Episode 192: Jon Ginoli


I must have been 12 or so when I first saw the Pansy Division. The band was opening for Green Day at a benefit show in Oakland, a return to the Bay Area following the triumphant Dookie tour. I had no idea what to make of the band at the time — and my dad, who’d kindly agreed to chaperone, was, I believe amused. He may or may not have said, “don’t tell your mother about this.” But that was always the Pansy Division’s MO — in your face sexuality backed by songwriting that rarely took itself seriously. The band no doubt blew the minds of young teens all across the country as the opening act for the soon to be biggest rock band in the world, and it appeared to have a hell of a time doing it. This year marks the group’s quarter-century anniversary, a milestone it celebrated with Quite Contrary, its first album in seven years, which is both celebratory and reflective, featuring a cover shot in the same room that graced the band’s seminal 1996 album Wish I'd Taken Pictures, starring the same two cover models. Frontman Jon Ginoli already did a thorough job reflecting on the band and its influence in his wonderful 2009 memoir, Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division, but a twenty-fifth anniversary offers yet another opportunity to recognize how far he, his band and the world around them have come in the last few decades. We sat down at a cafe in Manhattan following a recent appearance in the city to discuss the band, its music and mission.


Episode 191: Tom Tomorrow


Of all of the bizarre sights at this year’s New York Comic Con, you’d be hard pressed to find one more serendipitous than the droves of show goers milling around IDW booth in bright orange cardboard Donald Trump masks – including, in one moment of heightened verisimilitude, a Darth Vader sporting the face of the Republican nominee.  The masks were being handed out to promoting Tom Tomorrow’s latest offering, Crazy is the New Normal, a paperback collection of the political cartoonist’s work from 2014 to 2016. The neon orange, Hulk-inspired rage monster is really the perfect distillation of Tomorrow’s strip, This Modern World, a cross section of biting political satire and hilarious comic book premises. The strip in a rare bright spot in the often anemic world of political cartooning, running weekly since the late 80s in alt-weeklies across the country and left leaning magazines like the Nation. These last couple of years have seen the cartoonist’s profile continue to grow, in the face of shuttering print publications, including a spot on the list of Pulitzer finalists, a crowdfunded career retrospect and the beginnings of an animated series based on his long-running strip.


Episode 190: El Perro Del Mar


Sometimes you finish an interview not quite sure how things went. Other times you just know. With Sarah Assbring, it was pretty clear from the first seconds, when she belted out a song when asked to do a soundcheck. With all she’s been through in her life, the driving force behind El Perro Del Mar clearly sees no point in holding back. Assbring’s new record KoKoro, which dropped last week, is the sound of an artist bursting at the seams with creative inspiration. As she notes during the interview, she rented out a music room in a children’s museum to experiment with international instruments in an attempt to capture her feelings about a world in turmoil following the birth of her son. But music didn’t always come easily. During this conversation recorded prior to an intimate performance in New York City, we discuss battles with depression and the slog of existential thought that have gripped her life and stifled the process at various points. It’s one of the most candid and frank conversations with had in this show’s nearly 200 episode history and a fascinating insight into a singularly creative musical voice.


Episode 189: Dash Shaw


In 2008, Dash Shaw arrived seemingly out of nowhere and the indie comics community feel in love almost immediately. His Fantagraphics debut, the 720 page opus Bottomless Belly Belly Button, was a wide ranging, following the lives of a family over the course of three generation, which landed the young artist on numerous book of the year lists. Since then Shaw has regularly bounced back and forth between comics and animation, maintaining a singular vision with one ambitious project after another. This fall, the artist marks two major releases, a college of his book Cosplayers and the animated film, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea. The film, which premiers at the New York Film Festivals this months, features an impressive voice cast, including Jason Schwartzman (as Shaw), Lena Dunham, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph and Susan Sarandon. Shaw joined me at a Manhattan tea house on a recent visit to the city to discuss his work, collaboration and moving from New York to an artist commune.


Episode 188: Alex Segura


I’d known Alex Segura for a few years, before I found out about his not so secret passion. We’d work together in the comics world, we as a journalist and him as a PR rep, first for DC and then for Archie. We were drinking together at some comics after party, when he casually mentioned that he was about to head down to Florida for a crime writers convention – and not just as a casual observer. This year Segura released his second novel, Down the Darkest Street, the second installment of his Pete Fernandez Mystery series set in his hometown of Miami. In this casual chat at a coffee shop in Astoria, Segura takes me through the world of mystery writing of which I know very little, while discussing side passions as his continued work as a writing on various comics titles, like the newly released Archie meets the Ramones.


Episode 187: Matt Furie (Bonus)


I was excited when I first saw Pepe popping up on strange corners of the internet. After years of spotting Matt Furie’s work at indie comics shows like SPX and MoCCA, the online community was starting to take notice of his work, albeit in that idiosyncratic internetty way. But after years of bizarre and benign appearances on body building forums and Kim Kardashian’s Twitter feed, the stoned frog character seemingly, suddenly took a strange turn, embraced by some of the internet’s darkest recesses. Over the past several weeks, Pepe was reference by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, highlighted on the Rachel Maddow Show and, as of yesterday, designated as a symbol of hate by the Anti-Defamation League. Suddenly, the artist’s phone start ringing off the hook with dozens of calls from journalists asking Furie to defend his benign cartoon creation. Sure most artists would kill for a moment in the national spotlight, but practically overnight the cartoonist was in the incredibly unenviable position of having his name and creation linked with online hate groups. Furie kindly jumped on the phone for a quick chat while driving from his home in Los Angeles to an art showing in San Francisco. We talked about his unexpected and unfortunate fame, the power of simple symbols and his on-going efforts to steal Pepe back for the forces of good.


Episode 186: Faith Erin Hicks


This one took a while to get out, unfortunately. Long story, but it dates back April, around the release of Faith Erin Hicks’ most recent book, The Nameless City. Thankfully, the new title is just the tip of the iceberg for the Canadian cartoonist, as the first of a three-book series for First Second, a period piece exploring an unlikely friendship set against the backdrop of an ancient city inspired by Central Asian architecture. It marks something of a departure for an artist whose work more often deals with a school setting, though Hicks has proven to be both diverse and prolific in the eight or nine years since she officially hit the comics scene with the undead adventure, Zombies Calling. Hicks currently has nearly a dozen works under her belt, as either a collaborator are sole creator, with topics ranging from Bigfoot to Buffy to the 2013 Dark Horse title, The Last of Us: American Dreams, a four issue miniseries inspired by the video game of the same name.The next book in The Nameless City trilogy has already been announced for next year, along with an upcoming collaboration with kids author, Rainbow Rowell.


Episode 185: Dr. Frank


Frank Portman sends me his new record a few hours before we’re set to meet up at a coffee shop on Market Street. The whole thing came together at the last minute at the tail end of a three week long work road trip, and I only have time to listen to three or four songs before checking out of the hotel and meeting him down the street. But it’s enough. It’s new and familiar. It’s self-deprecating and funny, bouncing sugary pop-punk with a humorously cynical bit. The second song is called “Sadistic Masochism.” It goes, “Sadistic masochism, that’s how its gonna be / Sadistic masochism, baby you and it.” After a dozen years, the Mr. T Experience is back.

It’s a perfect sort of return to music for Dr. Frank, a soundtrack for the sequel to his hit YA book, King Dork. The album, (like the book) titled King Dork, Approximately, finds Portman inhabiting the voice of his protagonist, high school rock musician, Tom Henderson, on 12 songs that are unmistakably the work of the MTX starship.  Portman’s time away from the microphone was largely unintentional, the result of a changing record industry, the implosion of the beloved East Bay record label that had served as their longtime home, and a somewhat accidental career as an author. In this extra long edition of RiYL, the artist discusses motel laundry, the publishing industry and not being Green day.


Episode 184: LP


We’re back after an unexpected bye-week (sorry, I’ve been traveling a lot) posting up a fascinating interview with Laura “LP” Pergolizzi. The LA singer-songwriter has released a string of critically acclaimed albums, including, most recently, Death Valley, a five song EP released on Vagrant in June. In spite of such acclaim, the singer has struggled to maintain the commitment of major labels in a time when the music industry seems in the constant state of death rattle. While other artists are forced to look outside their own creative medium in order to make ends meet, LP has built a fascinating side career writing songs for some of musics big names like Cher and Rihanna. During a recent stopover in New York during a string of shows opening for Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, the singer sat down for a long conversation about creativity, making ends meet in the music industry and pop song bootcamp.


Episode 183: Miss Lasko-Gross and Kevin Colden


Up to now, Miss Lasko-Gross and Kevin Colden had never professionally collaborated in any official capacity — not out of any conscious decision, the pair had just never found the proper vehicle. After all, there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of overlap between the married couple’s respective output. Lasko-Gross’ best known work is the autobiographical Fantagraphics series, Escape from Special and the fantasy series Henni, while Colden’s 2007 rue-crime Fishtown was followed by flirtations with the superhero side of comics. Penned by Lasko-Gross and pencilled by Colden, The Sweetness fittingly marks a departure for both, a grotesquely comic sci-fi work about intergalactic drug smugglers. The pair joined sat down to discuss their first collaboration and the ups and downs of trying to make a living as New York City cartoonists. 


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