Blazed Up with The Undefined

Urban Iris: Sidewinder

I have known R/Kain Blaze since we were teenagers in John Singleton’s Los Angeles. We started out talking about comic books and computers and (I) had no idea that both of these things would take over the world. We are now living much of the science fiction that we found awesome and horrifying as children. He has matured into a high-dollar media hacker and emerging filmmaker and I am a thirty-something guy with a web site. So put on your silver jumpsuit and thrilling headgear and dig this interview of one hell of a forward-thinking mind from the exciting year four hundred billion.

Bryan D. Wilhite: If we don’t know we will now know: your latest project, Urban Iris, marks a formal and complete return to filmmaking. It sounds strange that a relatively young cat like yourself is “returning” to movie making. You were quite the child prodigy back in the day. How come it took you so long? Was the LAPD trying to kill you Rodney King style?

R/Kain Blaze: Growth spurts, hormones, ignorance of youth, money—a myriad of concerns and possibilities appear when you’re doing things as a child. I don’t know specifically about Rodney King style but I have had LAPD bullets and otherwise fly in close proximity to my person.

I started drawing and making flip books which led to me animating on Super 8 by seven years old. I won about 2 to 3 national animation awards in festivals per year until I was about 13. I’ve never appreciated masses of people—rather I cannot recall a time where I have not thoroughly detested the absolute hell out of people. I can take individuals, but plural, no. So being an ego-centric malcontent baby goat (as some might care to typify, should they for some reason consider it a worthy endeavor) it was inevitable that I would somewhat drift away from a team sport that can be filmmaking.

Of course, that’s the only film of mine to win 1st place in an international film festival and put me on local television with this fucking hick in tow sucking down on the fruit of my labor. That’s when I completely understood I had to be extremely careful… of minimizing possibilities of letting people draft off me. It had happened before but that was cold nasty.

Example: The Continuing Line was a flick that I shot with this dude, Ian. Ian was one of the few cats I tolerated (I imagine it may have been the other way around also). We were working on the film where I was animating chalk drawing and he was to perform the camera duties. 3 days (a few days before film would have to be sent in for developing to get it back in time) before the deadline for some damn festival, I got the film back and viewed it on the editing splicer. That punk ass m(*7$3er had paid no attention at all to the fact that the camera had been bumped two weeks earlier so that it was not only capturing the animation but also my hands and anything else that was supposed to be beyond the periphery of camera view.

This revealed, punk ass that he was figured he’d bail out before he caught the wrath of the prototype (me); and he did it in such a cavalier way it made the accident seem more like sabotage. Anyway, daredevil I considered myself: I took to animating during and after school and doing the camera work myself. I re-did in the entire damn thing, edited the damn thing, and calmly put both our names on the end credits. Of course, that’s the only film of mine to win 1st place in an international film festival and put me on local television with this fucking hick in tow sucking down on the fruit of my labor. That’s when I completely understood I had to be extremely careful… of minimizing possibilities of letting people draft off me. It had happened before but that was cold nasty.

MeridianLong story/medium: As I continued to do film, I wanted music crafted to the stories which led me to playing. That was something that I could do by myself and was less time consuming to get a finished result. I got a taste of that sweet sticky thing that The Ohio Players spoke of from a lady with a Parliament booty and I’m certain that I haven’t had a clear thought since. I interned at TriStar and it galvanized the fact that that was no way to get my film thoughts out—and they had a cap on how many men they could have around in the industry, especially Black ones. So anyway, I had to wait for the technology to come down since my gear had been stolen by a crackhead and make more money. Ultimately, I took refuge in other arts and Black women’s vaginas (as crass as that might sound). It drove me insane but it also kept me from adding to the body count, more or less. Thanks, much appreciation.

rasx: Not going out like Rodney Allen Rippey (Jack-in-the-Box style) is good—as meat rots your meat. So what are you doing different to attack the problem this time?

R/K: What problem? Hundreds of thousands of women and adoring fans didn’t throw themselves over a cliff last time I drifted away from moviemaking. I’ve done many things that have affected a certain amount of people that few people know I initiated. I’m not even shooting on film anymore and the computer does a great deal of the work I used to do.

Some people snap into that real world understanding that the universe is not your-ego-and-ass-a-centric. You try to make an impact when and where you can. But if you expect people to give you the coochie-coo, “Isn’t he/she so bright; Ain’t he/she so precious?” special treatment when you’re sixty-five, you are a sycophant. I’m not sentimental. Plus being called bright by a bunch of dumb-asses isn’t much of a victory for humanity.

Pragmatically, all I’ve done as an animator is moved things that ordinarily move by themselves. What I’ve done with humans is pop some women into tight outfits and have them wiggle around. Hopefully, I soon can graduate to having beautifully executed movies with unique visuals and potent streams of social awareness. I, however, will still find places for women in tight clothes wiggling around. Most of the stories thus far have women leads, wiggle and non-wiggle varieties.

rasx: You have mentioned your exploration of music being done “by yourself”—despite those solo projects, you are most well known for one hell of a stone tribal move called The Good Life. It has damn-near worldwide legendary status for the true historians of West Coast hip hop, what do you have to say about that endeavor?

R/K: There are technical and pragmatic understandings of the concept “by myself.” Technically, no one does anything by themselves as we are the end result of chronological symbiosis our ancestors, environments, etc. At the same time we are simply cogs in that same mechanism that will yield some influence on some other egomaniac goo-gobs of years down the line. So, technically there is no “myself” because “we are.”

However, pragmatically, specifically in regards to Good Life, I can very well say by myself and be closer than anyone else to that being true in its entire form. I developed the concept, took all of the risks (money, time, physical), took point, watched the rear, and held the flag. I sacrificed a whole lot of me so that a lot of people could stroke themselves. While others couldn’t make their obligations, I walked from the West Side to the ’Shaw with 50 lbs. of equipment on my back, slept in the back of trucks and on roofs to make sure that Good Life would go down whether I was the only person who showed or not. I was homeless and sleeping on people’s floors and vehicles when I started the first year of Good Life. I used to rap to women at copy places and they wouldn’t necessarily give me sex but I always got free copies of my flyers. So anyone who thinks their contribution was greater than me thinking of the damn club and making it manifest by force of will is jerking you. Myself, O-Roc, and the Dynamic Flow were the “originators” of the event. Anyone else trying to add a side to that triangle doesn’t understand geometry.

rasx: I am looking forward to your science fiction piece, looking at Urban Iris, I see a lot of Manga-, Anime- and Hong-Kong-style visuals. I think these elements will expand considerably in science fiction. If I am on the right line of sight, what specific movies influence your work?

R/K: I have a Frankenstein view of flicks: A lot of parts coming together that might make a fairly ugly beast. However, “specific movies” was the question. The Bride with White Hair because of its stylization. Wong Kar-Wai (Wai-Kar Wong) is pretty dope though he gets loopey in every flick. He has a very meandering thing about his work (Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love). Hark Tsui’s Time and Tide kicked my ass. He had a lot of cheesy effects used in original ways. Nowhere to Hide is a Korean flick that I saw right after I was almost done with Sidewinder. That really brought a lot of comic book aesthetic without it ever interrupting the live feel. Some people don’t dig it because they want to see “a film” (a camera with some actors crying over some lost relationship with a vegetable or something. Basically a play that you can put in your pocket.) and not all that digital stuff and wackiness. So be it.

Urban Iris Takeshi Kitano, in general, makes very emotive and plodding (not Russian slow though) films. Hana-Bi (Fireworks) whoops ass. The stillness is important because if you can stick with it, the bursts of movement feel atomic. Yi Yi, a Tai Pei (Taiwanese) film, was very smart and sensitive. Three Seasons (Vietnam) was a good flick in how it displays passions, quests, Western hegemony and such. There’s also a sense of humor that I don’t share but it seems to allow these cats to really come up with some innovative stuff if you can get past the goofiness and the faux-cool. Then, there are the old school classic Asian (East) flicks that are cool for their visceral edge: Five Deadly Venoms, One-Arm Boxer II (Master of the Flying Guillotine), Five Fingers of Death, Sword of Doom. All these show a level of political and social corruption that helped me apply those thoughts to American references when I was a kid. The ultimate would be the Lone Wolf with Cub series. The TV shows were cool, too (“Kage no gundan,” and “The Yaguu Conspiracy”). Kurosawa helps in a whole different way.

Anime got me started back with “Speed Racer,” “Shogun Warriors,” Space Battleship Yamato (“Star Blazers”), “Battle of the Planets.” All of that led to the precision of Ninja Scroll and the pseudo-pschyobabble and sleekness of Ghost in the Shell and Akira. OT: I like African films too, though they’re still hard to get. They tend to be socially aware and conscientious which I appreciate (Guelewaar, Kirikou, etc.)

rasx: What’s your toolkit? What are your favorite visual assault weapons?

R/K: Visual? My all time favorite has been a balanced Faber-Castell mechanical pencil and drawing paper but time and incidents have made that a thing of the past. I use the standards on the Mac-based platform. However, most reasonable software is platform agnostic right now. Favorite is the question. I fucking love my Apple Cinema Display. When I saw the keynote speech over the web when they were first announced and costing grizz-nip (as we might have said as children had they been known to exist) I was motivated by an overwhelming torrent of techno-lust. It was like being konked on the head and having Angela Bassett fresh off the Strange Days set saying, “Oh yeah, baby.” Except, I don’t think she would have come home with me for $4k and the movie sucked.

rasx: Does your work in DVD design have any influence on your work?

Angela Bassett R/K: Yes. I would be living in poverty without the money. DVD got me back in the saddle. The entertainment industry is run by “creatives” who are not. A quick test: when you went to school and studied English you were graded on grammar, spelling, conjugation, and whatever. MBAs are predominately the Creative Directors and Account Manager—meaning they call the shots as to how things look and what they say. How many times have you seen an advertisement that is grammatically incorrect? Damn near everything. That means the entertainment industry promotes illiteracy—and we all, who bothered or had to study English, wasted our fucking time. We have this god-damn, dockers-wearing, wanker insisting that the bio-pages in the DVDs have improper punctuation and they don’t know nor care because they’re just following the lead of some older wanking MBA. These illiterate buffoons, between panic attacks and phone calls, also seem to believe they know what colors and type work best for every possible situation. If you want to design things in the entertainment field, don’t ever study art nor learn to operate a graphics program much less speak and write the language properly (and I say this in a document full of run-on sentences). If you see any good design in a commercial product you can believe it looked a hell of a lot better before you got to see it.

So this is what I do: I start off with a DVD concept then the MBAs water it down to all hell. I deposit the fucking check in the bank and buy some food. I take a seat behind one of my rigs and use the pre-watered down composite for my own evil purposes. Eventually, my goal is to piss on all of those MBAs who sought to defy my artistic will—then kill them.

rasx: What are the top ten simplifying assumptions people fabricate to deal with you on professional but interpersonal level? How does that shit interfere with your creative process?

R/K: 10 are too many for the moment. Most people are lazy-dumb asses. They might enjoy assuming in their asshole-a-centric existences that if they waste the hell out of their time it inherently means they have rights to wasting yours also. Money, materials, etc., have infinite possibilities to be replenished; Time is finite and I want you dead if you want to waste mine.

rasx: What are your top ten big-ass mistakes you have made handling your business with folks on creative projects?

R/K: I haven’t clearly defined it because I continually stumble on new mistakes. I’ve more often than not been a below radar type of cat for several reasons. However, there is a place for self-promotion that I’m still trying to acknowledge and grow to utilize. Leaving things cooking too long or not letting a project (and people) run its natural course towards death. I need to have more McCoy and less Kirk, “She’s dead, Jim.”

I’m also fairly tired of letting people draft off me. From the Good Life to animation awards or whatnot, I’ve let people steal thunder by not claiming it. There are several projects that I did all the work to but allowed people to attach their names. Now I come across people asking me how it was to work with some maggot who I showed the ropes. Helping people and collaboration is cool but only if it’s a reciprocal function.

Make sure that if someone gets paid off my efforts that they are contractually bound to pay me. I’m down with barter, helping, etc. but pay your respects. I have.

I think I should kick more peoples’ ass without physically laying a foot to said ass. I should be maiming and executing idiots telepathically and through other mental constructs and designs. Sometimes you need to heal. Sometimes you need to kill.

More info’ on Blaze and his smokin’ works: start here. Check out Blaze’s official list of top films at