Archive for: September, 2004

Interview w/ Louis C.K. – Comedian

SM: When was the last time something left you with a profound sense of mystery?

LCK: A couple of years ago I was living in Venice CA. Every morning I would go out to my car to find that someone had spit on the door handle. This happened every morning for about a month. I tried getting up super early to catch who was doing it but they would already have spit on it. I even came home late one night, like 3am, then woke up at 6, and somehow they’d spit on my car in those three hours. My friend Dino suggested that maybe I was sleep-walking and doing it myself.

SM: If human beings had monkey-like tails, how would you utilize yours?

LCK: I would cut mine off and beat a monkey with it.

SM: What made you laugh the hardest in the last three days?

LCK: My daughter (2 1/2 years old) told me a story that made no sense. I laughed really hard and she liked that, but then she got serious and said “Okay, stop laughing” and that made me laugh even harder until she started to cry.

SM: What were doing around the time of this interview three years ago?

LCK: September of 2001? I guess I was reeling from 9/11 like everyone else.

SM: If you had to choose one song to play every time you entered any public building, what would your entrance song be, and why?

LCK: It would be a song who’s lirycs go like this “Please give a million dollars to Louie C.K.!” It’s a long shot, but someone might go for it.

SM: When was the last time you got into a physical fight?

LCK: I was in sixth grade and the other kid was a third grader. he came up to me during recess and spit on me. I followed him all the way home after school, trying to muster the courage to beat him up. He reached his house and turned to face me, thinking I couldn’t hit him because he was on his own yard. I punched him in the eye, he screamed, and his mother came running out of the h ouse. I ran all the way home. When I got there I jacked off. (just kidding)

SM: T.S Eliot, C.S. Lewis and William Blake are disguising themselves to move into an all girls apartment complex. Who gets discovered and who passes for a beautiful lady? Explain.

LCK: This is your problem, not mine. Fuck you and all three of these guys. And fuck the stupid whores they move in with too. Fuck this whole question. (Just kidding)

SM: Regale us, please, with an anecdote.

LCK: I was living in a tiny apartment in New York City with Nick Dipaolo, a very funny Italian Boston Comedian with very little patience for anyone. We sat watching the TV and I was chewing gum really loudly. After an hour of putting up with it in silence, he turned to me and said in an icy voice “How’s that gum?”

SM: Hypothetical: names spoken aloud are outlawed, and every one has to choose a visual symbol to represent themselves. Describe your symbol.

LCK: I would be represented by a series of five symbols. The first one would be a long verticle line with a shorter horizontal line attached to it’s base, pointing to the right. The second would be a oblong circle. The third would be a curved line with both ends pointing straight up, the middle curving downward. The fourth would be a short vertical line with a dot over it and the fifth would be an “E”.

SM: Compose a haiku on any topic.

A dead ant lays smushed on the ground

Haha, faggot ant.

Interview w/ Patton Oswalt – Comedian

SM: If you had to square off against the devil in a competition based on some area of the creative arts (i.e. a fiddle contest), what would it be?

PO: Figure skating.

SM: When was the last time you remember being left with a sense of mystery?

PO: After I murdered my next door neighbor with a keg pump, and when I came back to paint “I AM A FAG” on his dead face, the body was missing.

SM: What was the last thing you looked at just for the sake of looking at it?

PO: This cute girl’s belly I was talking to in front of The Improv Olympic on Hollywood Boulevard.

SM: C.S. Lewis , William Blake, and T.S. Eliot are staying the night in a haunted mansion. Who stays the whole night, and who runs screaming out the front door in their stocking cap and pajamas?

PO: T.S. Eliot. He was a pussy. C.S. Lewis was a big Christian blowhard who woulda trusted in Jesus to save him, and even if Blake had seen a floating demon, he woulda stayed to paint the fucker.

SM: Have you ever experienced synesthesia (a mixing of senses; tasting a shape, seeing music, etc.)?

PO: I once saw a smell. In a Popeye’s Chicken on Cahuenga.

SM: If you were involved in a pirate cove caper, would you be assisting the Hardy Boys, or trying to outwit them?

PO: I would pretend to help them until a crucial point, and then I’d fuck ’em over and keep their sweaters as trophies.

SM: Let’s say it’s mandatory that the lyrics to one song be projected in moon size letters onto the sky for a year, as chosen by you. Name the song, and why.

PO: Tequila. Why not?

SM: when the human race has finally mapped the ocean, and solved the mysteries of it’s depths, what will be the most surprising thing they find?

PO: Pepperland.

SM: Which would you rather wrestle, a tiger or a profound sense of melancholy?

PO: Oh, the melancholy. Oooooh!

SM: Regale us, please, with an anecdote.

PO: I met Martin Mull once, and he was mean to me.

Interview w/ Patrick Boyer – Graphic Designer

SM: What’s your first reaction to rain?

PB: I guess depends if I’m dancing naked outside or how badly I really stink. Over all I would say I do enjoy the rain, although give me a crankin thunderstorm and I’ll be giddy for the rest of the day.

SM: If the road in front of you is just a little bit flooded, but maybe not too flooded to drive through, what do you usually do?

PB: Give’r

SM: Tell us, please, an anecdote.

PB: Relax…stress just ain’t worth it. Most of our problems stem form the evil stress build up. It’s like gas, you have to release it or if you let it build up your setting yourself up for disaster. If we could all afford a relaxing moment in the Caribbean then perhaps some of live’s issues would disappear, but as a general anecdote…learn to control the stress build up. Maybe Tums?

SM: What was the last piece of art or literature that really had a serious effect on you?

PB: Um, good one. I love Trainspotting and I’ve recently read Irvine Welshe’s Porno. Loved it, it made me feel vibrant. I also saw the Darkness in concert a few days back yah, and they were totally fantastic, rockin out and havin a fancy time doing it is really inspiring to any artist.

SM: If you had to choose a color, and that color would be the color of every bathroom in every house/apartment you ever lived in for the next fifty years, what color do you paint these seeminglyinfinite bathrooms?

PB: I would have to say a fusion of yellow and orange. The Mexican color that makes you just feel as if your on vacation and you can hear a mariachi band behind you. I can’t think of a happier environment when using the facilities.

SM: Concerning your favorite article of clothing- why didn’t your second favorite make the cut?

PB: I guess because they now have a whole in the crotch and it’s awfully hard to make public appearances without drawing the wrong sort of attention.

SM: What got you into design?

PB: Photography of people. I learnt graphic design to warp my photos I used to take and from there a career sprung from photo manipulation. I always wanted to be a movie producer and I got into Flash because it was both multi-media and also it was like producing and editing a movie.

SM: What’s more pornographic than pornography?

PB: Dancing naked in front of your pets

SM: Herbivore or Carnivore?

PB: I’ve actually done both, although these days I tend to like a nice barbeque on hot a summer day. Especially with a Corona and lime.

SM: Compose for us, please, a haiku.

Dear flying squirrel
please stop gnawing on my leg
and return to your gentle abode

Interview w/ David Hernandez – Poet

SM: What mode of transportation would you prefer to take from this life to the (supposed) afterlife?

DH: Shot from a cannon, wearing a cape and glittered helmet.

SM: If you know you have a losing hand in poker, are you the sort to bet high?

DH: Yes, which is why I don’t play poker.

SM: Do you have a lucky number?

DH: No, which is why I don’t play poker.

SM: When was the last time you noticed your own breathing?

DH: Right now. Thanks for reminding me.

SM: When was the last time something completely mystified you?

DH: When I was in New York last week I left my wallet in a taxicab. Two hours later the front desk at the hotel I was staying called my room. A woman found my wallet, saw the hotel key inside, and wanted to return it to me. When I hurried down to express my gratitude, she was gone. I actually had a copy of my book to give to her as a thank you gift.

SM: If you had to go two days without food or music, which would you pick?

DH: I’m one of those people that has to eat something every three hours, so I would have to reluctantly go without music for two days. Is humming allowed?

SM: Have you ever been infatuated with a photograph or painting?

DH: In college I was obsessed about Marcel Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even”, although I’m not sure if that qualifies as a painting. I’d explain the mechanics of the “painting” here, but I’m afraid I’d confuse you and myself in the process. Currently I’m infatuated with drawings by Jeff Ladouceur. Surreal, disturbing, comical. Imagine looking at old comic strips on acid.

SM: When was the last time you napped in the afternoon, and why?

DH: Yesterday. I’m one of those people that likes to nap. Looking forward to today’s nap. After I eat something, of course.

SM: Where are you going?

DH: I’m going to the bathroom in a couple minutes to brush my teeth. Tonight I’m going to my parents’. Next month it’s San Francisco.

SM: When you fog up a mirror and draw in the fog with your finger, whatever you write pops up again when someone else fogs it up. What do you write for the next person to see?

DH: You need an Altoids.

Interview w/ Jeffrey Brown – Comic Artist, “Unlikely” “Clumsy”

SM: Where are you at in your work right now?

JB: In the middle of a million things. I’ve been spreading myself to thin, I think. Today I’m putting some minicomics together. I’m working on some anthology projects, and I’ve been scripting some new book length works. I have too many ideas I want to do, but it’s better than the alternative.

SM: Do you have a window to draw next to, or do four walls set the stage for your illustration work?

JB: I prefer some natura lighting. Mostly I like to draw at the coffee house, but the place I go to I sit in back in the smoking section away from the windows, because that’s where their old big tables are, and those are the tables I have to draw at.

SM: In Clumsy, you are often drawn on a bed, on the phone. How different would relationships be without a phone and bed to have them in?

JB: Would that even be a relationship? The phone I suppose you could get away
with not having, and depending on where you’re at in the relationship, you
don’t need the bed either. But on the phone and in bed are two places where
alot of communication occurs.

SM: Your work includes unflinching portraits of sex inside the context of a relationship. Have you ever considered your comics to be a type of eroticism?

JB: I don’t think they’re erotic. Certainly not with the way I draw myself naked. One of the things I was specifically trying to do was portray sex realistically without being pornographic. To see if it could be explicit without losing that under the sheets kind of modesty.

SM: I’ve heard that the part of the brain that controls reading shuts down while you sleep, so you can’t read anything in a dream, but now I’m starting to doubt it’s authenticity. have you ever read anything in a dream?

JB: No, but one time I was running around without my shirt on, and then a cop was going to give me a ticket, but my brother showed up with a shirt, so the cop was going to cut me a break.

SM: Which word has the most immeadiate appeal for you? Catalyst or Consumption?

JB: Visually I like consumption, and also auditorily, but coneptually I think catalyst is better.

SM: When was the last time you felt a real sense of mystery?

JB: My friend Paul and I were walking to dinner and the sky went from sunny to completely dark as if it was going to storm, and it was all windy and ominous, but it kind of passed, and then it got all light out again.Of course, as soon as we were leaving the restaurant it was absolutely pouring rain.

SM: The term “Fulfilling the Modern (Unhealthy) Masculine Paradigm” has been used to desribe your parody Be A Man. If there is a Healthy Masculine Paradigm, what would it be?

JB: I don’t think there is a healthy paradigm per se. Everyone’s gotta be themself. The whole reason I wrote ‘Be A Man’ was in response to people’s criticism of my behavior in ‘Clumsy’ as unmanly. What does that mean? It’s all just people talking shit. I don’t know how they could question my masculinity considering all the sex with a girl I was having. I just try to treat people well, and that should be the healthiest paradigm of all.

SM: Last Man on Earth scenario: If everyone was gone and you still had your music, what album would you want to hear during the first moment you realized you were completely alone?

JB: ‘And then nothing turned itself inside out’ by Yo La Tengo. It’s my favorite album, I never get sick of it, and whether I’m happy or sad I find myself wanting to listen to it.

SM: In your comics, you are always drawn unshaven. Are you ever without stubbly whiskers?

JB: No. I’m anti-babyface but also anti-fullbeard. I use a sideburn trimmer razor thing so I’m nver completely clean-shaven.

SM: When it’s all over and done, what will there be to say about you?

JB: Hopefully that I was a good person, and that I contributed something to the world.

Interview w/ Spero – Emcee “Northern State”

SM: Where is Northern State going?

CS: Dude, i wish i knew.. i hope we are going towards a place of productivity, creativity, responsibility, fun and to a place where we can support ourselves doing what we love without having to continually go into debt. if one could get a nice salad at this place, that would be great too.

SM: Where is Northern State leaving from?

CS: Generally, we are leaving from the Groove Bros’ apt (the three guys in our band!) where we load the gear into the van..that is usually the designated meeting spot…for real though, i think we are leaving from a place of a lot of hard work and sacrifices and dedication which have hopefully laid the groundwork for the trip we are about to go on..i hope we are leaving a place of struggle, confusion, doubts, fears, and uncertainty behind, but i have a feeling we will only be leaving some of those things, and probably never for too long…i just hope that more fun, more love, more peace will be joining us to take the edge off a little…(altho
booze can also help with this)

SM: As artists who engage in the process of speaking aloud more often than most people, and for a living, where is your relationship to language right now?

CS: Good question. i think, especially after having just finished making our album, my relationship to language right now has to do more with trying to be quiet more than anything I am savoring any hour in the day i have where i can just shut the fuck up. And i am trying to write a little bit more right now just for no real reason, except to do it-like not for an album, just because..i am also kind of fascinated right now with language’s power to transform, like how certain language can transform a nice Italian girl from Long Island into a ferocious MC…that’s crazy!

SM: Who comes to Northern State Shows?

CS: You’d really be amazed..we are constantly intrigued by who comes to Northern State shows..they are equally male and female..many are under 30…plenty are not…some are 40 year old divorced dads, we have an awesome gay and lesbian following, some are dudes with mullets (and not in an ironic way) who wanna sell our merch for us – ..lawyers, intellectuals, frat boys – there is really not that much rhyme or reason to it that we have been able to discern – i think people like us who want to believe that they can live the life they are dreaming of…. and the further from home we travel, i think the more interesting it all becomes…

SM: What’s to be done with all these sucka MC’s?

CS: I often wonder this myself…so many sucka MCs, so little time to tell them all where to go..i think the only answer is possibly like a battle of the bands-type scenario, where you put NS and these suckas in a room and let us each do a 20 minute set and see who gets the crowd going…I allege 9 times outta 10 it’s NS (the 10th time the room is fulled with
mostly the other guy’s crew..tough crowd) or maybe a dance-off, cuz we have got some moves that will blow your mind…

SM: What’s the thing most likely to captivate Northern State’s attention?

CS: tends to be any sort of bathroom humor or off-color joke that we can repeat on tour incessantly and which just might get funnier every time it’s said. our drummer mike once saw written on a bathroom wall in the UK “for the largest, gayest bumhole around THEN…call
4401” (whatever the no. was) needless to say, we found that VERY captivating.

SM: What’s it like to be a human being traveling from place to place being the center of attention for whole crowds of other human beings?

CS: Performing is weird, sometimes it feels totally natural, like, DUH, what else r we gonna do? and sometimes it can feel, to me, a little what the hell am i doing up here, this is really ridiculous…when we started NS I was already trying to do music professionally, but I was interested completely in the recording end-I went to audio engineering school and was trying to slowly piece together a home studio-so for me, the performing was the hardest
part, the other girls almost hadda drag me out there kicking and screaming at first, so i think i struggle with it the most-i think Sprout and Hesta Prynn are a little more comfortable on stage and always have been, but I think I’ve grown enormously in that regard and improved immensely and now I generally just feel like a pretty hard-core muthafucka when we perform-but I think that is the armor I put on so as not to feel like a jackass..i’ve learned there is a very fine line between the two.

SM: Freestyle or pen and paper?

CS: Both, but mostly pen and paper – we all came from a background of keeping journals, writing poems, stories and songs and a lot of that is pen and paper stuff..but let’s face it, one can often come up with the best line on the walk to subway or drunk at a party..i think the key is to try and always always write down anything good u come upon in a freestyle situation so u dont forget it..if i had a nickel for every dope line ive thought of without a pen around and an hour later I can’t remember it.. that makes me nuts…(let’s face it, my short-term
memory is not that great)

SM: If Northern State was a big city street, what would be on the corner where it intersects with the rest of the world?

CS: Hopefully a bathroom because we all need to pee like every 10 minutes…welcome to a band with a lot of girls in it..

SM: Write for me please, a haiku.

Northern State, my god
three crazy girls spitting rhymes
don’t front, you love it!

Interview w/Kim Addonizio – Poet

SM: If a poem is a house, who answers your doors?

KA: Nobody. If someone tries the doors, he or she will find them unlocked.

SM: Are you a smoker, or as kurt vonnegut put it, a fire on one end and a fool on the other?

KA: If that’s the definition, absolutely.

SM: What’s the last song you wrote a poem to?

KA: “eyesight to the blind,” sung by sonny boy williamson.

SM: What’s your first reaction to complete silence?

KA: To listen for a train.

SM: How is a poet often perceived, as opposed to a fiction writer, artist, musician, etc.?

KA: Poets are like fairies. no one believes in them. if confronted with one, the
ordinary person sees a bottlefly, hears a buzz, and waves it away.

SM: On your website, in your writings section, you send a very clear message to would-be suitors/stalkers who send you unsolicited e-mail. what do you think it is about your work that brings this out in people?

KA: Stalkers generate their own reasons that have nothing to do with me or my work.

SM: T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, and William Blake fall out of the sky into your front yard. What’s the plan for the rest of the day?

KA: Stay in, call a woman friend, & spy on them from the window.

SM: In your writing, is there anything you keep returning to?

KA: The same three or four places I’ve been.

SM: Are most good writers haunted?

KA: All writers are haunted.

SM: Write for us, please, a haiku.

KA: Sorry, I can’t write haiku. Allen Ginsberg invented “American Sentences” in the spirit of haiku & 17 syllables. here’s mine:
There goes our little neighbor,
barefoot, no pants,
fox fur on her shoulders.

Interview w/John Warner – Editor, McSweeney’s

SM: What do you look for in a McSweeney’s web submission?

JW: The primary, and pretty much the only criteria is whether or not it makes me laugh. I also like a balance between long and short words, extreme flattery in the cover note, and a proportional sized font. You know, the usual.

SM: How does editing for the internet differ from editing for a print publication?

JW: I don’t know that it’s all that different. Choosing pieces, then working with writers to hone their pieces isn’t any different whether the pages are electronic or paper. I do think the short attention span phenomenon is real when dealing with the Internet audience, so I try to make sure that there’s something conceptually in the piece that will hook the reader. This is doubly important because a lot of our traffic is word of mouth through links on blogs or other sites. I think it’s probably
pretty similar to doing a daily newspaper, where the pace never really slackens and there’s constantly something that must be done to keep the ball moving forward.

SM: Are you a writer as well as an editor?

JW: I am, though I’ve done a lot less writing since I started editing the site (July 2003). I’ve co-authored one book, , and am under contract for another book of humor based on some pieces I did for the site before I started doing the editing (see one here.
I’ve also published short stories, interviews, essays, reviews, other pieces of non-fiction, essentially anything that seems interesting to me. I guess these days I’m supposed to be ashamed of it, but I have an MFA in creative writing also. I never expected any kind of career in writing or editing coming out of graduate school, but over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to catch some breaks and place some stuff here and there. Just about everything I’ve done that can be read on the web is compiled here, thanks to my friend and My First Presidentiary co-author Kevin Guilfoile.

SM: Ever get tired of looking at words?

JW: Sure. I burn out on them just about every day. In my day job, I teach in the Communication Department at Virginia Tech, and every time I collect a writing assignment from my students, I have 95 pieces I not only have to read through, but also be prepared to comment on in depth on every single line. Couple that with 200-250 submissions to the website per week, and I’ll often feel like I can’t read another word.
A couple of three hours of television and this special drink I make out of seaweed always seem to revitalize me, though.

SM: When was the last time words really, really excited you?

JW: Rare is the day when words don’t excite me on some level, though sometimes it’s as simple as say, the word, “yes” after I’ve asked my wife if I can give her a sponge bath. In seriousness, I only select pieces for the site that excite me, so there’s a kind of constant pleasure in words. The greatest excitement is when I know we’re about to run something that’s going to lop off some heads.

SM: If you had to spend the next twenty hours immersed in three words (i.e., all you can hear, speak, or think are these three words) what would they be and do you think you could ever bear to encounter them again afterwards?

JW: I find that the best, and most lasting words shake us with their undeniable truth, so for this devilish little scenario you’ve cooked up, I’d choose: Shakira. Is. Hot. Think of the possibilities: a question, “Is Shakira hot?” A Yoda-like declaration, “Hot, Shakira is.” Or even the start of a conversation with the Latina singing superstar herself about the temperature of her morning coffee, Is hot, Shakira? Twenty hours may not be sufficient.

SM: Indulge us, please, in an anecdote.

JW: Thinking of words, I remember the first word that stuck with me, Watergate. I was three or four and the televised hearings must have invaded my young consciousness. To me, I’m sure it conjured images of its literal meaning, a gate made of water, and that sounded pretty cool. How would that work, exactly? It sounded so cool, that on a family trip to Washington DC., upon exiting the plane I asked the stewardess where I could go see it. Cracked up the whole place. I was awfully disappointed when they took me to a hotel.

SM: Ever blew off something really important to read a book?

JW: When I was young, it was sleep. I was the kind of kid who read the book under the covers with the flashlight and all that. Now, it’s writing, if writing can be important. I’ll often get wrapped in a book, and decide that whatever time I set aside to write that day would be better spent finishing that particular book and I’m usually right.

SM: The McSweeney’s website has certainly evolved into an impressive (free) collection of short writings. Will there ever be a print compilation of the web pieces?

JW: I’m so pleased you asked. Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans:
The Best of McSweeney’s, Humor Category will be released this summer by the Alfred A. Knopf publishing company. We’re very excited about it. It collects the best of the first five years of the site, along with a handful of choice pieces from the print journal. This book could stomp Tokyo and finish off Mothra for good measure if I do say so myself.

SM: T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, and William Blake are all in separate corners of a room, in the center of which is a hundred dollar bill. Knowing what you do of their work, who reaches the bill first?

JW: The only thing more muscular than Blake’s rhythm were his calves, honed through a daily regimen of wind sprints used to stoke his fires for his sessions of automatic writing. Lewis and Eliot wouldn’t even sniff that c-note.

Interview w/Chuck Klosterman – Editor, SPIN Magazine

SM: This morning i dreamt that time was made the same way as gravity, by the planets spinning against nothingness. what do you think makes time?

CK: Well, that’ s a really, really interesting dream, but it has a flaw: Time isn’t like gravity. Gravity is a force; time is just a measurement. Asking “What makes time” is like asking, “What makes inches” or “What makes decibels.” I suppose the best answer to your query is “mankind,” because man creates all abstraction. If we all
universally assumed a moment lasted 1000 years, we’d simply be in mankind’s 10th moment on earth and nothing about life would be any different.

SM: You know that thing where you see an acquaintance out in public, and you chat for a while, and then you say goodbye to them, because you think you are both leaving in separate directions, but then it turns out you’re both going the same way, so you have to choose between reinitiating a dialogue or walking silently?
How do you usually handle that?

CK: I usually comment on the fact that we’re (suddenly) both forced to make uncomfortable conversation.

SM: Do you miss the days when SPIN was bigger and less glossy and had Michael O’Donoghue rants in the back?

CK: Yes, but probably just because that would mean I’d still be in college.

SM: If you were hooked up to a breathing machine powered entirely by the music of one album, and you knew beforehand that you’d have to pick an album that your brain would come to associate with breathing, what album would you hitch up to that most unusual apparatus?

CK: My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless”

SM: Let’s say I like to drink alone and read SPIN. What’s a fun SPIN Magazine drinking game for the lonely alcoholic?

CK: One drink for every mention of the word “emo.” Two drinks for every inexplicable reference to either Axl Rose or Morrissey. Three drinks for any attempt to convince white kids to listen to rap music. Six drinks for any picture of a band whose popularity is defined by their presence in “the blogosphere.” Ten drinks any time the design department makes a number or a letter far larger than logic would
dictate. And ant time you see a Stroke, finish your entire beverage.

SM: What does the office of a Senior SPIN editor look like?

CK: Like backstage at a Styx concert.

SM: Assuming that everyone is in it for something, and your hypothetical “it” is editing a popular music magazine, what’s the something you’re in it for?

CK: I don’t know. To meet girls?

SM: Ever been profoundly disturbed by an encounter with a seemingly innocuous celebrity?

CK: You know what? Not really. Celebrities aren’t very interesting people, usually.

SM: Best. Concert. Ever. ?

CK: The best 11 concerts I’ve ever seen were all KISS shows. However, Prince was almost as good.

SM: Regale us, please, with an anecdote.

CK: It has been said that, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” I love this phrase, because — when I lived in Akron, Ohio — I had this fat hedgehog living in my backyard. He was huge. And he would sit under an apple tree and do nothing all afternoon, simply waiting for apples to fall from the branches (which he would then eat). So what does this mean? I think it means that “the one big thing” the hedgehog “knows” is that fruit is not immune to gravity. Very wise.

Interview – Neil Swaab, Artist “Rehabilitating Mr.Wiggles”

SM: Your art and your work don’t exactly shy away from the grotesque. What compels you to make art the way you do?

NS: I do art that’s personal to me that borders somewhere on the edge between reality and the surreal. I like to look into the darker aspects of the human experience and find something in there to share with my viewers, whether it be through humor, shock, or just a straight-forward representation of how things “are”. I try to do art that challenges you somewhat. I think that good art shouldn’t be so easy to like. I’m also confrontational in nature as a human being and that tends to rub off in my art as well. The most important thing to me is that after viewing my artwork, somebody should walk away feeling like they’ve had an emotional response to the work- good or bad- and that’s what I try to do in my own way.

SM: In your comic Rehabilitating Mr.Wiggles, would you consider Mr.Wiggles your id, ego, or some other such ephemera of the subconscious?

NS: I think of Mr. Wiggles as pure id gone unchecked. Sort of like how we, as humans, would be without any of society’s restrictions and definitions placed on us to keep us in line.

SM: What captivates your attention in your life right now?

NS: Pretty much just all work right now and enjoying the little free time that I have. I’m involved in so many things from gallery shows to comics to illustrations to designing that I rarely have much time to focus on the other more important things. Right now, my most important on-again/off-again project that I’m really interested in is trying to get a Mr. Wiggles TV show. I’ve been working hard on it but have to deal with so many distractions to make a lot of headway, but am now, after a long hiatus, getting back to work and really focusing all of my free attention on that. Hopefully, I’ll be at the point I need to be within 6 or 7 months that I can start looking for agents to represent it for me.

SM: What’s the best part of the city where you live?

NS: NYC is amazing due solely to the fact that everyone is here. There is such a vibrant and close-knit artists community and energy and so much business here. You just meet so many people. Even when you’re not looking.

SM: Indulge us, please, in an anecdote.

NS: Here’s a funny story from my childhood: When I was a little kid in preschool, I had to take a shit really bad during recess but was too shy to ask the recess lady to let me use the bathroom. I begged my brother to ask her for me but he wouldn’t and so I ended up shitting my pants. After the deed was done, I got up the courage to ask the recess lady and she said I could use it. Well, what do you know, when I got into the bathroom, there was a pair of underwear already laying there mysteriously! I swapped my shit-soaked undies for the magical pair and went about my day happy as a shit-free clam. Later that week when my mother was doing laundry, she questioned my brother and I about the underwear since she didn’t recognize it and I pleaded complete ignorance as to its identity. I never did find out why that underwear was there. The End.

SM: What albums, if any, do you play while you work?

NS: Nothing when I’m writing. I need complete silence to focus on the thoughts in my head. When I’m drawing and painting it’s another story completely. The last painting I did, I listened to a lot of PJ Harvey and Afghan Whigs, but it really doesn’t matter. I just play whatever I feel like at the time, which can be anything from Belle and Sebastian to Hayden to The Old 97’s. It’s usually something Indie or Alt. Just something to kill the silence and reflect on the mood I’m in.

SM: . Are there any comics out right now that make you feel sad you didn?t do them?

NS: Not really. I like what I do and I think that I’m the only one who could do my comic because it comes from such a personal voice. I like comics with personal voices so if I like somebody’s comic then I like their voice and it seems a little odd to me to want to emulate somebody else’s thoughts and the way they share them. It’s like thinking “I’m sad I’m not you” and that’s kind of a sad thought.

SM: What’s more pornographic than pornography?

NS: Home videos from my 5th birthday party.

SM: What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

NS: Yesterday at the opening for a gallery show I’m in, hanging with my friends, just shooting the shit. Nothing specific I can remember. Just good times with good folk.

SM: When was the last time you felt a real sense of mystery?

NS: At my 5th birthday party.

Interview – John In The Morning – DJ KEXP 90.3 Seattle

SM: John, you host a morning show for the rarest of creatures, a listener supported radio station free of corporate ownership. Do you think we’ll ever be able to trust a corporation with the sort of format KEXP pro-vides?

JITM: I think you first have to ask, will there every be a “corporation” with our format? I’m guessing no. They have to answer to corporate ownership so that means the DJ will not be given the ability to program their show. If this ever did happen I would trust it as far as I could throw it!

SM: Is it better to know music or own music?

JITM: One must own music to know music.

SM: Ever had someone recognize your voice on the street?

JITM: YES. Many times. Oddly, mostly in the supermarket BUT I do get rather excited when I’m in the frozen food section! I can’t help but raise my voice at the sight of a box of frozen peas!

SM: How much would they have to pay you to come over to the dark side of corporate controlled broadcasting?

JITM: They’ve offered it before. I’ve turned them down. At the end of the day, its how you feel about yourself. You could have a pile of money in front of you but if you don’t feel good about what you accomplished at the end of the day who cares how much cash is at your feet. Of course if it were a MILLION dollars I could probably buy that kind of feeling.

SM: When was the last time an album really, really got to you?

JITM: Happens all the time. It happened last week with the new Veils, new Delays and the new Keane releases. So if its a question of when the last time THREE albums got to me, that’s the answer.

SM: Sound, to the best of my knowledge, is the result of changes in air pressure. Does it strike you as odd that you spend your mornings orchestrating changes in pressure to trigger brain reactions in other human beings around the globe?

JITM: I think you’re asking me if I change tires for a living but I can’t be sure. It is odd that I am using my brain at that hour, that I know.

SM: You spend the better part of your day immersed in sound. What’s your first reaction when you encounter complete silence?

JITM: Sleep.

SM: Some internet radio stations are allowing their listeners to rate songs in a way that what they hear relies on artificial intelligence, making choices based on what they rate highly. Do you think human DJ’s will ever be an antiquity?

JITM: Please. That’s like asking if computers will replace artists, musicians, people who create….which they might, but that’s not a world worth living in. How do you break new music if I have to wait for someone to vote for it? I love getting feedback and need it to do a good show but I think if you replace a person-ality and the human touch, life gets really boring really quick.

SM: You make choices that affect a lot of people, in real time. Do you try to keep a structured format, or do you take a more liquid, fly by the seat of your pants apporach?

JITM: I try pouring liquid through the fly in my pants.

SM: My friend says everyone has an ABBA- a band you may enjoy, but the enjoyment of which you wouldn’t necessarily advertise- mine is rod stewart. Got any musical skeletons in your closet?

JITM: Rod Stewart? Man, that’s tough to beat but I’m pretty sure “Mr Roboto” from Styx is one of the greatest songs ever made.

Interview w/Dorothy, Creator of “Cat & Girl”

SM: Why Cat and Girl?

D: I was in a classroom watching a pretentious student film and trying to make out what the characters’ name were – they couldn’t possibly be calling each other “Cat” and “Girl”, could they? Not even this film would wade that far into pretentious allegory, would it? And then they were moving a mirror and it broke which symbolized something and the film ended, and the credits rolled and yes indeed “Cat” and “Girl” it was. When the lights came on I took out my notebook and drew what I thought Cat and Girl really ought to look like. And that was that.

SM: Does Cat and Girl Pay the Bills, even just one?

D: I do not have very many bills, so Cat and Girl pay most of them. I stopped buying stuff that wasn’t food or rent when I embraced the self-employed lifestyle. Which makes moving day quite easy, but laundry day very very hard.

SM: Hipsters- Beat Em or Join Em?

D: Oh, join them. There’s something to be said for being the funniest dressed kid in the year book.

SM: Your website lists your residence as Brooklyn- What’s it like in the big city these days?

D: Manhattan is really the city. I don’t get there much. It’s always full of people wearing black or carrying small dogs in their purses or both. Very spine chilling stuff. I live in Greenpoint, a Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn, which has an unreal number of shops selling liquor and meat. It is very pleasant when the wind is blowing in from the scented candle factory, and less so when it blows in from the largest refuse processing plant in the Northeast.

SM: Do you ever get that thing where you drink two cups of coffee and then your brain is so frantic it’s almost like being in a panic?

D: I try for it almost daily. That is where ideas live.

SM: Sentient felines (i.e., Cat, Hobbes, Garfi eld) and comics: why do they find themselves in our art so often?

D: Because the true artistic type avoids sunlight, the outdoors and displays of affection, so dogs are impractical.

SM: Cat and Girl seem so often to provide a gentle reprimand (and sometimes not so gentle) to an excess of irony and caustic sarcasm- How did people get this way in the first place where we need to be reprimanded?

D: “Like watching a neverending film loop of a kid riding his bike into a telephone pole”, to quote Achewood out of context, cynics are idealists whose hopes have been dashed again and again and again and again. We all teeter-totter between the cynicism and the idealism, but cynicism is easier. More appealing. Idealism makes you give something of yourself. Idealistsare easy to make fun of, they’re gullible and oblivious and you can laugh at their dreams. Cynics just stare back at you with their cold dead eyes. And they’re always better dressed than you.

SM: Is there a Cat and Girl album? (i.e., is there an album that gets multiple play time when you illustrate Cat and Girl?)

D: I usually listen to WFMU while I work on cartoons. If I were to pick a single Cat and Girl band it would be the Shirelles. I am obsessed with theShirelles. Obsessed. I am so obsessed with the Shirelles that I enjoy Carole King’s “Tapestry” because she wrote songs for the Shirelles. OBSESSED.And Supercharger. If someone could form a band influenced only by the Shirelles and Supercharger I would have to type out “obsessed” a few more times in capital letters.

SM: You’re in a band- what’s that all about?

D: Sitting in front of a computer drawing cartoons all day is a lonely life. And it is bad for your back. And complexion. If you are in a “band” then once or twice a week these people have to come over to see you and you can be creative but like there’s actual other people there, and lots of noise. Also if you are ever at a loss for anything to say you can complain about how hard it is to get shows.(read in a subtle tone of voice): My band is called the Vandervoorts. We are for people who are not picky about the quality of their rock and roll, and we are on the internet.

SM: Cat and Girl seem to live together in a home with no parental supervision. When packages arrive for cat or girl, who signs for them?

D: They turn off all the lights and pretend they’re not home, and UPS drops the package off at a neighbor’s.

Gordon Stelter – Interview

SM: You play a piano in a renovated automobile in downtown athens, ga. what are your top five songs to regale the passerby with?

GS: “Grace and Beauty” by James Scott, 1909. The most elegant ragtime composition. “I’m Coming Virginia “, a haunting tune introduced by Ethel Waters in 1925. “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin, the most frequently requested piece. ( And a quick trip to Tendonitusville if played too often !!! ) “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling”, Thomas Waller’s prettiest piece, from 1927. And “Whispering”, from 1920, which constituted the first “Million Selling” record in Paul Whiteman’s landmark recording from that
year. “Whispering” is my “default” piece. I play it while waiting for people to stroll by. I could almost play it while asleep.

SM: Do you play mostly covers or original work?

GS: Mostly “covers”, but very old covers from the “PreBop”, or “Traditional Jazz” and “Standards” era of 1890-1940. I know about 500. I have written a few things and do play them, but feel that music is a language with a distinct vocabulary, and that we should learn the words of that language, in all their subtlety and nuance, before inflicting ourselves upon the world with something supposedly valuable just because it is “original”! Therefore, until I can write like Richard Rodgers, I’ll be content playing Richard Rodgers, while attempting to make it relevant in the immediate context.

SM: What is it about pianos that really gets you?

GS: With pianos we can express ourselves so fully! With melody, harmony, poyphony AND rythm! A piano is practically an orchestra at your fingertips. Ours was once an exceedingly “pianocentric” culture, and millions of them provided the social center of American homes, in an era when many “amateur” musicians were more accomplished than the “professionals” of today! I gurantee it! The highest expression of American popular music, in my opinion, can be therefore be found in the piano roll recordings of the 1900-1935 period. There is some ASTOUNDING musicianship on these rolls, especially on those made for the dynamic-capable “reproducing” pianos, which were usually player grands. The subtle and highly advanced use of unusual chords on these rolls is a lost art: one which I strive to recapture. In terms of vocabulary, it is like listening to someone who knows how to intelligently use a million words, versus someone who knows only a hundred.

SM: Countless recordings can be found of Beethoven’s work, yet we will never have an actual recording of the man himself playing his own work. is it better to play now and be heard by people in your own time, or to be recorded and play for people who haven’t even been born yet?

GS: If Beethoven were alive today he’d probably die laughing at the sacrosanct nonsense which has grown like mold upon the “Classical” tradition! All sincere musicians allow the spiritual atmosphere of their immediate environment affect them, and respond to it during the performance. Now, in the “Classical” tradition there is much more of a proscription against
improvisation, which in jazz is one of the tools which we use to respond to that atmosphere. So, while I enjoy classical music, I would not want sourpusses glowering at me for improvising ( as I suspect Beethoven, and all other performers of
his era, did regularly. ) I avoid the criticism by playing popular music, whiled attempting to make it as developed and profound as anything in the Classical tradition.
But musical recordings are marvelous because we can “swim upstream”, through them, to recapture to social or spiritual climate in which they were made, and to which the performer responded. They are like time machines, and if you are adequately sensitive, they can take you to another place in time, and then drag that back to the current context to improve it,
if need be.

SM: Does anyone ever hassle you while you’re trying to play?

GS: Yup. I have recieved death threats for my unwillingness to play “Free Bird”. Or let stinking drunks climb in and play the piano themselves. One guy even threatened to beat me up because I would not let him pee on my tire while playing, which he thought was perfectly acceptable.

SM: If it wasn’t a piano, you’d play a…

GS: Guitar. Guitars are easier to sing with because your arms aren’t flailing left and right, which messes up your breathing. I was aproached by the Tonight Show to sing and pick guitar the week Elvis died, but declined and became a monk.

SM: Tell us , please, an anecdote about playing downtown.

GS: Well, that business with the guy who wanted to pee on my truck was probably the most bizarre. I shoved him away from the van with one arm, mid-stream, and he went flying because he was wretchedly, stumblingly drunk. Then he got up and proceeded to argue violently with me as to why it was perfectly OK! I wish I had a camera. I would have photographed him made a poster out of it and sent it to his mom!
And I’ve had my little “celebrity” moments, such as Michael Stipe dancing a quick jig on the sidewalk.
But probably the most moving thing is when several couples will start dancing ballroom style on the sidewalk. This sometimes brings me to tears because it is so romantic, in an era which has largely traded class for crass. It gives me hope.

SM: Can you remember what you were doing on the day of this interview ten years ago?

GS: I was restoring player pianos and building the Thumpmobile.

SM: What’s you first reaction to the sound of silence?

GS: To listen inward. We hear God most clearly without external disractions. Everyone needs a quiet refuge, and Corporate America is quite intent that we never find one, so that we are always run-down, anxious and easily manipulated!

SM: If you got to name a song written about your life, it would be called….

GS: “Live Clean, Love God, Cause No Pain.” ( That’s my motto. )