Thursday, October 29, 2009

MICKEY FREELAND: Mo Fresher Than The Produce Section

MICKEY FREELAND aka Mickey Free aka Bow N Arrow is a very talented young man. Lately he's been working in his brother Chris' studio Beat Babies recording, mixing and engineering Baltimore bands like Noble Lake, Sri Aurobindo, and most recently Jana Hunter. Some might say that he is personally responsible for recommending that all of Wham City relocate to Baltimore from SUNY Purchase. He is definitely responsible for running in a Baltimore rap-pack including but not limited to Jones the Rapper, Height, PT Burnem and AK Slaughter, and for mastering a turn of phrase that would embarrass your mother even when his mother is in the audience.

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
I'm a producer/rapper/mix engineer. But the most fulfilling thing I do is waiting tables. I'm just now finishing up producing/mixing the new Height record.

How long have you done these things?
About 12 years.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
Well, I don't really want to do anything else, and aside from making people laugh, there's not much else that I'm naturally very good at. I'm not stupid; I'm sure I could do other things, but i have actual nightmares about going back to school, you know? This is the the thing for me.

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
Actually, I kind of had that recently. Last fall I had kind of a nervous breakdown after my first big music "break" fell through. It tour me up and I thought I was gonna be a failure. I was on some "....and I never even graduated COLLEGE!!!" type shit, real miserable, defeated and scared. Anyway, I started to come out of it, and started playing more shows again. I played an awesome show at the Zodiac in spring I guess, and the crowd reaction was just great. I got off stage and I had that glowing feeling. I was watching the next group ( I believe it was AK Slaughter), and they were great, and I felt great, and I just thought, "THIS is what I do. It's really all I'm gonna do (music in general, that is)". And that felt fine. I mean, I'm still scared about the future all the time, but now I feel like I'm just going with my DNA, you know?

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
I'm REALLY trying to worry less about the future and just do what I feel like I have to do. if I feel like I'm loosing steam, I'll try to remember that we only get ONE shot at this life thing. Thats really amazing (and scary) if you think about it. So you have to make a big attempt, you know, even if it ands up as a big failure. It's pretty good just to try in a lot of ways.

How has your work affected your life in return?
It's a double edged sword. The more I focus and get done, the better i feel about what I'm doing and the path I'm on. But the stakes get higher, too. The more you believe in yourself, the more it hurts if your dreams get dashed.

Can you tell me a little more about your relationship to rap music?
I started rapping at about 11 as a joke, cause my brother Chris began a novelty rap group and I said "that stuff is so dumb, any one could do it" he said "prove it" and I came up with this: "I'm running for Rapper, in the next election, cause I'm mo fresher than the produce section". he was impressed and I joined the group. With in a few years myself, my brother and my best friends Dan Keech, Bob Sherin and Mike Romano had all begun listening to rap seriously and started rapping seriously. I guess because we were already music geeks we appreciated rap for how great it was a bit earlier than some of these other white motherfuckers in the game of life.

Is it how you started making music in the first place?
In a way yes, but I started playing guitar soon after and that was my main instrument until the end of high school. I was in a couple rock bands with my brother and the rest of those previously mentioned dudes. We were actually all in the band SUPER BASS QUAD which in ways was a precursor to Oxes, my brothers popular math rock band. He played drums in SBQ.

How does rapping make you feel? Do you find you are able to say things that you couldn't otherwise?
Well, I tend to say whatever it is I'm thinking most of the time anyway. But lately in particular, I'm finding that I like to put even more of my own thoughts and opinions into my tracks. Rap is a great medium for putting your own strange take on things out into the world, because it follows a pretty rigid structure in general, but the subtleties you bring to the table are what really sets you apart. For a long time I just focused on flow and snappy lines, but now I'm really making an effort to put as many of my own personality quarks into a track as possible. I was/am scared to do this, cause the things I think about the most are Race, Sex, Depression, Comedy, History... topics that are either controversial, disgusting or just plain boring. But I think I can maybe say a lot with a little, which is what you're trying to do in a rap verse. So instead of just finding different ways to say I'm awesome, I'm hoping that if i put enough honesty into my rhymes, even if people are put off by the subject matter, they'll be able to dig where I'm coming from cause the format/delivery is inherently entertaining. Hopefully.

To answer the first part of your question, rapping makes me feel pretty great. I struggle alot over lyrics, but once I'm satisfied and I'm actually performing it's the shit. I guess you kind of feel like you're a bard that happens to be rocking the fuck out of the king's court while telling a cool story (that totally made sense so just keep reading). Plus if I perform well I might get to blaze sex with an impressed female.

Tell me about your relationship with your brother Chris Freeland and what you've been up to with him lately.
Chris is the milkman's son. He's four years older. He is absolutely, 100% the person most responsible for getting me into music and developing my own sense of humor, which is how me and him first became close. Around the time that I was in middle school, I think he saw that I was finally smart enough to have a not-totally retarded sense of humor, and also to appreciate music for the first time. It was like a project for him. He took me to shows and let me hang out with his cool friends, who are now my cool friends. Since then I think we've really both been sounding boards for each other. We're closer than ever right now, in large part due to the studio that chris has started. We've both been into mixing and recording our own music for a while now, but since Chris got a Pro Tools rig 2 years ago, that aspect of his creativity has really taken off. At this point, he's basically recording bands full time. I began assisting him this past year, after learning some of the basics interning at Lord Baltimore Studios. I believe us working together in his studio (called Beat Babies) is really opening up a whole new chapter for us creatively. I never really learned music theory, but I know what sounds good. Me and Chris come from the same perspective that way; we just love production. We both kind of see it as a part of the creative process to mix/engineer/produce an artist. It makes me feel like I'm in the band for a few days, offering what I can. I get a HUGE thrill being able to help someone get the sound they have in their head to come out of the speakers. It's great. I'm just impatient with myself and I always want to be better than I am. But I guess that's good? Anyway, Chris and I really work well together because we see eye to eye on music; we hear a song and in many ways we already know how it should sound, and often times we're thinking the same thing. He is also insanely diplomatic in a recording situation, which is fucking crucial.

What does humor mean to you? What does humor mean?
Sometimes I wonder, if I could only be funny, or only make music, which would I choose? And I think in a way I'd rather be funny. If I couldn't joke around I'd go nuts. There are people I know and admire for whom making music is like breathing; they can't help themselves, their understanding of melody and song structure is that strong. Jenn and Andy from Wye Oak, Dave Heumann from Arboretum, Cass McCombs. I look at them and wonder where that comes from. I never felt like I had that. I've got a basic feel for music that I've built upon, but it didn't really come that naturally. Humor is different for me. This sounds big-headed I guess, but since I was fairly young I just felt like I knew what was funny about a situation. Something happens and my brain just says "say this, it'll be awkward as hell!". I guess I just see how every situation, no matter how mundane, is totally ridiculous on some level, so why not have fun with it, you know?

A sense of humor is so important to me because I think it's really a window into someone, and society in general. By sharing a joke, or observing one's reaction to an off-color comment, you learn a lot. You learn what their hang-ups are, you may learn what their turn-ons are, you can tell what their politics are or if they're practical or a dreamer. I love to make leap-of-logic, abstract kind of comments and see who picks up what I'm putting down. Usually it's one of my best friends who's on my page already. Humor is like mortar to a friendship, at least with my friendships. It's what makes my brother and I so close. When we were young, The Simpsons molded us and made us realize that comedy is high art. I think if you can joke about something, it's like the easiest way in the world to find out how you really feel about it, and that is invaluable. Plus, it's easier than reading a dumb book.

First ten words that come to your mind when you think of David Lee Roth. Don't think, just write. David Lee Roth: GO
Paramedic. Blond. Sunglasses. Leopard. Hair. Hot. Wild. Happy. Strong. Satisfied.

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Do you think success makes people like us, artist types, happy? Do you think most creative people feel they need recognition to be validated?
I think the thing that makes creative people truly happy is the freedom, time and space to achieve their desired ends, with true success as a measure of how much of this type of freedom one is able to sample within their lifetime. Success is completing a project to your own satisfaction: you feel happy because you were able to do it your way, and maybe sharing it with others brings happiness. Sometimes not. Happiness is not always the thing to shoot for; speaking for myself, these days I'm happiest doing a crossword puzzle or listening to people talk about Huey Lewis & The News. Sometimes happiness feels like something else entirely, like nausea or vertigo. As for validation, some people want to be acknowledged elaborately, some people would rather just do their thing and wear sunglasses and not make a scene, and some people won't show the world their gifts until they've penetrated the veil. Its a matter of taste as well as a matter of survival; whatever it takes to get you through the month. The good news (slash bad news) is that, these days, recognition of things and people is at an all-time high.

KIM TABARA: Disagreeable to the Patrons

KIM TABARA is the pen name of one of Baltimore's most elusive yet dedicated supporters and scenesmen. He is a proficient writer, friendly chap, and he's been going to shows in Baltimore since before the city started acting like South Williamsburg. Two things about Kim are evident: one, he is very quiet, and two, he is absolutely everywhere you think you need to be.

What do you do?
I write and I make music.

How long have you done these things?
I am from a musical household, so I have been singing since I could verbalize. It started in a public way in children's choir, moving closer to its present form via bad grunge bands in high school. Guitar/instruments came later via the Unheard Ones.

I started creatively writing in middle school. I remember getting in trouble for writing mash-notes to crushes. I wrote for my high school newspaper, extolling the virtues of the Melvins, Fudge Tunnel, and Universal Order of Armageddon over the prevailing G'N'R wisdom. I wrote for my college newspaper, sometimes filling out the entire A & E section with my odd rants thanks to a complicit editor. Towson University didn't seem to care as much about the Fall's album reissue campaign as I did.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
I think I do both because they allow me access to emotions that I have trouble expressing otherwise. I think I do both because they leave me deeply satisfied after doing them in ways that other activities do not. I think I do both because I have to.

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
I was in a noise band called Within (this incarnation featured original members Mike Apichella and Lisa Starace). Let's say it was 1995 or so. We were playing a coffee in house in east Baltimore, near where I grew up. The music we played was so disagreeable to the patrons that we forced the majority to leave the place and stand outside until we were done. When we completed our set, the patrons criticized us and our music, attacking us verbally on the street as we loaded out our gear. Although I have written and sung things that have had the opposite effect in people, I think I always hope to inspire that reaction in some people whenever I make anything. If I don't, I'm not doing my job.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
I was already heading in a certain direction in my life at that point, and you could argue that that moment (and moments like it) cemented it. I have lectured on the topic "How Baltimore Music Destroyed my Life," and I still believe that lives I could have lived were destroyed in those times. I wonder if I will ever again feel so clear in purpose and determination as I did that night. I have been chasing that moment ever since, of being able to rattle skulls, to attack with great effectiveness our modern mess, to pierce the veil, to ruin someone's evening by making them think about things they don't want to think about.

How has your work affected your life in return?
I feel like my work has created a chain of connection between my past and present. I do not see this all of the time, and I often assume that the flame of my creativity has guttered and almost gone out, but then I look back and see that no matter that circumstance in which I have found myself, I have always been trying to make music and write. It has created a body of work that only needs to matter to me.

Is David Lee Roth still relevant? How?
David Lee Roth is an amazing human being. He has the ability to charm the pants off of anyone. No matter how far he has gone into doing outrageous and self-indulgent things, you cannot help but love him and root for him, unless you are another member of the Van Halen continuum.

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
How's it going?
Pretty well, thanks!

Writing Link:
(Beatbots articles listed, if you scroll down)
Music Link:
(best summary of my musical activity thus far)

Monday, October 19, 2009


Rjyan Kidwell is also known as CEX. Scooped up by Tigerbeat6 at the tender age of 17 or thereabouts, he's been thirsting along music's electronic byways for almost nearly but not quite decades. He's inquisitive, brutally smart and a voracious reader. These days, he lives in Baltimore, does the dishes, and makes frequent public appearances.

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
I pretty much only ever really just pray all the time. That’s what I do the most, both in terms of frequency and percentage of the over-all effort I put into living. If I were the United States’ budget, praying would easily be my defense spending. But I suppose it’s “defense spending” already anyways, innit?

How long have you done these things?
Longer than I’ve done anything else I still do. Maybe 16 years? Which, now that I say it, seems like a really long time to nurse a secret of this magnitude. Dan Savage never answers my letters for some reason, and there’s basically no one else on the planet I can broach this topic with safely. Imagine going somewhere for 16 years where no one ever called you by your real name—could you imagine suddenly after 16 years what it would be like to hear a stranger’s voice suddenly call your name out somewhere behind you? That’s what this interview suddenly feels like.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
It makes me feel good. Exactly because the prayings make me feel physically euphoric and —perhaps even more importantly— completely present, this is precisely why I am all the time doing them. To override my programmed, robot mind— the mind that can never leave the site of clocks or dollars, the mind that manages the litany of inane and repetitive tasks I must complete over and over and over in order to earn the money for the bank and the landlord and all the politicians and the drug dealer— having access to a completely non-diminishing method of flushing that mind out of existence, even just temporarily, is something for which I feel a profound, genuine gratitude. It makes me feel connected me to the Earth from which I was born in spite of the web of alien contrivance the military-industrial people-management behemoth has used to ensnare my existence.

I think ancient monks would understand how I feel— praying a hole right through the polluted ozone, lifting your voice above the maddening, bloodthirsty racket made by the rest of humanity, shooting a prayer out into diamond-speckled space farther and faster than any graceless hulk of materialist science-sculpture will ever be able to travel, so that the source of this immutable and ever-present good that I feel whilst praying will know I am here and that I have not forsaken the beauty of her natural arrangements.

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
That Moment has been the climax of virtually every prayer I have executed in during the course of my adult life, a re-occurring phenomenon which, when ranked against any other re-occurring phenomena, easily comes out to be the most preferable of all re-occurring phenomena. In every case, there was a literal climax. The most literal climax. The archetypal climax. Most of the time there’s more than one, and every person who joins in these kinds of devotions magnifies the scale of every climax (indeed, of the entire universe, which must expand to yet contain it) exponentially. Like the prophet says, “Wherever three or more are gathered in my name, I am there.” Group prayer is a holy ritual and people who are deprived of that experience cannot truly contemplate unity with anything but the foggiest approximation. Tragically misdirected violence gushes like a geyser of blood from the wounded psyches of these isolated creatures. That’s how you domesticate an animal— you put a rubber band around their nads and eventually they turn black and fall off.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
It’s pretty easy, I don’t need any equipment or particular environment of any kind, I can pray basically anytime, anywhere. And contact with that force to whom I feel so much gratitude— that immersion in, and merging with the source of mercy itself, with a fountain that never stops flowing, that has gentleness and mercy in quantities far more than sufficient for any and all who desire— it is necessary for me to experience this regularly, or else I begin to feel morbid, irritated, and rash. I’ve been sure to organize my life in such a way that material concerns can’t ever draw me too far away from my communion with the infinite, with the physical manifestation of (and material evidence of!) love.

How has your work affected your life in return?
It is probably the only thing in this universe that has stayed my hand the many times I’ve lost my patience with humanity and felt it necessary to fatality the whole species at once.

Please expound on your favorite book, movie, color and breed of dog or cat or horse.
I think EYES OF THE OVERWORLD by Jack Vance is maybe the best book. It’s about the future, when the sun shines much less brightly, and nobody knows how much longer til it goes completely out, and everyone’s a dick.

On a scale of one to ten, how hot is David Lee Roth at his hottest? What/ when is his hottest? What is ten?
Ten is when you see the person for the first time and you immediately start freaking out like Eddie Vedder at the end of the Jeremy video, shaking your head and doing the “Spo-o-whoaaa-ken” part and the “Woo wooo woo” part and the “Ay yay yay yay” part, all the parts near the end of the song. That’s ten, that’s what ten is all about.

His hottest was when he was nineteen years old, and on this scale he was maybe a 5.

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
How do you feel about techno?
Yes! What is techno? What constitutes the basis of techno? It seems to have so many attractive and ingenious variants. Fancy perky guises. Awful hideous manifestations. What accounts for how it can be so good and fun and so bad and irritating all at once, or if not all at once then how is it that elements closely related either gel or chafe. Good rave and bad rave are very close neighbors, why is that? The drugs?It seems to take so little to make something that is often lame truly exciting and interesting. By little I don't mean talent I mean tiny turns of electronic phrase, choice changes etc. Here's what I like: MJ Cole, Carl Craig, Mouse on Mars, Lo-Fi FNK, that French House stuff, Chili Hi Fly, Morgan Geist and the Environ 12" series so I really like Metro Area, plus Bolz Bolz, and Chicago dude Beige, oh man this is really making me miss WEEKEND. Do you remember that store in Chicago? Jim Magas would buy the music and his wife would make soap and bubble bath goo. What a field day. "Jim, whats the awesomest thing you've heard all week?" BLAM. Also at the time I was working for Thrill Jockey (2000 - 2002) so I was listening to a ton of Sonig stuff, Schlammpeitziger etc.
And then that at Robert Johnson in Frankfurt a DJ played a techno version of a Spyro Gyra song I used to listen to religiously at age 13. Almost puked from nostalgia and back-seat feelings. Who can get me that gig of the lady who sings one or two phrases over and over during the course of a song?

Rjyan can be found at
Top two photos by Rjyan, bottom orange-shorts photo from CEX Wikipedia page
he's on twitter too @cexmang ha ha ha

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

JAMES JACKSON TOTH: The Halcyon Days of Chipmunk Punk

photo of James and Jessica by David Garland, WNYC

James Jackson Toth AKA Wooden Wand AKA WAND lives in Tennessee with his wife Jessica. He's released dozens of albums under a variety of guises and combinations. At one point, he made a really ornate record with tons of complicated and well-known personnel, and then later, after what is widely acknowledged as the worst year of his life, he made a stripped-clean bare-knuckles singer-singing-songs record. The latter, Born Bad, showcases a raw voice, creepily straightforward lyrics and a confessional, curse-peppered jukebox-and-peanut-shells atmosphere. Born Bad also begat the dawn of WAND, working-class everyman layered in filth and heartbreak, traveling aimlessly.

James Jackson Toth's favorite book is Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridien, his favorite movies are Apocalypse Now, Tender Mercies, and/ or Paper Moon, his favorite color is "fresh spinach green" and his favorite dog is a Boston Terrier, for which he "would gladly lay down (his) life...if it looked at (him) just right."

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?

My pleasure is skee ball but I come here for a hot dog. Also, I'm a songwriter, which is not the same as someone who writes songs. Lately I've been writing songs and making chili. No songs about chili yet, but I assume one is imminent.

How long have you done these things?

I started writing songs pretty late - freshman year of college I think. I wanted to be ready. But I've been obsessed with music as an art form since the halcyon days of Chipmunk Punk.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?

I don't really decide. I guess it makes me feel good, like I am doing God's work. Otherwise I wouldn't do it. I've been pretty good
at avoiding things I don't want to do for most of my life. I'm superstitious and believe there is a reason I've been blessed / cursed with a communicable muse, so I put it through the paces, so to speak.

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?

In my 5th grade yearbook there was a section where you had to write a poem about what you were going to be. I wrote a really lousy poem that went something like "I'll be the bassist in a heavy metal band / we'll play on the street and on the sand." Well, all of that has come to pass, among other things and, lousy rhyme or not, I have performed on both sand and gravel.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
Resigning myself very early to a life of no health insurance, nothing resembling a long term plan, the role of a wastoid in the eyes of most of the western world, tedium, fear, etc. But also ecstasy, joy, love, friendship...

How has your work affected your life in return?
My work is life and vice versa, so I have no idea. I might have been a good veterinarian. Or maybe a dog trainer. Something with dogs. Who knows.

Does David Lee Roth affect who you are? If so, how?
Funny you should ask. Diamond Dave figured prominently in what could be called my formative years. We didn't have MTV when I was growing up, but when we'd visit my grandparents for the holidays, I'd bring blank VHS tapes and tape a years worth of music videos at their house to watch back home. I used to watch the videos for "Yankee Rose" and "Goin' Crazy" over and over again, those were my favorites. I memorized every frame of those videos. I still really love Eat 'Em and Smile - that album rules, and holds up surprisingly well.

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Do you watch reality TV?
Sometimes. Especially on the machines at the gym because it feels like I'm earning it.

Learn more about the world of James Jackson Toth

Max Eilbacher of Needle Gun gets down in the dishcoteque

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Samantha Cornwell is an artist living in LA. She graduated from Brown University in Providence, lived in Brooklyn for a time and recently relocated to the West Coast. A focus on women's studies, storytelling and performativity manifests in her work, more of which can be found at She doesn't have a favorite color at the moment, but she's waaaay into bloodhounds.

What do you do?
I do a lot of video installation art. I've had a lot of opportunities lately to show my work, which is a great way to get motivated.

How long have you done these things?
I've been working in video for about four years now. It started in college when I took a summer class with a professor named Marlene Malik. When I was younger I was really into theater, but I got to a point where I felt like I was not getting what i needed from it. This made the discovery of my passion for video even more exciting.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
I do my art work because I have to in order to communicate a certain side of myself that I can't effectively express with words and body language alone. When I have an obsession, the best way for me to organize my thoughts is through doing a piece about it.

When I'm making a piece I feel insane, but in a way that is very productive and rewarding.

Still from The Caribbean Debutante's Index

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
Its hard to pick just one. I've known I wanted to be an artist since I was little. I was very productive in college, but after I graduated and moved back home with my parents I was in a little bit of a creative rut for awhile. The stress of the job market certainly didn't help either.

A very recent moment occured surrounding my move to Los Angeles from Brooklyn. This was four or five months ago. I was working a job I hated at a recreation center in Queens, and got a job offer to work on a certain TV show in Los Angeles. I was looking for a way out of my job, so I jumped on the opportunity. Around the same time, a friend of mine named Alice Shay was curating a show at a place in Brooklyn called The Division of Human Works. The show was called "Shape Shifting: Reinventing Heritage". Alice requested that I do a piece for the show. At first I considered turning it down, because at this point I had about two months until I was due to move to Los Angeles, and I knew that I had a lot of stress ahead of me. However, I suddenly had this realization that I didn't have any substantial creative work to show for the year and a half that I had been living in New York after graduating from Brown. Sure, I had started many projects, but hadn't finished anything. It became clear to me that it was very important for me to do some good work that I could be proud of if I wanted to have any hope of continuing on as an artist. I was at risk of losing it for good.

I'd been meaning to do a piece about my maternal grandmother for awhile, but had not seen one through to completion. My grandmother died when I was seventeen. We had been quite close when I was a little girl, but as I developed into a selfish teen that changed. Her death really threw me a curve ball, and to be honest, I've never really gotten over the loss. Alice's show seemed like a great opportunity to do a piece around her, especially since it involved the theme of heritage.

For the next month and change I worked my ass off on the piece, dividing my time between filming, editing, typing, building, and collecting objects that I felt would evoke my grandmother's spirit and persona. In the end I had a piece that I was really excited about, and it involved food too! The show opened on March 20th of this year. At the opening a lot of people saw my piece and responded really well to it. The whole experience really drove home how important it was for me to be prolific, and make pieces that really engaged spectators. 10 days later I moved to Los Angeles.

Since I've been in LA, my motivation has grown stronger. I currently have an installation up in a show called City Of Angles, which is at the At&t center. The change of scenery coupled with the spark set off by the show in March has really done wonders for my mind and my drive. Maybe one day I won't want to make videos, but I can't even fathom it.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
In the past I was so focused on gainful employment, that I didn't really leave enough room for art work in my life. These days I really don't let those stresses effect me as much. My jobs here in LA tend to be project to project, so in between things I take time to work on my own art work, and other projects that are of interest to me. Its not as stable as having a 9-5 job in an office that I go to 5 days a week, every week, but it allows me to do what I want to be doing, and keeps things interesting.

How has your work affected your life in return?
It fulfills me, and gives me opportunities to meet really interesting people that I may not have met otherwise.

What does David Lee Roth mean to you?
Haha. I really like his cover of California Girls. Almost more than the original. I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan, but I'm glad to live in a world that he exists in. Maybe some day I'll do a piece about him.

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Yeah. Do you think David Lee Roth has aged gracefully?


Samantha can be seen in action on her website and here:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

JENN WASNER OF WYE OAK: Fluids Notwithstanding

Jenn Wasner & Andy Stack are Wye Oak, a rock and roll duo from Baltimore. They are both in their early twenties and have been touring nonstop recently. This interview was executed right before they went to Europe with the Dodos, and then scrambled all over the US with Blitzen Trapper. The image above is Jenn at the Merge Records 20th anniversary party where they hot-tubbed with Superchunk. The last time I saw Jenn was in the Nordstrom Rack men's shoe department, where we discovered that Andy & I have roughly the same size foot.

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
What do I do? I just spent the last week visiting family out-of-state, trying to construct viable answers to that very question. I think I do music. Play in bands and stuff. I play in this one band, Wye Oak, which is about to go on tour for 9 (count em!) weeks starting in September. That band consists of me and my colleague Andrew Stack. We just put out a new album that looks like this:

I also play in this band Noble Lake, in which Andy and myself (along with an illustrious cast and crew of pickers, pluckers and jammers) expound upon James Sarsgaard's gothic country masterpieces. This summer we made a record, which is, I think, mostly finished.

But lately, it seems like what I'm doing the most has very little to do with either of these things. Mostly I'm just doing...bullshit. Like, dishes and laundry and balancing of checkbooks, etc. Trying to tie up loose ends so that when we finally do leave for tour in a couple of weeks I can just ride the know?

How long have you done these things?
I've been playing in bands for all of my teen and adult life, but only in the past few years have I been lucky enough to start doing real stuff like touring and answering sweet interviews! (I like this interview because I find myself writing like I would if I was just talking to you, Lexie, even though I know other people will read it, probably.) Anyway...yes...let's go with four years.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
Because I have few other skills (other than waiting tables, which you know I am amazing at) and playing music as my "job" is just as incredible and fun and exciting as you think it could be. I even like the crappy stuff, like the excessive driving and the playing with crappy bands sometimes and the shitty road food and all of that. I never really got to travel when I was a kid so even driving a few hours away has this super extreme energy to it that I really love. And sometimes people like your band, which is the best of all.

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
Probably when our label (the swell folks at Merge Records) send us a casual email one day that was like "hey, whaddya say we put out this record of yours and basically legitimize your entire band and make your dreams of being a career musician come true!!" That's not what the email actually said but that's how I read it. That moment pretty much made it possible for us to do everything that we currently do. I was out shopping with a lady friend when Andy called to tell me the news and I started babbling and spouting fluids and embarrassed myself in front of the whole store. That was a GREAT day, fluids notwithstanding.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?

My life has changed in major, major ways. I pretty much do music stuff now, which seems kind of insane. People I don't already know come to our shows and listen to our music. I've gotten to travel around to awesome places and meet great people.

How has your work affected your life in return?
Well, for the most part I was pretty much prepared to keep at this music stuff indefinitely, because I had no other plan for my life and I was just going to MAKE it work. But the fact that it happened so quickly is amazing, not least of which it kind of vindicates me in the eyes of my immediate and extended family. There were a lot of judgments passed when I dropped out of college to wait tables and start a band. Not that it was that big of a deal...I'm sure most people in creative/arts professions suffer the same judgments daily. But I have to admit that it is really nice to go to my grandparents, for example, and be able to present them some indicators of "success" in a context that they can understand. Like, "so-and-so blog really likes my band" doesn't mean anything to them. But "hey, you can buy my album in BestBuy!" --that means the world. It really means a lot to me that they can be proud of me in ways that they understand.

What is the best thing David Lee Roth has to offer the world?
By far the best thing about David Lee Roth is the existence of this website:
I spent like an hour and a half doing this.

For more about Wye Oak:
and myspace and stuff

RIC ROYER: The Spaghetti Carbonara of the Rich

Current artistic director of the LOf/T at Load of Fun (voted Baltimore's Best Theatre Space by the Citypaper in this year of our lord 2009), Ric Royer is perhaps best known as part of the Performance Thanatological Society with longtime collaborators Jackie Milad, G. Lucas Crane (nonhorse), Bonnie Jones and Lauren Bender. His chimeric monologues are a springboard for his rampant and hungry imagination; often, the effect of time and place transports Royer in his work to places he may have never intended, to places that are as surprising to him as they are to the audience. It is often difficult to identify whether the source of Royer's verbage is composed and deliberate or from a strange and boundless place only freshly emerging right there onstage, and that's one of the great things about seeing him live. Photos accompanying this interview are from his most recent work with the Performance Thanatological Society, 50 Greatest Ladies and Gentlemen, taken by the lighting director Yi Zhao at the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre in NYC.

What do you do?

Talk. Talk on stage. Teach. Organize. I am also a terrible person. I’m sorry if I have hurt you. You too have hurt me whether you know it or not. And this is what makes me hurt others. When people ask "what do you do?" I will be forced to answer, "I can't make love- at least not successfully- without the cold, sharp feeling of a straight razor being held to my throat". This is how advanced I really am.

How long have you done these things?
Talk: Since 2. Talk on stage: since 6. Teach: since 28. Organize: since 20.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?

No, I will not answer this question, I cannot even think about this question. The last time I sat down to think about "why I d
o blah", I kept myself awake for 72 continuous hours. The only way to even approach an answer to such a question (which is not to answer it, but to at least create a reasonable perspective devoid of ego-centrism and self-delusion) is to consider why the maggot lives for the rotting slab of meat, which, to the maggot, is only the entire universe. This is "life": a rancid hunk of pork. To each their own they say. So why life at all? There is so much in the cosmos, and so little of it is alive and aware. But "life" continues to strives to be alive. If the conditions are right, the cell will stretch itself to an amoeba, the amoeba to the sea creature, the sea creature to the land animal, the land animal to man. Darwin hesitated to call this progress, and I can understand why. Too often, life is no consolation for the fact that we die. Lexie, I know, there are days when you are alone in your room and you jump up from your beanbag and shout "Why am I so Hungry, Horny, and Obsessed With Terror?!" Although the answer to this question can hardly be answered in any satisfactorily accurate way, it should come as lukewarm comfort to know that YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE. If you can tell me why I am so hungry, I will tell you why I make art. If I can tell you why you are so horny, you can tell me how my work makes me feel. As I am writing this, a moth keeps bumping into my screen door trying to get to the light on the other side. Duh.

When was That Moment in your life that told you you
would become what you are? What happened?
The seeds are different from the growth. I think the seed moments were many: Catholic School, child psychology, faces of death, my first video camera, ghostbusters, Emo Philips, gameshows (especially Gong Show), etc.
But the growth moments are more formative, more easy (at least for me/at least I think) to identify. And those were the first times when I started doing the things I do today, ie the first show I organized, the first book I wrote in the manner that I write today, the first time teaching in front of a classroom. Without the execution, its just a bunch of seeds hidden underground.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
Oh, I didnt really provide ONE moment. Was I suppose to? Did I do something wrong?

l to r: G Lucas Crane, Ric Royer. photo by Yi Zhao 2009

How has your work affected your life in return?
I could have been the type of person that I would not accept as a friend on facebook because, although we had the same upbringing, I consider the person to be a foreign entity, not a thing, not a person, but a thing that used to be a person but was turned into a thing by a process by which people are turned into things.
This situation that I'm describing is a nightmare; what if I meet the person I could have been and we hate each other? Same face, same insides, same brain matter, but nothing but intolerance and disgust for the way we live our lives? We often have a difficult time relating to our past selves, but only the most fractured of us can not relate to ourselves in real-time. Weeee, Im freaking myself out!

How does David Lee Roth make you feel?

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Did you see that guy just get punched in the stomach?

What about that time we visited your cat? How did your cat feel afterward?
Good times, eh? Yeah, that was what you called, "controlled". I’m trying to use the word "controlled" as a substitute for the word "cool". try it: "whoa, that band totally controlled." or "Nah, Thurman is controlled, he's just rolled some bad dice in his life." or "I really had a controlled time at the County Fair. Zeus."
Oh, and to answer your second question, he felt cool.

What is your policy on?
I seriously believe that the popular platforms for creating political identity (abortion, gay marriage, immigration) are hollow shibboleths that stand to recklessly impact the lives of everybody EXCEPT the politicians that use them for their own political purposes. Yet, I still firmly believe that such issues as gay marriage, abortion, immigration and gay abortigration (the forced abortion of fetuses of gay immigrants to be used to meat up the spaghetti carbonara of the rich) are only overshadowing the only true issue about which to be concerned: LOCUSTS!

Did you see that guy just get punched in the stomach?

Actually, I did. Got 'em right in the nose.

What are some horror movies that you like?

Alien. Don’t Look Now. Night of the Living Dead. The Hunger. Lost Highway. Suspiria. Anything by Nora Ephron.

When will we be too old?

Very soon, my friend. Very very soon.

Am I a person or a thing of a person?


For more more more Ric Royer:

For Yi Zhao's photos of 50 Greatest Ladies and Gentlemen: