Episode 18: Justin Fornal (Baron Ambrosia) pt. 1

Justin Fornal is someone you should know. He is a filmmaker, actor, writer and his alter ego, Baron Ambrosia, is one of the most energetic and unique characters to emerge from the culinary world.  This episode is the first of a two part discussion with a mind that you might want to familiarize yourself with.

[audio  https://whatbringsustogether.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/baron-ambrosha-part-1.mp3%5D

Minisode Two: Is it me? It’s definitely me.

To quote Larry David, “Sometimes you don’t need to do a stop and chat.” I can totally understand that. At the same time, there are people that you would definitely do one with. People you’ve been close to or known for years. Certainly people that you’ve only had positive experiences with.  I had a bizarre run in with somebody that I know on the subway. I decided to do a Minisode about it. Hope that you like it.

 

[audio  https://whatbringsustogether.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/minisode-2-what-is-wrong-with-me_.mp3%5D

The Doors

After hearing about the passing of Ray Manzarek, I started to get a little introspective. The Doors were an important part of my musical upbringing that I don’t often talk about. They were the first band of real substance that I fell into heavily. Before that I was listening to Kiss and a lot of other 80’s hair metal stuff because of what was being played on MTV when MTV was still a channel that played music videos.

In 1991 my parents too me to see Oliver Stone’s movie, “The Doors”, in the theater. What followed was 1-2 years of being completely obsessed with them. Odd for an 11-12 year old boy in the early 90’s? Maybe. I’d heard some of their music throughout my entire life. It didnt resonate with me until I saw the film. Shortly after that, I read Danny Sugarman’s “No One Here Gets Out Alive” which really blew everything open. I bought all of their records and read about them as much as I could. As many people initially listening to the Doors, I was fascinated with Jim Morrison’s persona. What’s not to be fascinated with? Sex, Drugs, arrests, and Wiccan Weddings. It was fascinating to me. I bought his books of poetry and for the first time in my life started to appreciate that medium, and for that I am eternally grateful. Think what you will of what history has made of Jim Morrison, but he was a very interesting deep thinker. Unfortunately over time and with people’s fascination (mine too) with celebrity and excess, people tend to look past that inside that alcohol soaked brain was an artist.

That same year (maybe a few months later) I got to meet John Densmore. He was giving a talk at the Learning Annex in NYC and my stepfather (who has had more to do with my musical upbringing and appreciation than anyone else on earth) too me to see him speak. My stepdad isnt much of a Doors fan. He always gotten behind anything I did, especially musical things. Even if that meant dragging him to see Kiss when I was 8. This was different. A little bit more his speed. Densmore was promoting his new memoir, “Riders on the Storm”. An interesting look at a first hand perspective by someone who lived it. He spoke for a while and then he did a signing. When it was my turn, I was awestruck. He asked me my name and he misheard it as Bryan. He started signing and then I corrected him. He said “Ryan? Oh shit. I’m sorry man” and crossed it out and resigned. I was freaking the fuck out! It was a great moment that I will never forget.

As I got older and moved on to different types of music, I never let the Doors get too far away. It wasnt until my late teens and early 20’s when I started playing more music semi-professionally that I realized how groundbreaking their music actually was. There is no other band that sounds anything like the Doors. There are plenty of incredible bands from the 60’s who have influenced thousands of others, and often you can hear it. How many bands can you think of that sound alarmingly like the Beatles? The Stones? The Dead? Shitloads. How many bands can you think of that sound anything like the Doors? Not fucking many, if any. Everyone always says the Cult, but the Cult sounds nothing like the Doors. Ray Manzarek had a whole lot to do with that. Just think about the instrumentation of the Doors for a moment. Vocals, drums, guitar and a keyboard player who played melodies with his right hand and bass guitar lines with his left. I was always fascinated with watching Ray Manzarek play. He always looked like he was steering the musical ship, probably because he was. He was an innovator, and am integral part of one of the greatest and most important bands that rock and roll has ever produced. When I started playing in bands with keyboard players, he was the benchmark that few people could hit. Like Morrison, he too was extraordinarily expressive. I always loved watching interviews with him, because it always felt like he was living in the moment and had a lot to say about it. He is a person I have and had a tremendous amount of respect for.

Last night I got home and I saw that Ray Manzarek was dead. Today I am sad, but extraordinarily thankful for his influence on my life. Musically and otherwise. Thank you, Ray. You will be missed.

Episode 17: The Crooked Road

Traveling on the Crooked Road is an incredible American experience. Most people outside of the communities within it dont know what it is. For 300 miles in western Virginia, there is a stretch of road that is littered with music venues, luthiers and thousands of people who are dedicated to the preservation of Appalachian music. Bluegrass is one type of music that doesnt need to evolve. It needs to be preserved. Traveling on the Crooked Road is an incredible American experience. If you are a fan of bluegrass music you absolutely must travel the Crooked Road. This is a discussion with my friend Sara who introduced me to it.

[audio  https://whatbringsustogether.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/crooked-road-_01.mp3%5D

Episode 16: Mawwidge

The origin for today’s episode stems back from a few weeks ago when I asked my friends Jody and Mike (both WBUT veterans) to come and see the Meat Puppets with me. They had casually met a few times before. Mike was a few weeks away from getting married and Jody has been married three times. The conversation they had was amazing. I asked them if we could try and get them to talk about it for the podcast, and here it is.

[audio  https://whatbringsustogether.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/mawwige-_01.mp3%5D

Episode 15: J.J. McCabe

Our guest today is J.J. McCabe. J.J. is one of the kindest and most fascinating people I have ever met. He has lived an extraordinary life. He was JFK jr.’s guitar teacher, member of a pretty popular band, smuggler, inmate, successful hair colorist, and that was all before he was 30. This is definitely one of the more interesting conversations that I have ever had. I hope you enjoy it.

[audio  https://whatbringsustogether.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/wbut-ep-15-jj-mccabe_01.mp3%5D

Across the Night: When I realized that Silverchair went from a shitty 90’s teen band, to a force to be reckoned with.

When I was a teenager and I first heard the Australian band Silverchair, I hated them. I hated their music. I thought that Daniel Johns (their lead singer) was a pretty boy asshole. I probably harbored so much resentment because he was frighteningly good looking, and a lady…well, at that time a girl that I was really into was all sorts of moist for him. I’ve never claimed to not have my own variety of issues, so fuck you. It wasn’t until somewhere around 2005, 10 years after my heart was broken by the aforementioned now lady, that my mind was blown and my opinion on them changed drastically.

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a bit of a music nerd. I love geeking out about music. I’ve spent a lot of time from the age of six to present day listening, playing and reading about music. At some point in ’05, a friend of mine was talking to me about the Beach Boys and orchestral arrangements. I fucking love the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson in a hard way. I also really like Van Dyke Parks, who was the man who wrote the arrangements for their now infamous “Smile” album, as well as a variety of other things (Randy Newman, Rufus Wainwright, etc). As we were in the midst of this discussion, my friend had asked me if I’d heard the latest Silverchair album. I told him that I had not heard anything they had done since their 15 minutes of fame came and went in the 90’s and that I would rather listen to elk making passionate love to each other than listen to Silverchair. He laughed and then made me sit down and listen to “Across the Night”, the first song on their record “Diorama”. There are moments in our lives that we remember clearly for various reasons, and this is one that I can remember like it was yesterday. I didn’t want to like it. I tried not to like it. I wanted it to be like the fluffy non-talent dribble that I remembered their first album sounding like. I was happily disappointed.

In my opinion, “Across the Night” is the strongest song I’ve ever heard from them. Their are a few others on that record and some I’ve heard since then that were also very good, but that song was different. The melodies throughout the song are great. All of the arrangements are absolutely incredible. To my surprise, the song was arranged by Van Dyke Parks AND Daniel Johns. I can still put this song on and feel the same way I did when I first heard it. Surprised and impressed.

Years ago I used to teach an introductory music theory class and I would play a “Can You Guess This Artist” game with the students when we came back from our break. This one always astounded them.  No one ever could figure it out. Once they got past the shock, they loved it. I hope that you feel the same way.