Episode 438: Emily Flake

30Jan

In September, “Free Fall” seemed to be everywhere. In her latest long form work for The New Yorker, Emily Flake captured a sense of existential ennui that permeated much of the population six months into a pandemic-driven shut down. It was, one of the cartoonist’s most widely-shared works for the magazine since “Young and Dumb Inside,” which explored her decades’ long love for the punk band, Jawbreaker. Flake is probably best know as the long-time publisher of New Yorker gag strips, but her deeply personal comics essays strike an entirely different chord among its readership. Flake joined us to the discuss the process of putting heartfelt and personal work on paper and how the pandemic has impacted her comics. 

Episode 437: Jimmy Chamberlin (of The Smashing Pumpkins)

23Jan

In September, The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex returned for Honor. The group’s third album found it returning to its core to deliver the manner of improvisational jazz that it sets it apart from most of the drummer’s work. A lifelong musician, Chamberlin is undoubtedly best known as the drummer of alternative rock mainstays The Smashing Pumpkins and fellow Billy Corgan-fronted group, Zwan. But while he’s frequently regarded as among the best rock drummers, he’s had a fairly fascinating career one the other side of the career, serving as the CEO of music tech company, LiveOne Inc.

Episode 436: Suzanne Vega

17Jan

The timing of An Evening of New York Songs and Stories could hardly have been better. The album arrived nearly six months into a pandemic that completely disrupted the titular city. For a few months there, New York City was the center of the world, in a new and unprecedented way — a matter not so subtly hammered home by the LP’s coincidental September 11 release date. The album is a bittersweet reminder of the power of live music, as Suzanne Vega sings many of her best known song, and a selections of covers to paint a portrait of the city. As a nearly lifelong resident (having moved here when she was two-and-a-half), Vega’s songs are more often than not as quintessentially New York as the singer herself.

Episode 435: John Andrew Frederick (of The Black Watch)

10Jan

In 2019, The Black Watch Celebrated its fourth decade with a career spanning compilation. The cheekily titled 31 Years of Obscurity was an effort to shine on one of indie rocks most-enduring and unsung bands.  Though “band” is, perhaps, something of a stretch, with John Andrew Frederick serving as both the project’s creative leader and sole constant member. And while relative obscurity has become, perhaps, a kind of running joke, Frederick seems largely unfazed, maintaining a remarkable consistent output through ten or so record labels and  around two dozen EPs and LPs. Frederick also teaches, paints and has written several books, including 2017’s Fucking Innocent: The Early Films of Wes Anderson.  

Episode 434: Erika Ender

1Jan

Decades before “Despacito” arrived, Erika Ender was a hit machine. The Panamanian musician’s compositions have appeared on more than 200 albums, and in 2017, she became the youngest person ever inducted into the Latin Songwriter Hall of Fame. In this conversation, Ender traces an unlikely path to success that includes a stint as a newscaster and the decision to hide her gender in order to breakthrough as a songwriter. It was her role cowriting 2017’s “Despacito,” that broke her — and all involved — onto the national stage. The Spanish language song shot to the top of the charts in 47 countries. Late last year, Ender released MP3 - 45, a language- and style-spanning concept album. Ender joined us to discover her journey, charity work and mindfulness practice — along with an unexpected cameo from her new puppy. 

Episode 433: R. Sikoryak

26Dec

What does having a style mean when one’s work is almost exclusively based on recontextualizing the work of others? It’s a question that’s long been at the heart of R. Sikoryak’s art.The New York City artist has been publicly producing work since the 90s, beginning his career as an editor of the legendary comics anthology Raw, alongside some of the era's top cartoonists. Sikoryak's best-known work is almost certainly found in Masterpiece Comics, built around mashups of classic comics and the literary canon. More recently, he has produced Terms and Conditions, with comics based on Apple Terms of Service and Constitution Illustrated, a recreation of the U.S. founding document. The cartoonist joined us to discuss remote teaching and discovering one’s style by recreating the works of others. 

Episode 432: Joe Sacco

19Dec

When he first traveled to the Canadian Northwest Territories, Joe Sacco wasn’t looking to book length comic about the Dene people. But to hear him describe it, the cartoonist’s books more often than not have a tendency to take on a life of their own. Sacco is almost certainly best known for pioneering comics journalism that has often taken him to heavily conflicted corners of the globe. It’s a sentiment that was probably best expressed in the title of his 1997 collection, War Junkie. Paying the Land is a quieter book in a number of respects — but the story it tells is every bit as important. Sacco seeks to document the story of an indigenous culture ravaged in the name of “progress.”

 

Episode 431: Asya Saavedra (of Chaos Chaos)

11Dec

September saw the release of the Trover Saves The Universe soundtrack. The 31 instrumental tracks were composed for the 2019 game from Rick & Morty co-creator, Justin Roiland. The work finds composer Asy Saavedra outside of her comfort zone. Since 2012, she’s been one-half of the sibling duo, Chaos Chaos — though the band’s work actually stretches back another dozen year. The pair released their first single as Smoosh in 2000 when the sisters were, quite literally, children. Saavedra joins us to discuss two decades of making music, art during COVID and the importance new creative pursuits.

Episode 430: Alex Winter

9Dec

The last time Alex Winter was on the show (his second appearance), we discussed his recently launched crowdfunding campaign to produce a documentary about Frank Zappa. With the film finally out five years later, the director joins us again to discuss the process of combing through the legendary musician’s archives to create a portrait of one of the 20th century’s most fascinating musicians. In spite of everything, it’s been a fruitful year for Winter, even beyond last month’s release of Zappa. In July, the filmmaker release Showbiz Kids, an unflinching look at another subject close to his heart, having been in the public eye since early teenage years. The following month, Winter reprised his most iconic role, playing opposite lifelong friend Keanu Reeves in the long-awaited sequel, Bill & Ted Face the Music. 

Episode 429 (Bonus): Rivers Cuomo

6Dec

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to speak with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo for TechCrunch. What follows is a more complete audio of a conversation primarily focused on his (relatively) newfound love for coding. Fair warning that it’s not a deep dive into the band’s music, but it’s a fascinating conversation nonetheless, I think. 

 

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