“Traveling with the Ghost of Someone He Admires”–A Conversation About Music Books with Brian Cremins

Today I’m welcoming back to the show my first repeat guest–who also happens to be the human I’m sheltering in place with–the writer, musician, and scholar Brian Cremins.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Brian’s joining me today for a recorded version of an ongoing conversation we’ve been having basically since we first met a little over a decade ago, all about our favorite books about music.

Because we’re both writers and both musicians, it turns out we have a lot of thoughts about the intersection of those two disciplines!

We both chose a small stack of books that are important to us individually, though of course there’s a lot of overlap between our lists, and of course there were dozens of other books that came to mind during the course of this conversation.

In talking about those books, we also discuss the way music critics listen to music versus the way musicians listen to music; how descriptive language can mystify what a musician is actually doing in a way that might not be helpful; how the best books can feel more like traveling companions rather than destination points; and spending time imagining what certain albums sounded like in the days before everything was instantly available to us online. Plus, Brian finally goes on the record with his comparison between the Hall and Oates song “I Can’t Go for That” and Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place.”

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“I Have Something I’d Like to Say, But How Do I Best Say It?”–A Chat with Yuval Taylor

I’m delighted today to be in conversation with my very good friend and former colleague Yuval Taylor.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Yuval is the coauthor of the books Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop and Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Antioch Review, and the Oxford American, among other publications. His most recent book, as a solo author, is Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal, which was a finalist for the 2019 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography. It’s a deeply researched look at the six-year-long friendship, and eventual bitter falling out, between Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. The book, which will be released in paperback in July 2020, has been praised by NPR as having “a vivid anecdotal style,” by the Wall Street Journal as “compelling, concise and scrupulously researched,” and by the New York Times Book Review as “a highly readable account of one of the most compelling and consequential relationships in black literary history.”

In our wide-ranging chat, Yuval and I discuss the secret to being incredibly prolific as a writer, the joy as a writer and researcher in finding out everything you can about a subject and then distilling it, how the process of doing in-depth historical research can sometimes feel like being surprised by the twists and turns in a really great novel, the pleasures of following a set of characters through a distinct period of time and exploring their relationship dynamics, the challenge of writing about love when sex isn’t involved, the dangers of driving to Bushwick in the 1980s, and discovering a fuller picture of someone after they die if you’ve only ever known them while they’re sick.

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“Respect What It Is That’s Going On Inside Of You”–A Chat with Erin the Psychic Witch

I’ve been hesitant to talk too much on my podcast about the coronavirus situation.

Sure, I’ve alluded to it here and there over the past few weeks, mostly in my initial greetings to my guests, checking in on how everyone’s doing. But my strength as a writer and thinker has never been of-the-moment analysis of current events, and there’s obviously more than enough punditry floating around in the ether right now.

But, as so many of us are about to head into our second full month of sheltering in place, it also felt unrealistic to not acknowledge the new reality that we’re all living through right now.

So, in my attempt to bridge the gap between not wanting to add to the noise about this topic but then also not wanting to ignore its presence in our lives either, I thought that a conversation with my brilliant friend Erin the Psychic Witch might be unique and helpful.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Erin is a gifted psychic teacher and healer with two decades of experience in the healing arts. With a substantial and wide-ranging background in bodywork, natural skin care, holistic and functional nutrition models, energy healing, and psychic development, she brings physical and energetic modalities together to create a practical path toward healing. Her work is nothing less than facilitating the healing, liberation, and multidimensional maturation of all beings, with the ultimate goal of full creative expression. She teaches and offers various containers for healing work online through her website erinthepsychicwitch.com

Today, we’re digging deep to discuss deprogramming from the go-go-go, the exciting aspects of the failure of our leadership, connecting to our bodies by preparing food for ourselves, facing our collective addiction to struggle, why creative solutions can’t move through our space if we’re constantly in Doing mode, and why people who say “don’t give into the fear” don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

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“No, But We’ve Seen It Done”–A Chat with Paul and Angie Lowe about Jesus Christ Superstar

So, if you’re reading this during the week that I’m originally posting it, you’ll probably know that it’s Easter week.

Why am I releasing this particular podcast episode for Easter Week? Because, for most of my life, and the lives of many of my musical theater affiliated friends, this week means one big thing.

No, not multiple trips to church. No, not chocolate egg anticipation. No, not a viewing of The Ten Commandments.

It’s time to listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack.

I was born in February of 1979. Later that summer, my father, Terry Felus, who would have been just shy of 30 years old, conducted the pit and played the Hammond organ for a community theater production of the show. For the rest of his life, he considered that one of his crowning achievements in his long career as a musician. I grew up listening to him tell stories about that show, and listening to his cassette recording of the production until it very literally fell apart. 

I’ve seen multiple performances of Jesus Christ Superstar over the years, both touring companies and local shows. But even though I have no conscious memories of the version that my dad conducted, it will always be the definitive production in my heart, the one that all others are compared against.

So today I wanted to chat with the directors of that production, Paul and Angie Lowe.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Paul and Angie are essentially family to me. They were also teachers for many decades at Lake Central High School in St. John, Indiana. During the weekdays, Paul taught speech and Angie taught French, and then on afternoons and weekends, they were heads of the theater program, known as the Lake Central Theatre Guild. As you’ll hear them elaborate in the course of the episode, they expanded LCTG’s program in the early 1970s to include former graduates and members of the local theater scene in their summer community theater productions. Nearly a quarter century after they first directed it in 1979, they revived Jesus Christ Superstar in the summer of 2003 as one of the final productions in the old high school theater. Today, many years now after their retirement from teaching, they retain the LCTG initials by way of their new company, L’arc en Ciel Theatre Group, a dinner theater based out of Great Oaks Banquet Hall in Cedar Lake, Indiana.

In our wide-ranging conversation on Jesus Christ Superstar, we discuss their creative workaround for using microphones with cords in the days before community theater companies could afford wireless mics, the challenge of holding a follow spot steady while you’re sobbing your eyes out, how a key member of the pit band was in a terrible motorcycle accident on his way to the theater but played the whole show anyway, the controversy about the 1979 production in several local churches, and how the skills that one techie developed behind the scenes eventually landed him in a nuclear submarine in the navy.

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“A Nice Way to Think About One’s Relationship with Time and Objects”–A Chat About Perfume with Shiamin Kwa

Welcome to the perfume episode!

(Well, hopefully the first of many perfume episodes.)

Let’s take a temporary glamour break from everything that’s awful in the world right now, shall we?

Much like my very first episode of the show with Casey Andrews, where we chatted for well over an hour about our favorite films of the 2010s, this episode is less of an interview and more of an excuse for me to nerd out about one of my big passions with a fellow scent obsessive.

Today I’m in conversation with my dear and brilliant friend Shiamin Kwa.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Shiamin is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature at Bryn Mawr College. She is the author of three books, the most recent being Regarding Frames: Thinking with Comics in the Twenty-first Century, which was just released by RIT Press in February of this year. Her written work explores relationships between form and content, text and image, self and self-presentation, surface and depth, and the conflicts between what we say and what we mean. Her research interests include theater and fiction, food studies, graphic narratives, literary studies, cultural studies, comparative and world literature, and literary and narrative theory.

She also contributed an amazingly funny and tender essay about the band Wham! to my most recent zine The Last Band of My Youth

In today’s deep dive on perfume, we talk about how smells can seem so much richer in our memories when we don’t have access to them anymore, the quiet spaciousness of perfume as object, how we’re meant to interact with perfume on a time scale, how wearing Frederic Malle’s “Portrait of a Lady” is like having to do self-promotion as the author of a new book, and the difficulty of imposing order on things you love.

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“The Guiding Light Is Surprise”–A Chat with Tony Trigilio

So, how’s everyone doing this week, now that so many of us are sheltering in place? 

From the bottom of my heart, I’m wishing you and your loved ones health and ease during this supremely strange and unsettling time.

I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by so many wise and compassionate friends who are helping me make sense of the wide variety of emotions that have been coming up around all the continued uncertainty in this ongoing coronavirus situation.

I feel even more fortunate that I had the chance to speak with one of those wise and compassionate friends for this week’s episode.

Today, I’m incredibly pleased to be speaking with my friend, neighbor, and former bandmate, the poet Tony Trigilio

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Tony is the author and editor of 13 books, including, most recently, Ghosts of the Upper Floor (published by BlazeVOX [books] in 2019), which is the third installment in his multivolume poem, The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood). His selected poems, Fuera del Taller del Cosmos, was published in Guatemala by Editorial Poe (translated by Bony Hernández). He is editor of Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments (published by Ahsahta Press in 2014), and the author of Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist Poetics (published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2012). Tony coedits the poetry journal Court Green and is an associate editor for Tupelo Quarterly. He is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago.

Today we discuss his origin story as a poet, the possibilities that get unlocked by asking a student “tell me more of what you mean by that,” building bridges between the hemispheres of the brain, how playing drums professionally helped Tony unite his practice as a writer with his work as a scholar, and why the best art feels like a friend saying to you, “I’m going to tell you something but it’s hard to say.”

For more information about Tony, you can find him online at starve.org.

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“I Don’t Want to Be an Expert”–A Chat with Keiler Roberts

Welcome to the coronavirus special.

OK, not really.

But if you’re taking your social distancing seriously–and for the sake of the most vulnerable among us, I hope that you are–you might suddenly find yourself with a bit more time on your freshly washed hands. Hopefully this week’s episode featuring my dear friend the artist Keiler Roberts will be a balm and a welcome hour’s worth of distraction.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Keiler has been writing autobiographical comics for ten years. Her six books include Sunburning, Chlorine Gardens, and, most recently, Rat Time, all three of which were published by Koyama Press. Her self-published autobiographical comic series Powdered Milk received an Ignatz Award for Outstanding Series in 2016, and in 2019 Chlorine Gardens received Slate’s Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Print Comic of 2018, which was selected by The Slate Book Review and The Center for Cartoon Studies. Her work has been included in The Best American Comics in 2016 and 2018 and was mentioned on their Notables list for 2014. Her work has been featured in numerous gallery exhibitions, including a solo show in Northern Ireland at The Naughton Gallery at Queen’s University, Belfast, curated by Ben Crothers. She has taught at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago since 2013 and lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband, the artist Scott Roberts, their daughter Xia, and perhaps the most famous cartoon pet since Snoopy, their dog Crooky.

This week on the show, Keiler and I talk about the thrill of the possibility of failure, embracing disorganization, the difficulties that arise when you try to do an unnameable activity, why telling someone “just be yourself” can be bad advice, and the difference between a story that’s funny to tell and a story that’s funny to draw.

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“I Would Always Say Yes to a Spiritual Experience”–A Chat with Angie Yingst

Today on the show I’m incredibly pleased to be in conversation with Angie Yingst.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Angie is a published writer, a sacred artist, a Usui Reiki Master Teacher, and an Earth Medicine Practitioner specializing in shamanic and crystal healing techniques. 

Angie has been reading Tarot for thirty years and is a member of the American Tarot Association. She has also trained through the Hibiscus Moon Crystal Academy as a Certified Crystal Healer and an Advanced Crystal Master, and she now serves the school and its community as Curriculum Specialist and Crystal Coach. Angie has also been studying since 2012 with Pixie Lighthorse and has completed all four levels of her training through SouLodge Earth Medicine School. 

Angie offers both in-person and distance one-on-one healing sessions that combine crystal healing, shamanic healing, Reiki, drum and rattle, breathwork, and plant medicine to facilitate healing in her clients, balancing her work with the moon cycles and seasonal energies to maximize healing potential. Angie teaches tarot, crystals and crystal healing, shamanic work, psychic development and intuitive work, creative and art workshops, and offers group healing sessions through the Alta View Wellness Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Today we dig deep to talk about grief, addiction, perfectionism, and the dangers of spiritual bypassing, as well as the difference between being a guru and an effective space-holder. 

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