Episode 426: Kyle Kinane

28Nov

It’s hard to say precisely what semi-retirement means for a standup comic. Kyle Kinane has been tossing the term around for a while — well before this year’s release of his fourth album, Trampoline In A Ditch. Mostly it seems to be involve taking time for himself and generally enjoying life — all good things. Though Kinane is quick to acknowledge that there’s a certain element of semi-retirement in the simple of of being a full-time standup. Following the release, Kinane joined us to discuss comedy during quarantine, relocating to the Pacific Northwest and the effects of alcohol on comedy. 

Episode 425: Adrian Tomine

21Nov

There has been no shortage of deeply personal stories during Adrian Tomine’s long, celebrated career in comics. But up to now, they’ve been almost exclusively filtered through a fictional lens, from his on-going series Optic Nerve to 2015’s Killing and Dying. With The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, Tomine finds himself diving head-long into autobiographical work. The book features some of his funniest and most honest work today, told through a loose style perfectly captured by its sketchbook packaging. Two years after his first appearance on the show, Tomine joins us again to discuss the task of telling these deeply personal — and often embarrassing — tales. 

Episode 424: Van Dyke Parks

14Nov

Unbeknownst to me, Van Dyke Parks is seated at his piano. This fact becomes clear numerous times during our conversation, as he tickles the ivory to punctate points. It’s not as if he requires the tool during the interview. Parks is a raconteur, above all. He seemingly has a story for everything, winding his way through fascinating avenues to make profound points about life, music, politics and art. Parks have lived several lives by popular culture standards, with a professional career that began as a child actor in the 50s. Ten years later, a musical break found him working as an arranger for Disney’s The Jungle Book. After a brief stint in Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, he was paired with The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, writing lyrics for Smile. The following year, he released his wildly ambitious solo debut, Song Cycle. In 2015, Parks gave his final piano performance, following unsuccessful hand surgery. But he continues to remain active. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his underrated reunion with Wilson, Orange Crate Art, we spoke to Parks about his work and the role music can play in one of the most dire moments in our country’s history. 

Episode 423: Chris Stamey (of The dB’s)

7Nov

A Brand-New Shade of Blue finds Chris Stamey exploring jazz music in the mold of the cool movement of the 50s/60s. Composed on sheet music, the album was finished with remote recordings amid a pandemic shutdown — a less than ideal scenario for a genre defined by in-person collaboration. The music has spent recent years exploring new horizons, mostly notably with 2019’s New Songs for the 20th Century, Vols. 1 & 2, which saw him compositing songs in the style of the Great American Songbook. A year prior, he released the memoir A Spy in the House of Loud, which traced his early days in music, leading up to the formation of the Sneakers and the dB's, perhaps his two best known musical collaborations. 

Episode 422: Errol Morris

1Nov

Released in 2018, American Dharma blindsided its director. Errol Morris had spend decades making some of the universally acclaimed documentaries of all time. This time, however, the press wasn’t having it, accusing the filmmaker of “platforming” his subject, Steve Bannon, or at very least, never pushing back hard enough against Trump’s political strategist. In many ways, however, the documentary is quintessential Morris, built around 16 hours of interviews with a single subject. It’s territory he perfect with films like The Fog of War and and The Unknown Known, exploring controversial figures Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld. Two years into the Trump presidency, however, it’s clear the wounds were still to fresh, a fact that the filmmaker has, to some degree, come to grips with. Tied together with footage from classic war films — a passion shared by Morris and Bannon — the film offers rare insight into one of the most influential and damaging political figures of his era. 

Episode 421: Laraaji

24Oct

With Sun Piano, Laaraji returned to his first instrument. After years of eschewing the keys in favor of something more portable, the New York-based new age music finds himself reconnecting with his first love, in the first of a trilogy of piano records. It’s the electric zither for which the artist is best known. In one of 20th century music’s more charmed tales, Laraaji opened his eyes after an extended transcendental busking jam on the instrument, to find a note from Brian Eno. The chance encounter in Washington Square Park gave rise to the third record in the iconic Ambient series, Laraaji’s Day of Radiance.

 

 In the interviewing the years, he’s become one of the most iconic artists, espousing the concept of sound vision through ambience and drone. 

Episode 420: Denise Kaufman (of The Ace of Cups)

17Oct

You have 20 years to write your first record and 18 months for your second. For The Ace of Cups, the first part of the equation took roughly two and half times the conventional wisdom, but in 2016, the band finally released its self-titled debut. Four years later, the band has returned with Sing Your Dreams. Like its predecessor, the sophomore record features an all-star lineup of collaborators, ranging from Jackson Browne to Sheila E. To Wavy Gravy. A charter member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters prior to forming the band in the late-60s, singer and bassist Denise Kaufman continued playing music during The Ace of Cups’ decades-long hiatus. She’s also an activist and yoga instructor. In her second appearance on the show, Kaufman discuss her life life in Hawaii, keeping hopeful in the time of COVID and why QAnon conspiracy theories have caught on so quickly with members of the wellness community. 

Episode 419: Ralph Nader

9Oct

When publishers refused to release an updated edition of his 1975 classic of beltway bureaucracy Who Runs Congress over concerns of commercial viability, Ralph Nader did what he often does. He wrote another book. This time, the lifelong political activist took another tack entirely, trading dry political prose for a fable. The book first saw life as How the Rats Re-formed Congress, published on Nader’s own Center for Study of Responsive Law in 2018. This year, it sees an abridged reprint on Fantagraphics as The Day the Rats Vetoed Congress, featuring art from political cartoonist, Mr. Fish. The work is an attempt to get readers to “laugh themselves serious,” according to Nader, featuring a guide for citizen action. At 86, the lifelong consumer advocate and government reformer shows no signs of slowing down. 

Episode 418: Open Mike Eagle

9Oct

It should be painfully obvious from the title alone that Anime, Trauma and Divorce is a deeply personal record — and part of Open Mike Eagle’s continued evolution as a songwriter. A good punchline is never more than a track or so away, by the Chicago-turned-L.A. emcee bares his soul on his latest LP in new and sometimes uncomfortable ways. But hip-hop is just one of several outlets for the musician. He’s also the host of several podcasts, including those hosted on his own network, Stoney Island Audio. The list includes, perhaps most notably, What had happened Was, which finds him interviewing legendary producer Prince Paul, album by album. Ahead of the release of his latest record, we sat down to discuss his musical evolution, music as therapy and enduring appeal of professional wrestling. 

Episode 417: Eric D. Johnson (of Fruit Bats and Bonny Light Horseman)

4Oct

In 2013, Fruits Bats broke up — or at least as close to a breakup as an essentially solo project can come. Frontman Eric D. Johnson was going about it on his own as EDJ. It was a short-lived venture. By 2015, the band was back together. Fruit Bats, it seemed, was too good a thing to let die. After all, the band has recently released two of its best albums to date — The Ruminant Band and Tripper. Re-formed in 2015, the Fruit Bats also had their popular peak ahead of them — something very few indie rock bands can say nearly 20 years into their career. Johnson has continued to play on other projects, as well. There was a stint in The Shins in the late-00s, and more recently serving as one-third of indie-folk supergroup, Bonny Light Horseman. Amid the quarantine, Johnson finds himself as prolific as ever, readying a new album and releasing a track-by-track cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ classic, Siamese Dream.

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