Episode 236: Dylan Marron


It’s been a few days since a white nationalist rally resulted in violent outbreaks and the death of a counter protester in Charlottesville, VA. Nerves are still pretty raw, and Dylan Marron has skipped this third week of his limits run podcast, Conversations With People Who Hate Me. It’s a constructive show, in spite of a somewhat cheeky title, but it simply didn’t feel write airing a that sort of idealogical back and forth in the wake of such a grave and fundamentally upsetting event. The show is tough to listen to in moments, but it feels important. It clear serves a purpose for Marron and a parade of guests who’ve sent him online hate mail — but it’s also a template for difficult conversations in an incredibly polarizing time. And Marron is the ideal host, both due to the notoriety he’s gained through web video and the insanely popular Welcome to Nightvale (where he voices the character Carlos), and because of the incredible patience he displays with his combative interview subjects. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself yelling at the podcast while Marron patiently hears people out. In a long and wide ranging conversation, Marron discusses tackling difficult topics, being an ally and trying to love someone who hates you.



Episode 235: Glenn Morrow


In the 80s, Glenn Morrow was at the forefront of Hoboken’s burgeoning college rock scene. The musician moved to Jersey while attending NYU and watched as Frank Sinatra’s hometown blossomed into a burgeoning indie rock scene, thanks in no small part to his own pioneering groups, The Individuals and ‘a,’ the latter of which would blossom into power pop darlings, the Bongos. After a few flirtations with major label success, Morrow eventually bowed out from performing, and moved to the other side of the desk, joining forces with Bar/None records. His first task found the label signing Brooklyn upstarts, They Might Be Giants — a fairly auspicious start that eventually led him to rise through the ranks to label owner. This summer, Morrow made a surprise return to recording — his first in 28 years. Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help is a tight and compelling rock record that shows none of the rust one would expect from a musician who’s spent the better part three decades on the sidelines. Ahead of a show at the Bowery Electric in Manhattan, Morrow and bassist Mike Rosenberg sat down to discuss their return to recording and the embrace of “post-dad rock.”


Episode 234: Clint Conley (of Mission of Burma)


It’s a beautiful day in Cambridge, MA when we sit down for an interview at a local dumpling shop (his recommendation). It’s all very serene in Harvard Square, a music singing acoustic classic rock songs through a small amplifier. These days, Clint Conley seems about as far from the manic energy of Mission of Burma as is humanly possible. Shortly after the end of the Boston post-punk band’s explosive four year run, the bass player became a house painter, ultimately finding his path again as a communications major. For the past 30 years, he’s worked as a producer for local television magazines, producing narrative segments on everything from artist colonies to the opioid crises. Of course, there have been flirtations with music since — including, notably, Burma’s reunion that kicked off in 2002, and continues in fits and starts to this day. It was an unexpected return to seemingly everyone including Conley, who’d mostly confined his guitar to the closet as he focused on raising a family and his production career. For now, the band is on indefinite hiatus, but as Conley will happily admit, when it comes to Mission of Burma, there’s no such thing as “never."


Episode 233: Frank Conniff


A stint in rehab moved Frank Conniff from New York City to Minneapolis, derailing his standup career for a bit and ultimately kickstarting his career as a TV writer. In the Twin Cities, he met the Mystery Science Theater 3000 team, ultimately joining the show in its second season as a writer, and more notably to fans, mad scientist’s assistant, TV’s Frank. After leaving the show (the only cast member to do so amicably, by his own account), Conniff went on to write for an incredibly diverse series of shows. After a year long Hollywood dry spell, he restarted his career with an Elvira TV movie and eventually scored gigs on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Invader Zim and a string of progressive radio shows on Air America.More recently, Conniff has reteamed with MST3K expats for the movie riffing series, Cinematic Titanic, gone full bore into the lucrative world of podcasting and recently published his second book, Cats V. Conniff: A chronicle of the historic lawsuit brought against Frank Conniff by his cats, Millie & Barney.Conniff also hosts the monthly Cartoon Dump at Q.E.D. in Astoria, where we met up along with an extremely loud air conditioning unit to discuss his unlikely career.


Episode 232: Phoebe Bridgers


“Right now, I’m in an unchecked creative zone,” Phoebe Bridgers says with a laugh. It’s a sort of cautious half joke, but one that describes her current songwriter state quite well. Our conversation was record a couple of months before the release of her debut LP Stranger in the Alps.  The buzz has already kicked off from high profile outlets like NPR and Paste, but it doesn’t yet belong the world. So the 22-year-old is taking full advantage of the time ahead of touring to work on record number two, knowing full well from seasoned mentors like Ryan Adams that things are about to get really real for a while. Bridgers takes it all in stride, from the surprise early excitement to opening shows for the likes of indie rock legends like Bright Eyes and War on Drugs to playing Willie Nelson's strange little ghost town in Luck, Texas. The musician is still in awe of it all and eager to take it all in, even as she pens songs like a veteran who’s been through this rodeo before.



Episode 231: Ted Leo


Ted Leo balks slightly at the notion that The Hanged Man is a more personal record than previous efforts. He chalks much of the idea up to the media surrounding the self-released record, and his particular candidness in recent interviews. But Leo’s done a lot of living in the seven years since the release of The Brutalist Bricks, and many of those stories manifest themselves in very real and raw ways on his new record. Since 2010, the musician has left New York City for more spacious digs in Rhode Island, found a new songwriting partner in Aimee Mann and grappled with some personal tragedy. The record is also the first in some time to bear only Leo's name, putting his long time band the Pharmacists on temporary hiatus and holing up in a newly built home studio. The new album also finds Leo without a label, opting instead to fund the record through a Kickstarter campaign. But while all of this sounds like the making of a four-track bedroom album, The Hanged Man is anything but. It’s one of his most luscious and fully realized records to date. Ahead of the album’s official release and his subsequent tour, we sat down in my Queens apartment to discuss the changes in Leo's life over the past several years and how a lifetime of adhering to a DIY ethos helped him prepare for his new album.


Episode 230: Greg Kotis


The building across the street was on fire the night we sat down to talk. The entire floor smelled of smoke and if you looked out the window, you might have thought the world was coming to an end. It's probably as good a backdrop as any for a interview that quickly shifts into an impending sense of gloom during this age of Trump. Honestly, I can’t remember what was in the news that week, but I’m sure it was plenty bad. Kotis has a knack for timing. His best known work, the dystopian satire Urinetown: The Musical opened on Broadway September 13th, 2001. Sure, everyone in New York has a 9/11 story, but his seemed strangely appropriate given the subject matter.  As Kotis tells it, that timing sometimes works to his advantage, as the musical was something of a Hail Mary pass for himself and Mark Hollmann, one final shot living the life of a playwright before the realities of adulthood really settled in. Kotis discusses his early days in New York, as a writer turned location scout, and the importance of satire even when it seems that all is lost.


Episode 229: Katie Skelly


For Katie Skelly, comics have always been something of side hustle — something she’s never expected or even wanted as a full-time career. During the days, she works at a beloved New York City film house, a gig that gives her front row access to some of cinema’s most impactful work. The influence has clearly bled into her comics work, perfectly exemplified in her new work,  My Pretty Vampire, which draws heavily upon the sexy/surrealist horror aesthetic of 70s films of Jean Rollin. Prior to this, Skelly sought a career in fine art, working as a docent at a gallery in the city. She ultimately abandoned that path when it became clear that, even after additional schooling, she’d be hard pressed to earn much more than a career cartoonist — which is saying a lot. Over the years, however, she’s found outlets for her art criticism, from her (now on hiatus) podcast Trash Twins, along with frequent reviews in places like The Comics Journal. All the while, she’s continued her own work in earnest, including the upcoming Patreon-supported work, Summer of Felines.


Episode 228: Frankie Rose


When Frankie Rose began work on Cage Tropical, she was living in Los Angeles, employed as a caterer — the struggling actor, Party Down kind. Not exactly the triumphant rock start victory lap of the artist who released one of of the best LPs of the best half-decade. But, then, these things rarely work out as planned. But the former Vivian Girls/Dum Dum Girls/Crystal Stilts managed to pull things together. Her new record ranks among her best, a testament to putting one’s head down and focusing on art in the face of uncertainty. It’s big and sprawling and personal, all at once, juxtaposing the her ups and downs, as exemplified on the second single, Red Museum, an existential sort of love song. Rose sat down in the lead up to Cage Tropical’s release to discuss the journey that led to the new LP and how she’s since resigned herself to the fate of being a musician for as long as she can sing into a microphone.


Episode 227: Annalee Newitz


Every so often, my work obsessions bleed into my extracurriculars, and Annalee Newitz was more than happy to help me geek out about robotics. We sat down a few months back in New York, while she was visiting for Book Expo America, in advance of her first novel, Autonomous. The book tackles questions of civil rights in a world where people own machines that are virtually human, exploring the cross section of her longstanding interests in technology and social justice. Newitz has been writing professionally about technology since the 90s, with a lengthy resume that includes top names like Popular Science and Wired, along with a stint as an analyst for the Electronic Frontier foundation. In 2008, she was tapped to launch and run iO9, a Gawker (now Gizmodo)-owned blog steeped in her love for science fiction. In this conversation, Newitz discusses the state of artificial intelligence and robotics and addresses of the tough questions society will have to answer as our creations become more and more like us.


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