Interview: Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (3 Jan 2020)

Earlier this month, I had the great honor of sitting down with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (Sons Of Apollo, Asia) prior to his 3 January 2020 Storyteller show at the Milkboy in Philadelphia. He told us about the beginnings of Sons Of Apollo, as well as their upcoming album, MMXX (due out 17 January); about being in the band Asia as part of the Royal Affair tour; his upcoming solo work; and his signature line of hot sauces. Additionally, you’ll get to hear about some great deviled eggs!

Join us for the next half hour as we talk through this and more. And, if you’re interested, you can check out the photos from the Milkboy show.


 

You can pre-order Sons Of Apollo’s new album, MMXX, by clicking here.

For more on Bumblefoot, visit:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
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YouTube
Hot Sauces
Sons Of Apollo
Asia

Afternoon Comedy in Atlanta? 4:20 p.m. at 529 in EAV!

The open mic comedy phenomena in Atlanta is real. On any evening, you can find at least two venues offering a place for upcoming or Atlanta comedy regulars to practice their craft for five to seven minutes.  The 4:20 Comedy Show, Saturdays at 529, is an interesting aberration in the late comedy scene because it takes place in the afternoon.  Each comedian gets four minutes to make the audience laugh. Using a showcase space in the 529 bar in the heart of East Atlanta Village, I have seen some truly hilarious acts on stage at the 4:20 Comedy Show.  Both locals and out-of-town visitors try their hand at comedy, often with great results.

Like any open mic, the 4:20 show (pun intended) is bound to have some acts that don’t quite sell it on stage. But, like any open mic, that is part of the charm. You are sitting there on an Atlanta afternoon watching people working on new material, people who are honing their “tight five,” and people who just figure, “I will try this.” It’s a mish-mash and the mish-mash is the point. Open mics are supposed to be experimental, and even if the jokes land flat, the performance itself is theater.

We talked this week with Peter Akeley, the man who runs the 4:20 show, and an accomplished comedian in his own right.

What is the 4:20 Comedy Show?

I host a open mic in East Atlanta Village on Saturday afternoons at 529. Sign up is at 3 p.m. and the show starts at 4 p.m. Anyone’s welcome to come by and sign up. It’s a true open mic and whoever comes out gets about 4 minutes of stage time.

It’s a work-out room  (for comedy) with a relaxed atmosphere and very little judgment. We get a lot of newer comics just starting out, but it’s also great for more experienced comics to have a chance to work on newer bits and further hone their existing material.

It is an afternoon open mic, the only one in town, how did you decide to do it then?

The mic was started up about nine years ago by Joe Pettis and I’m the third generation of hosts. The show has always been in the afternoon on Saturdays at 529 because it’s a time slot that works for the comics and the venue. Saturday afternoon is a chill time and a lot of folks come to hang out with their friends and catch the show.

How many comedians do you get on an average week? 

We usually get about 20 comics each week. The max we can have is 30 because we wrap up the show at 6 p.m. Again, sign up is at 3 p.m. and the show is at 4 p.m.

Is this an open mic just for young comedians or will the audience get a diverse set of comics?

We have comics of all gender, race, age and whatever else you can think of. It really is an open mic in that way, and I try to keep it a friendly environment for comics to get to know one another. It really depends on who’s at the show that day.

How did you get into comedy?

I did a lot of comedy in school, mostly in theater. I was in a handful of plays and did musicals in high school, often as comedic characters, but really I just started doing comedy when I could. I’ve been “serious” about stand-up for the last six and a half years. I realized there were a ton of shows in town and started going to all the shows I could find. Eventually, I worked out an act and signed up.

What is great about the Atlanta Comedy Scene?

Atlanta is probably my favorite thing about comedy. There’s a tight-knit group of comics in this city that produce great shows. The sheer density of comedy shows per night is daunting. There are more good shows in Atlanta than most entire states. I think part of that is the audience but a lot of it comes from the work people put into producing the funniest show they can.

What would you tell a person who has never done an open mic about trying it?

I think I’d start by saying: Do you really want to do it?

If so I’d tell them about 529’s open mic on Saturday afternoon in EAV (sign up at 3 p.m.)

Or, I might just nod and say “oh cool” depending on how the mood is. It’s not hard to get on a stage, but after that it’s a lot of work. Most people don’t want to talk at a group of people in a dark room. Anyone who wants to try stand-up out should go for it, but it won’t be applause breaks every time.

Anything special coming up for 529?

We have a couple extra special shows coming up soon! On September 28th as part of the East Atlanta Strut we will be having a booked showcase featuring some of Atlanta’s best comics. It’s a great time to cool down from the heat and foot traffic and see some live comedy.

Then on October 5th we will be teaming up with the Red Clay comedy festival! They are sending over eight comics that got into the festival and I’ll be hand selecting a group of 529 regulars that did not get into the festival this year.

You are not only running a comedy show, you are a comedian. Anything special coming up?

Also on October 11th, 10:30 p.m. at Relapse Theater I’m co-producing the second installment of COS-WARS. I get eight comics to cosplay as characters from all over pop culture and then have them do a roast battle tournament. I’m proud to announce the character lineup:

  • Aqua Man
  • Dora the Explorer
  • Velma of the mystery gang
  • Buffy the vampire slayer
  • John Wick
  • Draco Malfoy
  • Wolverine
  • Winnie the Pooh

It’s going to be a silly smash up and tickets will be on sale on Relapsecomedy.com.  We will have a costume contest for the audience at this show! October 11th, 10:30 p.m., Relapse Theater!!!

Any closing notes?

Give me a holler if you end up coming through 529 as a result of the article and I’ll give you one of my best high fives!

 

Find out more about the 4:30 Comedy Show at 529:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1957036874604043/

Where: 529 Flat Shoals Ave SE, Atlanta, Georgia 30316

When: 4:00 p.m. Every Saturday

Written in Water: Scott Adsit on the Nature of Life Performing Livedan

Arguably the leading Improv Theater in Atlanta, Dad’s Garage is hosting beloved comedian and actor Scott Adsit on August 9/10 for a special round of Improv. Scott Adsit is a versatile and proven entertainer, from his time as Pete on 30 Rock to his Adult Swim creations (Morel Orel and Frankenhole) to his turn as the voice of beloved Baymax from Big Hero 6. And, yes, that is just scratching the surface of his work that often has him called “that guy from that show.” Before he was making TV and films, he was a sketch comedian, earning his place in comedy along the likes of Tina Fey, his 30 Rock co-star.

Scott Adsit

He comes to Atlanta to return to his roots as a live performer. If past events at Dad’s are any benchmark, we can expect a lot of laughs. We sat down with him this week to talk a little bit about who he is as a performer and a nerd and what we can expect to see at his shows this weekend.

Hey, Scott, how are you today?

Alright, how are you?

Doing good, just waiting for you to come to Atlanta next week.

OmG that is not an exciting place you are in.

You were Baymax. Thank you. That’s not a question.

Oh wow.

Anytime I get to talk to someone who makes me cry, it makes me happy. Do you find you are identified differently by different fan bases because your career is so diverse?

Yeah, yeah! I can when someone is approaching me on the street, which properties they know me from. It’s about half and half between the two biggies: 30 Rock and Big Hero 6. But occasionally I will have someone come up and ask me about Moral Orel or Frankenhole or Mister Show. Or some tiny role where I am recognizable because someone might recognize my face, like the tiny role in the Italian Job. I can generally spot them when they are coming up.

We are not here to talk specifically about your film and TV work, but that you are coming to Atlanta to perform at Dad’s Garage. You come from that live performance background. What is it about live performing that excites you and brings you back to the stage?

Well, it’s kind of a cliché, but the immediate response you get to what you are doing. That is the most exciting thing about it. Also, there is an autonomy to it that an actor has that he doesn’t have anywhere but on stage. It’s nice to be in a medium where you are controlling your performance entirely…as opposed to an editor, or a director or even a lighting guy or whoever else might have his hands in your performance.

It’s nice to be simply free. You are you without any filters.

Tell me about the creative process of improv:

And mostly because while I do some stand up, I mostly do improv. That’s exciting because I get to share creating something in a crucible with imagination and fruition in the moment with someone: making eye contact and connecting. Being able to create something spontaneously.

It is written on water and it is gone as soon as you have done it.

And certainly, anyone who has something bad to say about my work, should realize that most of my best work is lost to the ages.

Is there anything about Dad’s that really relates to you as a performer?

I love the fact that the people there have been doing it a very long time. They have a fan base and an identity in the community in Atlanta and in the improv world at large. They have a great following and great talent and they are committed to it…they love it!

I love going to places and doing improv with people who love it.

Now I AM going to talk about 30 Rock. The quintessential Pete Hornberger moment for me, as a viewer, was Pete, alone, without his phone, with his arm stuck in a vending machine. Was it a warning about Candy Machines or just great physical comedy?

It was a warning about desire. Our desire causes our pain in life. It is the quintessential Pete moment because he eventually dials the phone with his shoe but ends up dialing his own office.

So, you are also a nerd. The only time I ever met you was at a comic book convention in Charlotte. My teenage daughter walked up to you, and you were so gracious to her. Since that time, she has pursued comedy. You are kind of a role model for her. What type of advice would you give to the young comics and performers trying to get out there today?

Trust your talents, don’t let anyone tell you aren’t good enough. Be someone other people will want to work with. Don’t be the jerk in the room. Do it for fun at first and if you end up loving it, then you gotta be willing to starve for it. And if you are willing to starve for it, you are on the right path. Because there are no guarantees. And improv is not a money maker.

Unless you own a theater. Then you can make money. That’s my advice to your daughter, buy a theater.

Staying on the nerd question, what is the relationship between Scott Adsit the performer and Scott Adsit Agent of Shield and now Nova Corps member?

The Deadpool comic book was relaunched. Gary Duggen and Brian Posehn started writing the book, and the artist Tony Moore drew me into the issue drew me in as a nameless shield agent. He picked me as his model. I met him once, I think. He was drawing from memory. Then they finished the book and realized “Hey, that’s Scott Adsit!” Gary called me up and asked if I would sign a release. That happened.

Then they started calling the nameless agent “Agent Adsit,” then, “Agent Scott Adsit.” In the official Marvel Universe, I exist as a person. The shield agent is annoyed by his charge, Deadpool. Eventually there was a cross over event in the Marvel Universe where they started killing people off. Gary Duggen decided to throw Adsit into space so he wouldn’t be killed off. Now Agent Adsit is in the Nova Corps, which has been seen in the MCU, so people might know what that is. And, he’s a commander.

I am out in space fighting along side Rocket Raccoon and other people in huge space battles and I am in charge! So, if multiple realities exist, then it is true I exist in the Marvel Universe.

Is there a Funko Pop of you?

I do not think there is, but we did have some Moral Orel toys. There were not many, but even Dino and I don’t have any.

Last question: If you had a superpower, what you would use it for?

Well, for good! It depends on what it is. If it were flight, I would avoid traffic, but mostly I would make the world a little better.

My choice of superpower would be the best superpower: speed. I was on a podcast with Hal Loveland and Mark Gagliardi. They debate trivial things such as which is the best jelly and they had a debate of best superpower and I won the argument with speed. Anything (an evil doer) would want to do would be stopped by going faster than them. I can’t imagine writing the Flash comic book because he can do anything before anyone knew it happened. That’s my superpower.

Adsit and the crew at Dad’s Garage promise two exciting evenings of live, improvised comedy. Get your tickets quickly to See Scott Adsit at Dad’s Garage August 9/10.

 

Where:

Dad’s Garage Theater Company
569 Ezzard St SE
Atlanta, Georgia
Call (404) 523-3141

Find out more:

https://dadsgarage.com/

Get Your Tickets:

https://dadsgarage.com/scott-adsit-weekend/

Dragon Con 2018 – Diversity in Speculative Fiction & Literature Fandom Track

Interview with Jarvis Sheffield
“It is essential that fandom is represented positively, diversely, and fairly.  An important part of understanding diversity is that it includes similarities as well as differences. Understanding that we have similar interests or beliefs can encourage cooperation and cohesion within our community.”
~ an excerpt from the DSFL Mission Statement, adapted from the Luther College diversity center in Iowa.

Dragon Con has always had panels to promote critical thinking about diversity. In 2015, the con hosted a round table discussion panel titled Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Comics. Writer Brynna Owens wrote a great, in-depth article about that panel titled Contemporary Comics Face, and Overcome, Diversity Missteps, published in the convention’s Daily Dragon newsletter. In 1999, there was the Women in Gaming panel writer Jason Mitchell wrote about in his article of the same name. That’s just a couple of examples, but there have many diversity panels throughout the years.

Dragon CON 2018 introduced a new track for fans titled Diversity in Speculative Fiction & Literature Fandom, organized under the direction of Jarvis Sheffield whose passion, unique insight, and experience helped make the track a huge success this year.

For the last 10 years, Sheffield has been the administrator of the Black Science Fiction Society, a “social network for black people around the planet who like science fiction” with more than 5,000 registered members worldwide and around 12,000 on the Facebook group. The society also has a Genesis anthology series (Book I & Book II), and the Genesis Science Fiction Radio Show—it’s a lot to manage.

In addition to running the BSFS, he is also the editor-in-chief for the society’s Genesis Science Fiction Magazine. “We also go to different events, the different cons—particularly the ethnic cons around the country. So, I get to be involved in all kinds of diverse environments,” said Sheffield. For his day job, he works in special collections for the Tennessee State University library and manages a 3-D Maker space there. And if that is not enough, he also manages the Universal Africana Literary Arts Movement Facebook page, and he is pursuing a doctorate in education with a focus on leadership.

Sheffield gave insight into how the track came into existence. “There had been some discussion between Mr. Pat Henry and one of my friends that I met in the Black Science Fiction Society, Glenn Paris. He mentioned a couple of years ago that they were thinking of adding some diversity to Dragon CON, and I was like ‘Well, if that happens, just let me know. I’d be more than happy to chip in were I can.,’ Sheffield said. “And so, we had that same discussion again last year at another con; he linked me up with Mr. Henry and we talked. Shortly thereafter, I became one of the directors and since January, I’ve been doing stuff in the background to prepare, learning all the processes behind Dragon CON and facilitating the different aspects that I wanted to bring to the track.”

He said that the reception to the track has been fantastic. “I think that more than half the panels that we’ve had have been standing room only,” said Sheffield. “I’ve been getting really good feedback. People are excited about being acknowledged and feel they are being embraced more by Dragon CON.” The track covers a wide range of topics, such as LGBT, Diversity in Comics, Women’s Issues, Race, and Disability, and others. “We’re trying to cover the entire spectrum of attendees,” said Sheffield.

The track was in the standard discussion format followed by a Q&A session, but there were also interactive workshops which also included a Q&A segment. Panelists were chosen from the list of pre-approved individuals in the Dragon CON directory for the first draft, and for the second draft, Sheffield connected with individuals he’s met over the past 10 years from attending different conventions. 2018 topics included the definition of diversity, diversity in cosplay, a woman’s perspective, gender and sexuality in writing, age and disability, and others. No diversity panels were offered on Thursday, but the track had full days for the rest of the convention, not closing until 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

“This has been a great opportunity and a great experience being a part of Dragon Con. I have a list of great things to add. We were able to have photographers cover the event; but, next year, we want to add video for documentation, so if someone misses something, they can pull it up and watch it,” Sheffield said. “Some of the people I wanted to add to the roster this year weren’t able to appear because of scheduling conflicts, or they weren’t an approved vendor. They didn’t have a badge and couldn’t pay to come, which is understandable.” Sheffield is hoping that those panelists who couldn’t come this year, will be able to participate in the track for Dragon CON 2019.

Sheffield is also encouraging everyone to use the Dragon CON app, which can be found on the convention’s website, iTunes, and Google Play, to rate events. He is hoping for a lot of fan feedback. “That’s one of our points of the group is to try to get input, so that we can grow this,” said Sheffield. “If there is something we didn’t do this year, that you are interested in seeing, or if there is something that we can do better, let us know.”

Those wanting to contact Director Sheffield can message him on Facebook.

Interview with NY Times Best-selling Author: Kim Harrison

I had a hard time not fan-girling over Kim Harrison when I met her at Dragon Con 2018 in Atlanta this Labor Day weekend. Harrison is best known for the Hollows books, a New York Times #1 best-selling paranormal fantasy series.

Harrison has written more than two-dozen books, some in the young adult genre (Madison Avery trilogy), and even accelerated-science thrillers (Peri Reed Chronicles). Her work can also be found in various anthologies, and she scripted two original graphic novels set in the Hollows universe. She has also published other traditional fantasy under Dawn Cook, her real name. Harrison said she began the Hollows series out of desperation to find reader, agent, and editor attention.

“The Hollows started as a short story. In the 1990’s, I was trying to break into print in the short story market. I looked at what was being published in the science fiction and fantasy area, and it was really weird stuff at the time,” Harrison said. “I knew I couldn’t match that; I couldn’t come close to it. But I said, you want weird? I’ll give you my kind of weird. So, I put a pixie, a vampire, and a witch in a bar. What happened was the first chapter of “Dead Witch Walking.”

After shopping the story around and not finding a buyer, Harrison put it in a drawer while she worked on a traditional fantasy story she had in her head. She broke into print with that story as Dawn Cook. Later, when her editor asked if she had anything else, Harrison opened the drawer and pulled out the short story. “I think I called it ‘Life is a Bowl of Cereal,’ because of ‘Lucky Charms’,” said Harrison. “I beefed it up into a novel; it took a while, but it did sell. I’ve never looked back since.”

As for what is next for the Hollows series, Harrison said she is starting the series back up. “I kicked around a lot of ideas. Do I develop the demons, or do I concentrate on the elves? But I just kept gyrating back to Rachel when I started writing in the Hollows again,” said Harrison. “The next story is called “American Demon” and it starts just two months after “The Witch with No Name.” Harrison likes to make a play on Clint Eastwood movie titles when naming the Hollows books.

“In the new book, the church has been destroyed and there is a lot of political upheaval. Rachel is feeling very lost and alone, because the church is gone and she’s not sure where she’s going to be living. She doesn’t want to live with Trent. She wants to make it on her own. And when magic went down in the previous book, a lot of things in cages got out.”

Harrison is still working on the rough draft for “American Demon” and has no clue as to when it will be published. She said it’s going along really well and will be at least a year. But she is no longer publishing with HarperCollins and is exploring new avenues for publication. “I am free and clear to go with whomever I want at this point, and it’s an exciting place to be,” said Harrison.

As for the Young Adult Madison Avery trilogy, Harrison said she probably won’t continue the series. “I enjoy writing Young Adult. I was writing about a book and a half a year, but [HarperCollins] only wanted a book a year in urban fantasy, so I thought I’d try my hand at Young Adult. That is what I was reading at that time,” Harrison said. “I love it, because the stakes are higher. When you’re young, you don’t feel like you have any resources and you feel lost and alone. But you find out that isn’t the case, that you have an amazing number of resources, usually in the form of friends. I had a great time with the Madison Avery Series.”

Harrison doesn’t see a lot of difference between writing for the Young Adult reader and writing for older readers. “It depends on who you ask. In my Young Adult, I’m targeting high school and college age. They’re dealing with a lot of the same issues adults are. They have few resources. They’re backs are against the wall more. They’re learning about themselves more,” Harrison said. “It’s more fun, because I enjoy that part of the writing process, the learning about characters and how they grow and interact, what’s important to them and how their needs and wants motivates them. I try not to write any differently. I still use that wonderful, big vocabulary.”

“Perfunctory Affection” is a new book by Harrison that isn’t in the Hollows series. “If you squish it together, you get the short title “Perfection,” which is really what the book is all about. It’s a step away from Urban Fantasy for me, but I still have magic in it,” Harrison said. “Magic is not a tool in this one, it’s a kind of force. Things that happen are magical. It’s portal magic. It’s kind of a psychological thriller more than I’ve ever done before. I had a blast writing it and it’s coming out under Subterranean Press, late first quarter. I don’t have a date yet. It’s longer than a novella but shorter than a novel, so it was really hard to place; I didn’t want to beef it up with nothing, just to hit that magical mark.”

Harrison’s home and office

Harrison grew up in the mid-west but lived for a while in South Carolina before returning to Michigan. She started writing when they lived in Michigan originally, but she said she had a huge learning curve, because she didn’t take any classes in college for writing. “I have a degree in science engineering and technology, which I bring into my work all the time. My dad said, ‘she goes to school for that and now she’s writing,’ and I said ‘Dad, I use my degree every single time I sit down.’”

When she moved to South Carolina, she found a “fabulous, writers’ critique group” with an amazing amount of talent and dedication. “We met every week, face-to-face. Everybody got to read and critique. By the time we were ready to move up north again, I had found publication, mostly due to the people in there.” Once back in Michigan, she began “writing more and more with less input from other people.” She added, “I still look on those days as my Camelot. It was such an amazing time.”

In addition to writing full-time, Harrison also manages her website and social media, and writes a blog. After being a writer for 20 years, she said her schedule has become pretty static. “I am usually up in the morning; I have a light breakfast and I eat lunch at my desk. I try to be out of the office by three,” said Harrison.

When she and her husband Tim moved back to Michigan, they bought an old Victorian house and slowly remodeled it, adding a new porch and a gazebo. “Tim said ‘you should move your office out to the gazebo.’ About a minute later, I’m lugging out my desk and I’ve been there ever since,” Harrison said, laughing. “I have a beautiful office. It’s in a gazebo in the middle of Michigan winters, and it’s enclosed on all sides. I can see everything, and no one can see in. The windows have a light tint.” The gazebo also has a heated floor. She showed a picture of the idyllic view from her office, which had a babbling brook, a statuette of a wading bird, and lots of beautiful, lush green foliage. Harrison loves to garden in her spare time. “I figured if I’m going to be looking at something for six hours a day, it’d better be nice,” she said. “I don’t know how some writer’s stare at a blank wall, but maybe they need that.”

She also enjoys cooking and made sugared pecans this year to keep up her energy, using her grandfather’s recipe. Harrison is full of surprises. She has two black belts, one in Hapkido and another in Taekwondo, but is thinking of moving to Tai Chi because the other forms have become too rough on her back. Now we know where Rachel gets her fabulous fighting moves.

For more on Kim Harrison, visit her website at www.kimharrison.net.

Brad Cox and Skitzo Calypso

In five days from the time of writing this, it will have been five years since I attended my first and only Skitzo Calypso concert. A few months following that performance, I would have the opportunity to interview frontman and singer-songwriter, Brad Cox, for the first time. Over the course of these last five years, the group has peaked its head up here and there, putting out singles and an EP, but otherwise laying low. In their stead, Cox had been keeping busy with a project entitled We Love The Underground, which I have followed intently. But now, as The Underground are on a hiatus, Calypso has returned with a new song, entitled “Reaching For An Emerald Sky,” and teased news of more studio work in progress. Once again, I have the distinct honor of speaking with Brad about his current happenings.

Brad, Skitzo Calypso’s first album Join The Cult came out in 1998. Now, marking the 20th anniversary of that release, the band has released a new single with more material on the way. What can you tell us? Had this reunion been in the works for a while, or is it just remarkable timing?

The reunion kind of happened to us. It’s all been a relatively fate-driven event. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that music happens when it’s supposed to happen. The unnecessary trademark debacle really wasn’t what lit the fuse, nor was it the timetable [20 + years]. Basically, as one project was disbanding, certain elements unfolded [almost in tandem] that made this one possible. One of the things I really wanted to convey on this record was the dark side of dream-chasin’ and/or success depression. You can have it all and still feel just as isolated and empty as you did when you started; until you tend to whatever negative elements lurk inside you, you’re never really going to be finished. To that end, and to loosely quote Steven Tyler, ‘how many years will you waste doin’ what you’ve always done to get what you’ve always got?’ That’s the question this album will explore.

Unlike previous singles that have come out throughout the last few years, the band has made it quite clear that this isn’t a one-off get-together. In fact, there’s a new album in the works. Can you share any details about it with us?

Sure. The goal with this effort and whatever it ends up being is to bring it all home – that includes bringing in some of the people that made it all possible. We recently completed a track with Cherry Teresa, who was a big part of the band [2001 – 2004]. It may seem like a small window of time, when you consider the band’s existence, but it was a very impactful period [for us] and she was very much a part of that. We also brought in our former bassist [Zeke Johnson] for a rather thunderous track. To the point you were making, about ‘making it clear that this isn’t a one-off get-together’, we’ve been very conscious about making sure people realize that we’re not just going to record a song and dip back into obscurity. So, we’ll be releasing snippets, pieces of artwork and announcing shows along the way. The goal is summer [2018].

This reunion is stage-bound soon?

Yes! June 2018ish.

What most excites you about the music you’re making right now?

A lot of times, you reflect on what you’ve done and can find yourself dwelling in that headspace, but I really feel like I’m not only growing as a person, but also a musician and that a page has turned; it’s possible to reflect and move forward, with your eyes only occasionally glancing into the rearview mirror. I have a clearer vision for where I’m going and it’s fueling a ton of new ideas. None of us wanted to be tied to the past. One of the things that turns my stomach is watching bands who try to rewrite their catalog and release the same music they did when they were kids; like they’ve become so hogtied to their brand that they can no longer see why they started making music in the first place. Along the way, their souls just died. For us, it’s just the opposite. We may even alienate some of our diehard fans, but that’s been the trajectory we’ve been on since the late 90’s. This time, we’re really going to push that envelope and test the patience of our ‘fans’.

Tony Correlli, your longtime producer and collaborator, added synths to “…Emerald Sky.” While not an official Calypso member, will we see more of him on the record?

The intro riff of that tune started with something Bryan [Holmes, guitar] had been fidgeting with and will be tasked with performing live. I brought in the initial verse/chorus progression. From there, we literally just started throwing riffs around [in messenger] and forming the bedrock of what became “Reaching for an Emerald Sky”. Pat [Sise, guitar/bass] had a big part in deciphering and adding to those ideas and structuring the tune out. Gary’s [Holmes] instincts on the drums brought it all home. We just decided it would be more of a departure to introduce different elements – we wanted to explore that. That said, Tony has a way of translating our ideas when we’re not always able to explain ourselves. Whether he’s a prominent figure in the band or not, he’s always a huge player in the end-product and I anticipate you’ll be hearing more from him as the process unfolds.

While on the subject of Tony: how did that relationship form and become what it is today?

Well, back in 2002ish, we found ourselves looking for a new producer. The producer I’d worked with on the first couple albums was charting a new course [in music], so we began exploring our options [as well]. At the time, one of my good friends had recommended John Grant of Secret Sound Studio, which is where we recorded the bulk of ‘The Shattering’. He did a great job capturin’ the feel we were goin’ for, but we still found ourselves curious to see who else was out there. From there, we recorded the majority of the next record, ‘Between the Lines & Beyond the Static’ with Drew Mazurek – another excellent Baltimore-based producer.

At some point [in all of that], John Grant and Tony Correlli had joined forces. During a session in 2008 and after returning to John Grant for ‘Burning Down an Empire’, Tony Correlli was filling in for John [one night] and got us a final mix for a track called, “Until My Heart 5tops Beating”, which actually wasn’t officially released until this past year [on Ghosts: The Beyond]. Sidebar: It was marked with a ‘5’ because it was originally intended to be featured on a follow-up album called, ‘The Skepsis of the Fifth Sun’ – a teaser written across the bottom of the ‘Burning Down an Empire’ shirts. That theme was later re-explored. Anyways, we were ecstatic with how it turned out [with Tony], so we started booking regular sessions, recorded a couple one-offs [together] and before we knew it ‘Ghosts’ was haunting our catalog.

Tony moves efficiently. He’s got a really good pulse on modern music and tones. Moreover, he’s extremely helpful, understanding and fair. We’d always see each other at these Father/Daughter dances…so, overtime, we found a permanent home with The Deep End studio. That said, I still had a great dynamic and friendship with John Grant, so when I first started recording the We Love the Underground albums, I enjoyed working with both John and Tony. The cool thing is, Tony has a lot of the We Love the Underground presets in his keyboard, so having him out LIVE is always a pretty simple transition. I’d expect the same opportunity will exist with Skitzo Calypso.

About a week ago, you shared a photo mock-up done by David Weston Gregory Jr., based on the original Join The Cult ‘Girl Afire’ artwork designed by Mike Sacrey. Does this indicate anything about the direction of the new album’s potential artwork?

It does. She’s always represented a seductive muse – an irresistible attraction that draws us in and will inevitably destroy the lives of the people around us and inevitably lead to our own damnation if we don’t learn how harness it and keep our wants in perspective; this could be a worldview, a religion, a passion, a dream or whatever. We’ve already married themes from The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland into the writing of this work, so it seemed appropriate to bring her back. She’s kind of like our ‘Eddie’ [Iron Maiden].

In the mock-up, the Girl Afire is carrying court papers, and you’ve recently been embroiled in quite a legal debacle yourself. To summarize your situation: a rapper in California issued a trademark complaint against your use of one of the words in your band’s name, and said you couldn’t use it any more, to the point that CD Baby wasn’t willing to support you. Can you tell us more about what has occurred with that since we last spoke, as Skitzo Calypso is obviously moving forward?

Right now, we’re going through the process(es). We’ve secured a common law trademark in the State of Maryland and have applied for a federal mark. It’s all relatively asinine. It just shows how petty people can be. And, we figured, well, whatever, we’ll do our due diligence; still, the individual is following us around the web and trying to block our registration. The irony is, I chose the name [in 1996] because it seemed ridiculous that anyone would ever challenge it or want anything like it – it’s not like I called the band a derivative of ‘Earth’, ‘Wind’ or ‘Fire’ or ‘Black’ ‘Stone’ or ‘Cherry’. Truth be told, Skitzo Calypso is not a great band name – it’s a marketing faux pas – but, it’s our band name [all the same]. Plus, in 1996, people weren’t really using Google to search for the availability of band names. To give this perspective, this individual was 7 when our first record dropped. Plain and simple, they didn’t do their homework.

To this day, there is still only one Skitzo Calypso in the marketplace. Meanwhile, there are literally 100’s of rap, rock, metal, DJ, punk artists, etc. running around with some variation of said ‘word’ in their name and this individual acknowledges that – yet, it’s been used as the sole catalyst for challenging us. It’s like, ‘So it’s our fault you knowingly chose a generic name for your project and lack the slightest bit of common sense to think that that might make it difficult to cut through in the digital age?’ It would be one thing if it wasn’t so common and we hadn’t existed for 22 years, but it’s all rather short-sighted. Why? Well, whether this individual succeeds in having our music yanked from various online platforms [because they can’t arbitrate] or blocking our trademark, it isn’t going to erase our digital footprint – over two decades of videos, blogs, reviews, past show listings, free streaming services, etc. won’t just magically disappear. I guess, what’s more, what’s the point? You’re a local artist. In this game, you win more bees with honey. If the person was savvy, they’d try to find a way to network. Plus, if your fans/friends aren’t buying your records, it’s certainly not because of us [or the laundry list of similar bands out there] – it’s because your product isn’t in demand or your marketing is poor. That may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s the reality of it. But, it’s cool, I lived in Hollywood – I get the mindset. But, wait, aren’t we all stars in god’s sky? Please. Just ridiculous – all of it.

To go out a little into left field, Skittles: When did that start and what is it all about?

That started in about 2006ish. It was just this thing that happened – I suppose because of the ‘Skit’ and ‘Skitzo’ part of the band name; that, and because I’d made it publicly clear that it was my favorite candy. Over time, people started bringing bags of Skittles to shows and tossing them on stage – some bands get roses, we get hard candies.

Is there anything else fans should have on their radars?

Well, Joe Ruggiero and I had started a project called The After Midnights. But, when we finally got around to releasing the material we quickly realized that time wasn’t on our side. He’s got his bands – I’ve got mine. I think, at some point we’ll see that project get longer legs. It generated a ton of interest in a short period of time. And, it’s cool, it’s a poppier departure from some of the other projects and something I feel has a lot of potential.

While the spotlight here is certainly on Skitzo Calypso, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another effort which has taken up much of your time. We Love the Underground is on hiatus, and a wonderful compilation called The Skeleton Key is now available with some previously unreleased material. I’m really curious to know: Is there any update as to the status of this other great band?

It’s resting. In short, and to come full circle, music happens when it’s supposed to happen. We’ll have to let time do its thing, wait and see…

Purchase ‘Reaching For An Emerald Sky’ at: iTunes | Amazon | Bandcamp

For more on Skitzo Calypso, visit:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
Bandcamp

“The Way Life Goes” – Interview with Tom Keifer

Tom Keifer, former lead singer and guitarist for the 80’s rock band Cinderella has had a long career built around doing what he loves the most: playing the guitar, singing, and entertaining crowds all across the world. In 1986, Cinderella broke onto the hard rock scene with their debut album Night Songs and became one of the most beloved and easily recognized rock bands of the era.

The right to a name in the music industry with Brad Cox.

I have the pleasure today of speaking with Brad Cox, frontman of Baltimore-area rock bands We Love The Underground, Skitzo Calypso, and Niki Thunders.

Brad, all those bands must take up quite a bit of your time.  How long have you been making and releasing music?

I started writing and recording music in high school with a good friend and inspiration, Mr. Dave Pace.  I’ll never forget the first recordings or people that helped give me a lil’ push on the back [when I needed it most].  I started recording the first Skitzo Calypso album in 1996 – the first track, “Blinds” was penned in a Best Western on Santa Monica Boulevard – the things you’ll never forget.  So, to answer your question, about 23 years.  Even before Skitzo Calypso, I was releasing cassette tapes under various names/aliases/monikers and guesting on a range of local projects.

I’ve heard that you’ve been having trouble recently concerning a copyright or trademark issue surrounding the band Skitzo Calypso.  Could you fill us in on the details?

So, it’s simple, and I hope my fellow local/regional friends can learn a little something here, and that’s that online vendors, such as, but not limited to:  Etsy, Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby [and beyond] will not adhere to common sense, arbitrate or defend you in any capacity – essentially, contract law has tied their hands.  They won’t even talk to you.  Try finding a phone number for iTunes legal, I’ll wait.

In short, last Saturday night, November 4, I received a trademark complaint from CD Baby stating that a rap artist in California trademarked one of the words in our band name and that we were no longer allowed to use said word in our releases: Burning Down an Empire, Between the Lines & Beyond the Static, and The Shattering.  Due the complainant’s obvious neglect to challenge our other works, it became clear that the he was simply targeting anyone and everyone with said word in their name.  I’m reluctant to even identify which word [it was], because I don’t want to give this person any more attention than he deserves.  This isn’t the behavior of an artist or even a savvy businessman, it’s an act of harassment, by exploiting the vulnerabilities of online communities and contracts.

I think my good friend and drummer of Skitzo Calypso/We Love the Underground said it best: ‘You don’t make a name for yourself by trolling the web or buying a word, you do it by putting on solid musical performances and writing and releasing the best music you can.’  He’s correct – if anything this claim just points to the depths of the claimant’s insecurity and lack of actual substance.  On its face, it’s a false trademark infringement claim, which I now have the burden of unpacking.

The law is explicit: ‘First to Use’ not ‘First to File’.  His profile on the US Patent and Trademark Office website identifies:  FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20150120 [IE:  January 20th, 2015].  His trademark also only covers live performances, video production and audio production; it doesn’t state prerecorded audio.  Aside from the fact that his trademark is completely invalidated by our ‘First to Use/First Use in Commerce’ history, via financial records, tax filings and other such trails of our existence, the online vendor [who caved to an unreasonable ‘takedown request’] will not get involved.  They basically leave the burden on the seller to absolve the issue with the claimant.  So, literally, anyone could say anything, and your product is coming down until an agreement is reached between you (or your lawyer) and the claimant.

What have you tried thus far to resolve this conflict? 

I reached out to the individual and tried a very human approach – I explained our situation, our history, catalog and passion for music, with a request to withdraw his complaint from iTunes.  It took him a few days to respond, but he basically stated, ‘As an active musician, there are just too many bands with this particular word in their name.  I hope you understand.’  Great, I’m glad that you chose something so generic, that you feel a need to hold other peoples’ music hostage – so, basic!  Well, that’s fine, but if he did his homework he’d realize that there’s also a metal group in California that could trump his claim and get his product booted.  I’ve done a lot of homework on this guy.  He has zero legs to stand on and will be met brashly with attorneys.  It’s not really about Skitzo Calypso, it’s about standing up for ourselves [and others that may fall victim to such attacks] and for what’s inherently right.

To put this whole thing into perspective, our first album dropped when this individual was 7.  Our first documented online sales [from CD Baby] date back to 2003.  That doesn’t include the duplication of records and other various products that pre-date the convenience of online platforms.  It appears my only recourse is to follow the proper channels and to lawyer up.  Plain and simple, the longer this goes on, the more potential sales we’re losing and fees that will pile up.  It’s lose/lose for this individual.  They say you catch more bees with honey – if he wasn’t so short-sighted, he’d realize that artists working together [on a local/regional level] can have a mutually beneficial outcome.  The world’s a much smaller place in the age of digital media.

From the sound of it, this could easily happen to any musician or band.  Do you have any advice for others based on your own experience?

Don’t be bullied.  Don’t back down.

Game Designer Ross Watson Appears on the Polyhedron Podcast

At Dragon Con 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia, TAMagazine met Matthew from Headcanon Games and realized that we could help each other. So, for the first time, we are pleased to share the latest of Headcanon Games’ Polyhedron Podcast. In this episode, they sit down with game designer, Ross Watson.

Ross Watson has worked at Games Workshop, D20, Fantasy Flight Games and has written several role-playing game source and reference books.


The unwashed rabble of the Headcanon crew sit down with some microphones and deconstruct role-playing games in order to figure out why we like them so darn much. The topics may change from episode to episode but each one will rotate around the axis that is this eclectic little genre of pop entertainment. So sit back, relax, and put on those headphones as we look deep into the multifaceted world of RPGs.