Episode 415: Rick Perlstein

19Sep

Clocking in north of 1,100 pages (when you included the end papers, he’s quick to point out), Reaganland is the final chapter in Rick Perlstein’s massive tetralogy documenting the rise of contemporary conservatism in America through 1980.

 

The series offer unique insight into a history that feels both intensely relevant to the current moment and impossibly far away. It’s a sometimes-dry and frequently infuriating topic that the author captures with a panache that has made him one of the most consistently engaging historians of the modern era. When I first emailed Perlstein to set up an interview about writing, he sent a series of videos featuring him playing solo jazz piano, somewhat jokingly stating that it his process. There’s truth to the sentiment, as he explains in this conversation, “I don’t understand how anyone can be a writer if they’re not a musician.”

Episode 414: Carlos Alazraqui

11Sep

The same scene inevitably plays out at every convention Carlos Alazraqui attends. At some point someone the epiphany. Rocko the Wallaby, the Taco Bell Chihuahua, Mr. Weed from Family and Garcia from Reno 911 are all the same guy. After beating out Marc Maron and Patton Oswalt in 1993’s San Francisco International Comedy Competition, Alazraqui used his winnings to move to Los Angeles. An addition for Nickelodeon landed him the lead role on Rocko’s Modern Life and began a long and fruitful career in voice work. On the heels of Quibi’s Reno 911 revival, Alazraqui joined us to discuss diversity in voice acting, comedy during quarantine and the ups and downs of voice over anonymity.

Episode 413: Cidny Bullens

5Sep

In 2012, Cidny Bullens was ready to tell the world who he really was. An article published in The Daily Beast gave him the opportunity to explain the previous year’s transition in his own words — the realization of something he’d long known but hadn’t allowed himself to be honest about. This year, Bullens released his first album under his name, a major step for an artist whose professional career has spanned more than 40 years. In those early days, he’d found work backing Elton John, sang the lead vocals on three tracks on the Grease movie soundtrack, and found a Grammy-nominated hit with the 1979 album, Desire Wire. The 80s found him leaving music to raise raise two daughters, returning the music in the late-90s following a personal tragedy. The event transformed Bullens’ work into something far more personal, serving as an important tool in his arsenal some 12 years later, when he announced to the world that he was a transgender man. Walkin’ Through this World finds Bullens ready to tell his story in an entirely new way.

Episode 412: Noah Van Sciver

29Aug

From a distance, it seems that Noah Van Sciver is able to make comics roughly as fast as most of us are able to read them. Each social media update from the cartoonist seemingly presents another project he has in the works — an admirable trait in a field that tends to attract so many procrastinators.I’ve talked to Van Sciver a number of times over the years, but this chat was designed to be a kind of make for a previous appearance on RiYL, held at his table at Comic Arts Brooklyn a few years back. Shows aren’t an ideal setting for interviews. They’re busy, chaotic and time is fairly limited. I think it’s safe to say, however, that this particular talk delivered on those things the previous one lacked. Ostensibly about Fantagraphics’ massive collection of the the very good and funny Fante Bukowski, we quickly veered into the subject of Van Sciver’s upbringing in the Mormon church — the basis of his upcoming book on the prophet Joseph Smith.

 

Episode 411: Matt Pond

21Aug

Retirement was short-lived for Matt Pond PA. The eponymous front man very publicly toyed with the moniker that’s continued to tie him to his home state, but a 20 year run like that isn’t something one walks away from so easy. Pond continues a prolific career, often teaming with producer and guitarist Chris Hansen, a core collaborator and creative life mate. This month, the duo released Songs of Disquiet, a seven-song EP written and produced amid the current pandemic. It’s an album that, among other things, maintains his long standing passion for juxtaposition loving cover songs with originals. Ahead of the pandemic clamping down on travel, Pond came down from his nearby Hudson Valley, NY home to discuss the ups and downs of a life in indie rock.

Episode 410: Cynthia Sley (of Bush Tetras)

14Aug

Forty years after forming in New York’s late-70s punk scene, the Bush Tetras are still going strong. 2018 saw the release of the Take the Fall EP, the product of a band content to release music for the pure love of it. There were rocky times, of course. By 1983, the band saw some key membership turnover, ultimately dissolving that same year. There was a short-lived stint in the 90s, but it’s this latest reunion — spurred in 2005 by increased interest in the post-punk genre — that marks the band’s longest stretch. Vocalist Cynthia Sley joins us to discuss the band’s early years, its legacy and the drive to keep making music.

Episode 409: Ezra Furman

7Aug

There’s a great video from early last year. Taken onstage at the End of the Road Festival, Ezra Furman is tasked with interviewing John Cale. You get pretty much what you’d expect from the Velvet Underground founder — soft spoken, deliberately thoughtful answers. Furman, clearly a massive fan, is far more excitable. Above all, they’re searching for a connection with the legendary musician on topics of creativity and songwriting. It’s a both endearing and insightful view of a musician like Furman, who appears to prefer to retain some mystery around their own process. And certainly there’s a strong argument to be made for letting the music speak for itself. Recent releases like Twelve Nudes and Transangelic Exodus have become of some of the most celebrated indie rock releases of the past decade. On a recent trip to Boston, Furman joined us for a thoughtful discussion about the personal, the professional, gender, religion and the ups and downs of the creative process.

Episode 408: Ryan Walsh (of Hallelujah the Hills)

1Aug

The last time Ryan Walsh appeared on the show was during another trip I took to Boston. At the time, he spoke of his upcoming book about Van Morrison.

What, admittedly, sounded like a fairly niche examination of the musician’s time recording a legendary album became one of the year’s most acclaimed music books. Astral Weeks finds Walsh playing detective, seeking to answer some longstanding questions, while exploring the largely unremarked upon Boston psychedelic scene of the time. Last year Walsh’s band Hallelujah the Hills released I’m You. The album finds the musician writing and singing his most straightforward — and arguably best — set of songs in its decade-plus existence.

Episode 407: Tanya Donelly (of Belly, The Breeders and Throwing Muses)

24Jul

Few can rival the indie rock pedigree of Tanya Donelly. At the age of 15, she cofounded 4AD stalwarts Throwing Muses with best-friend-turned-step-sister Kristin Hersh. Seven years later, she joined forces with Kim Deal on her then-side project, The Breeders. But it was the formation of Belly the following year that really allowed Donelly to shine as both a front woman and songwriter, scoring one of the era’s most memorable singles, “Feed the Tree” in 1993. After a less than amicable breakup in the mid-90s, the musician began a decades-spanning solo career, culminating in the five column “Swan Song Series” in 2013-2014. In recent years, Donelly has found a second career, working as a postpartum doula for new parents, even as the siren call of music has beckoned to her yet again through recent projects, including Belly’s 2016 reunion. 

Episode 406: Damon Krukowski (of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi)

18Jul

Adapted from a podcast of the same name, Ways of Hearing explored the countless knock-on effects that play out in both production and listen when music shifts from analog to digital. The book explores similar notions as Damon Krukowski’s previous work, 2017’s The New Analog — subjects that are near and dear to him as a member of the iconic groups, Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi. In addition to the works he has published through the  New Press and MIT Press, Krukowski is also cofounder of independent publishing house Exact Change, along with partner, Naomi Yang. Krukowski joined us to discuss how technology has changed the way we play and consume music.

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