Episode 372: Sammy Harkham

9Nov

I had to double check, but its seems that, in all of my time writing about comics for various outlets, I’ve never actually interviewed Sammy Harkham. It’s shocking, really, given what a important player he’s been in the indie comics scene for some time. Thankfully, the release of Kramer’s Egot 10 presented the perfect opportunity. For fans of round numbers, next spring also marks the 20th (!?) anniversary of the influential publication, which the Crickets author produced at age 18. In spite of a somewhat irregular publishing schedule and a range of different publishers (most recently settling at Fantagraphics), the anthology has become a bedrock of alternative comics. The series is known for both experimental formats and the stellar quality of the work it publishes, featuring the industry’s biggest names and highlighting lesser known talents. Harkham joined us to reflect on the series and discuss his love for the medium.

Episode 371: Josh Gondelman

2Nov

At times, Nice Try is a book about failure. Josh Gondelman chronicles his struggles as as up and coming comedian, love woes and awkward teenage attempts to be cool — all topics that might be a touch too painful had things not worked out so well. When he meets up with me, he’s just come from his gig writing on the Showtime series for the beloved Bronx duo, Desus and Mero. It’s a gig he left John Oliver’s equally beloved Last Week Tonight for. Like I said, things are going just fine for the Brooklyn-based comedian. Indeed, when “the nicest guy in comedy” is what people call you behind your back, things are probably going pretty well. In the wake of his new collection of essays, Gondelman joined us to talk about standup, teaching preschool and reliving one’s awkward youth. Oh, and here’s Josh’s curated reading list for the inaugural and almost certainly finally RiYL book club.

Reading Syllabus:

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None Of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

Episode 370: Vivien Goldman

26Oct

In Revenge of the She-Punks, Vivien Goldman charts feminist ideology in punk across nations, languages and decades. Beginning with 70s pioneers like Poly Styrene, Patti Smith and The Slits, the book draws together threads that are often ignored in wider conversations about the genre. The book follows the rebirth of Goldman’s own musical career, with 2016’s terrific anthology, Resolutionary (Songs 1979-1982). Now doing double duty as a musician and author, Goldman continues to teach at NYU, where she’s affectionately know as the “punk professor.” Using her latest book as a starting point, Goldman joined us to discuss the secret history of women in punk, the lingering role of the holocaust in the birth of the movement and drawing inspiration from continued musical resistance.

Episode 369: SonReal

23Oct

The guest are running late. So far as I’m aware, my conversation with Aaron “SonReal” Hoffman is the first RiYL to get pushed back due to an appearance on Sway’s morning show. It’s a pretty good excuse, so far as those go. Hoffman is in good spirits when he arrives. The appearance went well. It was his second time free styling on the show, and things went far better this time It’s amazing what a few years and a little confidence will do. The Juno-nominated Canadian rapper’s maturity shows of his latest record, as well. The Aaron LP is his most sophisticated and personal to date, dealing with earnest themes of love, loss and family.

Episode 368: Lux Alptraum

20Oct

In Faking It, Lux Alptraum explores a wide range of lies about sex, from faked orgasms to sexual assault. It’s a powerful statement that spans the wide range of her many years of writing about sex — the good, the bad, the unspoken. As an author, her work has appeared in a wide range of outlets, including The New York Times and the Guardian. She also served as the editor of Fleshbot, a pop culture sex site formerly operated under the Gawker Media banner. Following the release of Faking it, Alptraum joined us to discuss lies, reproductive rights and writing about sex in the era of Trump and #MeToo.

Episode 367: Whitney Matheson

13Oct

Life was fairly different the last time Whitney Matheson was on the show. In fact, USA Today pulled the plug on her 15 year culture column Pop Candy sometime between the recording of the interview and its publication.  In the intervening half decade, Matheson took up a teaching gig, moved to Tennessee and had a kid “It's funny how life can change on a dime” is how she put it as we were discussing running the original interview. From the sound of things, however, recent changes have been for the best. Now back in the city, Matheson has written a children’s book about comics publishing and started a newsletter that brings Pop Candy’s spirit to a weekly digest. She’s ghostwriting and writing a play in her spare time after some hard learned lessons about not taking any of it for granted.

 

Episode 366: Swamp Dogg

6Oct

There will never be another Swamp Dogg. At 77, Jerry Williams Jr. has had one of the most fascinating and diverse careers in popular music. It’s hard to believe the same man created the psychedelic funk of 1970’s Total Destruction to Your Mind, manage a young Dr. Dre, and penned the country standard, “She’s All I Got. While his career career and life have hit plenty of rough patches, he’ll be the first to admit that he’s been incredibly lucky when it comes to music. Covers and samples have helped keep his work relevant through the decades, even as he refused to play live. Last year, Williams’ embarked on the latest stage of his eclectic career with Love, Loss and Autotune, a new collection of song created with the help of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The high profile released has seen the musician embraced by a new generation of fans drawn to his soulful tracks and biting humor.

Episode 365: Wayne White

28Sep

Toward the end of the interview, Wayne White gestures to a word painting sit nearby on the floor of his home workshop. “Finally got there, wasn’t so great,” he says, reading the big, block letters out loud. “That’s the story of life. It’s been a heck of a journey, though. In the late-70s, the Chattanooga kid moved to New York, to attend classes at SVA, including a brief stint studying under Art Spielgman. By the mid-80s, he found T.V. work as a puppeteer, imprinting his work on countless young minds with the puppets of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. The have been Emmys along the way and Grammys for music videos like Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” and The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight.” More recently, White has carved out a niche in the fine art world, further catapulted to prominence with the delightful 2012 documentary, Beauty is Embarrassing.

Episode 364: Adam Lisagor

22Sep

Some time in six or so years since I last sat down with Adam Lisagor, something strange happened. He became a nationally broadcast product spokesperson. It wasn’t the career trajectory any of us were expecting, but here we are.  Over the years, the video producer had begun to appear on camera during his signature well produced startup ads. But it was TrueCar that made him a in inescapable presence during nationally televised commercial breaks. For those who’d come to know him as Lonely Sandwich on Twitter and through (relatively) small but loyal online offerings like You Look Nice Today, it was odd watching Lisagor become a kind of peer to a Flo from Progressive or the “Can You Hear My Now” guy. A lot, too, has changed with his production house, Sandwich Video, which has grown to include brands like Starbucks alongside Series A startups. Lisagor joins us from his Los Angeles offices to discuss the journey and newfound focus on music video pet projects.

Episode 363: Denise Kaufman (of Ace of Cups)

15Sep

In November 2018, Ace of Cups released their self-titled debut. The album arrived more than 50 years after the band’s formation. With several tours and a second double album on the way, it’s clear the group has every intention of making up for lost time. The groups was an anomaly during its first go-round. The all-female rock quintet shared stages at legendary venues like the Fillmore with the likes of now legendary contemporaries like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. They shared a studio with John Fogerty’s pre-Creedence garage band, the Golliwogs. Ex-pat Jimi Hendrix told Melody Maker that the band was his favorite thing about the States. What sounded like a recipe for superstardom had fizzled by the early 70s. With the band reunited, singer and bassist Denise Kaufman joined us to discuss the band, her time with Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and why the Kawaii-based yoga instructor still has hope for the future of humanity.

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