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February 2017

Sit and Spin

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s The Tourist

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Artist: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Album: “The Tourist”

Label: CYHSY Inc.

Format Reviewed: Digital Advance





Lyrics of Note:
So don’t be alarmed
Don’t be afraid
When it is just a little fire
I’m teaching myself to be safe
Waiting for you to regain your sight
We were in a fire last night
I just lost one too
Turns out I’m fireproof

NPR named Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s 2005 debut album one of “The 50 Most Important Recordings of the Decade.” A lot has changed in the 12 years since then, but the one thing that has remained consistent is the band’s capacity for making important recordings that leave a lasting impression on the listener.

“The Tourist” is packed with darkly tender, thought-provoking songs that melt from the speakers and mingle with the end user’s current emotional state of mind. Alec Ounsworth’s vocals resonate and penetrate, especially when they’re allowed to linger on lyrical melodies as opposed to having to juggle the syllable-heavy wordplay that forces him away from those beautiful moments. “The Pilot” and “Unfolding Above Celibate Moon (Lost Angeles Nursery Rhyme)” are particularly strong songs on an album with many strengths.

Although this album may not land on any lists declaring it one of the most important of the current decade, it is significant nonetheless. After all, a wave doesn’t need to move an entire bed of seashells to prove that the ocean itself is moving. If the wave forces even one to change position then the ocean has proven its power, just as “The Tourist” has proven its power by moving this one listener.

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Opening Act

Johnny Showcase

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Photo by: Jauhien Sasnou​

Artist/Band: Johnny Showcase

Website: www.johnnyshowcase.com

Hometown: Philadelphia

Latest Album/Release: The Octopus! (2015)

Influences: Sly Stone, Zappa, Funkadelic, Miles Davis

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Showcase: Joy/sex/dance music, absurdist psychedelic soul/funk.

TrunkSpace: When we first saw your video for “Love is a Mystery” we thought to ourselves… “What the hell are we looking at?” Less than one second later we were singing and dancing along. What have you done to us?!?!
Showcase: Yes, babies! I think you know exactly what we did to you.

TrunkSpace: In all seriousness, that song, like most of your songs, is extremely catchy and latches onto your brain in ways that successful songs are supposed to. Our question is, how much of what you do is performance art and how much of it is writing songs that are going to resonate with people? What is the balance that you’re creating when you create?
Showcase: I think the two aspects should combine to make something brand new. You can’t just write a song just to write a song… it can’t just be a funk jam in E. It has to move the people and reflect a moment. And though performance is paramount, if the crowd doesn’t walk away with the music in their head and their hearts, we aren’t doing our job.

TrunkSpace: There’s not a lot of originality in music. What’s done has been done and then done again. We don’t think the world has seen a Johnny Showcase before. Agree or disagree?
Showcase: They’ve seen bits and pieces of us in everything they grew up with. We are just classic showbiz, drawing on elements and influences that turn us on… plus our own bizarre leanings. Song + funky dance + mystical owl + sexy clowning + Rhode Island expatriation. It’s cookie cutter stuff, really.

TrunkSpace: When you peel back the layers of the onion, who is Johnny underneath all of the glitz and glamour and who are you performing alongside of?
Showcase: It’s actually quite simple: Johnny Showcase is a jazz crooner from northern Rhode Island, now a South Philadelphia freak funk folk hero. He is the lips and the hips. His Spiritual Adviser, Rumi Kitchen, is a cosmic space/time traveler and rockroller. Backup vocalists, The Truth, flank and funk, never speak, and get real mad when Johnny makes them spit out their gum. The mystic ticket is the machine… the hip ship.

TrunkSpace: We have yet to see a Johnny Showcase show, but it’s on our bucket list now. Explain how you translate what we’ve seen in your videos to the stage? We envision it being some big party where everyone gets liquored up and makes out in industrial strength foam… and we want in!
Showcase: TrunkSpace babies, you gotta get with us. The live experience is THE THING! We bring crowds to the height of ecstasy… the foam is actually just coming from the sides of their mouths. Still industrial strength, though. Liquor optional. It’s really just a joyful happening. Our live show is a big, sexy, sweaty, love joy fest.

TrunkSpace: It seems like there are a lot of moving parts to what Johnny Showcase is, both musically and in terms of the stage show. Is it difficult to manage just from a logistics standpoint?
Showcase: It’s a mess. I don’t know how we even do this.

TrunkSpace: This country is more divided than ever. Is it possible that Johnny Showcase is the man who could bring us all back together?
Showcase: That is kind, but I don’t know what is going to bring this thing back together. Getting #45 out of power would be a start, and his sycophantic enabling cowards in congress. And then some listening and understanding. Anyhoo…

We will keep on with a message of peace and love, but it’s a musical message… and won’t always reach the tone deaf.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Johnny Showcase in 2017?
Showcase: New songs and touring our live show outside the tri-state bubble: DC, Baltimore, and up north to sweet New England. Also, got a kids album and show in the works. Just you wait… that shit is gonna be killer.

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Bottled Up Emotions

Captain Lawrence Brewing’s Frost Monster

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Brewer: Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.

Beer: Frost Monster Imperial Stout

Alcohol Content by Volume: 12%

As an emoji, I wear my emotions on my yellow sleeve. If I’m happy, you know it. If I’m sad, you know it. And, as the name of this column implies, if I’m drunk, you know it!

Drunk is what happened when I decided to sample the Frost Monster Imperial Stout. And before you send me nasty emails suggesting I’m reckless with my alcohol, let it be known that I drank responsibly… in the comfort of my own living room. (I did however drunk text an old emoji flame, which was extremely irresponsible, but that is neither here nor there.)

The thing is, I knew that the 12% would lead me to 100% tipsiness, but the roasted malty goodness of this royally-named stout lured me in like the cuddly nature of the frost monster pictured on the label. As I was Netflix’ing my way through season three of a series I remember very little about, I found myself reaching for another just as soon as I finished the first, sipping from what tasted like a boozy espresso that, while cold, warmed me to my very emoji soul.

I vowed that this was going to be the last stout of the season that I sampled and I’m glad that I waited to unleash the lurking Frost Monster in the season finale because it truly was a matter of saving the best for last.

DRUNKEN EMOJI RATING

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Musical Mondaze

Liz Longley

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Musical Mondaze
Liz Longley

You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s Monday. Instead, get funky!

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with singer/songwriter Liz Longley, an artist who pours herself into her music, leaving no emotional stone unturned. Her sophomore album “Weightless” was released in August and she has been spending much of her time on the road in support of the album ever since, a place that she feels at home (away from home).

We sat down with Longley to discuss songwriting, working through writer’s block, and finding balance in the life of a traveling musician.

TrunkSpace: You seem like you write from the heart and with honesty. Do you ever worry that you’re putting too much of yourself into your music?
Longley: That’s a good question. I have found that the more honest I am in my writing that the more honest people are with me at shows. The more open I am the more open they are. And then I feel like it packs more of a punch in the long run to just be completely unguarded. So, I found it to be really rewarding.

TrunkSpace: When you’re tackling a difficult personal subject in your songwriting, do you ever concern yourself with the fact that if the song resonates with people, you’ll have to revisit that subject for years to come?
Longley: Well, I wrote a song about my grandmother years ago who lived with my family and had Alzheimer’s and that was something that I didn’t really plan on sharing. I thought I’d keep it to myself and that it wouldn’t have much of a life, but it turned out that I found Alzheimer’s was much more prevalent than I knew at the time. That’s been something that honestly, every time I play it, I think about someone else who is going through it and maybe they need to hear it, as opposed to, “Oh God, this sucks to think about this.”

It does get a little bit old to be… especially at a time when there’s so much going on in our country… it’s hard to sometimes sing about breakups every night, so I’m trying to kind of steer away from that in the next album.

TrunkSpace: You point out the political and social landscape in the country. Is that something you have noticed other singer/songwriters also looking to address in their music?
Longley: Yes. Absolutely. It’s hard not to be emotional at this time and I think that’s kind of our job… to turn those emotions into musical moments. So I know a lot of people who are. I’m excited to hear what comes of it.

TrunkSpace: At the same time, it must be a fine line to walk because you don’t want to alienate listeners.
Longley: Absolutely. And I haven’t actually written about it yet because I am fearful of that, and in my mind, I’ve always thought of music as something that brings people together. But at the same time, it feels like it’s so important to have a voice. It feels wrong not to voice it. I honestly go back and forth on a daily basis. As soon as my mind gets out of the game and my heart gets into it, I think it will turn into some songs. But yeah, I don’t want to alienate anyone and I do have fans on both sides, so I have to figure out my way around that. Maybe bigger picture, less political but saying something without saying something.

TrunkSpace: What is your songwriting process like? Do you have to be in a particular mindset?
Longley: It’s really changed over the years. I went to college for songwriting and that was a very creative time. I was writing every single week… handing in a song every single week without a problem. I didn’t bat an eye. And now it’s a little bit different because I’m traveling so often. I’m touring all of the time and there’s just a lot more going on when you’re not in college… there’s a lot more career to manage. I haven’t been writing as much as I would like to. I think I usually do wait until the inspiration strikes, but I think it’s important to keep the writer on at all times and to exercise it, even if that means a morning journal or anything creative to keep that alive. But, I’m not practicing what I’m preaching there. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So is a big part of it the idea that because you’re so focused on your career and not your personal life, perhaps you don’t have as much to say?
Longley: Exactly! (Laughter) Exactly. I don’t really have a life right now, so… (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You went to Berklee College of Music in Boston and you’re currently living in Nashville. Does surrounding yourself with other creative people help with the creative process?
Longley: Absolutely. I just got off the road with Sara Watkins, who is incredibly talented and so are her band mates. And her guitar player is also a songwriter and I had never met him before but we started talking about the songwriting process and I was telling him that I hadn’t been able to write. It’s always great to be able to talk to people about that kind of stuff. I was trying to figure out what gets him through those spells, so I love being around people who inspire me and luckily that happens on a daily basis.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people describe songwriting as sort of self-medicating… therapy. Is it that way for you?
Longley: (Laughter) Absolutely! It’s the cheapest form of therapy I’ve found. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So then does writer’s block become an issue when you’re at your happiest? In other words, does happiness slow the process?
Longley: Yes. But, I mean, I just went through another breakup, and so… I thought, “Oh, god, here comes more breakup songs.” But, I kind of… and maybe this is the problem. Maybe this is why I am going through another writer’s block… is that I kind of said to myself, “I don’t want to write about this again.” It’s such a theme in my writing and I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to do it again. It seems self-indulgent and so, perhaps that’s why I’m filtering myself and perhaps that’s why I’m not writing right now. But yes, usually if I’m going through something, that’s how I process it… is music.

TrunkSpace: Is there something you’ve filled that creative void with?
Longley: Well, this time around I actually… my breakup rebound was buying my first house, which is a total project. It was so ugly and so I kind of saw it as an opportunity to be creative and change it however I wanted because there was nothing worth keeping. So it was kind of like a blank canvas. So that is my creative outlet at the moment.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned spending a lot of time traveling these days. How do you get into a rhythm and find peace while you’re on the road so much?
Longley: Although it is changing every day, there are… it’s weird. Every day you kind of get into a routine. On this tour with Sara, every morning we went to Starbucks, we’d drive for three hours and get to the venue and be there until 11:00 and then go to the hotel and then do it all again. So even though it’s changing every day, it’s pretty much the same. And I like that routine. So, I really enjoy it and I love getting to meet people on the road and I love opening shows and getting to meet Sara’s fans was a real treat. So, it’s easy to stay sane when you’re traveling with really cool people and there’s a routine and you trust the people who are in charge.

Now most of the time when I travel though, when I’m headlining, I travel alone… just me and my minivan. That does get a little bit… a little bit harder. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to transition when you return home and you lose that routine?
Longley: I guess so. Honestly, it’s like living two different lives at this point. It’s pretty structured on the road and then I get home and I’m like, “Oh my gosh… I feel like I’m vacation!” And then I have no structure at all. (Laughter) But because I have this project of the house, I have something to focus my energy towards, so it’s a little bit different now. But sometimes when I’m not on the road, I’m like, “What am I doing with my life? Who am I?” (Laughter) So, I think I still have a lesson to learn in that… in that it’s okay to be not working sometimes.

TrunkSpace: Well, when you are on the road, even when you’re not physically performing, you’re technically still working and on the job. It must be difficult to turn that switch off and on.
Longley: Oh yeah. I takes its toll on you after awhile, but I really love it. And I come from a family… my parents are both entrepreneurs and they work really hard, so I kind of grew up with that mentality of like, “Okay, I’m just gonna have to go all in on this.” And I did and I never looked back. So, that’s why it’s probably harder sometimes to be home because I don’t really know what to do with myself and all the free time.
Maybe that’s why I should start pulling out my guitar and writing some songs! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace
: Writer’s block aside, is there a plan for another album in the future?
Longley: Yeah. I already have the whole concept and everything, I just haven’t written any of the songs. (Laughter) I have it all laid out in my mind… I just have to step on up to the plate.

TrunkSpace: If we visited your new house and you had a vision board hanging up inside, what would we see? What are your goals as an artist?
Longley: Oh my gosh. That’s a great question. Okay… well, my biggest goal as an artist right now is to start writing again and get the next album underway, but I do love touring more than anything, so I’m hoping this year to tour with more artists and open for other artists because I really love doing that. And then I’ve got a lot of headlining stuff in the works throughout the year. I won’t release another album this year because I just did one, so it’s really just going to be a creative time. But I can’t stop touring. It’s too much of an addiction, so I’ll be on the road a lot.

Catch Liz Longley live when she comes to your area. Upcoming tour dates can be found here.

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Musical Mondaze

The Tossers

Tossers_MusicalMondaze

Musical Mondaze
The Tossers

You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s (feeling) like a Monday. Instead, get funky!

TrunkSpace brings you another (bonus) edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with Tony Duggins, frontman for The Tossers, the Chicago-based band that has been infusing punk with traditional Celtic music for 24 years and counting. Their latest album “Smash the Windows” is due out March 3rd.

We sat down with Duggins to discuss the band’s songwriting process, maintaining his voice, and how the current political and social climate could rub off on both the punk and hardcore scenes.

TrunkSpace: The band has been at it 24 years now, which, is probably older than some of the fans at your shows? How has the band stayed relevant to younger generations?
Duggins: I don’t know. I don’t think about a younger audience. We just… or I just anyway… write for myself. I think we just are who we are, you know? (Laughter) I also think our audience is growing a little older as well. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Does that mean they can’t party at the live shows as much much as they used to?
Duggins: Not from what I’ve seen on the stage! (Laughter) They’re still going strong.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a time where you hang up your banjo and the band is no more? Is that even a possibility in your mind?
Duggins: Oh hell no! This is what we do. This is how we grew up. This is in our blood. Me anyway… but I think I can speak for the rest of the guys and the gal. We will do this forever because… as songwriters, I make the music that I want to hear, so that’s basically our approach.

TrunkSpace: Which is the best way for an audience to relate to music… when it’s honest and coming from a genuine place.
Duggins: Yeah. I mean, I’m sure there are some bands out there that toil and just trouble over it. I’m sure there are some bands out there that don’t enjoy what they’re doing, you know? But we do. And I tell you… some of our older stuff, I don’t like as much. You learn. You learn from mistakes everywhere, so we’ve gotten better and we’re enjoying it.

TrunkSpace: Two decades plus of performing live. How do you maintain your voice and have you ever had any scares with it going out on you?
Duggins: No, I never worry about it. It has gone out from overuse. It goes out all… every time. I don’t know. You just keep on going. (Laughter) There’s things I can do. Maybe some nights, if I’m really hurting, I won’t attack it so hard. That’s about all I can do.

TrunkSpace: Do you try not to book too many shows back to back to give your voice some rest?
Duggins: No. We don’t do that. Some nights I’ll take it easier than others, but that’s very seldom. If we’ve got a good enough PA system… you tend to overcompensate when the PA is not as loud or when you can’t hear yourself. You’ve got to be conscious of that and not do that. It’s like any tool… any tools that you’re working with… you’ve got to let the microphone do the work. That’s got to be how Slayer does it because there’s no way Tom (Araya) can still do that after all these years. You know, he let’s the tools do the work and he prevails. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: A lot of times it’s probably just recognizing your own limitations, right?
Duggins: Yeah. And definitely with getting older, you have to recognize your limitations because it’s become a lot more frequent. My voice would go out when I was younger and I’d just keep hitting just as hard. But you learn. There’s not really a school for this. There wasn’t for me. I just got up on stage and started going for it.

TrunkSpace: What were the goals when you set out to record “Smash the Windows?” As a band, what were you looking to accomplish this time out and when you listen to it now, did you achieve it?
Duggins: We didn’t really have any goals in mind. I just let the songs come to me as they come. But, when I start getting a group of songs together, I look at it as a whole album and I say, “Alright, what do I need now?” And I’ll say, “We need a slower song with a medium pace.” Something like “Dirty Old Town.” So I’ll say, “Alright, I’ll try to write something like that.” And then I just reinvent it. There’s a mood and a pace and an album structure. I mean, there’s ideas that have got to be there, especially… I mean, I’m making a specific type of music that ought to have elements in it. I have a basic idea of what I want an album to be and then after my first six… seven songs… I can tailor the rest of it to that. But still, those songs have to come to you. You just can’t make it up. (Laughter) You just can’t fake it. I can sit down and try to write a song like “Dirty Old Town.” I need that pace of a song… that kind of a mood. And then I came up with “The Town Where I Was Born” on the new record. That came up that way.

TrunkSpace: The album features 17 tracks. Is that a tip of the cap to St. Patrick’s Day?
Duggins: No. It’s just cause we cut a couple of songs off. (Laughter) It just ended up that number.

TrunkSpace: Is there a track on the album that you’re most proud of in terms of how it came out or from a songwriting standpoint?
Duggins: I’m really proud of a lot of them. The one that I keep listening to the most right now is “Lots of Drops of Brandy.” It’s a cover of a Chieftains song and I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud of what we did with “Erin Go Bragh.” I’m really proud of the cover we did on there… “Danny Boy.” We just put a lot of work into it and it just sounds really good and the other players did great work on it too. There’s lots of stuff all over it. And the songwriting I’m proud of. I stayed on it. I didn’t give up until we were satisfied lyrically and musically.

TrunkSpace: What is the studio process like for you? Does it fuel creativity or can it start to feel like a grind?
Duggins: Well, we write individually so we bring the songs to rehearsal and we just learn them. And usually the songs are pretty much done by whoever wrote them, which is usually me. But, yeah, it can get to be… there’s a song on there, “Whiskey,” and I wrote it… I started writing it for the last record and it took me four years to write it for that record and then two or three years for this one. That song has been around forever and I just stayed on it until it was as good as I wanted it to be. So that song was about six years in the making, so yeah, that seems like work but I never gave up on it until it was presentable… until it was perfect. Yeah, it can seem to be like work, but a lot of those songs just come right out. You might have to wait for a month or two for a line or a melody or a lyric or something, but usually if you persevere or hang in there, it will come.

TrunkSpace: Do you guys have a tendency to try out new songs with a live audience first or do you just take them into the studio?
Duggins: Hell no. We always try them. We’ve been playing a lot of songs off these records. And we’ve played different versions to different crowds. And you know, there’s YouTube evidence to prove that. (Laughter) But yeah, we definitely try them out on an audience. We just want to play them. It’s not like we’re really trying them out… we’re playing them to see how they sound and we’re having fun with them. Like that “Whiskey” song. I thought it was a good song that first time that I wrote it, so we started playing it, and then I just was never happy enough to put it on a record until now. So that’s just kind of how it goes.


TrunkSpace
: With such a massive catalog of music under your belts, when you hit the road in support of the new album, how do you balance your night to night set with what’s current and what’s in the stable that fans want to hear?
Duggins: Well personally, we get a song from every record… from every one… at least one song from every single record. We try to do about five or six new songs and then there are the ones that we always do. There are about 10 or 11 of those. And then on top of that we try to put in four or five traditional songs. And then on top of that we try to take at least one song from every record so we don’t leave nothing out.

TrunkSpace: You guys are from Chicago. What are your thoughts on the way the city has had a spotlight shined on it lately with the new administration? It seems to have gotten a bad wrap and become a bit of a lightning rod.
Duggins: Yeah. Right. Everything seems to be a lightning rod with this guy. (Laughter) He’s telling us how horrible… he’s telling us we need to do this because this is horrible and we need to do that because this is horrible. “We need to get tough on crime because Chicago is terribly crime ridden.” And yeah, we’ve always had our problems, you know, but Chicago… I know you can walk around town and it’s the same neighborhoods, the same places, the same friends, the same people who have befriended me and welcomed me all my life. And that’s what I see. And I have lived in some rough neighborhoods, man, and I’m alright.

TrunkSpace: A lot of times the people pointing fingers at a city are the ones who don’t spend any time there.
Duggins: Yeah. Some people seem to be pointing their fingers at people that they might not spend a lot of time with. There’s a lot of finger pointing going on right now. I think they’re all full of crap.

TrunkSpace: Musicians and artists do some of their best, most inspired work in these polarizing political times.
Duggins: Well that’s what I’m hoping for, especially in punk and hardcore. Everybody just kind of gave President Obama a pass, but now I’m hoping it comes screaming back to life because there’s a lot of uncertainty and anger and worry. So, yeah, that’s what I’m hoping for. I’m hoping punk and hardcore flourishes now and I think it will.

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Chilling Out

Dominic Zamprogna

Zamprogna_ChillingOut

Chilling Out
Dominic Zamprogna

Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work on the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Dominic Zamprogna, an actor who science fiction fans will recognize from his turn as Jammer in the series “Battlestar Galactica” and who soap opera fans will instantly know from his long-running starring role as Dante Falconeri in “General Hospital.” We sat down with Zamprogna to discuss the similarities between the two worlds and where they intersect in the grand scheme of pop culture.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked in science fiction and of course, you’ve been starring in “General Hospital” for years. While the audiences are different it seems like they are also similar in terms of how devoted they are?
Zamprogna: Oh yeah. For sure! I didn’t even have a big role in “Battlestar Galactica.” I was on that show for like four seasons and I still, to this day, go around and get recognized almost as much as I do… probably even more than I do for “General Hospital.” That changes when you go to New York. When you go to New York there are some hardcore soap fans out there that resemble the tenacity of the sci-fi community.

TrunkSpace: Why do you think it’s that way with those genres and not, say, a major network drama series that pulls more viewers, but has less passionate ones?
Zamprogna: It’s funny because they have millions of more viewers. They’re just not as loud I guess. Soaps… I’ve been there almost eight years now on GH and it doesn’t feel like that. It’s gone by in the blink of an eye. I’ve had three kids in the meantime and, you know, when you’re working three to five days a week, your life just passes you by a little bit and you wake up and it’s like, “Damn, I’m kind of a veteran here.” Having said that, I don’t feel like I really know what makes people keep coming back every day. You meet people who have been watching since they were a kid and it’s like a ritual.

TrunkSpace: And it seems sort of like favorite soaps are passed on from generation to generation.
Zamprogna: Yeah. That’s what I think is very different about the sci-fi community. But, the soap thing… I think every kid came home and their parents were watching it. Or, as I did in the summer when I was 12 or 13, I spent the summer with my grandparents and I used to always think it was my grandmother who was the big soap fan and realized that summer that it was my grandfather who was the big soap fan. He was the one who was sitting in front of his chair every day at 12:30 getting ready to watch the show that was supposedly not his favorite show. There’s more of a surprise audience with the soap fans. You’ll be in a lineup doing autographs and all these guys will come up and start shaking your hand and be like, “I love you, man. Your character is so great.” And you’re like, “Oh wow, man. That’s really cool. What do you do?” And they’re like, “I’m a cop.” You’re a real life cop and you watch my show and you actually think I’m a cool character? That means the world to me. That’s awesome.

And the sci-fi thing… maybe I understand it less because I don’t watch a ton of sci-fi. I mean, I don’t watch a ton of soaps either, but the soap thing is on every day so I can kind of understand that attraction. It’s kind of like your fix. The sci-fi thing… I don’t know what makes it tick.

TrunkSpace: With some science fiction fans, you’re either a “Star Wars” fan or a “Star Trek” fan. With some soap fans, you’re either a “General Hospital” fan or a “Days of our Lives” fan.
Zamprogna: Yeah, it’s like never the twain shall meet. It’s kind of fascinating.

Obviously a lot of the soaps that were on when I first got to GH eight years ago have been taken off the air because of cost and networks wanting to try other options… like putting on daytime talk shows that cost half as much as it costs to produce a soap every day. And I think that worked in some markets and didn’t work in others, but it’s an interesting thing… these fans that were fans of shows that were canceled, they will come over to our show. It’s almost like sports. If your favorite player gets traded or you hate a guy who’s on another team but he finally comes over to your team, it’s like, “Oh, now I love that guy!” You don’t want to play against him but you love having him on your team. It’s kind of like that. We’ve had a bunch of soap actors come from other shows and these soaps that have remained have kind of stacked the deck in hopes of bringing over those fans. And they come. A lot of them have come.

TrunkSpace: It’s like creating the super group of soap actors.
Zamprogna: Yeah. It’s sort of gone that way. When you go from like eight or 10… I think there were even more at one point in the early 2000s or 90s… and when you pair it down to four, it’s kind of like four all-star teams or something like that.

TrunkSpace: Another way in which the two worlds seem similar is sort of the fantastical storytelling that the characters can find themselves wrapped up in. As an actor, what is the craziest story arc you’ve ever been involved with?
Zamprogna: There’s been so many! There’s like this evil family called the Cassadines and they have an evil matriarch of the family who has a vendetta against my wife’s family, who stole our embryo because we can’t have babies and my wife doesn’t have anymore eggs so we had to freeze her eggs and they stole our embryo and got some woman to drug some guy and got her pregnant. I mean, it’s crazy! (Laughter)

The best one to me was when I first got to the show. I was undercover and I was infiltrating the mob and when I went to arrest the guy, the head of the mob, I got shot. Of course I didn’t take backup or wear a vest that day… or bring a gun. (Laughter) And he shoots me and I wake up and find out that he’s my father.

TrunkSpace: Dun dun DUN!
Zamprogna: Yeah. That was a really awesome beat to play. It was a good, sort of six month build up to that kind of pay off and fans really dug that. I really dug that.

I think you’re right. Maybe that is kind of the similarity. Everyone can get behind the original sci-fi. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a guy like Superman do whatever the hell he wants whenever the hell he wants, you know?

TrunkSpace: Both worlds, science fiction and soaps, help you escape the normalcy of life for a little while.
Zamprogna: Yeah. Reality is out the window.

TrunkSpace: You’ve appeared in some additional science fiction and genre shows, including “Stargate,” “Flash Gordon,” and “Smallville,” to name a few. These are all shows with history in terms of the worlds and characters in which they represent. As an actor, do you ever sit back and just kind of take that all in… the idea that you’ve had an imprint on these worlds, including “General Hospital?”
Zamprogna: I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about putting an imprint on them. I mean, the soap world is such a grand world in the fact that it’s been around for so long. GH has been on for 53 years. I kind of think I’m just a blip on the radar of that show. I’m not downplaying anything, but if I was Maurice Benard, the guy who plays Sonny, he’s been there almost 25 years. Or Luke and Laura… those are the people I think really put those shows on the map and I think they get to take all of the credit for that stuff.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been starring in “General Hospital” since 2009 and from what we can make out, you’ve appeared in nearly 1,000 episodes. There are every day acts that people have not done 1,000 times. What is that like having such a large body of work, especially in such a short period of time? It seems kind of breakneck.
Zamprogna: It is. I think that’s why it feels like it hasn’t taken that time. It feels like I’ve done, maybe, a third of that amount of episodes… or a quarter of that amount of episodes. We do so many in a day, that it doesn’t feel like we’re actually doing as much as we’re doing.

TrunkSpace: Multiple episodes in a day?
Zamprogna: Yeah. We do like an episode and a half a day. I think sometimes, depending on the schedule, we can do upwards of six episodes a week. And so, a week goes by in the time another show would not even get a whole episode done. So, when you sit back and look at it, it’s like, “Holy crap!”

Dominic Zamprogna in “Battlestar Glactica.” Photo: Carole Segal

TrunkSpace: When you do a show like “Supernatural,” which you appeared on years ago, that’s replaying every week in some syndicated format somewhere. And yet, you do a show like “General Hospital,” and it tends to air once and then disappear.
Zamprogna: Yeah, which sucks for residuals sake too. (Laughter) But, something like “Supernatural,” which I was in the first season of… and that’s turned into a giant hit show. And obviously that’s all because of the jump-start that I gave that show. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You sold your performance as a vampire!
Zamprogna: That’s right, man! (Laughter)

Zamprogna can be seen daily on ABC’s “General Hospital” and is currently in the process of developing a pair of projects of his own.

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Opening Act

Ed Balloon

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Artist/Band: Ed Balloon

Website: www.facebook.com/edballoon

Hometown: Boston

Latest Album/Release: “Yellow 20-Somethings”

Influences: Prince, MJ, Fela, and many more

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Balloon: I want it to be a journey. Always want the listener and me to feel something in the beginning, find that climax and see its ending for what it is.

TrunkSpace: Your songs are so eclectic from one track to the next. What is your approach to songwriting? Do you purposely try to distance yourself sonically from what you’ve already accomplished?
Balloon: Yeah. I always want to do something new. From vocals to topics and from topics to structure, I want to see change, growth and I want to challenge myself. I hate being basic or, better yet, feeling that way.

TrunkSpace: Some of your songs seem suited for a packed club while others are intimate and raw. You seem impossible to pigeonholed, which is a great thing for an artist. Where do you see your sound taking you in the future?
Balloon: In all those places. I am someone who loves to feel the music. If you know me very well, you know all I need is good music to have a good time. But I want my music to not see limits. People try to limit my sound a lot. Blessed God has given me something that seems to be a little different every time I put something out. That matters a lot to me. But yeah, see my sound taking me everywhere.

TrunkSpace: There are times when your lyrics hit the ears like poetry. Do they ever start in that form?
Balloon: Uhh. I think so. I am opened when it come to my art. I see something or feel something and I try to morph it in a lyric with a melody that makes sense to me.

TrunkSpace: Where do you find your lyrical inspiration? Your writing attaches to the listener in a way that makes them think. Is that a goal or are you asking questions and proposing ideas that you yourself are caught up in?
Balloon: Bruh, it is both. Hell, some songs, I don’t even know the answer, I just know I feel some way and that is all I got. However, my goal is to always have a message. That is a vow I made with myself and God when I decided to pursue music.

TrunkSpace: Your music seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise. Reviews of your debut album snuck up on people and grabbed hold of them. Has the reaction to your music been a surprise?
Balloon: Always a surprise, cause I do work hard, so it is amazing to see people really delve into my music and appreciate not only its groove but my message in it.

TrunkSpace: How important is it to you to translate that critical success into mainstream success?
Balloon: I would love to make my music translate to mainstream success. The point is to have my music reach the masses. Can’t keep these messages to myself now.

TrunkSpace: Your vocals stand on a pedestal of their own. We can’t recall anyone who sounds like you and who isn’t afraid to bring it up and drop it down anywhere in a song… which is so refreshing. Vocally, how did you come to that artistic approach?
Balloon: Practice!!!! Man, your voice is an instrument. I have had many vocal problems to know it can be badly affected easily, so you really have to care for it. I see my awesome voice coach as much as possible. In addition, my songs, so if there an influx how I would say something while I am speaking on a regular day why in the hell will I not display that in a song that is supposed to be capturing the same feeling?

TrunkSpace: Again, you’re such a unique artist, but does that singular sound make it difficult when it comes to booking? Do club owners know where to put you on a bill? Have you found yourself booked alongside of some completely mismatched artists?
Balloon: It is very hard. I have always been different. And people have always tried to put me in their box and I have tried to put myself in their boxes. It never works when you do that. I guess I just got to wait for everyone to catch on. Slowly they are, I just need more to be awaken by my sound yo.

TrunkSpace: You also have some really interesting album and promo art. How important is the visual aspect of what you’re doing with your music?
Balloon: I love when the art is able to capture the mood of my music. That is what I look for. Also, I like to display things that capture who I am. Period. Art is always expressive. People forget that.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Ed Balloon in 2017?
Balloon: Well, Trump is president and I am trying to hustle through his presidency as well as find a girl down to handle my crazy ass. So all that! (Laughter) But in short, just a guy who has gone through more things since 2016.

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Wingman Wednesday

Adam Arkin

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Adam Arkin working as producer/director on Season 1 of “The Americans” for FX.

You’ve seen his face. You’ve heard his voice. You know his name. But, are you aware that Adam Arkin has worked behind-the-scenes on some of the most memorable and critically-acclaimed television shows of the last decade?

Whether he was directing episodes of “Justified,” “Fargo,” “The Americans” and “Sons of Anarchy,” or starring in series like “Masters of Sex,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and the long-running “Chicago Hope,” Arkin has left an indisputable impression upon TV viewers, helping to shape the success of shows both in front of and behind the camera.

TrunkSpace sat down with Arkin to discuss his career, his craft, and what it’s like to direct himself in a scene.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been involved in film and television, in numerous capacities, for decades. What was the plan when you started out? Was it acting that drew you in and then your career fanned out from there?
Arkin: Yeah. I grew up around the business because of my father (Alan Arkin) and I was in love with the business… in love with my dad and separated from him a lot as a kid. My folks were divorced and his success was something that happened during the very formative years of my childhood when I was separated from him for long periods of time. So I think it was an idealized dream of mine to do what he did. I think I wanted to feel that connection with him and then found, after having pursued it for awhile, that I loved it. So I was working as early as my early teens doing theater and the occasional television commercial and things like that. By the time I graduated from high school I had gotten an agent in New York who had a branch office in Los Angeles and they felt that if I moved out to LA they could get me work, which proved to be the case. And I’ve been working ever since.

TrunkSpace: So did you spend time just absorbing everything, including the producing and directing side of things, having been on sets your whole life?
Arkin: Yeah. In one way or another, I don’t think there’s ever been a year that’s gone by where I haven’t been on some set somewhere. Even during the time that I was taking breaks and doing theater in New York, there was always an offshoot of some production or another that would have me on a film set somewhere. Or television set.

TrunkSpace: When you look at your career from the producing and directing side of things, can you directly point to individuals who influenced your style based on projects you starred in and sort of watched from afar (or up close)?
Arkin: There’s no one mentor I had as a director. There have been numerous mentors both through the admiration of people’s work… the inspiration of some of the great director’s whose work I have gotten to see. And then people I’ve had the good fortune to work with that have inspired me. I feel like I learn from everybody and I’m still learning. I feel like it’s kind of a constant opportunity to absorb more. There just isn’t enough you can know about all of the different things that go into filmmaking that won’t effect your abilities as a director. People that jump out at me that I have been inspired by? Certain folks… there’ll be no surprises… but the Coen Brothers, Scorsese, Sidney Lument, Jean Renoir, Truffaut, Kurosawa. Any of the great directors you can look at, and you’ll absorb something, even if it’s something as simple as their sense of framing or their willingness to take time with things. And just emerging yourself in the great storytelling abilities of the great directors will hopefully rub off with some kind of inspiration.

TrunkSpace: Do you think that being an actor makes you a better director?
Arkin: I think it gave me certain things that I appreciate as a director. I found, having done as much television as I did, I’ve worked with some really great directors and then I’ve also been surprised at, you know, pretty steady careers that don’t really become conversant with what goes into the nuances of performance. It’s one of the things that made me want to start directing when I was doing a lot of television, was just a hunch that by giving a little bit more focus to what it was I did know about acting that it could be my ticket in to bringing something to the table I didn’t see necessarily being prioritized by everybody.

TrunkSpace: Television, particularly in cable, has become what feels like mini movies. As a director you’re still tasked with putting that episode in the can within a particular time frame, even while the method in which they’re shot has now changed. Has it gotten more difficult to direct television when each episode is bigger and more ambitious than the next?
Arkin: Yes, but I don’t think the onus of that falls exclusively on the director. I think one of the reasons there’s been that evolution in television is there has been a collective evolution on the part of everybody. The technology that goes into cinematography and lighting and the breakthroughs that allow things to be accomplished in those realms that used to not be within reach without the significant increase in time that is needed to do a feature. And I also just think that the storytelling has been liberated. I think that cable has allowed writers to explore more and in more depth than they were when everything was in the original network mentality. And that’s not to take away from the great work that was done in the golden age of early television, but I do think that way often times, in the sort of dramaturgical realm and not so much in the technical one we see today. But it is high stakes. And trying with a public that becomes more conversant with the more sophisticated technical aspects of filmmaking, to duplicate that on a television schedule is definitely a challenge, but it sort of seems to be what the marching orders are now, too.

TrunkSpace: Does it balance out a little, at least on the cable side, as seasons have become shorter and more manageable?
Arkin: Yeah. I’m on a show for Epix, in association with MGM, for “Get Shorty” and our first season is a 10 episode season and I think 10 episodes allows a kind of happy medium between letting the audience become really familiar with the characters and involved in an ongoing story, but not inundated with the grind of 22 episodes in a season where even under the best circumstances it’s very hard for that not to start feeling a little bit like a factory. Ten episodes seems to be that sweet spot where you can still… you have an elongated story arc for the main characters but few enough episodes that every one of them can be a standalone. You see the light at the end of the tunnel a lot sooner and I think it allows people to stay focused and committed to a project in a different way.

TrunkSpace: So when you go into a series with a 10 episode season, with it being shorter than standard networks, do you begin production with all 10 scripts complete or does that aspect still operate in the same way as a traditional show?
Arkin: In a perfect world you’ll have a number of scripts written ahead of time, but it’s very unusual for all of the scripts. There is the occasional show you’ll hear about where all episodes exist in scripted form before you start shooting, but more often than not, there will be a handful of scripts that are production-ready and then a handful that are in various drafts or even outline form that start getting more fleshed out as the start date approaches.

TrunkSpace: When you’re balancing being a director while also acting in a scene, how do you approach that? Can you flip the switch?
Arkin: You know, my first directing opportunities were on shows that I was a cast member on. In the earliest stuff that I did… not the very first thing I did, which was an episode of “Northern Exposure.” I was a cast member on that show but I was a recurring cast member and I didn’t appear in the episode that I directed. But a number of the next directorial opportunities that I had were on shows in which I was acting, so I kind of got used to that early on. And I also got used to directing episodes of shows in which I had been playing a character for awhile, so the aspect of nerves around the acting part of it were virtually nonexistant. My focus was primarily on the directing. The acting would pretty much take care of itself. It was usually arranged that I didn’t have to do any heavy lifting as an actor in the episodes I was directing. The producers I was working with would usually tailor it that way so that it didn’t become too much of a split concentration. But, the acting that I’ve done in things I’ve been directing most recently, “Fargo” I guess being a good example, or “Masters of Sex”… I did not find it that much of a split in concentration. I think partially just because I’ve been acting for, you know, 40 plus years. I’m able to kind of compartmentalize that part of it when I’m directing. It mostly feels like that it’s something to just kind of get through. The strangest thing about it is making sure that the actors that I’m working with actually feel like they have an acting partner as opposed to somebody that they’re having to play a scene with that’s watching them. I have to kind of assure them that when I’m acting in a scene, I’m just there as an actor and then I’ll review the work later. For the acting part of it, I’m sort of all in as an actor.

TrunkSpace: When we look at your list of director’s credits, one of the thru-lines we can’t help but draw is that they’re critically-acclaimed series that are really character driven. Do you specifically look for particular types of projects to work on?
Arkin: Yeah. I’m drawn to a few things, but certainly good writing and character-driven stuff. I also like to shake it up and I like variety, so I really enjoyed getting to work on things that were, you know, very dramatic and dark and then kind of mix that up with things that have a more comedic or lighter tone. I respond to quality material and when opportunities present themselves on shows that have writing and casts that are going to be inspiring, that’s where you’ll turn.

Adam Arkin working as producer/director on the set of his Hulu series “The Booth at the End.”

TrunkSpace: Your series “Chicago Hope” lasted for well over 100 episodes. If that series was pitched today, some 20 years later, what would have to change in order for it to be picked up?
Arkin: Well, as a network show I think that “Chicago Hope” would sell even today. I thought that the premise of “Chicago Hope” was a very viable one and I wish… I think sometimes that in the desire to compete with “ER,” which premiered at the same time and became such a phenomenon, that there was a little bit of a feeling that the network started retooling the show in order to compete with “ER” and in doing that it lost some of its original premise. The idea that this was not just a hospital show, but very specifically a show about the greatest hospital in the world and that the pressures and kind of rarefied atmosphere these doctors that were not only good at what they did, but so good at it that they were… you know, in the pilot my character was having a profile done on him by “NOVA” and developing new and cutting edge technologies. By any standards the show was a big success, but I think we lost something when we started trying to kind of rough it up and concentrate more on the emergency room. We kind of sacrificed our own identity a little bit and I think that might be a premise worth revisiting in the future.

TrunkSpace: Is there a goal or something that keeps you focused and looking forward in terms of something you hope to accomplish that you have yet to tackle?
Arkin: Sure. I definitely get excited about the relationship I have with the showrunner Davey Holmes on this project. (“Get Shorty”) I feel like it’s one of the first times I’ve done this particular job and felt like I was really being allowed to be a collaborative partner in a lot of the process, and that has been a long term goal of mine… to do the job in a way that finally felt like I was being entrusted with stuff. And I would like to see a continuing evolution of that nature, including in time, the development of some shows of my own.

Arkin’s new series “Get Shorty,” based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, will premiere on Epix this summer.

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Sit and Spin

No Small Children’s I Feel Better

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Artist: No Small Children

Song: “I Feel Better”

Label: Self-Released

Format Reviewed: Digital Advance

 

 

Lyrics of Note:
All by myself
It’s cold outside
It’s dark outside
To be somewhere else
To taste so good
To feel so good

“I Feel Better,” the latest single by No Small Children, is pop/punk perfection with a chorus that is impossible to ignore. Laced with anthem worthy hooks, it ropes you in, wrapping itself around your brain and forces you to deliver uninvited guest vocals and “whoas” alongside of the band simply because you can’t help yourself. In working with producer Bob Marlette for the first time, the LA-based trio has tapped into a new level of their already-contagious sound. If this is the appetizer that signals the album to come, then strap a bib on us because we’re ready for the full meal.

Check out our interview with the band HERE.

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Sit and Spin

Tim Darcy’s Saturday Night

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Artist: Tim Darcy

Album: “Saturday Night”

Label: Jagjaguwar

Format Reviewed: Digital Advance

 

 

Lyrics of Note:
All the questions are being asked
Like, is it fatal or is it popsicle?
Is it rain or is it toxic fire?
Is it love or is it desire?

Ought frontman Tim Darcy’s first solo album, “Saturday Night,” is stripped down and chiseled from the musical components of a singer/songwriter past, one that many performers have abandoned for the modern flair and slickness of the glossy technical advances of today. The album is a comfortable listen from start to finish, a sort of favorite chair for your mind, and harkens back to the days before the studio process went digital, when the beautiful imperfections of music made them perfect.

Darcy’s writing places you in a vacuum of emotion thanks in large part to his haunting vocals, which at times, feels as if he has become the entirety of The Traveling Wilburys, able to capture the essence of Dylan, Orbison, Harrison, Petty and Lynne all in one incredibly moving range of tone and articulation. As a passenger, you’re riding the duration of the album as if riding inside the log of an amusement park flume, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the quiet moments, and reveling in the excitement of the ascents and drops. “Saturday Night” is not only worth its namesake, but the remainder of your nights as well.

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