Episode 049: Bob Fingerman

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In April of last year, Image Comics published Maximum Minimum Wage, a hardcover compilation of Bob Fingerman’s long-running Fantagraphics series. To this day, Minimum Wage and the subsequent collection Beg The Question remain the cartoonist’s best known work, telling the close-to-home tale of an artist struggling with work, love and life in New York in the 90s.

After a 15 year hiatus spent on various comics projects and a trio of prose novels, Fingerman picked up the story again in January with a new series bearing the same name, set three years after the end of its predecessor. I met up with Fingerman in the Manhattan apartment he shares with his wife to discuss returning to a project after nearly a decade and a half and how to get back into the mindset of younger, poorer time.

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@1 day ago with 13 notes

Episode 047: Box Brown

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Full-disclosure: Box Brown is the artist behind RiYL’s logo, so in a sense, he’s sort of been on-board since the very beginning. For my part, I’ve been aware of his work since the earliest days, when he first began exploring the medium, posting his loosely autobiographical comics on messageboards of established cartoonists like James Kochalka. With several years and a number of self-published floppies and webcomics distance, I feel comfortable saying those early strips were really, really rough.

I can’t think of a single cartoonist whose work I’ve watched progress from such an early stage. And it was no doubt that exact drive to put his stuff out in the world that helped Brown improve by leaps and bounds, culminating with the forthcoming release of his first full-length book, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, which examines the man behind one of professional wrestling’s largest legends.

Brown and I met up at a coffee shop next door to Locust Moon, my favorite comic shop in Philadelphia. We discussed giving it all up to pursue your dream — and, like zine publisher (and friend of Brown) Robert Newsome before him, the cartoonist was more than happy to discuss his lifelong love of professional wrestling with a podcast host who’s only just beginning to familiarize himself with the subject.

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Oh, and as we approach episode 50, I’m asking listeners to let me know which RiYL episodes have been their favorite, thus far. Please send any feedback to riylcast@gmail.com
@2 weeks ago with 19 notes

Episode 045: Molly Crabapple

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One of the things this show has afforded me is the opportunity to catch up with folks I haven’t spoken to for some time. Molly Crabapple and I both became less involved in the New York comics seem at roughly the same time, albeit for very different reasons. The artist has transformed her instantly recognizable Victorian cartooning style into a one woman industry of sorts.

In fact, she jokingly noted recent online accusations that this so-called “Crabapple” person was actually a collective of people posing as a single person, and it’s easy to see why. She’s been plenty busy, between art exhibitions, murals, illustrations and an increasing interest in social justice, which recently led Rolling Stone to call her “Occupy [Wall Street]’s greatest artist.” It’s a fascination that has taken her around the world, to unexpected locations like the courtrooms of Guantanamo Bay.

As usual, she’s keeping a tight schedule, the night we meet up in her Manhattan studio / residence, about to run off to work on a mural she’s not really at liberty to speak of, just yet. So we’ll have to keep this one short, but I think we did a pretty good job cramming as much in to 30 minutes as possible.

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@1 month ago

Episode 043: Doug Gillard

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I’d just watched that bizarre Beatles anniversary tribute in a bar the night before, the 50th anniversary one, where John Legend and Alicia Keys did horrible things to “Let it Be,” and Paul and Ringo, the nice guys that they are just sat there in expensive suits and smiled. I only mention this because I couldn’t help but let such a spectacle inform this conversation with Doug Gillard, who, along with members of Nada Surf and Cat Power, has been paying homage to the early days of the fab four off and on for the past few years in the form of Bambi Kino, a tribute to the Beatles’ Hamburg days.

The existence of that group was only recently made known to me, with the band having gotten back together recently to do their own Ed Sullivan anniversary tribute. My own familiarity with Gillard goes back to his days in Guided By Voices as the guitarist for the band’s final pre-breakup formation. In the wake of that band’s dissolution, Gillard’s signature black Les Paul seemingly popped up in every group under the indie rock umbrella, from the Oranges Band to Nada Surf.

Only recently was I exposed to his solo work, as though the seemingly endless parade of bands weren’t enough to occupy his time. Gillard performed a handful of songs as part of a tribute to the recently deceased musician/critic Scott Miller. The solo acoustic set was a low-key affair — a far cry from the booze-fueled bombast of a Guided By Voices live set. True to form, Gillard’s new record, Parade On, delightfully bounces between sounds as diverse as the bands the guitarist calls home.

Gillard, a fellow Queens resident, graciously agreed to swing by my Astoria apartment to discuss all of the above over a little Maker’s a mug of green tea.

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@1 month ago
#doug gillard #guided by voices #nada surf 

Episode 041: Colin Spoelman

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So far as I can tell, there’s not a single piece of King’s Country paraphernalia that doesn’t declare it “New York City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery.” It’s an impressive claim, particularly for a business that’s only been up and running for four years or so. But US liquor laws are a strange thing, with regulatory waves being felt to this day. Over the past few years, there’s been something of a perfect storm, between the dropping of licensing fees by orders of magnitude and the explosion of interest in microdistilleries.

For Colin Spoelman, the past few years have been a whirlwind, the Kentucky native’s bootlegging hobby has graduated into a full fledgee business. What began life as a mail away single pot still now occupies the entirety of the Brooklyn Naval Yard’s 113-year-old Paymaster Building. King’s County produces three varieties of whiskey at present, with a number of others aging patiently in oak barrel’s on the drafty brick building’s top floor.

And while its bourbon will likely continue to the company’s top seller, its moonshine will always represent its soul. It’s a surprisingly smooth affair so far as unaged whiskey is concerned, representing a very different approach to distillation than the one taken by the vast majority of American distillers, where the flavor is largely defined by the aging process — placing a potentially overblown emphasis on the beverage’s age.

But I’ll let Spoelman tell it — he’s the one who wrote the book on whiskey, after all.

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@1 month ago
#Colin Spoelman #whiskey #whisky #king's county #bourbon #moonshine #bootlegging 

Episode 048: Avi Reichental

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Like the rest of the world, I’ve been utterly fascinated at the technological prospects and societal implications of 3D printing for the past few years. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to explore the space for other outlets, but have been looking for the right way to approach it by way of the RiYL format. When 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental swung by the city to address the Inside 3D Printing conference in Manhattan, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

The company has been at the forefront of the space since 1986, when co-founder Chuck Hull invented the process of stereolithography, which gave rise to the world of industrial additive manufacturing. The company’s been a player on the business side since then and has also spent the last several years developing a consumer facing arm for the quickly growing world of desktop 3D printing.

There’s a lot of ground to cover here, of course, but I think we make a valiant effort, tackling the the viability of consumer technology, the on-going patent wars and the recent controversies surrounding 3D printed weapons.

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Oh, and as we approach episode 50, I’m asking listeners to let me know which RiYL episodes have been their favorite, thus far. Please send any feedback to riylcast@gmail.com
@1 week ago

Episode 046: Ben Lindbergh

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My knowledge of sabermetrics is elementary, at best. I know that it’s utterly transformed baseball analysis and helped get a lot of plush clubhouse jobs for an army of number crunching math geeks. I know that it involves a close examination of traditionally undervalued statistics like on-base percentage and foul balls. I know it’s caused writers and managers to rethink the amount of emphasis put on traditionally overvalued indicators like batting averages and strikeouts.

Like most the rest of the world, the majority of my knowledge on the subject begins and ends with Michael Lewis’s 2003 sports writing masterpiece, Moneyball. Since the book was released, sabermetrics’ influence on the sport has continued to grow, affecting both back room analysis and on-field play. It’s also helped to redefine baseball journalism, most prominently in the work of Baseball Prospectus.

The site has roots reaching back to the mid-90s, in the form of an annual still released each year ahead of the new season. Commonly regarded as a sort of spiritual successor to Bill James’s pioneering publication, Baseball Abstract, BP has maintained a cutting edge analysis of the games widely read by fans and management alike.

The site’s editor in chief Ben Lindbergh sat down with me the week prior to opening day in a Manhattan cafe blaring the hits of the 90s to discuss how a group of statistic geeks have transformed our national pastime.

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@3 weeks ago

Episode 044: Shlomo Lipetz

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I first encountered Shlomo Lipetz backstage at the City Winery. The 6’4 mustachioed gentleman is a tasked with booking acts the restaurant/venue, a job that lets him interact with the likes of Nick Lowe, Glenn Tilbrook and an impressive roster of well-known musicians who’ve played the intimate sit-down setting. It’s a job that only promises to grow more hectic with the recent openings of satellite venues in Chicago, California and Nashville.

A cool job by any measure, but it’s Lipetz’s afterwork passion that made me want to sit down with him in front of a pair of mics. A few times a year, he returns to his native Israel, where he dons a hat and glove to play the part of the country’s greatest native baseball player. “How many people can say they’re the best at anything?” I ask. Lipetz waves the question away modestly, pointing out that, in the country of eight million, fewer than 2,000 people actually play the sport.

The sport’s history in the country is just as anaemic. In 1986, when Lipetz first learned of the game by way of a Mets game on a trip to visit relatives in the States, the country had a single decent ball field, albeit one entirely lacking in a pitcher’s mound — an essential element for the position Lipetz would later adopt.

Returning to home after the visit to New York, Lipetz cobbled together a team using classmates who were, at best, vaguely familiar with the sport. The pitcher describes his early days with a certain fondness, games played in sweats with mismatched jerseys and adult softball mitts on repurposed soccer fields.

The early losses were, naturally, brutal, with the team scoring its first run in its second year of tournament play. By 18, however, Lipetz’s ball playing skills were strong enough to earn him a military deferment and to land him a gig playing the sport at a school in Southern California.

Lipetz and I sat down at City Winery during a Bob Mould soundcheck to discuss the state of the growing sport in his homeland.

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@1 month ago

Episode 042: Amber Papini and Nathan Michel

Hospitality lived up to their name, for the record, when I paid a visit to their Red Hook apartment. A day after the release of their second record, Trouble, things were decidedly low key in the apartment shared by vocalist  Amber Papini and percussionist Nathan Mitchel. When I arrived, there was no indication that the band had only just released a new record, only food on the stove and some quiet before the touring storm.

We exchanged some words about Glenn Gould and Keith Jarrett, both in-studio hummers, as I untangle a mess of cables. I off-handedly make a comment about a copy of Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung sitting nearby with a bookmark nestled halfway through. Mitchel answers that he’s attempting to get into the mind of a critic in the wake of the album’s release. “You’re not a critic, are you?” He asks. I’m not sure how to answer.

I enjoyed the conversation, though I did feel myself falling back on stock music journalist questions, from time to time, as Papini and Mitchel passed the mic back and forth. It wasn’t so much out of habit as a genuine interest in the goings-on of a band the week of their sophomore release. By outward appearances, things appear mostly the same in their lives, but the buzz generated by the release of the band’s self-titled debut in 2012 has certainly amped up expectations for the record’s followup.

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@1 month ago

Episode 040: Rodney Anonymous

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“It’s impossible for me to tell a story from Point A to Point B,” Rodney Anonymous explains off-handedly, toward the top of our interview. “I take a lot of detours.” You’ll figure that out soon enough, of course. The Dead Milkman’s mind and mouth move just about as quickly as you’d expect from the guy who wrote “Stuart.” Thirty years after forming the band, the frontman has yet to slow down, even in the face of the compressed disc he severely aggravated leaping off a stack of amps at a recent show.

His taste in music has also refused to stay still (off-handedly jabbing his bandmates for their love of Wilco), with an outright refusal to listening to anything old, save, perhaps for the occasional Clash song. No one’s made of stone, after all. With that in mind, I probably should have seen it coming when he suggested we mean at a spot just off of Philadelphia’s South Street called Digitalferret.

The store is, it seems, the city’s foremost goth and industrial music store. When I arrive at around 9 on a Saturday night, the back half of the store is monopolized by a crowded table just settling in to a round of Magic the Gathering. Several employees kindly ask if they can help me when it’s pretty clear I’m not there for the card game. I spot Rodney rifling through a row of records. The scene’s proven a major influence on his more recent work, like Burn Witch Burn and 25 Cromwell Street — an despite the fact that he openly admits he’s in the place frequently, there’s always more to be found.

The shopping can wait, however. We pick up and head off to a tea place just around the corner, to talk about losing a friend and bandmate, Ronald Reagan and the miserable final years of the Milkmen’s first incarnation.

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@2 months ago with 3 notes