Episode 294: Alexander Orange Drink (of The So So Glos)


Asked how long he’s been Alexander Orange Drink, Alex Zarou Levine pulls a packet out of his backpack and tosses it on table in front of him. “That’s my orange drink,” he says. The musician laments for a moment that the name is no longer a secret, because it’s 2018 and secrets don’t exist anymore. But Levine and his Brooklyn-based band of brothers, The So So Glos have never been afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeve. In a world of ironic detachment, their music is proudly earnest and anthemic. “F*** art, let’s dance,” he says, referencing the infamous Stiff Records slogan when asked to describe the overarching theme of his solo debut.  Out this week, Babel On is a document of troubled times both internally and externally. It’s the product of a singer who’s long found solace in making and listening to music, from the rare metabolic disorder that requires him to carry around the aforementioned orange drink, to a political climate that’s infinitely more troubling than any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes.


Episode 293: Richard Elfman


When Richard Elfman laughs, he commits his entire body to the act. It’s deep, hearty and infectious. The consummate entertain and raconteur, Elfman pours us both a glass of scotch, describing his last big barbecue and inviting me to his next, should I pass through the parts again. A number of recent guests also happened to appear his his upcoming film, Hipsters, Gangsters, Aliens and Geeks. It’s was completing on a shoestring budget, with the help of many favors, but the director is convinced its his best to date. If all goes according to plan, it will help finance Forbidden Zone 2 — the long awaited followup to his 1980 black and white cult musical classic. The film, which launched his film directing career, was assembled as a showcase for Elfman’s theatrical musical act, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. That act, under a truncated name, would later find mainstream pop success, courtesy of Elfman’s preternaturally talented younger brother, Danny. Richard, meanwhile, has found an avenue for creative passions in a wide of outlets, from theater, to prose, to a lifelong passion for Afro-Cuban percussion.



Episode 292: Tony Millionaire


In 2016, Tony Millionaire drew his final Maakies. For nearly a quarter of century, the strip ran weekly in alternative papers like The New York Press, LA Times and Seattle’s The Stranger. While he’d flirted with the idea of doing it for as long as he was still able to hold a pen, the newspaper industry imploded around him, leaving him with too few places to syndicate the strip. During its life, the strip inspired a number of animated products, beginning with animated Saturday Night Live shorts in the 90s, an appearance in the They Might Be Giants documentary Gigantic and its own Cartoon Network series. Millionaire, for his part, kept plenty busy, producing several Sock Monkey titles for a younger audience on Dark Horse Comics. These days, the cartoonist is plotting a return for Maakies stars Drinky Crow and Uncle Gabby, as the guiding force and comic relief for the upcoming autobiographical book Tony's True Tales. I met up with Millionaire on a recent trip to Los Angeles to discuss this work, drinking and a suburban southern California life.


Episode 291: Ivan Brunetti


I can count on one hand all of the cartoonist whose work has unfailingly made me laugh out loud. Ivan Brunetti’s strips are up toward the top. You don’t always feel great about belly laughing at the material, but it’s never not hilarious. For the past several years, however, Brunetti has been conspicuously absent from the comics scene, save for a pair of kids titles for Francoise Mouly’s Toon Books. The works are delightful in their own right, but do not satiate one’s desire for Brunetti’s gut-shakingly hilarious adult work. In recent years, he’s been more focused on his day job, as a comics/illustration editor at Chicago’s Columbia College, a gig that has more recently found him working out of the back office. Brunetti’s last major comics work was released nearly a dozen years ago. I paid the artist a visit on a recent trip to the Windy City, to see how his life and work were going. Brunetti happily poured his heart out about the struggles to create and his plans to release comics in the future.


Episode 290: Judd Winick


The last time we spoke, we were backstage at New York Comic Con. It was a short, manic conversation, with the first Hilo book having only just been published. Two years, later, we’re sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district — an only slightly less chaotic setting than last time around.Hilo has become become a bonafide success. Earlier this year, Random House released the fourth book of the series, Walking the Monsters. The series represents something very pure for Judd Winick — the ability to tell a superhero story on his own terms.It’s a far cry from the cartoonist’s work at DC Comics. After runs on titles like Batman, Green Arrow and Catwoman, Winick was ready to leave the dark and gritty world of superheroes behind. Hilo finds the artist writing for a younger audience, including his own kids. In his return to the show, Winick discusses long form story telling, taking risks and the importance of a built in support structure.


Episode 289: Bonus - Van William


“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.



Episode 288: Penelope Houston (of The Avengers)


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.


Episode 287: Bonus - Uni


“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.


Episode 286: Michael Kupperman


“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.


Episode 285: Bonus - Matt Groening


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.


- Older Posts »