CRAIG GREENBERG’S “DEATH ON THE LIBERTY LINE” EXCLUSIVE
According to Craig Greenberg…
“My song ‘Death On The Liberty Line’ was inspired in the aftermath of the Boston bombing attacks that took place during the marathon of 2013. I had the thought at the time that it was not the occasional–and inevitable–terror attacks that we will endure as a nation that could ever bring us down, but government overreach and the clamping down on liberties–e.g. The Patriot Act passage after September 11th–in response to them that could. I am more fearful of an internal fraying of our liberties than any externally threat to them.
“The video portrays a range of recent issues that threaten American liberties–from as far back as The Patriot Act, to the current Black Lives Matter movement–and shows these issues through the disbelieving witnessing eyes of a child growing up in New York City.
“I think given the moment in our country, in the height of a very contentious election season, that this song/video will be poignant to anyone engaged in our national discourse.
“This song is the second single off my album, The Grand Loss & Legacy.”
A Conversation with Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider
Mike Ragogna: Dee, We Are Twisted F***ing Sister?
Dee Snider: We most certainly are!
MR: [laughs] So how did you and documentarian Andrew Horn put this film together?
DS: Andrew was researching for a documentary called The Nomi Song that he did with Klaus Nomi, an artist out of Germany, and it turns out that Twisted Sister and Klaus Nomi had had a significant crossing of paths in the seventies. So he asked if he could interview Jay Jay [French] and myself and over the course of those interviews, he discovered the story of Twisted Sister, which he was completely unaware of. He was not a Twisted Sister fan per se, which made him the perfect candidate to do an objective documentary.
MR: You came onboard during the fifth or sixth generation of Twisted Sister, right?
DS: No, it wasn’t that many, it was… Yeah, okay. Jay Jay’s very happy to tell people about all of the original members of the band, to which I will often say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea: Why don’t you go out on tour with the original band and I’ll take the guys who made all the records and we’ll see who draws more people!” [laughs] He goes, “That’s not what I mean when I say that, you know I don’t mean that.” Yeah, of course.
MR: How tight have you guys been through all these years?
DS: Very. As you get older, you look back at the things that broke you up and you go “Really? Those were the issues?” The silliness in your twenties and thirties, things that you think are so important but by the time you get to your forties, fifties, and now even sixties, you look back and go, “Jesus, that was ridiculous!” But you get so caught up in the drama and the stupidity–and many bands have said the same thing. Now I look at the guys as my dysfunctional brothers; I love them all and we’re all a little strange, you know?
MR: Nice. What’s cool is the film shows that after all these years, you guys are still family. And your fans are an extended family. How do they get indoctrinated these days versus the early days?
DS: I honestly don’t. Jay Jay and some of the other guys are very big on it. He will literally take a fan to lunch; he loves Facebook and he loves the connection, especially with these original fans who were there through thick and thin. While I adore them and I appreciate them and as I talk about them in the documentary, what they meant to us at the time and wanting to make them proud, at the same time, I’m the looking forward guy. So I love the fact that these younger fans are getting turned on to the music. But to me, it’s my glorious past and I’m much more interested in the projects I’m working on now.
MR: Just a sidebar, in my opinion, Twisted Sister also released one of the most outrageous Christmas albums out there.
DS: That was a novelty thing. I was getting ready to wrap up the Twisted Sister reunion the first time I wanted to wrap it up–not for any reason other than a reunion’s not supposed to be a fart in a paper bag, it’s supposed to go away after a while. Jay Jay asked us, “What do you think about doing some traditional Christmas songs? A Twisted Christmas?” I said, “You know what? That could actually sell something!” A novelty record has some cachet to it. I always did think that we needed some rock-out Christmas songs to share in the holidays. It was a novelty idea that actually worked, and it kept the band going in its reunion phase for another six years.
MR: One of the fun stops for you guys was Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, and that was during your “We’re Not Gonna Take It” period. Twisted Sister went from being a hardworking band to an international phenomenon. How did that affect you personally?
DS: For me personally, it was this bizarre moment where I went from being an outcast to broadly accepted, even though to the moms and dads at that point I was still a poster child for what was wrong with rock ‘n’ roll. But it was a strange thing, to go from walking around with a chip on my shoulder, ready to get into a confrontation at any moment, to this realization that people like me, which was this uncomfortable place for me to be. And it’s continued to get worse as the decades have gone on, and now it’s ridiculous. If there are people who don’t like me, they’re too afraid to say something because I’m kind of big and scary up close. But for the most part, I walk around and everywhere I go everybody says, “Hey Dee! Hey Dee!” It’s like they love me. I actually asked Alice Cooper about it. I said, “What the hell happened?” and he said, “They got used to us, man.” “What do you mean they got used to us?” “You know, you hang around long enough and they just expect you to be there.” I said, “What do you mean, like Norm from Cheers? Walk in, ‘Hey Dee! Hey Alice!'” “Yeah, kind of like that.” It’s a very weird change when you go from being the guy that people cross the street to get away from to the guy people cross the street to say, “Hello” to.
MR: Then there was the MTV “Be Chrool To Your Scuel” fiasco. I remember that video featured Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, the late Clarence Clemons… What a party! What happened behind the scenes to get it banned?
DS: Yeah, the “Be Chrool To Your Scuel” video was a token gesture on the part of MTV to calm the PMRC and the raging parents groups at that time. Twisted Sister, after the hearings, became the poster child for everything wrong with rock ‘n’ roll when, in fact, we’re one of the least offensive of the bunch when you got past the crazy makeup and the screaming faces. But as far as the parents thought, we were evil. The kids were like, “Hey cool, I can still listen to Mötley Crüe? Awesome!” and MTV said, “You know what? This band’s on the way out anyway, we’ll throw a bone to the PMRC and say, ‘Hey look, we’re banning this video for being too gory'” when it was post-“Thriller.” It was ridiculous. I remember the quote from MTV being, “There is no edit you could possibly do that could make this video acceptable to us.” How is that even possible? You’re saying if we removed the entire video that still wouldn’t be accepted? A whole new video? Clearly, they didn’t want an edited video; they wanted to make an example.
MR: So Twisted Sister became MTV’s scapegoat, its sacrificial lamb.
DS: Absolutely. And the kids as well. It was great. Mom and dad were like, “You can’t listen to that Twisted Sister!” and the kids were like, “Okay! We were getting kind of tired of them anyway.”
MR: If I remember correctly, right around that time, metal exploded because of the reaction against mid-tempo rock. The big fuss about the heavier elements of rock became what metal emphasized anyway.
DS: They say for every force, there is an equal and opposing force. Look at the time. It was the Reagan era. Conservatism was running rampant. The witch-hunt of the PMRC was a bi-partisan effort. It wasn’t a right-wing thing. You had Al Gore, a conservative in liberal’s clothing, right there at the forefront of that thing. You’ll always discover that kind of reaction, and I think the Decade of Decadence, which is what they referred to the eighties as, is a direct reflection of the conservative mentality of the mainstream.
MR: Exactly, Dee. Do you think that you benefited from it, breaking sales records, etc.?
DS: Yeah! Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. It was their reaction and also the economic times as well. People had money at the time and the kids had money, so they were spending it. Record sales were going through the roof. Concert attendance, all that stuff. It was a good time for the record industry.
MR: When Andrew was working with you on the film, was there anything you discovered about Twisted Sister?
DS: That’s a good question. I don’t know if it was Andrew, quite honestly. I discovered it actually watching Behind The Music on VH1. That was a preliminary documentary on the band. In that–and reinforced in Andrew’s video–I was watching my state of mind change as we moved along, a growing anger and frustration on my part and on the band’s part from the rejection we were getting, not from the fans, but from the industry. There was a hostility building in me. As a songwriter, my songs started to change and take a different direction, so I arrived at “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” and “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll,” these broad, anthemic statements that connected with the audience. My motivation may have been different from theirs, but seeing any kind of doc on the band just shows how I went from being this sort of innocent rube–“This is great! I’m in a rock band and we’re going to be famous!–then cut to nearly a decade later, going, “What the f**k? Who do you gotta blow to get a f**king record deal?” So like I said, I saw it first on the VH1 Behind The Music show, but then the documentary just reinforced that from an objective standpoint.
MR: So Atlantic, I guess, liked the music, realized you were taking off, then became involved. What was the reaction of the band to the big time acknowledgment?
DS: The reaction was, “It’s about f**king time.” That was literally it. The joy had been beaten out of us and everything just became so matter of fact because we felt this was long overdue. In 1979–and I don’t know if this is covered in the documentary–Twisted Sister did a series of free outdoor shows on Long Island. The local music park had them. There was a different club band each week, and they would do anywhere between three hundred and five hundred people in attendance, and they decided to have Twisted Sister do one. This is not bulls**t, this is documented. Twenty-three thousand people showed up…twenty-three thousand in 1979 for an unsigned band and KISS was playing at the Garden that night to half a house. So I wonder how many would’ve been there if KISS wasn’t playing. We looked out over the sea of kids and went, “What the hell’s going on here?” We just failed at our first Palladium show, where we didn’t get the record deal. We said, “How is this even possible, to be this regionally popular and not have a record deal?” So by the time we got the deal, it was like, “Yeah, okay. Thanks. What took you so fricking long?”
MR: How did it affect your recordings?
DS: It wasn’t a negative thing, we were certainly practiced enough. We spent so much time in the studios on so many demos. I had written so many songs, we were really able to cull the strongest material. In fairness to the record labels, because I am an eminently fair person, in recent years, we have released some CDs called Club Daze 1 and 2, early demos and stuff. I wrote the songs and I listen to them and they were s**t. They were absolute s**t. I listen to them and I shake my head and go, “Oh my God, no wonder we didn’t get a deal. We sent these out?” Maybe a record company should’ve signed us based on our popularity. You said, “The record company liked the music,” No, they didn’t. Phil Carson, who is responsible for signing us to Atlantic Records, not Jason Flom, he getsa lot of credit. He was an A&R guy who wanted to, but the president of Atlantic in America threatened to fire him if he ever mentioned our name again. To his credit, he went to Phil Carson, the president of Atlantic Europe, and said, “Check this band out,” which Phil did, and he signed us. He saw us live and he signed us. I remember getting a call from him one day and he said, “I just got the demo for the first album…there are hits on this!” I said, “You didn’t know?” he said, “No!” I said, “You didn’t listen to our music?” He said, “No, I just looked at it and I saw the reaction that the audience had and I said, ‘Hey, this works,'” which really should be the ultimate, definitive judgment. Not, “Do you like it, record company executive in your tower?” It’s, “Does the kid on the street like it?” But he just signed it based on visceral reaction. “You guys were on stage, the kids were screaming their heads off, I think I can sell that.” And as it turned out, we had some hits.
MR: When you look at the field of rock right now, what do you think?
DS: I am not a pessimist about the rock scene, I am an optimist, and it’s pretty glorious in a sad way. When I decided to be a rock star, I wanted to be a rich, famous rock ‘n’ roll star. I wanted to be rich. Being a famous, rock ‘n’ roll star was a quick way to get there and I could sing and I liked rock. So I said, “Okay, this is my in. This is how I’m going to get rich and famous.” The kids today…I’ve gone to a lot of concerts and know a lot of bands because my kids like heavy music. They’ll say, “Dad, get me into this show, I want to go see this show, bring me down there,” So I get to see bands and meet bands, and they no longer have a hope of being rich, which makes their reasons for doing it that much more genuine and legitimate and heartfelt. The passion is there and the talent is there and the audience is passionate for it and I love what I see. Unfortunately, it won’t get the exposure that it should, and it won’t get the opportunity to be embraced by the masses the way that bands once had that opportunity, because the system isn’t there anymore. It’s a whole different thing. It’s very niche-driven and target-marketed. If it’s in your musical taste, you’ll know about certain bands, and they’ll pack ’em in in a small hall or club. But you’ll be hard-pressed to see any of these bands in an arena, and that’s kind of sad. It’s sad that they don’t have that hope anymore. But the love they have is there for all the right f**king reasons and I love them to death.
MR: Your band came up in an era where the paradigm was you got your deal from the record company and they put money behind whatever. But for these last couple of generations, record companies have fallen apart in the sense of not being able to do that as powerfully anymore. To the kids, self-promotion is the way to do it and it’s the only way they know.
DS: Oh yeah, man! I really analyze it. I have a podcast called Snider Comments where I did a whole thing on how to fix the record industry. The record companies themselves are an outmoded ideal. They’re dinosaurs. They don’t even have a place, they’re just desperately trying to hang on, when in reality there’s no place for them anymore–but that’s a whole other conversation. But I went to a show with my daughter, and I insist that my kids buy all the products. So my daughter brought her CDs–which are now ancient technology–to get signed. The guitar player from one of these bands, called Of Mice & Men said, “You bought this?” I’m standing there and she said, “Yeah, my dad wants me to buy all the music.” He says, “Wow, I don’t even buy music anymore, I just download it for free.” This was the guy in the band questioning a fan for having purchased his product. That reflects on the state of mind now; they don’t even think in terms of selling records anymore. It’s not an income stream to be considered.
MR: And yet young artists still are drawn to the creativity, the needing to do it regardless of money.
DS: Yes, they are! And they do it for all the right reasons and it’s passionate. I went at Gene Simmons for a thing he said in a magazine about rock ‘n’ roll being dead. I put an open letter on Facebook and it got a lot of coverage, of me saying, “You are wrong, sir.” He said, “There are no more Bob Dylans, there are no more Jimi Hendrixes,” I said, “You are wrong. They are there, they are out there, they’re just going unnoticed. It doesn’t mean that great music is not being created and for you to say that is such a discouraging thing. As an elder statesman, your responsibility should be to lift them up and encourage them and applaud them.”
MR: Dee, what advice do you have for new artists?
DS: The advice I have for new artists is you’ve got to do it because you love it, especially in the beginning, because a lot of times you’re the only audience you have. You’re not guaranteed an audience for your art, so you’ve got to do it because you have to do it. Because you want to do it, and because it pleases you to do it. If it goes further than that, and hopefully it does, if it finds an audience and people are exposed to it and love it and embrace it, that’s the icing on the cake, but first and foremost you’ve got to be doing it because you want to do it. Don’t forget that. The other bit of advice is a phrase that I have tattooed two place on my body, it’s Latin: ” Illegitimus non carborundum est,” which means “Never let the bastards grind you down.” Do not allow people to discourage you and talk you out of it and tell you you’re wrong. You’ve just got to believe in yourself and just keep on keeping on.
MR: Just like We Are Twisted F***ing Sister.
DS: That was a battle cry. JJ credits me with coming up with it. I said, “I’m pretty sure that was a fan.” They used to shout that. There was a band called Hot Tuna at that time that was nicknamed Hot F***ing Tuna. Some of the fans started chanting Twisted F***ing Sister and I was like, “Right, we are Twisted F***ing Sister!”
MR: After seeing the documentary on Twisted Sister, what did you come away with?
DS: I know the whole story, so it wasn’t like a revelation. But I came away proud; proud of our resiliency; proud of our strength; proud of our refusal to go quietly into the night. And appreciative, which I’ve always been, of the fans who lifted us up every day. We’d get a rejection letter by day and then, by night, be up in front of a thousand or two thousand screaming kids saying, “Keep going, keep going, keep going.” As I said in the movie, I hope we did them proud because they were so passionate and believed so strongly. I hope that they can look at the people that looked at them and shook their heads and said, “You’re out of your mind, this band is never going to go anywhere,” and they could say, “F**k you! I was right, you were wrong!”
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
WYLAND’S “UNTIL DEATH CONQUERS” EXCLUSIVE
According to Wyland…
“We’ve learned a lot over the past year, from performing at Mumford and Sons GOTR festival in Seaside Heights, NJ to touring across this beautiful country and into parts of Canada. We’ve had some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows, and we feel that ‘Until Death Conquers’ takes all of that experience and packs it into four minutes and twenty-six seconds. It’s probably the best representation of who we are as a band as well as individuals.”
THE CATCHING’S “LIGHTER” EXCLUSIVE
According to Holden Glazer, The Catching’s frontman and bassist…
“Lighter is about an addiction. Not a substance addiction, but an addiction to a negative force in life. Something or someone that you keep going back to even though you know they are bad for you. In this case, I wanted to tell a story using the push and pull attraction of a relationship that I was in. I was always giving, but never receiving and yet I still forgave and forgot and it only got worse. I know others that have gone through the same experience and I felt like sharing that through a delicate rock ballad. When we were working on the songs for the album, the band members and I discussed writing a song that is piano driven, something we had yet to produce. One night after a show, we were hanging in our band practice room and Jake and I sat down at the piano and the chord progression kind of just came out while Jake riffed on the higher keys. It fit so well. We felt like we had already heard the song before it was complete.”
For more info: http://thecatching.com
WAKEY WAKEY’S OVERREACTIVIST EXCLUSIVE
According to Michael Grubbs aka Wakey Wakey…
“One important aspect of this album was throwing form, or the necessity of form, out the window. I wanted the songs to be free of a classic verse-chorus-verse format and able to go where they needed to tell the story. My background and influences definitely dictated a natural structure, but overall I think this foundation of thought lends the songs a higher level of purity and focus.”
For More Info: http://wakeywakeymusic.com
Overreactivist Tour Dates:
Feb 19 – Magic Bag; Detroit, MI
Feb 20 – Q Bar; Glendale Heights, IL
Feb 21 – The HiFi; Indianapolis, IN
Feb 22 – Hard Rock Cafe; Pittsburgh, PA
Feb 24 – Jammin Java; Vienna, VA
Feb 25 – StageOne; Fairfield, CT
Feb 26 – Wonder Bar; Asbury Park, NJ
Mar 06 – Stereo; Glasgow, UK
Mar 07 – Gullivers; Manchester, UK
Mar 08 – The Louisiana; Bristol, UK
Mar 09 – Bush Hall; London, UK
Mar 10 – Het Depot; Leuven, Belgium
Mar 11 – Les Etoiles Theatre; Paris, France
Mar 13 – Paradiso; Amsterdam, Netherlands
Mar 15 – Pumpehuset; Copenhagen, Denmark
Mar 16 – Kagelbanan; Stockholm, Sweden
Mar 17 – Pustervik; Gothenburg, Sweden
Mar 18 – Konsert & Kongress; Linköping, Sweden
Mar 19 – Vulkan Arena; Oslo, Norway
Mar 21 – Knust; Hamburg, Germany
Mar 22 – Luxor; Cologne, Germany
Mar 23 – Strom; Munich, Germany
Mar 24 – Postbahnhof; Berlin, Germany
The album will be released on 2/26.
JADE WHITE’S SOMEONE TO CALL MY OWN EP EXCLUSIVE
According to Jade White…
“I’m so excited to release my debut EP. It’s a combination of both covers and original tracks produced by the duo, Korbee. It was such an honor to work with them. The focus track, ‘Someone to Call My Own,’ is a reflection of experiences that reveal my desire to connect with others in a deep way. I hope you guys like it!”
DORAN DANOFF’S “YOUNG LOVE” EXCLUSIVE
Doran Danoff is an up and coming singer-songwriter from Los Angeles with a new single “Young Love” care of the MuseBox.
According to Doran Danoff…
“The song is about innocence of love at any age. The fact that it’s called ‘Young Love’ doesn’t mean it’s about young people. It’s about the blind foolishness, helpless hopefulness, and wild abandon of any love. It’s about the loss of losing something that can never last forever, heartbreak, the inevitability of every love, no matter how magical, to eventually crush the totality of it’s greatness for everyone involved… there are some very real dimensions to the lyrics and the story of the ‘Young Love.’ But on ‘Young Love,’ I’m not taking myself too seriously. I kinda just want people to dance…or maybe make some babies to my cut.”
JAVIER COLON’S “GRAVITY” EXCLUSIVE
According to Javier Colon…
“I am so excited to be releasing the video for my new single, “Gravity,” directed by Gregory Poppen. ‘Gravity’ is a love song, but it also speaks to the difficulty of human relationships and being a human being in general. There seems to be an almost inescapable force that causes us all to screw up sometimes – gravity. No matter how hard we try, we will all make many errors in our lifetime. While some errors will be innocent and forgettable, others are unforgivable and could cost you everything. I think we all can relate to that feeling of messing up and asking for forgiveness, especially from those we love the most. When we were first talking about ideas for the video, I thought it would be an interesting twist if we could tell the story of a couple’s doomed relationship, but in reverse. In the video, we start with the break up and work backward to see the events that lead to their undoing. I play the part of the man in the relationship who makes some bad choices, loses the woman of his dreams, and has to relive his mistakes over and over again. ‘Gravity’ is my first project with Concord Bicycle Music Group, and was produced by my good friends, The Underdogs–Harvey Mason Jr and Damon Thomas–who I’ve been writing and making music with since 2002.”
A Conversation with Comedy Dynamics’ Brian Volk-Weiss
Mike Ragogna: Brian, your company, Comedy Dynamics, purchased the rights to the late comedian Sam Kinison’s broadcasts. First of all, what are your thoughts about Kinison?
Brian Volk-Weiss: I think he was in many ways ahead of his time. Before Sam, if I can call him that, comics largely stressed material and only material. What Sam did was blend great material with a larger than life personality. His jokes were first class, but his delivery was so different than what anyone else was doing or had ever done, he changed comedy forever. I want to make clear, though, that had his jokes not been A+, he would have been viewed as a buffoon and would not have blown up the way he did and become an icon.
MR: Can you share any particular memories about viewing his works?
BVW: Oh, absolutely. First time I saw him was in Back To School. He was, and in my opinion, IS, the best part of the movie. For months after I saw the movie, I was running around the house screaming–what I thought–were jokes. Drove my parents crazy. And then I started watching his specials…over and over again. He even did a tales from the crypt that I got a copy of on VHS and watched a billion times. But it all started with Back To School….well, he’s really committed…actually I think he was committed.” To this day, I still ask, “Were you listening to Beatles’ albums?” when I want to ask someone if they were avoiding a fight.
MR: In 2014, Comedy Dynamics was considered the top independent comedy distribution company in North America yet the entity’s not exactly on everyone’s radar yet. How did the company come together, what was its mission statement, and how has it grown over the years?
BVW: The mission statement, and our slogan, are the key to everything we’ve done since day one; “artist obsessed.” Everything we have done is based on working as hard as we can to get in business with the leaders of the comedy community at all levels, and make sure that the comics as well as the audience knows that they can trust our brand before they even hit “play.”
Comedy Dynamics came together because we were a production company that had a talent management division, and when I was a manager, 99.9% of my clients were comedians. So when we made content, it was always comedy. After a few years, we started to get into making comedy specials for non-clients, and when word got out that we were doing that–it used to be extremely unusual for a management company to be making things for non-clients–it started a really fun time for us because we went from making one or two specials a year to ten and twenty specials a year, and all with the greatest talent in the biz.
MR: What is a typical day for creatively and administratively?
BVW: I usually get in between 6:30 and 7am. I go through my weekly checklist, which is attached to my daily schedule, then I go through my inbox to make sure all emails that need to be returned are returned…then I start making calls to the East coast, mostly NY and sometimes Washington. Around 8am, I start watching any cuts that I need to watch, read contracts and/or scripts, etc.. Around 9am I start making my west coast calls, which is about 80% LA and 20% San Francisco.
I usually have a working lunch at 1pm, and throughout the day, I take meetings, am on conference calls, and go to buyer’s offices to pitch shows and/or have general meetings to find out what everybody is looking for. A typical day has a call or meeting roughly every 90 minutes or so, though it can be busier than that sometimes.
Two to three nights a week I go home before 8 so I can see my kids before they go to sleep. And the other nights, I am at dinners or at shows watching comedy.
MR: You also produce original material. What are some of your favorite projects under the Comedy Dynamics dome, both new content-wise and re-released projects?
BVW: There’s so many shows that we’ve worked on that it’s soooooo hard to pick even a few, but if I have to cherry pick…
Moshe Kasher’s special I have a lot of fond memories of. First of all, the outcome is amazing; he knocked it out of the park. But I also have great memories because it was one of the first specials that we shot on spec who was not a house hold name, and it was one of the first shows I ever sold to Netflix, so that makes it even extra special. It was a huge risk for us at the time, and whenever you take a huge risk and don’t get squashed like an ant, it makes the rewards all the more enjoyable.
Another project that will always have a place in my heart is Katt William’s special for HBO we did in 2014. I always tell people that the biggest mistake of my career was not making a documentary about the making of this special, and I mean it. Katt was Katt, a true artist mentality in every sense of the word, and Spike Lee, one of the two people who inspired my career in show biz–George Lucas was the other–directed it, and he was a trip too!
In terms of re-releases, I could not be more proud of our Bill Hicks box set. A ton of work went into it, and we found a lot of new material along the way that we were not expecting to find. And also getting to interact with his die hard fans is an incredible experience I never thought I would get to see.
MR: Looking at how comedy has evolved in the US over the years, in your opinion, what does its history look like to you and what do you think of it in 2016. Where do you think it’s heading?
BVW: I think comedy, from the POV of 1950 to 2016, has become more and more democratic every decade. Twenty-five years ago, if you wanted to be a big comedy star, Johnny Carson had to allow it. Almost every big comedy star in the ’80s and ’90s came about because he let them do 6 minutes on his show. Now, if you get discovered on Youtube, or Snapchat, or whatever, then the public will “elect you to office.” A lot of huge talent now are like that, democratically elected stars, like Kevin Hart for example. Going forward, 2017 and beyond, I think that there will be more and more opportunities to get discovered and have a very successful career. Some people say now that there’s a glut of comedy specials and comedy in general, but I think that’s an absurd POV. In the past, there were not enough comedy specials. Now enough are getting made that the best of the best will rise to the top, just like independent films do.
MR: Brian, who are some of your favorite comedians and what are some of your favorite comedies of all time?
BVW: Comedies…A Fish Called Wanda, Midnight Run, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Coming To America, Hot Shots, Rush Hour 2, Soapdish, and The Interview.
Comics…Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Hicks, Robin Williams, Bill Burr, Red Foxx, Wanda Sykes, and Bill Cosby. I know he’s turned out to be an absolutely horrible man, but if the questions is what it is, then he should be on the list.
MR: How do you see Comedy Dynamics evolving?
BVW: I think Comedy Dynamics needs to keep its artist driven culture at all costs, yet we must evolve in terms of making sure we never lose sight of the changes and trends that come every few years with the public’s taste and the comic’s ability to figure out those tastes and entertain them. I’ve seen many comedy companies think that they are the arbiter of taste, the gate keepers, and that’s how they miss out on huge stars. In terms of evolving, we need to be able to walk the line of keeping up with new trends, but be increasingly focused on the bigger acts that are the future of this company. Not being in the breaking talent business would be bad, and not working with the greatest minds of our time would be bad. We have to be working with both, simultaneously.
Also, we must constantly be keeping abreast of new technologies and platforms that the public likes to watch content on. This is an expensive thing to do, so it would be very tempting to slip up and not keep reinvesting. But that can’t happen. We have to always be where the public is.
MR: What would you like its eventual legacy to be?
BVW: I would like our legacy to be one that says that while we embraced the changes in new technology very early on and did a deep dive into all of the new platforms, we never lost sight of our main purpose for existence, which was to work with the greatest comedians of our time. I hope one day people will talk about us as a company that went all in the moment technology could let a non-billion dollar start up try to bring the all-time greats to the fans.
MR: What advice do you have for new comedians?
BVW: I always say the same thing, and this goes back to my management days: focus on yourself and nothing else. Don’t worry about anybody other than you. people will have success before you, and they will burn out before you, and you need to ignore both. Just go up and practice your set as much as you can. The second most important thing I tell comics is that they need to build their network. If you look at most successful comics today, they are part of a group of comics and they all help each other go up the ladder. Last, I always stress the importance of getting as much good will as possible from comics and industry people, and avoiding ill will as much as possible. Have as many people owe you favors as possible, and avoid drama like it’s toxic waste. Which it is.
MR: If there was any specific advice that you could give to any current comedian, what would it be and who is it?
BVW: I guess the only advice I’d like to share would be to advise Bill Burr to make as many specials, TV shows, and movies as possible…because I wanna watch em all! Oh, and I’d also advise Ralphie May to not go on social media when he’s in a bad mood!
MR: Did your level of your company’s success surprise you?
BVW: I’m not trying to be humble, but if I’m to be honest, I do not feel successful. And I’m not one of these people who will never feel successful. One day, hopefully, I will. But until we are the number one brand in comedy, and all of our risks have paid off, I will not, and currently do not, feel successful.
For more info: http://www.comedydynamics.com
The Box Set will be out on 4/29 but available on streaming services throughout March. The below is the tentative content
Sam Kinison: Breaking The Rules
Sam Kinison: Family Entertainment hour
Sam Kinison: Live In Vegas
Brother Sam: A Tribute To Sam Kinison
Sam Kinison: Bally’s Hotel
Sam Kinison: The Last Performance
Sam Kinison: Untitled Documentary
Louder Than Hell
Have You Seen Me Lately
Leader of The Banned
The Release dates for the specials on streaming platforms (Hulu, Roku, iOS & Android apps) are as follows:
Sam Kinison: Breaking The Rules 3/1
Sam Kinison: Family Entertainment hour 3/8
Sam Kinison: Live In Vegas 3/15
Brother Sam: A Tribute To Sam Kinison 3/22
Sam Kinison: Untitled Documentary (interviews, family footage) 3/22, Title TBD
JANITA’S “SHORT CUT” EXCLUSIVE
According to Janita…
“This has been a breakthrough album for me in many ways––there’s a common thread of joyful defiance running through it, in fact––and that in itself, is a breakthrough for me. ‘Short Cut’ is no exception thematically, and it was inspired by an urgency I was feeling at the time, about needing to accomplish this, and that, and the other thing, in order get where I felt I ‘need to be.’ Ironically, I think that through the process of writing, recording, and promoting this album, I’ve ended up exactly there: where I ‘need to be.’ Indeed, as the song says, there are no short cuts. By simply putting one foot in front of the other, the magic happens. Life happens. And now, for me there’s no rush to get anywhere–because, I’m already there.”
JULIE RHODES’ “HURRICANE” EXCLUSIVE
Julie Rhodes is a new Americana/soul voice out of Boston. Her debut album Bound To Meet The Devil features guest spots from Sara Watkins and Spooner Oldham and was recorded in New England and in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
According to Julie Rhodes…
“One thing I really loved about making Bound To Meet The Devil was that the songs started out about as bare-boned as you can get–completely wide open to interpretation. Hearing how the band interpreted the songs was pretty amazing to me. Many of them were developed right there on the spot with the tape rolling. ‘Hurricane’ started out as a modest fingerpicking lick I had been playing around with. By the end, it was this funky, soul banger.”
BROTHER MOSES’ “OLDER” EXCLUSIVE
According to guitarist/vocalist James Lockhart…
“Releasing this final version of ‘Older’ is really exciting for us, since it’s been a Brother Moses song for over two years now. I wrote most of it in my dorm room my freshman year of college. I definitely didn’t ‘come out of my shell’ that year, so a lot of the lyrics are informed by these introverted experiences I was having–camping a lot, spending time alone in a tiny room, walking around the freezing campus, stuff like that – and I was always thinking about how someday, I’d be older, and things would be easier to understand. My favorite parts of this song are the subtle changes made by our producer on this record, Raymond Richards. In the second verse, every time I finish a sentence in the lyrics, there’s a snare hit, like a period, which is just one of his ideas that I’m still giddy about. It was a little surreal hearing it on his studio monitors in LA, a thousand miles away from my old dorm room, and feeling like I was hearing it again for the first time. He’s a wizard. And also probably half bear.”