Tag Archives: interview

Greg Renoff on Van Halen Rising

Van Halen Rising
Van Halen Rising

Once a band achieves fame, it becomes fairly easy to read a variety of articles about the members, or the music. If a band’s early days gets addressed, often those details are relegated to two to three paragraphs of a profile. So a while back comics creator Cully Hamner intrigued me, when he made folks aware that Greg Renoff‘s upcoming book, Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal, was to be released in October 2015. Renoff’s book title makes clear part of what he sets out to reveal, but the aspect that really hooked me into learning more was the author’s decision to focus on Van Halen’s pre-1978 days (aka before they were famous and successful). To get a glimpse of Renoff’s writing style (as well as a taste of his post-1978 Van Halen knowledge) be sure to read his recent Medium piece, which also features legendary photographer Helmut Newton. If that is not enough fun for you after reading this interview, please be sure to peruse Renoff’s Van Halen Rising website.

Tim O’Shea: This book was researched partially by 230 interviews you conducted. How long did it take to conduct all of them?

Greg Renoff: I did my first interviews in 2008. When I first started, I was spurred on by curiosity about Van Halen’s early days more than the idea I’d write a book. I talked to a LA nightclub owner who’d booked Van Halen in 1976 and then to a Pasadena drummer who’d seen the Van Halen brothers perform live long before David Lee Roth joined the band. Then about a year later, I had a break from teaching and decided to dig into the topic some more by doing more interviews. After I started hearing more tales of the band members’ wild days before they were famous, I saw that there was a great story here that needed to be told in book form.

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Mary Jo Pehl on Awesome Music For Awful Movies Kickstarter

The day of the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon seems like the perfect time to tell folks about Mary Jo Pehl‘s (aka Pearl and so much more from MST3K, as well as Cinematic Titanic) Kickstarter for Awesome Music For Awful Movies. This is a project she has planned to record (as described by her) “an album of original songs that pay homage to bad movies of Mystery Science Theater 3000 . . . The songs will be written by veteran Twin Cities musicians Michael Warren, Claudia Hankin, and Tony Balluff, and performed by yours truly in a variety of genres such as power pop, ballad, pop-country”. There are seven days left in the Kickstarter, which seemed like the ideal time to chat with her about her plans. I consider myself fortunate enough when I get to catch up with Pehl.

Tim O’Shea: When and how did you decide you wanted to team with Michael Warren, Claudia Hankin, and Tony Balluff to pursue this project?

Mary Jo Pehl: Over the past several years, many people came up to me after Cinematic Titanic shows and told me how much they loved “When Loving Lovers Love” from “Overdrawn At The Memory Bank.” I’d been trying to come up with a new project that might push me past my comfort zone, and let me work with people who were smart and funny and whose work I admired.

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Karyn Oliver on Her New CD, Magdalene

Oliver-MagdaleneIt is always good to catch up with a musician I interviewed in the past, to see how their work had evolved in the interim. The last time I interviewed Karyn Oliver was nearly three years ago. The mid-2013 release of Oliver’s new CD, Magadelene, prompted this new series of questions. A great deal has changed for Oliver in the past three years–but I will let her tell you about that.

Tim O’Shea: Since we last spoke in late 2010 (for your previous album, Red Dress) you got married. Has that major life change influenced any of the songs you wrote for this new album?

Karyn Oliver: Well, sure. Anytime you change, your writing changes with you. “Red Dress” was all about a major life change – I was getting divorced, so the album was all about transition and overcoming and becoming. I think “Magdalene” is a far more empowered album. Even the heartbroken songs have some sense of personal power. My narrator is a bit more mature, a bit more confident.

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Rediscovered: Paris Review 1986 John Irving Interview

Periodically, I will go scanning for an interview of a favorite writer of mine. Today, I stumbled across a gem of an interview with novelist John Irving in the Summer-Fall 1986 issue of The Paris Review.

Before following the link, consider this excerpt:

Titles are important; I have them before I have books that belong to them. I have last chapters in my mind before I see first chapters, too. I usually begin with endings, with a sense of aftermath, of dust settling, of epilogue. I love plot, and how can you plot a novel if you don’t know the ending first? How do you know how to introduce a character if you don’t know how he ends up? You might say I back into a novel. All the important discoveries—at the end of a book—those are the things I have to know before I know where to begin. I knew that Garp’s mother would be killed by a stupid man who blindly hates women; I knew Garp would be killed by a stupid woman who blindly hates men. I didn’t even know which of them would be killed first; I had to wait to see which of them was the main character. At first I thought Jenny was the main character; but she was too much of a saint for a main character—in the way that Wilbur Larch is too much of a saint to be the main character of The Cider House Rules. Garp and Homer Wells are flawed; by comparison to Jenny and Dr. Larch, they’re weak. They’re main characters. Actors know how they end up—I mean how theircharacters end up— before they speak the opening lines. Shouldn’t writers know at least as much about their characters as actors know? I think so. But I’m a dinosaur.

Jamie S. Rich Interviews Matt Wagner

Jamie S. Rich is a writer/editor who I have respected and interviewed over the years. Now, it appears he’s trying to put me out of a job as he has started a new interview project, From The Gutters. I joke about him trying to put me out of work, the more folks out there interviewing creators–the best off we all are as an industry.

Considering how well he does in this first interview, with writer/artist Matt Wagner, we are all better off for Rich having started these interviews.

Continue reading Jamie S. Rich Interviews Matt Wagner

Mark Cohen on His New Allan Sherman Biography

Overweight Sensation: The Life & Comedy of Allan Sherman
Overweight Sensation: The Life & Comedy of Allan Sherman

This year marks the 50th anniversary of American comedy writer and entertainer Allan Sherman’s hit, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!  For years, Sherman had been someone that had fascinated Mark Cohen, enough that he had researched Sherman a great deal. But with the anniversary fast approaching, Cohen realized he wanted to write a Sherman biography, Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman. To mark the release of his book, I conducted an email interview with Cohen about Sherman. Enjoy.

Tim O’Shea: The timing of this book was perfect in at least one way, given that the book benefited from your extensive interviews with Sherman’s ex-wife, Dolores “Dee” Golden–who sadly passed away in 2012. Was she reticent to talk to you at first?

Mark Cohen: Just the opposite. I heard from the Sherman children, Robert and Nancy, that their mother was eager to talk with me. I perhaps foolishly delayed calling her because I wanted to make sure I was fully educated from other interviews before we spoke. And when we did speak we found we had a rapport and enjoyed each other. I interviewed Dee almost every day for a month, and we had sporadic conversations after that initial in-depth period. Her contribution was crucially important. There were only a few things she did not want me to print and I honored her wishes. The story was complete without them, anyway, and no biography is ever truly comprehensive. You can only include the scraps of the life you gather up from what’s left over after decades have passed. There are always things you never find out.

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Brian Hudson on his new release, Comfort Quest

Brian Hudson: Comfort Quest
Brian Hudson: Comfort Quest

It has been more two years since I last spoke to Brian Hudson about his music. This past February, Hudson released his latest album, Comfort Quest. In addition to discussing the challenges of recording this new album, Hudson opened up about moving to New Orleans and the impact the change in surroundings has had on the singer/songwriter’s music.

Tim O’Shea: What was the biggest challenge to recording this new collection of songs?

Brian Hudson: There were so many challenges. The album was in Austin unfinished when I moved to New Orleans. So finishing it meant driving back to Texas for long stretches to work on the project and making the money through gigs to pay for the project simultaneously.

The fiddle and piano tracks I recorded myself with my own rig in Los Angeles were plagued with glitchy poppy sounds and I spent days trying to find a technological solution. Ultimately I found a miracle plug-in called Izotope which is able to bandage badly damaged audio.

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Playwright Crystal Skillman on Geek!

Becky Byers as "Honey", Allison Buck as "Danya", & Emily Williams as "Ellen" in GEEK! by Crystal Skillman
Becky Byers as “Honey”, Allison Buck as “Danya”, & Emily Williams as “Ellen” in GEEK! by Crystal Skillman

Let’s forgo the klunky introduction and jump right into the mix. Playwright Crystal Skillman‘s play, GEEK!, opened on March 21, 2013, at St. Mark’s Church 131 East 10th Street, 2nd Floor, and runs through April 13. Tickets can be bought here. She is so great to interview and covers so much ground, nothing more needs to be said.

Oh, OK, if you insist, here’s the official play description:
“With pissed-off Pikachus, steam punk armies, stood-up Sailor Moons and roller-blading monsters on the prowl, it’s easy to get lost in the Inferno-esque anime convention where the fans, the otakus, and the geeks prowl. But to score a rare signature from their comic book idol, teenage outcasts Dayna and Honey will take on obsessive magic players, Jedis and elfs, cosplayers and convention guards – through all nine flights of Ohio’s Dante’s Fire-Con – to get a chance to shake hands with their pop-culture hero.”

Tim O’Shea: Was there a certain con experience in particular that inspired this play?

Crystal Skillman: Yes! About three years ago Fred and I were at the Miami Super Comic Con. We’d been to many cons together – I love being his girl friday and taking photos of him signing and being a booth babe and all. But I adore checking out each convention and how different they all are too. I feel like at each one you’re seeing who has come in, but also those who live in the area – one of the great joys is seeing Fred meet fans from all over. The Miami con was quite big and sprawled over three levels each clearly designated to comics, anime and gameplay. It was held in an interesting space full of nooks and crannies more than other cons I’d been too. While Fred was signing at the booth, I began taking photographs that began to truly inspire me. As I captured the awkward beautiful vulnerability and tenacity and just spunk of these cos-players, coupled with the experience of watching fans for so many years coming to Fred’s table being so affected, I strongly felt there is a play here. A play the explored and celebrated fandom. The play, as crazy fun as it is, became more and more personal reflecting my own Geek past, that has so inspired and affected by whole life (for example I’m the kinda gal that made my mom drive me to school, before I could drive, to avoid being made fun of on the schoolbus :) ), suddenly kicked into high gear. I wanted to write a play that was poppy, fun and which captured the con experience, but truthful to the struggle all Geeks have to find who they connect with and who they are.

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Adam Szymkowicz on Clown Bar, Compulsive Love

Clown Bar
Clown Bar

February 27 is going to be a great day for writer Adam Szymkowicz for two reasons. First up, previews will start on the Pipeline Theater Company production of his clown noir play, Clown Bar (February 27 & 28 at 8PM) at the Parkside Lounge (317 E. Houston St., New York, NY) before starting a run of Fridays & Saturdays at 9PM performances from March 1 – March 23, 2013.

Secondly, the first episode of the Szymkowicz-written web series, Compulsive Love, will premiere on February 27. Compulsive Love has the great tag line of “A show about a man being punched in the face by love and the women wearing the brass knuckles.” In this interview, we discuss both projects.

Tim O’Shea: Am I correct in thinking that Clown Bar is partially a musical? Did you always envision the project having music?

Adam Szymkowicz: It has four songs in it.  There is a character who is the singer in the bar and he sings all the songs.  Sometimes I like to put one or two songs in my shows, though I can’t say why this play has four songs in it except to say it always did.

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