?

DL: Always the same. You never know what's going to happen, you've just got to love the work, stay true to yourself and your own voice. Don't compromise for the wrong reasons, don't sell out, stay true to yourself and the music no matter what it is and hope for the best. 


MR: What advice do you have for budding filmmakers?

DL: Same thing. Be true to yourself. You can never tell what's going to happen. There are plenty of people with huge talent that just get red lights, there are people with not so much talent that get all greens. You just have to be true to yourself. Do the work. There is a Vedic expression--"Man has control of action alone, never the fruits of the action." So, you can't do much about it anyway, you finish your work, and just see what comes.

MR: What do you predict about how huge this concert is going to be?

DL: Well it's going to be unique and it's going to be cool.

MR: Are you excited about the techniques you're experimenting with for the first time?

DL: Check it out, Mike, because I don't think you will see a concert like this, and I don't know if you'll want to see another one like it. (laughs) But it's an experiment, and it could be good, it could be cool.

MR: You got it. Is this an event from which you'll take all your new technical knowledge and apply it to your future films or other works?

DL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all learn something every time we do things. There is something happening in this concert tonight that is for the future. I'm pretty pumped about it, and like I said, I'm really getting into Duran Duran's music, and I think it's going to be a real good night.

MR: So, it's going to be a cosmic thing, huh?

DL: It's going to be cosmic!

MR: Very nice. Now, to cover every base, I have to bring up another of your major initiatives, The David Lynch Foundation, that held the Radio City Hall concert that reunited Paul McCartney and Ringo, and that recently held a conference that included Clint Eastwood. It supports teaching meditation around the world in schools, and its outreach goes beyond students to include...

DL: ...the homeless, American Indians, prisoners, abused children, and people suffering from bipolar and different learning disabilities. You know, when people get a chance to dive within and experience the big treasury within us all, things get real good. And that's all the message is.

MR: You've also reached out to the military as well?

DL: Yes, the military, people who come back from Afghanistan and Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder. These are macho guys, they are suffering, and they don't like to tell anybody they are suffering. You give them this technique of Transcendental Meditation and voom, they get their lives back.

MR: That covers just about everything, David. Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed.

DL: Well, I have a pretty big crush an Arianna Huffington.

MR: (laughs) Again, thank you so much.

(transcribed by Theo Shier)

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A Conversation with American Express' Jessica Igoe, Vice President Global Sponsorship Marketing

Mike Ragogna: Since this is the second year of a partnership with VEVO and YouTube, what is American Express hoping to achieve this year and how will it benefit the music industry?

Jessica Igoe: At American Express, we know that our Cardmembers have a passion for music and we have been creating memorable experiences with their favorite artists for years. With Unstaged, we saw this as an opportunity to not only provide our Cardmembers with a unique in-venue concert experience, but also help music enthusiasts across the country access their favorite artists.

But another goal that we had for Unstaged was to help shape a new distribution model for musical acts. We are helping artists to get broad scale awareness of their new music to both existing and new fans. And an important element of that is helping artists to sell their new music. Fans who tune-in to the live stream are able to download the album on iTunes directly from the YouTube channel. We know from our previous artists that Unstaged played an important role in the success of their music. Last year is a great example as our Unstaged artists combined for eight Grammy nominations and four Grammy wins, and two of the three artists' albums debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart following their Unstaged performances. This new distribution model is beneficial to both music fans and the music industry.

MR: David Lynch is an interesting choice to direct the live stream. What went into the company's decision to work with him?

JI: With all of our "Unstaged" music series concerts, we want to create a fusion of artist, venue and director that will allow us to connect our in-venue and online audiences in new and unexpected ways.

From a partnership standpoint, many factors go into which artists we work with, as we are committed to offering an eclectic mix of genres that are relevant, diverse and exciting. We also like to work with artists who see Unstaged as a new model for distributing music, especially as they are getting ready to release new recordings.

For a director, we are looking for someone who is a fan of the band and has a unique perspective on their music. We are especially excited to be including David Lynch into our Unstaged family. He is putting together an unbelievable visual experience. His vision for the stream is something that we have never done before, and will be a really rich experience for our online viewers.

MR: We've seen a variety of digital features incorporated in the Unstaged series from last year with Arcade Fire, John Legend & The Roots and Sugarland. Which digital initiatives can we expect for this concert with Duran Duran and what makes these new ones so special?

JI: Unstaged: An Original Series from American Express is truly designed to bring both the in-concert and at-home viewing experiences to entirely new heights. Similar to our inaugural year last year, we work with each artist and director individually to create a concert and live-stream experience that is highly personalized for the band and engaging for the music fans. The 2011 Unstaged series will undoubtedly continue to use a variety of digital and social media to connect the online audience to the live shows.

As we kick-off the first installment of this year, we're certainly pleased to offer new and more innovative digital twists, such as "The Now Pulse" crowd visualizer where a special Duran Duran memento will be unlocked based on social chatter online. Additionally, audiences worldwide were able to collaborate with David Lynch in an on-stage and online art installation, by submitting photos as part of our "All Of Us Now" photo project. And of course, the hugely popular "Tweet the Band" feature allows fans to Tweet questions to #amexduranduran for a chance to have them answered by the band in the pre-show.

MR: What advice would you give any artists aspiring to eventually play in Unstaged?

JI: The main thing that we are trying to achieve at American Express with Unstaged, is to use create a new distribution model for music. We want to work with artists who see Unstaged as a way of connecting with their fans across the world and are looking to be innovative in the digital space. This combination of an in-venue and online concert experience really helps to connect with existing fans and build a new audience.