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February 2017

Opening Act

The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League

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Artist/Band: The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League

Members: Dan Rosen, Peter Whiteman, Kellie Reichert, Rich Yaeger, Jon Halquist, Alan Peterson

Website: http://www.thegatl.com

Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Latest Album/Release: Millennial Blues (Nov 2015)

Influences: Django Reinhardt, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Gonzalo Bergara, NOFX, Stephane Grappelli, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Waits

*The band answered the questions as a single unit.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
The GATL: We call it “Prohibition Swing” – A thick, hot, syrupy blend of musical influences that pair equally well with coffee and whiskey.

TrunkSpace: How did the band come together and establish its unique sound? Was it organic or did it take time to perfect?
The GATL: The band came together as a group of friends with a mutual interest in gypsy jazz, originally. Three of us are from Duluth, MN and have known each other for years, and played together in some bands in high school. Dan and Jon took a road trip out west a few years ago and did a lot of busking, and the idea of the band started from there – playing up-tempo swing music on the street. When the guys came back, they exposed more of us to what they were up to, and we started playing together. From there, the songwriting and meshing as a group just developed as we spent more time together, practicing as often as we could, getting comfortable and letting our own personal musical influences come out in the music. Kellie and Rich are the most recent additions, adding vocals and trumpet to the mix. We’re really excited about how we’re evolving even further with our sound.

TrunkSpace: Your music is a throwback. Your look is a throwback. What is your audience? In that we mean, what age is the majority of your fans and if they’re skewing younger, we’d have to imagine that you’re exposing them to a sound that is completely new to them?
The GATL: Our audience is very diverse! One of our favorite aspects of our music is that it draws on so many different influences that the majority of people can find something they find appealing about it. We get swing dancers, young and old, from the local Minneapolis scene that come out, we see folks that like good acoustic music out to listen to us, as well as people that just want to have a stiff cocktail and let loose a little bit. A lot of people come up and tell us what influences they hear in our music – we think it’s great that the people that come to hear us are pretty musically conscious, it helps develop and diversify our sound.

TrunkSpace: Your music sets a mood, often times with the first few chords. How important is building in a tone and ambiance in your songwriting?
The GATL: The tone and ambiance is critical to our sound. When the subject matter of your songs is typically on the darker side of things, the music has to match or it just ends up sounding very strange. At this point, we all have a sense of what we want to sound like, and we have played together enough that when we start on a new song, we can get the “feel” of the song pretty quickly and build the song to really highlight the mood and content.

TrunkSpace: Most bands seem to have a similar path when it comes to promotion and booking. The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League has such a unique aura surrounding you that we wonder if it has forced you to think outside-the-box for promotion and booking? For example, if club owners have a difficult time putting you on a complimentary bill, do you find yourselves booking a full lineup as opposed to just yourselves?
The GATL: When it comes to promotion and booking, it’s a pretty mixed bag. We have seen ourselves sharing bills with traditional gypsy jazz hot clubs, bluegrass bands, and psychedelic rock groups with distorted guitar tones and a full drum kit. Going back to a previous response – when there are a lot of varying influences in the music, it makes it easier to book and play with bands that play music that is of a different genre than our own. Because of this, we end up being on a lot of diverse bills, and it’s a great way to get our music out to new audiences. Although, we aren’t opposed to playing for three hours on our own, if the occasion fits.

TrunkSpace: Everyone in the band is listed as having vocal duties. How does that work… juggling so many voices in a single band?
The GATL: Once Kellie joined up, the primary vocal duties shifted in her direction, and for good reason. It’s always beneficial to have a lot of vocals at your disposal, it opens up the possibilities for thicker harmonies, as well as different tones when aiming for certain sounds. Our upcoming album definitely shows the full diversity of our vocal abilities.

TrunkSpace: We noticed your website has a copyright date of 2023. Is the band going Nostradamus and suggesting something we should consider being on the lookout for in seven years?
The GATL: Well, we were sent into the future a few years ago to survey possible locations for an alpaca ranch, and we ended up in 2023 instead of our intended target of 2040. To be honest, we just liked the vibe of 2023, it’s actually pretty nice then. Take our word for it.

TrunkSpace: Kellie’s bio suggests that she is a bit of a beer aficionado. TrunkSpace happens to have its own in the form of Drunken Emoji, an ale-swigging emoticon who fancies himself a beer snob. This seems a natural opportunity to propose a drink-off!
The GATL: You name the time and the place, and we’re in! Also… pick up the tab! We are thirsty.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from The GATL in 2017?
The GATL: We have our first full-length album featuring the full band coming out! We just finished recording at River Rock Studios in NE Minneapolis, and we’re getting the rest of the details ironed out for an April release. We have a lot of shows planned out already as well, we’re going to be keeping busy making music for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned!

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Bottled Up Emotions

Otter Creek Brewing’s Couch Surfer

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Brewer: Otter Creek Brewing

Beer: Couch Surfer Oatmeal Stout

Alcohol Content by Volume: 5.4%

As a frequent traveler of the road, I’ve done my fair share of couch surfing, so you can imagine my excitement upon finding a beer that shares the same interests (sofas and alcohol) as I do. Tagged with the line “Gone before you know it… seriously,” this Otter Creek creation is the embodiment of truth in advertising. I popped one and it was gone in a second. I popped a second (mere seconds later) and it was gone in a few swigs. I popped a third and… you get the point. What I’m trying to say is, this beer is good. It’s subtle and smooth with rich flavors that don’t overpower. In the words of Lloyd Christmas, “I LIKE IT A LOT!”

DRUNKEN EMOJI RATING

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Musical Mondaze

All About a Bubble

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All About a Bubble
Musical Mondaze

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 week out we’re chatting with Oklahoma-based pop-rock band All About a Bubble whose latest album, “This Atmosphere,” was released in late January. We sat down with lead singer/guitarist Dustin Storm to discuss the band’s path, strumming through a song with a broken hand, and rediscovering his voice.

TrunkSpace: What does “This Atmosphere” say about where the band is musically right now?
Storm: There’s a couple of things that happened differently with this album. We got to take our time musically on it. We had done about half the album before a tour and then I blew out my voice. We did a stretch of, I think, 19 cities in 20 days and came off of that and I went to lay some vocals one day and I just couldn’t sing. So I took about nine months of vocal rest and then we finished the album. So it gave us a lot of time to look at things musically. I think our experience on the road made it more of a live album… a lot of gang vocals and things like that. We just weren’t sure if it was ever going to make it out with my throat problems, so we’re just really excited that we got through it.

TrunkSpace: How did you personally get through that injury and set back? Were you concerned as to if your voice was ever going to come back?
Storm: I was. I went to several different speech therapists and a lot of physical therapies. I had to drive a couple of states over to the University of Arkansas and their staff was really helpful and gave me confidence that it would come back. I had several different diagnoses, whether it was nodules or polyps or anything… so I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure if we were ever going to get it out to be honest with you.

TrunkSpace: As you look to the future in terms of touring, will you try to avoid that same breakneck schedule again?
Storm: Yeah. And there’s a lot of things that you learn that I didn’t know before. Sleep is vital, but that’s hard to get on the road. Learning how to not talk in crowds of people and just being on rest and doing better warm ups. Things that you have to learn as you go along.

TrunkSpace: When you look at All About a Bubble’s origin and compare it against “This Atmosphere,” could a younger you have envisioned this album coming out from the band? Is it a clear path from where you started out from?
Storm: You know, I’ve been in a lot of bands over the years. I’ve never been in one for six years. It seems like it’s a hard thing to keep a group of people together and we’re lucky enough that we all get along so well, but you know… it’s hard to really envision anything because with music, as a songwriter, you’re very in the moment. I don’t think that I really plan on writing a song. I think usually something hits and something will strike me emotionally and I’ll start writing from there. It’s really hard to know. You can tell when you look back after writing a song. Sometime you write it and you’re not exactly sure where the influences came from, but once you’re done recording it and you look back on it, you can kind of see that it’s from the road that you’ve been down.

TrunkSpace: And what’s great about music is, you may write it because it means one thing to you, but the person listening to it on the other end may get something completely different out of it.
Storm. I always try to be aware of that. Sometimes it drives people crazy because I don’t like to talk about the deeper meanings of songs because I like it to be left open to interpretation like that.

TrunkSpace: What is your personal favorite song off of the album and why are you drawn to it?
Storm: There’s two. There’s one that’s more introspective… “This Atmosphere,” the title track is my favorite track because it helped me writing it emotionally. On the flip side of that, externally, “Alright, Alright, Alright.” I’ve gotten a ton of letters, emails and messages about how that song has helped other people. So, it’s kind of nice to have both ends of that, but I would say “Alright, Alright, Alright” has probably been the most rewarding as far as fans go and seeing that feedback. “This Atmosphere” is always therapeutic to sing and perform.

TrunkSpace: And if we were to sit down with each member of the band, would everyone have a different answer to that question?
Storm: Absolutely. (Laughter) We all have such a variety of tastes in music. And it’s just like anything, it changes from day to day. There are songs we get tired of playing and then we’ll play a show and it will feel great.

TrunkSpace: With such a gap in-between when you started recording the album and when you picked it up again to finish, did the goals change for the band in the studio and did you accomplish what you set out to achieve?
Storm: Yeah, it did. Absolutely it did. Before we would go in and write the song and then, we have our own studio, so we would go in and write it and record it and then kind of listen to it and rehearse it. But with this, we had to break down and play instrumentally for months on end just to keep fresh while I couldn’t sing, so it gave us more dynamics. And it gave us more time to think about things. Our guitar player Luke Chronister is also our producer and there were times when he would send me Mix #67 of a song without vocals… all of those little nuances and things like that. We just got to take a different approach than we normally take.

TrunkSpace: Can that be tough in terms of band dynamics? Having your producer also be a member of the band?
Storm: I think we all know our role pretty well. I typically will come in with a very basic song… chords and lyrics… and the guys are amazing at putting together the dynamics of the song and putting their own spin on everything.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned knowing your individual roles. As you look at your personal role within the band and apply it to the different verticals, whether it’s in the studio, songwriting, on stage, etc., where do you get the most joy being in All About a Bubble?
Storm: It will always be performing. That will be the same for most of us. We play all the time. I sit at home for countless hours writing a song, but there’s nothing like seeing somebody’s reaction to it.

TrunkSpace: We talked about those early origins of the band. If we were to look at an All About a Bubble show six years ago, what would we see different in terms of live performance than we’d see from an All About a Bubble show today?
Storm: Well, I think that sometimes what separates the men from the boys is that you learn as you get out on tour how to set up a set and what songs are going to work in what environments. I remember being in Battle Creek, Michigan and we were booked with a bunch of bands that were quite a bit heavier than us, so I was feeling really aggressive and decided to jump off the stage and… it was kind of just to crickets. (Laughter) Everybody just jumped out of the way. (Laughter) You just got to learn your audience and read and react. Of course, the basics… you become a stronger band, but I think just learning your audience and what songs will go over in what type of venues and things like that.

TrunkSpace: What about in terms of being a frontman? Did you have to learn that skill or did it just come natural?
Storm: I don’t think it will ever feel natural. That’s something that our band actually struggles with, is ego. We’re told to have a little more from time to time. There was a point during tour where I broke my hand and our photographer who is now an official member of the band, Jonathan, had to jump in for about eight cities. I had to learn for the first time in years to play without a guitar and that was different for me. But, it also opened up a new avenue for me where I actually felt okay, eventually, putting a guitar down for a song or two. Those are those things that you can’t prepare for, but the show must go on. We were in Dallas once and some technical difficulties went on behind me and I had a broken hand and we didn’t really have anything prepared and we didn’t want a long lag of silence, so I had to trudge through a song with a broken hand. (Laughter) There are just all kinds of things that come up, but that’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes memories.

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Wingman Wednesday

David Patrick Kelly

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David Patrick Kelly as “Charlie” in “John Wick.”

When it comes to memorable roles, David Patrick Kelly has had his share. As fans of pop culture, we’ve admired his work and influential career for years, from his role as Luther in “The Warriors,” to the villainous slimeball Sully in “Commando,” and all the way through to the equally-villainous slimeball T-Bird in “The Crow.”

Thankfully, in real life, Kelly doesn’t have an ounce of slime to him. TrunkSpace had an opportunity to sit down with the actor to discuss his career, the return of Charlie, professional cleaner to hitmen everywhere, in “John Wick: Chapter 2,” and the looming arrival of his character Jerry Horne in the upcoming revamp of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.”

TrunkSpace: You’re based in New York?
Kelly: Yeah. I’m doing this play (“Everybody”) at the Signature Theatre. It’s a Frank Gehry-designed theater on 42nd Street. It’s a great place. They sort of do whole seasons of one playwright and it’s this guy who just won the MacArthur “Genius Grant,” his name is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. In the Middle Ages they had these things called mystery plays and they’d do them in the front of the churches to sort of say repent and, you know, think about your life. And so Branden wrote a new version of that.

TrunkSpace: Were those original mystery plays scripted?
Kelly: Yeah. There’s a lot of theories about how they started. It may have been by a bunch of monks back in the day and they’d put on these plays. In a large degree theater started on the front steps of churches where they’d do plays from the Bible and things like that… as little, kinds of, sermonettes.

TrunkSpace: And so “Everybody” revisits that?
Kelly: This one is really hilarious and really funny. We have a unique way that we’re doing it. There’s five actors and we all play all of the parts. Some of the parts are allegories, like stuff or, you know, your mind or strength or beauty. But then the main character is the everyman. That was the original play, “The Everyman” and he changed it to “Everybody.” And so what happens is five us play all of those characters. We memorized the whole script and he (Branden) puts our names on ping pong balls and at the beginning of every show, we don’t know who’s going to play what. And so it’s like this extended metaphor for never knowing when your number is up.

TrunkSpace: That must keep it fresh for you as an actor.
Kelly: Yeah. You’ve got to be ready to go. It’s really something. We’re having a lot of fun and we’re going to be there through March. It’s very cool. I really like the logo. It’s one of my favorites. Not since the colors for The Rogues have I seen such a cool logo.

TrunkSpace: It’s like a Day of the Dead type of thing.
Kelly: Yeah. Exactly! My little daughter… I’m in the old daddy’s club and I have an eight-year-old daughter, my first and only child… and she dressed up as a, they call them, La Calavera Catrina. They’re these elegant kind of skeleton type people from Day of the Dead.

So, it’s a cool logo. On the original patch for “The Warriors” movie, there was an amazing seamstress and she did all of the patches for “The Warriors.” We all had our individual colors and on the back was the Rogues and the Rogues was a skull. And she was this master seamstress from England and she worked for a guy named Nudie Cohn. And so Bobby Mannix, the costume designer for “The Warriors,” got this lady to do all of the different patches for the gangs. And, Nudie was the guy who made Elvis’ gold lamé suit. And then everybody… all the rockers after Elvis, they all wanted things from Nudie. But he’s a fascinating character and that story goes on and on, but this lady was famous for doing all of the work for all of the country western singers. If you see those fancy suits that they wear… Gram Parsons and all of those folks… and she did it all. Some lady from England who ended up working in LA there for Nudie.

TrunkSpace: What’s crazy about those patches is that you can still see them to this day on T-shirts worn by teenagers and 20-somethings.
Kelly: I was on the subway a couple of days ago and people had the T-shirts. I see those T-shirts all the time. I also saw somebody who had something from “The Crow.” They had all the lyrics from “It Can’t Rain All the Time” on the back of it.

TrunkSpace: You mention lyrics. You’re a musician yourself, aren’t you?
Kelly: I’m a lifelong musician. That’s been parallel with my acting career. I’ve done a few musicals over the years… the last one was an Irish musical that the Irish people in Boston know well because we started there at the A.R.T. “Once,” based on the movie “Once.” And I did that for four years. But, I have a real good group of musicians who play with me and I’m doing this cabaret show, which is songs from all of the movies and plays and things that I’ve done. And so we do some from “The Warriors,” like Joe Walsh’s “In the City,” but it’s all kind of bluegrass newgrass style. I play the mandolin and my friends play the cello and the violin.

TrunkSpace: So it’s a three-piece?
Kelly: My core is just three people. They’re all people that were in “Once.” Incredible actors and musicians. That’s the way we’ve been doing it. We do things like “Nowhere to Run,” from “The Warriors,” and “Burn” by “The Cure,” and “It Can’t Rain All the Time” from “The Crow.” A few things from “Once” and James Taylor’s song from a show that started my career in a sense called “Working,” which James Taylor wrote the songs for. “Millworker.” You can hear Eddie Vedder and Springsteen do covers of that. Great song.

TrunkSpace: How deep do your musical roots go?
Kelly: I always played music and acted. I was actually a part of the CBGB’s scene back in the 70s. Because I could play, that’s how I got in the show “Working.”

TrunkSpace: So was music and acting always part of the plan professionally?
Kelly: Always parallel. They were always intertwined. Actor/musicians are a time honored thing. It goes down for the ages. James Cagney… my cat is named for Cagney. The light from this window is in East Harlem where I live and Cagney was born around here. He had that famous catchphrase, “You dirty rats… you dirty rats!” So I thought that would be a good name for a cat.

TrunkSpace: Especially in the city, right?
Kelly: It toughens you up! My little daughter, she’s seen rats on the subway.

But, it’s always been intertwined. If you go through Shakespeare, I played Iago about 10 years ago, and Iago sings songs because he gets Cassio drunk and gets him in trouble. But, he sings a couple of songs, and to do that I went to this amazing shop on Staten Island called the Mandolin Brothers and I bought a chrome ukelele because I was listening to Wilco at the time and he had a song that said, “The Devil is not red, it’s chrome.” And so, this beautiful ukelele is a National, beautiful aluminum ukelele, so that’s what I used as Iago to sing.

And on and on. All through Shakespeare there are songs and singing and many, many of the actors who I have admired have always been actor/musicians as well. There was a great old vaudevillian African American named Bert Williams and he wrote all of his songs. Cagney played. I actually went to an auction of Cagney’s stuff after he died. It was just a few blocks down. And he had these beautiful Martin guitars and they had photos of him playing those. So you didn’t think of Cagney really as a musician. And actors, the more things you can do the better. I’ve done every kind of genre that there is. I’ve done Greek tragedies. I’ve done American musical theatre. I’ve done cabaret stuff. I’ve done straight up drama. Chekhov, Shakespeare. And that’s always what I wanted, really. That was the whole dream to try and do everything that an actor could do and it’s worked out real well.

David Patrick Kelly as “Sully” in “Commando.”

TrunkSpace: Is there a separation for you in terms of your work on stage and your work in film/television? Do you have more passion for one over another?
Kelly: If you’re doing a great role on stage like Iago that I played, there’s nothing like it. It’s like an Olympic event because you’re set free. You rehearse and you do what the director wants and all that kind of stuff, but as an artist you really get to be there with the audience. It’s like a rock n’ roll show. So, the theater sort of sets you free. I love movies because it’s just a different thing. You do less, less, less. You just have to be photographed. It’s like recording music or performing it live… you’ve got to project it more when you’re performing it live. And then when you record it, Pete Townshend or the guys in Pearl Jam will tell you, if you saw that documentary with Edge and Jimmy Page and Jack White called “It Might Get Loud,” they show you. You just barely touch it, but it’s all about the volume. So those are the kind of techniques that you use and it’s very similar to stage versus film. You can’t do too much in film. You just got to allow the camera to come to you rather than you going out to the audience.

TrunkSpace: You mention not doing too much in film and that sort of brings us to your character Charlie in “John Wick.” He’s so subtle. So understated.
Kelly: I really enjoyed the way that worked out. Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who directed the first one and Chad does the second one by himself, but they both work on all of the choreography because that’s where they came from. It was so great because every fine artist that I’ve worked for kind of schools me in some sense. For those guys, as stunt coordinators, they have hung around for so long on sets, they’re really the workhorses of those things. They have to be there all the time. And they love making movies and so they’re really students… in the same way that Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese know every encyclopedic thing about movies, cameramen, techniques… they know it as well, but it’s a different genre. Their passion is for action movies.

TrunkSpace: And being students of that genre, they know what hasn’t been seen before and can introduce it in new ways.
Kelly: Yeah, and because they’ve been around designing things like “The Matrix” and “300” or anything like that, they know what maybe they didn’t get on the last one and that they want to go further with. And also the stripped down nature of “John Wick”… the fact that it’s really just all on the stunt guys. It’s really not special effects. It’s nothing else. It’s really these guys knowing what they know how to do, and so that’s a wonderful contribution, that it’s just them. It’s really like the kind of theater that you see that uses no big sets and is really just about the actors. That’s a similar thing. It really focuses on their craft. But they also love the story, which is just a simple elemental story, but who can’t relate to that? Everybody can. So that’s why it was a surprise hit, I think.

And Charlie is fascinating. There’s this movie called “Point Blank” with Lee Marvin and that was what they modeled “John Wick” on, because it is really simple. The language is simple, but the story locks you in so you’re kind of really riveted with the story. And Charlie, I got to talk to the guys from that business… from the cleaning business. There’s a company from Chicago called Aftermath.

TrunkSpace: There’s one here where we are as well.
Kelly: Oh, really? They sent me a boatload of stuff. The T-shirt and the bags that they sent me say, “Specialists in crime and trauma scene cleanup.”

TrunkSpace: It takes a particular mindset and focus to do that kind of job day in and day out.
Kelly: Yeah. There’s a lot of attrition because the owners don’t really do all of the on site stuff, but there’s a big turnover in those people because it’s very difficult to deal with people in that situation… the horrible tragedies.

TrunkSpace: You probably never know what you’re walking into until you get there. It’s probably tough to digest every day.
Kelly: I almost went out with them, but then they said, “You know, it’s a lot of blood work, and you never know what kind of blood you’re getting into.” So, I thought it would be better to stay away from that and just read the books and talk to the people.

But, Charlie is also kind of mythical. Without trying too hard, with “John Wick,” they made these characters really mythical. The hotel clerk. The other hitmen.

David Patrick Kelly as “T-Bird” in “The Crow.”

TrunkSpace: And the cop who comes to the door and just accepts that John is working again.
Kelly: (Laughter) Yeah. To have folks like me, who carry a lot of baggage of different stuff, it kind of lends that aura to it as well. I’m a long time martial arts guy myself, so I went in to meet them and I showed them my best move. I think that sold it. I was kind of in the club there for a minute.

TrunkSpace: Does Charlie have any sort of arc in this one or is he back exclusively cleaning up after John like he did in the first one?
Kelly: Similar. But, they’re working on the third one and they told me they’re really going to look for a place for my karate move that I showed them in that first meeting. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What’s interesting about your various memorable roles is that they’re also generational. One audience may connect with “The Warriors.” Another will connect with “The Crow.” What’s been your approach to achieving such career longevity and picking projects with such relevance?
Kelly: You sort of try to stick with what you love. It’s always been music and art and theater and film. And I’ve been doing that since I was just in high school. I was making little movies and composing songs and being in a band and loving literature. I read Beckett and George Bernard Shaw in high school and I just loved the way the script looked on the page. The way it was laid out was so mysterious and so great. I talk a lot about the Catholic church, about being an alter boy in the 50s and having to learn Latin. There was a whole mystery and incredible stuff to that. And then to read James Joyce and to see him quoting the same things in there… this love of literature, which came from my parents, is something that inspired me. I didn’t really consciously think about being an actor. I just did these things all through high school. I didn’t even really get any good parts in the high school plays. A couple that were formative, but… J.M. Barrie who wrote “Peter Pan” wrote a great play called “The Admirable Crichton”… and it just came to me, only recently, that that was probably the thing that made me think this was possible. There was this really great part in there of an English gentry guy and it’s a little bit like “Gilligan’s Island” or “Upstairs, Downstairs.” What happens is that the rich people shipwreck on an island and the servants all are capable and the rich people are not. And, J.M. Barrie, that was his thing back then. But there was this funny part in there and it kind of really got over to the audience and I think that really had an effect on me that I didn’t realize. And then when I got to college I started getting cast immediately and it sort of took over my studies and I got scholarships and everything else, so that’s when it sort of happened. Then I came to NY in 1973.

I went to study in Paris when I was still in college. I studied with Marcel Marceau and that was a huge thing because being in Paris when you’re 19 and studying all of this stuff about theater was incredible. It was an incredible time for theater. It was when all of the clown people like Bill Irwin and the early Saturday Night Live people were starting out…

TrunkSpace: And miming gets a bad wrap, but that is tough to convey and pull off.
Kelly: That’s right, man. Mimes do get a bad wrap, but it’s an incredible skill. Everything from that “Warriors” bottle chant… on and on… little subtle things, it all comes from that sort of inventing something out of nothing. It was such an incredible time. We’d go to the Cinémathèque over there and I’d see all of this stuff. I got into French Theory. There was a great actors named Antonin Artaud, and he was part of the surrealist movement and he had a list of what should be theater and I’ve tried to follow that list and I’ve checked things off all the way.

And then coming to New York and working with the avant-garde here. Richard Foreman, is sort of our American Samuel Beckett. He won that Genius grant too. He’s been knighted by the French. Working in that kind of inventiveness and the CBGBs movement, that led right into the breakthrough in “The Warriors” and then on into David Lynch and all that kind of stuff. I think it all comes from that… sort of in a nonstop, one thing to another.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned David Lynch, which brings us to “Twin Peaks,” which is due back soon, much to the delight of fans. You got involved in that project inadvertently through working on “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane,” correct?
Kelly: That got me into David Lynch. I was working on that character and I brought this prop that I had… a suitcase shrine to the women that I was stalking… and I went to the meeting with Lynch and he said, “That’s great.” And then he wrote me into “Wild at Heart” and then he wrote me into “Twin Peaks.”

TrunkSpace: And you’re back in the new series, correct?
Kelly: That’s correct. We’re doing the new one and it was great. He was on fire. He did every episode. He directed the whole thing like a 40 hour movie or something like that. So it’s really something. It’s just like the original one. Going back 25 years later, what a trip.

TrunkSpace: As an actor, it must be incredible to return to a character after that much time. Do you have to put your head into the mindset of that character in order to figure out what his off-camera journey has been for those 25 years?
Kelly: Well, the best thing that happened was that I got to finish the books that I was reading originally. (Laughter) One was Thomas Pynchon’s “Vineland.” That was what I originally based Jerry Horne on… sections of that. Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” I got to work on that. But that was a fun thing because Pynchon was a big influence for me on that and Ayn Rand because Jerry Horne… I think our current president is the fulfillment of what the Horne brothers were trying to do. Ben was running for the senate in the original version of it, but I always thought… Lynch kind of represents this division between the 50s, this kind of fake, controlled atmosphere that was around, and then the craziness of the 60s. All derogated from Kennedy’s assassination. And I think that’s a symbolic thing that’s happening. This is all my opinion. In “Wild at Heart,” there’s a lot of symbolism in that and it’s the same thing in “Twin Peaks.” There’s this kind of 50s, from the opening music to the girls in their bobby socks and plaid skirts, to this craziness of the unleashed 60s… this kind of insanity that happens after a major crime. And so the Hornes, everything from Jerry’s haircut where he had the close cut sides and this kind of virtue of selfishness, which is one of Ayn Rand’s principals. She had a book entitled that in fact, “The Virtue of Selfishness.” And that’s kind of what he represented.

And what I said about “Twin Peaks” was that, we based that on a National Enquirer version of the Kennedy brothers. If you believed everything bad that you ever read, and I’m an old Kennedy democrat. I saw John Kennedy speak. I saw Robert Kennedy speak. That’s my political side. But, we based it on a version if you believed everything bad you ever read about them in the National Enquirer… that’s who the Horne brothers were.

So the satisfying part of going back 25 years later was to sort of see what happened and finish those original research books and carry through that whole inspiration, which was just an unusual thing in a career to be able to do that.

TrunkSpace: And as far as changing the landscape of television, that show was such an inspiration to so many series to come, especially in cable.
Kelly: David Chase from “The Sopranos” said that “Twin Peaks” was the thing that sort of created this whole new era. With his “Sopranos,” he said he wanted to be “Twin Peaks” to New Jersey. So, it was really unusual. It was one of those things where it was just bigger than everybody… even Lynch himself. I think it took him by storm. I’m so happy he could fulfill that whole thing and make it a complete thing. The fans kept it alive really, so I’m thankful to them.

If you’re in New York, be sure to check out Kelly in “Everybody” at the Signature Theatre Company on 42st Street. Click the image below to buy tickets.

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Remember When

Ryan Lambert

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It’s that time again. Let’s sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane with those individuals who inadvertently played a role in our childhood. This time out we’re chatting with Ryan Lambert, who as a teenager, starred in the film “The Monster Squad.” Anyone who was growing up in the 80s and was lucky enough to have had paid cable fell in love with the movie, which pitted a group of small town kids against an army of classic monsters, including Dracula. Lambert played Rudy, the resident badass who every young impressionable viewer wanted to be. Shorty after the film was released, Lambert left acting to pursue his music career. He has since rediscovered his passion for acting and returned to the city that gave him his break via the television series “Kids Incorporated” some 30 years ago.

TrunkSpace: After leaving the business to focus on music, you recently returned to Los Angeles to pursue acting again. The industry has changed so much since you stepped away. There are now so many channels and outlets in need of content, so as you return to the business, have you noticed that there are more jobs now than when you were working during the 1980s?
Lambert: It’s weird. It’s kind of a catch-22. You’re absolutely right, there are a billion shows out there to audition for and there’s more content, obviously, but the problem is, using my “Kids Incorporated”/“Monster Squad” has become moot, basically. It was too long ago and I’m a different person now. I can’t use those credits as much as I thought I was going to be able to. There is a little bit of a window because I have experience and I understand what it is to be on set and what that means and that aspect hasn’t changed as much. You’re still on a set. There’s still a second AD. There’s still the gaffers and the grips… they’re all still there. To know where to stand and be professional, that hasn’t changed. So, in that regard I kind of have the one-up on the guy who gets off the bus from Kansas.

TrunkSpace: “The Monster Squad” is a shining example as to why classic makeup and prosthetic-based SFX work. That creature (the Gillman) still looks badass to this day.
Lambert: Yeah. Those suits were amazing. That was Stan Winston and his crew. I was just talking to Tom Woodruff who was in that suit. Everyone loved The Creature suit. It was perfect. It was exactly what it was supposed to be. It did what it was supposed to do and the person inside did what they were supposed to do and then you film it. That’s the way it should be. That’s the way movies are made. I’m not opposed to CGI at all. I just think it’s been overused and I don’t think you need an entire film that’s created out of that.

TrunkSpace: When done right, the classic makeup and prosthetic-based SFX become part of the actor. Sometimes CGI can look great on the big screen, and then you watch it again on your television and it doesn’t carry over as well.
Lambert: Sure. In that day and age, we’re talking like 1986, you work with what you have. There was no CGI. (Laughter) So, there was no choice, so who are you going to go to make sure that this looks as great as it can possibly be? Well, you’re going to go to Stan Winston. You’re going to go to him or Carlo Rambaldi or something and they’re going to do you right and that’s exactly what Fred (Dekker) and company did. They went and got the best and the best came out.

TrunkSpace: The movie was released at the dawn of cable and as such, there wasn’t a constant flow of content available then like there is today. Do you think that helped put “The Monster Squad” in front of so many people from our generation… the fact that channels like HBO played it in such heavy rotation?
Lambert: I think that’s where it lived. That’s where it found the audience. It didn’t find the audience in the theaters. We can blame a lot of things about what happened to it in the box office. I like to blame the marketing team. I don’t think they marketed it correctly. I don’t think there was enough emphasis on what the actual film was trying to represent or what it was about, at least in this country. And then, it slowly but surely found it’s way into people’s lives… unaware to any of us. Once it was released and it kind of tanked, we were done with it. Like, I forgot about it. We all loved it and were proud of it, but the truth of the matter was, it just didn’t happen.

TrunkSpace: So does that make it especially odd to still be talking about it 30 years later?
Lambert: It doesn’t feel that way now because about, almost 10 years ago now, we found out that they were doing a big screening of it in Austin, TX and they invited us to come watch it and do a Q&A before and after the screening. And we were like, “What?” I hadn’t even seen any of these people in years. I mean, I was off doing my own thing. I was in bands in San Francisco and I didn’t know of any of it… I didn’t know it had a cult following. I had absolutely no clue. And we show up and there’s a line around the corner and everyone’s freaking out. (Laughter) Everyone’s got posters and T-shirts and everyone wants us to sign everything. I was like, “Where did you people come from? What has been going on this whole time!” I had no clue that you guys were watching this all these years. So, since then, almost consistently, it’s been nonstop with conventions and screenings and interviews and things here and there. So I’m used to it now. I get it now. I see it now.

TrunkSpace: So in terms of your personal life, at the time of the theatrical release, it sounds like it didn’t really change anything for you?
Lambert: Pretty much zero. I filmed it, I made good friends, and it came out and it bombed and I moved on and did some other projects after that. And then I decided that I didn’t want to do it anymore because my original plan was, when I was about 8, was that I was going to be a musician and I was going to be in bands and be a singer… hence “Kids Incorporated.” I went out on an audition someone had told me about and it was like a musical. “Go be in a rock band on television!” And I was like, “Okay.” And so I went on an audition and I got it and that was my life. I was like a little kid singing horribly on television and that’s what my path was, but the trick to being on a television show is that you need an agent. So I was already on the show and they were like, “Now you have to go get an agent to represent you.” So I went and got an agent and that agent started sending me out on acting roles. So I was like, “Oh, I’m an actor now.” Well that wasn’t what I originally set out to do, so after awhile, everyone kept telling me that I could do both. And at that time in the 80s, I didn’t feel like that was something you could do. I thought that if I was an actor, no one was going to take me seriously as a musician. I thought that you could do it the other way around… like if you were David Bowie and then wanted to be in a movie, you know? But I didn’t think that if you were an actor, you know, like if Jack Wagner on “General Hospital” wanted to make a record, it wasn’t going to be taken seriously. So I thought the only way to make this real is to stop acting, which is what I did. Everyone was really pissed off. My agent. My manager. My parents. Because I was on the verge of something. I was getting in to see great people and I was about to do bigger films. I was getting them and I turned everything down and I decided that that’s not what I wanted to do, so I went and became a rock star. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So why do you think the acting bug came back and bit you?
Lambert: Well, to tell you the truth, I started to get a little discouraged with the music industry and where everything was going and I was a little bit discouraged about the music that I was making. I had been in a bunch of bands, four to be exact, and my last one was… we were having fun but it kind of wasn’t becoming a business. It was just like, “Let’s go down and have fun” but like, “Yeah, but what am I doing with my life?” So, in San Francisco I decided to join a theater company, Shelton Studios, and just see how I felt about something that I was successful in at a period in my life and see if I was even any good at it still. And it turns out, I felt like I was. I was like, “Hmm… this feels good.” I felt great on stage and I felt good with words and I felt good with my body language and I had teachers that backed me up. And I didn’t even tell them about what I did earlier. They had no idea who I was. So, eventually I told them and they were like, “Oh, well that’s it. You’ve done this before. You are seasoned.”

TrunkSpace
: Which must have been nice for you in terms of getting the current work recognized as opposed to the past work?
Lambert: I feel a lot of people would do that. Like, “I’m so and so and you’ve got to listen to me because I’ve done this and you haven’t done shit.” I didn’t want to approach it that way. I wanted to go in there like a layman. Teach me! Which is what I really actually wanted. I didn’t want to feel superior to anybody, because I wasn’t. I was nobody. I’m nobody. Even when I came back here (LA) and started talking to agents, they’re like, “I can’t resurrect your career.” I said, “I don’t want you to!” I want to be Cop #3 on Law & Order. The thing is, if you talk to any actor, even the biggest actors in the world, all they want to do is work.

TrunkSpace: So do you think your past acting resume actually hurts your future acting resume?
Lambert: I do. I mean, again, the catch-22 thing… look at what I have done. I have the credits to back me up and the footage, but at the same time everyone’s like, “Yeah, but that’s you as a little kid… give me what you’ve got now.” And besides the few short films that I’ve done here and there in this day and age, it’s hard to get in the door. Everyone’s like, “Oh my god… ‘The Monster Squad.’ I love that movie. But, what are you doing now? What can you give me now?” Well, let me show you.

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Opening Act

Gold Casio

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ARTIST PROFILE

Artist/Band: Gold Casio

Members: Ela Ra, Forrest Grenfell, Brock Grenfell, George Schultz

Website: goldcasio.band

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Latest Album/Release: Fever Dreams (Releasing March 3rd)

Influences: The Talking Heads, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Daft Punk, Gorillaz, LCD Soundsystem

*The band answered the questions as a single unit.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Gold Casio: A gold VR headset is placed on your head and you are immediately transported to another world. A world where it’s always night and the music never ends. Amongst the glitter and gold streamers you discover that here, magic is real, the party does go on, and the Gospel of Disco reigns supreme. At every turn the ecstasy of ego-death awaits you.

TrunkSpace: Gold Casio’s music seems to be at home in the studio, but at the same time, the beats easily suggest a party at every live show. How does the band translate the sound to the stage?
Gold Casio: Our music is usually formulated in the studio and then reverse-engineered for the stage. It’s dance music but we take pride combining a live band performance alongside the electronic element of our music. And, yes we aim both visually and musically to make every show a party.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of stage, there seems to be a lot of gold throughout when the band takes to it. Where did the idea of dressing the stage in all that glitter come from and how has it grown?
Gold Casio: We like the idea of our art-form transcending music and so we conceived of Gold Casio as an experience that is both auditory and visual. We wanted a way to distinguish our live set, and we don’t really have a knack for subtlety.

TrunkSpace: Showmanship and band branding is something that seems lost on a lot of acts these days. Gold Casio on the other hand seems like a throwback in that regard because you have established a look and feel to the band as well as the music. Was that a decision from the outset?
Gold Casio: Yes.

TrunkSpace: Your first full length album is due out soon. Does the album have a title and what can we expect from it as a whole?
Gold Casio: We’re experimenting with new ways to curate the release of our music in the digital streaming landscape.  The one thing that you can expect for sure is that we’ll be rolling out art and music in some form every month of 2017.  We’re going to keep you in the dark about the specifics for now.

TrunkSpace: Did we read correctly that the album was recorded in a church? If so, how did that come to be?
Gold Casio: Cosmic intervention and fortuitous timing.  Several of us live in a repurposed church and we set our studio up in the sanctuary.

TrunkSpace: Your music is a throwback to the sounds of decades past, particularly in the instrumentation. At the same time, the songs themselves sound modern. How much focus does the band put on writing music that is nostalgic, yet at the same time, doesn’t sound dated?
Gold Casio: It’s never a conscious choice, we just tend to gravitate towards these sounds because of our range of inspirations. We embrace both old and new, and tend to appreciate vintage tones and crisp modern production alike.  We really like dance music but these days a lot of that starts to feel the same, so we’re trying to change that.

TrunkSpace: Gold Casio features both male and female vocals. How does the band decide which voice fits for a particular song, and, do you try out both in the development stages of new tracks?
Gold Casio: It can really depend from track to track and happens pretty organically. It’s kind of just our band dynamic;  we all write parts, sometimes we write parts for each other, and ultimately choose what sounds most magic.

TrunkSpace: How does the band anticipate supporting the new album in 2017 and what can fans expect as the year rolls ahead?
Gold Casio: You can expect to see us in cities along the west coast and beyond, we’ll be on the road a lot this year. We hinted at this a little, but you can be on the lookout for something new from us every month of 2017.

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Chilling Out

Mark Steger

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Chilling Out
Mark Steger

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 Mark Steger, an actor not instantly recognizable due to the fact that he’s usually buried deep beneath makeup and prosthetics. While Steger has performed and choreographed nightmare-inducing creatures in countless films, it is his turn as The Monster in the monster hit “Stranger Things” that continues to keep us up (and upside right) at night.

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TrunkSpace: “Stranger Things” became the most talked about television series last year. Was there any indication during the production, at least for you, that it was going to be something special?
Steger: Well, it definitely had the feeling of a good one. I met the Duffers and I really liked them. They gave me a really good sense of themselves as directors. We have sensibilities that… certain commonalities and sensibilities. I met the other cast members and I read the script and I thought it was going to be one I could look back on and say, “I like that.” Nobody really thought it would become the pop cultural phenomenon that it became. I thought it would be popular, but not the kind of wildly popular that it became. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Do you think part of its success was because it so successfully plugged into that nostalgic feel of films like “The Goonies” and “The Monster Squad,” films that sort of defined a generation from the 80s who grew up on watching those movies in heavy rotation on HBO?
Steger: Yes. I’m sure that has a lot to do with its success. One of the things that I think makes it work is that it doesn’t feel like somebody just decided, “Hey, let’s do an 80s trip kind of thing and see if we can cash in.” It really feels like that there’s a lot of affection for that period of filmmaking. And what they wanted to do was make a film that would look like it would have come from that period. I really think that was the feeling that they were going for.

TrunkSpace: And you could feel that in the set dressing. None of the 80s brands and styles, at least those that Hollywood has focused on in the past, were front and center.
Steger: Yeah. And one of the things they did really well, people who were living in the 80s, they had stuff from the 60s and 70s in their house. Some of the stuff in Joyce’s house, that’s not furniture from the 80s. (Laughter) And I think actually some of that furniture had been lived in. (Laughter)

That attention to detail… that’s a big deal. Stylistically, it had that 80s vibe, but also it had a certain lived in naturalism that was going on that sold it. It felt like a lived in world.

TrunkSpace: We talk to actors about how they get into the mindset of a particular character or role, but, when you’re performing a creature that has never been seen or heard of before… how do you do that?
Steger: Well, obviously a lot of the inspiration comes from the look of the creature and its biometrics and whatever you get from the director, which was very concise from them. Their direction was, basically I’m like the shark from “Jaws.” And that helps you zero right in on it. But at the same time, I always ask myself certain questions. A lot of it is just stuff you ask yourself as an actor anyway. What does my character want? But, if it’s a being from another dimension it’s, what’s the atmosphere like where I come from? What’s the gravity like there? I’m obviously not psychologically human, so what is that state of mind? Being in the kind of suit… especially this particular suit that Spectral Motion built… it was really remarkable. Your biometrics are very different and what you’re getting from your senses is very different. You can’t necessarily see as well. You can’t smell as well. You can’t hear as well. All of this stuff helps contribute to feeling like something other. It’s not that difficult to get into a creature’s psychological state from that point. And then you’re working with these other wonderful actors who they… to a large degree they have to sell it. They have to sell your monsterness. It’s their reactions to what you’re doing so they get a lot of credit as well for creating the creature. It’s a lot of people. It’s the designers… Aaron Sims’ company. The practical effects artists, the visual effects artists and the actors. The production design. So much stuff goes into what’s available to me to draw from for inspiration.

From the film “This is the End.” Makeup by KNB EFX. Photo by Norman Cabrerra.

TrunkSpace: And so in your performance, you were always in scene with the other actors and able to react to them?
Steger: I was there on set with the actors, which is great. It’s great for the actors and it’s great for me. I had a lot of fun with Charlie (Heaton) and Natalia (Dyer) and Joe (Keery) shooting some of those scenes in the house. Yeah, the kids were a joy to work with. And the younger ones too. Scenes with Millie (Bobby Brown)… that stuff’s great. I feel like I have a great job. I really feel very fortunate to be doing what I’m doing.

TrunkSpace: For an audience, seeing a child’s reaction to a monster sort of ups the fear and realism because a child’s fear is so natural and not bogged down by life and adult ego.
Steger: Yeah. Definitely. Kid reactions are it’s own thing. The thing is too, in-between shots, I’d just be hanging out in my special monster chair that I had to sit in…

TrunkSpace: Wait. Special monster chair?
Steger: Yeah. Because of the suit. (Laughter) So I’d be sitting in my monster chair and the kids would walk by me and I’d just be like, “You’re going down, kid.” (Laughter) And then we’d start talking smack to each other. So, they would see who I was and they knew. So they were acting. Obviously when you see this thing in front of you that’s seven feet tall and has this crazy head and really long arms… it for sure helps, but they would see me with the head off and we’d be chatting. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: The way the show handled the early introduction of the monster… seeing it feed… there was something very primal and animalistic to that.
Steger: Yeah. Definitely. It was pretty single-minded, for sure.

TrunkSpace: And that visual that the directors gave you… it’s the shark from “Jaws”… it paints an incredible picture of, here’s this creature that feeds, and then it goes away and does what a creature does when it’s not feeding.
Steger: Exactly. And like the character in “Jaws,” it exists in this other atmosphere and then it comes into your atmosphere, it jumps out… unless you get into its atmosphere… it crosses between this threshold and grabs something and goes back. That’s kind of perfect. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And what’s interesting about that is, a human character in a horror film is a bad guy, but here, a monster is just a monster. It’s not necessarily bad, at least in its own self-awareness, it’s just doing what a monster does.
Steger: Yeah. Exactly. It’s not one of those ones where there’s some kind of a gray area. It just is what it is. It’s doing what it does. It’s not making a decision that, “I like being bad.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: It’s not twirling it’s mustache.
Steger: (Laughter) That’s actually kind of funny. Twirling his little imaginary mustache. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: The 80s in particular were a great time for monsters in the proper sense. Freddy, Jason, Pumpkinhead, etc. Today, zombies have sort of taken over the monster mainstay and changed the focus. Is it cool for you to be a part of something where a sort of proper monster gets attention again?
Steger: Yeah. That’s very cool. It’s a classic monster, which is pretty awesome. It’s just like… “Monster!” (Laughter) Say no more! (Laughter) Yeah, it’s classic in the mold of, you know, the original Alien and many other touchstones. My influences go back to the old Universal horror films… Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff… that stuff. I mean, I’m not that old, but I remember watching that stuff when I was a kid and just loving that stuff. It was so well done. And they were such great actors too. That’s one thing that’s not appreciated all the time… what actually goes into creating a monster. Aside from all of the design and makeup and all that… they were these amazing performers in that makeup.

TrunkSpace: And what was so cool about those old Universal movies was that they were tormented victims at the same time that they victimized people.
Steger: Yeah. They were not understood. They were innocent to some degree. Again, they were just being themselves. It’s like a dog. You can’t blame the dog for pooping on the carpet or whatever. It just needs to go. (Laughter)

It’s a great genre to be in and a great tradition when you think about that you’re a part of something that’s greater than yourself. There’s a lineage to that. And I really felt that with “Stranger Things.” It was very rewarding for sure.

TrunkSpace: Genres rise and fall in popularity, but horror always seems to maintain a steady level of interest. Why do people love to be scared?
Steger: I don’t know. You’re confronting primal fears and I think it can be very cathartic for people. I know it was for me when I was younger. And still is if I see a good one… if I see one that I like. I’m very picky. (Laughter) And I think that just never goes away. It’s like that, “What’s in the cave? What’s under the bed?” When you’re a kid… there are these fears that everybody has of the unknown and seeing that manifest with some imagination is always… it’s thrilling. It’s exciting. It’s fun. When you’re in a movie theater with a bunch of people and something really incredibly scary happens and it really works on screen, a lot of times people will start to laugh. It’s a relief and I think it’s valuable. I think there’s a lot of value in this genre. You know, it’s exploited a lot obviously, but what isn’t? There are people out there who are sincerely in love with it and some good directors out there and a good audience out there.

From the film “Priest.” Makeup by KNB EFX. Photo by Howard Berger.

TrunkSpace: It’s also a genre that works so well as a shared experience, which is why it probably maintains such steady popularity in theaters.
Steger: Yeah. The communal experience with horror is what I think really sets it apart. I worked with a director named Nicholas McCarthy, who is actually one of my favorite directors to work with. We’ve done some low-budget horror films together, including “The Pact,” “At the Devil’s Door,” and recently a segment of “Holidays.” A lot of times when you’re doing low-budget things you have no idea what kind of distribution deal you’re going to get or if it’s going to end up in theaters, but he always makes a point of wanting it to be able to play in theaters and I think that makes a big difference. I really enjoy seeing it in a theater. There’s something about that communal experience that you can’t really replace.

TrunkSpace: So will we be seeing you in the second season of “Stranger Things?”
Steger: Yeah… that I can’t say anything about. (Laughter) I apologize, but I signed a book-length nondisclosure for that.

Steger is currently writing a dark horror film of his own with a writing partner and hopes to go into production on the film later this year.

And, could we see him in…?

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Wingman Wednesday

Ronnie Marmo

Marmo_Wingman_wednesday

Soap opera fans will instantly recognize Ronnie Marmo for the years he spent working on “General Hospital,” but it’s his passion for legendary comedian Lenny Bruce that has served as the common thread and thru-line throughout his career. He has performed Bruce on stage. He is in the process of writing and producing a new play based on Bruce’s life. And now he’s narrating Bruce’s autobiography “How to Talk Dirty & Influence People” for Hachette Audio.

Wingman Wednesday sat down with Marmo to discuss his connection to Bruce and how he approached speaking the iconic comedian’s own words.

TrunkSpace: For those who aren’t familiar with Lenny Bruce, can you tell us a little bit about who Lenny was and what drew you to him?
Marmo: Well, I can never encapsulate Lenny Bruce in one brief discussion, but the bullet points and the highlights of who Lenny Bruce was… he was a pioneer and he basically led the way for all of the great comedians that this modern world knows… like George Carlin, Richard Pryor… the great ones. Lenny Bruce was the first comic to not have a set routine and to get up on stage and just talk about whatever was going on in his life, whether it be his wife, his kid, his drug habits… whatever was going on. He was the first one to tell personal stories in comedy and also he was a really, really, really smart man and he’d piss a lot of people off. He would question lots of things, like Catholic religion, and he would make comedy out of them. He wasn’t making fun of anything. He was just trying to understand. He would always hold a mirror up to the world and take a look at hypocrisy on both sides of the coin. And it made a lot of people mad because no one else was willing to do that at that time in the late 50s and early 60s. So he would get arrested nightly for saying curse words on stage and the cops would lineup in the back of the club and literally when he would curse or say something that pissed them off, he would get arrested. He got arrested for doing a funny bit called “Religions, Inc.” where he made the Pope Jewish and they had an office up on Madison Avenue. So, even things like that weren’t even curse words he’d get arrested for, which obviously violated the First Amendment. He would just hold a mirror up to everything and lots of people were offended. He got arrested for that. He got arrested for saying schmuck because a Jewish cop was offended. So, not too long ago in this country, freedom of speech didn’t really exist and Lenny Bruce was basically the guinea pig for all of that.

TrunkSpace: In a lot of ways his fight to protect free speech ultimately cost him his career because he became so obsessed with the fight, correct?
Marmo: No doubt. Eventually he ended up representing himself and spent all of his money and went bankrupt. He went from playing these huge arenas or what have you of that time, to literally playing for three people in an audience and they were walking out on him because he was so obsessed with his legal battles that he would just read his courtroom transcripts rather than trying to be funny. And so, it cost him career and ultimately cost him his life.

TrunkSpace: If you look at where the country is today in terms of it being so divided, it feels like the world needs a Lenny Bruce now more than ever.
Marmo: I think we have had Lenny Bruces in certain forms. In a lot of ways, Carlin took over after Lenny died.

Photo by: Lisa Cahn

TrunkSpace: Wasn’t Carlin pictured in one of the more famous images of Lenny Bruce being arrested?
Marmo: Yeah. My friend Jack Burns, who I’m still friends with today… Burns and Schreiber and Burns and Carlin… Lenny Bruce got Jack Burns and George Carlin their first agent when they were a team. So, George was around then and kind of looked up to and idolized Lenny. There is a picture of Lenny being arrested and then George is in the background and, rumor has it that George was also arrested that night. I don’t know why. He was underage or something… but he was in the back of the Paddy wagon with Lenny Bruce. George Carlin really idolized Lenny Bruce and you can see his influence for the following 50 years after Lenny Bruce passed away.

TrunkSpace: So looking beyond narrating this audio book, you’ve actually portrayed Lenny Bruce in a few forms, correct?
Marmo: What happened was… I’m guessing it’s close to 10 years ago now… Charlie Brill from Brill and McCall, a famous comedy team, came to me one day and he asked me if I knew who Lenny Bruce was and of course I said yes. I didn’t know all that much about Lenny at the time but as a kid I remembered my parents listening to Lenny. He said, “Well you look a lot like him.” Apparently this one man show called “Lenny Bruce is Back (And Boy is He Pissed)” was written for Charlie Brill to perform and Charlie was like, “Ahh… it’s too many words and it’s not for me at this point.” It was written by Sam Bobrick and Julie Stein. And so Charlie said to me, “Why don’t you do it and then I will direct it.” I said to Charlie, “Well, it’s a great idea, but this is Lenny Bruce. I don’t know really how to proceed with it.” So, long story short, he and I made a bet. Charlie admitted he hadn’t performed in years as a team and I said that if he performed in my theater one night, then I would do it. A couple of years later they finally did and so I had to hold up my end of the bargain. And I was scared to death because I thought, “How the hell am I going to play Lenny Bruce?” Especially because Carlin and lots of his friends were still alive and well. I could tell you a huge list of people who saw me do it. Anyway, it wasn’t a typical play, so I spent a lot of time with every piece of footage and every audio track. Everything I could get my hands on and everything that I could read I did because I became obsessed about Lenny and I didn’t even pick up the script until I literally had hundreds of hours of studying. I didn’t want to do an imitation of Lenny. I wanted to make sure that I was just trying to capture his essence and not try to do an imitation. So that’s how it all happened and it was something that, I want to say fell into my lap, and then became a humongous responsibility because it was Lenny Bruce and I didn’t want to yak it up.

TrunkSpace: So then years later, how did narrating his autobiography come about?
Marmo: Well, I did a six month run of the play… put it down for a couple of years and always thought I could do more with it. I came back to it and did another six month run. After the second six month run, I reached out to Kitty Bruce, Lenny’s daughter, and became friends with her. I flew out to New York and then took a long car ride to Pittston, Pennsylvania just to meet her, have lunch with her and get to know her. And after a lot of time… her and I became very connected and I love Kitty Bruce very much… and I basically told her that I had been doing Lenny and I told her that I thought the script was very good, but that I felt like we were leaving some scenes out and I wanted to take things to another level. And so, after meeting Kitty and realizing that I left a lot on the table and still wanted to tell Lenny’s story… I felt very connected to Lenny Bruce from day one. Once I started researching him I realized we had such a similar upbringing in a lot of ways. We had the same thing with having custody of our daughters. I’ve been in recovery for a long time. Sadly Lenny did not get to be in recovery, but we had the same history in terms of addiction. Similar history. Not the same, but similar. And so there were so many parallels. And so I reached out to my writer friend Jason Burns and said that I’d like to revisit this material and I got Kitty Bruce’s blessing on doing another one man show, but basically turning over every stone and removing any fluffiness out of what I had been doing and completely just putting myself into the middle of all Lenny’s real heartbreak. So we wrote a new play called “I’m Not a Comedian, I’m Lenny Bruce.” We have done four readings of it… two in LA and two in New York… and since that time an audition came out to do the Lenny Bruce autobiography, “How to Talk Dirty & Influence People.” And so Kitty had suggested me to the producers, but not just as an offer. They made me audition this piece and I was happy to do that. I went back and forth many times because as Kitty Bruce puts it, she did not want nepotism to play a part. She wanted the right person to represent her dad for the next, you know, thousand years in his audio book. I went and sent a lot of tapes back and forth reading directly from his book and I sent them anonymously so Kitty wouldn’t know it was me, and ultimately she chose me not knowing it was me. For me, it’s like the biggest honor in the world that I get to be the voice of Lenny Bruce for the next generation. And also at a time when I feel like we’re putting the finishing touches on our play and hopefully we’ll be premiering that May or June of 2017.


TrunkSpace
: Having already performed Lenny a number of times, was it a different experience reading the sort of, thoughts from his head directly from the autobiography?
Marmo: Oh, one million percent. I don’t know if it’s more of an autobiography as opposed to a memoir. I don’t know why exactly they called it an autobiography. If you listen to the book, which I hope you get a chance to, it was very difficult, the material, because Lenny wrote it a year before he passed away. Before he OD’d. He died at 40, so I think he was 39 when he wrote it. There was a lot about the courts and a lot about lots of different things. He was a very funny man, but he wrote in metaphors and he’s SO smart. Like, ridiculously smart. I would have to read it three times before I even knew what the hell was going on and I think I made the editor crazy because I went back and basically read every line three times in the book and that’s not how it usually goes. But, I understood the humongous responsibility I had in representing Lenny Bruce and representing Kitty Bruce and her father. It was not something I took lightly and it wasn’t just a job I had. It was a very important moment for me and it’s very exciting.

TrunkSpace: So you could sense the dark head space Lenny was in when you were narrating the book?
Marmo: Completely! Just trying to put yourself in his shoes and do justice to that was a hell of a journey for me. Kitty wanted to make sure that I wasn’t narrating the book. In other words, when I’m talking about being under the kitchen sink peeling at the linoleum… instead of telling you what Lenny went through, I believe I captured putting you under the sink picking at the linoleum with him.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned your theater above. You actually run the company on both coasts, correct?
Marmo: Yeah. I’m the artistic director of Theater 68 in Los Angeles and New York. In LA, we will be 16-years-old on February 14th. And in New York, we will be 6-years-old on August 29th. So, we’ve been around quite awhile.

TrunkSpace: So what is the theater company for you? Is it a matter of staying connected to your theatrical roots?
Marmo: The theater company provides something for me that I needed as an actor and that is, I like to believe that I’m providing an artistic home for people. We use the word theater company, but the truth is it’s so much more than that. It’s almost not cool to just put us in that box, but basically it’s an artistic home for over a 120 actors right now on both coasts, and maybe close to a thousand over the course of 16 years. And so it makes me really happy to know that in some small way… or big way… I’ve been a part of all of these artists’ journey and it gives me a fulfillment unlike anything else. It also brings a lot of stress and chaos into my life. (Laughter) But the reward is that there are many artists, young and old, in my artistic care and I take that responsibility very seriously. To me that’s where my heart and my life is and when I get acting or directing gigs outside of my company in film, television and other theater, I’m completely excited about it and inspired, but ultimately home base is where I put a lot of my energy.

If you’re in Los Angeles, check out Ronnie Marmo in Lusting After Pepino’s Wife at Theater 68 in North Hollywood.. You can also see Marmo on Netflix in the recently-released film “Back in the Day,” with also stars Alec Baldwin, Michael Madsen, Danny Glover, and Shannon Doherty.

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Wingman Wednesday

David Sobolov

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If you’re a frequent flyer of film and television, you’ve most likely heard some version of David Sobolov’s voice. As one of the premiere voice-over actors in the world of animation and video games, he has been a pop culture mainstay without you even realizing it. Bringing life to Drax the Destroyer in Marvel’s various immensely-popular cartoon lines, as well as Shockwave in “Transformers Prime,” Sobolov has brought character to many characters, though it is his turn as Gorilla Grodd in the CW’s “The Flash” that has us slapping him with the TrunkSpace Memorable Roles designation.

TrunkSpace: There seems to be a lot of traditional actors now working as voice actors, particularly on mainstream, big-brand shows. Is that a new trend and is it worrisome for someone like yourself who has been working as a voice actor for 20 plus years?
Sobolov: It’s not really worrisome. The shows have to publicize themselves and to do that, having celebrities is helpful. There are often opportunities for people like me that continue on because the celebrities are busy doing movies and TV shows. For instance, with “Guardians of the Galaxy” that I do over at Marvel, they don’t always know if that celebrity is going to be available for those years of work if a show continues on. So, that allows people like me to continue to have a future. (Laughter) And, small roles too. There’s not enough celebrities to fill in all of these roles, so there will always be a place for what they call, the journeyman actor.

TrunkSpace: What’s interesting is that as a voice actor, you bring character to your characters, whereas a celebrity will often sound like that celebrity’s regular voice, and we wonder if that is also because, from a publicizing standpoint, they want the celebrity to sound like themselves?
Sobolov: Well, they don’t even say that to them. I’m sure they’re hoping people will recognize them, but often times the celebrity will come in… like Mark Hamill… and he’s going to massively change his voice for the character. His name is enough.

TrunkSpace: And it’s a name that the parents will be drawn too… not just the kids.
Sobolov: Yeah. They have to sell a product, so I understand. I have never been threatened by any of that.

TrunkSpace: Because animation is easier to make these days, at least in terms of the time table of it… are there more available jobs than say, in the mid to late 90s?
Sobolov: Well, I don’t think there’s more jobs because it’s easier to make. I think there’s more jobs because there’s more outlets. There’s so much content that’s needed to fill up all of these cable channels and all of these online portals, so there really is more work than there has ever been.

TrunkSpace: Why is it that a cartoon doesn’t always maintain the same shelf life as say, a live action series? And even when a cartoon series is still popular, it still seems to go off the air or it will be rebooted.
Sobolov: Well, if it’s for children especially, there’s certainly been studies showing that children will watch something many, many, many times. I don’t even think you need a study for that. Any
parent can tell you that. If your four-year-old decides that he or she likes something, they will continue to watch it, won’t they? It doesn’t have to be a different episode.

TrunkSpace: Exactly. They will watch the same episode over and over and over again.
Sobolov: There you go. That’s part of it. And another interesting thing too is, that because it is less expensive than live action television, they can produce more of it. And you know, if your show only runs like two or three years… the same group of people can just move on to produce a new one.

TrunkSpace: And if you’re geared at a particular age demographic, those kids eventually grow up and move on to new interests.
Sobolov: Yeah. That happens. Or, in the case with SpongeBob, the new generation wants it too, so it just keeps going and going and going. You never know when you’re on a show how long it’s going to last. Some might last a year. Some might last three or five or rarely it’s more. The Marvel shows that I’m working on, lately they seem to be running three to five years. But, you just never know. You don’t really jump into this business with any expectations of even to make a living, and if you can make a living it’s a wonderful surprise.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the Marvel shows. What’s cool about those is, even though they may last three to five years, the characters you’re playing stretch beyond that into other shows.
Sobolov: They will do that with Marvel. They’re pretty good about keeping you on. Other companies not so much, but that company… they’re pretty loyal to their talent.

TrunkSpace: With animation, a lot of times a series will take off that is based on an existing brand or character. When you take on a role that falls within those parameters, do you look at the source material to find your sea legs? For example, you portrayed Robocop. Do you try to stay loyal to what the source material was?
Sobolov: Only to a point. I have to serve the current producers and the current production and sometimes that current production has a different canon than the original. Or a different feeling. When I did “Transformers Prime,” that Shockwave character had a very different feeling when it was created earlier on… years earlier. And they wanted a more theatrical approach, so you really had to just throw out what happened before and start over again. Often times I’ll look back to the source material just to learn a bit about the character, but I don’t dig into it too deeply. I have to kind of concentrate on what’s in front of me.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to a new character that hasn’t been established in any additional platforms, how do you self-explore and find that character’s voice? Is there a process that you go through?
Sobolov: Well, a lot of it… you can come up with a couple of ideas at home. A lot of the auditions are done from home now and you send them in. Once you’re in front of the producers then you want to hear what they want. They obviously heard something they liked in what you did and it becomes a lot more collaborative. Years ago when I did “Beast Wars,” there was a 40 minute audition, and in that 40 minutes we were layering the character… finding the different aspects of him to the point where they were happy. So, there’s definitely a lot of give and take there. I can’t just do it on my own. I have to serve the project.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned doing it from home now. We’d imagine the industry has changed quite a bit as the technology aspect of it has advanced?
Sobolov: Oh yeah. Way less expensive. Compatible with broadcast. You can do something of broadcast quality with a thousand dollars worth of equipment at home. So yeah, it’s changed dramatically. And it makes it so much easier to have access to projects too. Say there’s something really last minute and you only have an hour to do it, well now it’s possible.

TrunkSpace: There’s that famous episode of “Seinfeld” where George becomes a hand model and then has an accident and injures his hands. Its played for jokes in there, but we’d have to imagine that protecting your voice is serious business.
Sobolov: Yes. Definitely. For me it’s vocal rest. If I do an episode or a game that’s really vocally taxing, I just try to take a day off if I can. And I look at my scheduling too. I make sure that I don’t put a screamy video game right up on top of an animated series. I just make sure I give myself some space.

TrunkSpace: Do you try to stay away from certain beverages or food? We have heard people say that they shy away from coffee, for example.
Sobolov: I love coffee, so I can’t stay away from it. (Laughter) I think you kind of have to treat yourself like an athlete. You don’t go into anywhere smokey for any length of time. You don’t go into a loud environment for any length of time and if you have to work the next day. And in terms of things that you drink… I don’t know. I can’t really think of anything offhand that would be damaging, but also, I think everybody’s different. Everyone’s physiology is different, so they’re going to react differently to different things. For me, I can’t go too high on the heat level with like pizza or something with spice in it. I have to kind of keep that down because my vocal chords are definitely a little more tender than they used to be. So, if a little flake of pepper hits the vocal chords, I’m seizing up pretty fast.

TrunkSpace: I read that you play the French Horn. Did learning that craft sort of build the foundation for being able to control your breath, and in turn, apply it to what you do as a voice-over actor?
Sobolov: What it helps me with now is the interpretation of the characters because there’s a musicality to characters and my music work has definitely contributed to that part of it. I studied acting with Sanford Meisner and that training helps me bring reality to the characters. I was once doing “Robocop” and I was doing the day when the family shows up… this happens in every incarnation of “Robocop.” My character knows that it’s the family, they don’t know that it’s me, I have to save them. I spent a little extra time… not five takes a line, but a little extra time to finesse it. And, one of our guests was there and he looked across and I think he had something he wanted to do rather than be there. (Laughter) He just said, “David, it’s just an f’n cartoon.” And I said, “Man, it’s got my f’n name on it.” You have to care about the things you do. I don’t think cartoon acting should be done with any less professionalism than any other type of acting. You must do it with integrity. If it’s a child watching, they’re going to see right through you if you’re lying to them. You’ve got to live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances. That’s the catchphrase that we used at the Neighborhood Playhouse, and it really applies today. That acting training is still being used.

TrunkSpace: It seems like animation is a different ballgame now than it was when we were kids. There are expectations attached to it. The quality of the content has risen to the same level of live action features and series.
Sobolov: Personally I specialize in more realistic characters anyway. But even if I’m doing something that’s whacky and zany, you have to tell a story. You can’t just say the words. You have to bring life to the character so that it’s a real life that people will enjoy. And there’s a lot of study of human nature in that… in creating a villain or creating an insecure little girl even. You see what happens in life and you reflect it.

TrunkSpace: For fans of CWs “The Flash,” you portray a very memorable character in the form of Gorilla Grodd. What was so cool about the introduction of the character is that they teased the reveal and it was your voice that set the tone.
Sobolov: It’s always good if you can set the tone with your voice. For that particular character, he’s very menacing and I do him very quietly for the most part… unless he’s getting in a fight… and they just turn the volume way up and it’s very, very effective. Also I add as much humanity to that character as I can, which I think also helps.

TrunkSpace: Absolutely. Obviously he is a menacing character, but as a viewer, you also feel bad for him. You sympathize with him.
Sobolov: I tried to add a level of sadness because he really doesn’t know his place in the world in the first couple of years of the show and I hope that that comes through. I think people can somewhat feel sorry for him. We actually, at the very last minute in the second season, completely redid the final scene of the episode that he was in because you were feeling so sorry for him that it made Barry Allen look like an animal abuser. And, he’s still a villain. He’s still a bad guy. He can have some personal issues to work out, but it can’t be so much that we feel like we want to help him. Caitlin may feel that way a little bit, but the audience as a whole still has to feel like there’s a bad guy there. But, if they were rooting for him a little bit… that’s not so bad either. Just not all the way.

TrunkSpace: So often comic book villains have that mustache twirling vibe, but here’s a character who is not human, who actually has some of the more human traits we’ve seen in a villain.
Sobolov: He doesn’t know he’s a gorilla. (Laughter) He just knows that he exists. I was trying to find the word for this… I don’t even know if there’s a word for English in this… I was trying to evoke his humanity, but he’s not human. We couldn’t find a word for that. You will know it if you have a dog that dogs have emotions. People know that animals have emotions and that animals have opinions. For instance, say you step on your dog inadvertently. You don’t mean to, but you stepped on your dog. The first thing they will do is look in your eyes to see if you meant it. If you didn’t, they will immediately forgive you. If you did, I would never do that, so I’ve never seen it, but your dog will act accordingly. Be afraid of you or be angry with you. So, I found the humanity that you would find in a dog or any animal.

TrunkSpace: Is the process different voicing a character like that in a live action series as opposed to an animated series?
Sobolov: Animated series you have no picture at all, for a year sometimes, so you’re completely on your own. We’ve done things a little differently here and there. They’ve been developing ways to do Grodd more efficiently… more cheaply. Not to make it look cheap, but just so that it’s possible to do it more. And as we’ve gone through that process, things have changed a bit. We were sometimes doing it without any picture the same week that they shoot the show, and then coming back again when I get picture to just fix some things up and make things make more sense with the picture there. These coming up episodes… I’ve already been working on them… and they had picture for me. Although, of course, the animation is in a fairly crude form… just beginning… and there’s someone on set as a placeholder for Grodd, so the actors have someone to react to. So you see that and you act to that. So, luckily in the third season here, I got to see their performances and react to what I was seeing.

TrunkSpace: Are you able to tease any bit of what Grodd will be up to this season?
Sobolov: Not much. It’s coming up fairly soon, so I think the waiting is almost over. (Laughter)

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Sit and Spin

Party Nails’ Come Again

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Artist: Party Nails

Album: “Come Again”

Label: killphonic

Format Reviewed: Digital Advance

 

 

Lyrics of Note:
You’re waking up but you can’t get up
Nothing going on till the night comes
What was it you said that you said anyway?
Just waiting for the day I come undone

Party Nails’ debut EP “Come Again” is the opposite of fingernails down a chalkboard. (Melted chocolate poured down a strawberry flavored ice luge?) Pleasant, fiercely contagious and relentlessly catchy, the five-song EP is a pop revelation. The brainchild of singer/guitarist Elana Belle Carroll, Party Nails sounds like the end result of heyday Cyndi Lauper being dropped into a blender with an indie-influenced Katy Perry, mixed and then poured into the vocal chords of Madonna, circa 1983. It’s longingly nostalgic without being kitschy and purposefully modern without being pretentious. Plain and simple… it’s melted chocolate poured down a strawberry flavored ice luge. So good!

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