Episode 242: Trina Robbins

18Nov

“As long as one can walk one can protest,” Trina Robbins explains, over the white noise of a nearby espresso machine. “And as long as i don’t have to take too many hills, I can still walk.” The cartoonist’s assessment of the current political climate is equally pessimistic and hopeful, as the actions of the Trump administration have caused many Americans to loudly declare their support for women’s rights, while taking to the streets in protest. Robbins has been outspoken about her values for decades, even when it her opinions made her unpopular with many of her peers, as one of the first women in the underground comics community. But the artist and her have persevered, from the Last Gasp all-female anthology, Wimmen's Comix, to her stint in the early 80s as the first woman to draw Wonder Woman. This year, Robbins looked back on her career with the memoir, Last Girl Standing, an insight into her love affair with comics, struggles in the industry and reconnecting with her father’s writing after his death. We sat down at a cafe near her San Francisco home to discuss her long career and hope for the future.

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Episode 241: Anders Nilsen

12Nov

The last time Anders Nilsen was on the show, we were huddled on a patch of grass out behind the San Diego Convention Center with pedicabs carrying cosplaying show attendees whizzing by, playing top 40 songs at maximum volume. Thankfully, things are much more subdued this time out. The Big Questions artist joined us in New York, during a mini-tour for his new series, Tongues. The first issue of the series arrived over the summer, part of Nilsen’s plan to self-publish it in floppy serial form, with Pantheon collecting the series as a single volume, when all’s said and done. The new series retells the myth of Prometheus, exploring the Titan’s relationship with the eagle tasked with ripping out his regenerated innards every day. The story is an outgrowth of the cartoonist’s 2007 book Dogs and Water, aiming to address some lingering questions about the doomed deity. Nilsen joins us in a pedicab-free office to talk religion, self-publishing and taking the first steps into a new story.

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Episode 240: James Jackson Toth (of Wooden Wand)

5Nov

“Every once in a while,” James Jackson Toth explains, “you make a record and it feels like the message in the bottle sinking before it gets to the other shore.” Between official Wooden Wand albums, CD-Rs, online releases, records issued as a full band and the occasional under his own name, something’s bound to fall through the cracks every once in a while. But even with the constant flux of musical approaches, record labels and naming conventions, the singer has been quite consistent in quality, as one a member of a long, proud history of enigmatic troubadours armed with little more than a guitar and a memorable voice. After all these years, he seems a bit exhausted by live performance. Or maybe it’s just the pre-show jitters as we take a pair of chairs on stage at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right. Touring’s tough on any musician, and these days it can seem like a downright crapshoot whether on not you’ll be able to fill the place. There’s always fulfillment in the music making process, however — and new ideas and sounds to exploring on ever subsequent record. He describes his latest, Clipper Ship, as ‘exploded string band music,’ a description I find myself still attempting to wrap my head around.“If you don’t have anything new to say,” Both explains, simply, “don’t make a new record.”

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Episode 239 (Bonus): Stoya

1Nov

It’s a few days before the opening of her first theatrical performance, and Stoya doesn’t know what to expect. It’s all really new — aside from a few trivia nights here and there, she hasn’t really done much in front of a live audience since some ballet classes as a youngster. She’s committed to trying new things, moving outside her comfort zone for the sake of a new experience. Her first acting gig outside of the adult film industry came not all that long ago, when she agreed to star as an Android in a still-unreleased sci-fi film, so when cartoonist Dean Haspiel approached her to star in his new play, Harakari Kane, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it another go. In this bonus episode, we discuss the adult film actress’s decade in the industry, her on-again, off-again work as an advice columnist and surviving in the city as a freelancer.

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Episode 238: Richard Gottehrer and Allison Zatarain

29Oct

In the 60s, he cowrote ”My Boyfriend's Back" and "I Want Candy” and cofounded Sire records with Seymour Stein. But Richard Gottehrer isn’t one to dwell on the past. Six decades on, he’s still a guiding force in the music industry. Over the years, he’s produced Blondie, the Go-Gos, Richard Hell and, more recently, The Dum-Dum Girls. In 1997, Gottehrer cofounded the forward-looking digital distribution company, The Orchard. His latest project, Instant Love, is the brainchild of New Orleans native, Allison Zatarain, an employee of The Orchard and GM of its subsidiary label, Instant Records. The project pair female performers with songs traditional sung by men about women. Now 17 tracks deep, the pair regard the work as a “living album,” a growing collections of songs that lives on streaming services like Spotify, that will one day be collected in a more permanent form.Thus far, the project includes legendary performers like Irma Thomas, who performs Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” and less established artists like Erin Durant, who takes on Buffalo Springfield’s “Kind Woman.” Zatarain and Gottehrer regard the project as a kind of on-going conversation with female, as well as a experiment in music distribution in a time that’s been fairly tumultuous for both.

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Episode 237: Greg Saunier (of Deerhoof)

22Oct

“When’s this podcast going to air?” Greg Saunier asks with a laugh. “Because the world might be over soon.” The conversation takes a bit of a serious turn toward the end, as we transition from touring with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (twice) to what, precisely, has kept the experimental indie rock band together for 23 or so years. Motivation hasn’t been hard to find — these days it’s everywhere as the band has grappled on record with the fall out from last year’s election, as in songs like Mountain Moves’ “I Will Spite Survive.” The record also found the group injecting new blood into its creations with a slew of collaborates — a rare thing over the course of the band’s 14 releases. And while Saunier is the only member who’s been in the group since its origins in mid-90s San Francisco, the group's line up has remained remarkable constant for an act that’s existed for nearly a quarter of a century. It could be the band’s continued evolution — no two Deerhoof records are ever the same. As the drummer says during the conversation, “Being expected to change is like the holy grail for a creative person.” Or maybe it’s just that special kind of chemistry that develops among a group of people who truly love what they do.

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Episode 236: Dylan Marron

15Oct

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.

 

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Episode 235: Glenn Morrow

8Oct

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.”

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Episode 234: Clint Conley (of Mission of Burma)

1Oct

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."

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Episode 233: Frank Conniff

25Sep

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.

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