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Interview with Make McKnight

This year’s Mega Summer Tour season is in full swing, and Madonna is on the road again to promote her most recent album release, “American Life”. Like many top artists, Madonna mixes studio-produced tracks to support her highly choreographed live performances and the musicians on stage.
Mike McKnight produces those tracks, and makes sure they sound great at every show. In fact, Mike has programmed every major Madonna tour using a MOTU system driven by Digital Performer. We recently caught up with him during Madonna’s Re-Invention tour, in an interview directly beneath the stage, to get the latest details about his setup.
What was your hardware setup for the Madonna tour?
I have two MOTU 1296 audio interfaces, and four MOTU HD192 interfaces for the three computer systems that run the show. I also use two 828mkII interfaces as mixers for my live synths. I use one and keep one as a spare. They’re connected to a G4 laptop for virtual synths with Digital Performer as the host.
I also have a MIDI Timepiece AV for my G4 rig and micro express MIDI interfaces for each of my G5s. All MIDI then gets routed through another MIDI Timepiece AV so that I can switch between rigs if needed. I have a custom made 72 in/24 out switcher to switch between the audio for the three computers.
How does your rig interface with the rest of the tour infrastructure? Is that a timecode master display above the rack of HD192’s?
I record time code to an audio track from my MIDI Timepiece AV. Then I send that audio track through a Brainstorm Distripilyzer (a time code reshaper and distribution amplifier) to video and lights.
Why have you chosen MOTU gear instead of other solutions for the high-pressure live-performance tours you do every year?
I use MOTU gear because it’s solid, reliable and sounds great. The MOTU stuff is still my first choice on tour.
Why do you insist on using Digital Performer?
I am very secure with the stability of DP. I can’t have a crash or even a hiccup ever, so I won’t change from DP, period.
You are a talented keyboard player in your own right, and you have your own keyboard rig beneath the stage. Do you play during the show?
I play when needed, not as much as on some tours, but enough to keep me busy.
This show, similar to Madonna’s last tour, is heavily choreographed and includes continuous video. Did you have to cut audio to picture, or did they cut video to audio, or was it a bit of both, depending on the song?
Video is always cut to audio. I’d give them a CD with time code on the right and a rough mix on the left. It worked great!
What happens when you start the show?
I send timecode to lights and video, and once we start it runs for 45 minutes straight, non-stop. Then there are about seven or eight individual songs, then finally another stretch of 30 minutes or so to close the show.
I see Digital Performer on the screen there. Is that your show file?
Yes, let me show you. As you can see, there are tons of tracks. In addition to the backing tracks, I’ve got everybody’s part for the entire set. In case somebody in the band gets sick, I can just fly in their part. This file is now very consolidated. For a while, the show was just enormous. All the stuff I had to have in here, I had to keep paring it down.
Even consolidated, it looks like you have at least 100 tracks in there.
Actually, I have plenty more than that. Let’s take a look. Here, I’ll select all and copy, and the clipboard tells me how many tracks. (Mike copies the tracks.) 250 tracks in this sequence. It works great!
Wow. And this is running on what?
This is a Power Mac G4 running at 466 MHz, equipped with the MOTU PCI interfaces, and this file runs for 45 minutes straight. I let it run free with no sync because I’m the time code master for the show. I could probably get better sync between my main system and my backup systems if I used the MIDI Timpiece AV as a word clock master, but this system works. And it allows me to have three rigs: the main system and two backups, all running side by side, independently. They have to be completely independent. I can’t have one thing in the chain, such as a clock master, bringing the whole thing crashing down.
It also gives me the flexibility I need. For example, Madonna will sometimes forget that whole show is on a strict timecode time line. She’ll get excited and start talking to the crowd, and she won’t come in singing when we’re all expecting. When that happens, I instantly switch to my B system, get the A system back on track, and then switch back to the A system, while on my headset telling the video and lighting guys, “Hey guys, time code is jumping back four bars, get ready!” When Madonna decides to add four bars to the intro, then we add four bars to the intro. That’s just the way it has to be with a superstar. And this system gives me the flexibility to do these things on the fly, while at the same time feeding time code to the entire rest of the show.
In looking at your set list, there are notes about cueing and so forth. What cueing features are you using in DP and how does that work?
Within the seven or eight separate songs, I have to turn auto cue on for a couple songs because I’m playing a lot and need to have DP switch to the next songs and start playing immediately. In rehearsals we chose to keep these songs separate, but during the show there is a predefined amount of space between songs that can vary a bit from show to show.
Do you have one master DP file for the entire show or several different files?
After extensive editing in rehearsals of each song in separate files, I combine them into one big file for the last couple weeks of band rehearsals and production rehearsals. I need to be able to quickly and seamlessly go between songs, and make whatever edits immediately. Madonna is really good to work for, but she demands results, so I have to work quickly.
And you put on a great show, too, Mike. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
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Orthodox Jews offended by Madonna’s Kabbalah ties

HAMISH ROBERTSON: The singer Madonna is due in Israel later this week, not as part of her performance tour, but to join thousands of practitioners of the Orthodox Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah.
The gathering has been organised by a Los Angeles based centre popularised by Rabbi Philip Berg.
Kabbalah has attracted a string of high profile stars, many of whom wear a signature piece of red string around their wrist.
But as Middle East Correspondent Jane Hutcheon reports, many Orthodox Jewish rabbis are offended by Madonna’s ties to the faith.
(sound of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”)
JANE HUTCHEON: Since the chameleon-like performer burst on to the world stage in the ’80s, she’s published a book about sex, been photographed nude and sworn on TV talk shows.
Earlier this year, she kissed pop idol Britney Spears on the mouth in front of millions of viewers at an awards night.
But if you ask artist David Friedman, who’s practiced Kabbalah for 25 years, Madonna’s past behaviour doesn’t stop her from observing this now-fashionable Jewish faith.
DAVID FRIEDMAN: I’m very open-minded. And I think somebody who lives in Hollywood, who’s in a very, she was the material girl, to discover that there is also a spiritual realm, the body is the entirety of the human being, I think that’s encouraging.
JANE HUTCHEON: There isn’t actually anything new age about Kabbalah. Translated from Hebrew, it means “reception” and is thousands of years old. Practitioners study a text called the Zohar, which delves into the innermost soul of a Jew.
In a sign of affection for the faith, Madonna adopted a Hebrew name “Esther” but she was born a Catholic, and many Orthodox Jews believe a Goy “or non-Jew” has no place studying Kabbalah.
Rabbi Yzchak Bazri.
(Sound of Yzchak Bazri speaking)
“It’s forbidden for a Goy to learn Kabbalah. He has to learn and known the Jewish bible first. Kabbalah is the highest form of Judaism, and those who practice it need to be extremely spiritual, modest and wise, surrounding themselves with holiness and purity.
(sound of Madonna’s “Material Girl”)
In the eyes of Rabbi Bazri, whose father was one of Jerusalem’s most renowned Kabbalists, the material girl can’t be in the club. But the real Kabbalah appears to have little to do with the new age phenomenon packaged and sold, often at a hefty price, by the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre.
A piece of red string, tied around the wrist to get rid of the evil eye retails for nearly $50, and other inspirational products command similarly exorbitant price tags. But Kabbalist and artist David Friedman says the spirit of Kabbalah is there for everyone, including Esther, AKA Madonna.
DAVID FRIEDMAN: If you believe in something, even if it’s a sugar pill, but if you believe it’s something that’s going to cure your illness, the power of faith is also something not to take lightly.
JANE HUTCHEON: Fresh from her latest tour, entitled “Reinvention”, Madonna’s presence in Israel is likely to cause more than a stir. Rabbi Bazri has some advice for her.
(sound of Yzchak Bazri speaking)
“I don’t think her school knows about Kabbalah. But if she comes here she’ll find pure, honest people. They will not accept her with her clothes, she must come with different ones.”
The mother of two is said to be funding Kabbalah schools in New York and London, and though her low-key visit is likely to raise a few eyebrows, perhaps the purists realise that new age fads are just part of life.
(sound of Madonna’s “American Life”)
This is a modestly-dressed Jane Hutcheon in Jerusalem, for Correspondents Report.
HAMISH ROBERTSON: The latest enthusiasm of the sometimes not-so-modestly dressed Madonna.
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Stories from a kabbala mama

Madonna’s latest children’s book, Yakov and the Seven Thieves, does not purport to be Jewish. Sure, it has the earmarks of a Jewish children’s tale “inspired by the Baal Shem Tov,” and takes place in 18th-century Ukraine, with the main character going by the name Yakov.
But this tale is universal in nature, and its illustrations (which resemble a Christmas wonderland more than a stark Ukrainian shtetl) are indicative enough of this fact. The Baal Shem Tov was probably unfamiliar with the Ukraine as rendered by illustrator Gennady Spirin, who was born on Christmas in a small city near Moscow, as his bio explains.
The opening pages most starkly depict the schizophrenic nature of the book: on one side a yoga-esque, Kabbala-inspired illustration, on the other an elaborate cover page which evokes the traditional Christmas spirit. Regardless of the blurry line between these two traditions, Madonna has produced a beautifully illustrated book with a message of morality and potential for redemption that any parent would be comfortable espousing.
In the story, a cobbler named Yakov prays that his son Mikhail will recover from a mysterious illness. His wife Olga urges him to seek the advice of a wise old man who people say “speaks to angels… [and] can perform miracles.” When Yakov arrives, the elderly man he meets looks not unlike famous renderings of Moses. The sage scratches his beard and, after one failed attempt, recruits his grandson to gather all the thieves of the village to pray for the sick child. They comply, on their knees in pew-like prayer, and Mikhail miraculously recovers.
The moral of the story?
“Thieves represent the things in us that are bad or wrong or selfish… when we turn away from our naughty behavior and embrace good deeds… we are turning the key and unlocking the gates of heaven.”
But have the thieves been genuinely altered by this brush with benevolence? One must read the book to find out.
If there is a kabbalistic message in this tale, it is of the absurdly watered down variety that has become so trendy among American celebrities. Whatever the kabbalistic infusion, and whatever the author’s scandalous reputation, however, Yakov and the Seven Thieves is a quality children’s book that will transport both parent and child to another place and time and, in few short pages, delight.
For Israeli consumers, Kinneret is publishing an Israeli edition of this title in Hebrew, along with all of Madonna’s books.
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CBS Madonna concert doesn’t materialize

Madonna got out of the groove with CBS, where plans for a concert featuring the Material Girl have been scrapped. Eye, which announced the special at its upfront presentation in New York last May, had planned to air a Madonna concert from her current “Reinvention” tour…
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Madonna Enters The UK Music Hall Of Fame

The Beatles are the only British act to feature in the UK Music Hall Of Fame.
The hall, which will be focus of a channel 4 programme scheduled for autumn, features acts such as Elvis Presley, Madonna, U2 and Bob Marley.
The programme will present artists chosen by a panel and voted for by the public who have made the utmost contribution to “UK music culture”.
The panel included Sir George Martin, Trevor Nelson, Paul Gambaccini, Blur bassist Alex James, former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, Manchester legend Tony Wilson and Glastonbury festival organiser Emily Eavis.
Gambaccini said the list would obviously be a talking point and for some a bone of contention.
“There will be one or two names conspicuous by their absence, but that’s the nature of the beast,” he said. Adding that the UK was one of the few countries to “punch above its weight” in the music industry.
Malcolm Gerrie, head of production company Initial, told BBC News Online: “It’s to do with fantastic music that will be there forever and the impact and resonance they’ve had.”
The programme will take the form of five two hour shows on Channel 4, in which viewers will be given the chance to vote for 10 more inductees to the hall.
The programmes will all feature a specific decade, with a choice of potential inductees from each decade.
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Take a bow on a new compilation

Another classic Madonna hit ended up on a compilation.
The song Take a bow originally from the 1994 album Bedtime Stories will be used on the forthcoming hit-compilation Kuschelrock that will be released in Germany on September 20.

Madonna on Kuschelrock

Madonna Skin Care - MDNA Skin

Radio ZET signs Madonna

On September 13th Radio ZET will launch a huge advertising campaign starring pop singer Madonna. The campaign took 10 months to put together and will be the first one in history to use the most popular scenes from Madonna’s legendary videos: Vogue, Material Girl, Frozen, Hollywood etc. “We managed to do the impossible,” said Radio ZET’s president Robert Kozyra. Madonna’s partner in the commercials will be famous actor Zbigniew Zamachowski.
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Madonna Dedicates Song to Russian Hostage Crisis

Pop star Madonna drew massive applause from a sold-out crowd in Paris when she dedicated her version of John Lennon’s peace ode Imagine to the Russian hostage crisis. Addressing the audience midway through her show last night, Madonna spoke briefly about the tragedy at a Russian school that left at least 350 dead, including pupils, teachers and mothers. As video images of war and children were broadcast behind her on giant screens, the pop diva urged her fans at Paris’ Bercy stadium to think about what happened in Russia and to think about Lennon’s lyrics.
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Madonna nominated in MTV Russian Music Awards

Madonna’s video “Love Profusion” is nominated in 2004 MTV Russian Music Awards, in the Best International artist category.
Other Nominees are : Anastacia – Left Outside Alone, Britney Spears – Toxic , The Rasmus – In The Shadows and Linkin Park -Numb.

Words by Madonna and Pictures

Gennady Spirin’s name does not appear on the cover of Madonna’s most recent storybook for children, though it’s as much his work as hers.
Spirin, a Russian-born artist who lives in New Jersey, illustrated scenes of Eastern Europe of the 1600s to accompany the pop star’s book, “Yakov and the Seven Thieves,” but his name appears only on the title page.
In a recent telephone interview, he described researching 17th century architecture, clothing and furniture to capture the time and place Madonna wanted.
“Yakov and the Seven Thieves” is about a cobbler, Yakov, and his wife, Olga, who seek a cure for their very ill son, named Mikhail. “They seek advice from a wise old man, who enlists the help of seven thieves and proves that miracles can occur if we do good deeds,” the book’s official summary reads.
Madonna, who was born Catholic, has publicly embraced the Kabbalah, the ancient tradition of Jewish mystical wisdom that has enjoyed a New Age revival of late. In connection with this, Madonna, now a mother of two, has said she wants to go by the name Esther.
Her previous two books, “The English Roses” and “Mr. Peabody’s Apples,” are also morality tales. A total of five books are planned. A fourth, “The Adventures of Abdi,” is due this fall. So far, she has collaborated with a different artist on each book.
Reviews for “Yakov and the Seven Thieves,” were mixed when it was released in the United States in June by Viking, though Spirin’s drawings were widely praised.
The Russian version, “Yakov i Semero Vorishek,” was released Aug. 16 by the publisher Eksmo and is selling for 150 rubles (about $5).
A New York Times reviewer in 1998 compared Spirin’s style to Renaissance artists like Raphael for his combination of rich colors and fine detail. Spirin says his art is also rooted in Russian traditions, including the art of the Orthodox church.
Spirin, 55, was born in the town of Orekhovo-Zuyevo, near Moscow, and studied at the Surikov School of Fine Art, opposite the Tretyakov Gallery. He moved to the United States in 1991, on the invitation of two picture book publishers, Dial Books and Philomel, both of which are now imprints of Penguin Books.
“I didn’t flee anywhere, I didn’t emigrate. I was invited for work and have worked ever since,” he said, adding that he settled in Princeton, New Jersey, because his editor lived in the town.
The Russian-speaking community in the sleepy, elite college town is tiny, he said, though he has friends among fellow artists who are American. A Russian friend named Tanya had a gallery in Princeton, where he showed his work, but rising rents forced it to close.
“I have my kids, so the Motherland is always with me,” he said.
He has three sons, aged 28, 20 and 12. The eldest, Ilya, is following in his footsteps as an illustrator.
Spirin thinks Madonna handpicked him to illustrate “Yakov and the Seven Thieves.”
These days, Spirin’s art is only available for sale through the Storyopolis gallery in Los Angeles, he said. Listings at show that his work goes anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000.
In 1997, the Saks Fifth Avenue department store recruited him to design their Nutcracker-themed holiday window display in New York after seeing his illustrations for the E.T.A. Hoffman fairy tale.
Spirin said that he thinks Madonna handpicked him to illustrate “Yakov and the Seven Thieves,” because “her team can’t handle anything without her, not even the smallest detail,” he said.
He admits it is a guess, since he never spoke with the pop star. “I never needed to,” he said.
He did send her a letter once. “I wrote to her to explain why certain details needed to be done my way and not the way she suggested,” he said. He composed the letter in Russian and had it translated and sent.
Instead, his contact was with the publisher and through a translator. Despite having lived in the United States for more than 10 years, he said he does not speak English.
He said his lawyer in New York helps him negotiate contracts and sometimes doubles as his translator.
Numbers are not his thing. He said he did not know which of his 33 books has been the most popular. “I don’t know about sales. All I know is I have no money,” he said.
The contract with Madonna paid better than his previous projects, he said.
“I get practically no royalties. It’s frighteningly unfair,” said Spirin, who describes himself as a practicing Russian Orthodox Christian.
“I’m waiting for the Lord to get angry with them and they give me at least a little bit,” he said with a chuckle that clashed with his mildly bitter tone.
It is not that Spirin has not found professional success. He won four gold metals from the Society of Illustrators, a group of his peers, for four books, including “The Tale of Tsar Saltan,” based on the story by Alexander Pushkin.
Four others have been named best-illustrated book of the year by The New York Times.
His illustrations for “Kashtanka,” based on a short story about a dog by Anton Chekhov, won an international price in 1994 in Spain. The original watercolor illustrations — he only paints in watercolor — now hang in a Barcelona museum.
He had an exhibit at the Russian Consulate in New York. But never in Moscow, and he has never returned.
His friends here keep telling him to come visit, but work has always come in the way, he said. His current project is an alphabet book.
“It’s not that I don’t want to, but I just never have had enough time,” he said.
“To go for a week is too short. You see two friends and leave. And a month is too long for work. Publishers also have limited time schedules.”
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Beer named after Madonna is called ‘Material Girl Ale’

Here is some good news for all beer drinkers, you can now order a bottle with pop icon Madonna’s picture on it, called the ‘Material Girl Ale.’
According to The Sun, launched by the British brewers JW Lees, the new range of the ale has 7.5 percent alcohol content and the brewers describe its flavor as ‘nutty and fruity.’
JW Lees has currently released three hundred bottles of the ale and they say that they have made the brew in order to commemorate Madonna’s first concert in Manchester, which is a part of her re-invention tour, after a gap of 10 years.
The makers call the collection ‘Material Girl Ale” and they presented a crate to Madonna before a recent gig in Paris.
“We brewed the ale to mark Madonna’s return to Manchester after ten years. She played the Hacienda in 1994 and we thought that it would be a good way to mark her first gig back in Manchester. We know she likes an ale and thought this one was a little bit special,” the report quoted a spokesperson for J W Lees as saying.
source : ANI