Wednesday, August 17, 2011
In March I interviewed Jeremiah Lockwood of The Sway Machinery on my friend's little flipcam. I had no idea what I was doing. I started to use iMovie, got frustrated and put it off. But it was a great interview and I really wanted to make something of the footage.
So with the help of Michael Fortes (of Parlor to Parlor) and the motivation of helping to promote the Sway Machinery's next Bay Area show at the Beatbox on August 28th with Brass Menažeri , I got it done. This is going to be a great, energetic show.
In this interview Jeremiah talks about his experience traveling to Mali in Africa to perform at the Festival in the Desert and recording and performing with Malian singer Khaira Arby.
I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I think I might try this more.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
A conversation with Wesley Taylor of the American Conservatory Theater’s “Tales of the City: A New Musical" by Armistead Maupin
I have had the good fortune of having gone to school with some fabulously talented people. Many of these people have fabulously talented friends. And it was with pure glee that I emailed former classmate Lauren Molina whom I have written about here and here when I saw her friend and Rock of Ages co-star Wesley Taylor appear on the stage of A.C.T. a couple weeks ago.
Starring in Armistead Maupin’s staged production of Tales of the City: A New Musical" at the American Conservatory Theater has changed Wesley. He is 24 and has been out of college for three years. During that time he has worked continuously on Broadway, landing central roles in a handful of enormously successful shows including Rock of Ages and The Addams Family alongside Nathan Lane. He has also become known through his satire YouTube series Billy Green.
But it wasn’t until being cast as a Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, a young hopeless romantic gay man in San Francisco during the early 70s, that Wesley really began to feel a greater responsibility than to just the art of theater itself. Not only does he feel a connection to an older generation of men who have come to love and identify with Mouse, but also responsibility to the next generations that continue to struggle for gay rights.
Below is part of an interview I conducted with Wes yesterday about three weeks into the run. We talk about the magic of San Francisco (even today), the responsibility of playing Mouse, where the show might go from here, Armistead Maupin, Jake Shears, the process of being part of a new production, marriage equality, mustaches and on-stage nudity.
To see a shorter version of the interview, click on the examiner.com article here. I am also hoping to eventually post an audio file of the interview, so check back.
Tales of the City is now running through July 24th. Buy tickets here.
Jamie: First things first, so I see that the ‘stache is real. You could walk down Mission Street and no one would know the difference.
Wes: I went to New York for twenty-four hours last weekend which was crazy, and for the first time I was a little embarrassed about the mustache and was noticing people looking at me funny. It’s interesting because San Francisco is so embracing of every kind of oddball. Like that’s what this city kind of stands for, it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter what you wear. And that’s why there’s so much personality in this city. It’s really a sanctuary of people who are different. Which is really special, it makes this city so magical.
And yeah, my friends at home keep making fun of my mustache in all the pictures. But I love it. For the last three years I’ve been playing eighteen-year-old characters and I’ve been shaving my face every single day and it sort of sucks. So I’m really jazzed about the fact that I can do something different.
JF: Yeah, you look normal to me, but I live in the Mission.
WT: Exactly! When we first started the rehearsals, (director) Jason Moore wanted us to grow facial hair. And I didn’t know if Mouse should have a mustache. Marcus D'amico in the miniseries didn’t have one and I wanted him to stay twinkie and innocent. Sometimes when I grow facial hair I have the tendency to look sinister or edgy.
But Armistead said, “Mouse has a mustache. I had a mustache in the 70s, Mouse has a mustache.” And it was at that moment that I realized Mouse was Armistead. And I actually didn’t know that before. I had read the books and watched the miniseries, but it just hadn’t dawned on me that he was telling his story mostly through Michael. It was pretty surreal when I figured that out, and it was very intimidating.
I was also really intimidated when I first got the part because I didn’t know what a huge deal थे books were। But when I started telling people that I got it, every middle-aged gay man in New York freaked out. It really scared the hell out of me that so many people identified with this character. But what made me feel really comfortable was that Armistead had the final say on the casting. He gave us his blessing. JF: I love how involved he's been in making this production; I mean how often does that happen? WT: It doesn’t। I mean on the first day of rehearsal, he said that this is one of the happiest days of his life. He was so excited and such a part of it. But, still kept his distance respectfully to the writer Jeff Witty who made Armistead’s books into a musical. He couldn’t have been better to me through this whole process.
JF: Did he offer up any other words of wisdom that you can share?
WT: He told me once that there’s something about Mouse that’s hard for some people to get: which is this quirk that he is both light and dark. He said that I was really embodying that. And because as an actor you can really get neurotic about getting into a character, it was really comforting to hear from its creator that you’re on the right track.
JF: You’ve said before that playing reserved characters, like the one you played in The Addams Family, is more difficult for you than playing really crazy characters, like Franz in Rock of Ages. What was it like to play Mouse then, who is definitely on the more reserved side?
WT: The thing I love about Michael is that he’s a little of everything. He’s very much like who I am, which can sometimes be the hardest thing to play on stage because it’s the most exposing. You can feel naked and horrified because at the end of the day it’s about telling the truth. And telling the truth can be the hardest thing in the world.
But yeah, Michael is a lot like me: we’re both from Orlando, Florida, we both have conservative parents, I grew up very religious in the Baptist world just like him, it took us both a while to come out to our parents, we’re both hopeless romantics and we both like our vices.
JF: My brother, who’s straight, said he got really emotional during Michael’s coming out scene. It’s a really amazing number.
WT: I like how simple and subtle that scene is. I kept wanting to make it more dramatic, but the director kept telling me to stop and just read the letter. Just love your mother. I was also playing the scene kind of defensive, you know, ACCEPT ME GODDAMIT! And he kept saying, no, you love your mother. You feel for her and you get it. It’s more, Thank you for making me who I am, which is more heartbreaking because it’s killing them with kindness. I feel like that song is a gift and the character has been a gift. I’ve been so lucky to stumble across it.
JF: And I’d imagine people have been reacting very strongly to your performance?
WT: Yeah, it feels really great. I’ve never been in that position before. I mean Franz was super gay but I’ve never been in the position of having gay men telling me how I’ve helped and affected them. That’s been very special to me and it means a lot. And I didn’t care about that stuff before. I don’t want to say I was selfish, but I was really focused on being an actor on my own terms. I wasn’t really interested in being a role model or helping other people’s lives. I was just interested in doing good art, but the older I get I realize what’s the point of that ?
Like when I first moved to New York my agents told me that it’s probably better off that you don’t come out for television and film. But I think that’s changing dramatically; you know with people like Neil Patrick Harris, I mean things are changing in a great way.
JF: That couldn’t have even been that long ago, what 3, 4 years?
WT: Yeah, I got out of school three years ago. But they did say that they would be completely open to it if I wanted to.
JF: But they were just recommending…
WT: Yeah, and they’re all gay too. It’s just one of those hard decisions to make as an actor, deciding weather or not you want to sacrifice the possibility of putting you into a box as a gay guy. But I think it’s getting easier to be a gay man and being able to do it all. But I started to realize that if I wasn’t going to get cast in something because I’m gay, I don’t want to be part of that project. You start growing up and you start seeing these things. And now I’m trying to be as active as I can in the gay agenda. I mean we are so close in New York to getting marriage equality right now. This is such a big deal! It’s made me really passionate, it has to get done! So yeah, it’s affected me. I love how it’s affected other people. I love that it’s made a difference, I think this piece is really special in that way. Even though it’s dated, it takes place in the 70s, but we’re still dealing with the same issues.
JF: It’s from the 70s, but I think the San Francisco in this show is still here. Have you felt that?
WT: Yeah, you can feel it. And everywhere you go in this city is research for the show! All of these locations are all over the books and the lyrics. Even the street names, it’s everywhere. I love working on a show and being in the world of the show while you’re working on it. I’ve never had that experience before.
JF: Everyone is talking about if they’ll be able to take this show out of San Francisco and on the road. What do you think?
WT: Because of all the inside jokes? I think that the show has the heart and I think it’s good enough to be able to transfer anywhere and work. Sure, you might have to tweak some of the lines and jokes. I actually think it would go over really well in London it would be super successful. The books are huge; Armistead is very popular over there. And the Scissor Sisters are everything in the UK! They’re way more known there than they are here. The demographic in London is right up our alley. But we won’t know what’s going to happen for a while. I mean, we got extended here until July, and it might even get extended until August. We just don’t know and as an actor is a little scary. Do you look for more work? Can you rely on the show?
JF: It’s like dating two people at once, and geez! Everyone should have these problems!
WT: It’s exactly like that! It’s awful! And yet exhilarating and great.
JF: What was it like working with Jake Shears (Jason Sellards)?
WT: He sort of became my big brother while he was here. We got along really well. We partied like rockstars, The Scissor Sisters don’t fuck around! They had a concert here and the whole cast went, it was really fun. He’s never written a musical before, but he’s such a natural at it. And he was so not precious about anything. He was cutting songs left and right. He probably wrote over fifty songs for the show and there are only nineteen or twenty in it. There are so many great songs that got the chopping blog. There was a song that Mona and I sing together called “Who’s your Mama?”, and after one week of previews, it wasn’t working for them, so he wrote another one called “Everything Gets Better” in twenty-four hours and put it in. I mean, that’s previews. It’s pretty stressful.
JF: They should make a B-sides album.
WT: Yeah, like bonus tracks. There was another song called “Show Me How to Love You” and it was so gorgeous. My verse was my favorite thing that I got to sing in the show, and they cut it! People need to hear this stuff!
JF: So this was all in two months? You guys learned double the amount of material?
WT: When we started previews, the show was something like four hours long. I mean it’s three hours right now, which is also too long for a musical comedy. But they’ve taken a lot out and changed even more.
I remember the first time Mary and I sang our new song for an audience, we were shaking because there were people sitting there hearing a song you had only sung three times. It’s terrifying. I think putting up a new musical is one of the most terrifying things you could ever do.
JF: Earlier you mentioned that playing the role of Mouse is “revealing” makes you feel “naked”. You like getting naked don’t you?
WT: As soon as they made us sign that nudity clause…
JF: There was a nudity clause?
WT: There was a nudity clause that all of the men signed. There was supposed to be a lot more nudity in the show. But, I mean, obviously you have to show flesh in the show, it’s Tales of the City, it’s a big component of the show. But Jason didn’t want it to look like an excuse to please to the gay community.
JF: So all we get it is your butt.
WT: Yup, that’s it. I’ve never gotten to even take off my shirt in a show, I love it. As soon as I signed that clause I stopped eating fried food and starting hitting the gym every day and doing five hundred sit-ups. It’s a fun challenge to be working on something outside of the show, whether it is growing out a mustache or going to the gym more! It’s a cool experience to have to change something about your appearance for a show, it really makes you feel like you’re earning your paycheck.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Last Friday I got to interview Liam and John of The Family Crest in my living room. They are opening for Megan Slankard at the Bottom of the Hill in a week (March 5) and Hear it Local has two tickets to give away for the show.
To enter to win in this contest, leave a comment on the Hear it Local SF facebook page or post this link on your own wall and make sure to "@Hear it Local SF" so we know you did it.
In the interview I ask Liam and John about how they have harnessed the power of their community fan base to raise money and include them in their music making.
My cat Ella makes an appearance; she's black, we're wearing black. It's pretty funny, all you see are EYES.
Monday, April 5, 2010
One of my favorite things about Davies Symphony Hall is the variety of performers that grace its stage: like ukulele musicians and big band orchestras. But it’s a special treat when the Symphony itself invites someone extra special to be its guest.
This week, Wednesday to Saturday, The San Francisco Symphony slips something a little different between Poulenc and Gounod classics: selections from a new musical called Whisper House, composed by so-called “one hit wonder” and Grammy winning Duncan Sheik with a book written by New York City’s “hipster playwright" Kyle Jarrow.
Don’t be too surprised: Duncan Sheik went onto receiving a 2007 Tony for his masterpiece Spring Awakening and Kyle Jarrow won a prestigious 2004 Obie Award at the age of 24 for A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant. The two were introduced by a mutual friend and dove right into writing the musical Whisper House. The musical has just come off a successful six week World Premier run at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.
Last week I was able to chat with Kyle over email and ask him some questions about working with Duncan and his experience with Whisper House...
TO READ MORE, CLICK HERE
Saturday, March 13, 2010
E-chat with Sam Strelkoff, San Francisco native member of Naval Academy Men's Glee Club: performance at Grace Cathedral in SF
I really enjoy conducting interviews with folks who might not do many interviews, or folks that are off the beaten path of popular music (and by that I mean ANYTHING that is popular, classical or rock related). I also really like doing interviews where the music has some higher purpose or a greater context.
This interview with Bay Area native Sam Strelkoff, member of the Naval Academy Men's Glee Club, is the second interview I've done with someone who is in the world of the military (read my interview with Marine Band Staff Sergent and friend clarinetist Harry Ong) and I find the perspectives of these individuals very inspiring.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE INTERVIEW
Sunday, January 31, 2010
I present to you one of my absolute favorite bands of San Francisco: My First Earthquake. I especially wanted to give them props because they donated all of the profits from their downloaded album in the month of January to the Haitian earthquake relief efforts. They will continue taking donations until this Friday February 5th. On Wednesday February 3rd My First Earthquake will be playing a FREE gig (if you RSVP) at Cafe de Nord as an official Noise Pop warm-up party and the 5th Anniversary of The Owl Magazine!
I sent over some random and silly questions just to see what Rebecca, Chad, Andre, and Dave would say, they did not disappoint.Jamie: So what's your problem with hipsters anyway?
My First Earthquake: We haven't got a problem with them. They got a problem with us? What? Do they wanna fight us? We can take them.
J: How do you feel about the genre term I just coined called "dork rock'? Maybe "geek rock" is better?
MFE: I assume that you're referring to "dork rock" as being the type of music that hipsters listen to and not the music of My First Earthquake. Quite fitting.
J: If you could only wear one item of clothing on stage, what would it be?
Andre: Chain mail. No, wait... Mithril chain mail!!
Rebecca: The shiniest sequins.
Chad: My hyena eating a squid shirt.
David: Snakeskin boots.
TO READ THE REST OF MY INTERVIEW WITH MY FIRST EARTHQUAKE CLICK HERE
Monday, December 28, 2009
For Battlestar Galactica fans: Edward Olmos interviews Bear McCreary, Brendan McCreary and Raya Yarbrough
For those that care, I am planning on interviewing Bear again as he's got several projects in the works.
Click here to see my interview with Bear McCreary, Battlestar Galactica composer.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
If you’ve been following my blog for a few months, you know that I like to keep up with what my friends and former classmates are up to musically. It’s been interesting for me personally to watch Harry experience this unique job that is more than a “regular” symphony or band gig (my hat goes off to all them as well). Most of his six years with the Marine Band were spent under the Bush Administration and I think for any Democrat or liberal this mere fact would induce an internal struggle (it certainly would for me). I asked Harry about this many times, and he was always very realistic about his role in the Marine Band and the joy that having such a special patriotic job as a professional musician brings him. I wanted to share his experience with you.
Established by and Act of Congress in 1798, the Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. Its primary mission is unique – to provide music for the President of the United States. Harry plays at funerals in Arlington cemetery, marches almost every summer night for the tourists, for VIP’s and dignitaries at the White House and inauguration.
Every fall the Band tours a different part of the lower 48 states and this year they passed through the Bay Area. I did a quick interview with him over drinks after a show at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. These are some of the intelligent (and not so intelligent) questions I had for him.
Jamie: Does Obama have you working more than Bush? (Clinton loved the Marine Band and used them all the time, Bush not so much)
Harry: Well it’s hard to tell because it still early on. It takes about a year for a new administration to find out what they musically want from the Band. I’ve played for events that Obama was at.
J: You played at Inauguration, right?
H: When you saw musicians under the ledge where Obama was standing, that was us. We’ve been very close to him. I looked up and it was present Obama. I looked up, and he was right there with Aretha Franklin with the hat! It was great. I played at the Press Correspondent dinner too. We played before the dinner. We do a patriotic opener, a bunch of marches, we help out with the colors ceremony and then we play the Armed Forces Medley that you heard tonight.
J: That was really moving.
H: Yeah. It’s really great to see all these veterans with their families standing up. We had a concert in central Oregon where we had about ten World War II veterans: a couple of which were at Iwo Jima. It’s really cool to have a role where we get to represent the Marine Corps, America and great Americans like them. You sometimes forget when you watch the news that members of our Armed Forces are people too with families. It’s really interesting to get that perspective.
The Marine Band is the longest continually active musical organization in the country. We’ve always been part of the Marine Corps. All the musicians you saw tonight with the exception of the director are all in the marines. We have a non-combatant role; our mission is to provide music for the President and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It’s a very different experience than Fleet Marine Bands. We all represent the Marine Corps and our country in the best way that we can and we’re all the best at what we do. I competed against fifty other musicians to get one spot. Some other musicians have 100 plus people to compete for one spot. We have a group of fleet marines who graduated in the top five percent of their infantry class and are assigned to our Band to help us out. They are excellent at what they do and we really appreciate them. Each [component of the U.S. military: Army, Navy, Marines] has a premiere band and we are very fortunate have our own stage crew. In some of other bands, the musicians have to be their own stage crew.
J: How did the Band get the name “The President’s Own”?
H: Thomas Jefferson coined the term “The President’s Own.” And that’s stuck ever since. We first performed at the White House in 1801 and then we played at every inauguration since Thomas Jefferson.
J: I notice that there were very few women in the concert tonight. The harpists are usually women and they weren’t playing tonight.
H: The ratio of men to women is 60/40. We only have one harpist and she just had a baby.
J: What’s up with the skirts? (They are long, dark blue and not too stylish.)
H: Well our uniforms are very traditional uniforms from the 1800s.
J: What it’s like to be the face of the military abroad and within the United States?
H: We had a group of musicians that went to Singapore last year to help the Armed Forces Band celebrate their 50th anniversary. In the summer of 2001 the Band performed for the World’s Symphonic Band Conference, it’s sort of like the world cup for bands. When we went there we had such a reputation. It’s an amazing responsibility and it is such a pleasure. I wasn’t there, I was still in college, but I heard we did four encores and the audience wanted more.
J: How do you deal with the political side of being in the Marine Band?
H: When we’re on the job we have to leave our personal beliefs at the door no matter what. We are here to serve for the President regardless of who it is. Personally I have to separate my own personal feelings and what I have to do as a job. Inauguration was a very special thing for me, but I still had a job to do.
If you want to read more about Harry and his background (especially interesting is his take on being born in Indonesia and his relationship to the United States military), check out this interview with him in the Seattle Pi.
To learn more about the United States Marine Band
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Hello everyone! Last week I got to do an interview with the band Pomplamoose. They are sweet genuine people and I learned so much from them. I posted an interview in three parts on examiner.com. Check it out.
I wanted to stress that if you are a musician or have friends that are struggling musicians, tell them to read this interview (at least the first two parts). Nataly and Jack of Pomplamoose are supporting themselves on their mp3 sales! Of course they are also talented and charming, but they've made the internet really work for them. They're doing so well they're even looking for a personal assistant to help them with day-to-day administrative tasks.
If you are in the Bay Area next weekend, Pomplamoose will be playing a show at the Brainwash Cafe on Friday November 13th.
Read the interview
And now, a special 'hello' to all of you at alwaysmoretohear.com
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I had the pleasure of meeting Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte of Pomplamoose last night in San Rafael and yes, they are as adorable in person as they are in their videos. I brought a camera to prove to you all that I had indeed met them, but totally forgot about it until I got in the car. So they made me this little video for us (like a radio station does where famous people say who they are and thanks for listening) and sent it over.
The interview will go up next week to help promote the second EVER Pomplamoose live show: (San Francisco at the Brainwash Cafe on November 13th!) But I couldn't wait to share this video with you all. Wanted to do it now.
Happy Birthday Nataly!!!
Monday, April 6, 2009
Check out one of my new favorite artists Dent May and his Magnificent Ukulele on the awesome daytrotter.com. Find sound clips, recorded live for Daytrotter. Also check out my earlier pre-SxSW blog post on Dent.
Mini-interview: I got the chance to say 'hi' to Dent after his showcase at Antone's at SxSW a couple weeks ago in Austin. He's a cute little guy with oversized glasses. I told him I really love his album (it's great driving music) and asked if he had ever been to grad school, since a few of his songs like, Academic Conference, are just too perfect. This is a bit of our conversation paraphrased:
He said, "No, but in undergrad we went to lots of conferences."
"What was was your major? " I asked.
"Southern studies, we would usually geek out to Faulkner."
I guess if your Southern, William Faulkner is a major source of pride and joy. Geeks are awesome. Sometimes I miss being in academia.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
I am happy to report that I have been accepted to be a music writer for examiner.com and that I will be GETTING PAID in CASH MONEY (through paypal) for my writing. This blog will not die, I promise, I mean where else am I going to share Muppet videos at 5 AM in the morning???
I will be linking everything I write for examiner.com to this blog, so you don't have to do anything different, just click away. Please note that I get paid by the amount of traffic I get. And no, refreshing 100 times a day will not make a difference. Once a day, or whatever you do, is fabulous.
My first story is an interview with Bear McCreary, Battlestar Gallactica's composer. I lucked out with having friends in such awesome places. I'm really happy with my first journalist interview (which is pretty different than ethnographic ones) and thank you very much to my brother and those of you fabulous people that edited it before I uploaded it.
Here is a sneak peak at the upcoming documentary.
Good things are starting to happen here at alwaysmoretohear (including free press passes! Why didn't I think of that years ago??!!!) so please keep checking back. There will always be more to hear and I will keep sharing the good tunes with you.
p.s. oh, and I get to see Bruce Springsteen with my dad and brother tonight. How much better can today get?