Friday, June 29, 2018

Jughead's Basement - Sub Genre - Lo Fi Interviews with JONAH RAY

Welcome to Jughead’s Basement, sub genre Lo Fi interviews with Hi Fi guests.  Since my band podcasts take an incredibly long time to record, edit and produce, I have decided to explore a sub format where I perform interviews that are a bit more off the cuff, and the guests are encouraged to ask me questions too.  These interviews incorporate all aspects of entertainment, not just music, but theatrical, film and Tv performers plus writers and behind the scenes folks.

I took a trip to Los Angeles to conduct my first 4 in these series, and each time, for different reasons my skills with a professional microphone bottomed out, and in each case I ended up with less than quality recording with some of the funniest smartest hard working entertainment people I know.  I want the interviews to be spontaneous, so instead of trying to redo the interviews I decided to leave them as be, and do what I could to make them sound better.

This second episode is with Jonah Ray, actor, comedian and writer.  Jonah hails from Hawaii and ventured out alone to Los Angeles to make a name for himself.  He considers himself a fan boy.  He definitely knows more about punk rock than I do.  He co-hosted the Nerdist Podcast, plus Comedy Central’s The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail. He has a hilarious parody show on Seeso called Hidden America with Jonah Ray.  He has a podcast of his own called Jonah Raydio, and most important to my girlfriend, he is the current host on the well received reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Netflix.

My friend Pam put me in contact with Jonah, on his podcast Jonah Radio he had played a song by my band Even In Blackouts, then I started hounding him to include me in almost anything he was doing.  Eventually he put me on his podcast, which lead to me meeting his friend David Lyons, who invited me to stay at his house in Los Angeles.  He lives less than a mile away from Jonah, and it just so happened that Jonah was coming over to get David and his tools to enlist him to help panel his closet.  This interview took place before the carpentry began.

The microphone problem in this interview had to do with me using a microphone for Jonah, that made clicks and hisses, then 45 minutes in, when my computer fell asleep and I pressed buttons to reactivate the screen, I accidentally shut down the mic.  So after 45 minutes the episode goes mono and is recorded predominantly from my iPhone sitting just a little bit too close to my side of the table

Jughead's Basement - Sub Genre - Lo Fi Interviews with DINO STAMATOPOULOS

Welcome to Jughead’s Basement, sub genre Lowfi interviews with Hi Fi guests.  Since my band podcasts take an incredibly long time to record, edit and produce, I have decided to explore a sub format where I perform interviews that are a bit more off the cuff, and the guests are encouraged to ask me questions too.  These interviews incorporate all aspects of entertainment, not just music, but theatrical, film and Tv performers plus writers and behind the scenes folks.

I took a trip to Los Angeles to conduct my first 4 in these series, and each time, for different reasons my skills with a professional microphone bottomed out, and in each case I ended up with less than quality recording with some of the funniest smartest hard working entertainment people I know.  I want the interviews to be spontaneous, so instead of trying to redo the interviews I decided to leave them as be, and do what I could to make them sound better.

This first episode is with Dino Stamatopolous, writer, producer and reluctant actor.  You may have seen him as Starburns on the hit show Community.  As a writer he is known for his work with Ben Stiller, Dana Carvy, Conan O’Brien, David Letterman, and the Mr. Show with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk… amongst others.  He has also reached out into production with his company Starburns Industries with his writing friends and collaborators Dan Harmon, Joe Russo II, James Fino and Duke Jonhson  Starburns Industries birthed Dino’s very own Morel Orel and Frankenhole, along with Dan’s Rick and Morty, and Charlie Kaufman’s oscar nominated animated film Anamolisa.

Dino is also the author of a Graphical novel called Trent: A light tragedy with music, which was originally performed in an earlier incarnation at the annoyance theater in 1990.

In 2004 my friend Steve Walker directed my play Four Clowns and a Bench in Los Angeles.  The play was a success but the audiences still did not come.  When Steve came back to Chicago to report on that status of the show he told me one of the highlights was on a night when there was only about 4 people in the audience, he heard strong supportive laughing from beginning to end.  And the close of the play, this man named Dino Stamatopoulos stood up and gave it an ovation.  I said that was cool, but had know idea who Dino was.  We had gone to the same college, Columia College in Chicago, but I didn’t know the lore of the man.  When I did a little searching I decided to send him a message and thank him for coming.  He responded immediately and thanked me for the play.  We have been in contact ever since.

The microphone problem in this interview had to do with me accidentally deleting all the audio files from his microphone while uploading them into my editing program.  So it is fairly ironic when we joke about it being MY podcast, because little did we know at the time that MY iPhone used to record myself, placed in front of me, would be the only surviving audio recording

Sunday, March 11, 2018



One of my favorite memories of the integrity Ben Weasel and I forged early on with Screeching Weasel was when we were invited to meet with the duo that ran the ill fated label, Walk Thru Fire Records. They were one of the few labels in Chicago that had any kind of exposure that was interested in putting out our type of music. When we showed up, they sat us down in their office, and began a sales pitch which cemented our distain for them. One of the guys was sitting behind the desk and he said, “You two are sitting here because we heard about your band from quite a few important people around the city.” (Which made us realize they hadn’t even listened to the record themselves.) The second guy walked in right then, as if on cue and said, “You guys got the buzz.” (Yes, he actually said that.) He held up our Self Titled first record that we self released with the help of Russ Forster. He then continued, “But this record cover has got to go.” Then the first guy chimed back in with. “It’s a small matter and one we think you should consider. We would like to buy the rights to re-release this record, and put you under contract for three more records. We are willing to offer you Professional Distribution." Then the second guy wrapped up the sales pitch by saying, "You should probably take this deal. It's the smart thing to do. So what do you think?” We instantly did not like these guys at all. No one was going to tell us what we "had" to do, or even "should" do. It was an OK cover for a punk album of the time, but we weren’t in love with it. My artist friend, Paul Russel, who drew the cover, would later create much better art for Screeching Weasel. But this artistic request and much of the other things they said that day just did not sit well with us. We were a young band, barely known by anybody, but we decided we would rather fade into obscurity than sign with these two assholes. Why should we trust two guys that we both instinctively hated? Many of the other Chicago bands had made the mistake of signing a contract with them and they eventually all lost their pants. But we didn’t sign, and we kept our pants. We actually got a big chuckle out of the whole incident, and walked out of their office secure in our decision, even though we didn't know what the future would hold.

Later that week I played Ben some music I had written and taped on a cassette player with my Dr. Rhythms Drum Machine, a guitar and a bass. He put words to the music, exactly as I had written it, and he called the song “Professional Distribution," based on our experience from that memorable day. We later recorded it with the band for our second album Boogada Boogada Boogada. It is far from a great song, but it holds some important ideas for me about how crucial it is to forge your own identity, to not fall for any form of peer pressure, and to see through the nonsense of offers of an elusive success from assholes who were put on the earth to rip off other people who actually possess creative talents. In a crowd of fellow punk bands who were signing their lives away, we did not. Ben and I worked about 5 jobs between the two of us and raised the money to record this second record on our own. We then joined forces with a man named Dave Best to create a label to put the record out. The record is still our biggest seller to this very day. And this record also introduced the world to Paul's Weasel Logo, now tattooed on hundreds upon hundreds of punk bodies. The first release of this record, Boogada Boogada Boogada, was on our label, Roadkill Records released in 1988. 30 years ago this year.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Japanese Experience: Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor

So I had a ringing in my ears for two weeks. I went to the Japanese Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor. He sat me down and immediately started digging into my ear, performing a major excavation. There were two very cute assistance standing over me. The doctor began pulling dark wax and hair out of my ear, then he stuck two sticks up my nose. I asked one of the assistance if I looked "kawaii" That's cute in Japanese. She laughed. Then he proceeded to put a tube in my ear and blew air through my sinuses. That hurt something fierce and I did all I could not to openly cry. He poured some liquid into my ear, stuck in some cotton, and then he said some Japanese words I couldn't understand because my ears were full of liquid and cotton, and because he said them in Japanese. One of the nurses led me to a comfy chair facing a blank wall and closed a curtain. I had no idea what was going on. 20 minutes later one of the nurses came back for me, bowed, and signaled to me, by waving at herself in an upside down manner, to proceed back into the main room. She put me on a spinning chair and spun me towards the doctor. He told me to tilt my head. He pulled the cotton out of my ears, along with a nest of brown crud and goo. I glanced at the pretty nurse and she smiled. I was not looking for a date, but if I was, I don't think this would have been the right moment to ask. Then the nurse, in silence, signaled for me to follow her. She led me into another curtained area where three other people were sitting at what looked like a sterile non alcoholic bar for addicts. She stuck two tubes up my nostrils and told me to breathe, for three hours... (she meant three minutes.) Vapor was forced into my nose, and the four of us sat at the bar not looking at each other as water poured from our mouths like we were starving dogs salivating. Then one of the nurses stood me up and pointed to the exit door. I paid a woman at a counter some Yen, and then I left.

Sometimes in Japan you have the most humbling experiences. The ringing in my ears is mostly gone, so that's good. Oh by the way, I told the doctor I was in a band and I had probably lost some hearing, and he said, "Oh." That was it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


(Dos and Don’ts thought lost but eventually found in a crusty box buried in the ashes of the headquarters of Panic Button Records)

Listen kids if you are looking to be a star pupil of punk rock and not an outcast amongst the members of your own scene, do not do as I have done, but as I tell you.

1. Do not wear baseball caps, especially ones turned backwards, and adorned with the horns of an imaginary dragon. And under no circumstances wear a derby or a fedora.

2. Do not wear baggy shorts with little marvin the martian prints, or anything other than tighty-whiteys, unless you want other punks who have never really intellectually graduated from high school to give you an atomic wedgie, even when you are all 50 years old.

3. Do not cary a backpack, even if you are the accountant for the band and it’s the easiest way to keep the money with you without looking obvious, like carrying around a cash box.

4. Do not, not, have a leather jacket, especially for special occasions when your band covers the Ramones first record and you need one for a photo. If you don’t wear one like ALL THE TIME then you’ll have to scramble in a panic digging your only leather jacket you have ever owned out of your closet, and then you’ll have to remove the Bennetton sticker and Jethro Tull and Kajagoogoo buttons from your lapel, and then as the picture is being taken, you’ll have to then realize this piece of cloth that feels unnatural on your body is not even really made from leather.

5. If you wear a dead man’s black dress shoes from a thrift store that you bought for a buck twenty-five, which make you resemble a Charlie Chaplin-like tramp, even if they remind you of your father who has died and you miss, then you are not going to fit in to this narrow box that we like to call punk rock. Instead wear Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. These preferred shoes have no arch support and smell like a dead rat when they get wet. But what's more important, how you look or how you feel?

6. You MUST own a pair of jeans, you can wear them all the time and never clean them, they become like paint on your body. Other punks love that. And if your are a man who doesn’t want to have active sperm, that’s great too, because the constant heat and rubbing of the tight jeans kills them little guys dead. And definitely don’t ever wear dress, plaid, or striped pants, especially ones that your socks are tucked into, because… that’s gay.

7. Never wear any upper body protection other than a leather jacket. This one is mentioned twice because it is absurdly important. Don’t wear anything functional like a rain coat, or a wind breaker, or a winter coat. Or god forbid, a dead man’s black dress jacket you found in a thrifts store for super cheap because it reminds you of your dad and also makes you look like a hobo. I can’t stress this enough, you need a leather jacket even if it is stupid expensive and bought at Hot Topic. You need this genuine leather on your skin in order to look edgy. You need to spend more money on this leather jacket than you do on your friends or family. And you must wear it onstage even if it is too hot, and it makes you sweat and not play as good… and this may also kill sperm.

Heed my words, if you want to be a real punk, do not do as I have done… even though I have relatively good success with it my whole life.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Vigilance and love in the face of what we hate


As a product of a community of punk that we all have helped to create, we sometimes have to look back to when we were young. We saw the world from the perspective of outcasts, of oddballs, of lost souls from an island of misfit toys, of people that felt they had to rebel, but at times we may not have known what we were rebelling against.

And now that I am older I am here to say, “My friends, this thoughtful struggle never ends.” We must always be vigilant. We must always strive to prevent ourselves from becoming what we hate. And what we hate changes over time. We must be aware of what new hates come from experience and which ones come from surrender.

Recently I went through a punk existential dilemma questioning my place in this scene. I want to thank my friends for helping me to see the perspectives needed to make my own decisions to continue this fight to be a positive force, my rebellion to face adversity with kindness and unabashed individuality.

This is a modern sense of individuality, an individuality that admits it owes its unique perspective to the community from which it grew. And even though often I would just prefer to be alone to figure shit out, I must also have the humility to realize, I don’t have all the answers. So listen to each other, ultimately make up your own mind, but sometimes listen to your closest friends when they give advice that makes you feel uncomfortable or even if they just say, “Shut the fuck up for one moment, listen to me, and just live your life.”

My two cents is, don’t fear the negativity within you, but present it to loved ones, your closest friends, present it to them asking for advice, before fucking up your life. Because they can help you see through the bullshit you weave and help you to turn your gloom into a lesson. But this assistance does not come free, you must respect these friends that go beyond the expected, and let them know that you are there for them too.

If all else in this post passes quickly before you, remember that we must give what we take. Let your friends know that they are important to your pursuit of living a fulfilling life.

- A special thanks for Massimo, Paul, Paige, William, and Mr. Deeds.
- cool art by Paul Russel.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sludgeworth's Losers Of The Year

I only hint at it in this Jughead's Basement Episode, but I booked the one and only Sludgeworth tour.  By this time in Chicago punk history, I was booking all the Screeching Weasel tours across the country, and don't get the wrong idea, it was NOT easy.  Through most of the career of the active Screeching Weasel we did not have it easy as a touring band.  We were forging a new path along with The Queers and other bands from Lookout. (This is not to say that our predecessors, bands like AOD, Black Flag, and Angry Samoans, hadn't made it easier for us, but at the time it felt we were on a different track, and the work that these bands had forged dissipated and did not seem to help our hunt to book shows from the midwest to the coasts.)  This was before Sludgeworth was on Lookout, and they trusted me to book a tour for them.  It was hard, and at the end of the day, I hated the idea of booking shows for other bands.  I wasn't able to be there to make sure that everything was Ok.  I did not have the passion I would have had if it were my own band.  And even more so, I didn't have the hunger for making cash off of bands, that is needed to be successful.  I had always thought I had failed them, I had failed one of my favorite bands.  It took me to when I finally conducted these interviews, over 25 years later, to realize that they not only understood that they were an unknown band, but that they also had some good times.  Good times that they still remember to this very day.  I did not get to put all of this into the podcast, but when I presented the question about the tour, about my humility as a failed booking agent, they eschewed this take and dwelt more on the nostalgia of their youth, and they were thankful for the opportunity to see the country, and to tour with their best friends.  I think because of that, this podcast will over time, and when I accumulate at least a hundred of them, it will still be at the top of my list of completed podcasts.  My passion for telling these bands stories helps in some way.  It makes me happy.  And I hope it makes you happy too.