Q&A: With Jeff McDonald Of Redd Kross

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally posted back in 2014. We are re-posting it today in advance of their show with The Melvins at Underground Arts on Saturday Oct. 12th. BY JONATHAN VALANIA You were born in an age of mockery, which was followed by a decade of irony. You were 15 years old when you played your first gig, opening for Black Flag. Your little brother was only 11. His bass was taller than him. You named your band after the crucifix masturbation scene in The Exorcist. Early on you were fascinated by pop culture gone horribly wrong, you wrote punky […]

THE MIDNIGHT RAMBLERS: Q&A W/ Acclaimed Guitarist Larry Campbell & Singer Teresa Williams

  BY JONATHAN VALANIA To the average man (or woman) on the street, the names Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams might not mean much — not yet anyway. But to anyone who keeps an ear to the ground when it comes to American music — alt-country, No Depression, roots-rock, whatever you want to call it — they are something approaching Nashville royalty and widely regarded as The First Couple of Americana. In addition to being one half of the Larry Campbell/Charlie Sexton guitar trust in Bob Dylan’s Neverending Tour band during its 1997-2004 annus mirabilis, Campbell has played on recordings […]

THE DEVIL’S BIZNESS: Q&A With Philadelphia Lawyer & Rock N’ Roll Evolutionist James A. Cosby

  BY JONATHAN VALANIA By day he’s a mild-mannered Philadelphia lawyer, but by night James A. Cosby is a rock philosopher-cum-theoretician mapping out grand unifying theories about the origin mythos of rock n’ roll. Turns out it’s a lot more complicated than ‘the blues had a baby and they called it rock n’ roll’ and there is far more nuance in the grey zone between heaven and hell than is dreamt of in your Birth Of Rock Spotify playlist, Virginia. His 2016 book Devil’s Music, Holy Rollers And Hillbillies: How America Gave Birth To Rock N’ Roll ties together the […]

Q&A: Colonel Buzz Aldrin, The Man On The Moon

  EDITOR’S NOTE: The following Q&A with astronaut Buzz Aldrin originally published on April 7th, 2016. We are reprising it today commemorate the 50th anniversary of humankind walking on the moon. BY JONATHAN VALANIA How many people get to meet their childhood heroes? Not many. But journalists, if they play their cards right, get to do it all the time. At least I have: Tom Waits, John Cale, Shatner, Brian Wilson, Captain Kangaroo. Add to the list Apollo 11 astronaut/boyhood hero Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon (and the first to take a pee on it). […]

STROKE OF GENIUS: Q&A W/ Scott McCaughey

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Few people in this life have seen Scott McCaughey’s eyes. He’s been wearing black Ray Bans non-stop 24-7 — presumably even when he sleeps and showers — since at least the late ‘80s. Dude’s got a right. If rock n’ roll is 99% sweat equity (and one percent drugs), and it is, Scott’s a rawk star. He’s got about six or seven bands he’s playing in simultaneously at any given point in time — most of them have Peter Buck in them and the ones that don’t have Wilco in them. Paul Westerberg of The Replacements called […]

STILL STRANGER THAN PARADISE: Q&A With Eszter Balint, Actress, Musician, Singer-Songwriter

  EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview with Stranger Than Paradise star Eszter Balint originally published back in 2015. We are reprising here today for two reasons, three actually: 1. It’s interesting, if you’re into, like, interesting things 2. It’s almost certainly the most in-depth, comprehensive and exhaustive Eszter Balint career overview ever published (hey, somebody had to do it) 3. She has a supporting role in the Jim Jarmusch zombie comedy (zom-com?) The Dead Don’t Die, which opens Friday. BY JONATHAN VALANIA Eszter Balint, best known as the then-16-year-old star of Jim Jarmusch’s career-making, tide-changing, genre-defining 1984 indie flick Stranger Than […]

FEARS OF A CLOWN: Q&A W/ Bobcat Goldthwait

  BY JONATHAN VALANIA Born in Boston in 1962, Robert Francis ‘Bobcat’ Goldthwait has been trafficking in frantic, anarchic punk rock comedy and, later, thoughtful subversion for more than four decades. His highly-combustible early stand-up persona — shouty, sweaty and stammering — was akin to a scared Chihuahua on bath salts: Hulk-smashing, fire-starting and definitely not housebroken. He was banned from The Tonight Show for lighting the set on fire. After his early success in stand-up, acting and extensive voiceover work — including a recurring role as more or less himself in the Police Academy franchise — he transitioned to […]

YIM & YANG: An Email Q&A With MMJ’s Jim James

  BY JONATHAN VALANIA The Kentucky hair farmers of My Morning Jacket may look like 38 Special, but they sound like the reefer-mad angels that sit on Neil Young’s shoulder on a good night, cranking out sweaty, fist-pumping, three hour hoedowns of indie-centric southern-fried beard-rock. Fronted by the irrepressible Jim James — fuzzy-faced, Buddha-bellied, rocking a cape and a Cousin It haircut, whirling about the stage dervishly with a towel over his head — MMJ has cranked out seven stylistically varied albums in 18 years, slathering bruising he-man riffage and bombastic beats with ethereal harmonies, sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd if […]

THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATIONIST: Q&A With The Kinks’ Guitarist/Songwriter Dave Davies

  BY JONATHAN VALANIA For anyone under 30, the best way to hear the Kinks’ deathlessly literate, arty, and quintessentially English guitar pop is watching the films of Wes Anderson. Pretty much any one will do – they are all larded with choice cuts indelibly wedded to strikingly precious visual tableaux. The films lend the music a vitality and transgenerational reach that members of the Kinks are no longer capable of. The songs may transcend time, but alas the men who made them cannot. Still, I have long been on record attesting to the fact that if the Martians landed […]

NO SURRENDER: Q&A W/ Amanda F*cking Palmer

  BY SOPHIE BURKHOLDER After a six year break from her solo work, singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer is back with a new album called There Will Be No Intermission. Her most personal work to date, she openly sings of her experiences with abortion, miscarriage, and the death of close friends. Now on tour in support of the new record, she plans to re-emphasize an emotional connection with her fans in three-hour-long shows that will arrive in Philadelphia at the Temple Performing Arts Center on Saturday April 6TH. We got her on the phone in advance to talk about the themes of […]


EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally posted on July 16th, 2012. To mark the sad passing of Dick Dale at the age of 81, we are re-posting it. BY JONATHAN VALANIA Surf music? Dick Dale invented the stuff. Pure mainlined adrenaline, it is. Like a pocketful of white lightning. Nitroglycerin on hot wax. Surely you’ve seen the opening moments of Pulp Fiction. Easily the most thrilling marriage of profanity, felony and surf music in the history of American cinema. Rock guitar? He re-invented it. He is more or less the bridge between Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Jimi Hendrix and […]

NEW DAY RISING: Q&A W/ Former Husker Du/Current Porcupine Bassmaster Greg Norton

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Five years ago, I went to Portland to profile Bob Mould for a MAGNET cover story. In the course of many hours of interviews, I asked Mould the question he’s been asked 457,876,621 times on the off-chance that the 457,876,622nd time he’s asked if Husker Du will ever regroup the answer would be different. No such luck. “There’s no need, there’s no need,” he says.”That band did everything it had to do the first time around. To try to put the lightning back in that bottle ain’t going to happen. You know, I’ll be really simple about […]

DON’T KVETCH WITH TEXAS: A Q&A With Kinky Friedman, The Last Of The Jewish Cowboys

  EDITOR’S NOTE: This rollicking interview was originally published on June 12th, 2012. We are reprising it here in advance of Kinky Friedman and Dale Watson performing at the Locks At Sona on Monday March 18th. Enjoy! BY JONATHAN VALANIA Kinky Friedman has worn a lot of hats over the years, both literally and figuratively: Satirical cowboy singer-songwriter (“They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore” and “Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed”); serial detective fiction novelist; friend to animals; scourge of the phony, the corrupt and the ignorant; purveyor of fine tequila/salsa/cigars, and failed […]