Episode 149: Josie Long

26Jan

“It’s woven very densely into the fabric of my life,” explains Josie Long. “It happens when you do your accounting every year. You look at your receipts, and everything there you’ve written about.” The comedian began her standup career at the tender age of 14, scoring a BBC New Comedy Award three years later. Having spent more than half her years on Earth as a standup, it’s certainly understandable that comedy has become the filter through which Long examines her life. I caught up with the comedian ahead during a week-long string of shows in New York. She’d been out swimming in the ice cold Atlantic in the midst of an autumn chill, her voice slightly worse for wear. But she happily spoke the cross section of the personal and professional, an area she had been mining heavily for the set she was performing later that evening.  Cara Josephine trades her often political source material in for stories about family and failed relationships, making for far away Long’s most personal show to date.

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Episode 148: Eric Bogosian

19Jan

Eric Bogosian is not an easy interview — but he’s a good one. I came ready to discuss his recently published book on the Armenian genocide, Operation Nemesis — but the writer quickly made it known that he’s not keen to reflect upon something that’s already out in the world, particularly not with something new in need of promotion just over the horizon. Before we began, he sat me down and played a handful of examples of his 100 Monologues project, featuring a rotating cast well known actors from stage and screen acting out works written by Bogosian between 1980 and 2006, arguably the purest manifestation of the work at the hard of an incredibly diverse career. Over the decades, he’s written books and appeared in myriad films, sitcoms and stage productions , but its Bogosian’s career as a playwright that will almost certainly be his legacy. And here it’s shown bare for all the world, just his words and an actor’s performance cast against a black backdrop. The interview, conducted several months ago, has been waiting for the release of the 100 Monologues Kickstarter campaign to go live, timed to promote the project, which is currently seeking $25,000 to shoot and post the the second 50 monologues. It’s an ultimately a wide-ranging talk focused on Bogosian’s current passion project, while taking the occasional peek back at an utterly fascinating career in art and entertainment.

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Episode 147: Walter Martin (of The Walkmen)

12Jan

Walter Martin and I keep getting kicked out of coffee shops. It’s a strange thing. Over the course of the 50 minute interview, we close out two places in Manhattan. But as romantic as getting kicked out of two New York City establishments in under an hour with an indie rock star looks on paper, the whole thing is slightly mundane. Turns out the coffee shops in midtown like to shut their doors before eight. And Martin, for his part, doesn’t appear to be embracing the rock and roll lifestyle these days. The Walkman multi-instrumentalist has settled down a bit, starting a family and taking a step back from the heavy touring. In 2014, Martin issued his post-Walkman debut, We’re All Young Together, a delightfully catchy collection of all-ages kids tunes recorded with members of bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The followup, Arts & Leisure, is due out next week. The songs are a joyful celebration of Martin’s love of fine art, filtered through the youthful passion of singer-songrwriters like Jonathan Richman. Coffee shop shut downs aside, we managed to have a fascinating conversation about rock band politics, playing solo and what it means to grow up.

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Episode 146: Carla Speed Mcneil and Denis Kitchen

3Jan

Our final round of interviews from Baltimore Comic Con includes two artists who have had a profound impact on the American underground/independent comics community. Carla Speed McNeil has produced the sprawling, epic aboriginal science-fiction series Finder since the mid-90s, making it one of the longest running series in all of indie comics, with 10 printed volumes of output released through the artist’s Light Speed Press. McNeil has also collaborated on a number of series through the years, including Queen & Country: Operation: Stormfront with Greg Rucka and the recent Image miniseries  No Mercy, created with writer, Alex De Campi. Inspired by underground masters like Robert Crumb and Jay Lynch, Denis Kitchen began self-publishing comics in the late 60s. The artist would ultimately have more of an impact behind the scenes, through publishing companies like Kitchen Sink Press and Kitchen Sink Books, as well as serving as an agent for the works of comics giants like Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman.

Kitchen also counts the founding of The Comic Book Legal Defense fund among his many industry-shaping accomplishments.

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Episode 145: Judd Winick

29Dec

In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers describes the auditioning process for The Real World: San Francisco. The spot the McSweeney’s founder tried out for was won by another artist, a cartoonist who served a, perhaps, the moral compass for a reality show fueled by roommate strife. Most of us can count on a single hand the moments that had a truly profound impact on our lives. For Judd Winick, that key moment was spread out over an entire season and broadcast on MTV. But while the show put the artist on the pop cultural map, it’s the work he’s done in comics and animation that will be his lasting legacy, from his break through Graphic novel Pedro & Me, to his run a slew of DC Comics titles and his work as the creator and lead writer of the Cartoon Network series, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee. Released in September on Random House, Hilo marks his most ambitious work to date. The comic is fun, funny, and instantly engaging, a welcome embrace of all-ages comics from an artist with kids of his own.

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Episode 144: Chip Kidd

21Dec

Of course Chip Kidd put out a book with Art Spiegelman. In an age when the transition to digital seems all but inevitable, both artists have a vested interest in the book as object, crafting tangible experiences that cannot be recreated on a tablet or e-book. For his part, Kidd is probably best known for his book designs for cartoonists Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware, along with a who’s who of contemporary novelists, including Haruki Murakami, Cormac McCarthy and Donna Tart. But the designer is an author in his own right, having penned two novels, a tribute to Plastic Man creator Jack Cole (alongside Spiegelman), and  Bat-Manga, a collection dedicated to Japanese Batman esoterica. His latest release is Only What’s Necessary, a gorgeously designed volume that pulls together little seen work from Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, including sketches, unpublished strips, letters and merchandise. It’s a lovingly designed tribute to one of newspaper comics’ most beloved pioneers. Kidd joined me on the jam-packed floor of New York Comic Con to discuss the book and long standing love of print in a world gone digital.

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Episode 143: Colin Hay

15Dec

“All you really want to do is get yourself excited, get your wife excited, get your friends excited,” Colin Hay explains with a smile. “Beyond that, who knows? You want to say to someone who’s upstairs, ‘hey, come and listen to this. This is cool.’ ” The crowds, the fans, the radio play, the record sales are secondary. Thirty-four years after the release of Men at Work’s debut, Business as Usual, Hay is a songwriter first and foremost, having settled in to a seemingly zen-like approach to the craft. Distribution methods and record industry nonsense be damned. Write a great song and it’ll find an audience. A decade and half after putting his band to rest for good, Hay has never failed to find an audience. Where many of his contemporaries have relied on nostalgia or quit the game altogether, Hay’s work has managed to attract new generations of fan through thoughtful, straightforward songwriting. Hay and I sat down at the bar in his hotel lobby ahead of a New York City show to discuss growing as a songwriter on his new record Next Year People, coping with loss, and why writing the perfect three minute pop song has never gotten any easier.

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Episode 142: Jules Feiffer

8Dec

The artist has been something of a hero before I’d even heard his name, through his illustration work in the aforementioned classic children’s book and as the screenwriter of Robert Altman’s perfectly chaotic 1980 cinematic adaptation of Popeye. Since then, Feiffer’s work has been a constant in my life, from his four decades long stint as an editorial cartoonist for the Village, to his early apprenticeship with Will Eisner, and a stint of film projects like Little Murders, the artist’s work always seems to find its way back into my life. Now in his mid-80s, the modern day renaissance cartoonist is trying his hand at an entirely new endeavor, writing and drawing his first graphic novel 69 years after he first began working his way through Eisner’s The Spirit at the tender age of 16. Kill My Mother maintains the cartoonist’s loose approach in a far more sustained form than his other cartooning works, marking yet another remarkable turn for the octogenarian.   We pulled up a couple of seats in the lobby of the hotel where Feiffer was staying during Baltimore Comic Con to discuss his latest career and the important of perpetually testing one’s limitations.

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Episode 141: Scott Fagan

1Dec

By all rights, the story of South Atlantic Blues should have ended in 1968. Released the same week as Van Morrison’s masterpiece of pastoral angst, Astral Weeks, the record failed to garner any notice, in spite of promises that its young singer-songwriter would soon become “bigger than Elvis.” A masterpiece of a soulfully sung, lush psychedelic folk, the record vanished into obscurity, thanks to a perfect storm of record company failure. Not even a chance encounter with acclaimed painter and fan Jasper Johns could rescue the album from the remainder bin. Thankfully, the story of the album and its creator don’t end there. Nearly 50 years after its release, South Atlantic Blues is finally getting the recognition it deserved — and unlike so many of these story, which recapture public consciousness posthumously, Scott Fagan is still alive, well, and singing at 70. In the intervening 47 years, Fagan has led a fascinating life, achieving some fame as a calypso singer, struggling with addiction and reuniting with his long, lost son, Magnetics Fields frontman Stephin Merritt. Fagan was already seated when I arrived a few minutes early to set up for our interview. What transpired was one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had in some time.

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Episode 140: Jim Starlin and Brian Stelfreeze

28Nov

Two conversations with extremely talented — and patient — artists conducted at Baltimore Comic Con. Both were also prefaced by waiting quietly for their signing lines to slow down before taking time out of their signing schedules for a chat. In the case of the legendary Marvel artists Jim Starlin, it was a long, unbroken line of autograph seekers carrying armfuls of Silver Surfer and Warlock comics to sign. With most, Starlin simply signed and small talked, tossing off a few notes about each. On occasions, however, a fan would present a copy of Captain Marvel and discuss the book’s impact on a personal level, how the story of the hero’s battle with cancer impacted them as a young reader — a testament to the power of important stories filtered through the pages of superhero books. As I waited for Brian Stelfreeze, meanwhile, the Gaijin Studios artist walked a young fan through the drawing process, critiquing his portfolio and demonstrating how to draw without focusing too heavily on the details — a method he discussed with me, before giving some insight into the eagerly awaited Black Panther miniseries he’s working on with journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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