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January 2018

Musical Mondaze

Speak Low If You Speak Love

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It has been over five years since Ryan Scott Graham first released “Everything But What You Need,” the debut album from the multi-instrumentalist’s solo project, Speak Low If You Speak Love. (It was reissued by Pure Noise Records in 2015.) As the bassist and backing vocalist for State Champs, Graham is no stranger to juggling musical genres, but even he admits to experiencing nerves on the eve of releasing his solo sophomore, “Nearsighted,” which he describes as a “new direction.”

We sat down with Graham days before the release of the album to discuss the emotions attached to putting music out into the world, what listeners could be thinking in the year 3043, and why he doesn’t write while on the road.

TrunkSpace: As you gear up for releasing new material, what emotions do you wrestle with? Is it excitement? Are there nerves? Is it a combination of both?
Ryan Scott Graham: It’s absolutely a good combination of both. I haven’t released new Speak Low music in a few years, so it’s nerve wracking to see what the reception of the new direction is, but it’s also exciting because there’s nothing to really fear when you believe in the songs so much.

TrunkSpace: Is there a different feeling associated with releasing Speak Low If You Speak Love songs as opposed State Champs’ material? Is there more of you invested personally in the solo material just by the nature of how it all comes together?
Ryan Scott Graham: I’m deeply passionate about both bands, so it’s hard to compartmentalize the feeling associated with debuting new songs. Both are fun and exciting, but I guess Speak Low can feel slightly different because it’s more of an “all eyes on me” moment. If somebody doesn’t like the material it definitely feels a bit more personal than the group effort. That’s probably the biggest contrast.

TrunkSpace: The songs on the album were created by you, given life, and will now live on long after any of us are here. Do you view your songwriting as part of a legacy? Do you hope that people of, let’s say 3043, will have a sense of who Ryan Scott Graham was by listening to “Nearsighted?”
Ryan Scott Graham: I think the reason why putting new music into the world is scary in the first place is because it exists forever. In regards to “Nearsighted,” a goal of mine was to make a cohesive record that had some legs to stand the test of time. Will it? I guess we will have to wait and see, but I think records you can listen to from front to back are the ones that stay with listeners. I’m crossing my fingers I accomplished that. In 3043, if people are listening to Speak Low I think they’ll wonder why I’m such a crybaby. That is unless, of course, robots can feel emotions too.

TrunkSpace: When you first sat down to put together “Nearsighted,” what were your personal goals? Did you set out to achieve something specific with it from a creative standpoint that you feel you didn’t accomplish with your debut album?
Ryan Scott Graham: I suppose I wanted to be more deliberate overall. Not only with the lyrics, but the melodies and instrumentation to accompany. It’s not that I’m not proud of “Everything But What you Need,” because I am, but it feels like a different lifetime. I wrote those tracks without revisiting or rewriting a single note, which I’m sure some would argue gives the record its charm, but there was much more deliberate thought on the “Nearsighted” tracks. I wanted the flow of this record to be smoother. I wanted to capture a moment in time and feel timeless all at once.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Nearsighted?”
Ryan Scott Graham: I’m proud of the journey. I wanted to give up numerous times, because I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself. When I sat back and remembered why I was creating, everything began to come together. I needed to remind myself that I love what I do – and there will always be someone out there who needs to hear what you have to say.

TrunkSpace: Is it easy for you to transition from Speak Low If You Speak Love to State Champs and vice versa? Creatively do you have to compartmentalize the two or does the spark that fuels both stem from the same place?
Ryan Scott Graham: I think it all comes from the same place, truthfully. Yes, they’re different genres and I think maybe the project goals are different, but there’s nothing I love more than making music. Sometimes I write a riff that I think is fundamentally Speak Low and it ends up finding its way into a State Champs song. You really never know!

TrunkSpace: You’re obviously performing your songs in a live capacity, but when an album is complete, do you go back and listen to the recorded versions with any frequency?
Ryan Scott Graham: Of course! I don’t think of it as self gratuitous to listen to your own songs. I create things I enjoy and am proud of – you can be proud of yourself without being a jackass!

TrunkSpace: Are you a perfectionist when it comes to the recording process? Are you able to easily label a song complete, or do you labor away at them, tweaking and retweaking?
Ryan Scott Graham: As I mentioned earlier, “Everything But What You Need” was a record that came easily; “Nearsighted” was a completely different story. I rewrote, reworked and re-chorded multiple songs over the course of the making of the record. It was frustrating because you want the songs to make sense immediately, but that just isn’t the case every time. It makes it more special when they do click right away.

TrunkSpace: Could you ever see a day where music is not a major factor in your life? If so, would you still need a creative release/outlet?
Ryan Scott Graham: I have a lot of passions that I hope to pursue in the years ahead, but I can’t imagine a future without music. Whether that’s my career path or not, it’s hard to say. I’d love to teach English or literature abroad at some point.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to your career in music, did you have a mentor who took you under their wing? Do you see a time when you could be in that mentor role and helping to put another young musician on his/her path?
Ryan Scott Graham: I don’t know that I’ve had a “mentor” per se, but I’ve definitely had a handful of musicians that I looked up to growing up. I always tried to reflect specific pieces of their journey in my own without being a copy. As far as me being a mentor to someone, it’s certainly not out of the question. If I can influence someone in a positive and creative way, I’m doing something right. There’s nothing more rewarding than hearing someone say that something you did made them want to try it out. You can’t fall in love with something without giving it a fair chance.

TrunkSpace: You have a big tour set to kick off soon. Are you someone who can write while out on the road or do you have to unplug creatively while out there on the highways and byways?
Ryan Scott Graham: I tend to unplug musically while I’m on the road. Obviously we’re playing the show and in the zone during the sets, but in regards to songwriting, I need to lock myself away if I’m going to get anything done. Being on the road is key for conversations, exploration and people. I’d rather pour myself into something other than music while I’m out here.

TrunkSpace: We’ve barely scratched the surface on 2018. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for yourself and if so, how are you doing sticking with them thus far?
Ryan Scott Graham: My resolution for 2018 was to develop a better pattern of time management, but I can honestly say that I have not been doing a great job of that. I love to stress myself out.

Nearsighted” is available now from Pure Noise Records.

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Wingman Wednesday

Dr. Dustin Cohen

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Photo By: Ray Kachatorian

As a general rule of thumb, if someone asks you if you want to speak with “Weird Al” Yankovic’s dentist, you say yes. Dr. Dustin Cohen, owner of The Practice | Beverly Hills Boutique Dental, is more than just a set of steady hands inside your mouth – he’s also a pop culture aficionado, a hardcore sneaker collector, and one hell of an interview.

We recently sat down with Dr. Cohen to discuss dental misconceptions, the reality of reality television, and if in fact liquor will make our teeth sicker.

TrunkSpace: You’re our first dentist featured at TrunkSpace. Can you promise us a pain free interview?
Dr. Cohen: That’s my specialty! But I am a dentist, so I hope I don’t bore you to death.

TrunkSpace: In all seriousness, some people genuinely do have a deep-rooted fear for visiting the dentist. In your experience, where does that fear stem from? Do you feel like dentists get a bad wrap?
Dr. Cohen: Yeah, the dental office definitely triggers a rise in blood pressure and stress for a lot of people. I think old school dentistry was pretty barbaric and scary. I don’t think their customer service experience, equipment, or use of numbing agents was up-to-par in the old days, then that fear gets passed down from one person to the next amongst family and friends. Those horror stories stick in peoples’ heads, causing anxiety that the same thing may happen to them.

At our office, anyone who walks in feeling nervous, walks out questioning why they were nervous in the first place. We are on a mission to make it unimaginable for anyone to go to a dental office other than ours. That means we do anything and everything possible to change the stereotype of the scary dental office.

TrunkSpace: What is your particular approach to making patients feel at ease when they step foot (and mouth) into your office?
Dr. Cohen: This would be what we call the Bespoke Dental Experience. This starts off with something that is incredibly unique amongst doctors & dentists… we start on-time! Seriously, who likes waiting for an hour before being seen? We start and end on-time, every time. We have a lot of very busy patients who don’t have time to be late, but it also helps to minimize the stress associated with waiting around worrying about what’s going to happen.

We also like to have you fill out our “personalize your visit” form. This lets us know if you want a pillow or blanket, maybe some water or some headphones… then we’ll have it ready for you when you come to the office! A comfortable patient is key to quick, easy, and painless procedures.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest misconception that people have about dentists and/or going in for dental work?
Dr. Cohen: Patients rarely recognize how precise dental work must be to feel, look, and function correctly. We work in fractions of a millimeter! A half of a millimeter can make all the difference between a perfect looking front tooth or a snaggle tooth. A filling that is a quarter of a millimeter too high can feel like you are biting on a rock! So sometimes people get upset if things take a bit longer to adjust than they anticipated or if they need to come back for a bite adjustment. You have to set proper expectations, because those things are very common. Your mouth is a tough place to work!

TrunkSpace: One of the things that makes you so interesting is that you’re not our parents’ dentist. And by that we mean, you’re hip and you’re plugged into the world of pop culture. Do you think having that knowledge of the pop culture landscape makes you more relatable to patients and able to connect in ways that other doctors can’t??
Dr. Cohen: Yeah, I mean, I hope so! I have always naturally been attracted to the pop culture landscape. Probably because it always seems so fun and cool… and how can you hate fun and cool? Los Angeles is the perfect place for me to do business. LA and Beverly Hills are the epitome of pop culture: lots of hype around new movies, TV shows, music, and restaurants. I believe a big part of the reason we are popular with the “in the know” crowd is because I can relate so well to what those patients are interested in.

TrunkSpace: You’re also an avid sneaker collector. How many pairs are in your collection and how do you view the shoes themselves? Are they art? Are they pop art? What is the allure for you?
Dr. Cohen: I do love me some sneakers. I have around 100 pair of shoes right now. I view them as a way to show people that I have some creativity and style. When I was in dental school I bought about 30 pair of brightly colored sneakers to contrast the boring scrubs that all 126 people in our class had to wear. Sneakers also have a pop culture niche that attracts a hip crowd and I like being part of that.

TrunkSpace: You named your son Jordan after your favorite sneaker brand. Are you nostalgic for the old Jordans or are the new versions just as exciting to you as a collector as those you wore as a kid?
Dr. Cohen: Yeah, my little dude is named Jordan. My wife hates it when I say it’s because of Michael Jordan or Jordan Brand sneakers! (Laughter) Before we were even married she said she liked the name Jordan and I quickly agreed. It’s just a coincidence that it’s the same name as my childhood idol, wink wink.

Anyway, I tend to wear the older Jordans like the III’s & IV’s mostly. The new ones are cool, but a little too sporty for me these days. The older ones have become more of a stylish casual sneaker and that fits me better since I don’t really get to play basketball anymore.

Photo By: Ray Kachatorian

TrunkSpace: You and your wife Stacey work together and your practice (The Practice) is based in Beverly Hills. You have a list of celebrity clientele. This seems like the perfect recipe for a reality show. Has that idea ever been floated around?
Dr. Cohen: We’ve asked some patients who are reality TV stars & producers about the business, but not really about us having a show. Looking at it from a business perspective, it would probably be fantastic for our office. Looking at it on the personal side, we’d be concerned about the potential family issues that it could cause working with that type of schedule. I think we would have to consider it if the opportunity arose, but we already have big plans of where we want to take our business that have nothing to do with TV.

TrunkSpace: One of your patients is none other than “Weird Al” Yankovic. We have to ask… and hopefully this doesn’t break doctor/patient confidentiality… but have the two of you ever discussed his dentist-themed song “Cavity Search?”
Dr. Cohen: I did ask him about it! I asked if he thinks about the song when he goes to the dentist. Thankfully, he does not. Cool little secret from that song, he said they actually brought a dentist to the studio to use the drill during the recording.

TrunkSpace: As previously noted, your practice is based in Beverly Hills. One of our favorite places for a martini when in town was Nic’s, which closed down fairly recently. So, related but unrelated at the same time… how bad is alcohol for our teeth?
Dr. Cohen: I think the biggest problems you are going to have from drinking alcohol is the sugar in the mixers and if you pass out without flossing and brushing your teeth! Diagnosis: dental cavities due to drunken behavior.

TrunkSpace: Playing off of our previous question, as a doctor, do you find that people will randomly ask you professional advice in a non-professional atmosphere? (This question seems very Larry David-like, but it seems this may be a very real occupational-meets-social hazard that doctors face.)
Dr. Cohen: Luckily, I don’t get a whole lot of that. Or is it because I’m good at keeping my dental degree a secret from the crazy people I meet?

TrunkSpace: Finally, Dr. Cohen, this is a pop culture magazine, so we have to end with a pop culture-related question. Your practice is called The Practice. There was also a show called “The Practice,” which starred Dylan McDermott and is no doubt available on some streaming platform somewhere. Which Practice is more fun? (This is total layup question but we have our Jordans on so we are prepared for the layup!)
Dr. Cohen: The Practice | Beverly Hills Boutique Dental is way more fun! Even a dental office looks exciting compared to a law firm!

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Trunk Bubbles

Kyle Starks

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Name: Kyle Starks

Website: Follow him on Twitter here.

Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: As a young kid, probably… I don’t know. Nightcrawler? I’m so old now it’s hard to remember growing up.

Favorite Comic Book Character Now: Probably my lead in “Rock Candy Mountain,” Jackson – I’m all about that dude right now.

Latest Work: In January I published Image Comics’ “Rock Candy Mountain” and Oni Press “Rick and Morty” #34

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Starks: (Laughter) I like to call it kinetic and cartoony. I get a lot of “scratches on bar napkins” and “undetailed,” but I feel like it’s not without detail, it’s just gestural. Movement and pacing is really important to me. And clarity. I definitely focus on those things a lot more than “realism” and “anatomy.”

TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Starks: For sure, as a kid I voraciously consumed comics. It’s funny, as a very young person I would’ve sworn I was going to be a comic artist when I grew up. I worked at a comic store through my teens and early twenties, but once I got to college I was really focused on fine art and over-drinking, so I probably went eight years without picking up a comic or even really thinking about comics. When I got married and started having kids and was thinking about things I might never get around to, I did a comic and that love came swooping back in hard and fast.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Starks: When I was a kid I was a huge John Byrne fan, for sure. I’d say looking back now, not as a child but as a teen, probably Evan Dorkin’s work and DeMatteis/Giffen’s “Justice League International” were the biggest influences. As an adult, Kirby, Urasawa and the Swedish cartoonist Jason were my boys when I started making comics. I’m definitely a bigger appreciator of comics as an adult, seeing my peers make incredible work and seeing and hearing their influences.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Starks: Oh, I had no plan. It was a lot of luck that got me here. I love making comics, so I was making them. I realized what I wanted more than anything was more eyes to see them, so I started using all my Kickstarter profits to go to conventions, that formed a lot of relationships with great people and as they say, “one thing led to another.”

TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Starks: Through a series of fortuitous events, Matt Fraction read my Kickstarted version of “Sexcastle” at a convention, tweeted about it and emailed me to see if I wanted to work with Image. Just a lot of luck, man. I am fairly certain that he read that book because his plane didn’t take off in time. I mean, you can’t plan stuff like that. I guess the lesson is to make good work and try to put yourself in a position to succeed.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics. How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
Starks: I would definitely be the exception to that – like I said, I sort of tripped headfirst into it. I had no intention of being a professional, just rather to do something I loved as a profitable hobby. Getting in wasn’t as hard as staying in, being successful and happy at it. But, again, I can’t say enough about how fortunate I’ve been on my journey so far. It’s an unusual path.

In regards to the second part of that question, definitely 2016 was my breakthrough year – “Sexcastle” was published by Image and was nominated for an Eisner. I got an incredible, steady gig with “Rick and Morty” – there was suddenly money and momentum. I Kickstarted my first book in 2013 – that’s an unusually fast career path.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Starks: I don’t do a lot of warm ups – generally if I feel like it’s looking like a day that’s going to need them, I tend to take suggestions from my Patreon supporters or draw wrestlers.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Starks: I’m really happy with my creator-owned stuff and there are definitely some other creators I think about working with more than a specific title. I think we all got little secret dreams, but I would never jinx it by saying it aloud!

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Starks: My ultimate dream is to be able to do this for a long, long time. This job allows me to see my family and spend time with my kids, to travel around. I mean, the benefits outside of punching a time card are huge. I love making comics, I love telling stories – there’s nothing I’d rather be doing and the only absolute dream would be to get to do it for as long as I want to, which is forever.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
Starks: My greatest strengths as a storyteller are definitely comedy and action, and I think the secret to both are pacing, timing and clarity. I think also that I have a distinctive style that’s easy to recognize. I am far from being the best artist in comics, I’m frankly not anywhere near that conversation, but I think as a storyteller or a cartoonist I tell stories in a different way than most – and I think being unique or different is a boon.

TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Stark: I work 100 percent digitally. I’m so much faster from idea to finish, I can’t imagine doing it otherwise. Working digitally kept me in comics early and has allowed me to write and draw a series (“Rock Candy Mountain”) while I wrote and occasionally drew another (“Rick and Morty”) and wrote a third (“Dead of Winter”) last year. No way I could do that analog.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Starks: Never stop making comics, make the comic you want in the world, do it because you love it until it’s potential more than a labor of love and at that point start treating it like a business. Be professional.

TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Starks: I love it. And right now with the popularity of “Rick and Morty,” fiscally, I have to do them. I wouldn’t be where I am now – wherever that is, really – without conventions. I’ve met and made my best friends in this world, I’ve made the connections that got me work or opportunities and I think hustling your work and meeting the fans is literally priceless. I love them.

TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Starks: I’m not afraid to say no to something that’s too ridiculous – and I’m pretty sure I’ve been asked to draw some fetish-y, porn-y stuff that I said no to. I’m trying to think. There was a guy at my first convention who asked me to draw a space centaur? I don’t get so many weird ones, I guess.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to for the rest of 2018 and into the new year?
Starks: “Rock Candy Mountain” finishes up with issue 8 in February and I’ll continue to write “Rick and Morty” for the foreseeable future and occasionally draw it. There’s been talk about another “Dead of Winter” series and I’m in the middle of contract negotiations for a series with a creator I’ve wanted to work with since my first convention. And hopefully a fresh new Kyle Starks’ joint for everyone to dig on at some point.

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Wingman Wednesday

Ian Verdun

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Photo By: Claudia Greene

Unless you’re a sailor from the 15th century with a belly full of wine, you probably don’t have a lot of experience with mermaids. That being said, Ian Verdun, star of the new drama series “Siren,” which premieres March 29 on Freeform, promises viewers will find plenty to relate to when mermaids come ashore in the fictional town of Bristol Cove.

The Los Angeles native portrays a salt-of-the-earth fisherman in the new series, and it’s these types of real, recognizable people that he says helps to ground the fantastical elements of “Siren.”

We recently sat down with Verdun to discuss why he thinks the series will have no problem finding an audience, how success won’t mean it arrived overnight, and the reason he genuinely loves portraying his character Xander.

 

TrunkSpace: Freeform has an amazing track record of building and establishing shows that amass really passionate fandoms. In everything that you have experienced and seen of the show thus far, does it have that same fandom-building potential?
Verdun: Absolutely. I think it could do it on a number of levels, actually. First and foremost it’s about mermaids, so I think there’s already such an avid fan base for that creature, for that folklore, all across the planet. There’s no country in the whole world that doesn’t have some kind of dedication to mermaids, some kind of cultural cornerstone where it deals with those creatures, so I think that alone is gonna have a lot of people very interested from the beginning. And then when they really get into the story and they get into the characters, and they get into what we’ve actually done with these characters, I really think people are gonna find a passionate new angle. And my character, he’s not a supernatural thing. I definitely am not a mermaid. Spoiler alert. (Laughter) But I think there’s something so human about him. When you have characters who do things that are just incredibly relatable, incredibly human, especially against the backdrop of something so crazy and so out there and off the wall, you really find a way to just see yourself in all of these people, in all of their situations, and in all of their hardships in spite of all the zaniness that’s happening.

And I think that the writers have really done a great job of keeping everybody grounded, so when people watch, it’s not just about flippers and fins and intrigue and mystery and all of that other stuff, which is great and awesome, and I enjoy it – I enjoy genre TV like anybody else – but I think the thing that keeps you coming back and makes you really passionate is the people. I tip my hat off to them (the writers) because I was just so excited to get a script every time, because we would just eat it up and just zoom right through every script. It was the only opportunity for us to be fans, because it’s spoiled for us. We already know what’s happening. If anybody watching the show is as involved and intrigued as we were reading it, then, yeah, I think it’s really gonna find a big audience.

TrunkSpace: What’s interesting about mermaids is that, while it’s a recognizable creature, they haven’t been overly exposed in the world of modern pop culture.
Verdun: I totally agree. And I think there’s actually a couple of reasons for that. One I think is that it’s probably just incredibly expensive, technically, to do it, especially on television. It’s a lot of water. It’s a lot of stuff. So I think we’ve just kind of come to a point in time in television, just technically, where we’re able to pull off something like this and make it believable and real and fresh. But I also think culturally we’re just in a different place where Women’s Liberation, the #MeToo movement, Time’s Up and all of these things are happening when it comes to narratives that center on women in positions of power, and I think that before now, it’s been very rare to actually look at these kinds of creatures, these stories, and actually focus in on them and break them down because people weren’t paying attention before.

TrunkSpace: The show is already creating a buzz, and again, Freeform is very good and finding audiences for their programming. With all of that being said, does it feel like “Siren” could be a game changer for you as far as your career is concerned?
Verdun: I mean, one can only hope, right? Don’t count your fish before they’re caught, right? (Laughter) But I would hope so. For me, it’s not really an overnight success. It takes years to become an overnight success. I graduated from college back in 2007, so it’s been a long haul for me.

It’s about the integrity of the story that you’re telling and it’s about the craft, no matter what the project is, you know? You always wanna do your best work and you always wanna be able to stand up and stand behind what you’re doing and be able to defend it, and I’m very lucky with this show that I genuinely enjoy it and I genuinely think it’s a great show. I’m very lucky to be going into this particular process with a project that I really, really, really love. It makes things, I imagine, so much easier. This is the first time I’m doing any of this, so it’s not like I have a lot of comparative experience.

TrunkSpace: Like many other shows nowadays, “Siren” is adopting a smaller season order (10 episodes), which for viewers, feels more consumable. You’re getting story, not just filler content.
Verdun: Exactly. You don’t have those little standalone episodes. It really kind of felt like we were shooting a movie every week. It’s just the production value and the amount of people that are involved, and sometimes, the depths that we had to… pun totally not intended, but kind of intended… the depths that we had to go to to really find characters and to really tell a very honest story about them in light of, like I said before, all the craziness. So I think it’s also advantageous to have smaller episode orders because you’re able to put some money into it, and put some bang into the episodes that really just, you know, knocks everything home, because when it looks beautiful and when everybody’s happy, it shows up on screen.

TrunkSpace: We know you can’t go into too much of the story, but can you give us a taste of what Xander’s personal journey is over the course of that first season?
Verdun: I would love to go into details, but obviously, I can’t. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Contractually you can only confirm that you’re NOT a mermaid.
Verdun: (Laughter) Yeah. All I can say.

What I can say about Xander is I think his journey is incredibly relatable, even though, you know, it’s mermaids and I doubt too many people can relate to dealing with mermaids. I’ll be very surprised if they do. (Laughter) But I think his journey is about friendship and it’s about loyalty and maybe misplaced loyalty. And I think it’s also about family for him. His entire outlook is very tied up in the people that he’s with and he’s around. I think he’s an incredibly smart guy, he’s incredibly intelligent, but I don’t think people give him credit for it. What I do love about him too is he’s just this regular dude. He’s a working class, blue collar fisherman, and I think to give that perspective a younger face, and even to give that perspective a brown face, to me it’s really interesting. I rarely ever see fishermen on TV or even blue collar characters as people of color. They generally aren’t. But we exist, they exist. I don’t come from a high class, upper class, or even upper middle class family at all. I grew up pretty poor. We have blue collar people that have very different faces and it’s almost an honor to be able to represent that and to put a human face on it that looks a bit different.

Siren” premieres on Freeform March 29.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jack Turner

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Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Steven Ackerman

Yes, we’re counting the days until wind chills are no longer a factor in our daily clothing choices and Nor’easters are Nor’more, but until then we’re embracing the sentimental glow of the season – warming ourselves at the foot of the fireplace, indulging in home-cooked comfort foods, and of course, settling in under a heavy blanket and watching Hallmark Channel’s Winterfest programming event.

Premiering Saturday on the network, “One Winter Weekend” tells the story of a surprise romance that develops between two unlikely people, played by Taylor Cole and Jack Turner, who find themselves double-booked and snowed in together while on their own individual weekend away in the mountains.

We recently sat down with Turner to discuss reuniting with his “My Summer Prince” costar, why he would hang out with his character Ben in the real world, and the reason he left his job at Google after five years.

TrunkSpace: This isn’t your first time working with Taylor. Was coming together on this movie by design or was it a bit of a surprise for you?
Turner: Taylor was working with the production team a little bit and was able to suggest some names and it ended up coming my way. I was really happy to get it and it was great to have the chance to work with Taylor again – she’s brilliant to work with. It was also fun to get the team together after “My Summer Prince,” which is probably one of my favorite times on set.

TrunkSpace: On-screen chemistry is so important to the success and believability of Hallmark Channel movies. Because you two have worked together in the past, did that allow you and Taylor to jump right into the material and hit the ground running?
Turner: Yeah, totally. I think that chemistry comes from really good listening. I think that that’s the majority of what chemistry is on camera. When you trust that someone’s going to be there and be prepared and be ready to listen to you just as much as you’re ready to listen to them, then it takes a lot of the pressure off and no one’s just thinking about their side of things. It becomes a very interactive acting experience. I think that definitely having worked before and trusting each other the way we do, we could sink very quickly into daily routines of running lines on the way to set, running lines on the way home, and then, “See you tomorrow morning.” It was all very straightforward.

TrunkSpace: And in that, it must give you a sense of comfort off-camera as well – a sense of ease within the job itself?
Turner: Definitely. Simple stuff that makes things really easy. There wasn’t a grocery store nearby and Taylor had a car and I didn’t, and so when she was on set, she’d let me use her car so I could go and get groceries. It’s simple stuff – some surprising teamwork that makes those kinds of experiences even more enjoyable.

TrunkSpace: From our understanding, working on Hallmark Channel productions is an extremely efficient process, which makes sense given how many new movies the network airs each year. From an acting standpoint, how does that efficiency impact what you’re doing as a performer?
Turner: I personally like it. There’s not too much time to overthink things and so you trust your instincts and maybe get some direction to try some different options in takes, leave it behind and move on to the next thing. This film was a 15-day shoot, but my days were condensed into 10. I shot my side of things, the scenes that I was in, in 10 days, which is a very quick shoot for a film. I like that a lot because you just get in that rhythm and it’s very focused.

TrunkSpace: That also must allow you to pursue more projects throughout the course of a year when you’re not committing yourself to a six week or longer shoot?
Turner: Totally. I’ve been quite lucky with the shoots I’ve done. I’ve done more condensed shoots in terms of the amount of time that I’ve been on them. I’d love to do an extended TV show, but it’s also great for me to… I only came to this five or six years ago, so I’m getting loads of varied experiences through lots of different sets and lots of different roles and that’s very enriching.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to your character Ben in “One Winter Weekend,” is he someone who you could see yourself hanging out with in the real world? Was it easy for you to connect with him?
Turner: It definitely was easy to connect with him. He’s a CEO of a company but almost reluctantly so. He started the company, it went public, and he’s beholden to the board of directors and the shareholders. He has a bit more of an entrepreneurial mentality, combined with an easygoing nature, and isn’t strictly business. I think he’s become a bit jaded that his baby isn’t his. His vision isn’t really being fulfilled anymore and the company’s products aren’t being innovative and he needs a weekend away to get some perspective on some of the issues he’s been having in the company and also in the press, and then of course, he meets Cara.

TrunkSpace: And the conflict then arises because she is essentially the press, right?
Turner: Exactly right. Good research.

At the beginning of the film they both book the same chalet and neither of them are happy about it. To ease the tension, their friends that they’re with suggest that no one talks about work for the weekend because we’re all going to be sharing space together and it should just be a fun time.

Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Steven Ackerman

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel programming continues to grow in popularity. Why do you think that is?
Turner: I think it’s really family friendly, simple entertainment. Simple is the wrong word, but in contrast, simplicity can be elegant in that you have characters who are dealing with very relatable problems, and over the course of the film and the obstacles that they go through, they learn something that is universal about themselves and come out the other side. It can be a very clear learning experience for the audience as well as the characters. I think they’re quite elegant in the ease that the scripts and the films have.

TrunkSpace: You have one of the more interesting journeys in becoming an actor that we’ve read about. Firstly, you studied psychology and we have to imagine that having that knowledge must be pretty beneficial in an industry where there are so many different types of personalities?
Turner: Definitely. Both in terms of the characters you play and also on-set dynamics. That’s where professionalism really comes into play and I was fortunate that I worked at Google for five years and had a heavy dose of professionalism there. I feel like I have good training, if you like, for working in film and TV. The funny thing about the psychology degree is that the way psychology has gone for the last 15 or 20 years, it’s become very scientific. The degree was almost closer to neuroscience or neuropsychology rather than observable human behavior. In a way I feel like acting school, which I did at night while I was working at Google, and then working in film and TV, is the education in psychology I always wanted and also the expression of what I’m interested in.

TrunkSpace: Like you mentioned, you worked at Google for five years, which is a company that a lot of people are running towards, not from.
Turner: (Laughter) I know. Google is a great job, so I like to joke that it was a series of unforgivable mistakes leaving that place.

TrunkSpace: And it was while you were there that you planted the seed for what would ultimately become your acting career?
Turner: Yeah, it was. I thought I’d go to an acting class for a couple reasons. Partly because of the psychology background and because a few really close friends and family said it could be a good fit as a hobby. I also thought it might help me at work. A lot of the executives do actually use acting coaches in order to help them dealing with different personalities or in helping themselves. Maybe some people need to be more assertive, some people need to listen better, some people need to present with more authority, or maybe even less authority. Acting can be really helpful for executives.

So I went to a class and just instantly fell in love with the rooted but spiritual nature of it. I just fell in love with it and became hooked and did a two-year class while I was in San Francisco at night, two or three nights a week. Then came a time where I was prepared and ready to leave the fold of Google. There’s no regrets, but it was a very difficult decision.

One Winter Weekend” premieres Saturday, January 20 (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Dewshane Williams

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Photo: Dewshane Williams Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Steven Ackerman

Yes, we’re counting the days until wind chills are no longer a factor in our daily clothing choices and Nor’easters are Nor’more, but until then we’re embracing the sentimental glow of the season – warming ourselves at the foot of the fireplace, indulging in home-cooked comfort foods, and of course, settling in under a heavy blanket and watching Hallmark Channel’s Winterfest programming event.

Premiering Saturday on the network, “One Winter Weekend” tells the story of a surprise romance that develops between two unlikely people, played by Taylor Cole and Jack Turner, who find themselves double-booked and snowed in together while on their own individual weekend away in the mountains.

We recently sat down with “One Winter Weekend” star Dewshane Williams to discuss staying warm on location, being welcomed into the Hallmark Channel family, and why it’s important to learn on the job.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, this is your first time working on a Hallmark Channel movie. Did you go into the production with a certain set of preconceived notions/expectations and how did those views change by the time that the film wrapped?
Williams: You’re correct, this is my first time working with Hallmark Channel. I had no idea what to expect; however, I kept an open mind to the experience which was beneficial to my process. I was able to evolve creatively as a result, which is exactly what I was hoping would happen. If there’s anything I’ve discovered it’s that romantic comedies can be a lot of fun to work on.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that Hallmark Channel is known for is creating films that establish a feel and tone of a particular season, ultimately putting the audience in that seasonal moment. As far as the technical aspect of making a movie is concerned, was that element of the process new to you and does it ultimately play into how you approach your performance at all?
Williams: I’m from north of the border (Canada) where it can get pretty cold during the winter. For me, shooting in the freezing temperatures of Winnipeg, or the Kananaskis Mountains, was fairly simple. Wear layers, and you’ll be fine. Our wardrobe department was the best. They took care of us by making sure we had the appropriate gear. They’ve got these things we call “hot shots,” which are incredible! You put them on and they heat up for several hours; keeping your muscles and vital organs warm.

TrunkSpace: As far as your character Sean is concerned, can you give us a little insight into who he is as a person and how you “found” him in your own personal discovery process?
Williams: Dr. Sean is an affluent, supportive, free spirit. He’s the kind of friend you want to have in your corner. Sean also has a great sense of humor, which is infectious. We share a number of characteristics in common, and so I was able to understand where he was coming from rather easily. I’m grateful I got the opportunity to bring him to life.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular scene or moment that you’re most excited for people to see in terms of your performance as Sean?
Williams: All of it! Typically, I don’t watch the things I’m in as I’m rather self-conscious – most actors are – however, my intention is to watch this film. Gary Yates did a wonderful job directing us, so I’m curious to see how it all turned out.

TrunkSpace: We have been amazed at how passionate and engaged the Hallmark Channel fan base is, especially via social media. Did you have any idea how popular Hallmark Channel movies were when you signed on for “One Winter Weekend” and now that you’ve been a part of one, what do you think the draw is for all of those “Hallmarkies” who continue to tune in with each new film or series?
Williams: I had no idea how passionate Hallmark Channel’s fan base was! That’s a great thing to hear; hopefully the film lives up to their expectations. I recently attended the TCA 18 event in Los Angeles with Crown Media, and it felt like I was being welcomed into a family. Maybe that’s it? There’s a warmth to the network that’s universal. It feels like you’re welcoming a family member into your home.

TrunkSpace: It feels like there is so much negativity and chaos going on in the world every time you turn on the news or check your Twitter feed. Do you think that part of the appeal of a film like “One Winter Weekend” is that, as a society, we’re just looking to feel good? In a way, they’re a bit of a throwback, are they not?
Williams: Definitely. Globally there’s quite a bit of negativity out there. If we can provide viewers with stories that help them believe in a better world, or warm their hearts; we’re responding to that negativity in a creative way. “One Winter Weekend” will make you feel good while watching it. That was one of our intentions.

TrunkSpace: Prior to your work on “One Winter Weekend,” you appeared in a number of science fiction and action projects. Was that by design? Did you have an interest in those genres that lead you down that path, or did fate step in and point you in that direction?
Williams: Prior to “One Winter Weekend” I’ve done a number of science fiction and action projects, you’re right. I think it was both by design and fate. As a boy, I was always interested in sci-fi and action. Getting the opportunity to combine both on a show like “Defiance” or “The Expanse” was a dream come true. Some of my biggest influences in film/TV are Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Steven Spielberg, and Will Smith, respectively. All of those names have an extensive background in science fiction/action projects… maybe I’m subconsciously following their lead?

TrunkSpace: A number of the series you have appeared on have built passionate fandoms, both due to their source material/character origins (“Supergirl”) and their originality (“Defiance”). Do you think social media has allowed series like those we mentioned to build on their fandoms in ways that shows of the past were unable to do? What is your relationship with social media and the fans who reach out to you via the platform?
Williams: I’m very fortunate that the fandoms I’ve encountered so far in my career have been wonderful. They really care about the shows we’re making and that’s apparent to us. “Defiance” and “Supergirl” fandoms, we see you and appreciate your enthusiasm. I think fandom organization is much easier than it used to be prior to the internet, and that definitely allows certain shows/films to thrive. The audience is a very important part of what we do and so I try my best to engage them online when I can. I haven’t been on Twitter in a while, but I’ll return sooner than later!

Williams in Defiance. Photo By: Joe Pugliese/Syfy

TrunkSpace: You studied your craft in school, but how much have you learned through the act of doing that you could have never discovered in a classroom? Is it important for people to strike a balance between training and hands-on experience to find success as an actor?
Williams: I went to an arts school in Toronto, and one of my school mates once gave me some great advice. I was in-between acting classes and I reached out to Nina (Dobrev) asking her for some advice on the craft. Her response has always stuck with me. She said, “Some of the biggest things I’ve learned happened while working on set.” That’s proven to be true for me as well. Understanding how to efficiently communicate with my crew/director in the workplace was one of those skills I’ve been able to develop. You can only learn so much in the classroom, or during training. At some point, you’ll have to take those skills and apply them while in the work environment. As a general rule in life, balance is key.

TrunkSpace: You started out acting for the stage. Does that medium still call out to you and do you continue to perform in theatrical productions?
Williams: Yes! The stage calls me from time to time. I would love to produce and star in some theater. Maybe Shakespeare? I had a chat with a friend of mine last month who wanted to do a little play, so I might do that if the scheduling is right. Would you come?

TrunkSpace: Count us in! Have your aspirations/goals changed from when you started out acting to where you are now?
Williams: Yes. My aspirations have evolved since I first started acting, as I’m constantly growing. I would love to offer more to the industry, and hopefully I can provide opportunities for others as well. I’m interested in writing and producing. directing is also something I would love to explore. Over the years my appreciation for the other departments that make up our community has grown immensely.

TrunkSpace: We’re a few weeks into 2018. Did you set any resolutions for yourself in the new year and if so, how are you doing with them thus far?
Williams: New year, same me. I’m trying my best to grow creatively, have new experiences, and read a couple more books. That hasn’t changed since last year.

One Winter Weekend” premieres Saturday, January 20 (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Rukiya Bernard

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Yes, we’re counting the days until wind chills are no longer a factor in our daily clothing choices and Nor’easters are Nor’more, but until then we’re embracing the sentimental glow of the season – warming ourselves at the foot of the fireplace, indulging in home-cooked comfort foods, and of course, settling in under a heavy blanket and watching Hallmark Channel’s Winterfest programming event.

Premiering Saturday on the network, “One Winter Weekend” tells the story of a surprise romance that develops between two unlikely people, played by Taylor Cole and Jack Turner, who find themselves double-booked and snowed in together while on their own individual weekend away in the mountains.

We recently sat down with “One Winter Weekend” star Rukiya Bernard to discuss her “One Winter Weekend” highlights, why her character’s story delivers a great message for women, and the crossover between the Hallmarkies and the Helsingers.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on multiple Hallmark Channel movies throughout the course of your career, the most recent being “One Winter Weekend.” Do you continue to return to the Hallmark Channel fold because of the people involved, because of the characters you get to portray, or a combination of both?
Bernard: I think it’s a combination of both. I enjoy doing lighthearted comedies and Hallmark gives me the chance to do that.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product – the completed film – is what becomes memorable, but for those who work on a project, there’s an entire experience involved. What for you were some of the highlights of your time on “One Winter Weekend?”
Bernard: There were a number of highlights in this movie such as eating fondue for work, figuring out how to do things while both hands were incapacitated and getting to know the cast. We’d go out after work whenever possible and it was great getting to know them.

TrunkSpace: When you first got a sense of who Megan was, what initially drew you in, and did you begin to enjoy different aspects of her personality as you spent more time with her?
Bernard: When I first got the role of Megan I enjoyed her free spiritedness, which contrasts nicely with her REALLY good work ethic. It’s maybe too good to her detriment. I enjoyed her playful side and that really drew me in.

TrunkSpace: What is Megan’s journey throughout the course of the film? Did you get to tackle something within the performance that you have yet to onscreen?
Bernard: Megan’s journey is one of learning to stand her ground and go after what she wants in life. I loved that aspect of her story. I think it’s a great message for women to hear – for everyone to hear, actually.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel movies continue to grow in popularity and draw massive audiences week after week, season after season. As someone who has worked on multiple productions, what do you think the draw is?
Bernard: I think the draw is they are easy to watch and people know what to expect. They’re never going to make you uncomfortable and they’ll always put a smile on your face. Now more than ever, I think we need that and I think that’s a huge part as to why the numbers are increasing week to week.

TrunkSpace: As a star of “Van Helsing,” you’re no stranger to passionate fandoms. What we didn’t realize until we started really diving into Hallmark Channel content was that the films have their own really passionate fandoms called the “Hallmarkies.” In your experience, how do the Hallmarkies compare to some of the genre fandoms like what you have experienced firsthand with “Van Helsing?”
Bernard: You know what’s interesting is some of the Helsingers are Hallmarkies too! I was shocked to see the crossover when I started getting messages from fans. It makes me laugh as “Van Helsing” is a horror show – very dramatic and tragic with lots of blood and gore – it’s vampires! And then my Helsingers will change channels and enjoy a MOW I’m in with lightness and everlasting love and lots of fun shenanigans. I love it!

Photo: Rukiya Bernard, Taylor Cole Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Steven Ackerman

TrunkSpace: Speaking of fandoms, you have made two appearances on the series “Supernatural,” a show whose fan base continues to propel it forward, currently into its 13th season. You first guested in season 7, and just returned for season 13, playing two entirely different characters. What is it is like getting to play two characters within the canon of one popular series? Although not entirely rare in the “Supernatural” world, it is relatively rare in the industry as a whole, correct?
Bernard: Yes, it is rare to be invited back onto a show and I was honored that it happened. The SPN fans are super loyal too. It was fun playing both characters who were quite different in that, though both were counseling types (season 7 I played a fraudulent psychic and season 13 I played a grief counselor), the characters were very different and had different demises – I never died in the current season.

TrunkSpace: One of the great things about “Supernatural” is that from a storytelling standpoint, it’s this perfect mix of the fantastical and the relatable. In your season 13 episode, “The Big Empty,” you portrayed a shapeshifter who was dealing with some really heavy, human circumstances and emotions. That sort of perfectly sums up the unlimited potential of acting in terms of where you can go with the craft, does it not? Getting to play a “monster” who, in the end, is the victim, is a theme as old and as relatable as the story of Frankenstein, but at the same time, it’s not something you get to do while sitting in a cubicle at an office.
Bernard: (Laughter) Yeah, it’s not an average day at the office – though if you watch “Van Helsing,” my character Doc is a “monster” grappling with finding and proving her humanity again, so maybe it is another day at the office for me. I think the constant in all the characters I’ve played is that they are presented as one thing and through the journey they go on they endeavor to change. I love playing those characters because I think people need to see that it’s possible to change if you want to.

TrunkSpace: You have received both fan acclaim and critical praise for your work on “Van Helsing.” As you look back over your time on the series, what memories bring a smile to your face, both professionally and personally?
Bernard: I have many fond memories. “Van Helsing” is my first television series and I’m lucky that we’ve been picked up for a third season. When I think about my first few days on set, I was so nervous and was convinced that I was going to get fired, but I think back on those days now and they make me laugh. I also think about the friendships I’ve made and how lucky I am.

TrunkSpace: From what we read, your mother was an art store owner. Did you grow up in a creative environment where your own creative endeavors were supported and nurtured?
Bernard: You’ve done your research. Yes, my mom owned Toronto’s first African art store and though she wasn’t an artist she was a huge supporter of the arts and really helped encourage my artistic desires. Both my parents did. My dad was a graphic artist before becoming an entrepreneur and he’s a really good singer, too. I think I get my artsiness from him.

Bernard in Van Helsing. Photo by: Dan Power/Helsing S1 Productions/Syfy

TrunkSpace: Have your aspirations/goals changed from when you started out acting to where you are now?
Bernard: Not really. I just think my goals are more well-rounded because they now include my family and balancing my dreams and aspirations with my kids and my husband. We aim to support each other with the varying things we want to do in life.

TrunkSpace: We’re a few weeks into 2018. Did you set any resolutions for yourself in the new year and if so, how are you doing with them thus far?
Bernard: I didn’t set any resolutions. I kind of have a fear of them as they set you up for failure. However, I did decide to work out more even when I can’t get to the gym and have crafted workouts I can do at home and while I’m on the road. No excuses this year!

One Winter Weekend” premieres Saturday, January 20 (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

Season 2 of “Van Helsing” arrives on Netflix today.

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Sit and Spin

Reggie and the Full Effect’s 41

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Artist: Reggie and the Full Effect

Album: “41″

Label: Pure Noise Records

Reason We’re Cranking It: Seven albums and 20 years into this solo project, The Get Up Kids’ James Dewees is comfortable in his own sonic skin, delivering plenty of uptempo ups and very few downs for your digital download consumption. (Album drops February 23)

What The Album Tells Us About Him: Dewees isn’t afraid to experiment with his sound, but at the same time, never ventures too far away from what we think a Reggie and the Full Effect album should/would sound like. He manages to surprise us while also making sure that we’re comfortable on the journey.

Track Stuck On Repeat: The one we find ourselves continuously drawn to is the track that feels the most removed from the overall feel of the album. “Heartbreak” plays like a song in the opening scene of everyone’s favorite 80s comedy starring John Cusack or Anthony Michael Hall. Even without a stage to play on, it sets one. If being a teenager again had a musical feel, this would be it.

Coming To A City Near You: Check out the list of cities/dates here.

And that means…

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Musical Mondaze

Fu Manchu

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As the old adage suggests, if something isn’t broke, why fix it?

Fu Manchu, the reigning kings of all things fuzz and wah, have been maintaining their signature sound for nearly three decades, taking fans on an epic journey of musical longevity that any band would hope to one day achieve. Their latest (and 12th!) album, “Clone of the Universe” is scheduled to land on February 9, and if they have their way, there will be another dozen in the future.

We recently sat down with singer/guitarist and founding member Scott Hill to discuss the bands abundance of riffs, what he hopes fans take from the album, and why he rates it as one of his personal Fu Manchu favorites.

TrunkSpace: Your upcoming album “Clone of the Universe” is the band’s 12th. When you’re a dozen albums into your career, is it easier or more difficult to write new material? Has Fu Manchu ever found themselves at a creative crossroads?
Hill: We have been lucky to always have a lot of riffs available. We actually had too many riffs when writing this record. All Fu Manchu songs start with one riff being brought into the practice room and we go from there.

TrunkSpace: Sounds change over the years just as much as people do. If you were to look back at your first album “No One Rides for Free” and compare it sonically to where the band is today, what would you pull out of there as being the biggest change, that perhaps, a fan may not notice?
Hill: Better recordings now. More comfortable at being in the studio. We always record the same way with all of us in one room around the drummer.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to how the album physically came together in the studio, did you attempt anything differently in the process that you had yet to tackle with previous albums?
Hill: We always start with a guitar riff and work on that. We record all of our songs on a cassette 4-track machine and once the song is done we all live with it and if we want to try changes, we do. Once the song is finished, then the lyrics/vocals happen.

TrunkSpace: For the fans who have followed you guys since the beginning, what do you hope they take from “Clone of the Universe?” Is it just as much for them as it is for new listeners who may be discovering Fu Manchu for the first time?
Hill: Same as always. HEAVY / FUZZY riffs! Get into the song and get out. Except for our 18 minute long song. That one takes a little longer.

TrunkSpace: Looking back over your previous albums again, where does “Clone of the Universe” fall into your list of personal favorites? How did the experience of making this album on a personal level compare to the experience of making those that came before it?
Hill: This one is up in the Top 5 for sure. We have Alex Lifeson from Rush playing guitar on it! I think this is one of our best sounding recordings. We put on an 18 minute song as the entire side two of the record. Artwork is one of our favorites as well.

TrunkSpace: The industry has changed quite a bit since Fu Manchu first started making music together. Today you release your works, including this latest album, on your own label, At The Dojo Records. Beyond having more control over your own creative destiny, what other benefits does a band have in self-releasing their material?
Hill: The satisfaction of completing a record from start to finish! Everyone contributing.

Fu Manchu in 2014. Photo By: Andrew Stuart

TrunkSpace: On the opposite end of the spectrum, where have the changes in the industry had a negative impact on bands? Is there an area of the business that remains inaccessible to those without a major label backing them?
Hill: Having to pay for everything ourselves. Plane tickets, bus rental, gear rental for Europe and van trailer rental, hotels in the USA. Paying for recording to pressing of the records. But again, the satisfaction of doing everything from start to finish is worth it.

TrunkSpace: There are ups and downs in any career that spans as long as Fu Manchu has been writing and performing. Personally, what has been the biggest up for you that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life?
Hill: Just being able to still release records and tour and have people buy the records and show up to the shows.

TrunkSpace: In the moments when those ups became downs, was there ever a point where you considered walking away from music altogether or is it engrained in who you are?
Hill: In my almost 30 years in Fu Manchu there have been only two times where I wanted to stop playing in the band. They are very personal so I will not be talking about them here.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the writing and recording, what’s an aspect of being a musician that you enjoy that may not seem an obvious choice? Anything from picking album cover art to deciding the track listing on a new album… what makes you giddy?
Hill: Getting into the practice room and coming up with new songs. That’s my favorite part!

TrunkSpace: Again, “Clone of the Universe” is the band’s 12th album. Do you have another dozen in you?
Hill: Working on the next record now!

Clone of the Universe” drops February 9 on At The Dojo Records.

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Wingman Wednesday

Kim Rhodes

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Photo By: Travis Hodges

If you steer clear of people with yellow eyes, call your car Baby, or recognize the value of salt in places other than the kitchen, chances are good that you’re fan of the series “Supernatural.” And if you are, you know that the Winchester brothers have had their fair share of friends and family come into their lives throughout the course of the show’s first 13 seasons, though none have left an impact quite like Sheriff Jody Mills. Now the maternal ass-kicking ally, portrayed perfectly by Kim Rhodes, is on the verge of spearheading her own spinoff series, “Wayward Sisters,” which viewers will get a taste of tonight when “Supernatural” returns to The CW following its mid-season hiatus.

 

We recently sat down with Rhodes to discuss her “Supernatural” road so far, the power and magic of the fandom, and what she’s most excited to explore with Jody in the new series.

TrunkSpace: “The road so far…” is a popular phrase associated with the series. Could you have ever expected that your “Supernatural” road would lead you here today, on the verge of your own spin-off series, “Wayward Sisters?”
Rhodes: I was so grateful every single second on that set. It never occurred to me to wish for more. And then when people started whispering, “Wouldn’t this be a good spin-off? Wouldn’t this be…” like, in my darkest heart there was a tiny little flicker of, “Yes, please! Please! I want to do this forever!”

But really, no expectation. No belief. I am astonished and I have no idea how this happened, with the exception of a group of powerful, vibrant, unbelievably joyous fans that were like, “No, no, no. We’d like this. Look what we can do.”

TrunkSpace: Obviously the fandom is very strong, but to be able to have a creative say and help a network venture towards a particular idea or concept is a very rare thing.
Rhodes: I’ve never heard of it happening before. Ever. Now, “Supernatural” has a very unique relationship with its fans. I remember being on a different show, and they actually said, “You’re here because of your fandom. We want to know how to do that with our show too.” I was like, “You can’t.”

I think the magic of “Supernatural” and the relationship with the fans, it cannot be recreated, because you can’t tell people what to do. This is the other thing. The fans are all individuals. It’s not a hive mind. You can’t just feed it. It is not a foregone conclusion that this spinoff will go. Because you can’t just seed somebody something and say, “Here, we call this ‘Supernatural,’” and have them say, “Yes, we love this.” They’re smart. They’re opinionated. They’re vocal. And they’re powerful. And it all comes from different ways of expressing love for the show “Supernatural” and for themselves and their own relationships and place in that. It’s pretty miraculous.

TrunkSpace: And because of that, it is called the SPN Family for a reason. They’re not afraid to say what they love and they’re not afraid to speak up when they don’t love something, but even then, it comes from a place of love.
Rhodes: It is, in all aspects, a family. I was talking to somebody else and I was like, “You know, nobody pushes your buttons like your family because they installed them.” It’s very easy for fans to be passive in this world, because nothing’s expected of them. But the “Supernatural” fandom expects a lot of itself, and they are passionate. I love that. It makes me identify. I’m like, “Yep, you’re me, I’m you! Yes!”

TrunkSpace: We know creatively the table has been set for “Wayward Sisters” throughout the course of the season, but this week’s episode really serves to put viewers at that table. Are you experiencing any sort of nerves in terms of how it will be received by the fandom?
Rhodes: You know how Holly Hunter cried in “Broadcast News?”

Supernatural — “Wayward Sisters” — Pictured: Kim Rhodes as Jody Mills — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved

TrunkSpace: Yeah.
Rhodes: There you go. That’s me. I was fortunate enough to have four episodes on a completely different show, playing a completely different character. I’ve been on “Criminal Minds” for the last couple months, and it kept me distracted. Today is the first day I’m not on “Criminal Minds.” I was like, “Oh, maybe I’m not completely okay. Maybe I’m just repressing all of the terror and hope I’ve ever felt in my entire life that has culminated in this moment.” Yeah, that’s far more likely is that I’ve just been repressing it.

TrunkSpace: Would you say tonally that tonight’s episode of “Supernatural” is going to be representative of what “Wayward Sisters” will become?
Rhodes: Boy, I wish I could answer that. I don’t know. They haven’t told me anything because they know I don’t keep secrets well. That said, what is definitely indicative of everything they’ve said they want is how high the bar is set. We didn’t cut corners as actors. We didn’t cut corners with storytelling. It is brutal. The fights are hard, the work was tough. We trained, all of us, trained. Both physically and with weapons. The bar was set high. I can safely say that should this go to series, we will only keep raising the bar for ourselves. We want to exceed the fans’ expectations. And their expectations are pretty damn high.

TrunkSpace: That’s the thing. Sometimes expectations can be a blessing and a curse, because people are excited but at the same time they have their own set ways of what they envision something will be.
Rhodes: Yes. Now that is definitely something we are aware of. I had said before, I would like to say again, give it a chance. Just because you don’t see all of your expectations met in one episode doesn’t mean we aren’t laying the groundwork, particularly in terms of representation. “Wayward Sisters” has really opened up the number of voices and perspectives that the stories are being told from. Within that, if you don’t look at something and go, “Oh, well they forgot this…” Maybe not. You can’t eat the entire meal in the first bite.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, it’s not a movie. It’s not an hour and a half. It’s a long journey.
Rhodes: Yeah. And also, you’ve seen the episode so you know what I mean when I say there’s probably going to be a moment when the fans feel a little betrayed. When they’re going to be like, “Wait a minute, you did it again to us?”

TrunkSpace: Right.
Rhodes: Just hang on. And that’s going to be my motto for the entire journey, is just hang on. Just hang on. You think you know. You don’t know. Just hang on.

TrunkSpace: Obviously you’ve seen the character Jody grow over the course of your time on the series. What are you most excited about from a character’s journey in terms of what we could possibly see her go through over the course of her own series?
Rhodes: I am so excited to see Jody make some mistakes, and watch other people have to clean up her mess. Jody’s been pretty on-target so far, because that’s how she’s served the show. We know she’s made mistakes, but we haven’t needed to watch any of them because that wasn’t pushing the storyline of “Supernatural” forward. I would like to think that within “Wayward Sisters” Jody’s going to make mistakes. And she’s going to have to learn some stuff, which is hard as a senior member of a group. Because a lot of my identity as a person when I’m in a situation like that is, “Oh yeah, I got this. Let me tell you how to get this.” And Jody’s going to have to realize that she ain’t always got it and she’s going to have to learn from the girls around her. I’m looking forward to seeing what she learns from them.

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved

TrunkSpace: Jody’s always been very supportive of Claire, Alex, and Patience in terms of them taking on the responsibilities of being Hunters, but as she becomes more invested in the group and as dangers increase, do you think she’ll have second thoughts about that?
Rhodes: I think that’s always going to be with her. I think that’s definitely a note to her, because she’s experienced loss at the hands of the supernatural. And really, nobody else has lost the kinds of things that she’s lost. Jody is the one who’s painfully aware of what’s at stake in this kind of life and so she’s always going to have to struggle to allow people to be who they need to be, to fight the fight that needs to be fought.

TrunkSpace: She’s taken these girls under her wing at a time when they needed her, but we would imagine that Jody needs them just as much, if not more given those holes left to be filled in her personal life?
Rhodes: Well, I also think for me, I prefer to phrase it not so much filling the hole – because those holes have unique shapes and nothing will ever fill them – but to remember that someone’s capacity to love, and I have personally experienced some pretty traumatic losses in my life, the loss will never be replaced. But the love continues to be expressed when I choose to love someone else. And love myself. I think that is something that Jody is aware of. She’s never going to replace her husband and her son. However, being of service and finding hope again is the best thing she can do for their memory. And those girls give her both of those things. She can love again, and she can hope again, because those girls are in her life.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Kim, you sort of touched on this at the start of our chat… how grateful you were to be on the set each and every time you got the call. Everybody we have spoken to who has been involved in the series or who has worked on the series, they all have that same point of view, which is that they genuinely love the experience and being a part of this universe. Having been in this industry for as long you have, is that rare? Because it seems pretty rare from an outside perspective.
Rhodes: Do you believe in love at first sight?

TrunkSpace: Actually, yeah.
Rhodes: Have you experienced it?

TrunkSpace: Yes.
Rhodes: That’s pretty fucking rare isn’t it?

TrunkSpace: It is.
Rhodes: It’s like that. It exists. People who have never experienced think it’s a myth. People who have experienced it know how precious it is and how rare it is. It’s magic.

Supernatural” returns tonight on The CW.

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