Monday, December 4, 2006

Sean Lennon Interview, Cut Parts

Instead of having these questions go to waste, I thought I would publish them here, there are still some interesting parts, although the best parts were put into the article.

Scott Bolohan: How has the tour been going?
Sean Lennon: Really, really great actually. I only have one show tonight in Seattle before I take a break. It’s our last show tonight and it’s been really fun.
SB: What’s been your favorite song to perform?
SL: Probably “Would I be the One” and “Falling Out of Love.”
SB: Why’s that?
SL: Because they have some really, like, rockin’ sections in the outro that are fun to play.
SB: What’s the best concert that you’ve ever personally attended?
SL: Probably Pink Floyd The Wall, when I was really young, that famous tour when they had the painting? stuff that came down in the back of Madison Square Garden, you know, all the special effects and stuff. It was awesome.
SB: After you’ve been collaborating with other artists for many years, what made you come back to make your solo album?
SL: I don’t know. Things just came together. It just kind of organically evolved, naturally. I don’t know what made me do it. It’s not like I didn’t have songs before, I could have been making records every two years. I didn’t want to for some reason, and then for whatever reason I had the right circumstances, right people around, and it just felt right and it just happened, and now I have one.
SB: In the future, do you think you’ll be releasing albums on a more regular basis?
SL: I hope so. I’m not sure, but I’d like that to be the case.
SB: Did you have to learn how to fence for the video?
SL: Yes I did.
SB: With people like you and Beck using video to accompany the album, do you see this as a direction that music is going, especially in the age of music piracy?
SL: I kind of feel like visualism and audio are going to merge even more in the future simply because of technology.
SB: Is there a relationship between your art and your music?
SL: Yeah, of course.
SB: Many people start bands to meet girls, make money, or get famous, what drew you into music?
SL: Definitely not that. I think it was the challenge, it was the hardest thing I could do with my life, so I did it.
SB: Did you have any formal training in music?
SL: No, I was self taught.
SB: Bands like the Rolling Stones and Brian Wilson are in their 60’s and still making music and touring, do you see yourself still doing music when you’re in your 60’s?
SL: Well, yeah. I just hope I make it to being old, it’s kind of thinking far ahead, but yeah I don’t want to look like an idiot when I’m playing new songs.
SB: Any plans for 2007?
SL: I’m going to be touring. Touring, touring, touring.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wolfmother Interview

This is my interview with Chis Heskett, the drummer of Wolfmother. It will probably be appearing in an upcoming issue of The DePaulia.

S: How’s the tour been going?
W: Great, it’s been cool. We played new states and the crowds have been awesome. Excellent.
S: Did you guys do anything for Thanksgiving?
W: Not really, we kind of had a day off and everything was shut which mean we could sleep. We were in New York and we went to friend’s house and he cooked a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast, it was great. We didn’t get a turkey but it was still really good.
S: Was it your first Thanksgiving?
W: Yeah! We gave thanks.
S: What’s your favorite animal?
W: (Pause) um, I like dogs.
S: Dogs? Did the other guys want it to be Wolfmother and you wanted it to be Dogmother?
W: Yeah (laughs)
S: What is it about wolves that make it so popular for band names, like Wolf Eyes and Wolf Parade?
W: I don’t know, I’m not sure. There’s a bunch of bands in Australia that have wolf names as well that we didn’t know about either. I think there’s something in the water. I’m not sure, I guess it’s a cool animal.
S: It is pretty cool, yeah.
W: Sounds cool (laughs).
S: I think last time you were here was for Lollapalooza. How was that?
W: That was amazing, that was great. Perry Ferrell came up and met us before we went onstage.
S: What is he like?
W: He was great, he was very cool, he was like when he was announcing us, he gave a little speech, he was like ‘combing the past and the future!’ ????
S: I was actually at the show, I saw you guys it was really cool. Did you get to see any other bands there?
W: Um, we saw um, um we really didn’t get to see a lot. We saw Gnarls Barkley, we didn’t get to see too much other than when we were walking around. I love that festival, such a cool spot.
S: It’s so cool with the city in the background.
W: And the water on the other side. It’s cool.
S: What’s a typical day on tour like for you?
W: It depends what were doing. At the moment were on the bus, which is coo. You wake up and then you’re in the next city. Kind of wander around, get something to eat, sound check, hang around waiting, play the show and get back on the bus.
S: Do you get sick of the other band members?
W: Oh yeah, we all get sick of each other. (Shouts in the background) (Laughs).
S: What’s your favorite song to play live?
W: Um, um, um I like Pyramid and Joker and the Thief, it changes from night to night.
S: Do you get tired of playing the same songs every night?
W: Sometimes, we’ve been playing them over and over again. You do, it’s only like every now and then. (Laughs)
S: Speaking of Joker and the Thief, what was it like working with the Jackass guys?
W: They flew out to Sydney to film it, it was filmed over two hometown shows, we had two sold out shows in Sydney and they just came and hung out and filmed around backstage. They had their own band room, it was like a circus, it was amazing.
S: Did they try to get you guys to do any stunts?
W: Wee-man kind of leap out from underneath the couch I was on once and tried to get me in the nuts. That was about it, they were super cool guys, they were hilarious. It was kind of like when you’re crazy and the rest of the weekend you freak out. But then when they go you miss them. They’re like constant amusement at all times. You pass their van and it would smell like vomit and they’d drink all your beer and they were beating each other up all the time, it was great.
S: What was it like introducing Led Zepplin to the UK Hall of Fame?
W: Aw man, that was the most high pressured, scariest night of my life. There were so many big wigs there like Jimmy Page, who was there to get inducted and accept the award. Tony Iamai from Black Sabbath, David Gilmour, Brian Wilson, George Martin, Prince, Beyonce, Bon Jovi, they were all there and watching. We had to play a Led Zepplin song and I fucked up the start of it, it was scary. (Laughs) It was cool.
S: Did you get to meet any of those guys?
W: Not really, I was a bit scared.
S: Everyone always says that your influenced by people like Zepplin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, what kind of music do you actually listen to?
W: I guess that we do listen to that stuff, but it’s one tiny little sliver of what we listen to. I like psychedelic music, kind of everything from the ‘60’s up to now. I like jazz and hip hop and rock. There’s good stuff in all the genres.
S: What was the last CD you bought?
W: I bought Small Faces but I haven’t really listened to it, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake or something. It’s like an old ‘60’s album.
S: What is it about Wolfmother that appeals to such a large audience?
W: I don’t know, it’s pretty straightforward rock music, so I guess its accessible. When we started we played in little clubs around Sydney and we had these biker dudes with black hair at the show freaking out and also really young people. I guess because it does have an old school sound so people that were around in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s can access us right away, they know what it’s all about, and also young kids who have never heard it before can get into it for the first time.
S: How do the crowds in America compare to the Australian ones?
W: They’re pretty close, I think rock crowd are pretty similar around the world. I think its different city to city rather than country to country. I think the real major cities the crowds are more relaxed. All the shows here have been amazing, we’ve had such a great response. Once the people get to know the music better after the album has been out for a while it get better.
S: What’s something Americans don’t know about Australia?
W: I don’t know. (Laughs) I think there’s funny TV footage that shows America doesn’t know much about anywhere but America (Laughs). But that’s really generalizing (laughs). I haven’t done any surveys, I should get a video camera out and start interviewing our fans.
S: What do you consider to be the highlight of your career so far?
W: I think just getting the copy of the album for the first time, getting the finished product that’s been imprinted enmarked and getting a copy on vinyl. Getting a copy on double vinyl, that’s alright for me, that’s what it’s all about, that the finished product.
S: Since you released the EP in 2004, you’ve become pretty big pretty quick, do you think you’ve “made it?”
W: I don’t know what that means really, I don’t know. What do you mean ‘made it?’
S: Do you feel like this is what you always wanted to do and now you did it?
W: Yeah, I guess so, to be in a band touring the world, recording music, I guess we have made it, we’re playing music full time, we don’t have other jobs, we’re traveling around the world. So yeah, for me, this is a dream come true.
S: Is this what you wanted to do when you were a kid?
W: Yeah, but it’s something you never thought you could, to me it’s always been this kind of magic thing that you want to be part of but you don’t really know how. I guess we just spent a lot of time jamming and discovered music and how to play music. I think it’s something we’ve always wanted to do. It’s like a childhood dream really. I remember I used to sit in school and draw guitars and bands and hair bands, metal bands.
S: I read that you designed the cover of the debut album…
W: No, no I didn’t, the first EP in Australia I designed the cover, it was like a white cover with a triangle, kind of psychedelic volcanoes looking thing, it was actually Frank Frenzetta who designed that, so I can’t take credit for that because its incredible.
S: So your not still doing design anymore?
W: I think music has kind of taken over, when we had a lot of time, when we were starting out, I kind of had a lot of things going on. The music has kind of taken over. Maybe in the future. (Laughs)
S: What do you have planned for 2007?
W: I’m not sure yet, I’m not sure. Management wants to tour our asses off again. Our manager was saying that bands put in all the groundwork and they tour their asses off, especially bands from Australia because its so far, you have to work a lot harder. You put in all this ground work and play so many shows and by the time it gets kind of playing the shows where you get the big money, hopefully we can pace ourselves, not go insane.
S: Do you think you guys will work on any new material?
W: Yeah, we just kind of started to, it’s cool, especially when you’ve been playing the same songs every night. But yeah, we’ve been jamming, it’s exciting, it’s fun.

Friday, November 3, 2006

The Rapture Interview Uncut

Getting Ready for The Rapture

Coming of their 2003 album Echoes, which was named Album of the Year by Pitchfork Media, New York quartet The Rapture released Pieces of the People We Love, which continues the catchy indie dance music from their previous release. They their high energy live show to The Metro on Sunday, November 5th. I called saxophone/keyboard/percussionist Gabe Andruzzi when he on the tour bus in Boston.

Gabe Andruzzi: Are you calling from Lincoln Park right now?
DePaulia: Oh, you know Chicago?
GA: Yeah, I used to live in Chicago a long time ago. I had maybe one or two friends that went to DePaul.
D: Where did you live?
GA: I lived a bunch of different places. More or less like around Wicker Park and Humboldt Park, like Ashland and Chicago, and then way down Damen by the United Center and then I lived in Humboldt Park right near the Empty Bottle.
D: You guys were supposed to play Lollapalooza this year, what happened?
GA: Our schedule was really crazy at the time, and Luke had just had a child, I don’t really remember exactly what it was we just kind of became overbooked, and part of it had to do with us in personal.
D: Any chance we will see you there over the next five years?
GA: Probably, I’d say there’s probably a good chance, were you there?
D: Yeah, I was there, it was pretty cool.
GA: Was it fun?
D: Yeah it was great, lots of people there, more than I thought there would be.
GA: That’s cool. I can’t even imagine it, Chicago being overrun by a festival like that. Seems crazy.
D: It’s in Grant Park, and you look around and the city is all there, and there’s a huge swarm of people, and all the bands are playing, it’s surreal.
GA: It is weird, I’ve actually played in the bandshell once in Grant Park.
D: When was that?
GA: It was part of a protest that a convention was there in ’96 and it was like a bunch of weird Chicago bands. I don’t know if you know any of them, but like Flying Luttenbachers and Bobby Khan.
D: What were you like in college?
GA: I only went to college for a year and a half, and I went five years ago, so I was in my mid-twenties.
D: What were you majoring in?
GA: Ethnomusicology and religious studies.
D: What were you studying in religious studies?
GA: I was just beginning, I was studying the basics of how religious studies works, it’s a very broad field, but I was going to do something dealing with ritual music, like ritual religious music.
D: How did you get started with the saxophone?
GA: I think I’ve been listening to a lot of music with saxophones and my roommate at the time had a horn he played all through high school and college and I was like nineteen. I always jumped from instrument to instrument. I played like guitar and bass and drums all while I was a teenager and I picked up this horn and played it a bunch, got into it and decided I wanted to be a horn player.
D: How often do you hear “more cowbell?”
GA: A lot, actually, but not much in the past week. I used to hear it all the time.
D: I imagine it’s real annoying.
GA: Yeah, I guess it’s kind of annoying, it can be, it depends on who’s saying it.
D: So Will Ferrell has had an influence on the cowbell industry?
GA: He has definitely had an influence on the culture of the cowbell and how people think about the cowbell and relate to it. It’s a funny fuckin’ skit. He’s a funny man so you can’t really be mad at him.
D: Does The Rapture have beef with Jessica Simpson over the “Get Myself Into It” video?
GA: I don’t know. Not in particular, we had already set up it up a week before we shot it and we found out Jessica Simpson was doing a roller skating video, and we’re like ‘aw fuck, Jessica Simpson is doing a roller skating video and we’re doing a roller skating video?’ So it kind of made us feel a little dumb. But we found out what she was wearing and the director and Mattie (Safer) wanted to have her in the video and just kind of do something fun with it. And it’s fuckin’ Jessica Simpson. You can’t take her seriously as a musician, she’s just like a big cultural icon. I don’t think we were really trying to take a cheap shot at her or anything, we were just trying to do something goofy. I mean her videos, she’s trying to be funny. Have you seen her video?
D: Yeah.
GA: She’s trying to be clever and self depreciating at the beginning and then the whole video is like a big piece of pop candy. I kind of feel like she’s the polar opposite of what we do and what our roller skating video is like. Whatever, I’m fine having beef with her and I’m fine not having beef with her, it’s not really worth much of my time.
D: So we’re not going to see tabloids about a feud with the Rapture and Jessica Simpson?
GA: Oh no, we could go on tour together, that might be fun. Or do a movie together. I would love to do a movie with Jessica Simpson.
D: What’s the best part and the worst part of touring?
GA: The best part is really playing the shows and being able to play to a different audience every night as well as also kind of seeing places, or seeing cities. The worst part is not actually getting to really see cities, going somewhere and only being there for half a day, and a lot of that day your working. Waking up on the bus is always slightly alienating. The best part is definitely playing the shows, definitely performing, playing music.
D: Do you have a favorite song to play live?
GA: I think right now I really like playing “Get Myself Into It” and “The Sound.” I just really like playing the horn on “Get Myself Into It.” It’s a lot of fun to play it for some reason.
D: Is it hard to go out night after night and give a high energy performance, or does it come naturally with the music?
GA: It can be hard. Because the days when you are usually on tour are pretty low energy and then you get really amped up. So, when you come right out at first, it takes a little time. In the big picture of things being hard, its not that hard. It’s a weird thing to do. It’s a weird thing to do, it’s a very strange thing to do, to get up and perform and have lots of energy and have this rapport with audience for an hour, hour and a half every night. It’s hard to explain. It’s definitely like a weird kind of high. It’s kind of like sports in a way, when your adrenaline really starts pumping, and if it’s going good you get slightly euphoric.
D: In the last three years since the record, how long did you actually have off from The Rapture?
GA: I don’t know, maybe all in all, not seeing anybody, maybe two and a half month.
D: What did you do in those two and a half months?
GA: Probably one or two of them were Christmas vacations. You know, get out of town for a couple days here and there, go to the beach. I sat in front of my computer a lot, making music. There was never a stretch more than a month long. Like when we finished touring off of Echoes we took a month off.
D: Everyone seems to be making a big deal about switching producers, and the three new ones on the album, how much of an effect did it really have on the new album?
GA: I think it had a big effect. Part of a general approach to the new album was that in Echoes half the song were songs that the band had performed a lot and then the other half were songs the band kind of played and started writing and took shape in the studio. Whereas on the new album, we wrote tons and tons of songs before we got into the studio. We didn’t really write anything in the studio, everything had been demoed and played and that was central to the approach of making this record was to really have it be band focused. So starting there was in some ways the bigger thing. The relationships we had with the producers were all people we knew and were all friends, so we just pretty much just went into the studio and started working. With the DFA it was a long process before we started even recording Echoes and it was recorded over a longer period of time because everybody had day jobs. We weren’t in too much of a hurry. It’s hard to really say in that respect to really say what the difference is as far as what did each of the producers bring to the record that made it so different as opposed to when we worked with the DFA, because there’s so many other variables.
D: You seem to be always compared to bands like Gang of Four, is that annoying or do you feel flattered?
GA: For me it’s never really here or there, I’m not all that flattered, I mean they’re good band, but they never really hit me personally.
D: What do you listen to?
GA: I listen to a lot of different stuff. I listen to a lot of like, prog and prog disco, a lot of spacey disco. A lot of electronic music, and like house and electro. I listen to a lot of hip hip. I listen to a lot of early renaissance music. I started getting back into jazzy recently which I haven’t to really listened to in years. I started pulling out my old jazz record. I listen to a lot of west Africa music. Phillip Glass, that’s my dude. We all listen to a lot of different stuff. Luke (Jenner) listens to a lot of metal. He’s been getting into like shredding on the guitar.
D: Do you think it helps to have different musical backgrounds?
GA: Yeah, it does, it helps. It can get in the way as well, I mean we all listen to a lot of different music, we all have different approaches to even to listening to music and thinking of music. I think what we have in common is we’re familiar with a lot of different stuff. We all really love music, I don’t know if we’re record nerds, but we’re music nerds in different ways. It makes it easier, it can mean that we’re all open so we’re all open to each other and each others ideas. But what’s central to the band is our love of rhythm and our love of rhythms that makes people move.
D: What’s Robert Smith like?
GA: I only met him a couple times, he seems like a very nice shy person, who is possibly slightly paranoid.
D: Did you guys do anything special for Halloween?
GA: We played a show at the Bowery Ballroom. We wore skeleton costumes and wore these skull masks that would light up. They had a little battery in it. We did a dance to the “Monster Mash” before we played. I don’t know if it worked or what it looked like, not one person actually commented on it to me. We didn’t really decide on the dance moves until right before the show. We’ve been on tour so we did have time to work things out and kind of one of our qualities is that extra things like that we always kind of do half-assed with a lot of sense of humor. I don’t know how it went over I’m really curious. (Laughs)
D: I’ll be looking for it on YouTube.
GA: Somebody must have shot it on there with their camera or their phone or something.

An exerpt of this appeared in the November 3, 2006 issue of The DePaulia.

Demetri Martin Interview Uncut

These Are Questions…And Answers

Demetri Martin performed at The Vic on Thursday, November 2nd behind his new CD/DVD, These Are Jokes. Martin recorded the CD over a couple of nights at the Lakeshore Theater in Chicago last February. Since then, he has been working at “The Daily Show” as a Trendspotter and also signed on to be the spokesman for the new Microsoft Windows operating system, Windows Vista. He called me from the tour bus on his way from Boston to Albany.

Scott: Why did you choose Chicago to record your CD?
Demetri: I choose Chicago because the summer before I tried to record my CD on my own, I didn’t have a deal with Comedy Central or anything, and the emails I’ve got the last two years were generally Texas, like Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago, so that summer, when I first tried it I went to San Francisco, I booked my own little gig…I just checked where I got emails from and the city the people generally wanted me to come to and I never got to perform in Chicago, and I didn’t like the way the recording came out (in San Francisco) because I didn’t hear it right, there were not enough microphones in the room, I mean the crowds were awesome, but the quality wasn’t good, like I don’t want to put this out. So then I ended up getting a deal with Comedy Central so I got better help so they could give me a good sound engineer. And I said I’ll do Chicago, ‘cause I haven’t been there and I bet you that’s the biggest crowd. So my first gig ever in Chicago are the ones that are recorded for my CD.
S: It seems like a lot of comedians are doing Chicago now for whatever reason.
D: The crowds are awesome, they’re great. They’re just, really like, warm, and into it.
S: What were you like in college?
D: I’m a dork, I procrastinated a lot, I liked hanging out with my friends, I got good grades. I did a lot of activities.
S: What were you involved in?
D: Student government, soup kitchen, I ran the soup kitchen, I started a youth group for Greek kids, what else did I do? I did some intramural stuff. Um, I can’t remember, it’s a long time ago now.
Scott: What’s the biggest difference between working for Conan and The Daily Show?
D: The biggest difference is I don’t have to spend that many hours at the Daily Show. I was a full time staff writer for Conan. It was about sixty hours a week. The Daily Show is once a month. Just go in the office, know what I mean?
S: Do you get to choose the Trendspotting topics or do they kind of suggest them to you?
D: It’s 50/50. I started by pitching them, and I get to pitch them and then sometimes they give it to me. It goes back and forth, like something is coming out and they’ll be like ‘Why don’t you do this?’ And it could be cool, and other times they’re like ‘What about this?’ and then they’re like good, light it up, let’s see what you got.
S: Have you noticed a lot more increase in your popularity since you started doing the Daily Show?
D: There’s a slight increase. It’s all on a small scale. When you’re in comedy, you tend to think things are bigger than they actually are. But every now and then you get a glimpse from the outside, in the regular world, and I’m really flying under the radar. So then in comedy, you can feel yourself kind of getting more exposure, but outside it’s just like a little drop, a blip.
S: Have you met anyone from working with TV that you were in awe of meeting?
D: No, but I got to meet Woody Allen and that was pretty cool. I don’t tend to get too star struck but he was pretty interesting. And I met (Steven) Spielberg. Those are a few biggies that I was just lucky to be in the presence of people with that are that accomplished. Even if it’s just like a half an hour, it’s just like ‘Wow, that’s great’. They were both gracious and they seemed like normal cool people, like nice people. You read so many things about people and you just know them as a weird public figure, not that I know them personally, but to be able to talk directly to that person, it’s a little bit surreal. They were really nice, Woody Allen was very friendly and outgoing and talkative, and I had read things like he doesn’t look at you, you know, he’s weird, blah, blah, blah. He was really nice, taller than I thought he would be, and he seemed like a really well spoken older guy. Steven Spielberg was very relaxed, kind of soothing, calming, you know? They’re self possessed; they’ve made so many things in their lives they just really know who they are.
S: How did you get hooked up with Windows Vista?
D: I got an email out of the blue and it said “Would you be interested in doing an ad campaign?” I said, ‘maybe I don’t know,’ and it went further and further and I ended up pitching them an idea and they liked it, so it kind of went forward.
S: The website is pretty cool, you can’t even tell it’s an ad almost. The webisodes are really cool too, it seems like you have a lot of creative control.
D: Yeah, it was awesome. I didn’t get to direct, but I got to get my input on almost every part of it. And I got to write and act in it. So they were amazing, like I thought it was so cool they said ‘don’t worry, we’re going to be really hands off they just want something out there that’s very soft, the product placement is not obnoxious, and sure enough they stuck to their word, it’s really cool.
S: Are you going to be doing more with them in the future, like television ads or are you just going to stick to the webisodes?
D: For Microsoft, it’s just the web. They’re sponsoring an hour-long special I’m doing for Comedy Central. So again, that will be kind of soft advertising. To me it’s all very tasteful. I think it was a good decision in the end.
S: How did you get started with the glockenspiel and all the other instruments?
D: I did a one man show in 2002, and I wanted to score it, I wanted to make a real one man show, and it involved creating as many aspects of it as I could. So in addition to writing and performing the show, I thought I could put music in the show that I write myself and play. I made the clothes I wore in the show, I painted the postcard that would be posters for the show, I did some drawings for the show, but I didn’t know how to play music or anything, I didn’t have any instruments, I Started from scratch at that point. And I just fell in love with trying to learn and play music. So I just decided to try to put more and more of it in my act because I liked how it set the mood and it’s fun for me onstage to try to do a couple things at once.
S: Who do you listen to, as far as music goes?
D: I love the Beatles. And a lot of indie rock stuff. I kind of go through favorites, like Granddaddy, Elliott Smith. I’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen lately, ‘cause I never really listened to him. Jeremy Enigk, he has a new album coming out, he’s like a lo-fi singer songwriter kind of guy. I like Death Cab, I just watched the Bob Dylan documentary, awesome.
S: I saw Bob Dylan last night, he was here in Chicago, it was pretty cool.
D: You saw him? Really. How was it, did he do a lot of weird mumbling?
S: Yeah, he like barks the words almost, it’s kind of awkward. But at the same time you feel like, ‘wow that’s Bob Dylan’ and you’re so entranced by the whole experience. But as far as musically, it was kind of a disappointment.
D: Yeah, I heard that from somebody else. Did he do “Like a Rolling Stone?”
S: Yeah he did, he played some of his new stuff too and that was pretty cool too.
D: How big was the venue?
S: About four-thousand seats or so it was pretty intimate.
D: That’s pretty cool. Sweet. It’s too bad I missed it. It would be like ‘holy s***.’ It’s so cool to see Bob Dylan, there’s certain people that are just a part of history, on that level like that. I’d like to see (Paul) McCartney, I think that would be cool.
S: I saw McCartney last year, it was a lot better than Dylan, but he played a much bigger venue so you didn’t feel as connected. Anyways, what’s the best and worst part about being a comedian?
D: The best part about it is that it often doesn’t feel like work. It just feels like thinking and talking. The worst part about it is when it feels like work, because you can’t stop thinking or talking, it stays with you all the time. You don’t really leave the office, you kind of go everywhere with it. You can lose the other part of just having a life. I think that’s the danger of it.
S: How long of a process is it to be able to write a joke and then actually perform it?
D: Sometimes I think of one just before I go on. And then other times it will be in my notebook for a couple years, just trying to figure it out and fix it. You kind of find it’s very non-linear, it’s just trusting your own little head to go where it takes you, and then recording what you find when you go there. Then you say it to other people and see if they think it’s funny too, if they don’t then you learn quickly, ‘ok then that shouldn’t go in the act.’ Yeah, it’s very simple.
S: What are you working on now?
D: I’m halfway through a screenplay, after the tour I’ll finish that one. Then I’ll have the holidays, then I’ll rewrite another movie, that I actually wrote a script for with my friend. Then after that I’ll probably rewrite the first draft of the screenplay, then after that I’ll write the first draft of the third one, and then it’ll be the summertime, and I’ll take a break.
S: Is writing screenplays harder than writing a standup act for you?
D: Yes. It’s definitely harder for me. It’s incremental, you know? I guess a screenplay can be, but it’s one big piece, whereas a joke is short and if it’s no good then you can just move on.
S: How hard was it to try to get your mom and your grandma to participate on the CD?
D: They were willing. They were like ‘yeah we’ll do whatever you want, let us know.’
S: Are you surprised you got a parental advisory sticker on the CD?
D: Yeah, I knew that, I was there for the edit, and I kept a couple jokes that curse in there, part of me wanted to have no curses on the CD, but I wanted it to be kind of honest, I just wanted it to be like one of my shows. Yeah, I curse a little bit, I don’t do too much dirty stuff, but there’s some curses and stuff.
S: I was kind of shocked that they gave you an advisory sticker, but I could see how they did.
D: Yeah, I’m not a big dirty comic, for better or worse I do curse sometimes, but if I do another one maybe I’ll do it with no curses, who knows.
S: One last question and I’ll let you go, are you doing anything for Halloween?
D: I thought I was going to, I didn’t know what I was going to be but I would just go to my friend’s, my friend has a Halloween party every year, it’s really fun and you see a lot of people there in New York, but I’ll be in Columbus, doing a Daily Show spot.
S: What are you doing for the Daily Show?
D: I’m doing a Trend Spotting piece, So I don’t know if I’ll be in the edit room that night, so I might be dressed as a guy trying to edit his piece.

An exerpt of this appeared in the November 3, 2006 issue of The DePaulia

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bob Dylan Concert Review

Music's Parthenon

There’s something about going to see a legend that makes you go the extra mile. Or in this case, about forty extra. Bob Dylan played the brand new Sears Centre in the northwest suburb Hoffman Estates on Saturday, October 28th. While getting there may have been difficult, seeing someone as significant as Dylan was worth it.

Dylan is one of the few people alive today who has played a role in shaping a generation and changing music. I mean, he’s in history books. But his heyday was forty years ago, and now most people know him by covers from other bands. Remember that famous Jimi Hendrix song “All Along the Watchtower”? That’s Dylan. This man reeks of history. And now touring on his latest critically acclaimed album “Modern Times,” Dylan shows how much the times really are a-changing.

The first noticeable difference is Dylan stays hunched over a keyboard the entire show, only addressing the audience after the encore to introduce the band, letting his band take over most of the music. The days of him playing acoustic solo are long gone. The second, and perhaps worst change is his voice, which has never been noted for its beauty, is now not much more than croaks and barks. His voice at times is recognizable as that from years ago, but most of the time it is hard to understand and painful to listen to. It is almost like a nasalier Tom Waits. For Dylan, who’s voice is sometimes called the voice of the Sixties, it is particularly disappointing to hear how deteriorated it has become over time. Third, for a man with countless brilliant songs, he rearranges them all to make them unrecognizable. In a way it makes the concert more interesting, but only in the way that it keeps you guessing trying to figure out what he’s playing. The songs are not changed for the better either, most have lost their edge and seem much more mundane.

That said, its fascinating watching Dylan. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him during the entire set. You feel as if you’re watching something special and historic every time he makes a movement. I kept thinking that when I got older, I would tell my kids about when I got to see the Bob Dylan in concert, and know that his music would transcend the generations.

Dylan was accompanied by his five-piece band, all in grey suits, while Dylan took stage slightly to the right in an all black suit with a black cowboy hat. The band was flawless, almost too polished. They played an unbelievable set list, playing classic after classic. The songs, however, were hit or miss. The new arrangements left some songs lacking their previous bite, like on the racial protest song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” which lost its intensity and became laid back and almost sing-songy. Likewise, on the brilliant “It’s Alright Ma, (I’m Only Bleeding),” Dylan’s voice obscured perhaps his best lyrics of his career, by him speeding up the delivery and singing very gruffly.

However, sometimes the arrangements worked, perhaps because the tended to be closer to their original sound. On “Positively 4th Street,” Dylan delivered the lyrics very clearly and with the same force as he did in the Sixties. “Hollis Brown” became spooky and Dylan sang delicately to accompany the mood of the song. The new songs, which there were surprisingly only three, were also standouts. “Rumblin’ and Tumblin’” was the most energetic song of the night and even more explosive than on the record. Dylan closed with fan favorites “All Along the Watchtower” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” He played harmonica on a couple of songs to fan’s delight, and whenever he would was an instant highlight.

The Kings of Leon opened, which was a curious choice for someone to open for Dylan. The blistering southern rock group was not appreciated by the mostly baby boomer audience. They played twelve songs, and the faster songs, like “Molly’s Chambers” and “Taper Jean Girl” were full of energy. The slower ones tended to drag on, but they kept to the more rocking ones usually.

Seeing Dylan play is like visiting the Parthenon, it was probably a lot better when it was new, but at the same time, you know you are seeing something important. The heightened mystique around Dylan in recent years only added to the excitement of seeing him in person. However, a lot of the time it felt like a letdown and gave me the feeling of watching the man who used to be Bob Dylan. The show may not have been all that great, but the experience was.

Rating: 2.5/4

Friday, October 20, 2006

Lou Pinella Column

Feelin’ Lou-py
by Scott Bolohan
Staff Writer

Oh, Cubbies. You’ve done it again. Lou Pinella was completely wrong guy for the job of defending National League Central 6th place Chicago Cubs. However, Wrigley Field will at least be a more interesting or dangerous place to be. They might need to amend the "beware that batted or thrown balls and other objects may enter the stands" warning to specifically include bases, hats, shoes, middle relievers, and anything else Lou can get his hands on. It’s going to be a long season. On the bright side, Pinella will bring fire that was missing under the tenure of Dusty Baker.

Although pretty much any other human being would have brought more intensity than Baker, they didn’t need to bring in a guy who wrestled one of his relievers in the early ‘90s. The Cubs should benefit from his presence, but mostly because it would be hard to see them doing any worse. However, Pinella has been a pretty good manager in the past, without a doubt. His .517 career winning percentage, two Manager of the Year Awards, and one World Series ring attest to this. But it should be noted that the difference with those teams were that they were actually good and not cursed.

On the down side, Pinella’s addition means that the Cubs will probably try to pour more money into free agents. Not that I don’t love last year’s "big" free agent acquisition Jacque Jones (OK, so I pretty much despise him), but if there is anything this club should realize, is that wasting money on free agents doesn’t keep the fans happy, although Old Style dulls this effect. Winning really makes them happy. Come September, the ever-loyal Cubs fans stopped flocking to Wrigley, leaving many open seats for the first time in years.

Looking at the teams in this year’s playoffs, it’s easy to see that their success was from their nucleus of young, homegrown talent. Players like Jose Reyes, Justin Verlander, Albert Pujols all came up through their team’s farm system. Only after establishing a core of good young players did these teams dip into the free agents market. While the Cubs have had some success with developing prospects in the past (if you want to call Mark Prior and Kerry Wood successes), and most noticeable now with Rich Hill, rebuilding the team should be their first priority, not bloating the payroll.

However, the hiring of Pinella seems to signal the latter. Unless the roster undergoes major changes, it would be hard to expect them to be in the playoffs in the duration of Pinella's three-year contract. That is, assuming the Cubs don’t start to rebuild. But if they just keep delaying the inevitable with old and overpriced stop-gap free agents, it will push their timetable for success further and further back.
As history shows, Pinella is no fan of rebuilding. When he took over the 55-win Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2003, where he specifically wanted to go to be closer to home, the next three years his win totals were 63, 70 and 67, finishing out of the cellar only one of those years, when he was forth place in the division. He ended up leaving the Devil Rays on bad terms, saying he was upset with the ownership’s commitment to winning. Those Devil Rays teams had more young talent that the current Cubs team by any measure, and now he takes over the current 66-win Cubs. Sound familiar?

It is surprising that the Cubs didn’t pursue more heavily the other main candidate, former Florida Marlins manager (and Illinois native) Joe Giradi, who took a very young and inexpensive Marlins team to the brink of the playoffs. Girardi would have been more patient with the Cubs and has already shown success motivating young players. Under Girardi, the Cubs would have been able to start a plan to inject more youth into the team while perhaps remaining somewhat competitive. Considering Pinella’s history with rebuilding, there would be very little chance that he would have agreed to manage if he was told that was their plan of action.

Pinella has already said he wants disgruntled New York Yankees third basemen Alex Rodriguez on his team. As my great-grandmother would say, "It’s good to want." It will be very interesting to see how the Cubs plan to do this with such little talent at the major league and upper minors levels. The only conceivable way that they could land Rodriguez is if they give up young pitching, which as Oakland and Detroit have recently shown, is the way to build winners. It would be great to see the surefire future Hall of Famer Rodriguez in a Cubs uniform, but another high priced superstar who has struggled under the New York pressure is not exactly the ideal fit for a team not going anywhere fast.

While Pinella will bring a new attitude to the team, his success will only be as good as the players. Pinella’s past frustration in building a winner with the Devil Rays should really not change just because he’s heading a couple hundred miles north. Under Pinella, the Cubs will be thinking about short term improvements, while ignoring the already bleak long term troubles the team faces. The Cubs really botched this move, but given the last 98 years, that really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

This appeared in the October 20, 2006 edition of The DePaulia

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jose Gonzalez Concert Review

The Lonely Swedish

You may not have heard of Jose Gonzalez, and if you haven’t, your assumptions about him would probably be wrong. The Swedish singer/songwriter (born to Argentinean parents) came to Chicago on October 15th, crooning his exotic Nick Drake/Paul Simon influenced solo acoustic songs to a packed Lakeshore Theater.

His haunting songs were helped out significantly by the small size of the 342 seat Lakeshore Theater, creating at times the intimacy of a high school talent show. The place was so quiet that his foot taps could be heard vividly. Gonzalez sat center stage, bearded and wearing a plaid shirt giving off a Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline vibe, with his lone acoustic guitar rolling through twelve songs in 45 minutes, mostly from his 2005 release Veneer with the odd Kylie Minogue cover (“Hand on My Heart”) thrown in for fun. Gonzalez has been no stranger to Chicago, this being his third time since the summer playing here after he was the surprise of the Intonation Music Fest. He appeared here last month opening and playing alongside Zero 7, where he is featured on their latest release. This was his first time headlining, and at times his inexperience with the role of the headliner showed.

Gonzalez took little time and jumped right into his soft and sometimes gorgeous music, as he breezed though his set. He seemed almost robotic with the solemn and unflinching expression he gave throughout the show. He barely acknowledged the audience, often playing with his eyes half closed and hardly any banter in between songs besides a “thank you” here and there. The very personal setting was perfect for Gonzalez to make a connection with the audience but he showed some reluctance to speak with his accented and sometimes hard to understand voice. He didn’t seem nervous, in fact, he seemed very confident on stage, but he never appeared to be fully invested in his performance. He began to countdown the number of songs he had left to play at five, giving an update at two, bringing awkward laughter from the crowd. The only time that Gonzalez broke from his shell was when a fan was shouting a request for “Save Your Day,” and he replied flatly with a no, and told a story about how in Sweden the have a saying, “You have to be hard to the soft people,” drawing an equal number of laughs and confused looks from the crowd of mostly college students.

However, Gonzalez kept the attention of the audience with his bare bones performance. His finger picking was fascinating to witness. He filled the room with sound with just his acoustic guitar, at times making it seem as if there were two or three other people playing with him. The most emotion he showed was with his picking. He would strum furiously, especially on songs like “All You Deliver” and “Deadweight on Velveteen” bringing the songs to life, while on “Slow Moves” and “Lovestain” he would quiet down the guitar and let his eerie voice take over as the main instrument. These songs were the perfect background to an autumn night with their mysterious air about them.

Nina Nastasia was the opener, and she was basically a female Jose Gonzalez. Her solo acoustic act at times had her sounding like Nora Jones. She at least tried to converse with the audience, which led to awkwardly funny GPS stories and her marching around the stage because she wasn’t used to all the room. Her charm was welcomed, something missing from Gonzalez’s set.

Gonzalez’s set showed why there hasn’t been much success for the solo acoustic acts in music for around forty years. His personality isn’t nearly charismatic enough and the songs were just about the same as they were on the CD. Having all of the attention was a blessing and a burden to Gonzalez. His technique was very impressive, but his lack of personality while sitting for the whole show could put people to sleep with the calming music he plays. The music, however, was excellent, and at times captivating, but there was not much in the way of visuals. The short set made the whole show seem like an expensive coffee house show. Gonzalez is full of talent, but his performance left more to be desired.

Rating: 2.5/4

Friday, October 6, 2006

Beck "The Information" Review

The Future Beckons
Album Review by
Scott Bolohan Staff Writer

Beck has always been a musical chameleon. He weaves in and out of genres and personas with each new album. From slacker to 70’s disco star, from rapper to heartbroken folk singer, Beck has always managed to create new and unexpected sounds. On The Information, Beck has, more so than ever, managed to take the listener on surprising twists and turns, all while arriving at a way to bring the fun back into buying a CD in the digital music era.

With The Information, Beck has embraced the 21st century. He leaked tracks on his website and video clips on MySpace well before the albums release. Upon picking up the actual CD, the first noticeable thing is the blank album cover with a packet of stickers, so that the listener can personalize the cover artwork. Also, each track is accompanied by a gloriously cheesy music video. The videos feature everything from people rapping in bear costumes to rifles being used as air guitars, and the homemade feel of the videos seem to fit the music perfectly. The Information becomes an experience in itself, where it can be touched, seen and, most importantly, heard.

Producer Nigel Godrich collaborates with Beck again, after working on Mutations and Sea Change together. On those albums, the production was sparse. This time, Godrich makes himself more visible, adding to the vast array of sounds heard on the album. He particularly excels on the albums darker songs, making them feel more along the lines of his work with Radiohead.

The Information starts out with a bang, with the first three songs standing out as among the best of his career. The percussion heavy "Elevator Music" is a non-traditional song featuring whistling, beeps, clicks, scratches and phone samples. The next song, "Think I’m In Love" is an insanely catchy pop song with Beck’s most personal lyrics on the album. The piano soaked refrain of "Think I’m in love/But it makes me kind of nervous to say so" stands out as a particularly confessional line. He follows that with the funky "Cellphone’s Dead," which features video game beeps, a Latin influence and samples of children.

The 15 track album is very disjointed, in many cases with each proceeding song encompassing a completely different genre and feel. He goes from the country influenced "Strange Apparition," with a piano reminiscent of Coldplay, to the soft lullaby feel of "New Round," to the infectious electronic of "We Dance Alone," to straightforward acoustic with "No Complaints." "1000BPM" is the most bizarre song, as Beck raps over a jumble of different looped percussive noises. The outcome is interesting, but really never gels. "Dark Star" feels like it could have fit on his last release, Guero, with its hollow feeling and a chorus with soaring strings that make the song feel almost sinister. The quirky "Motorcade," perhaps the masterpiece of the album, is backed by an electronic drumbeat with a simple guitar melody layered with synthesizers. It all creates a brilliant blend of noise, which would seemingly be pumped out of a stereo on a spaceship. The dizzying amount of sounds give a glimpse into Beck’s creativity and talent. He has always excelled because he was reinventing himself, and it’s in full force on this album.

On the downside, the hour long disc tends to drag on in parts, particularly "Soldier Jane" and "Movie Theme," which go nowhere. The ten minute album closer, "The Horrible Fanfare, Landslide, Exoskeleton" is a modern "Revolution 9," interweaving samples from earlier tracks over a dark groove. It is fascinating, until it closes with director Spike Jonze and author David Eggers speaking about space travel, which is why man created the skip button.

While it may not be a party album like Midnight Vultures and Odelay were, The Information instead is a perfect album for the iPod obsessed culture. It’s not his most accessible work, but his most sonically diverse. With The Information, Beck has created the album of the future.
Score: 3.5/4.0

This appeared in the October 6, 2006 edition of The DePaulia

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sufjan Stevens Concert Review

The Majestic Songbird
Concert Review
by Scott Bolohan
Staff Writer

Playing in front of a sold out Riviera Theater on Sept. 26, Illinois’ favorite indie rocker Sufjan Stevens could have been expected to have butterflies. In fact, he had exactly 14.

Sufjan, (or as he said he should be known as, The Majestic Songbird) wore a giant pair of bird wings, as his group of 14 musicians, the Magical Chinese Butterfly Brigade, wore glowing butterfly wings and were dressed as Boy Scouts. The stage featured silver streamers and a video board that played images connected with the songs. The full effect of the stage with the musicians in their wings, made it look like an elementary school play. Sufjan was accompanied by a string and horn section, unlike on the previous tour which left some songs feeling sparse and empty. Throughout the 110-minute set, the strings and horns would make themselves known. In the best cases, like the first song played, "Sister," the strings were showcased during the introduction, creating a powerful and epic sound. On other songs like "The Lord God Bird," the strings created a lush and dreamy environment perfect for Sufjan’s delicate voice.
The set was largely split in half, between songs off of "Illinois" and "Seven Swans." Oddly, his most recent release, "The Avalanche," was completely ignored and only the complicated "Detroit" from his "Michigan" album was played, a song which didn’t translate very well live. Some of the quieter songs were overpowered by the string and horn additions and left the soft spoken Stevens lost in the noise.

The show was opened by Sufjan’s label-mate, My Brightest Diamond, who was accompanied by a smaller section of strings. Her haunting songs made her sound like a less angry Fiona Apple with a guitar. After her well-received set, she joined Sufjan as a back-up singer and multi-instrumentalist.

Following "Sister," the show settled into a lull. The "Seven Swans" songs did not work as well in a large venue, and the crowd did not really get into them. In many instances, particularly on "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands," Sufjan’s banjo was drowned out by the rest of the music, leaving a loud mess of what was once a quiet and moving song.

After the low point of a long, Wilco-esque noise freak-out at the end of "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us," Sufjan took the stage alone for a chilling version of "John Wayne Gacy" which ironically picked the show back up. The end of the set was highlighted by a jazzier version of "Casmir Pulaski Day," which Sufjan introduced as a song about the "best Polish man ever to live" and an uplifting performance of "Jacksonville." "Chicago" was the final song played before the encore, and was the pinnacle of the show. It was much more energized than on the record, and even the musicians were jumping around while the crowd gleefully shouted the lyrics. The encore featured the band without wings as they played, "They Are Night Zombies!!" with a cool feature on the video screen that coordinated the chorus with the lyrics on the screen so that everyone could sing along. The show ended with a solid version of "That Dress Looks Nice On You."

Stevens never appeared comfortable in front of the crowd, often only thanking everyone with a nervous laugh after songs. Although his bashfulness seemed to fit his vulnerable lyrics. In one of his few interactions with the crowd, he told a long and awkward, although funny, story about being chased by a monster bug at camp as a kid before playing "The Predatory Wasp." Stevens seemed to take note of every little detail in the show, from the dress of all of the musicians to the set up of the instruments, as he came out between acts to personally set the stage as he wanted. Perhaps Sufjan realizes that he is not the most engaging personality on stage, and tries to make up for it in entertainment value with the playful costumes and videos.

Although there were moments when the music did not click, for the most part it was a dazzling array of sound, and quite entertaining. Plus, it is probably the only acceptable time to yell "John Wayne Gacy rocks!"


This appeared in the September 29, 2006 edition of The DePaulia.