If armies run on their stomachs, blogs run on their big fucking mouths. We’re no exception. But we’d like to think that, on a good day, we put all that hot air to good use when interrogating visiting dignitaries in advance of their triumphant arrival into the City Of Brotherly Love. We’ve never pretended to have all the answers but we do know all the right questions. And we’ve never settled for easy answers to hard questions. Sometimes feelings get hurt and sometimes new connections are made. Sometimes painful truths emerge and sometimes we actually learn something. And sometimes we just laugh and laugh and laugh. Maybe you did, too. We’ve assembled some of the highlights of the past year of Q&A on Phawker, including: This American Life‘s Ira Glass, comedian Mike Birbiglia, Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin, Science Guy Bill Nye, Twin Peaks‘Catherine “The Log Lady” Coulson, Jackass‘ human cannonball Steve-O, funniest guy on Twitter Rob Delaney, lovable trainwreck Artie Lange, Coltrane expert Francis Davis, weird-beard Eric Wareheim, professional atheist Sam Harris, giant-killer Hannibal Buress, funnyman John Hodgman, Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard, comedienne Tig Notaro, The Simpson‘s Harry Shearer, Pulitzer-winning Dylanologist David Kinney, ex-MOJO editor Paul Trynka, Super Bowl bird-flipper MIA, J. Edgar Hoover nemesises John And Bonnie Raines, loud and squinty master insult comic Gilbert Gottfried and, as a bonus, our parody interview with Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum. Plus, at no additional cost to you, dear reader, we’ve thrown in the complete texts of the Fred Armisen, Robert Pollard and Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace MAGNET cover stories that previously ran in excerpted form. Lastly, at the very bottom, we’ve reprised our coverage of David Lynch’s PAFA press conference back in the fall. Enjoy.
BONNIE & CLYDE: Q&A With John & Bonnie Raines, Burglars For The Committee To Investigate The FBI
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Back in 1971, John Raines, a religion professor at Temple, and his wife, Bonnie, [pictured, below right, with their children circa 1968] were part of an eight-member group of anti-Vietnam War protesters who dubbed themselves The Committee To Investigate The FBI and broke into the FBI office in Media, PA, and left with 1,000 documents that revealed, for the first time, the details of a massive domestic FBI spying operation known as COINTELPRO. Thus setting in motion a chain of events, not the least of them the death of J. Edgar Hoover, that lead to Congressional hearings that lead to, for a time at least, tough new oversight that took the Bureau, as well as the CIA, out of the domestic dissent-crushing business and back in the business of defending truth, justice and the American way. The burglars were never caught and for 40 years their identities remained one of the enduring mysteries of the Vietnam/Watergate era. That mystery was solved earlier this month with the publication of The Burglary, Betty Medsger’s exhaustive 597-page account of the break-in. Medsger, then a reporter at The Washington Post was one of the first reporters to be sent copies of the stolen FBI files by The Committee To Investigate The FBI. MORE
FINE YOUNG CANNIBAL: Q&A w/ Hannibal Buress On The Eve Of His Game-Changing Cosby Takedown
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Comedian Hannibal Buress has played a homeless man on 30 Rock who was NOT masturbating to Tina Fey, a second banana on The Eric Andre Show, and a nitrous huffing nice guy BF on Broad City. But his biggest star turn to date came a few hours after this interview took place when Buress walked on the Trocadero and, in a moment shared around the world on social media, took Bill Cosby the fuck out. If only we knew then what we know now. DISCUSSED: Behind the scenes at 30 Rock, Louie, Broad City and The Eric Andre Show; Dave Chapelle; Bill Burr; Patrice O’Neal; and why he’s not afraid of Grizzly Bears. MORE
JOKERMAN: Q&A With Rob Delaney
BY JONATHAN VALANIA “I first got drunk at age twelve,” comedian Rob Delaney wrote in a piece for the November 2013 issue of Esquire. “Someone finally put me to bed when I was deemed too fucked up to hang out anymore. I’m aware now that it was an empirically terrible night, but the feeling alcohol gave me was so magical that it outweighed the night’s lousier aspects and I really looked forward to doing it again; I wanted that shit in me. As a lot of drunks report, introducing alcohol into my body just felt like ‘Ooh, there we go. Here I am.’ Sort of like it elegantly completed a chemical equation of some kind.” Funny, right? OK, not so much. Delaney was, it would seem, cut from the classic sad clown crying-on-the-inside-laughing-on-the-outside comedian mold that has produced just about every major comic not named Jerry Seinfeld (he’s more fussy-on-the-inside-kvetching-on-the-outside, not that there’s anything wrong with that). In addition to alcoholism, Delaney has publicly struggled with clinical depression and in a went-viral blog post back in 2010 he made a heartfelt plea for anyone struggling with this disease to get help. But there’s more to Delaney than just Oprah-rific dark-nights-of-the-soul confessionals. He currently has 1.03 million followers on Twitter for a very good reason: he has the gift of funny. In advance of his show at the Trocadero, we got the Massachussetts-born/L.A.-residing (“with a woman and some children”) funnyman on the phone. DISCUSSED: Alcoholism, sobriety, clinical depression, and the secret to comedy. Trust us, it’s not the bummer it sounds like on paper. Well, maybe a little. But then the laughter would be meaningless — or at least not so funny — without the tears, right? Right. Oh and don’t let this photo fool you, he’s actually, like, movie star handsome. Just don’t tell him I said so.MORE
IN BOB WE TRUST: The Complete Robert Pollard MAGNET Interview
SCALPING THE GURU
In the time it takes you to read this Robert Pollard will have written and recorded three brilliant albums and disbanded Guided By Voices again. MAGNET stages a Beer Summit to find out how and why.
BY JONATHAN VALANIA
No light or air or hope gets past the front door of Desmond’s Tavern, a grungy windowless taproom in midtown Manhattan that looks like a VFW hall crashed into a sports bar and smells like a frat house at low tide, and the afternoon crowd seems to like it that way. They like to do their drinking in the same place the fly got smashed. With its tobacco-cured walls, expansive array of Anheuser-Busch products and classic rawk on the jukebox, it’s the closest thing to a Dayton dive this far east of the Buckeye State, which is no doubt why it was selected to host MAGNET’s summit with the clown prince of the menthol trailer park, aka Robert Pollard, the mic-swinging, high-kicking, Bud-swigging past-present-and-possibly-former frontman for Guided By Voices. We must count our blessings, an audience with Pollard is a rare thing these days, he hasn’t granted an interview in three years.
For most MAGNET readers, Pollard needs no introduction and space is in short supply so I will be brief. But if you are new to the Pollard saga, know that he is hands-down the most gifted, beguiling and, by a wide margin, prolific songwriter of the indie-rock era. By his own count he has released upwards of 80 records, including 20 Guided By Voices albums, 19 solo albums and countless LPs, EPs and seven-inch singles from his endless string of one-off collaborations and side projects, among them Boston Space Ships, Airport 5, Circus Devils, Acid Ranch, Lifeguards, The Moping Swans, Lexo & The Leapers, Hazzard Hot Rods and Howling Wolf Orchestra.
The sheer volume and velocity of Pollard’s recorded output continues to amaze and overwhelm even his most devoted disciples. “I think it explains his lack of extreme, worldwide fame,” says director Steven Soderbergh, an avowed Bob Pollard superfan. “I think people don’t trust him. I think they’re just very suspicious of the amount of material. And it’s so unusual that, I don’t know if they find it threatening, or if they’re just bewildered, or they don’t have the stamina to even keep up with it. But all I do is keep listening and marveling at his ability to generate really high quality music. The last couple years — I don’t think he’s ever been bad — but the last couple years in particular he’s been very, very good.”
MAGNET’s interview with Pollard was occasioned by the release of Honey Locust Honky Tonk, his 19th solo record and arguably his best to date. We begin with Pollard dropping the bombshell that he has grown bored with the reunion of the so-called classic line-up of Guided By Voices after four albums and a couple tours and may well pull the plug on it, at least as far as making new albums is concerned. But fear not, my droogs. Even if that happens there will be plenty of Pollard to go around. The Fading Captain is a lifer. He shoots himself with rock n’ roll. The hole he digs is bottomless, but nothing else can set him free. MORE
Journey To The Center Of Birbiglia
Welcome to another round of Stupid Answers To Stupid Questions. Actually, that’s only half true. Comedian Mike Birbiglia, of Sleepwalk With Me fame, provided pretty smart answers to our stupid questions. He plays the Merriam on Thursday, for the second time in, like, four and a half weeks (who even does that?). DISCUSSED: Getting bladder cancer at 19; what he and Terry Gross talk about when they are not robbing banks; the strangest place he ever rubbed one out; whether the rumors are true that while Ira Glass seems like a nice guy on the radio, off the air he is real bastard — eating puppies, skinning cats more than one way, poking babies with a sharp stick in Reno just to watch them cry, that kind of thing; the last book he read/movie he saw/album he heard that completely changed his perspective and why. And much, much more. MORE
LONDON CALLING: Q&A With M.I.A.
BY JONATHAN VALANIA In advance of her show at the Tower on Friday April, 25th in support of her latest album, Matangi, we got Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (aka M.I.A.) on the horn from her home in London — and given that she undoubtedly is on the NSA’s watch/listen list given her father’s well-publicized Tamil Tiger affiliation combined with the fact that any U.S. citizen who calls a foreigner on the NSA watch list is then also added to The List, well, that’s a pretty high price to pay for plugging a friggin’ rapper/EDM artist’s Tower Theater show. But we’ve never been coy about what side we are on in the Snowden & The Fourth Amendment Of The Constitution Of The United States of America vs The NSA Big Brother Industrial Complex debate. Now we have some skin in the game. DISCUSSED: Edward Snowden, NSA, the illusion of privacy in 21st Century corporate/imperialist/police states, how Philadelphia played a central role in her development as an artist and rise to international celebrity and how it feels to get thrown under the bus in the media by ex-boyfriend/Philly homeboy Diplo. TRIED TO DISCUSS: The jaw-dropping absurdity of the NFL suing her for $16 million for flipping the bird during Superbowl halftime festivities and somehow damaging the good Christian kid-friendly brand of a ginormous corporation that has made BILLIONs of dollars selling stylized violence — and not simulated cinematic violence, but REAL violence — not to mention the gruesome spectacle of the infliction of traumatic brain injury on live television to the American family every Sunday…but her publicist cut us off and asked that we talk about the tour. “You know what I would have said, Jonathan,” said Maya as we exchanged farewells. MORE
Q&A w/ The Hippest Guy In The NFL
BY JONATHAN VALANIA If Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin did OK Cupid, it would read something like this:
Chiseled 27-year-old 6’4 260 lb Fred Flinstone-type with Cosmo Kramer haircut and biceps the size of Easter hams seeks kind-hearted, like-minded female companion to attend Eagles games and Animal Collective concerts and we’ll see where it goes from there. Interests: Forced fumbles, snapping quarterbacks in half, digging indie-rock shows at First Unitarian Church, making a difference.
When not blitzing quarterbacks or shutting down draw plays at The Linc, Barwin is a fixture at kid-tested/Pitchfork-approved shows around town. Tonight, Barwin’s Make The World Better Foundation hosts a fundraising concert at Union Transfer featuring Kurt Vile & The Violators Houston-based indie-rockers The Ton Tons and Lancaster County’s much-buzzed-about The Districts. The event will raise funds for renovating Ralph Brooks Park in South Philly to provide neighborhood kids with a safe space to participate in sports or the arts, Barwin’s two great passions. Quoth The Bard: So shines a good deed in a weary world. Charles Barkley may not be a role model, but Connor Barwin sure as hell is. May the road rise with him. MORE
Q&A: Steve-O, Jackest Of All Asses
DISCUSSED: Clown college, cocaine, stilt-walking, sobriety, his father being president of Coca Cola Brazil, things he’s put up his ass, suicide, Samuel Jackson, the permanent damage of his Jackassery, Ryan Dunne & Amy Schumer, psychiatric lockdown, veganism, kindness to animals and the importance of flossing after every meal. MORE
FREDLANDIA: Meet Fred Armisen, The Jimmy Stewart Of The Hipsters
Everyone knows (and loves) funnyman Fred Armisen from Portlandia and SNL but few know how he got there. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, kid. How do you get to Portlandia? Trenchmouth. MAGNET goes to 30 Rock to walk a mile in the wing tips of The Nicest Man In Show Business and untangle his punk rock roots
By Jonathan Valania
“Do you have Questlove’s cellphone number?” Beyonce’s drummer asks nobody in particular. She twists around from her perch in the front seat of a black Escalade that NBC has sent to ferry us from a downtown Manhattan rehearsal studio to the storied Art Deco tower of power that is 30 Rock, and looks around to her bandmates in The 8G Band seated in the rows behind her — keyboardist Eli Janney, formerly of indie heartthrobs Girls Vs Boys; bassist Syd Butler and guitarist Seth Jabour, both formerly of indie iconoclasts Les Savy Fav; guitarist/bandleader Fred Armisen, formerly of Trenchmouth and SNL and currently Portlandia.
Everyone but Fred Armisen gives her that ‘How the fuck would I have Questlove’s phone number?’ look. You know that look. You probably give that look a hundred times a day without even thinking about it. We all do. But not Fred Armisen. Fred Armisen actually has Questlove’s phone number. Fred Armisen, as I will learn over the course of the coming weeks, has EVERYONE’s number. He shoots her a look that is half sheepish, half inquisitive and then asks her the question he already knows the answer to: “Yeah, do you want it?”
“Uh, yeah,” says Beyonce’s drummer (real name: Kimberly Thompson), who is, just to be clear, also The G8 Band’s drummer. “He just Instagrammed me and told me to call him.” Fred pulls out his iPhone and texts her the Roots’ drummers digits and..the elite circle of show biz connectivity remains unbroken and, as it must, the show goes on.
When we get to 30 Rock, the band rides the elevator up to the 8th floor, disembarks at Studio 8G, and after an hour in hair, make-up and wardrobe, takes up their positions on the bandstand of the set of Late Night With Seth Meyers. By now it’s 5 PM on the first Thursday of April and dress rehearsal for tonight’s taping has just gotten under way. They work through the songs that will score the arrival and departure of tonight’s sundry guests: a clear-eyed Bob Costas who will, upon his departure, walk over to Fred and do that prayer-handed Buddhist bow that signifies respect and due deference in show biz; a delightfully dastardly Steve Coogan, who will roll a disturbingly funny clip from the Alan Partridge film he has come to plug in which, long story short, he winds up naked with his junk tucked between his legs like Buffalo Bill in Silence Of The Lambs; and the exotic animal wrangling Kratt Brothers who have come bearing a Burmese python, a kangaroo and a lemur, all of which will slither, jump, strangle, crawl and possibly defecate all over Seth, as is the tradition established a long time ago in a basic cable galaxy far, far away by Johnny Carson, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of American Talk Shows. When rehearsal wraps, the studio audience is ushered to their seats and after the standard off-camera warm-up/pep talk from a stand-up comedian, the taping of the 27th episode of the first, but hopefully not last, season of Late Night With Seth Meyers begins.
Fred and The 8G Band launch into the show’s opening nouveau New Wave-esque theme song over a jittery montage of Manhattan twinkling after dark — taxi cabs! neon signs! people on sidewalks! — as the announcer blurts out tonight’s guests in that stereotypical stentorian talk show announcer cadence before introducing the man of the hour, smart aleck-y fallen preppie, looks-like-the-guy-who-took-your-sister-to-the-prom Seth Meyers who makes his entrance to the deafening cheers of APPLAUSE-sign-triggered Midwestern tourist adulation.
The first thing you notice about Seth Meyers — in person and stripped of SNL’s Weekend Update desk and dressed as he is tonight in a fitted, slim-cut, two-button, two-piece charcoal suit — is that he has thicker thighs than you would expect from a man so petite from the waist up. Dude has quads the size of Easter hams, an anatomical fact that will surely serve him well in a job that is all about standing up and sitting down and standing up again. All day, every day. As per the unshakeable dictates of talk show orthodoxy, he monologues, somewhat mirthlessly it should be noted, on the newsmakers of the nano-moment: Putin, Blackberry, Beyonce. Then he tosses it over to Fred and The 8G Band who launch into one of those strummy, cymbals-sizzling interstitial rave-ups that mark every transition in the stations of the talk show cross as Meyers takes a seat behind the desk.
At this point in the show Seth and Fred do a recurring sketch called Fred Talks, their take on the obligatory talk show host/band leader banter — you know, Johnny to Doc, Dave to Paul, Jimmy to Questlove — which invariably involves and incredulous Seth calling bullshit on some ludicrous claim that he’s allegedly overheard Fred making backstage. Seth informs Fred that he’s done some asking around and some Googling and it turns out the following things that Fred has told him all week during this segment are patently false: Fred did NOT open a theme park in Arizona called Clayland, nor did he invent a ‘hot new dessert’ called Water Indulgence, i.e. a bowl of water, nor did he open a new spa that is basically a miniaturized version of the suburbs of Chicago, which is somehow ‘very calming’ and restorative. Fred just smiles serenely, untroubled by this intrusion of fact-based, objective reality — as if to say he’s used to it, he gets this all the time — because, after all, he is the hard-earned beneficiary of the New Normal in show biz, which is this: When all good 40something indie-rockers die, they go to Late Night Talk Show Band heaven.
Plus, he’s got tickets to see Kraftwerk tonight. MORE
THE KING OF CARROT FLOWERS: Q&A w/ Neutral Milk’s Jeff Mangum
BY JONATHAN VALANIA In 1998, Neutral Milk Hotel released an album of hallucinatory folk-rock called In The Aeroplane Over The Sea that is, it can be said without fear of exaggeration, nothing short of a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Like Pet Sounds or My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless or Love’s Forever Changes, it is lightning caught in a bottle, one of those rare perfect albums that come along maybe once a decade. Or once a lifetime. In 1999, Jeff Mangum — Neutral Milk’s singer, songwriter and primary guitarist — disappeared from public life without explanation, declining all entreaties to perform or discuss the album or record a follow-up. Over the course of his decade-long Salinger-like hermitage, succeeding generations of Holden Caulfield-types have discovered and come to revere the album, and as such it has become something like The Catcher In The Rye of indie-rock. Four years ago, Mangum emerged from seclusion and started performing again, refusing to offer any explanation for his mysterious disappearance or sudden return and denying all interview requests. Late last night I got the scoop of the century: A phone call from Jeff Mangum. That’s like getting a phone call from JD Salinger — dude does NOT talk to the phonies in the media. The call came in the middle of last night, thank god I record all my phone conversations for the benefit of future historians. It went like this: MORE
Q&A: WTF’s Eating Gilbert Gottfried?
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Preparing for our Q&A with Gilbert Gottfried I came across this elegantly-rendered and wizardly-reasoned assessment of Brand Gottfried by Jay Ruttenberg in the Lowbrow Reader. He says it better than I ever could, so let’s let this excerpt serve as the intro for our Q&A. (I urge you to click through the link at the end and read the whole thing. And how about this illustration from the always awesome Drew Friedman? Likewise I would urge the unitiated to go HERE and check out his work.)
In 1987, Gilbert Gottfried made his debut appearance on Howard Stern’s radio program. Although it went unspoken, the host and his guest had somewhat overlapping lives. Both men were in their early 30s and clinging to the fringes of show business. Both were Jewish nerds who had come of age as outsiders in rough patches of New York: Stern in a predominantly black area of Long Island; Gottfried in pre-chic Brooklyn and the East Village of burning tenements and open-air heroin bazaars. They found escape and salvation through the junky pop culture of monster movies, super heroes, rock & roll, and comedy. And while both performers’ acts had roots in the ’70s, their entry to comedy’s major leagues began at the dawn of the ’80s, when Stern paired with his invaluable on-air foil Robin Quivers and Gottfried started his short-lived—and little-remembered—tenure on Saturday Night Live. […]
Gottfried’s Hollywood stock, in the conventional sense, probably peaked in the early ’90s, when he appeared in the Problem Child movies, voiced a parrot in Disney’s Aladdin, and hosted USA Up All Night, a B-movie program on basic cable. In 1987, he had headlined a sitcom pilot, Norman’s Corner, which aired as a Cinemax special before fading into the abyss. The show was co-written by Larry David just before he created Seinfeld. I have heard comedians—albeit mildly demented ones—swear by Norman’s Corner as the Seinfeld-that-might-have-been. Now approaching 60, the comedian remains a prolific character actor and a reliably screeching voice in cartoons. His moments in the spotlight generally transpire because he has said something wildly inappropriate—a comedy mode that Gottfried has raised to an art form, if not raison d’être. In 2011, Gottfried famously got fired as the voice of the Aflac duck mascot after writing a series of corny Twitter jokes about the Japanese tsunami. (A sample: “I fucked a girl in Japan. She screamed, ‘I feel the earth move and I’m getting wet.’”) The loss of the long-running commercial gig clearly unnerved Gottfried, a notorious penny pincher who was apparently unaware that Aflac conducts the bulk of its business in Japan.
A decade earlier, however, his pathological yearning for vulgarity yielded what likely will prove his career apex. Appearing at a Friars Club Roast weeks after the World Trade Center attack, Gottfried took the podium bedecked in the kind of ill-fitting tuxedo a circus monkey might favor and cracked what Frank Rich, in the New York Times, described as the first public 9/11 joke: “I have a flight to California. I can’t get a direct flight—they said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.” The joke was met by boos and an audience member’s cry of “too soon,” a phrase that quickly entered the lexicon, deployed when a comedian has made an appalling remark about a recent tragedy. (With alarming frequency, that comedian tends to be Gottfried.) — JAY RUTTENBERG Lowbrow Reader
DISCUSSED: Groucho Marx, Dick Cavett, Milton Berle’s cock, Ben Kingsley, Katharine Hepburn, F-Troop’s Larry Storch, Forrest Tucker’s cock, Boris Karloff, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, the Screen Actors Guild, Communists, the Godfather, fucking Marilyn Monroe, Richard Nixon, Danny Aiello, getting fired from SNL, Eddie Murphy, The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Do The Right Thing, getting fired by Aflac, suing the pants off Aflac. MORE
ABOUT A GIRL: The Complete Magnet Magazine Q&A With Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace
BY JONATHAN VALANIA In 2012, Tom Gabel, the 33-year-old year old frontman of Florida-based million-dollar major label punk band Against Me!, announced to the world that he was transgender and had begun the process of transitioning into a woman. Tom Gabel was dead, long live Laura Jane Grace. Grace told MAGNET she knew, deep down, since the age of five that she been had miscast in the role of heterosexual boy in the play of life. After years of drug-and-alcohol-abetted denial cross-dressing behind a cruel veil of secrecy and shame, Grace realized she could no longer deny her true nature, consequences be damned, and summoning a courage far beyond most mortal men (and women), she went public with her decision. This raised a host of difficult questions that are still being answered. How would her wife, three-year-old daughter, mother and retired Army major father, not to mention her bandmates and Against Me!’s six figure-sized audience react to the news? Almost without exception (her father being the exception) everyone was understanding and supportive, but like her transition, it’s a work in progress. She documented her epic struggles with gender identity and the triumphs and travails of the transition process on Against Me!’s extraordinary new album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. MORE
Q&A: Talking Acid, Jazz & John Coltrane Stereo Blues* w/ Francis Davis, Dean Of Philly Jazz Critics
Like pearls before swine. On November 11th 1966, John Coltrane performed at Temple University, situated in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia. Coltrane’s backing band included, among others: his wife, Alice Coltrane, on piano; Pharoah Sanders on saxophones and flute; and Rashied Ali on drums. The concert was staged just six weeks before his 40th birthday and a mere nine months before he succumbed to liver cancer. Despite the fact that, at the time, Coltrane was one of the living legends of jazz and tickets were only $2.50, the turn out was disappointing. According to an article in the student newspaper, the college lost $1,000 on the show because only 650 people showed up for the concert, held in a hall that holds 1,800. The article goes on to say that “those attending generally were disappointed by the concert.” The article goes on to say that Temple hopes to recoup its losses with a sold-out Dionne Warwick concert.
To mark this auspicious occasion Temple University Libraries, Ars Nova Workshop and Resonance Records will host a panel discussion on this historic concert with noted Philadelphia-based jazz critic and author Francis Davis (who was in attendance at the concert as an undergraduate student at Temple) and noted Sun Ra biographer and jazz historian John Szwed, local Philadelphia percussionist Robert Kenyatta (who played with Coltrane that night in ‘66) and Baltimore saxophonist Carl Grubbs, who was in attendance and is related to Coltrane’s first wife, Naima. The panel will be moderated by J. Michael Harrison of WRTI-FM, host of “The Bridge,” a 15-year-old program that bridges the gap between jazz and hip-hop and other contemporary black music. For more information, go HERE.
In advance of the album release and panel discussion, we got Francis Davis on the horn. In addition to being in attendance that night as a 20-year-old Temple undergrad, Davis is a highly respected jazz critic has been working on a major Coltrane bio for years. Check out his CV:
He has written about music, film, and other aspects of popular culture for The Atlantic since 1984 and was appointed lead jazz critic for the Voice in 2004. He was jazz critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1982 to 1996, jazz editor of Musician from 1982 to 1985, and a staff writer for 7 Days from 1988 to 1990. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Arts & Leisure and Book Review sections, The Nation, Connoisseur, Rolling Stone, Wigwag, The Oxford American, Stereo Review Sound & Vision, High Fidelity, the Boston Phoenix, The Absolute Sound, ARTicles, Cadence, Down Beat, Jazz Times, Elle, Audio, The World & I, The Wire, The Black American, the Village Voice Rock & Roll Quarterly, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, and The Times Literary Supplement (London).
DISCUSSED: Post-Bop, Free Jazz, LSD, Cancer, God and Allen Ginsberg.
WRECKLESS ERIC: Q&A With Eric Wareheim, Philly Homeboy & Exactly One Half Of Tim & Eric
BY JONATHAN VALANIA In advance of the Tim And Eric & Dr. Steve Brule (aka John C. Reilly) 2014 Tour stopping in Philly on Friday for two sold out shows at The Keswick, we got Temple alum Eric Wareham on the horn. DISCUSSED: Their new show Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories, Twilight Zone, and the horror of the every day, Bob Odenkirk, Emmet Walsh, John C. Reilly, Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifanakis, Three Stooges, Dr. Steve Brule, Darkside, Fishtown, White Rainbow, and Philly soul. MORE
SURRENDER TO THE VOID: A Metaphysical Q&A With Sam Harris, International Man Of Reason
BY STEVE VOLK Sam Harris doesn’t much care for the term “atheism.” To him, the idea that he doesn’t believe in the old myths shouldn’t require any sort of marker. Once counted among the Four Horseman of the New Atheism, bringing death to religion, Harris seems to have outdistanced his pack. Christopher Hitchens is, sadly, gone. Philosopher Daniel Dennett doesn’t maintain the same dialogue with the larger, cultural conversation between books. And Richard Dawkins has come to epitomize the worst of the materialist creed—lobbing unwelcome and, dare we say, unreasonable hand grenades about ladies in elevators, child molestation and babies with Down Syndrome.
Now Harris has re-emerged with his fifth full-length book, the briskly titled Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. Harris, an accomplished meditation practitioner, has always stood out in the New Atheist movement for distinguishing his criticisms of religion from any wholesale rejection of “spirituality”— a subject he’s explored, deeply, through many years of meditative practice. His new book is a concise and powerful attempt to put spirituality in a whole new framework for believers and non-believers alike. In terms of a thinker issuing a challenge to his own audience, Harris’s Waking Up is akin to Dylan standing before an audience of folkies, ready to worship at his acoustic altar, then plugging in his electric guitar. Sure, Harris’s new book still offers trenchant criticism of belief. But this time out, Harris is critical of non-believers, too—for thinking spirituality offers them nothing to care about in the first place. MORE
THE GOOD SHEPHERD: A Q&A With Globe-Trotting New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Last week we got New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on the horn to discuss his new book, A Path Appears, co-authored with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, which extols the innovative but largely un-heralded efforts of a dedicated few to leave the world a better place than they found it. Just a few days prior, Kristof had been at the center of a cultural storm that erupted in the wake of his appearance on REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER along with Ben Affleck and Sam Harris, so we gave him an opportunity to clarify some points that got lost in the shouting and hair-pulling. DISCUSSED: People who are making a difference; studying inner-city violence like a viral epidemic; utilizing the accrued wisdom of seniors to mentor at-risk youth; reparations for blacks; how the global plight of women is connected to everything that is wrong in the world and how to fix it, the existential threat to journalism and the fight to the death between extreme and moderate interpretations of Islam.MORE
Q&A: John Hodgman, Actual Person
Illustration by DONKEY HOTEY
BY JONATHAN VALANIA John Hodgman is full of shit. Full to the brim and stuffed to the gills with the stuff. And that’s a wonderful thing for you and me — as representative members of the human race that enjoy a good chortle and maybe even a guffaw when circumstances merit — because John Hodgman’s wizardly ability to turn horseshit into pure comedy gold, and to do so with a straight-face, a high-handed loquaciousness never-ending and the kind of ornate, self-aggrandizing syntax usually reserved for the mustachioed stovepipe-hatted men who tie women to railroad tracks in flickering black and white films is his great and generous gift to humanity. So send him a thank you note. Or even better yet, tell him in person tonight (Friday October 16th) at Underground Arts.
To stir up interest in tonight’s show amongst you, the great unwashed, we got the honorable Judge John Hodgman on the horn, asked him some harmless questions and let him carry forth with a Gilded Age grandiloquence not heard since Grover Cleveland was in the White House. DISCUSSED: His late-in-life marijuana experimentation; unwashed folk singers and their threat to huanity; the sadistic psych doctor he plays on Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick (starting Clive Owen); playing the hypersexual and oversharing Bernie on Married; Ayn Rand’s deconstruction of Charlie’s Angels, the Hobby Lobby hullabaloo, and how to sincerely grow an ironic mustache or ironically grow a sincere mustache in a way that does not make you look like a card-carrying member of NAMBLA. Impossible, you say? Well, Impossible is John Hodgman’s middle name. Actually, I lied. His middle name is Kellogg, but that is a discussion for another day. MORE
Q&A: Tig Notaro Will Not Go Quietly
BY JONATHAN VALANIA If Tig Notaro never existed we would have never thought to invent her, which not only points out the shortcomings of our imagination but also the depths of her originality. A tall drink of water in low-slung jeans with Billie Jean King hair, she speaks in a laconic drawl that is either medicated or chill to the point of Zen. She doesn’t so much tell jokes as construct these elaborate verbal Rube Goldberg Devices Of Funny and at the end, when you finally stop laughing, you’re like ‘I can’t believe that worked.’ If you’ve never heard her Taylor Dane bit, scroll down to the bottom and watch it before you read any further. Go on, we’ll wait. Psych! Anyway, for the rest of you that have heard that bit, I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know when I point that, a few years ago, within the space of a month she got pneumonia, the C. diff, then she split up with her partner, then her mother died and then she was diagnosed with cancer. And somehow she managed to alchemize all that horror and agony into something funny and laugh-affirming. Louis CK tweeted afterwards: “In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.” DISCUSSED: Richard Pryor, Texas, Paula Poundstone, lesbians, cancer, Mississippi, her forthcoming memoir, 43-year-old tomboys, and Knock Knock It’s Tig Notaro, her forthcoming Showtime special. MORE
DEEP THROAT: Talking Richard Nixon Blues With Harry Shearer
Illustration by EVERYBODY’S GOT TO BE IN A GANG
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Harry Shearer — aka the voice of Mr. Burns, Mr. Smithers, Ned Flanders, Otto The Bus Driver and Moe the Bar Tender, aka Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls, aka the voice of reason on NPR’s Le Show, director of the muckraking Katrina documentary The Big Uneasy that dared to speak the truth about the actual cause of the flood of New Orleans — is a man of many hats, and the voices that go with those hats. His latest project, ‘Nixon’s The One,’ finds him donning the face and voice of President Nixon. Presented as a 6-part mini series that premiered on YouTube on October 21 and as a limited engagement live performance, Shearer and leading Nixon scholar Stanley Kutler combed through hundreds of hours of the infamous White House tapes made by the President while in office and reenacted some of the bizarre, historically significant and (often unintentionally) hilarious moments as if filmed on hidden camera in the Oval Office. Earlier this week we got Harry on the horn. DISCUSSED: Nixon, Obama, the vast criminal syndicate that is contemporary American politics, the sinking of Louisiana into the Gulf Of Mexico, the Army Corps of Engineers, NPR censorship, SNL, Lorne Michaels and the Jews, and whether or not Ned Flanders is gay. MORE
Q&A: This American Life’s Ira Glass
Photo by STUART MULLENBERG
BY JONATHAN VALANIA A long time ago in a public radio galaxy far, far away called 1995, the median listener age was 87, nobody ever said um or like on the air, all stories ran just one way — front to back — and were narrated with the plummy-voiced elocution of the Founding Fathers, and semiotics was just one more thing Medicare refused to cover. Nineteen years, five Peabody Awards and 500-plus episodes of This American Life later, all that has changed, thanks to the post-post-modern vision, wry melancholia and casually precise broadcasting style of the show’s host/founder, who, back when he was still a pre-med undergrad on a summer internship at National Public Radio, dared to dream of a new vernacular for telling stories on the radio. On Saturday, The 13th Annual First Person Arts Festival will presented REINVENTING RADIO: AN EVENING WITH IRA GLASS at the Merriam Theater, wherein the host/founder of public radio’s This American Life will show and tell how all that trailblazing, game-changing, award-winning sausage gets made. In advance of his Merriam appearance, we got Mr. Glass on the horn to get a taste. DISCUSSED: The key components of good narrative; his favorite episode of This American Life; how the secret recordings of Carmen Segarra triggered a forthcoming Senate Banking Subcommittee On Economic Policy hearing on consumer protection; what is to be learned from the Mike Daisey fiasco; whether or not journalism, like art, can sometimes use a little white lie to tell a larger truth; why his parents actively dislike public radio;
and how all he ever wanted was to dance. MORE
Q&A: Talking Trash, Twitter, ESPN, & Appetite For Self-Destruction w/ Badboy Funnyman Artie Lange
“Lamentations Of A Jersey Prince” by AUGIE PAGAN
BY JONATHAN VALANIA In advance of his show at the Keswick tomorrow night and in the wake of the The Great ESPN-Twitter Reverse Mandingo Masturbation Fantasy Fiasco, we got badboy fatass funnyman Artie Lange on the horn. DISCUSSED: The Eagles, The Fightins, Riley Cooper, Woody Allen, robbing banks, opiate addiction, the ESPN-TWITTER fiasco, why he’s not backing down, why he shouldn’t, the struggle to stay sober in a business full of “hot babes with blow,” falling off the wagon, John Candy, Chris Farley, his work with Wounded Warriors, the double standard of getting banned for life from ESPN for making a bad joke on Twitter while Stephen A. Smith tells women not to provoke the Ray Rice-style beatdowns they get from their professional athlete boyfriends and he’s still on the air, and ESPN’s Skip Bayless saying the Kobe Bryant rape allegations gave him “sizzle” and “edge” and helped him sell more sneakers and he’s still on the air, but when a comedian tweets (an admittedly tasteless, ill-advised, and not very funny) joke about a fat-fuck, needle-dick antebellum plantation owner getting his fat ass kicked by Cari Champion it triggers an absurdly over the top and jaw-droppingly hypocritical overreaction of apocalyptic proportions. MORE
BOOKS: Q&A With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist David Kinney, Author Of “The Dylanologists”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally posted on July 17th 2014
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Sometimes I think Dylanology — the obsessive study and consumption of all things Bob — is the new (and improved) Scientology. Think about it: Both are non-denominational pop cults formed in the latter half of the 20th Century that rally around a charismatic leader and rake in boatloads of believer money. Both have celebrity acolytes and promise extraordinary insight. But there is one vast and crucial difference, as vast and crucial as the difference between The Old Testament and The New Testament: L. Ron Hubbard wrote Battlefield Earth and Bob Dylan wrote “Like A Rolling Stone.” And that, kids, is why your mother and I are not Scientologists. That, and Tom Cruise. Besides, as L. Ron Hubbards go, you could do a lot worse than Bob Dylan. Plus, the music’s better. To prove my point I got Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Kinney, author of The Dylanologists: Adventures In The Land Of Bob, on the horn. It went something like this: MORE
THE LADY OF THE LOG: Q&A With Twin Peaks’ Catherine Coulson
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Catherine Coulson, aka Twin Peaks‘ resident Log Lady, will be giving a sold-out talk at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on Saturday about all things David Lynch, with whom she has collaborated creatively since production commenced on Eraserhead back in 1971. Like everyone else in the cast and crew, from star down to cameraman, she was paid $25 a week. When money ran low — as it often did over the course of the six years it took to complete the film — her weekly salary was halved to $12.50. But true to his word, Lynch cut everyone in on the proceeds when Eraserhead became a cult smash. “Eraserhead helped put my daughter through college,” Coulson told me a few weeks ago when we spoke on the phone. She still gets a check every year. Back in the lean years, Lynch and Coulson brainstormed a character called The Log Girl — kooky, clairvoyant, and always cradling heavy lumber. She would have to wait more than a decade to bring the character to life as cast member of Twin Peaks. By then, The Log Girl had blossomed into The Log Lady — a role she will be reprising next year when the Twin Peaks franchise reactivates after going dark for 25 years, with Lynch and Mark Frost back at the helm. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, that gum we all like is finally back in style. MORE
PAINT IT BLACK: Q&A With Paul Trynka, Author of “BRIAN JONES: The Making Of The Rolling Stones”
BY JONATHAN VALANIA A candid conversation with former MOJO editor Paul Trynka [pictured, below right] — author of IGGY POP: Open Up And Bleed and DAVID BOWIE: Star Man — about his new bio, BRIAN JONES: The Making Of The Rolling Stones. (The British version has a much edgier, and dare I say it Stonsier title, SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: The Birth Of The Rolling Stones & The Death Of Brian Jones. Guess Random House thinks the devil doesn’t get his due in America. We’re inclined to disagree, but that’s a conversation for another time.) DISCUSSED: Blowjobs, pills, genius, Mick Jagger, Mars bars, Morocco, dope, sympathy for the devil, dope, misogyny, dandy, December’s illegitimate Children, Robert Johnson, narcotics, Andrew Loog Oldham, drugs, Anita Pallenberg, Fop of the Pops, trad jazz, Howlin’ Wolf, Dick Taylor, The Pretty Things, the real origin of Keef’s celebrated Open G tuning, George Harrison, Winnie the Pooh, John Lennon, Knobby Pilchard, loveless parents, paranoia, pills, death by drowning. MORE
EUREKA: Talking Creationism, Evolution & Survival Of The Species w/ Bill Nye, The Science Guy
Artwork via THE DAILY OMNIVORE
BY JONATHAN VALANIA On December 16th , the Merriam Theater hosted An Evening With Bill Nye, bow-tied science communicator, advocate for reason and critical thinking skills, wouldbe astronaut, bane of creationists and climate science denialists, not to mention superstitious kooks and cranks of every ideological stripe. Last week we got Dr. Nye on the horn. DISCUSSED: Why he believes in evolution and you should too, Carl Sagan, marijuana, why he wouldn’t sign up for the one-way trip to colonize Mars, why better batteries and sea water de-salinization technology are crucial to the survival of the human race, the moral cowardice of climate science denialism, the societal dangers of literal interpreters of the Bible, whether or not UFOs have been visiting Earth and probing the rectums of rednecks, why GMOs make him nervous, and why he is the U.S. patent holder for the ballet slipper. MORE
On September 10th, 2014, David Lynch gave a press conference at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to promote DAVID LYNCH: The Unified Field, the first major retrospective of his paintings in an American art museum. The retrospective is something of a homecoming for Lynch who studied painting at PAFA from 1966-1967, back when the City of Brotherly Love was a desolate hellscape of decay and despair after years of white flight, industrial collapse and seething racial animus. From 1965-1970, Lynch lived in a section of the city that has come to be known as The Eraserhood. It was in Philadelphia that Lynch first transitioned from painting into filmmaking. In 1970, he headed to Los Angeles to begin work on Eraserhead. At the press conference, Lynch talked about how he drew inspiration from the horrors he witnessed during his days in Philadelphia, and expressed his sadness that the city is no longer a soot-stained miasma of fear and loathing and ultra-violence, that his malevolent Rosebud has been rendered harmless and ordinary by gentrification. The short film you are about to watch is a compendium of Lynch’s remarks about filmmaking, painting, smoking, and the nature of art. Filmed and edited in high Lynch-ian style, this short film incorporates David Lynch’s music, paintings, and films along with his charm, wit and insight into the creative process. A must-see for fans of his work.
RELATED: David Lynch: Eraserhead Stories