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March 2017

Next Up

Deidre Lee

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Name: Deidre Lee

Hometown: West Nyack, NY

Current Location: Venice, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Lee: It’s very seldom that an artist gets their dream and passion be the thing that provides a living for them. I was attracted to acting from a young age. I remember being in 3rd grade and creating a stage adaptation of “The Princess Bride.” It came out to three full pages in third grader handwriting. Impressive, I know. It never went up because I wanted to play all the interesting parts. I was determined to play Westley and Buttercup; it proved difficult. (My understanding of acting as a collaborative art had yet to develop.) In elementary school I would visit the nurse’s office with fake ailments because I was bored, and Mrs. Clifford, our school nurse, always let me stay because I was entertaining. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I announced to anyone that I wanted to be an actor. I stood up and proudly declared, “I want to be an actor!” and everyone was like, “Ok.” Certainly, less of a reaction than I’d hoped for or expected. Now, as an adult, acting and writing provide me with the space to continue to create in my own unique way. If I am lucky enough to have my craft generate money that’s just gravy.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Lee: I was older, maybe 17, when I saw Natalie Portman’s performance in “Léon: The Professional,” but it is work that continues to inspire me.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Lee: I was throwing spaghetti at the wall for years. And to some extent I still am, I think everyone does because this is such an individual experience. There is no handbook for being a successful artist. I take that back: “The Artist’s Way” is a pretty superb handbook for developing into a successful artist. I have been using Julia Cameron’s techniques for some time now, and I feel more in touch with my artist self. I don’t know that it is so much a “plan of attack” for this industry, but I prefer the route of “be so good they can’t ignore you” (as suggested by Steve Martin).

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Lee: I moved to Los Angeles when I was 19. I did it in a relatively safe way, even though I knew no one here. I came out on an exchange program from Stony Brook University in New York. They offered students the chance to study for up to a year at a different school in the country… it’s one of the main reasons I chose Stony Brook in the first place. I came out here and kind of always knew that I would stay past the first year. I ended up choosing to remain in LA once the year ended and it’s been my home ever since, even though it did take me years to feel at home here.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Lee: Well, my previous answer segued pretty nicely into this one, huh? Transitionally, it was harder than I realized at the time. I look back on the places I lived and the jobs I worked and I am so glad to have left some of those times behind me. I moved eight times in four years, living all over LA. It took me a good portion of those first four years to feel comfortable here and to actually begin liking the things LA has to offer. I certainly hated Los Angeles for a good amount of time. The traffic, the sprawling city, how self-involved some people can be, the plastic outward appearance people put on… it all bothered me. But eventually, I began to meet people that seemed to understand me and with whom I could connect. I met my best friend Cruz in 2009, he’s been my family here ever since. Whenever I introduce him to someone I tell them that he was my mother in another life, because I’m weird, but also because it’s true (probably). He is a comedian and an actor so he understands the stress of being an artist and he has always been my biggest fan and support system.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Lee: I got the opportunity to film an indie comedic horror movie, “Deadly Retreat,” a few years back. It was a week-long shoot; I had an amazing time. We were on location in Idyllwild, CA, which is outside of LA about 3 hours. It’s up in the mountains and we were filming in February so there was snow on the ground; it felt like we were far away from Los Angeles. Jonathan Bennett, who I knew from his role in “Mean Girls” (Aaron Samuels), played the lead role. And the hilarious Pete Gardner played the serial killer. Having him on set was great, we were constantly laughing.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Lee: I love working in comedic roles. Being on set when you’re filming a comedy is really special. I’ve always found my deepest connections with people that are willing to play along, and comedy lends itself to that experience. I have been studying improv at MI’s Westside Comedy Theatre, and the community there is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I also absolutely love playing the evil side of things. Unleashing that socially unacceptable behavior on set or stage is a freeing event.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Lee: Self-awareness. The world needs more people who are self-aware. It’s something I actively work on, because I often have found myself in situations where I see that I have not been listening to my internal voice and then I feel trapped by no will of my own… except that it is 100 percent through my own doing. When I take a moment and really ask myself, “What is going on? How do I feel? What do I want?” if I answer honestly I know I will lead myself into the right direction. Self-awareness helps us to set appropriate boundaries and goals. It provides us with the ability to develop a trusting relationship with ourselves. The more self-aware actors can be, the better they can serve their roles. When you know how you feel in your daily life, it makes acknowledging and acting on those feelings easier when you are in your craft.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Lee: I want it all. I want to write, act in, and direct a feature film. I have been irritated in the past when reading a script or watching a movie, bothered by the dialogue, saying to myself, “No one talks like this.” And so I began writing. I’ve been writing for “The dïck Plays” for several months; we receive a theme the night before the performance, and we have until 11am the next morning to write our 10 minute long play. It is a great exercise and it has helped me to develop my writing style. I also have been participating in “The Café Plays” at the Ruskin Theater for a few months. Currently, I am writing a piece I hope to film.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Lee: Stay home there’s too many of us. Just kidding. Do it. If it’s what you want, then go for it. Why shouldn’t someone feel the pull to the arts and follow that feeling? It’s a beautiful life being an artist. It’s hard, for sure, but it’s a life unlike any other. Tapping into the vulnerable place, that delicate, susceptible piece of ourselves is worth all the hard work, and all the unknowing that comes along with being an artist.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Lee: Check out my website at DeidreLee.com

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Driftwood

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Artist/Band: Driftwood

Members: Dan Forsyth (guitar, vocals), Joe Kollar (banjo, drums, vocals), Claire Byrne (fiddle, vocals), Joey Arcuri (upright bass, vocals)

Website: www.driftwoodtheband.com

Hometown: Binghamton, NY

Latest Album/Release: City Lights (November 4, 2016)

Influences: All of it. The Beatles, folk music, good ‘ol rock ‘n’ roll and old-timey fiddle tunes.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Byrne: Our music is a blend of so many things. At the heart of it, our music is rock and roll but we are all influenced by so many different artists and that really comes out in the songs. I think a large part of what makes our sound is that we play pop and rock tunes on acoustic/bluegrass instruments.

TrunkSpace: Driftwood seems to experiment in the blending of musical genres and do so in a successful way that makes it all seem so organic. At its inception, was the idea always to bring varying sounds and tastes to what the band was doing creatively?
Byrne: That was never the idea for the group. The original idea had been to take these acoustic instruments and play folk music and travel the country playing venues and the streets. As we started adding our original tunes into the mix though it slowly became clear our style of writing and arranging was different from folk and bluegrass.

TrunkSpace: Does that blending of sounds bring diversity to your audience? Are fans drawn to certain genres finding themselves standing next to fans of another genre while sharing the same space at a Driftwood show?
Byrne: I think that does happen quite a bit. The first thing that comes to mind for me is that we get the guys who are hardcore metal fans at our shows telling us they usually hate bands with our instrumentation.

TrunkSpace: The band is packed with songwriters. How does having multiple bus drivers in the bus work in terms of all of them agreeing on the location/direction you’re ultimately driving in?
Byrne: Having three songwriters does make it tricky to maintain a cohesive sound and it is something we do consciously think about. We all have different writing styles and we all do try and write some tunes specifically with the band in mind. I think one thing that always makes it fit together are the arrangements. A song can sound like one thing and then end up having an entirely different sound once it is arranged.

TrunkSpace: “City Lights” is your fourth album. Musically, what are the biggest differences you personally hear when looking back on your first album to where you currently are with this particular album?
Byrne: We have definitely all become better musicians and our voices have developed/matured over time as well. I think the topics we write about has changed the most though. There seems to be more reflecting going on these days and a lot more talk about the road in our songwriting. That makes sense considering we’ve spent the last seven years on the road.

TrunkSpace: Do the recorded tracks differ in any way from how you perform them in a live setting?
Byrne: Often they will differ a lot. It’s a really difficult task to capture the energy of a live show in a studio album. We have been working on trying to do so for years now and I think we came very close with “City Lights”. When we are in the studio we are thinking a lot about how it will be to perform what we are recording and sometimes it requires playing two different versions of the song. It’s a challenge we all like though.

TrunkSpace: You’re currently on tour. Is space an issue when you’re traveling with a double bass?
Byrne: We’ve got it figured out in our current van! We are searching for a new vehicle and that is certainly one of the biggest factors we have to take into consideration.

TrunkSpace: What is the ultimate goal for Driftwood as a band when it comes to the music itself?
Byrne: I don’t know if we can really nail down a goal musically. I think, as simple as it may sound, the goal is to always be improving and bettering ourselves and musicians, songwriters and performers.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Driftwood in 2017?
Byrne: It’s been a really rockin’ year thus far and we are excited for all of the festivals etc. we have coming up!

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Next Up

Judy Brown-Steele

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Name: Judy Brown-Steele

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Current Location: New York City, NY

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Brown-Steele: I’m not sure I can pinpoint any moment that I stopped and said, “I’m going to be an actor,” but I can remember the first few times I was on stage and I felt like I was the most alive and wondrously human. The connection between an audience and the actors is a feeling beyond words and expression. Once you feel that, I think it’s impossible to choose to do anything else.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Brown-Steele: When I was kid, I wanted to be Brandy. In my mind, she had it all. She had a TV Show, many albums and was Cinderella. What more could you want?

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Brown-Steele: There was very little preparation; honestly. I just knew then and know now that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. As an actress that prefers stage performing to screen, I knew New York was the place to be. So the first step was to get here and find ways to stay here.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Brown-Steele: If I could have left home at 12, I would have, but my mother had other opinions about that. I graduated high school at 17 and started my college programs that summer after graduation. I just couldn’t wait. I remember counting down the days. It was 13 days from graduation to the first day of school again.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Brown-Steele: From the beginning, I was so green and excited to be “in the place where it all happens” that I didn’t even focus internally about how I felt. I am from a large family and of course missed them, but was so focused on being the best student and absorbing as much knowledge from the superiors that I didn’t focus on missing them. After college, I moved back home to take care of my family and once the opportunity arose to move back to New York; that was a difficult transition. Many of my previous contacts had moved or really formed their lives in New York, so I had to play a lot of catch up again. Even now, who knows how to make adult friends? Funnily enough though, through an old school contact, I was introduced to the Theatre 68 Company and it has helped me grow leaps and bounds to be around like-minded actors at varying levels in their careers, but to have the most important thing in common; a love of doing theater.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Brown-Steele: In 2015, I had the honor of working on brand new material, in it’s first performance venue. “The Lost” by Keelay Gipson was an experience that I will treasure because it was challenging and thought-provoking material. All the characters doubled roles, so the chance to delve deep into more that one character was incredibly enriching. This play also gave me the opportunity to sing, one of my other passions, as well as play characters so far removed from myself, that I learned a lot.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Brown-Steele: This is one of my favorite questions and I’d like to state clearly that I’d love to play an incredibly interesting, complex, vulnerable, non-stereotyped, strong woman. I’d love to play this character in whatever form she takes; whether she be a person from history or a spaceship captain. Unfortunately, these roles, for women, are seldom, if ever, written and even more are not written for women of color. I’d love to break this cycle.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Brown-Steele: Be able to laugh and feel joy. If you are able to appreciate and recognize all of the forms that joy can take and laugh at yourself, with others, and just because, the quality of your days, weeks, and years will improve, regardless of how often you book a job.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Brown-Steele: Ultimate dream? Ultimately, I have very low standards. I’ve never wanted to be extravagantly famous or wealthy. I’d love to be able to do what I love every day and make just enough money to pay my bills and hit happy hour once a week. All kidding aside, I love to travel and would be honored if on stage or on screen my work took me around the world to experience different cultures.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Brown-Steele: Do it. Do it. Do it. Yes, it will be terrifying. It will also be the best thing for you to experience other people and a different place. These experiences will make you a better actor and more enriched person. Just jump because then you’ll always wonder what if, if you don’t.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Brown-Steele: Please check me out at Theatre 68’s night of One Act Plays coming soon, be on the lookout for my website launching soon and feel free to contact me directly.

http://theatre68.com/new-york
Judy.brownsteele@yahoo.com

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Sit and Spin

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors’ Souvenir

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Artist: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Album: “Souvenir”

Label: Magnolia Music

Format Reviewed: Digital Advance

 

 

Lyrics of Note:
It’s a unique set of circumstance
Once a stranger and now a friend
I only know the miles and the chances
I always wondered where the sunset ends

In listening to the latest offering from Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, it’s easy to take the title at face value and transfer the concept of what a souvenir is back on the listener. For those who follow Holcomb and have embraced his career, new music from the Tennessee-native is, in fact, a souvenir. It’s your gift for taking the journey and it’s a hell of a lot more rewarding than any tourist trap kitsch.

Compelling in every nook and cranny, “Souvenir” is driving a flag into the “Best of 2017” ground, challenging any and all other artists that will follow. An album built for vinyl because there is no song worth skipping, Holcomb has done the musical version of a political tagline and made Americana great again.

Add this album to your collection, because if you do, it will become THE album of your present and one you carry well into the future.

Read our exclusive interview with Drew Holcomb here.

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Chilling Out

Paul T. Taylor

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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 talking with Paul T. Taylor who is stepping into some very big leather shoes as the iconic character Pinhead in the upcoming “Hellraiser: Judgment.” Taylor knows he faces an uphill battle with diehard fans of the franchise because he himself is one, a fact that is not shared but heard in the excitement in his voice. (He also owns all of the “Hellraiser” action figures and took one to his audition, so his fanboy status is not in question.)

We sat down with Taylor to talk about playing a horror icon, his dreams for becoming the next Bela Lugosi and how being creepy is good for his career.

TrunkSpace: The internet can be a scarier place than the worlds created in horror movies. Were you at any point worried about what the reaction would be from fans of the franchise in terms of accepting someone other than Doug Bradley in the role of Pinhead?
Taylor: Oh yeah. I was warned from the very beginning about that. My first meeting with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, the director, when I went out to LA to get my head cast done so they could do the makeup… or actually maybe it was a conversation over the phone even before that… he said he had my back and that he was on my side, but he did warn me that the hardcore fans were going to be brutal. So, I went into it with open eyes and an open mind. I’m not afraid of anybody. I mean, it’s just words and, you know, words can hurt, sure. If they see the film and they don’t like me as Pinhead, that’s their prerogative to spew hate, but really, every actor is different. As much as I’m going to try to do sort of an homage to Doug Bradley’s Pinhead and “Hellraiser’s” history, this is a new film and I’m a different actor. I can’t be Doug Bradley. Hopefully I bring myself to it and people like what they see. I just hope that I’m appreciated in the role for the work I did do. I really, truly believe that more than one actor can play one role… in any case. There are so many actors and so many talented actors, it’s silly to think that only one person could play the Frankenstein’s monster, for example. Look how many people played him. So, yeah… people are entitled to their opinions, but I’m not worried.

TrunkSpace: It does seem that Pinhead hit and resonated at a time when there were iconic horror characters that were specific to a specific name as opposed to Frankenstein’s monster or the Wolfman, for example. Freddy. Jason. Michael Myers. With those characters, including Pinhead, it seems that fans are more attached to their origins.
Taylor: Yeah. And that makes sense. I guess part of the reason Frankenstein and Dracula and all of those… these were great works of literature. Of course, in my opinion, so is “The Hellbound Heart,” which “Hellraiser” is based on. I think it’s just freakin’ brilliant. But, maybe that had something to do with it. This was most people’s first exposure to these particular characters. Most people had not read “The Hellbound Heart” when the movie was produced. It was a totally different time period and it was also when horror… fantasy horror of this type like “Hellraiser” and “Friday the 13th” and of course “A Nightmare on Elm Street”… and even “Halloween” to a certain extent because it was supernatural. I think it was the whole genre of fantasy horror and these wildly original character with this crazy, brilliant make-up design. I think it was different in that regard. It was just a different time period and horror became more sophisticated when this came out. And now it’s even more sophisticated than that. It’s like, what really scares you? It’s hard to get scared these days and so many of these characters, later in their lives of doing sequels and stuff, sometimes they become a parody of themselves and that’s when, I think, they sort of die and people get tired of the franchise. I’m hoping that this particular 10th film on the 30th anniversary year of the original “Hellraiser”… I’m hoping that it brings back some of that original Clive Barker flavor. I really think the script does. I just have a lot of hope for it.

I’m more excited about people who DO like me as Pinhead than I am worried about people who don’t like me as Pinhead.

TrunkSpace: Some fans who have been following the franchise for decades may never accept a new actor in the role of Pinhead, but does this chapter offer NEW fans, those unfamiliar with the franchise, an easy jump on point?
Taylor: I think so. Some people may not understand exactly who Pinhead is. They may want to go back and look at “Hellraiser” 1, 2 and 3… maybe even 4… and see some of the history. But, at the same time, it is a new chapter. It’s an unexplored part of Hell, I would say, introducing some new characters and some new mechanisms behind where Pinhead and all of that comes from. And, it’s also a jumping off point for a sequel following this one that could continue the story that it tells because it’s a true “Hellraiser” script with a beginning, a middle, and a sort of ambiguous end. And these new characters they introduced could be in future “Hellraiser” films. I can’t talk about them. I’m not supposed to because that would be giving spoilers away. But, I think people are going to be fascinated with it and the gore elements that we get from like the “Saw” movies and the things that are total, what I would say, on the border of horror porn, there’s some elements of that in it and that will please many “Hellraiser” fans and many fans of just what contemporary horror can be these days where it’s just a gross-out.

TrunkSpace: Like you said, this is the 30th anniversary year of the first film. Technology has changed a lot since the original and those advancements bring a heightened realism element to those gross-out moments.
Taylor: Exactly. “Judgment” is using, of course, real effects, but also there is a possibility of using CGI. I don’t know how much CGI is used in this. I only know that where I shot, we used real effects, which I was really happy about because, I mean, you go back to the first few “Hellraiser” movies and that’s all real effects. It’s like REALLY well done.

TrunkSpace: And that stuff always stands the test of time. As CGI advances, the CGI that came before never really holds up to what the CGI of the present looks like.
Taylor: Yeah. CGI is so brilliant now. They could do the whole film in CGI and make it look real, but that takes quite a budget. I don’t know. I don’t know anything about that stuff, really. But, I prefer real effects over anything. If you can make that stuff look real… there you go.

TrunkSpace: Those real effects are the ones that always stay with you. The scene in “The Howling,” for example, where Karen transforms on-camera. Those are the visuals you remember.
Taylor: Oh my God! Yeah! And also, “An American Werewolf in London.” I mean, granted there was some CGI to connect the dots, but I think that it was just cutaway and new model, cutaway and new model. The workings of it were so brilliant. Just like the workings of the transformation of the original “Hellraiser” film when the blood first goes under the floor in the attic and they went and added to the budget so they could do that transformation. And it’s all real effects and it’s so good. It’s just so gross and wonderful. I loved it.

TrunkSpace: So if the opportunity presented itself where you could don the leather and pins for as many films as Doug did, would you welcome that?
Taylor: Oh yeah! Of course! Yes! I would love to play Pinhead again. That’s sort of my mantra. “I will play Pinhead again. I will play Pinhead again. I will play Pinhead again.” (Laughter) All I can do is what I can do to try to make that happen for myself and for the franchise. I don’t know if Doug wants to play Pinhead anymore. I think probably if it was a big budget reboot of the film and Clive Barker was involved and all of that, I would guess he would say yes to that. And of course the fans would lose it… lose their shit. He’s basically a god among the fans. But, my dream is… I would love to play Pinhead again. This opportunity came along and it was totally unexpected. Here I am suddenly portraying my favorite horror icon of all time. I’ve been working as a professional actor for 35 years. It’s not like it’s an overnight thing. I earned it in a way, but it was still a surprise!

And, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, it’s not just Pinhead that I want to play. I mean, I want to… who’s to say that the Bela Lugosi, or the Boris Karloff or the Christopher Lee kind of thing couldn’t happen for an actor these days? Those actors played more than Frankenstein, played more than Dracula. You know, Christopher Lee… I don’t even know how many characters he played. A horror actor’s career should be more than one character and if there are other icons that someone wants me to play… Freddy Krueger, hint, hint… sure! It’s not like I would say no to that. Again though, this is BIG dreams, but I believe in big dreams. If you can’t dream it, it’s not gonna happen. If you can’t believe that the possibility is there, it’s not gonna happen. So, I’m all for playing Pinhead again and I’m all for playing anything that anyone wants me to give a go. I’m a scary/funny guy, Pinhead’s not funny… depending on what film you see, but I don’t think Pinhead should be funny. Personally. And yet, Freddy Krueger? Scary and funny! So, I’m thinking, “Big shoes to fill, but why not?” (Laughter) We’ll see. Whatever. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can only hope and try to put it out there in the universe and see what happens.

TrunkSpace: You seem like someone who genuinely loves the genre, so, knowing you’re currently a Texas guy… is being cast as Pinhead kind of like being a Dallas Cowboys fan and getting drafted by the team?
Taylor: (Laughter) Yeah! That’s it! I mean, I grew up in the middle of Kansas, which is a crazy place for a person like me to grow up because I’m… I’m kind of a freak. I’ve always liked horror and as a kid if I could have had Halloween all year long, I would have. It was my favorite time of the year just because I loved to be grotesque, scary and unrecognizable. That’s my favorite kind of disguise. There’s a certain power behind that. I just get off on it. I don’t know why. Just being scary because in real life, I’m really not much of a scary person. Some people think I’m creepy, but that’s great. That’s good for my career.

TrunkSpace: A lot of actors talk about how sitting in the makeup chair for extended periods of time can be a headache, but at the same time, when you’re playing someone like Pinhead… being able to see yourself in the mirror as the character must put you right in the mindset to jump into a scene and work.
Taylor: It really does. Of course I had seen all of the “Hellraiser” films and I had been working this thing for a couple of months before we shot it… Gary had already said that the first day that Doug had the makeup on, he had people leave the trailer so he could just make faces in the mirror and see what the makeup could do. I was prepared to do that, but it went deeper than that. I was anticipating going through that and feeling that, but when I actually saw it… it was just surreal. It was more than I thought it would be. And you’re right. It instantly put me in character. The thing is, when you have makeup like that on… when you look like that… you’re already scary and you don’t have to act scary. If you act scary, you’re going too far.

TrunkSpace: You can hear the enthusiasm in your voice for playing the character. It seems like a true fanboy living out his dream kind of experience.
Taylor: Totally. Definitely. Sometimes as an actor you’re just getting a paycheck and that’s what it’s about. Or you’re getting what will lead to being able to qualify for health insurance and that’s what it comes down to and it’s real life. Whereas something like this, you’ve got this history and you love this character and you can’t even believe it’s happened to you. I look at these posters of myself… I have sort of a little shrine in my living room. I admit it. (Laughter) And these pictures of ME as Pinhead… it’s like, “Dude? What? That’s me!” And the movie hasn’t even come out yet and I just can’t wait. The head trips that I have put myself through sometimes… it’s just so glorious because of the history of the franchise and I just hope I do it justice. I think I do, but we’ll see.

The film has yet to receive a definitive release date.

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Remember When

Gunnar Nelson

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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 pop culture past.

This time out we’re chatting with Gunnar Nelson, who, along with his brother Matthew, achieved massive success in 1990 with the single “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection.” But, the twin brothers’ musical roots go far beyond their own mainstream accomplishments. Gunnar and Matthew come from a long line of successful entertainers, a lineage that served as a classroom of osmosis to prepare them for the ups and downs of a career in music.

Currently on the road honoring their father’s musical legacy with the Ricky Nelson Remembered tour, we sat down with Gunnar Nelson to discuss the genre shift that brought about grunge, having the ability to rely on his brother regardless of the circumstances and staying on the good side of skinny tie bands.

TrunkSpace: Given your family tree, was there ever any doubt that music would become your path?
Nelson: Well, people ask me that question all of the time… if being related to who we were related to was a help or a hindrance. For me, what was great about it, I never got any pressure at all from my dad for following in his footsteps. Actually, having my father with an acoustic guitar in his hand, writing songs and putting the Stone Canyon Band together in the house when we were growing up was just really great social proof that making music for a living and doing it at the highest levels was possible. It was no more or less unlikely than say, if I came from a long line of plumbers and I wanted to go into the family business. It’s pretty nice to be able to learn from example when you’ve got a master in front of you and you’re able to observe and learn how everything works. And we were able to do that from a very early age.

TrunkSpace: And when people are being creative, most of the times they’re enjoying themselves, so seeing that process with your father may have been different than if your father was a plumber and came home talking about the various “tough” days he had in the business. And by this we mean, you probably saw your father in his element more so than other kids may see their fathers.
Nelson: Yeah. I mean, my grandma Harriet had a great expression. She said, “Some days you work. Some days you play.” I saw both. My dad would come home from a good day or a bad day. It’s like anything you do, you’re going to have that. You’re right. But I think that what actually helps it along is, that being a musician and choosing that, it’s not something that you do. It’s really who you are. It’s really a calling. It’s a plan for life that you actually undertake. In our dad’s case, we got to observe that… there was a point in his life when he actually could have gone down a path of being a fine film actor. He made “Rio Bravo” with John Wayne and of course he had been an actor his whole life being on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” and doing all of that. He could have gone down that road, which is arguably easier. That’s the road of higher pay and personal assistants and deli trays and set schedules and all of that. And instead, he definitely consciously chose to go down the path of being a rock ‘n’ roller. So, I think from that point on, you’d have to say that he was a guy that, just by his actions, determined that he was a musician who happened to be a good actor and not an actor who happened to be a good musician. Ultimately he wound up living and dying for rock ‘n’ roll.

In Matthew and my case, we started playing when we were six years old. We got our first instruments then. We got our first recording session on our 12th birthday. We started playing the LA clubs professionally that same year. Up until we got our record deal with Geffen, when we were 19, it’s basically all Matthew and I have ever known and all we’ve ever done.

TrunkSpace: Do you recall a moment in your life where music wasn’t a focus for an extended period of time?
Nelson: Well, not intentionally. (Laughter) Our first record came out in 1990 and it was really kind of the end of an era. I mean, shoot, we were the last confidence rock band to happen right before Nirvana was discovered and signed to our label that we were on. We were on Geffen and Geffen actually found Nirvana and started the whole grunge thing. That was a massive paradigm shift in the music industry and there were so many people from my genre of music that found themselves, through no fault of their own, really out of work. MTV wasn’t playing them, overnight. Radio stations weren’t supporting them, overnight. Unless you wore flannel, were into heroin and were from Seattle, they weren’t playing you for like 10 years.

TrunkSpace: And you sort of mentioned it, but it did seem to happen so quickly in terms of that shift.
Nelson: Well, and this is not sour grapes that I’m coming from, this is just years of research and conversation with people in the know. The fact is, that wasn’t organic. At all. That shift wasn’t organic. It was actually engineered. What people don’t know is that there are about, at any given time, six to eight people that run the music business. These are the big, heavy hitter guys. They all know each other very well. They all do each other favors. They’re all billionaires. And the whole illusion of, “Hey, I’m gonna get my musical trip together, I’m gonna write a hit song, I’m gonna get a following from playing shows and I’m gonna get my record deal and have a big video and be a star…” that really, honestly, is nothing but an illusion. A lot of it is really engineered. You’ve got to look back at the death of disco, as an example. That was a time when the biggest acts were demanding lots of money to record. Back in those days, Donna Summer was demanding a million dollars to make a record and in 1970s dollars, man, that’s a lot. So, all of those power guys got together over dinner and they said, “You know what, this has just become completely excessive. The costs are ridiculous. What are we going to do about it?” Some guy came up with the bright idea in that meeting of a new little movement that was happening out of London called punk. They said, “Look, this is great. There’s a little mini scene that’s happening there and we can go there and we can get those guys to record for us and they’ll do it for a dime bag and a Happy Meal.” So if you notice, with the whole death of disco thing, which… look, disco was a BIG thing, and all of a sudden people are breaking records and burning records and “Disco Sucks” and all that stuff. And that one was engineered as well. The same thing happened with the whole grunge thing.

Look, there were a lot of bands that were pretty bad. Like in any movement, every label wants to have their Bon Jovi or something, so they go out and they sign that and there’s a lot of that stuff that’s really not very good. And aside from that creative statement, the finances involved… people were making quarter of a million dollar music videos and spending $750,000 making an album. And there were thousands of bands that were doing that and the industry finally shrugged and said, like the time with the death of disco, “We need a do over.” That is why, to a fan, it seemed like it was so fast. I mean, shoot, on a Monday they were playing “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The next day, they were playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the Gap had Seattle fashion overnight.

TrunkSpace: And you could even see it in the VJs themselves. The look and aesthetic of MTV changed.
Nelson: It was absolutely instant. They basically got together, they talked to MTV, and they said, “Hey, guess what, this Tuesday, all that stuff you used to play you’re not playing anymore and this is the stuff that you’re playing.” And it became a movement and it generated tons of dollars. To a guy like me, it was really confusing because, shoot, I go out on tour for 13 months and I come back and all of my record company guys that I built relationships with over a period of years are all gone, replaced by 19 and 20-year-olds wearing flannel who come from Seattle and all of a sudden they’re record executives and what I do is not what they do. And as a matter of fact, I mean, I’ve become the punchline in jokes through no fault of my own, but it was no different I realized than what my father went through. He had his early career where he was doing the rockabilly thing with all of the other pioneers and then all of a sudden the singer/songwriter thing happened, the Beatles invaded America and everything changed. And the problem for my father was that, everything that represented that whole Eisenhower-era, Sun Records thing… those guys couldn’t get arrested. They couldn’t get any radio airplay. They couldn’t get any work if you didn’t write your own songs. And if you weren’t cool with the kids, you just didn’t get any support. It was no different for what happened to us when everything shifted. So, back to your question… a very long answer to a very short question… did I ever take any time off? My answer would be, not by choice. We were still making records and still fighting the fight and writing the songs and playing out, but it just wasn’t to the success and to the reception that we had when we first came out.

TrunkSpace: So before that turnover happened and “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection” hit #1, was that creative success a double-edged sword, and by that we mean, did success bring a tidal wave of people and opinions trying to influence who you guys were and what your music should be?
Nelson: Well, success has many parents and failure is an orphan. When you aren’t anything yet, no one cares. When you actually hit and you hit at the level that we did when we did, oh my gosh, it’s amazing. Everybody wants to be involved in your trip and everybody wants their opinion. There’s an art to making those people with the biggest egos in the world feel like it’s their idea when in fact it’s really not. Remember, we were on Geffen Records and we were working with the people that we were working with. The record staff that we were working with were in the habit of sending Aerosmith back into the studio to rerecord entire albums just because they felt like it. So, it was difficult. It really was. Nothing could have prepared us for that kind of success that quickly. I mean, it was ridiculous. It was like New Kids on the Block at its peak, kind of girls in the audience of 20,000 shrieking like a jet engine kind of success. When we’ve spent our young lives playing five nights a week at the LA clubs with the skinny tie bands and stuff and then you take a couple of years off to learn how to write better songs and you come up with your trip and you make it happen, shoot, man, all I know is… I went to the Sherman Oaks Galleria to buy some socks because I had a trip to New York to fill in for Daisy Fuentes on “Dial MTV” and I came back a week later. The only thing that had changed was that Matthew and I had been on MTV as VJs for four days and we closed down that same mall because so many chicks showed up. So the only thing that was different was TV exposure. That was it. We were still the same guys.

TrunkSpace: And that’s the thing, you may change in the perception of others, but you’re still wearing the same socks you bought the week before. You don’t change.
Nelson: Yeah. And I still have the socks! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So, when that happens… when the craziness takes control and swallows you up… how do you maintain yourself in all of that?
Nelson: Well, what keeps you grounded in our situation is that it is something that our family has always done. I mean, this wasn’t new to anybody in the family. Certainly, I wasn’t really truly prepared for it, but the thing that kept my feet on the ground was the fact that I’m just following in my family’s footsteps. It’s what my dad did and it’s what my grandparents did and all of that. As far as the big head side of things is concerned, I never really got a swelled head from the success because I knew it was about as real as the non success and the moments when you’re in-between hits. It’s all about fighting the good fight and doing your best work and some things will hit and some things won’t. It takes a lot of alignment to happen in order for any hit to really pop. No matter what you’re doing in life… no matter what you’re pursuit is… I love the expression that the definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You can actually increase either one if you’re really determined. I mean, you can actually be far more prepared, you can get your chops up as a player and as a writer by playing shows and all that stuff, and then in just in networking and putting yourself out there you can get the possibilities that you’ll actually have an opportunity that’s meaningful. You can actually make yourself luckier is my point. And Matt and I spent, pretty much our entire lives, trying to make ourselves lucky so when that first thing happened, it was a big thing. We had no idea that it was going to be as big as it was quickly, and at the same time, we had no idea that we weren’t going to have more than that first record before Nirvana came in and changed the game.

TrunkSpace: Having each other through all of those ups and downs must have been helpful?
Nelson: The expression around my house was always, “Well, don’t worry about the boys… they’ve got each other.” It was really true. I mean, when we were kids we thought that was kind of a cop out, but now in hindsight looking back, we realize that God brought us in as twins because with the path we’ve chosen… man, I don’t know any individual by themselves who could have actually handled the highs and lows that we have had to deal with in our lives. I can’t overstate at all how important it has been to have my twin at my side through this entire journey. It’s really an amazing thing. And the way we work together, that whole twin speak thing and the unspoken knowing when the other one is needed by the first twin thing, there’s really something to it. It really has helped keep us sane. I suppose it’s the reason why we didn’t wind up as a statistic or a Hollywood casualty like so many other people that came from famous families before us. We never went down the drug path. We never went down the alcohol path. We never did any of that stuff. Our passion has really kind of been music, but, I really credit being an identical twin and having my partner with me all the time through the highs and lows of getting record deals, losing record deals, going on tour, losing tours… all that stuff… I wouldn’t have been able to handle it without my twin.

TrunkSpace: It sounds like having each other became the rock of stability in both of your lives.
Nelson: It really is. I wouldn’t want to think about what it would be like without him. When I’m on stage, it’s really comforting to me after all these years… 30 years into it… to be able to look to my left and my twin is there and he’s playing bass and doing his thing and singing and I know he’s got my back no matter what. Another expression is that, if you’re in a band, that band WILL eventually break up. It’s not that way with what Matthew and I do because we came into this world together. Literally, we split from the same cell. We’ll always be brothers. And fortunately in our case, it’s not like the Everlys where it just got the point where those guys wanted separate buses and wouldn’t speak to each other for decades. I mean, I think Matt’s cool and I hallucinate that he thinks I’m cool too and get along great. It might be boring, but it really does work for us.

TrunkSpace: With kids, often the younger ones look up to the older ones. How does it work with twins? Who looks up to who?
Nelson: Well, it depends on what we’re working on. We both have really cool complimentary strengths. Matthew is definitely far more attracted to the live element and going out and doing shows. Matt, to a very large degree, the tedium involved in being in the recording studio would be like going to the dentist for him. He likes to come in and play his parts or sing his vocal and get the hell out as quickly as he can. On the other hand, I absolutely love the recording studio. I am as OCD as Matthew is ADD and it really does work. So, I’m going to be the guy who’s gonna be in the studio for weeks at at time up until 4 or 5 in the morning working on a kick drum sound. I mean, I love that part of it. So, fortunately, since we’re both working on music together, it actually really does compliment the relationship and it makes some really good art, I think.

TrunkSpace: So what was it for you guys that first brought you into music? Was it the instruments? Was the writing the draw? Was it the atmosphere? What was it that peaked your interest?
Nelson: That’s a great question. My first conscious memory was actually sitting on an apple crate at the side of the stage at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California and watching my father perform. I made this connection that… this is awesome, it’s loud, and it’s energetic and I was totally enamored by the drummer’s giant drum set. It was the 70s after all. Talk about overkill, man… it was a double bass drum kit for a country rock band, but it was totally cool. And I remember making this distinction that, man, he is out there on stage and he’s enjoying himself and the audience is going nuts and, “I WANT TO DO THAT!” And I talked to my mom about that moment and she goes, “Oh my god. I remembered that and you were TWO. You were two years old.” So, my first memory that I can really recall is that and it was ALL of it. It was all of that. I just knew that that was what I wanted to do.

Now, when we started out, like everybody else who starts out… even though we were six… we were playing along to records. I got a drum set and Matt got a bass and our parents put us in the hay loft above the barn, far away from the house so we could make as much racket as we wanted to. We played along to our KISS records and did what other people do when they’re starting out, usually a little later in life than we were. Our dad would go on the road and he’d come back and sure enough we hadn’t quit. We were still doing it and we kept on doing that and kept on doing that and finally we actually got to be pretty competent at doing what we were doing and by the time we were 11 or 12, we were playing in all of the school productions at our sister’s high school. She was many years older and we were playing in the senior productions and stuff by the time we were 11, which was awkward, but kind of cool. And then we started playing the LA clubs right around the time the scene was really cool. People talk about the whole Sunset Strip thing and the hair band thing, but Matt and I, believe it or not, even though we were the world champion hair farmers of all time, we actually were never a part of that whole Sunset Strip, Gazzarri’s kind of scene. We actually, believe it or not, started out 10 years before then when the scene was a little further south. It was pretty much Wilshire Boulevard and it was at like the Troubadour, Madame Wong’s West and the China Club. There was a different scene when the skinny tie bands were ruling the world. From the time we were 12, we were sharing a stage with bands like The Knack and The Go-Go’s and The Plimsouls and The Cramps and everything with a “The” in front of it, but it was really cool because, from a distance, you would think, “Oh, those are really cute pop bands and isn’t that nice.” But the thing is, it was far more dangerous, believe it or not, to play in that circuit than it ever was doing that whole hair band thing because, from what I heard from my friends years later, the worst that was going to happen if you were in a rival band on the Sunset Strip was that someone would steal your girlfriend. But when we were doing it, with all the skinny tie bands singing love songs, what people would leave out is that, man, it was unbelievably competitive and those bands, funny enough, they’d sing these sappy love songs, but all of them were addicted to heroin and all of them would knife you with a switch blade if you went five minutes over on your set. They were sabotaging you all of the time and that was the scene that Matthew and I grew up in.

Click here for tour dates.

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The Whiskey Masons

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Artist/Band: The Whiskey Masons

Members: Nelson Harris, Scott Leistiko, James Spear, Mike Sharps

Website: http://www.thewhiskeymasons.com

Hometown: Denver, CO

Latest Album/Release: Drive

Influences: Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, Modest Mouse

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
The Whiskey Masons: Upbeat, alternative dance rock with catchy pop hooks.

TrunkSpace: The band has an EP due out in a few weeks. What can fans expect and creatively did you drop any surprises on listeners (or yourselves) in the songwriting itself?
The Whiskey Masons: We’ve been focusing on our songwriting and how we can deliver something that’s powerful, emotional, accessible and catchy all at the same time. We spent a lot of time refining the structure, parts and hooks to really get down to the essence of each song and make it digestible for the listener. The goal is to get these songs stuck in our fans’ heads. Lyrically, we try to write about what we know, or write in a way that conveys a particular feeling.

TrunkSpace: Are there collective butterflies amongst The Whiskey Masons when releasing new music to the public or do you try to separate yourself from that aspect… the aspect you can’t control… of creating music?
The Whiskey Masons: All of us strive to make music that we find fulfilling. It just so happens that we are fulfilled when we play music that people like as well. Making that overlap as wide as possible is the fun part and always a challenge. We try to capture the pulse or zeitgeist of what is currently popular and distill it down into a style of music that is unique and authentic to us. We don’t necessarily write songs we think will be popular for the sake of popularity itself… we genuinely enjoy this style.

We don’t generally get nervous or apprehensive about showing our music to other people. However, we get the good kind of “butterflies”, the kind you get when you see people dancing and singing along at a live show. There’s an incredible feeling of pride when we see someone sing along to our songs, or hear that our songs have made it on their Spotify playlists. If we can be a part of the soundtrack of people’s lives, we will be very happy.

TrunkSpace: The new EP features five songs. Did you test out those songs with live audiences before deciding if they would make the album?
The Whiskey Masons: Yes, absolutely. Live shows are the best focus group. We like to debut new songs live prior to releasing and recording of them, and we’re always doing what we can to measure the response from fans and friends to both new and more familiar material. You can expect this EP to be packed with crowd favorites.

TrunkSpace: If the band had to choose between ONLY writing new music in the studio or ONLY playing live, which would The Whiskey Masons choose and why?
Harris: We each have our own answers for this one, and for me playing live is the ultimate high. I turn into a different person when I’m on stage. From my perspective, which I think we all share, our music is about entertainment. For better or worse, there is no better way to entertain than with all the madness and unpredictability that comes with a live performance. Although we are thankful to have Graham Slee HiFi equipment to make sure our sound quality is as good as it can be when performing.

Leistiko: That’s tough, I love both. It’s like choosing between only coffee or only beer. Ultimately I would choose playing live because of the energy and spontaneity it fosters. I can see the reaction in real-time to the art we are putting out there. And beer over coffee.

Spear: Scott choosing beer over coffee was a foregone conclusion. Anyway, I have always loved to record. Being able to have absolute control over the soundscape, the shape of the timbre of different instruments, the spatial aspect, the smallest details… whatever you want to be heard you must build it from the blank canvas of silence into a piece of music. I think that in order to have a lasting impact and presence in the musical landscape, it is essential to have a well-recorded repertoire of excellent songs. However, I think that very few bands or musical acts can have that sort of impact without having a reputation for putting on an excellent live show that engages and entertains audiences. I enjoy playing live just as much as I enjoy the recording aspect. So, my TL;DR answer is simply yes.

Sharps: I was a solo bedroom recording artist for years before joining The Whiskey Masons, and I have always loved the recording process… the art of recording. I love to share with my friends the songs I write and record, but it is also something of a journaling activity for me. Listening to a song that I wrote and recorded years ago can bring me back to that moment in time.

TrunkSpace: The band describes its music as dance rock. Is that reflective in the crowds that come out to see you, and if so, do you guys go from dance rock to !DANCE! rock the more alcohol that the audience consumes at a show?
The Whiskey Masons: Our live shows are very involved. We make it our personal mission to transform every single audience into a rowdy group of partiers, if only just while we’re on stage. Most of our music is written to be danceable, or at least to get those toes tappin’ in the car or at work. But yes, a lot of our friends and fans… Masons and Masonettes we call them… really like to dance. That’s pretty much how “dance rock” became a part of the label we chose. We’d like to say that our music and live performances are responsible for this transformation, but the alcohol consumption probably doesn’t hurt. We’re called The Whiskey Masons for a reason, and we wouldn’t be living up to our name if we didn’t also drink a bit (a lot…?) of whiskey during our shows. Also, buy our mason jars at our shows so you can drink whiskey like the band.

TrunkSpace: It’s often said that it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. That being said, what do you hope the destination is for the band? Where would you like to see the journey take you?
The Whiskey Masons: Our main goal as a band has always been to headline a sold-out show at Red Rocks. As for the journey, all of us want to have as many great experiences as possible with our friends and each other… doing what we love by writing, recording, and performing and hopefully entertaining people along the way.

TrunkSpace: The band seems to have a good sense of humor. Is there a thin line between taking the art seriously and not taking yourself too seriously?
The Whiskey Masons: One of our first songs we wrote and performed was called “Don’t Get Too Serious” and it was about our friend group, our take on the culture in Denver, what’s important to us. We’ve definitely written some more “serious” material since then, but anyone who has seen us live can tell you that the concept of “Don’t Get Too Serious” is still very much alive and a part of our band DNA.

TrunkSpace: If you had the choice to open for anybody on a massive, multi-city tour, who would it be and why?
The Whiskey Masons: Well, on a massive multi-city tour, who else but Nickelback, right? Try not to get “Rockstar” stuck in your head now. The answer varies by band member, and joking aside, I think we all would happily open for any act, even Nickelback, if it meant we got to play a massive sold out show for people who would enjoy our music. Playing for the masses is our goal, and we don’t discriminate or judge anyone’s musical taste or band preference… we want all the fans to listen to us and enjoy themselves.

TrunkSpace: The band has been together since 2012. A lot can change in the course of five years. How has the band grown and changed within that time?
The Whiskey Masons: We’ve changed both individually and as a band over these years together. Nelson’s voice is cracking again as he goes through his mid-twenties second puberty phase. James and Mike each grew an inch and Scott’s hair got longer. Scott, Nelson, and James met each other at the University of Denver as they were pursuing their MBAs, and Mike and James knew each other from when they used to live in Pittsburgh more than twelve years ago. Now, we all have full-time jobs and are still very dedicated to our music. We’ve gone through member changes and musical changes, and we’ll continue to develop, refine, and evaluate our music and performances as we go. These and other experiences have helped us along the journey to finding a distinct sound that resonates with everyone in the band and, with any luck, the general public.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from The Whiskey Masons in 2017?
The Whiskey Masons: In the last year or so we’ve dialed in a sound that we’re all really happy with, and that has come from the development of a better chemistry within the band. When there is good band chemistry, good songs just come one after another. In 2017, we hope to get on some summer festival dates in addition to regular shows at amazing venues around town like Herman’s Hideaway, where we are playing in the Westword Best of the West competition semifinal round on March 31st. We also hope to continue to play with great bands and are currently trying to schedule a show with All Chiefs, a band that we like and are friends with. We are writing new material like crazy and have tons of really cool music to show everyone this year. We plan on continuing to record and release singles and EPs whenever we can.

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Just Another $@!#*? Column

Celebrating National Goof Off Day

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Everyone’s got a TOP WHATEVER column. You know the type… a list of arbitrary best ofs, worst ofs, or does it really matter ofs. Well, TrunkSpace didn’t want to be left out, so we decided to come up with our brand new JUST ANOTHER $@!#*? LIST COLUMN. Whereas other lists on other sites may have a point, rest assured, ours will have none.

This time out we’re celebrating National Goof Off Day with the film that embodied goofing off, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” And with that we give you…

THE TOP FIVE QUOTES FROM FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, RERECORDED AS IF UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF HELIUM

QUOTE 1

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QUOTE 3

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QUOTE 5

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The Featured Presentation

Steven Weber

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HAPPY TOWN – ABC’s “Happy Town” stars Steven Weber as John Haplin. (ABC/BOB D’AMICO)

If you’re a fan of pop culture in any capacity, you’re familiar with Steven Weber’s work. He spent most of the 1990s portraying Brian Hackett on “Wings” before transitioning into an eclectic career that has included portraying equally-eclectic characters in projects such as “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “Helix,” “iZombie,” and for those comic book-loving fans, the voice of Norman Osborne in “Ultimate Spider-Man.”

We recently sat down with Weber for a refreshing and informative conversation about the inner workings of the film and television industry where we discussed ageism, embracing experience and how actors should diversify their creative capacity.

TrunkSpace: From an acting perspective, what’s more difficult… finding that first big break or maintaining career longevity?
Weber: I would say maintaining because now that I’m, you know, middle aged… that is if I last to be 106… because of the limitations of the business having to do with ageism, for one thing, and, cable TV not withstanding, the kind of limited roles there are for guys like me and just maintaining enthusiasm after 30 plus years. It is hard. It’s like you know too much. I know far too much about the business and about my life and all that stuff and that really your impulse is to just say, “Fuck it,” move to a farm some place and drink red wine and that’s the end. So it is harder now than it was in the beginning. In the beginning you’re full of optimism and carelessness and so it’s kind of easy to just fall into things if you have certain rudimentary abilities and tools and things like that.

TrunkSpace: Well, and with the amount of turnover in the business on the development side with executives and producers… it seems like they’re staying young and not aging alongside of everybody else.
Weber: The problem with that is, and I’m not just saying it because I like to think of myself that way… one is not taking advantage of the accumulative experience and wisdom, creative and otherwise, of the people who have been around longer. You see more of that in Europe. You see it in England certainly. You can even see it in the Harry Potter movies, for example, where the elite were very young, but they were supported by a plethora of older actors of every shape and stripe and gender. One reason why the movies were so successful is because of the accumulated talent and wisdom over the years… decades of experience. And I think that’s really important. I think it’s also what’s wrong with, kind of the corporate-driven industry that is so-called network television. I think cable TV gets it because they know that they have to trust the creative process in order to be profitable. And the model that you described, which is that kind of quick turnover, only knows the bottom line and the immediate gratification of a high rating or a big box office weekend and it doesn’t take into consideration that they could do so much more with the people that know more.

TrunkSpace: And one can say that there is more content now than ever before, which is true, but at the same time, most of it is based on a pre-existing brand or world, so while creatively it’s more interesting… it’s starting to all look the same.
Weber: Ah. Yeah. Interesting. Well, I don’t know if there’s a way around that. Maybe it’s just about reinventing. One can argue that that’s what civilization is. Every generation isn’t starkly different, it’s just a variation on the previous one and so on and so forth. It’s about honing and mining further… further detail… and yet, there are things that are eternal. There are basic concepts, whether it’s, I don’t know, dynamic of a family or sibling rivalry or whatever thing you wanted to put into a story, which has been seen a million times, but is still compelling.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that roles are not as readily available once you reach a certain age (or perceived age) within the industry, but are the roles that are available more interesting? Are you playing characters that have more layers because as the characters themselves are older, they’ve lived more life?
Weber: I think that’s mostly by virtue of the person playing the role rather than a writer writing those layers. Obviously it depends on the project. If there’s somebody who has awareness of the complexity of people of a certain age or certainly any different experience than the kind of common one that’s dramatized… the hero, the villain, etc., then I think it depends and rests mostly on the fact that the person playing the role is, by definition, multi-layered. They have more layers of dead skin on them. Flaking off onto their wardrobe.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) So looking back at something like “Wings” where you spent a 172 episodes playing Brian, if another opportunity presented itself where you knew you’d be playing a character for that amount of time, would you welcome that type of commitment at this point in your career?
Weber: I would welcome it if it was 572 episodes because the practical part of me says that I’m basically a middle class guy… I was raised in a lower middle class household… and my sensibility says, make a living. If I’m lucky enough to do something that’s also creatively satisfying, that’s great, but really my main purpose is to keep my kids in school and roofs over their heads and my head and my loved ones heads and all that stuff. So, yeah, I would absolutely welcome that. That’s the business part. That’s the business part of it that you have to be… well, you don’ have to be, but in my case, I look forward to satisfying that part of my life.

TrunkSpace: When you were starting out and dreaming of your future career, what did that kind of young and ambitious dream look like? What did you hope your career was going to be and have you achieved those goals for yourself?
Weber: Well, in a way I didn’t have lofty dreams. I, in a way, aimed to the middle. And by that I mean, I never dreamt of being a huge star. In fact, my acting models were almost invariably character actors in movies that I had seen, rather than leading men types. I feel like in a way I’ve achieved that, although I have played a bunch of leads. I kind of ambled into acting rather than pursued it with a laser-like focus. I just found myself in it and found myself just kind of moving with the current. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I had to apply effort to keep propelling myself along this path. So, I have achieved more than I had dreamt and apropos to your first question, the task at hand is kind of to maintain that position now.

TrunkSpace: Is it easier to maintain that now, again, going back to the idea that there are more parts available to actors due to the number of different channels and platforms where scripted content is being created?
Weber: You would think, but I don’t think it’s reflective of the volume of projects necessarily. I still think a lot of those projects have certain criteria, which make it challenging for actors of certain ages and certainly of certain genders and races. That said, and having said whatever I said about ageism, for instance, I’ve been around long enough and have been fortunate enough to work a lot, so I have a degree of notoriety in the industry and that has still allowed me to work, either by virtue of my own talent and ability or by people recognizing me and recognizing that I can do a particular job in a particular way and so I get that job. I can’t say it’s easier and obviously it still requires effort. I think it’s a positive thing that there is so much material out there, but inherent in being a professional actor is the challenge of having to usually just reintroduce yourself over and over and over and over to people, who like you say, turnover fast. And so, there are plenty of people who don’t know what “Wings” was or “Studio 60” or anything, so, that makes it not easy, for instance. But, I think in this case, the volume absolutely helps the situation.

TrunkSpace: The industry has changed so much over the course of the last decade, particularly in TV. As an actor, what is the biggest change you have witnessed in terms of how it has directly effected actors.
Weber: For me the biggest change has been reflected in what an actor needs to do in order to remain competitive in the business. Which is to say, you don’t have to change your style of acting or learn a new method or anything like that. That’s been perennial. But what has changed for a person who wants to pursue acting is that, they can’t JUST pursue acting. They must also try to learn how to write. How to produce. How to direct. How to exist on multi-platforms because, except in rare cases, only acting will not allow you to make a living. You’ve got to expand your skill set and that’s really been a change and I think that’s come about precisely because the business model of the business has changed. Yes, they’re not paying as much and when people, and this has happened to me, say they’re going to buy a project… “We like your idea and we’ll buy it,” it doesn’t mean they’re going to buy it with money. (Laughter) Oddly enough. They expect you to then write it. They often expect you to film a portion of it, if not all of it. I’ve been in that situation many times, whereas years ago I had a few deals at studios where they said, “Hey, we like you… come up with some ideas. In exchange we’ll give you an office and a little salary and you can produce.” And that was the kind of cool thing about being an actor about 20 years ago was that, if you had any degree of success, people would court you and to court you they would throw money at you. I liken this to what happened in the airline industry. A long time ago… maybe not that long ago… it was assumed on the part of the airlines that they needed to lower their prices in order to attract customers until they realized that people are desperate to travel. At some point they said, “The hell with this… we’re not lowering our prices. We’re raising them!” And people still fly and it still makes a lot of money and they keep raising the prices. And that mentality, in a way, has permeated the entertainment industry. It has become a very, very kind of financially-centric enterprise. I feel like even more than it was. They seek to cut corners. And they realize that they have way more people who will work for pennies than even the redoubtable stars and experts that they used to throw all sorts of money at, which is why a lot of big screen actors are now working for TV. It’s not like they’re making pennies, but they’re certainly not making the, I don’t know, seven figure salaries that they might have been used to making. This is the same in writing and directing as well.

TrunkSpace: Yes. There was a day when options with significant option fees were being thrown around like crazy and people could live off of those. Now, you’re expected to give free options on projects and for a longer period of time.
Weber: Correct. It’s ridiculous. But, you know what, some say that it’s actually a good thing because you have to rely on your mettle. So getting back to the question… actors now have to think out of the box and I think it’s important. I think it’s good. I mean, the downside of all sort of technology is that… well, I’ll say the upside of modern technology and the availability of equipment and computers and stuff is that anybody can make a film. Anybody. And the downside of all of that is that anybody can make a film. Anybody. So there’s no specialization and that’s kind of the whole point of being an actor in a pure sense is that you got into it for the art rather than the business. If people are going into the business to try to be famous or rich, that’s going to be tough. If you want to go into this craft to find artistic and creative satisfaction, well that’s something entirely different.

TrunkSpace: You’ve done some directing in the past. Is that something you want to return to as you talk about diversifying your skill set?
Weber: Well, I only directed a couple of things and that was years ago. And in fact, in a time that we’re referring to when I could say to the head of Showtime… before Showtime became the hit kind of indy place that it is now… “I’d like to direct something.” They were like, “Oh, great!” It was a fringe thing and so I was able to do things like that. But really right now my focus is on developing and writing, which I have been doing a lot of. I’m currently developing something with Bryan Cranston attached as a co-creator. I’m writing things. I’m doing what I just described my advice for other actors is, which is to expand your skill set. So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing.

TrunkSpace: It always seems like actors with a strong writing sense can really add a different perspective when it comes to character voices because they’re so used to playing different characters that they can instantly recognize the separation in the writing itself.
Weber: Well, you might be right. On the other hand, I think that it would presumptuous of me or any other actor to just assume that writing is easy. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult. Arguably more difficult than acting. It is an often solitary exercise. The written word is the basis for, really, the entire industry in a sense. I have only done it out of a desire to survive and it’s not my chosen discipline. Not every actor, regardless of how good they are, might be able to write. Conversely, I don’t know if writers are necessarily good actors. (Laughter) They could be.

I think more and more, just on a practical level, it helps if everybody has an expanded understanding of the other components in creating a movie, television show, musical, or whatever it is, because at the end of the day, it’s a communal exercise. It’s a community. To me, that’s the most important aspect of being an actor and it becomes very stark to me having been out in LA for 30 years that the thing that I’m missing, having come from New York, is that sense of community. That sense of being able to create regardless of your circumstance.

Steven Webber as Vaughn in iZombie Photo: Jack Rowand /The CW © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

TrunkSpace: And what’s so interesting about that is, we now live in a world where everyone can be so connected all the time, and yet, we’re losing our sense of community.
Weber: Well, I agree. This is why I think a lot of social media is anti-social media. It’s a fiction that we’re connected. You’re only connecting one aspect of your being, which is that kind of limbic brain, immediately gratifying, “I’m going to type out a snarky response” thing. As opposed to having to SHOW UP. Last night I went to… sounds like I’m a snob… but last night I went to see a production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” here in LA with Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek and, you know, it’s a “small” production… it’s not a Broadway production… but it’s so GODDAMN important to show up. To be a part of the community. You get so much more out of it at such a more involving and, I don’t know if this is even a real word, impactful experience.

TrunkSpace: Can you tell us a little bit about what you have upcoming that fans can look out for?
Weber: I actually have a couple of things. I have a recurring role in this thing called “13 Reasons Why,” which is a Netflix series based on a very popular novel about teen suicide. And then the flip side of that is, I play a very funny heavy in a show that will hopefully be a Netflix series that Jeff Garlin wrote and is starring in.

TrunkSpace: And that project, “Handsome,” seems like it has a great cast.
Weber: Oh, it’s unbelievable. It’s kind of a homage to the old NBC mystery movie wheel, which was every week there was “Columbo” and then “McCloud” and then “McMillan & Wife.” It was actually conceptually really good. It was like having three shows in one and every week they would show a different one and people were hooked into it. This is the Jeff Garlin version, which means it’s hilarious, filthy, and… filthy.

“13 Reasons Why” premieres March 31st on Netflix.

“Handsome” premieres May 5th on Netflix.

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Bottled Up Emotions

Weyerbacher’s Merry Monks

MerryMonks_DrunkenEmoji

Brewer: Weyerbacher

Beer: Merry Monks

Alcohol Content by Volume: 9.3%

Some nice fella sent an email to TrunkSpace that was directed to me and it relates to my reviews, so I figured I’d start this one by addressing it.

You never have anything bad to say about anything. Clearly your in th e pockets of these breweries.”

That’s it. Pasted as it was sent.

Here’s the thing, I do try plenty of beers that I’m not a very big fan of. In fact, there’s some that I downright do a spit take with. But, let’s pause for minute, pump the brakes and take a look at the world around us.

Yup. It can be pretty shitty out there. Especially in this whimsical little place called the Internet. There is so much unnecessary negativity circulating around and around and around, that TrunkSpace (and myself) have decided to not participate in fueling that out-of-control fire. If we don’t like something, we just don’t write about it. It’s not worth our energy in writing it or your energy in reading it. And specifically when it comes to beer reviews… who wants to soak in a negative one? “Oh, this drunken emoji said this beer sucks… I SHOULD RUN OUT A SEE FOR MYSELF!” No!

So, whether you like it or not, I like this beer. I like it a lot. I would drink it in a house. I would drink it with a mouse. I would drink it in my chair. I would drink it anywhere.

Oh, and just as the last time that I sampled their offerings, Weyerbacher freaks me out with their label art! WHAT DOES THE MONK WANT ME TO BE SILENT ABOUT?!?!

Regardless, this is one hell of a tripel and it is worth you running out to see for yourself.

DRUNKEN EMOJI RATING

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