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|June 5-11, 2008
1 Giant Leap for mankind
A groundbreaking production company seeks to change the world one artistic venture at a time
by Douglas McDaniel
A decade ago, global multimedia convergence was merely a moon shot business paradigm, an open-ended concept flying right off the edge of the known world. For the machine mind, lacking the bandwidth to make all human expression available to the consuming audience, it was like an oversized Great Pumpkin being pushed through a hand-cranked meat grinder. It was only for a fortunate elite of prosumer guinea pig geeks who cared to spend five grand for a PC on steroids — usually the type of people who were featured wizards for Wired Magazine or who freelanced data-crunching modules for the NSA — who could manage to collect RAM like speed-obsessed silver speculators.
Now, though, it’s common to find art instigators using their machines as magical wands for producing intelligent life. Almost every conceivable type of performance is rendered handy through a laptop as cumbersome as a coffee-table book with more amped-up power than the first Apollo missions, which spits out and picks up all of this thrilling cultural stream from out of thin air.
A new concept band/media project, 1 Giant Leap, is one of the first groups to take advantage of the advancing technological landscape on a global scale. Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman have managed to move a convergent media franchise forward by taking the power away from the conglomerates and putting it back into the hands of the people. This anti-corporate aneurism has spawned a globe-trotting travelogue that reaches out to medicine men, movie stars, progressive thinkers, artisans, singers, rappers, poets, authors, philosophers, pretty much anyone with a great creative vibe. Catto and Bridgeman turn all of this gaia stuff into movies and world-music-goes-ambient CDs, all to be broadcast on every conceivable medium, all of it to a great dance beat.
For you hard-line lefties out there ready to dismiss 1 Giant Leap’s 100-beat-per-minute drive to soak up the world’s cultural zeitgeist, their second film and CD release, What About Me?, can hardly be accused of typical imperial Brit imperialism. It’s more like 1 Giant Leap offers the world its rhythms, asking the whole planet to appropriate them.
As Catto said recently, “We have an amazing network of people who we think are stunningly talented, and we hook them up with other people that are stunningly talented to get cool people working together.”
To put it simply, 1 Giant Leap uses accessible technology to bring local art to the international stage.
Catto, 40, has for a couple of decades honed his skills as one of the founding members and ballad singer of Faithless, a music group from the same collaborative generation as Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers. After the singer/songwriter became the art and video director for his own band, he left it in 1999 to create 1 Giant Leap, a project that would emerge from his own honed skills as a photographer, script editor and auteur.
The result? No more discrimination between art and entertainment, and no need to disenfranchise anything. What you end up with in What About Me? is an audiovisual project bringing together performers and thinkers from around the world. The effect on the screen bombards your narrow sensibilities in much the same style as William Artz’s pseudo-fictional exploration of quantum physics, What the Bleep Do We Know!?
During a brief chat on the telly from London, Catto seemed dubious about that comparison, saying, “It feels good that [What the Bleep] did well, but it wouldn’t do to say they influenced us. More like, it was the other way around.”
By the time Catto and Bridgeman created their first film and album DVD, also titled 1 Giant Leap, they were already experienced directors and producers, having garnered such film credits as Bulletproof Monk and Lady in the Water. Nominated for a Grammy, 1 Giant Leap was recorded on a six-month trip around the world and includes musical and spoken-word contributions from Michael Stipe, Kurt Vonnegut, Dennis Hopper, Brian Eno, Baaba Maal, Tom Robbins and Arrested Development, among others.
But if combining Stipe for a song with Asha Bhosle, or Eddi Reader with the Mahotella Queens and Revetti Sakalar, might seem a tad complex, they are pretty Thoreau-like in the simplicity of their approach. Their chief items in the travel bag: The laptop and video camera. After all, the ultimate goal of this project is not to provide slick, blockbuster creations; it’s to capture the personal.
“When you walk into some village in Africa, we don’t have a have a 16-member crew, which certainly makes it easier to get around,” Catto said. “To keep it low key is really useful. So we have a three-member crew. That includes two men and one woman.
“We are just trying to put together the most inspiring people, the most inspiring singers... the most inspiring everything that can be made.”
On the Bill
What About Me? will be shown at 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 15, at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030. The evening will also feature the 1 Giant Leap sequel, a Q&A with Jamie Catto, a performance by poet/dj Michael Jones, the band Portal and more.
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