Sci-fi monster super death cage match

“Alien vs. Predator” is only the latest example of that perennial sci-fi subgenre known as the crossover — where two characters from two different series cross into one another’s storytelling territories. In the case of “AvP,” you can even divide it further into the sub-subgenre known informally as “Who’d kick whose butt?” … But why stop at Aliens and Predators? Here’s a full fight card matching up more than a dozen other movie monsters, tough guys and villains.

Originally published on Aug. 19, 2004. Read the complete article.

Straight Talk: Alan Sparhawk of Low

The saying goes that slow and steady wins the race. If so, give Low the gold. This Duluth indie-rock trio—guitarist Alan Sparhawk, his wife Mimi Parker on drums, and bassist Zak Sally—have become internationally renowned for a contemplative, ethereal sound reminiscent of Galaxie 500 and the early Cure. Their new retrospective box set, A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief, collects B-sides and rarities going back to Low’s earliest recorded work, in addition to eleven videos and three documentaries, including the illuminating “Closer Than That.” Essential for any fan, it would be a good place to start for the casual listener as well (say, those who might only have heard the version of “Little Drummer Boy” the Gap used in a Christmastime TV ad). They’re currently working with Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridman on a full-length record, their seventh, which Sparhawk jokes will “sound like Weezer.” Sparhawk will play a solo show at the 400 Bar July 31, and Low appears October 8-9 at Triple Rock Social Club.

THE RAKE: Does Duluth exert a geographic influence on your songs?
I think so. There’s a sort of Scandinavian reservedness about it. And the cold, the long winter, the mini-ocean. We have a definite Midwestern thing going on, a lack of irony. Although we did do a Journey cover.

The “Closer Than That” documentary includes footage from a concert in Amsterdam. How is Low received in Europe?
Pretty well, actually. I think we actually sell more records in Europe and England. I hope we don’t become one of those bands that nobody knows over here but we’re huge in Belgium. We have a great fan base in the U.S., and we’re certainly not slagged or ignored by the press, but it seems like in Europe we’re treated seriously, as a band that’s as valid as anybody else. Whereas in the U.S. we’re still kind of an anomaly: “Oh, yeah, that slow, quiet, indie rock band.” We could tour Europe twice as much as we do.

On the other hand, it’s more difficult to tour Europe because you’re also traveling with your children.
Yeah. In the U.S. you can just hop in the van and go.

What’s it like for Low to be simultaneously a band and a family?
It’s good. It can be difficult, but I’d rather do it this way. We’re lucky to be able to be around our kids all the time. Each side of my life is amplified by the other. The band pushes the possibilities for tension in the marriage, but also the rewards. They play off each other. The bad days are bad for the family, and vice versa. The biggest factor is having children.

You and Mimi just had your second, didn’t you?
Yes, he’s about a month old.

If you keep going, you could transform Low into the world’s slowest Von Trapp Family Singers cover band.
There you go! It could become a family variety show. A friend of mine says, almost seriously, that he wants to film a pilot of us going on the road, and call it Family Band. Sort of an alternative Osbournes—though it’d probably be more like The Office.

Your cover of “Surfer Girl” started as a lullaby to your daughter, right?
Yes. It’s funny, because there’s a moment on the documentary where Mimi and I are sitting on a couch backstage after a concert, and we play “Surfer Girl,” and she suddenly perks up and turns her head to look. I didn’t realize she did that until I’d seen the footage.

Despite your successes, Low’s unusual approach probably means you’ll always be a niche band. But your ten-year career suggests you’ve found the right niche.
It’s been appropriate for us. I’d love to make a record for $200,000 with Brian Eno, but you have to work with what resources are there. It’s not about staying “indie”—we don’t care about that. You have to adjust to the fact that if you have something going on and it connects with people, even on a small level, you can do it if you have the right attitude and the right perspective. You’ve got to work within the limits.

Originally published in the August 2004 issue of Rake Magazine.

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