Episode 289: Bonus - Van William

13Aug

“Green Day was the true reason I learned how to play guitar,” Van William says with a smile. “‘When I Come Around,’ when that video came out and Billie Joe was walking around the Bay Area and at one point he took the pay phone off the hook and kept walking. I couldn’t imagine anything more rebellious than that.” The former Waters’ frontman’s music is a bit more mellow than those early days of pop punk worship. But it’s no less raw. His 2018 solo debut, Countries, finds the indie folk singer finding hope after an intense break up. Earlier this year, he say down to discuss the record, growing up in California, and fantasizing about leaving it all behind to work on a fishing boat.

 

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Episode 288: Penelope Houston (of The Avengers)

11Aug

We grab a seat on the “punk couch,” an old piece of living room furniture covered in band name tags. Penelope created is as part of an installation, drawing upon her days as the 19-year-old singer of seminal San Francisco punk band, The Avengers. These days, Houston mostly paints during her off hours from the SF library. Her latest project finds her recreating mugshots from nearly 100 years ago. Muzzlers features a parade of grizzled sex workers and sex criminals. It’s been a half dozen years since her last solo record, On Market Street. The singer still performs, both under her own name and as the Avengers, who’ve played off and on since reforming in 1999, with members of The Mr. T Experience, Pansy Division and Screeching Weasel In a wide ranging interview, we discuss the early days of the band, painting and finding creative fulfillment.

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Episode 287: Bonus - Uni

6Aug

“We kind of want to be more of a factory than a band,” says bassist Charlotte Kemp Muhl, drawing clear inspiration from Andy Warhol’s stomping grounds several decades prior. Uni is, fittingly, one of the most stylish New York bands in recent memory. Muhl (ex-Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger) is joined by former Courtney Love guitarist David Strange and singer Nico Fuzz for a raucous take on vintage 70s rock, channeled through 90s fuzz. I sat down with the trio backstage to discuss their unique approach to music distribution and the importance of having a solid gimmick to rise above the nose of the music industry.

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Episode 286: Michael Kupperman

5Aug

“I felt like it was a noble thing to do, to help people laugh,” says Michael Kupperman. “I’ve had that beaten out of me, a little bit.” The cartoonist sounds a bit defeated, describing earlier work like Tales Designed to Thrizzle and Mark Twain's Autobiography.

 

It’s not an uncommon sentiment — humor comics are a hell of a tough place to make a living, even after decades of churning away. Kupperman latest book finds the artist turning a page, putting his own family under the microscope. His father, Joel Kupperman is the subject of All the Answers.

 

The academic rose to fame at a young as the star of NBC’s nationally broadcast radio series, Quiz Kids. The elder Kupperman’s life is fascinating and often stark, as he grabbles with the lasting impact of having fame cast upon him at the age of seven.

 

It’s bold new territory for the cartoonist, and the result is easily one of the year’s best comics.

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Episode 285: Bonus - Matt Groening

4Aug

I met Matt Groening very briefly years ago, while attending a small indie comics show in Brooklyn. He was there as a fan — and to support longtime friend, Lynda Barry. He came upon a pile of Treehouse of Horror comics, picked them up and pulled out a Sharpie and signed every one, walking away with out a word. This second conversation was a bit more formal: 20 minutes on the phone to discuss his new Netflix show, Disenchantment for TechCrunch. No questions about Apu allowed. Instead, we talk about tailoring a show for its format, the importance of developing a style and the origins of Bart. The conversation was recorded over the phone, so the sound quality’s not great, which is why you’re getting this a bonus episode. Still, there’s a lot of fun insight into the mind of the man who created the most popular show in television history.

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Episode 284: Matt and Kim

28Jul

Matt greets me at the door of the duo’s spacious Brooklyn home. We walk past a fireplace mantel showcasing multiple MTV Moon Men. We chat for a bit about social media, and he shows me snippets of the Matt and Kim Vlog — short videos from the road, designed to connect with the group’s very loyal fanbase. We meet Kim upstairs in a room they’ve converted into a recording studio. Kim wonders half-jokingly whether she’s going to “drag [her] lazy ass out of bed” in the morning for an exercise class (she will), and as gesture to a toy piano in the corner, Matt taps out the melody of “Daylight.” Kim and Matt are beaming and joking — precisely the what you’d expect from the pair after listening to their records for a dozen years. But the current state of affairs belies the struggle that underpins much of their most recent record, Almost Everyday. The album was written during Kim’s recovery process, after the drummer injured her ACL on-stage in Mexico. 2017 was a year filled with recuperation and bouts of depression. But both insist they came out the side better for it — and at the very least, having recorded their most introspective work to date.

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Episode 283: Bonus - Paul Bakija (of Reagan Youth)

27Jul

Reagan Youth only released a single album during its first incarnation, but the group of anarcho-punks from Queens had a profound impact on the New York hardcore scene. The band called it quits in 1989, as their primary inspiration, Ronald Reagan finally left office. Founding members Dave Rubinstein and Paul Bakija would go onto form House of God with drummer Javier Madriaga. The psychedelic rock band was ultimately short lived, due, in part to Rubinstein’s drug problems. Ultimately, the band left only an unmixed seven-song demo behind. Rubinstein’s death by suicide in 1993, seemingly closed the book on both bands forever. In 2006, however, the band reformed the band with a new vocalist for a one-off show that eventually became something more permanent. Bakija’ plans for the band include a concept album dedicated to his to Rubenstein, his childhood classmate and a metal record, both bearing the Reagan Youth name. He joins us to discuss how the musical project has soldiered on, after the death of its driving force.

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Episode 282: Kevin Allison returns

21Jul

“I think there’s something radical, defiant and necessary about continuing to tell the truth in a very compassionate way in a world that is screaming and yelling talking points at each other,” Kevin Allison explains. “To me it just seems important right now.” The week we record this conversion, news breaks about child detention centers at US/Mexico border. Even in one of the roughest years in recent memory, things are staring to look especially bleak. But the former member of The State turned podcast host finds some hope in interactions with a diverse group of listeners. The extreme and embarrassing nature of Risk’s stories have helped engender a surprising sense of empathy amongst listeners of different backgrounds. “People will write in and say, ‘I never thought I’d listen to a show about a man eating another man’s shit and feel moved,” he says with a laugh. The show, which is just shy of ten-years-old also recently landed Allison a book deal. Risk: True Stories People Never Thought They'd Dare to Share is out now, featuring a number of essays adapted from the live show by storytellers including past RiYL guests Marc Maron and Jesse Thorn.

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Episode 281: Allen Ravenstine (of Pere Ubu)

16Jul

In the early 90s, Allen Ravenstine quit music. Just like that, to hear him tell it. The founding keyboardist for pioneering art-punk legends Pere Ubu was finished with the industry, opting to fly gliders and ultimately work his way up to commercial airline pilot. 2014’s modular synthesizer documentary I Dream of Wires changed things, however. A jam session with his Ubu replaement Robert Wheeler found him fiddling with synthesizers yet again.The music switch flipped on just as easily it had turned off, more than a decade prior. Waiting for Bomb finds is the result of hours of experimentation, distilled into 18 tracks that capture the energy of those early days. “I lose myself [making music],” he says as we sit down for an interview in Manhattan. “It’s a very peaceful place to be. I’m living in the moment, and that’s a rare feeling, to be untroubled by the past or future”

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Episode 280: Ian Parton (of Go! Team)

8Jul

“I’m pulled in a million different directions,” says Ian Parton. The musician is describing the inspiration that led to the creation of the Go! Team in the lobby of La Poisson Rouge in Manhattan. It’s the final night of the tour, and he believes the band is really just starting to hit its stride. But two weeks is about all Parton can take, with two kids at home in the U.K. Parton describes the band’s vibe as a kind of cross between his love of noise music and obsession with melody. “I like forcing things. I like the idea of worlds colliding,” he explains., “I think of myself in the hook business […] No one’s really cracked it. It’s still as elusive to Paul McCartney as it is to me.”The band’s latest, Semicircle is as loud and about as good as anything the band has produced in its nearly 20-year-long existence. It’s a raucous cacophony of sounds and influences, featuring a wide range of collaborators, including the Detroit Youth Choir.

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