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03 février 2006

Real World Studios install custom-built SSL XL 9000 K Series

Real World Studios made good use of the Christmas break by installing a new custom-built Solid State Logic XL 9000 K Series console in its main studio, The Big Room.

The residential facility, which is owned by internationally acclaimed artist Peter Gabriel, hasn’t had a face-lift of this magnitude since it opened in 1988.

Nearly a year ago Real World Studios started negotiating the purchase of a new console for the Big Room with the intention of equipping it for 5.1 and high resolution audio so that it could handle more complex productions. As the order was placed, SSL revealed that the company was being put up for sale. Rather than cancelling the order as some clients would, Peter Gabriel decided to buy the company.

Alongside the installation of the new console, The Big Room has also had its monitoring and acoustics upgraded for 5.1 surround sound. The new desk may be large but thanks to the dimensions of The Big Room, there is still plenty of space. Its shape copies the U-configuration of the studio’s previous SSL G Series console and it is positioned so that it works well ergonomically, with everything in easy reach of the operator.

Solid State Logic’s XL 9000 K Series
is the first analogue console to provide the dual benefits of a full 5.1 surround architecture and the increased bandwidth and resolution needed for DVD-Audio and SACD. These were important considerations for Peter Gabriel who creates the majority of his music in surround, with stereo handled as a separate interpretation. Currently working on music for this year’s World Cup as well as a number of movie scores, Gabriel says it is the sonic quality of SSL consoles that inspires him and makes him such a huge fan of the company’s desks.

Real World’s studio manager, Owen Leech, says the choice of console for The Big Room reflects the studio’s determination to stay ahead in the UK residential studio market.

“This is a very exciting development for Real World and one that we have been eagerly anticipating for a long time,”
he says. “We have always been known as a musician’s studio and this is undoubtedly the best sounding console on the market. Being able to offer full 5.1 surround mixing and sound to picture facilities is vitally important because it allows us to maintain our reputation as the UK’s premier residential recording facility.” (CD)

Peter Gabriel's Asia Earthquake Appeal

Download two fantastic tracks and help a great cause!

An appeal from Peter Gabriel:

This is a request for help. We've had ties with Pakistan from many years, particularly with Qawwali music and the extraordinary voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. His family have generously agreed to allow us to make available two tracks - one a collaboration with Massive Attack , 'Mustt Mustt' and one with myself 'Taboo', as a download to raise money. So basically you are getting two extraordinary pieces of music for the price of one!

We need a lot of downloads and we need you to do a bit of marketing for us. So, if you could persuade say 10 of your friends to do the same download we can get real money to real people really fast. Please help us to help them!"

A Digital Download of the two MP3 format tracks (256kbs) to raise money for the South East Asia Earthquake Appeal is now available. We don't keep any of your £1. You get two great pieces of music, and all of the your money (except transaction charges) goes to charities working to support victims of the South East Asia Earthquake.

02 février 2006

Michael Stipe Covers Arthur Song For Katrina Relief

Joseph Arthur

February 02, 2006, 11:00 AM ET
Digital EP Also Features Coldplay's Chris Martin
Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.
R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has recorded singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur's "In the Sun" for a digital EP, proceeds from which will benefit Mercy Corps' efforts to rebuild New Orleans neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Six different versions of the track will be available via the iTunes Music Store on Monday (Feb. 6); Stipe's duet with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin will premiere the previous evening on the ABC drama "Grey's Anatomy." The EP also features two versions of the song with Stipe and Arthur, a remix by Justin Timberlake and's JAW Breakers partnership, a take with just Stipe and a live recording with Coldplay from the PBS series
"Austin City Limits."

Other artists that contributed to the sessions were Fountains Of Wayne/Ivy principal Adam Schlesinger and former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, who assisted Stipe at their own Stratosphere Sound studio in New York.

"In the Sun" was previously covered by Peter Gabriel for the 1997 tribute album "Diana, Princess of Wales." "I guess it's a song made for charity," Arthur tells of the track, which originally appeared on his 2000 album "Come to Where I'm From."
"It must have a charitable heart in it."

Growing up as a hardcore R.E.M. fan in Akron, Ohio, Arthur realized a dream by opening a host of shows for the veteran rock act in 2004. When Stipe called him a few months ago to discuss the "In the Sun" EP concept, Arthur jumped at the chance to contribute.

"The whole thing is such an incredible honor," he says.
"When we did the version where we sing together, he'd sing the first couple of lines, but we were doing it at the same time in the same vocal booth. I'm listening to him do the lines and thinking that I want him to just keep singing it!"

That the project is benefiting Katrina charities is of particular importance for Arthur, who recorded portions of his 2004 album "Our Shadows Will Remain" in the Crescent City. "My little area is somewhat undaunted, right in the French Quarter," he says.
"It's still in decent shape. But if you go a couple minutes away, it looks like Nagasaki or something. There's a lot to be done."

This spring, a short film also titled "In the Sun" will air on Sundance Channel. Directed by Danny Clinch, it will feature interviews with the musicians as well as hurricane survivors.

Here is the track list for "In the Sun":

"In the Sun” (Gulf Coast Relief), Michael Stipe featuring Chris Martin
"In the Sun" (JAW Breakers remix), Michael Stipe featuring Chris Martin
"In the Sun,” Michael Stipe featuring Joseph Arthur
"In the Sun,” Michael Stipe
"In the Sun" (Michael Stipe live with Coldplay on "Austin City Limits")
"In the Sun" (Free Acoustic Couch Rehearsal), Michael Stipe featuring Joseph Arthur

01 février 2006

Capturing Human Rights Abuse

Witness, activist and musician Peter Gabriel's human rights organization, wants to build a Web site that documents offenses on video

Musician Peter Gabriel may be best known for hits such as Solsbury Hill and Sledgehammer, but his songs have often had a political edge, as well. His 1980 track Biko, for example, was an homage to South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko, who died in prison in 1977. Gabriel continues to make music -- he'll sing at the Turin Winter Olympics this month -- but he has been devoting an increasing amount of his time to social causes.

One such cause is Witness (, an organization based in Brooklyn, N.Y., that trains human-rights advocates to use video cameras to document abuses. Gabriel helped found the group in 1992 and is now chairman of its board of directors.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Gabriel and Gillian Caldwell, a documentary filmmaker who's executive director of Witness, tried to round up corporate support for a new project: a Web site that would act as a portal for images of human rights violations that may be captured by the proliferating number of video cameras and mobile phones in the hands of people around the world. BusinessWeek European Regional Editor Jack Ewing spoke to Gabriel and Caldwell about the project. Gabriel, who was an investor in digital music venture On Demand Distribution -- he sold his stake in 2004 at a profit -- also spoke about the current state of the music industry and its battle to come to terms with digital distribution. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

Tell us about Witness. What is it, and how did it get started?

In 1988 there was an Amnesty International Human Rights Now Tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration.... We went around the world and doubled Amnesty's membership. The experience of meeting people who had been tortured, who had watched their families being killed -- suddenly it became real for me and not something I was just reading about.

One of the things that was most shocking was that people who had experienced these things then had their stories completely denied, buried, and forgotten. Whenever there were good pictures or video material, it was a great deal harder to [deny]. In a way Witness grew out of the technical innovation of the video age. Suddenly there was a small [video] camera that was affordable.

Now we have yet another technical innovation. The telephone with video is becoming cheap and commonplace. So that's a wonderful opportunity. The dream is -- what we're trying to hustle here -- is to create a portal like Google (GOOG ) Earth where you could fly over the world and find human-rights stories wherever they were occurring. People would have the capacity to upload material of a certain length unfiltered.

Are you here trying to get corporate support or just raise awareness?

All of those things. Actually we've had some wonderful conversations. It seems to be an idea which is gaining acceptance. There are other projects beginning to understand the social, transformative power of the digital revolution. So I think we're here at the right time.

Caldwell: There has been a lot of conversation about how the media business model is changing. Some of the press are really thinking in creative ways of how they can capitalize on citizen journalism. We've had interest from the BBC, Reuters, Yahoo! (YHOO ), CNN (TWX ). We are in a good position to provide powerful and extremely authentic content. Because of the financial conditions that media faces these days, they don't have as much capacity to do reporting around the world. Organizations at a local level have trust and connections that the media can't get parachuting in.

So traditional media could take content off your site and use it in news reports?

Right. We've already started building quite a large archive. Our aim is to try to provide that video archive for the human rights movement.

What has been the corporate response?

Really encouraging. If we had had one good conversation, it would have made the trip worthwhile. I think we had about six or seven. What actually materializes will be another question, but so far we are extremely encouraged.

Are there any corporations already supporting you?

Marc Benioff, [founder of the San Francisco-based provider of customer relationship management software], has been allowing us to use some of his facilities [including a contact database].

Caldwell: [Law firm] Baker & Hostetler does all of our legal support pro bono. We had an encouraging conversation with Paul Sagan, [president and CEO of] Akamai, [a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based provider of Internet services for business], about the possibility of providing pro bono hosting of the content.

Gabriel: We can have CEO meetings here in a way we couldn't anywhere else. People conducting business don't want to be hassled all the time by the likes of us. But there's a culture here of encouraging people to think a little more generously.

The debate comes up every year at Davos about celebrities using their fame for social good. What's your take on that?

Well, it makes our lives a lot more interesting.... Celebrities shouldn't take on causes in a trivial way. They should find things that mean something to them and do their homework, so that they can speak as articulately as they are able, and then hand over to the people doing the real work.

Back to Witness. What kind of content do you have already?

We worked in Senegal with an organization trying to raise awareness of the fact that there were thousands of land-mine victims every year who weren't getting any medical support or psychological assistance that they are entitled to. We developed a film that was screened before several [officials]. This is what we call tactical media. While we're interested in broader media, the most influential use of the video that we're producing is actually targeted screenings before those key decision makers.

As a direct result, Senegalese land-mine victims now have two significant grants related to micro-enterprise development and a new wing on a hospital to build prosthetic limbs. The point is to also identify the solutions. This isn't just a name-and-shame game. People want to make it right if you give them the opportunity.

Are people already sending tapes or images from mobile phones?

We haven't had the structure to do that. That's the next challenge.

Caldwell: Implementation will be in the next 12 months. That's what we're shooting for, although we need financial support.

How will you keep control of the content?

We hope there will be some sort of self-regulating system. People, in order to get content uploaded, would have to rate three or four other pieces of material [on the site]. My country [England] is the most observed country in the world. I think the average person gets filmed eight times a day. The aim here is to turn the cameras back.

You were previously an investor in a digital music venture. From a musician's point of view, is the industry coming to terms with digital downloads, or is it still a huge problem?

If you make it easy for people to get what they want, and it's well filtered, people will pay. Maybe not as much as record companies and some artists would like, but probably enough. [I see] two models for the music business in the future: the old-fashioned model where record companies own the artists and their work; the other where the artists are in control and they use the record companies as a service.

31 janvier 2006

Peter Gabriel, Davos 27/01/06

British musician Peter Gabriel arrives for the Celebrity Inspired Actionpanel session of the World Economic Forum WEF in Davos, Switzerland, Friday,Jan. 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Keystone, Laurent Gillieron)

30 janvier 2006

Death Cab For Cutie Shoot Their Own 'Sledgehammer'

Earlier this month, Death Cab for Cutie were forced to make a difficult decision. It was time to shoot a video for "Crooked Teeth," the second single from their Plans album, and their label, Atlantic Records, was looking for something "a little less artsy" and a bit more "high impact" than their previous efforts. Which, of course, meant working with a big-name director. Which, of course, Death Cab were vehemently opposed to.

So they went with an unknown twentysomething named Ace Norton, a director with a penchant for claymation who had never made a big-budget clip before. Oh yeah, and they ended up submitting a video based on Peter Gabriel's 1986 stop-motion fest "Sledgehammer." Cue ticked-off label, right?

"I guess [Atlantic's] happy with it, because I haven't heard anything about it," Norton laughed. "I think everyone knew it was my first big video, and they didn't want to put a lot of pressure on me, but I knew there was a lot riding on it. And it was pretty crazy, especially with the way we had the whole shoot scheduled."

That schedule included just one on-set day for the guys in Death Cab, which meant that Norton would have to rip through the painstaking (and time-consuming) process of stop-motion photography at a breakneck pace. And amazingly, he pulled it off, shooting all sorts of stop-motion scenes (faces are painted, heads are wrapped and unwrapped, sweaters are removed) in just 13 hours.

"It was crazy. We had the band there and we had like five animation stations there just doing the same thing. And stop-motion takes forever to shoot. The wrapping and unwrapping sequence took like two hours for each guy in Death Cab," Norton said. "They were awesome about the whole thing; definitely the easiest band I've ever worked with. We literally did one take with each bandmember, and that's all it took."

If the guys in Death Cab were pros, it's because they have plenty of experience working with up-and-coming directors. The video for the first single from Plans, "Soul Meets Body," was directed by newcomer Jon Watts (see "Death Cab For Cutie Admit Magical Forest Video Is 'A Little Weird' "), and earlier this month, they unveiled the first clip from their
video anthology — which will showcase the work of 12 below-the-radar directors (see "Death Cab For Cutie Taking A Page From 50 Cent's Playbook") — on

But rarely, if ever, had they worked with a director whose motivation was so clear. Basically, Norton was looking to remake the award-winning "Sledgehammer," and though he's not sure if his "Crooked Teeth" video accomplished his goal, he's thrilled just to have it mentioned in the same sentence as Gabriel's classic clip.

"I grew up animating little movies with action figures, so 'Sledgehammer' is obviously a big inspiration to me," Norton said. "So I wanted 'Crooked Teeth' to be a tip of the hat to 'Sledgehammer,' because it's the greatest music video ever made. And the fact that people are even comparing them is amazing."

29 janvier 2006

Peter play with Monica

Gillian Caldwell, Davos Diary : 28 JANUARY 2006

We met Monica Seles and the CEO of the Women's Tennis Association early this morning and played some tennis. I felt pretty good about it until Peter Gabriel said it was like a cat playing with three mice. I guess she was taking it easy on us.

Then we rushed to a Reuters-sponsored skiing venture and managed to stagger our way down a few slopes and through a giant slalom course - I took a spectacular spill at high speeds. Then rushed again for press which we are just wrapping up - CNN and Business Week.

As I said to Peter, every day is gruelling in its own way here! I feel like I am about to faint. But it's been terrific and I think I am now a fully addicted blogger. Need to rush again... to the train for Zurich. Thanks for sticking with me!

Mel Young's Homeless World Cup

Gillian Caldwell, Davos Diary : 27 JANUARY 2006

Peter Gabriel
signed up to be the musical director for Mel Young's Homeless World Cup which will being teams of homeless people together from more than 40 countries in South Africa in September (he won't be paid to do it, of course).

Peter Gabriel hits 'Big Time' in wrestling world

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" has become the official theme of World Wrestling Entertainment's upcoming "WrestleMania 22," nearly 20 years after the song hit the top 10 in the United States.

The tune is heard in TV and online spots for the annual live and pay-per-view extravaganza. The ads began airing earlier this month and will continue through April 2, when "WrestleMania 22" touches down at the Allstate Arena in Chicago.

WWE fans logging on to are able to stream "Big Time" -- the song and its accompanying video. The site also spotlights Gabriel's best-of CD ("Hit") and DVD ("Play") collections.

By the way, "WrestleMania 22" is already sold out. Those without tickets will have to settle for the next best thing: pay-per-view.

Should celebrities decide what's a good cause?

Lucky the charity that has the patronage of a global superstar. Media attention is guaranteed, donors' wallets open and all is well. Or is it? Let's take a much celebrated example of Davos charity.

A year ago, Hollywood megastar Sharon Stone attended the World Economic Forum and heard the Tanzanian president explain that every year a million people were dying of malaria because they lacked basic precautions like bed netting to keep mosquitoes away. Ms Stone stood up, pledged $10,000 and challenged business people to match her donation. Within 10 minutes more than $1m was in the bag. Err ... not quite. Only a minority of the pledges was honoured; thankfully a UN body made up the shortfall.

But "should we rely on Ms Stone's instincts to determine a worthy cause" in the first place, asks Xavier Sala-i-Martin, economics professor at Columbia University. Every year diarrhoea is killing more people than Malaria, he says - so could the UN organisation have used the money for an even more urgent cause?

'Diana effect'

So what are the risks of "Celebrity Inspired Action"? It was the question put to a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, itself sporting two real-life celebrities actor Michael Douglas and singer Peter Gabriel - as well as a crown prince.

Of course some cynicism will be justified, acknowledged Mr Gabriel. There will be celebrities who fall for the wrong cause, and those who jump on a bandwagon trying to revive their flagging careers. But celebrities can do some good, and it was not just the celebrities who said so.

Hollywood stars broke the silence surrounding Aids, but it was the so-called "Princess Diana effect" - she held hands and hugged Aids patients - that persuaded millions to accept Aids patients. "That had more effect than any billboard could have had," said Peter Piot, director of the United Nations programme on HIV-Aids.

Reaching the unconverted

Also, when "Women for Women", a charity that helps women in war zones, tried to get media attention for its cause it took Queen Rania of Jordan to open Hollywood's doors and Oprah Winfrey to open America 's wallets. Without celebrities, that cause would have gone unheard; women raped by soldiers in Rwanda would have been left without help.

Hollywood actor Michael Douglas makes a simple equation: "If I write for the op-ed (editorial) pages I preach to the converted. "If I get the subject onto the entertainment pages, it allows me to share a subject matter with an audience that may not be aware of it."

Professor Sala-i-Martin agrees that celebrities can do some good. But he is still worried that as a result some aid flows are not based on rational decisions, but the whims of a superstar. A star, he says, that is not accountable to anybody.

Peter Gabriel agrees: "Maybe we need to use the internet as a celebrity judgement aid."

Michael Douglas says celebrity can help spread new ideas

Actor Michael Douglas. (AP '05/David J. Phillip)

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) - Michael Douglas knows that those who attend the World Economic Forum can move mountains and make mounds of money. But a little star power - be it Bono, Angelina Jolie or Peter Gabriel - never hurts.

"It's an impressive group, to say the least, that covers a broad spectrum," said the 61-year-old actor-producer, adding that the free-flow nature of the event promotes dialogue in a friendly environment. The annual meeting ends Sunday.

"People seem to let their hair down a little bit and loosen their ties. And there is a lot of give and share that's going on both in front on the panels and behind," Douglas said. "So it's a learning experience for me and, I guess my from end, I hope they will recognize as they have from Bono's efforts and others, that many of us on the entertainment side can talk about the issues," he said.

Douglas won a best-actor Oscar for his role in 1987's Wall Street. He also has starred in Fatal Attraction, Traffic and Wonder Boys, among other films. As for using celebrity to advance causes, Douglas said that can be a double-edged sword.

"We obviously help fundraising a whole lot, and as spokespersons you bring the issue on the table as a message of peace from the United Nations talking about disarmament, in particular areas (like) weapons of mass destruction, nuclear disarmament," he said. "People tend to get an audience from television when celebrities are involved. That helps. The danger is when you get in over your head and then you lose your credibility."

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