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The Department of Tangents Podcast
30 minutes | 7 months ago
The Artist Check-In EP8: Bethany Van Delft - Comedian, Storyteller
This week I speak with Bethany Van Delft, a comedian and storyteller and so much more. Bethany hosts Artisanal Comedy every Wednesday on her Instagram, and she’s got a lot brewing she can’t quite mention yet. She adapted her show to the online comedy world very quickly, partly because she’s not willing to just give up comedy when real world stages are not available. We also talked about taking care of a family under quarantine and taking some time to pause as creative people to prevent burnout. The last part of the conversation revolves mostly around the Black Lives Matter protests, how social media has focused people’s attention in quarantine because they don’t have the usual distractions to move on to, and why this moment in history feels different from other flashpoints. It is always a joy to speak with Bethany, and we frequently go over time, but I managed to stop us twenty-seven minutes into what was supposed to be a twenty-minute conversation. So thanks to Bethany for the extra seven minutes!
89 minutes | 8 months ago
The DoT EP112: Paul Hansen of The Grownup Noise On New Music, New Instruments, and Some Personal History
Welcome back to the Department of Tangents Podcast, a special new episode with Paul Hansen of The Grownup Noise. You may have noticed I haven’t done an official episode of the Department of Tangents in several months. More recently, I’ve been doing the Artist Check-In Podcast which focuses on how creative people are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. That series has a very particular focus, and this episode didn’t quite fit that. Paul and I have been friends for nearly 30 years. I was the drummer in one of his first bands when he was in high school, and it has been amazing to see where he has gone since we were playing Aerosmith, Joe Walsh, and Eric Clapton covers at high school dances. Paul is the songwriter at the center of The Grownup Noise, a beloved and hard to characterize indie rock outfit in Boston. Over the years, the band line-up has changed, but Paul has always been out front with his guitar and voice. This week, on June fifth, Paul is putting out a new Grownup Noise with a very new sound. The music was mostly constructed on an analogue synth, rather than Paul’s guitar. If you’re a fan, you’ll notice the difference in sound immediately. But you may also notice that, while Paul is challenging himself as a songwriter, this is still very much a Grownup Noise album. In this conversation, we cover writing and recording the new album, working with a new instrument, the decision to keep using the Grownup Noise name, and some of our own history. Much of this is focused on the music, but this is very much a conversation between old friends who know each other well. Which means the very first thing you hear is Paul asking me about my own process for writing fiction. I debated cutting the stuff where Paul asked me about my own work, but I think that also shows Paul’s generosity and curiosity as an artist and a human being. You will hear three songs from the album sprinkled through the conversation. You can look for the full thing Friday, June 5th on BandCamp, and look for more info on www.thegrownupnoise.com and search for The Grownup Noise on all your social media.
28 minutes | 8 months ago
The Artist Check-In Podcast EP7 – Gregory Bastianelli: Horror Author, Storyteller
This week I speak with horror author and storyteller Gregory Bastianelli. Gregory released his winter-themed horror novel Snowball at the end of January. He had planned a full slate of appearances and conferences to promote the book, and all but a couple of these wound up being cancelled because of a COVID-19 quarantine. That has left him without a direct line to fans, something that an independent author counts on to sell books. We’ll talk about that, writing habits under quarantine, and the miserable New England winters that inspired him to write Snowball.
41 minutes | 8 months ago
The Artist Check-In Podcast EP6 – Corey Rodrigues: Comedian, Actor, Host of Corey's Stories
This week I speak with comedian, actor, and now kid’s show host Corey Rodrigues. Corey was working on a cruise ship as late as mid-March, just as the full weight of the pandemic was coming to bear, and he tells us what that was like. Like most every comedian, Corey lost his bookings for the year, which gave him the excuse to start Corey’s Stories, the show he hosts every weekday at 7:30 now reading to kids. And if you’re listening on May 21, the day this comes out, go to noweherecomedyclub.com to see him on The Best of Boston Stand-Up with Kelly MacFarland, Dan Crohn, and Laura Severse.
43 minutes | 8 months ago
The Artist Check-In Podcast EP5 – Tanya Gold: Book Editor, Writing Coach, Literary Omnivore
This week I speak with book editor, writing coach, and self-described literary omnivore Tanya Gold about how her job has changed, and how it hasn’t, during the quarantine. We get into the finer points of the job – why every editor isn’t always a fit for every writer, the subjective nature of editing a poetry collection, the need for writers to strive for improvement. Tanya also went through a corona-like sickness without access to testing, which is something I’m sure some of you can relate to. Plus, book recommendations!
36 minutes | 9 months ago
Artist Check In EP4 Rick Jenkins - Comedy Studio Owner, Comedian
My day job is talking to artists for different publications, which means I know a lot of people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the quarantine associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. In this limited series I’ll be talking with comedians, musicians, sound engineers, authors, and creative people about how they are handling this personally and professionally. This week we get the comedy club owner’s perspective from Rick Jenkins, who owns The Comedy Studio in Somerville, a club that has fostered a lot of talent through the years. The Studio had to shut down in March, but eventually started doing regular streaming shows featuring stand-up, variety shows, and interviews. Rick is still showing up to the Studio in his vintage Johnny Carson suits, and we kicked off the conversation talking about masks and trying to keep a normal routine.
35 minutes | 9 months ago
The Artist Check-In Podcast EP3 – Don White, Musician, Storyteller, Author
My day job is talking to artists for different publications, which means I know a lot of people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the quarantine associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. In this limited series, I’ll be talking with comedians, musicians, sound engineers, authors, and creative people about how they are handling this personally and professionally. This week it’s Don White, musician, storyteller, and author. Don is a friend of mine and always a good conversation. Full disclosure, I work with Don on his PR, so I saw how gigs began to disappear in March when venues started to shutter. But as you will learn in this interview, Don adapted quickly to start doing Zoom shows, which may be something he continues to do once the pandemic has passed. You can support Don by finding him on his website at DonWhite.net and booking him for a Zoom show or buying his music, DVDs, and book from his online shop.
55 minutes | 9 months ago
The Artist Check-In EP2: Chris Johnson, Musician, Sound Engineer
The Artist Check-In is a limited series of conversations with comedians, musicians, authors, and creative people about how they are handling, personally and professionally, the quarantine conditions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. In this episode, I speak with Chris Johnson, a musician and sound engineer, who is responsible for the sound of this show’s theme song. He is also the bass player for Deafheaven, who had to cancel a tour and are trying to figure out how to record a live album when people can’t gather to watch live shows. If you’re a musician trying to record from home, there’s a good discussion about what Chris can do for you remotely and what to think about in setting up a home studio. To book Chris for mixing and mastering and other associated production duties, you can find him at The Electric Bunker. You can also check out his work as a musician in Doomriders and Summoner on BandCamp, and at Deafheaven.com.
28 minutes | 9 months ago
The Artist Check-In EP1 Dave Rattigan - Comedian, Booker, and Teacher
My day job is talking to artists, mostly comedians, for different publications, which means I know a lot of people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the quarantine associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a limited series for which I’ll be talking with comedians, musicians, sound engineers, authors, and creative people about how they are handling this personally and professionally. Up first is Dave Rattigan, a comedian, booker, and teacher.
20 minutes | a year ago
DoT Minicast Lou Gramm on the Foreigner Reunion, New Music, and Living In Rochester
I know I have said this podcast is on hiatus for the year, and technically, it is. I’m developing new ideas, both for the Department of Tangents Podcast and some new podcast projects. But, this interview came through after I had made that decision, and it has a bit of a special meaning for me as I get ready to head back to home to Bloomfield, New York for the holidays. Bloomfield is just outside of Rochester, one of the most hardcore classic rock cities in the nation. Foreigner was a staple on local radio there when I was a young fellow, at least in part because Gramm is from there. And, as I found out in this interview, Gramm still lives there with his family. The occasion for the interview is the release of a new Foreigner live album, Double Vision: Then & Now, a CD and DVD combo that includes the current line-up of the band plus a reunion of original members Gramm, Mick Jones, Al Greenwood, Dennis Elliott, Ian McDonald, and Rick Wills. The album was released November 15, and I hope you can head out to a local brick and mortar record store to pick it up. If you’re in Rochester, you can try the Record Archive, Bop Shop, or House of Guitars. I just might see you there. Gramm was supposed to join the band again for some dates, but had to bow out due to illness. He’s fully mended now and hopes to get another chance to do that in 2020. He’s also got some new music of his own, which he says harkens back to his days in Black Sheep, his band before Foreigner. We talked about what it felt like to be onstage with the original members and the current members of the band, and I get to debunk at least one story told to me by a schoolmate from high school about meeting Gramm on the Canandaigua Pier years ago. Watching the video footage of the show, I was surprised how many of the songs I could sing along with, how many I remember hearing on my old stereo in my room on WCMF, which broadcast from Rochester. And I surprised myself in the interview by how much of a fanboy I became. I was not expecting that reaction from myself. Apparently, though, I’m not alone. Gramm says he gets people telling him stories about how Foreigner’s music fit into their lives through the years. I thank him for his patience.
113 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP111: Lamont Price On the Joy of Halloween and Horror, Plus New Music from Even Twice
This is the Department of Tangents special joy of Halloween and horror episode with Lamont Price. I love Halloween, and so does Price. And that’s really the only inspiration for this episode. Price is an incredibly entertaining human being, so we sat down with no real notes and not much of an agenda other than to discuss why we love the holiday, horror movies and books, what scares us and what doesn’t. We talked about trick or treating as kids, how that was part of the first taste of independence you get as a kid. And we go through all the major creeps and spooks to weigh in on how and why they scare us – ghosts, zombies, werewolves, vampires, serial killers, aliens. To prepare for the episode, we went to a couple of Halloween stores before we taped. You can watch Price’s Instagram to see if any of the videos from those visits pop up. Until then, enjoy Price rocking out as Slimer on his Twitter page. Ladies, why won't you let me love you? pic.twitter.com/YhBvP7JFqo— Lamont Price (@LPizzle) October 16, 2019 Look for his "Lamont’s Boston" segments on nbcboston.com, and find him on Twitter under @lpizzle and on Instagram under @lpizzle12, and on his site at lamontpricelive.com. Our featured track this week is “Collector of Things,” the first track from the new Even Twice album, This Is Boomerang. Believe it or not, Even Twice is just two guys – drummer/singer Pat O’Shea and bassist/singer Bob Hait. They make a beautiful rock and roll racket together, and for a two-instrument band, they cover a lot of different styles on Boomerang. There is a driving, punk edged sound at the heart of it. But sometimes it sounds like sludgy prog rock a la King Crimson’s “20th Century Schizoid Man.” Sometimes, as on “Collector of Things,” it sounds like 60s garage rock, rough around the edges but with a solid melodic center. You can find the new album on Spotify or better yet, buy it on BandCamp. Find them on Twitter under @EvenTwice, and look them up on Facebook. This is “Collector of Things” off of This Is Boomerang by Even Twice.
85 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP110: Monster, She Wrote Authors Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson On the History of Female Horror Writing, Plus New Comedy from Corey Rodrigues
If you ask a random reader to name foundational women horror writers, you might get two or three names. Mary Shelley. Shirley Jackson. Maybe Daphne du Maurier or Anne Rice. But as Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson point out in their new book, Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror & Speculative Fiction, if that’s where our knowledge begins and ends, we’re missing out on a lot. Eli Colter, who wrote, amongst other things, weird westerns. C.L. Moore who helped introduce swashbuckling rebels into the sci-fi canon. Angela Carter’s re-imagining of folk tales. There are also works of literary fiction we might not put in the horror genre, like Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Kroger and Anderson give readers a primer on women writers whose work you may have missed, and puts it in a historical context. You can learn about the origins of the gothic story, the influence of spiritualism in writing and pop culture, how writers supported their families with their short works, a bit about pulp magazines like Weird Tales, and even how one writer put together a group of mystics (or mystic-adjacents) to help guard the coast of England during World War II. But beware – Monster, She Wrote is likely to add considerable height to your reading pile. A note about the sound quality – we tried to do this interview with Skype, but it kept cutting out. So we had to do it the old fashioned way, the way I started recording interviews in the last century, on speaker phone with a recorder. I’ve sweetened it up a bit through some plug-in magic, but you’ll notice the switch a few minutes in. Monster, She Wrote is out now from Quirk Books and you can find out more about it at www.quirkbooks.com or wherever you get wonderful books. You can also keep track of Lisa Kroger’s work at www.lisakroger.com and Melanie R. Anderson at www.melanieranderson.com. The Know Fear Podcast is at www.knowfearcast.com, and on Twitter under @knowfearcast. This week’s featured track from the new Best of Boston Stand-Up, Volume 1. Boston has a long and fine tradition of stand-up comedy, and this album is a good introduction to some of the funniest comedians you can see regularly around town. Veterans like Steve Sweeney, Don Gavin, Tony V., Kenny Rogerson, and Jimmy Dunn; more recent headliners like Kelly MacFarland, Will Noonan, Dan Crohn, Christine Hurley, and Corey Rodrigues, who you are about to hear. This is a bit about Rodrigues going out for a day at the beach, and the reaction he got when he tried to put on sunscreen. I won’t give away too much, but Rodrigues is black, and the audience at this taping was mostly white. That allowed Rodrigues to have a little fun with their expectations partway through the story. Look for more of Rodrigues’s stuff on the Dry Bar Comedy YouTube channel, and find his album, My Turn, on Apple Music and Google Play. His Web site is www.coreyrodrigues.com.
89 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP109: Sue Costello On Staying Positive, Sexism, CBS, and Simmah Down, Plus New Music From Rebecca Turner
Sue Costello is someone I saw early on in Boston, specifically playing a show organized by Jimmy Tingle that featured Costello, Patrice Oneal, and Steve Sweeney. She has always been tough, and she wears her Dorchester roots with pride. We got into some thorny topics here, including pervasive sexism in the entertainment industry and her dealings with CBS as the Les Moonves scandal was breaking. She has survived sexism in comedy and in the television industry and come out of it trying to find a way to get people to communicate more productively, to get to a truth. As she says, the empaths need to grow some balls, because the bullies are winning. That’s part of the philosophy behind her new talk show pilot, Simmah Down with Sue Costello. She wants people to be real about the ugly things in their lives and not be afraid to talk about them. The show is in a pilot stage now, but it’s up on YouTube now. Watch it here: You can keep up to date on news from Costello at www.suecostello.com, and find her on Twitter and Facebook under Sue Costello and Instagram under iamsuecostello. She’s also filming a new movie called Mow, which you can find on the social medias on @mowmovie. Our featured track this week is “Living Rock” from Rebecca Turner, from her upcoming album The New Wrong Way, out November 6. This will be Turner’s third album, and her first since 2009’s Slowpoke. Since then, she has continue to write and play, but family and work concerns kept her from finishing a new album. The New Wrong Way is a culmination of ten years of writing and tweaking the songs, which were recorded starting last winter. The featured track is the opening song from the album, a riffy roots-rock tune called “Living Rock.” Find out more about Rebecca Turner at https://rebeccaturner.net.
70 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP108: Dave Ross On Smart and Dumb Comedy, Punk, Masculinity, and Kale, Plus Newly-Released Early Dead Kennedys Music
Dave Ross has a fantastic new album out now called The Only Man Who Has Ever Had Sex. You can download it, but if you see him at a show, you can buy a download card with a special flipbook he’s made with some beautiful photos and silliness. It’s Ross’s attempt to give you a little something extra for your participation, which is something he does in his comedy, as well. A few years ago, I reviewed the aptly-titled album Holy Fuck for the comedy review site The Spit Take. It was a who’s who of alternative comedy taped at the recurring show of the same name, curated by Ross. But his new album was my first prolonged exposure to him, and I’m glad for that. The album captures his love for dumb comedy and his compulsion to try to say something meaningful. He talks about getting high and eating the best fried chicken he’d ever tasted at a gas station in Florida, but he also interrogates extreme masculinity, poking fun at the type of guys what might utter phrases like, “I want to marry violence” and “I wish I could be a truck.” It’s an appealing mix, and there are a lot of lines that make me laugh just remembering them. I was happy to find that Ross was coming to Boston shortly after the album’s release, to a Monday-night show called CitySide Comedy. I caught up with him there to talk about dumb and thoughtful comedy, the influence of punk, and, as we started the interview as he was finishing his supper, kale. I usually make at least some minor edits to a conversation to make it flow a bit better or cut out some pauses and stammers, but since we have near-constant background noise, the edits would have been noticeable and distracting. So this is the full thing, start to finish. You can find out more about him on his Web site at www.davetotheross.com, and also find him on Twitter and Instagram under @davetotheross. The new album is called The Only Man Who Has Ever Had Sex, and it’s out on aspecialthing records now, and you can find them at www.astrecords.com. Thanks also to Sam Ike and Anjan Biswas of CitySide Comedy for bringing Ross to town. If you happen to live in the Boston area, you can find out about the show on Facebook by searching CitySide Comedy. This week's featured track is an early rehearsal version of “California Uber Alles” by Dead Kennedys. A couple of years before their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, punk pioneers Dead Kennedys got together and recorded a rehearsal of a lot of the music that would wind up on that album. That’s being released on September 27 under the name Iguana Studios Rehearsal Tape – San Francisco 1978. Jello Biafra wrote the song about then California governor Jerry Brown, but has said in interviews he softened on Brown a bit once the Reagan era began, and even changed the lyrics to include the line “We’ve got a bigger problem now.” This version is a bit slower and a bit more sinister. The recording is from 1978 and includes the band’s original line-up of Biafra, East Bay Ray and 6025 on guitar, Klaus Flouride on bass, and Ted on drums. It’s a wonderful lo-fi punk slice of mud. There are a few tour dates planned for the beginning of October, but casual fans, if there is such a thing as a casual Dead Kennedys fan, should note the current line-up does not include Biafra. The album is out September 27 on Manifesto Records.
81 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP107: Mike Watt on Jumpstarted Plowhards, The Minutemen, and Keeping the Creative Juices Flowing, Plus New Comedy from Dave Ross
Mike Watt is a bona fide punk rock legend. And he probably hates being described like that. His work with The Minutemen and fIREHOSE is seminal stuff, and hard to describe, especially The Minutemen. The second you hear it, you know it’s punk, but it’s also funk and jazz and so many other things, and completely in-the-moment music. It’s as if all music, past and present, lives on the same plane, and he’s filtering all of it at once. The reason for that, he says in this interview, is that when he and D. Boon started, they were innocent of genre delineations. They knew Creedence and Van Halen and a few other bands, but they weren’t locked into FM radio expectations. When Watt heard jazz great John Coltrane, he thought he was listening to punk. More than anything, Watt is a seeker. On his new project, Jumpstarted Plowhards, he found a new way to collaborate. He recorded bass parts for a batch of songs and sent them to Todd Congelliere of Toys That Kill and F.Y.P. Congelliere then recorded vocals and guitar parts and found a revolving cast of drummers to complete the songs. The result is a tough and tuneful merging of their voices. The new album, Round One, is out October 4 on Recess Records, and that’s where the conversation begins. Along the way, we talk about the different ways Watt has kept his creative juices flowing, the early days of The Minutemen and how he didn’t even know what a bass guitar was when D. Boon’s mom told him that’s what he was going to play, what he learned from playing with The Stooges, making rock operas for major labels, the unreleased Minutemen stuff he’s playing on his new tour, and the new Missingmen and Secondmen albums in the works. On a more personal note, it is wonderful to have Watt on this podcast. He was the first person I interviewed as a “journalist,” back in 1995. I had thought the tape of that interview was long gone, but I found it just this week. I have to admit, it’s a little cringe-inducing for me to hear how unprepared I was for this interview. Fortunately for me, Watt is a warm and open guy, which comes across in both interviews. The interview took place on October 7, 1995, outside of The Showplace Theater in Buffalo, New York. Watt had made a big splash with his solo debut, Ball-Hog or Tugboat?, which featured Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Dave Grohl just as he was getting Foo Fighters going, J Mascis, Henry Rollins, and a lot of other musicians that represented some of the best and most well-known alternative players at the time. Watt was on the Crew of the Flying Saucer tour with Nels Cline on guitar and Michael Preussner and Vince Meghrouni on drums. I had grabbed my tape recorder on my way out the door, but hadn’t actually expected to get to speak with Watt. When I asked the door person at if Watt might be open to answering a few questions for the University at Buffalo campus magazine, they said “sure” and let me up into the green room. Watt was apparently getting a bit of rest in the van, and I hung out with Preussner, chewing his ear off until Watt came upstairs. Standing out on the street, Watt showed me his signature Econoline van, complete with bullethole in the bumper, as fans streamed into the venue and said hello. The new album from Jumpstarted Plowhards is called Round One, and it will be available October 4 on Recess Records, which you can find at www.recessrecords.com. Round Two is already in the works, and look for the band to start playing live once they’ve got to Round Five. And you can keep up with Watt and check his tour dates and news on his Web page at www.hootpage.com. We are approaching Halloween, which means it is time once again for the Daily Horror Film Fest. Every day through October, the Department of Tangents presents a different short horror film. If you have a favorite short horror film, or if you yourself have made a short horror film, tell me about it, and it may wind up in the fest. E-mail me at email@example.com and show me what you’ve got. This week’s featured track comes from stand-up comedian Dave Ross’s new album, The Only Man Who Has Ever Had Sex, out now on A Special Thing Records. He’s been on Drunk History, the WTF podcast, The Last Late Show with James Corden and a bunch of others. Ross is a storyteller, but with a lot of sneaky punches hiding in these looping kind of tales. He will be on the podcast soon, so you’ll hear more about that. Find out more about Ross and the new album on his Web site at www.davetotheross.com. This is the track that sold me on the album. It’s called “I Attack Strangers.”
77 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP106: Author David Demchuk On Strangeness, Folklore, Queerness, and Monstrosity, Plus New Music from Jumpstarted Plowhards
David Demchuk’s first novel, The Bone Mother, came highly recommended to me at NECON this year by Matt Moore, whom I interviewed in EP104. Demchuk and Moore are both on ChiZine Publications, which had a table in the dealers room. So I picked up The Bone Mother, not knowing what to expect, and innocently set about reading the first fifty pages later that evening. It’s a novel told in short stories that, when taken together, form a story about a hunted and tortured class of people in Eastern Europe, many of whom happen to have supernatural traits or powers, and don’t always do pleasant things with them. The first story presents Borys, who marries his brother. His brother then dies, and Borys is then forced to take his place working at the local thimble factory, which, it turns out, is a scary place all on its own. There is a black and white photo accompanying Borys’s story, of two sturdy, emotionless gentlemen who look very much like brothers sitting with a bouquet of flowers between them. Most every story has a matching photo, taken from the archives of Roman photographer Costica Acsinte between 1935 and 1945, as the book’s end notes state. They are evocative, and part of the impetus that sparked Demchuk to write the play, The Thimble Factory, upon which this novel is based. The strange quality of the photographs helped Demchuk write to some of his favorite themes, queerness and monstrosity, and wrap them in the familiar feel of folklore. He knew there would be parallels to the contemporary experience of queerness being labeled as “other” or even dangerous, but The Bone Mother turned out to be even more forward-thinking than he had originally planned. And it’s also one hell of a horror story. The book is called The Bone Mother from ChiZine Publications. You can find out more about Demchuk at his Web site, www.daviddemchuk.com, and find him on Twitter under @david_demchuk. You can find more info on ChiZine Publications at www.chizinepub.com. Halloween is upon us! I am putting together my Daily Horror Film Fest, which means a different short horror film every day through October, and I need your help. If you have made a short horror film, or you just have a favorite you’d like more people to see, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. And now, this week’s featured track, “On the Counter” by Jumpstarted Plowhards, from their upcoming album Round One, out October 4 on Recess Records. This is a collaboration between Todd Gongelliere of Toys That Kill and F.Y.P. and Mike Watt of the Minutemen and fIREHOSE, who will talk about the project on next week’s episode. Watt recorded the bass tracks and then sent them to Congelliere to add drums, guitars, and vocals. You can here both personalities mingling to create something slightly different than either would have produced on their own. Round Two has already started, and the band plans to tour once they’ve got five albums under their belt. I'm thrilled to give you your first taste of the project.
72 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP105: Steve Poltz On Songwriting, Goat Singing, Spirituality, Tom Cruise, and Much More, Plus New Music from Secret Shame
I have met my tangenting match. I went into this interview, backstage at the legendary Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a slate of questions for Steve Poltz, about his new album Shine On, about writing “You Were Meant For Me” with Jewel, about humor in music. I probably could have gotten a good hour with Steve with two or three questions. There is no telling where his mind might flash next. Just in terms of music, the conversation covered his early days with The Rugburns, Nirvana and 90s “goat music,” the Replacements, the Dead Milkmen, Mojo Nixon, Tom Lehrer, and Allan Sherman over the course of a few minutes. We talked about spirituality, Risky Business, Hyman Roth from Godfather II, Jesus, Marianne Williamson, Styx in another five-minute section. At one point, when I told Poltz the name of the podcast, he said, “We’re living up to the name.” This breakneck tangenting is something you have experienced if you’ve seen Poltz onstage. I hadn’t seen him play since he did an in-the-round show with Beaver Nelson, “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb, and Adam Carroll perhaps seventeen or eighteen years before. I certainly hadn’t remembered this version of him. When he smiles, it splits his face almost completely, and he smiles a lot when he’s not singing. He also jigs, which makes him seem like a Muppet version of Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The first several minutes onstage, he told stories, picked up his guitar and put it back down again, and threatened not to pick it up the rest of the show. It’ll be there, he said, the audience would see it, but maybe he wouldn’t use it. He played the Grateful Dead’s “Althea” off the top of his head, which surprised even him. He apologized for the bad notes, but backtracked, saying, “Think of how many bad notes the Dead hit.” The new album is called Shine On, and you can find more info about that and Poltz on www.poltz.com, and find him on Facebook and Twitter under Steve Poltz. You can also find more about Club Passim at www.passim.org. And if you’re intrigued by some of the music you heard in the background, that’s Boston singer/songwriter Rachel Sumner, formerly of Twisted Pine, and you can find her stuff at www.rachelsumnermusic.com. I am currently putting together this year’s Daily Horror Film Fest, for which I post a different short horror film every day in October. If you are a short horror filmmaker, or even if you just have a short horror film you love dearly, e-mail your suggestions to email@example.com. And now for something completely different. Or maybe not. This week’s featured track is "Comfort" from Secret Shame of Asheville, North Carolina, from their new album, out today, September 5th, called Dark Synmthetic. This new album would have sounded great in nestled somewhere in your collection with the Pixies, The Cure, and Nirvana. It’s propulsive guitar rock, mixing glassy chorus and echo with heavy, distorted riffs to create this wide-open sound. From somewhere within that sound, singer Lena is trying to reach you through waves of reverb. Seven songs come in just under twenty-six minutes total. Not a note wasted. The band is kicking off a tour this week, and you can find them on BandCamp and Facebook to find out more.
79 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP104: Author Matt Moore on Personal Apocalypse, Brevity, and Brain Chemistry, plus New Music from Steve Poltz
This is the third and final interview I recorded at NECON 2019, which I have previously described as a mashup of a horror writers conference and summer camp with adult beverages. I attended NECON for the first time in 2018, and this week’s guest, Matt Moore, was my roommate. Lucky for me, he is also a fine and thoughtful writer. His debut book is It’s Not the End (and Other Lies), a collection of short stories about what Moore calls personal apocalypses. What Moore means by that is that these stories aren’t necessarily about the apocalypse writ large with zombies or the annihilation of the human race, although it doesn’t exclude those possibilities. They are more about a moment when a character is facing the end of their life as they have known it so far. There are elements of sci-fi, horror, and what has come to be known as speculative fiction. I would highly recommend picking it up. It is on the Toronto-based Chizine Publications, which has featured the work of some wonderful authors, including Gemma Files, Helen Marshall, Bracken Macleod, David Demchuk, Christopher Golden, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay, Ed Kurtz, and many more. Moore and I took a deep dive on a few of the stories in It’s Not the End, and also the craft of writing short stories. It’s a magical art all its own, different from writing novels. Moore found a great quote for it, which he says in the conversation, “Short stories writers are like someone who knows how to make one cookie.” The stories in this book are concise, and they stop at exactly the moment the story is over. Which sounds obvious, but is a difficult thing to navigate in writing. Moore had another great quote for that he heard recently. “Perfection isn’t when you can’t add anything more, perfection is when you can’t take anything more away.” Moore is currently working on a new novel, and I’m looking forward to see how he applies that to a longer work. I was happy to have gotten to read Moore’s work and to have gotten to speak with him at NECON. You can hear a bit of the conference going on in the background. When we started the conversation, we were in an out-of-the-way spot where people weren’t gathering. But there are giant bags of books that each attendee gets with their admission price, and people were scavenging the leftover bags behind us at one point. So you get a little bit of a feel for the festive and active atmosphere of NECON. Based on the joy of the folks around us, we got into a bit of the psychology of horror writers. You can find out more about Moore on his website at www.mattmoorewrites.com, on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook under @mattmoorewrites. You can find ChiZine Publications on their website at www.chizinepub.com. Also, if you make short horror films, we’ve got the Daily Horror Film Fest coming up in October, for which I present a new short horror film every day throughout the month. I am currently open for suggestions for your favorite shorts as I put together the 2019 edition. I will write about each one, and interview some of the filmmakers to give a bit more depth. Our featured track this week is “Windows of Halifax” by Steve Poltz from his new album, Shine On. I caught up with Poltz at Club Passim in Cambridge last week, and he will be the subject of next week’s episode of the Department of Tangents. You will hear a bit about the background of this song in that episode. Poltz can write an earnest song or a write with a sense of humor, two things that can sometimes feel at odds, at least emotionally. There is a wistfulness in this song to start, but then you get to this kind of gonzo middle section, in which two windows are talking about their plight, and the unsavory occupants of their houses. Poltz was born in Halifax, spent a lot of time in California, and now lives in Nashville, and that means sometimes his accent changes in weird ways. You can hear that in the conversation between the windows on this song, and I am fairly sure I will never get the opportunity to write that sentence again. Find out more about Steve Poltz at poltz.com and on Twitter under @stevepoltz.
67 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP103: Horror Author and Editor Scott Goudsward on Zombies, Vampires, and Indie Publishing, plus New Music from Reverse
This is the second interview I recorded at this year’s NECON conference, which is part horror author’s conference and part summer camp. It is with Scott Goudsward, a very busy fellow. I’ve been trying to catch up with him for months, but as you are about to find out, Scott has a lot of jobs. He has written two novels -- Fountain of the Dead and Trailer Trash -- and many short stories, co-edited a series of guidebooks based on horror landmarks with his brother, David Goudsward, and is editor or co-editor of many horror anthologies. The latest anthology is hot off the presses as of August, and it is called Wicked Weird, weird, Lovecraftian fiction from the New England Horror Writers Press. That is available as an ebook and in print as of August 23, and includes a short from J. Edwin Buja, whom I also interviewed at NECON for EP100 of the podcast. It isn’t easy being an indie writer, or an indie publisher. Scott talks a bit about the perils of the independent publishing world, having to jump from one house to another with a project, and publishers folding before a book can get published. But we also talk about a lot more positive things, like how welcoming the New England writing community can be, especially at NECON. And we also talk about how to approach zombies and vampires without retreading all the old tropes, The Walking Dead, Midsommer, musical inspiration, and more. Find out more about Scott and buy his works at Goudsward.com. The new anthology is called Wicked Weird and is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and other retailers, and you can find this and other compilations at NewEnglandHorror.org. This week’s featured track is “Red Drum” by Boston rockers Reverse from their new album What’s Your Problem. If you like dark, muscular guitar riffs and a creeping sense that the world is about to fall apart, this album is for you. The chorus to this one is, “Way up high/Windows in the sky/And the sun’s gonna fall out/Wave goodbye/And I don’t know why/There’s a name I call out.” There’s a terseness to the riffs that reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age. These songs just move. Sadly, this will be the last album by the band, as we lost singer/guitarist Ian Kennedy last year. If you buy the vinyl of What’s You Problem, all of the proceeds go to Kennedy’s wife and daughter. You can find the music on BandCamp under reverse6.bandcamp.com or search for the band name and the album title on CDBaby and other sources.
72 minutes | a year ago
DoT EP102: Writer Pornsak Pichetshote and Artist Aaron Campbell on Xenophobia and Horror in Infidel, plus New Music from Landroid
Pornsak Pichetshote edited other people's books for DC for years before he attempted to write his own. He didn’t give himself an easy out. His first series, now collected as a graphic novel, is Infidel, a horror story that explores xenophobia. It’s hard enough to do horror and politics well separately without trying to combine them in a graphic format, but Infidel is a complex and nuanced story that grounds its truly terrifying ghost story in a very real world. What really brings out these elements is the collaboration between Pichetshote and artist Aaron Campbell, whose imagery and inventive approach is the perfect compliment to the story. The characters in Infidel are not simple caricatures of racists. Pichetshote set the story in New York to put it in a more liberal environment, politically. The setting is an apartment building in the aftermath of a bombing, where distrust is running high. Aisha, a Muslim woman living in the building, is living not only with that xenophobia, but a more supernatural menace, as well. Her boyfriend’s mother, Leslie, who didn’t like her at first, seems to welcome her now, and tries to comfort her. But her boyfriend, Tom, is cutting his mother less slack than Aisha. Aisha’s best friend, Medina, was also raised Muslim but the two share different views of their faith. The supernatural element parallels the xenophobic threat, and together, they make for a socially pointed story that is also truly scary. Pichetshote and Campbell address their collaboration and how they put these different elements together. And we also get a bit of news about the new Hellblazer, which Campbell is illustrating. He gives us a bit of insight about the upcoming book and how DC is bringing John Constantine back to his roots toward the end of the conversation. Pichetshote also worked on Two-Sentence Horror Stories for The CW, which is new this month on their streaming service, and some comics work that he was unable to get specific about just yet. Infidel is published by Image Comics, and you can find that at www.imagecomics.com and at booksellers and comic shops everywhere. Follow Pichetshote on Twitter under @real_pornsak and Campbell under @olmancampbell. This week’s featured track is a song I heard just the day before I put this episode together, but it fits perfectly with the themes in Infidel. The song is “So Say We All” from Landroid’s upcoming album, Imperial Dunes, which is coming out September 13th. Landroid is the duo of Cooper Gillespie, who sings and plays guitar and bass, and Greg Gordon, who handles drums and sequencing. In the press release, Gillespie identified the inspiration for “So Say Well All,” the opening track on the album. “‘So Say We All’ was written in reaction to the current political climate where immigrants are demonized,” she says. “The message is that there is no such thing as race; we all belong to one race: the human race.” Not only does the message fit with Infidel, so does the music with its dark, throbbing synth backbone and dream-like lighter strings and keys floating over the top. Find out more about Landroid and pre-order Imperial Dunes at landroud.bandcamp.com.
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