Tag Archives: interview

‘I Was an Everything Addict’: The Bizarre Transformation of Andrew Zimmern (via Success)

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Success — On the afternoon of Jan. 28, 1992, Andrew Zimmern walked into a coffee shop on Manhattan’s Lower West Side. He could have come from anywhere—from the building he’d been squatting in for most of the past year, from any of the subway stations where he lurked to lift purses and tourists’ jewelry, from any of the urban caves he went to dry out or come down.

What the then-30-year-old stepped into was a roomful of friends—“20 of my nearest and dearest,” he says now—who ushered him in, told him again how much they loved him, put a one-way ticket in his hand and sent him 1,200 miles west to Minnesota.

“It was not my first attempt at getting sober,” he says. “I was a terrible alcoholic. I was a heroin addict. I was an everything addict. And for a long time, my addiction dominated my life and devastated the people around me whom I loved the most.”

The full story over at Success.

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Idina Menzel on Radiohead, Joni Mitchell and That Song From the Movie (via IndyStar)

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Indy Star — I can’t back this up with statistics, but since the day they saw “Frozen” in 2013, I’m pretty sure my children have paid more attention to Idina Menzel’s voice than mine.

It’s a wise decision, obviously. Menzel, if you have kids, know any kids or have gone outdoors in the past two years, is the elegant, towering voice behind “Let It Go,” the “Frozen” anthem and one of those songs you probably can’t remember life before.

“I have to apologize, probably,” she says with a laugh. She sounds self-aware and sincere enough that I stammeringly assure Queen Elsa’s singing voice that this is not actually a problem. “Frozen” may have brought Menzel into your DVD cabinet, minivan radio and Christmas stockings — as well as something akin to rock-star status to her and the cast — but there are many worlds of music coming together in her one-woman show Aug. 23 in Indianapolis. The tour has hit many of your major continents; reviews have pretty much run the gamut from “Wonderful” to “Will you marry me?”

More with Queen Elsa at the Indianapolis Star.

 

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Blowing Stuff Up, For Science: My 11-Year-Old and I Interview Adam Savage of ‘MythBusters’

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Jamie Hyneman (left) and Adam Savage (right, airborne).

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Indy Star — Because an 11-year-old and 3-year-old live in it, our house generally has pretty strict rules about TV. But because we’re reasonable parents, we tend to waive those rules under appropriate circumstances, such as whenever the kids feel like watching two dudes in San Francisco blow up some garbage trucks.

If our TV is on, it’s highly plausible that it’s on to “MythBusters,” the Discovery Channel science phenomenon/fireball factory that stars Adam Savage and (’81 IU grad) Jamie Hyneman. There’s plenty to watch: Over the course of 14 seasons, the team has produced nearly 260 episodes, tackled 900-some experiments, crashed 7.6 million cars (that’s a guess, but I’m confident I’m close), created one massive orange water slide, dropped numerous vehicles out of the sky, strapped military-grade rockets to three mild-mannered cars, encased a fake Luke Skywalker in a simulated tauntaun, and sent an exploding water heater skyward for a full 15 seconds. Frankly I don’t know why every 11-year-old on the planet doesn’t watch this show, except maybe for all the RPGs. (Helicopter parents, am I right?) “Can we watch a boom one?” my 3-year-old asks when I grab the remote, bounding up and down on his socks. “I like the boom ones.”

So to preview the MythBusters’ live show in Indianapolis, Savage was good enough to field questions from my much more knowledgable 11-year-old associate.

Read the full interview at the Indy Star.

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‘I Tell People We’re Like the United Nations’: How Ben Jaffe Preserves Preservation Hall

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South Magazine — There aren’t many music rooms in the land more safeguarded, undiluted and pleasingly frozen in time than Preservation Hall in New Orleans, a low-lit and spookily evocative venue that’s about the size of your living room and way more sparsely decorated.

Since 1961, the room has hosted one primary tenant: the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, whose members have both lit up St. Peter Street and served as traveling evangelists of the New Orleans music for 50 years. But though the band has been guarding and perpetuating the sound of its birthplace for more than a half a century, last year they did something they’d never done before: drop an album of original material. That record, “That’s It!’, composed by the band and produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, earned the group fresh ears, got it playing with the Roots on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and properly kicked off the next 50 years of its history.

“That’s It!” was partly the brainchild of bassist/sousaphonist Ben Jaffe, who, as the hall’s creative director as well as the son of founders Allan and Sandy Jaffe, is charged with guarding and expanding the foundations laid by everyone from Jelly Roll Morton to King Oliver to Louis Armstrong. He talked to South about how to get that done.

Does your daughter have any notion what her dad does for a living?
Well she doesn’t know we make money doing it (laughs). But she understands that music is going on. She comes to the Hall to see us, and she wants to be around the music. She loves it; kids are such little blank hard drives.

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A Conversation With Jimmy Buffett (Time)

Jimmy Buffett press photo

Time.com — Jimmy Buffett adds to his considerable pirate treasure with constant touring: traveling carnivals-slash-beach-blanket blowouts of friendly grass-skirted hedonisms. His shows are as constant as the tides, the stars and — to be slightly less romantic about the whole thing — the receipts at the end of each. But why not? At 66, Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band are still good for nearly 30 songs a night, and no one’s better at suggesting escape and rum drinks are just a snap decision away.

Buffett talked from his Long Island, NY home about retirement, Michael Jordan, Willie Nelson and…surfing.

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Wait, you were really surfing this morning?

“Yeah, if there are waves, I’ll be out there. It’s crowded out here [at Montauk] but the conditions were right, so I was in the water at like 7:30. It’s a passion first — well, some would say it’s an affliction rather than a passion, but whatever it is, I’ve got it. I’m an old-fart surfer, but it keeps me in shape and it generates some interesting byproducts in the way of song lyrics.”

Read the full Q&A here.

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Ed Helms: How To Cure Three Hangovers (Men’s Health)

Photo / Emily Shur

Men’s Health — When Ed Helms talks about the “jelly center” of the characters he plays on TV and in movies, he’s referring to the goodness at their core. By all outward appearances, these are not fully formed men. Some are downright mean, the sorts of jerks you’d avoid in real life. On The Daily Show, Helms played, in his words, “a character who’s kind of a dick who also has my name. Then he was the volatile man-child Andy Bernard onThe Office, the spineless dentist Stu Price in the Hangover movies, and the overwound Pat in Jeff Who Lives at Home.

In Helms’s hands, these guys become something unexpected: relatable, authentic, jelly-centered human beings. Even cowards and assholes are human deep inside, and that’s enough to warm Ed Helms’s heart.

“I have so much empathy for these characters,” he says. “I’ve tossed a couple hand grenades in my life, and I’ve paid the price. So I sympathize with somebody who’s trying to be a better person but isn’t really good at it. There’s some of that in a lot of us.”

Read more in the June issue of  Men’s Health.

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Josh Ritter Has Recorded American Music’s Most Upbeat Divorce Record

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Island Packet — Some artists spend their whole careers deflecting explanations about what they’ve written, preferring to leave such details up to the adaptable whims of the listener or the perpetual appeal of mystery. In announcing his new record — the sterling, stop-reading-this-and-go-buy-it-already “The Beast In Its Tracks” — Josh Ritter dragged the explanation on stage and threw a spotlight on it.

“I wrote and recorded this record in the 18 months after my marriage had fallen apart,” he said in the album announcement/message to fans. “All heartbreak is awful — my broken heart wasn’t unique. But writing these songs was helping me get through the night, and I didn’t have the strength to care or question.” And thus was born what the media/Internet christened Josh Ritter’s Divorce Record.

But if you’ve been following Ritter’s career — if you haven’t, you should immediately seek out his 2002 debut “The Golden Age of Radio” and listen onward through 2007’s “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter” — you know that the Idaho-born singer is not one for self-immolation, or even allowing himself too much time on the dark side of town.

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Sean Haire: When The Devil Came Down To Georgia (South Magazine)

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The South Magazine— Sean Haire is a former professional wrestler/mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter who has also been a 17-time Toughman competition winner, boxer, personal trainer, strip club bouncer, bodyguard, trainer of other bodyguards, and three-time WCW World Tag Team Wrestling Champion. He still looks the part: At 41, he’s 6′5″, 280 pounds, and with the fire-and-spiderweb tattoos, it’s hard to miss him in a coffee shop that’s currently really into Jack Johnson music.Two or three times during our interview, Haire says something cool and outside the window, perfectly timed lightning shatters the sky. Some people have a flair for the dramatic. Which is one of the reasons he plans to make a great hair stylist..
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Kenny Chesney: He Works Hard So You Can Relax (Men’s Health)

Men’s Health — ONE OF KENNY CHESNEY’S BREEZIEST songs has the comforting title “Be As You Are.” It’s basically what would happen if you folded up the island of St. John and slipped it into a cassette deck—an acoustic carpe diem about finding an idyllic Caribbean harbor within yourself. This is a nice sentiment, and elements of Chesney’s life mirror the song. He spends an enviable amount of time in the tropics, and even when landlocked he seems to fully embody life in paradise. No man is an island? Tell that to Chesney.

On his epic summer tours, he creates a tiki-bar atmosphere on football fields in places like Indianapolis and Kansas City. He makes 50,000 people think they’re at a tin-roofed beachside canteen that seats nine. He preaches simplicity and oceanside afternoons in songs that hit a demographic sweet spot: folks young enough to feel free and old enough to reminisce about easier times. This recipe has made Chesney really, really popular.

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Interview: John Mellencamp’s new testament

Hilton Head Monthly — A few weeks ago, John Mellencamp wandered through a large and shiny mall in Indianapolis in a futile, climate-controlled and probably Cinnabon-smelling hunt for the record store.

This was, of course, a terrible idea, in part because you can imagine what happens when John Mellencamp wanders unannounced through a mall in Indianapolis, but also because he’d have had about as much luck finding a reliable VCR repairman or some MySpace gear; who knows the last time the mall had a record store. So he abandoned the search and did the only logical thing he could — went over to the Apple store. “The place was packed,” Mellencamp said. “Packed. People swarming in line, the way the record store was when we were kids.”

That was, needless to say, some time ago; these days when you accidentally stumble across a record store it feels weird, like an abandoned mining town or an undervisited museum. It looks passed over and it feels old-fashioned, but that makes sense, says Mellencamp, because so is rock ‘n’ roll.

“It’s done. It’s over. We killed it,” he says, pausing for effect between each little eulogy. “There’s nothing that’s going to revive it, or give us that extra little goose, like punk or grunge did. We ruined it. We outgrew it. So I’m kind of excited to see what’s next.”

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It’s worth noting here that Mellencamp, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, has crafted a pretty decent legacy in the very field he’s assigning a time of death to.

But, he says, that was a previous lifetime, one that no longer applies. “I made a record a long time ago — (what’s) the name of that record? — oh, the ‘Uh Huh’ record,” he says, before discussing the shocking volume of dollars and time involved in making a hit album in the ‘80s. The “ ‘Uh Huh’ record,” incidentally, is the one with “Pink Houses” and “Authority Song” and was a smash in pretty much all commonly accepted definitions of the word. But it’s now a pause, a title that takes a moment to grasp again, a stone in his pass-way.

If you’re familiar with the radio and/or his greatest hits, you might find Mellencamp’s songs harder now, colder and meaner. They’re no longer powered by his commercially recognizable brand of scrappy Midwestern bang and defiance, but by brittle acoustic guitars, starkness and empty space. And because they’re weightier, and because Mellencamp has been famous for 40 years, and because he is a self-described “old guy” who takes shots from his teenage son about carrying an AARP card — “Like by looking at him you wouldn’t be able to tell he’s old?” Mellencamp quotes his son, chuckling — he has to find audiences in new ways, ones that don’t involve retail or radio or appealing to teens in ‘60s-vintage ice-cream shops.

“When we were on tour last year, (Bob) Dylan said to me, ‘The first records I made, the first ten records, I didn’t think we would ever sell them — they were just a reason to go on tour.’ That’s what these are now. They’re calling cards,” Mellencamp said. “The number of people interested in buying these records — not just by me but by all of us — is dwindling.” Luckily, Mellencamp has an idea for what to do now that rock ‘n’ roll is dead: Return to what it was like before it was born.

• • •

The first thing to go was the big, nice home studio equipment. Mellencamp’s new disc, “No Better Than This,” was recorded in gruff, sandy-sounding mono. It was captured +with one ribbon mic from the ’40s on a 55-year-old Ampex tape recorder (Mellencamp had three on hand, in case one of them overheated, or broke down or blew up). And and his band — including longtime violinist Miriam Sturm, guitarist Andy York and bassist David Roe, who played with lateera Johnny Cash — played into that one mic, recording to that one tape.

“If you listen to what they call AAA radio today, it’s all the same sounds,” Mellencamp said. “It’s different guys singing. But it’s the same drum sound, the same guitar sound. The further we got away from original, the worse it got. Technology gentrified everybody.”

The second thing to go was Indiana. Mellencamp has recorded most of his records at his own Belmont Studio in southern Indiana, but after you knock out 20-some albums, it starts to feel like always going back to the same house. So Mellencamp — and T-Bone Burnett, the Grammy-winning and extremely tall producer behind the surprise hit “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack and the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration “Raising Sand” — decided to make “No Better” a metaphorically satisfying road trip through rock history. Parts of it were recorded in Room 414 at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, the space where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, he of the apocryphal devil-at-thecrossroads legend, laid down tracks like “Terraplane Blues” in the 1930s. Parts were recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis, where Sam Phillips captained sessions by Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis.

But the third location is the most unusual: Savannah’s First Baptist Church, across from Franklin Square. Not many Midwestern rockers had knocked on the church’s door with a 55-yearold tape recorder before, but Mellencamp said his hosts were not only receptive to his approach — “I have a wife that is very charming,” he demurred — but highly gracious hosts.

“They knew who I was,” he said. “But you could not find a more accommodating, kinder, helpful bunch of people. And it was as easy as walking through the doors to show up to pray.”

It was in First Baptist that Mellencamp, Burnett and York first got to work, birthing the rough skeletons of the record there in the pulpit. They would lay down more than a dozen songs a day, tracks like the rollicking, boom-chicka-boom title track and the father-son fight-club narrative “Easter Eve,” learning songs on the fly and going back for second takes only sporadically. “I’ve recorded albums fast,” Mellencamp said, “But I never recorded 13 or 14 songs in two days, particularly with musicians who had never heard the songs before.” Now and again they’d take breaks in Franklin Square, to get some fresh humid air and wander around the Spanish moss. “I don’t mean to insult anybody’s town,” Mellencamp said, “but Savannah is the most beautiful town in America.”

Most of the songs were then taken to Sun in Memphis, where the band fleshed them out with drums and bass. But a few tracks from the Savannah sessions do appear on the final record, including the gorgeous “Thinking About You,” a plaintive wisp of a love song to a girl gone for decades and the sly, John Prine-esque “Clumsy Ol’ World” that closes the record. But it was “No One Cares About Me,” a drifter’s lament in the beat-tothe-ground blues tradition that ended up shaping Mellencamp’s Savannah experience.

“I was singing (the song) — ‘I ain’t been baptized, I ain’t got no church, no friend in Jesus and what makes matters worse …’ — and one of the women said, ‘Have you been baptized?’ I said no. And she said, ‘Well, we’ll baptize you,’ and I said, ‘OK.’ ”

The ceremony, Mellencamp found, was serious. “These people actually took off work and had a small congregation that came to witness. I was like, ‘Guys, I’m 58 years old, I can dress myself.’ But there were two guys who helped me put on the robe, two guys to escort me to the pulpit — and the same with Elaine. It was fantastic. If you’re not baptized, go down there and do it. They do it in an old-fashioned, believable way — and there for about two or three hours, I felt enlightened.”

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Mellencamp spent the Fourth of July on Daufuskie — he has a house on Daufuskie, and one on Tybee Island — with his family, including his son, a boxer who’s on the cover of the record and who hates Daufuskie.

“He says, ‘Dad, I don’t want to go to Daufuskie. Daufuskie is a place for old people who don’t like people,’ ” Mellencamp says, chuckling. “I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why I like it!’ I was there last week, and I saw one car, and it was mine.” This is, of course, why people decamp to Daufuskie, and why it’s Mellencamp’s secret escape hatch; when he vanishes there his sta knows it’s not a time to call with problems. “Once you get on Daufuskie, you get on Daufuskie time. And time there is different than any time that I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “I talked to a gal on Daufuskie last week — of course, everybody talks to everybody because there are only 125 people on the damn island — and she told me she never leaves. She says, ‘I go to Hilton Head or Savannah once a month, maybe. But then I’m there 40 minutes and I come straight back.’ And I totally get it.”

Mellencamp sees Daufuskie like Walden or the outback or the island on “Lost.” “(You’re) not on somebody else’s time, not on the boss’ time, but on your time. You get up when you want, eat when you want, walk to the ocean when you want. A watch is of no use to you on Daufuskie. Only the sun matters. It’s gonna come up and it’s gonna go down. The rest of the time, it doesn’t matter what time it is. And to me, after being in the music business for 40 years, that’s such a relief.”

• • •

The road to “No Better Than This,” started in 2003 with “Trouble No More,” a set of blues and folk covers. The record marked Mellencamp’s first move away from his brash, cigarettekissed rocker persona into that of a somber, hard folk singer.

That continued through 2007’s “Freedom’s Road” — though his disavowed donation of first single “Our Country” to Chevy for all those commercials gave the record an inaccurate sense of jingoistic simplicity — and 2008’s “Life, Death, Love and Freedom,” whose especially brittle, cold nature seemed to signify a rebuke of its predecessor. What’s more, this summer Mellencamp released the sprawling box set “On The Rural Route 7609,” a four-disc collection populated not with iconic hits but often obscure, chronologically disordered outtakes and album cuts, along with acoustic demos, sketches and working versions of tracks like “Jack and Diane,” “Authority Song” and “Cherry Bomb.”

“T-Bone, in one of our early meetings, said, ‘John, you had the luxury or the misfortune of being a rock star. So we gotta get rid of that.’ And I said, ‘I agree. There’s no place for that anymore. I look foolish trying to be a rock star at 58 years old,’ ” Mellencamp said. “My contemporaries, who continue to chase what they once were, will never achieve that goal.

“And he said, ‘What kind of music are you gonna make from here on out? Because you know you’re gonna keep making records. You gonna try to re-create ‘Hurts So Good?’ We have to make a change. We have to figure out how to grow old gracefully.”


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