Waxplioitation's brought together artists like Tom Waits, Kathleen Hanna, Justin Vernon, Alison Mosshart and more, to write stories for a rad illustrated book benefiting kids lit programs.
This is not so much a music video premiere, but the jumping off point to introduce you to a multi-disciplinary art project that's been 10 years in the making, so bear with us. The skinny on it runs so: A decade ago Jeff Antebi founded Waxploitation, a label/management company/publishing house which established itself in the early years during the rise and rise of Gnarls Barkley / Danger Mouse / Broken Bells et al. Around this time Antebi also had an idea to ask his favorite music artists and contemporary painters to come together and collaborate on original children's stories for a benefit project. You could call it a "literary mixtape," and now, finally all these years later, Antebi's vision has come to fruition.
Stories for Ways & Means features 29 collaborations which make up a 350 plus page book project. The book includes stories from Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Frank Black, Justin Vernon, Laura Marling, Devendra Banhart, Alison Mosshart and Kathleen Hanna as well as painters/illustrators like Anthony Lister, Dan Baldwin, Swoon, Will Barras, James Jean, Ronzo, and more. Is Stories for Ways & Means a kid's book? Not so much. Apparently the book features "outre art, weird images, graphic displays of nasty stuff and cuss words." Check out the trailer below to get more of an idea.
As an adjunct to this Waxploitation are releasing a series of shorts featuring top notch guest narrators including Danny Devito, Zach Galifinakis, Nick Offerman, Phil LaMarr, King Krule, and Lauren Lapkus.
"The spark for Stories for Ways & Means was curiosity," explains Antebi. "I've always been drawn to outsider artists, especially those who happen to be musicians or painters Especially artists who are great storytellers within their chosen mediums. And for many years, I would see paintings by someone like James Jean or Dan Baldwin or Swoon, and I'd wonder what might happen if someone like Tom Waits or Nick Cave or Frank Black were to collaborate with them.
"The project took many many many years because when I approached the contributors initially, I promised there would be no deadlines. I never thought that would mean checking in with them a few times a year for almost a decade. But that was the only way this kind of project was going to happen. It was the same with getting narrators like Zach Galifianakis, Danny Devito, and Nick Offerman. When they asked about deadlines, the answer was always "there is no deadline." With a lot of faith that if I didn't put any pressure on anyone, eventually time was going to be on our side. And the result is a unique artifact that arose with patience. The irony is that anyone who knows me well knows that I am the antithesis of patient."
So truly, this book and the films around it, are labor of love, but to what end? The first edition of the book is rare, individually numbered, and only available to purchase SFWAM.org, with all proceeds going to Room to Read, and Pencils for Promise—two non-profits working to build schools in some of the poorest regions of the world and teach children to read and write.
Below is the premiere of one of those narrated shorts, a three way collaboration: "The Lonely Giant" is a story written by Nick Cave, narrated by Andre Roy (best known as Bubbles from The Wire), with visuals directed by Tomas Leach. A little background on Leach: the London-based director dropped his first documentary, about the reclusive, legendary, NYC street photographer Saul Leiter a few years back. (Watch it, it's incredibly moving.) While his latest doc, The Lure—about a four year long treasure hunt across the Rocky Mountains—premiered at the NY Doc fest a few weeks back.
"I'd heard that this amazing project with an incredible list of artists and a great idea at it's core needed filmmakers, so I got in touch to find out more," explains Leach. "When Jeff told me more about how long it had been going on and who else was involved, I promised him we could make something beautiful. He then offered me a Nick Cave story to be read by Andre Royo, which made me laugh with excitement. That's really the power of the project and the cause it supports. It brings together amazing minds and creates something unique and touching with them."
Watch below and find out out more here.