INTERVIEW: Tim Ries [of the Rolling Stones]

Pulling off a good cover song is nothing short of an art. Artists have been notoriously picky about who can properly cover their material, their reactions ranging from outright praise (Morrissey would often bring Smiths-covering soundalike bands on tour with him) to blatant character assassination (Prince wasn't fond of Alicia Keys' covering a B-side of his and was especially not too fond of the Foo Fighters' take on "Darling Nikki", even if he wound up covering a Foo song at the Super Bowl over a decade later).

Yet receiving the original artists' blessing is a wonderful thing. It's even more wonderful when you're able to get the original artists to actually play on the track, and all the more impressive when you're also considered one of the finest jazz musicians working today.

Tim Ries is the Rolling Stones' long-standing touring saxophonist, having traveled the world with them while also carving out a hell of a niche as a top-notch arranger as well. In 2005, he released The Rolling Stones Project -- an album of Stones covers done in a remarkable jazz context. So successful that album was, Ries would spend the better part of two-years working on its epic, double-disc follow up. Now, Stones World is finally here, and it's a world-beat affected joyride through the Stones' back catalog, Ries' interpretations coming off as both drastically different and ultimately respectful at the same time. It's a sprawling album (and yes, the Glimmer Twins themselves stop by to assist on occasion), and Ries was more than happy to sit down with Evcat to talk about his inclusions of French rappers, his multi-year journey towards this project's completion, and, of course, getting the reaction of the Stones themselves ...


>> Listening to Stones World is a remarkably different listening experience from the first Rolling Stones Project album; at first, I thought that the jazz interpretations on the first one made sense, given how many Stones' classics are based in blues dynamics. With World, however, there is a much stronger emphasis on integrating international flavor into the proceedings -- what were the challenges that you faced in interpreting these rock numbers into fado songs and the like?

The challenging part was finding the right song for each singer, the right key and then of course the actual arrangement. I really wanted to retain the melody but to alter the songs with the many different grooves, harmonies, time signatures, and even language. Once I spoke with each artist and we agreed on the song I began working on the arrangement. Often, there were only a few hours to come up with the idea as many of the recording sessions happened within a 24-hour period from the time we arrived in a particular city. Timing was everything, and a good bit of luck.

>> Of all the songs on this disc, I keep coming back to "Hey Negrita" as the most drastic reworking, even though structurally it's quite close to the original. You have African vocalists, a full band, Jagger on harmonica -- coordinating this must be a far cry from the tight group you formed for Universal Spirits. Given the African base of which you based this one, what were the criteria you had for assigning which world style to which song?

Yes, it was so not like any other jazz recording that I had ever done, whether it was mine or as a sideman. Usually, one would write the music, maybe have one rehearsal and then record 8 to 10 songs with a quintet in one or two days and then you mix it and put it out. This was a two-year process with 72 musicians and I loved every minute of it. Well, most every minute. In the case of "Hey Negrita", I had met these wonderful musicians in LA and sat in with them. As I was listening to their music I was thinking of which song from the Stones catalogue would be the most similar to that vibe. I met a number of people who went to Niger to visit the tribe and one such visitor was a filmmaker named Adrian Velicescu. He put together some truly inspiring documentary footage. I was captivated by the music and the desert and really wanted to find the song that most suited Tidawt. I went back to the hotel and listed to a few songs and Hey Negrita seemed like the perfect fit. I sent them the English lyrics, was then translated into French and then to Tamasheq, their language.

>> Most surprising on this disc was the inclusion of rapper FE on "Salt of the Earth", which -- now replete with harps and the like -- is something closer to an empowerment ballad. What inspired the use of multiple female vocalists on this interpretation?

This song, the arrangement, and the choice of many female vocalists in multiple tongues, as well as the rapper FE, was the culmination of the entire project for me. While traveling the world with the Stones I was so fortunate to meet and record with all of these great artists. African, Brazilian, Indian, Middle-Eastern, South American, Flamenco and fado, are a few of the many styles of music that have inspired me for more than 20 years. Most of the songs on this CD are either in one or two languages. I really wanted to have an arrangement that utilized as many of these places and sounds on one track. You are right when you mention an empowerment ballad. It seemed fitting to have all females. The world has been run, and poorly I might add, by men for far too long and it is time to pass the torch to the earth mothers. There were such positive vibes in the studio that day.

>> Upon the release of this new disc, you're playing a short series of shows celebrating its release -- what can we look forward in the live interpretations that will be different from the studio incarnations?

The CD release gig in NYC at the Jazz Standard, October 28th-30th, will have many people on stage and will sound very similar to the recording. In fact, all the vocalists from Salt of The Earth will be on hand. Some of the concerts will be with a smaller unit: at Yoshi’s in Oakland, Vibrato in LA, Martyrs in Chicago, The Firefly in Ann Arbor and Chris’s in Philadelphia. All the gigs will have great musicians like: Larry Goldings, Bernard Fowler, Darryl Jones, Michael Davis, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Ana Moura and many others. All the live gigs will have different bands, except for Bernard, who will be on most of them. We open things up on the gigs and the players can stretch on the solos.

>> Most critically, what did the Stones themselves think of Stones World?

I think, or should I say, hope, they are cool with it. They seemed to have a good time when they recorded. Charlie played on quite a few tracks, Keith on two and Mick and Ronnie on one. It’s my second disc of their music and I hope that I did justice to their music.

>> You've played on releases from huge pop acts all over the world -- what keeps you coming back to playing with the Stones/covering their songs again and again?

I had such a great time with The Rolling Stones Project recording and there are so many Stones songs that it really wasn’t an arm twister. We have played nearly 50 concerts with the Stones Project Band around the world and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I love dissecting music and reworking the arrangements. More than anything, it’s the thrill of performing and recording with some of the greatest musicians in the world with some of the greatest songs ever written.

>> Finally, so far in your career, what's been your biggest regret, and -- conversely -- what's been your proudest accomplishment?

My biggest regret was not having recorded with my father who played the trumpet. His sound was absolutely gorgeous and could make you cry. I think that’s why I have no problem asking so many people and recording so much music. I don’t want to miss any opportunities to record with my favorite players. My proudest accomplishment isn’t a musical one, but my three daughters are at the top of the list. Besides that, I am elated that I can actually compose and arrange music, play the saxophone and piano and teach and make a living while doing it. Otherwise, I might have to work for a living.


Visit Tim Ries' website.


FEATURE: Comic Book Tattoo: Ming Doyle

Comic Book Tattoo week here at Globecat concludes today with up-and-coming illustrator Ming Doyle, who illustrated book editor Rantz Hoseley's story for "The Waitress" off Under the Pink. (If you missed it, be sure to check out Rantz's interview here, as well as our interviews with Kelly Sue DeConnick and Tom Williams!) Thanks again to Ming for her time, and to all of the fantastic writers and artists Davecat got the chance to talk to for this feature: all of us here at Globecat appreciate it more than we can say.


>>>> How did you become a part of Comic Book Tattoo?

I've been working a bit in both freelance illustration and comics since graduating from art school last year, and Image has been especially kind in terms of extending opportunities to me to work with talented writers on all manner of short anthology pieces. I think it was through my work on PopGun Volume 2, the "mix-tape" anthology, that CBT's editor Rantz Hoseley noticed me. He offered me the chance to illustrate a story of his based on "The Waitress" from Under the Pink that was so unlike anything I'd read before, I had to give it a try.

>>>>Had you been a Tori Amos fan before the project started? If so, what is your favorite album and why?

I've been a casual fan of Tori Amos since middle school, and a sometimes fervent fan since listening to all of Boys for Pele on repeat about a thousand times during studio in art school. There's not a song on that album that isn't obsessively catchy or compellingly layered, and it has harpsichords. I find I really dig the occasional harpsichord.

>>>> What was it like to work with Rantz Hoseley on creating "The Waitress"? At this point in your career, have you done much collaboration with other artists or writers?

So far I've done nothing but collaborate with writers in my published work, and Rantz was particularly helpful and involved. When you consider how many tiny details, grand ideas and unique visions he had to wrangle into one book, it's a wonder the whole thing came together at all, let alone so beautifully. When I was having trouble with some of my layouts, Rantz even took the time to sketch some thumbnails for me. That's an extraordinary level of commitment, in my opinion.

>>>> Was it daunting at all, as a young illustrator, working next to some of the top names in comic books on this anthology (not to mention Tori Amos)? What's it like knowing that countless music and comic book fans will be seeing your art in print around the world?

Absolutely daunting, yes. Without question. But also thrilling! Some of the other creators are friends of mine, while far more are admired strangers or welcome surprises. I'm quite honored to be counted among their number, which on a project like CBT is practically legion.

I can barely comprehend that people may be reading the story Rantz and I labored over for so long even as I type this. It's mind-blowing to me that all that art is finally off my poor beleaguered hard drive and out in the physical world now, on bookshelves and bedroom floors who knows where. That's really something. But something more than that, at least to me, was the experience of walking into Newbury Comics today and seeing the anthology front and center, in pride of place amidst the new releases. My name's just one of many on the back pages, but that doesn't diminish my sense of accomplishment in the least. This book is a clear example of strength in numbers.

>>>> What was the biggest challenge in converting music to illustration? How difficult was it to make your art fit with not only Rantz's story, but the song that inspired it?

Rantz's story is basically a great crashing wave of frustration and stunted malice, so it's quite close to the spirit of the song. Stylistically, I think my gritty, grungy, fairly atmospheric take was tonally appropriate. The greatest challenge was including as many of the details in Rantz's script as I could in the art, since he came up with something really fantastically ambitious. I hope that even a fraction of the depth and intent he imbued in his words shows in my finished work.

>>>> Along the same lines, "The Waitress" contains one of the most memorable lines in the entirety of Under the Pink: "But I believe in peace, bitch / I believe in peace." How were you able to deal with the dichotomies of the song -- anger and humor, wanting violence while still believing in peace -- in your artwork?

Oh, well Rantz handled that line really nicely. He gave it its own page and emphasized its place as the moral of the story, and after all the trauma, callousness and heartache that the characters in the "The Waitress" inflict upon each other, that's only fitting.

If there's any humor in "The Waitress," I think it can only be the wryest kind. There's such an overflow of love lost between the characters in the comic, and that makes for a neat contrast to the restrained, disdainful malevolence of the song. In both cases, the excess of intense emotion seems to consume the narrator to the point that her commuted intent or mere sentiment is almost as harmful and destructive as immediate, violent action.

In my art, I tried to keep in mind that this was a really personal story focusing on two women, but more than that focusing on one woman's perception of the best and worst thing to tear through her life thus far. As her story arc begins, the lines are somewhat free and open. As it progresses, they close in on themselves and grow a bit more choked with ink. It's all very dire, as it should be.

>>>> Now that you've had this experience, are there any other songs (Tori's or otherwise) that you'd enjoy illustrating?

In terms of Tori, "Mr. Zebra" and "In the Springtime of His Voodoo" both speak to me, and they say very strange and interesting things indeed. Casting my net a bit further, I'd love to illustrate a rock opera based on the lives and personae of Frank Black in all his permutations, with Tom Waits popping in for a cameo or two.

That could keep me busy for a while.


FEATURE: Comic Book Tattoo: Tom Williams

Comic Book Tattoo week is going strong here at Globecat! Our third artist is none other than Tom Williams, who contributed the story and illustrations for "Northern Lad," one of Davecat's all-time favorite Tori Amos songs. (If you missed parts one and two -- book editor Rantz Hoseley and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick -- be sure and check them out as well!) Thanks for taking the time for us, Tom: we truly appreciate it.


>>>> Had you been a Tori Amos fan before the project started? If so, what's your favorite album and why?

I've seen her twice in concert so yeah, I'd say I'm a fan. She stopped hitting Columbus after that. I'd say probably a tie between Little Earthquakes and From a Choirgirl Hotel. Boys from Pele and Scarlet's Walk a close second. It seemed to all hit at the right time for me. I couldn't pop it on around friends. The first couple of albums seemed to be littered with everyone's breakup song. The real experience is hearing her play live. You have to hear her live.

>>>> How did you become a part of Comic Book Tattoo?

I was a casual poster on the Engine board and Panel & Pixel. Rantz shot me an email and I immediately said yes. God bless the internets.

>>>> What made you choose to write and illustrate the story for "Northern Lad"? What is it about the song that made you pick that one over any other?

It's a song that I catch myself humming every so often. It's so haunting and simple in it's melody. I dug up the lyrics online and the story appeared to me right there. It almost seemed obvious.

>>>> If you would, tell us a little bit
about the story to "Northern Lad".

I don't really want to spoil it for anyone because it's pretty short. It's about the details of the song but not. Initially I wanted to work it as a silent strip but kept going back to some wording here and there.

>>>> What was the biggest challenge in converting music to illustration? Have you had any experience with combining different artforms in that way before (other than text and visual art, of course)?

There is some head scratching. There were some songs that were off limits, some that I thought would be snapped up, etc. That and you have a huge catalog of songs to pick from. Like most things I find in my work, the first idea is usually the best one. You're conceptualizing all the time. Pulling in from different influences.

>>>> How difficult was it to match the tone of the drawings to the tone of the words in the song, and subsequently, the story you wrote to match it?

The story came pretty instantaneously. The concept (of the story) plays with the details of the song but not a verbatum interpretation of the song. Sort of like doing a music video or imagining it playing in the background like a soundtrack. It's like jazz.

>>>> Do you normally do both the writing and the illustrating yourself for a project, or do you work in conjunction with others? Which do you prefer working with, words or inks?

I've done both. I've collaborated with writers in the past in every current format of comic: graphic novel, the 'floppy', and on the web. I like combining the two. I've been doing so long that they're inseparable. Sometimes I'll have an idea for a series of paintings. It's easier, sometimes, working with a writer. Most of the writers I work with I personally know in some way. It's rare to get that pairing that meshes well together. The most rewarding for me is the fight to the finish line. Working on the story and finishing it. It gets so intense toward the end that half the time I abandon them. Maybe come back to it later.

>>>> How has your opinion of Tori Amos changed since working on this project?

Not at all. It's been great.

>>>> Now that you've had this experience, are there any more songs (Tori's or otherwise) that you'd enjoy illustrating/writing a story about?

There are a couple that she only does live. "Sugar" would have been a good one. I'd love to do something from Cursive, White Stripes, Man Man, Tom Waits, and or PJ Harvey. Those are the ones that jump out at me right now.


FEATURE: Comic Book Tattoo: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Part two in Globecat's Comic Book Tattoo feature is the lovely and talented Kelly Sue DeConnick!

Most well-known for co-authoring 30 Days of Night, DeConnick teamed up with artist/Image Comics art director Laurenn McCubbin (of Rent Girl fame) to tackle Tori's first big breakthrough single, "Silent All These Years," off of Little Earthquakes. As Rantz mentioned in part one, their approach is surprising, original, and nothing short of fantastic. We are honored to have gotten the chance to talk with such a true talent. Thanks, Kelly Sue!

>>>>How did you become a part of Comic Book Tattoo? Had you been a Tori Amos fan before the project started?

Oh my yes, I was a Tori fan before I was approached for the project. In fact -- and you’d have to check this with Rantz -- I believe that may have been a large part of why I was approached. Rantz and I knew each other from... gosh, I think it goes back to Warren Ellis’ old Delphi posting board? Somewhere around 2000, maybe? Anyway, it was definitely something we’d previously discussed.

>>>>What made you choose "Silent All These Years"? What is it about the song that made you pick that song over any other?

I didn’t labor over the decision, I knew what song I wanted to do. My biggest fear was that it would be taken before I could stake my claim.

I’m having difficulty addressing the “Why this song?” question without sounding cliche. “The song speaks to me.” “I feel like it was written just for me.” They’re frightful interview answers but there they are at the essence of the thing nonetheless. "Silent All These Years" is chock full of angry images, desperate and despairing tones, and yet that delicate tinkle of piano keys and the gut rush of “it’s been here,” sweep in and turn it into something triumphant, even celebratory. I love that. I can not hear this song as anything but a paean, a balm, a kiss on the forehead, a squeeze of the hand, an assurance that no matter how thunderous the shitstorm of my life is at the moment, as long as I can still find my way to that quiet place inside myself where I can hear my best self, my own voice, as long as I can do that, then I can identify the Next Right Thing. And if I can just do the Next Right Thing, I can usually find my way back to okay.

>>>>"Silent All These Years" may be Tori Amos's single most well-known song, having practically launched her career in the United States. How did that affect your approach to the story? Was there anything you knew you didn't (or did) want to do with it from the outset?

I absolutely could not think about the significance of the song or I’d never have been able to write a word. Hell, I couldn’t even let myself think about the possibility of Tori reading it. Eep.

I knew from the outset that I didn’t want to do anything about a break up and nothing too literal. That would have been heavy-handed and wouldn’t have served the song.

>>>>"Silent All These Years" makes all sorts of leaps lyrically and tonally, moving back and forth between the deeply personal, the darkly humorous, the surreal, the metaphoric, etc., and yet it all comes together into a very moving song. How hard was it to match the story and the artwork to the tone and mood of a song that varies as much as this one does?

It really wasn’t that difficult, honestly. It came to me whole cloth and changed very little in execution. The original idea was a teenaged girl sitting in class drawing on her jeans. She draws a bridge and we follow her into the drawing, off the bridge and under water where she becomes a mermaid, opens a clam shell and finds herself inside. Clamshell Girl whispers to Mermaid Girl, “Yes.” The only regret I really have about the piece is shying away from using “Yes.” I ought not to have changed that. Oofah. Oh, well. Bit late now.

>>>>Please talk a little bit about the collaborative process between yourself, Laurenn McCubbin, editor Rantz Hoseley, and Tori Amos on this project. How much (if any) influence did Rantz and Tori on the direction the story took? What was it like working with Laurenn on this?

Rantz was amazing -- he was both the most hands-on and hands-off editor with whom I’ve ever worked, though I realize that sounds impossible. He checked in with us at every step in the process, but did so without issuing orders. He made suggestions and asked questions, but acted as a doula and traffic manager more than critic. He also managed to make us feel like the only people in the book even though he was dealing with at least 49 other creators. Mind-boggling, truly.

Laurenn is a friend and we’d long wanted to work together, so it was dreamy. My favorite piece of hers is called HARVEST GYPSY. It ran on artbomb.net years ago. I knew I didn’t want her to work in panels after seeing that.

>>>>What was the hardest part of taking a song and making a comic book story out of it? Have you had any experience working with taking other forms of art and turing them into comics?

Mike Doughty told me he would go to the MOMA with his notebook and jot down a sentence inspired by each piece. I loved that as an exercise and, I don’t know, a shot of creative Red Bull. I’ve made a practice of it ever since and some of those sentences have gone on to be starting points for pieces completely unrelated to the artwork that inspired them. I think that’s probably as close as I’ve come to this process before now.

At the San Diego Comic Con, on the Comic Book Tattoo panel, Tori Amos mentioned that the comics inspired by her songs have, in turn, inspired new songs. That took my breath away.

>>>>Now that you've had this experience, are there any other songs (Tori's or otherwise) that you'd enjoy writing a comic book story about?

I now desperately want someone to do a Johnny Cash anthology. And I’m not going to tell you what song for fear that someone else will get to it first!


FEATURE: Comic Book Tattoo: Rantz Hoseley

When Davecat first found out about Comic Book Tattoo, the Tori Amos-inspired story collection written and illustrated by over eighty of the best and brightest working in comics today, underneath the elation and jumping and clapping there was a tinge of something else. Like being watched, almost.

Do you ever have the feeling that someone you don't even know has made something especially with you in mind?

Davecat likes comic books. Davecat likes Tori Amos (okay, Davecat loves Tori Amos). But Davecat likes a lot of things separately that haven't panned out when combined, like acting and Quentin Tarantino, or bicycles and jousting. Video games are pretty good, but when combined with movies they wind up being not so very good (looking at you, Silent Hill).

However, none of those things, even jousting, are as near and dear to his heart as art, writing, and music. But all three? Together? What if something went wrong? The more you love something, the more of a potential there is that changing it, or adding to it, or combining them all into one big smoothie, could make it all go terribly wrong.

Of course, as soon as he picked the book up, he realized all the worrying was for nothing. Especially (and this is where you come in) since he talked to several of the artists and writers of Comic Book Tattoo beforehand and interviewed them for Globecat's first big feature! There's nothing like good discussions with the smart, talented people behind a project to wash away any doubts about it, and Davecat talked with a lot of them for this feature.

Over the next week or two, Globecat will be sharing these interviews with you, starting today with the man who put it all together, Comic Book Tattoo's editor, Rantz Hoseley. A long-time friend of Tori's, Rantz also wrote two of the stories in the book, based on the songs "The Waitress" and "Mr. Zebra," and was instrumental in helping us put together many of the interviews with the other artists and writers, for which we are extremely grateful.

It is our great honor to present to you: Rantz Hoseley! And please check back over the next few days for the rest of the feature, featuring the lovely and talented:
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick
  • Ming Doyle
  • Tom William

>>>> In the press release for the anthology, you say that "Comic Book Tattoo is the pure distillation of how these two art forms [music and comics] inspire and feed off of each other across all the classifications, genres and styles of comic storytelling." The phrase "pure distillation" definitely stands out for me as the key: What about the collection and the way it came together makes it transcend just "art about music" or "comics inspired by songs" and become something so refined as to be a distillation of arts?

I think a large part of it comes with Tori’s and my ‘mission statement’ for the book... that the book reflect how one form of art inspires and fuels another, and that this not just be a case of ‘videos in comic book form’. Tori’s been inspired by comics for years... the most obvious reference being Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, but she’s certainly had music and songs that were sparked and inspired by more comics than just that one. The thing with the arts, if they are well done, is that the inspirations aren’t always apparent on the surface when someone takes it in. Movies and film can inspire music, which might inspire a work of prose, which in turn might inspire a series of paintings, which in turn might inspire a graphic designer, and so on. In that same way, we wanted the creators who contributed to Comic Book Tattoo, to really get to the emotional essence of the songs, to use the themes, the tones, the cadence and pacing, to be that inspirational springboard to fuel their creation, rather than being hung up in the whole notion of worrying about whether or not ‘this is what Tori meant with the song’. To Tori and I it was more important to show how one form of art can inspire different types of reactions in creators and how those inspirations become something wild and wonderful when you get so many creators who all have their distinctive styles and artistic ‘voices’. Tori herself said in another interview that it’s an ‘endless cycle potentially’, since the stories produced in CBT have inspired new songs in her, new directions for her to riff on musically. I think that whole approach and the resulting book, is what sets it apart.

>>>> You've been friends with Tori for a very long time, and comic books are a big part of your life. What made now the right time for Comic Book Tattoo, as opposed to, say, ten years ago? What was the final impetus that got everything rolling for what would eventually become this anthology?

Well 10 years ago, I don’t think the market was ready for it. It (the comic industry) was going through a bit of financial problems due to growing pains, and a general lack of direction. Also you had a lot of creators leaving comics at that time. God knows I did. It just seemed like a place that wasn’t really open or accepting of anything different or unique and the few singular voices in comics were stand out exceptions, rather than the rule. Not that there was anything wrong with comics as a form of creative expression... just that the market was going through one of those cycles that all art forms go through where it wasn’t growing, where it was repeating a lot of the same old same old, and just was kinda boring.

By comparison now, there are so many exciting creators making comics with very unique and different approaches and styles. Those creators have made such an impact that now you have companies like Marvel and DC, who historically are a bit resistant to anything ‘different’, now hiring these creators to take on some of their highest profile books without expecting them to change their style... Just look at a writer like Matt Fraction. He has his creator-owned book Casanova, which is one of the most kinetic, surreal, and brain-f’ing comics to come out in years, and now he’s the guy writing Marvel’s X-Men and Iron Man. I don’t think I’m being too cynical when I say it seems unlikely that would have been the case 10 years ago.

So comics now I think are ripe and ready for something as ambitious and different as CBT. That assessment had kinda been building in the back of my head for a couple years, but really the trigger point was seeing Image put out so many books with a music-themed element. From Phonogram, to the back matter in Casanova where Matt explains the soundtrack of the book and compares the panel pacing to the Phil Spector wall of sound, to Amory War (the Coheed and Cambria comic) and so on... that just kept building until finally I talked with them about it last San Diego comicon. They agreed that the time was right, and that the project sounded great, so... off we went.

>>>> There has been a lot of crossover between the music world and the comic book world over the past couple years: MF Grimm's Sentences, Gerard Way's (of My Chemical Romance) The Umbrella Academy, Phonogram: Rue Britannia, PopGun, the Belle and Sebastian book, The Hold Steady and Subtle (among others) including a graphic novel with their latest albums, etc. etc. What do you see as the driving force behind the large number of music-related comics recently? Is this a new trend, or is there just more attention being paid to the music-comic interplay now (and if so, why do you think that is)?

Well, it’s always been there in one form or another. Look at the 50’s... you had comics based on pop music stars, in the 60s you had people name-dropping Bob Dylan, in the 70’s you had Marvel putting out the KISS comics, the 80’s had those... um... interesting... ‘Rock n Roll’ comics that were bios of various bands and so on. I think now, you have more ‘back-n-forth’ between the two forms, because what used to be geek culture has become the mainstream. Look at the two big films of the summer, Batman and Iron Man. That’s not even getting into the rest like Hellboy 2 or the X-Files movie... The geeks and nerds who used to watch Star Trek after school and read comic books have become the people who make entertainment these days. Frank Miller’s making movies, Joss Whedon’s writing comics. That kind of reciprocal relationship between art forms carries through to music as well, and so you’ve got a generation that grew up loving comics, now demonstrating that love back through their own respective art forms. I think it’s only going to get stronger, and the blurry line between the art forms is just going to get fuzzier over time.

>>>> What made you choose "Mr. Zebra"? What about that song spoke to you more than any other?

I’ve always had a fondness for Mr. Zebra’s Dadaist structure... When James Stokoe became available at the last minute, I knew it had to be a short story in order to fit his schedule, and it also had to serve his art style, which is this wonderfully manic-yet-stoned, detail-oriented surrealist style that always references cooking in some way. With that in mind, "Mr. Zebra" seemed to be an obvious choice.

>>>> "Mr. Zebra" is a delightfully strange song: whimsical in tone, with a surreal -- and sometimes dark -- lyric about animals and whirlpools and burying someone alive, all in just over one minute. What struggles did you have in taking such an odd piece of music and then building into a whole different art form? How difficult was it to match tonally?

When I designed the tour programme for Boys for Pele, I had different comic artists and painters do one page illustrations to go with the lyrics. For "Mr. Zebra" I had my and Tori’s friend Andrew Brandou, who does this wonderfully dark-yet-whimsical style, paint a riff on the ‘dogs playing poker’, except it was painted with Zebras. I’ve always seen "Mr. Zebra" in my head... this cynical, haggard Zebra who really is kind of put-upon by life... kind of a mix between Ricky Ricardo and Krusty the Clown. So, in writing the story for CBT, I just let the stream of consciousness-nature of the story dictate it out. Of course Mr. Zebra’s a burned out hack of a talk show host. Of course he has recurring guests, and of course one of those would be the chef Kaiser Wilhelm. It came incredibly easy and was a blast. Perhaps, given the nature of the story, that should worry me somewhat...

>>>> What was the most obscure song someone chose to illustrate? Which stories surprised you the most (in terms of style, approach to the project, relationship with the song the artists chose, etc.)?

Probably "Pirates," to answer all of those questions. Ivan Brandon and Calum Watt said that they wanted to do it, and I just thought they were pulling my leg for a minute, since it’s a little-known song off Tori’s Y Kant Tori Read album, which she has understandably distanced herself from. Ivan’s a ‘cutting edge’ kind of writer... he’s always on the look out for the next cool and inspiring thing... god knows he’s turned me on to a ton of artists and writers who ended up becoming huge, and yet he’s wanting to do a song from Tori’s ‘hair band years’?!? I really couldn’t wrap my head around it, but I also trust he and Calum’s chops, so I let them run with it. The end result is something I couldn’t have imagined in a million years, and is really stunning. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Laurenn McCubbin also took a very different kind of approach with one of Tori’s mainstays “Silent All These Years" that will surprise a lot of people, but Tori and I loved the approach, and the nerve it took for them to go that route.

>>>> When the average persons hears the words "comic books," they think of the DC and Marvel superhero rosters: Batman, Superman, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk. Is that a hurdle you think Comic Book Tattoo will have to overcome in drawing in new readers who may not go for superhero stories, or have never picked up a comic book or a graphic novel before?

We were very aware of that fact from the beginning, so all of the choices that were made, the book dimensions (12” x 12”), the art-reproduction-quality paper stock, the book design, the artist we chose for the cover... all of those were made to give the book more of a feeling of being a coffee table art book instead of a comic book. Everyone loves comics, they love the format. There’s a reason newspapers have a comic section. But at the same time, as you said, there’s this hang up that many adults have about buying a ‘comic book’, so we gave them a book that with its format and packaging, not to mention the lush art inside of the book, that they could subconsciously justify it as ‘oh, I’m buying a art book for my coffee table... it’s not really a comic’. Based on the reaction from people at BEA, who are ‘book folk’ moreso than comic fans, I think we’ve hit that sweet spot dead on.

>>>> In the same vein, what does the anthology have to offer those who love superheroes and science fiction more than anything?

There’s a hugely wide variety of styles and genres in CBT. Traditional comic fans... those who love the more action-driven elements, will find a lot to love in CBT, as will the kind of comic fans who like more of the ‘human drama’ element found in the more ‘indie’ comics.

>>>> There are some very big names in this collection, and then there are some artists and writers who are perhaps a bit lesser known. Who among the less-famous contributors really blew you away and left you excited to hear more from them in the future?

It was funny, because the lesser-known creators on the project were creators that I had come across on various comic forums... people who were trying to ‘break in’ to comics, but hadn’t had their ‘big break’ yet. I picked them because I felt, looking at the work they had done, that was up on their sites... each of them was going to be huge. That wasn’t in question, it was just a matter of *when* it would happen. The funny part comes in that, every one of these creators, in the time it’s taken to complete CBT and get it out, has gone on to do other comic work, and in some cases gotten quite a bit of noise for their efforts. I consider myself very blessed to have Ming Doyle draw the story I wrote for "The Waitress," because she’s going to be so big, so quickly, I’ll probably never be able to get to work with her again because companies will be throwing oodles of money at her to draw their ‘hot’ book. Across the board, I’m confident that in five years times if you look back at CBT you’ll see every one of these ‘new kids’ being major forces in comics.


ALEATORY #14: The Burnside Project

Every once in awhile, a band comes along that just has everything you love crammed into one place. The Burnside Project is such a band: spry indie-rock guitars meet throbbing synths and techno beats, all while lyrics pour out Richard Jankovich's head that range from smart to smart-ass (I mean, c'mon, the guy gave an in-song shout out to Philip Seymour Hoffman years before that big Oscar win). Though their disc The Networks, The Circuts, The Streams, The Harmonies scored a minor hit with "Cue the Pulse to Begin" back in '03, they band has remained busy, releasing The Finest Example is You in 2005 and re-releasing their '00 effort digitially late last year. Now, Richard is busy doing lots of new songs and remixing under his Pocket guise, but, also, delivering terrifically sarcastic answers to Globecat's fourteenth Aleatory ...


16. Favorite campfire story?

Unfortunately, I cannot remember any. It probably had ghosts in it.

26. Favorite badass?

Pat Buchanan.

33. What's something you could teach anyone in an hour or less?

Particle physics.

35. What's the best place you've randomly discovered while on tour?

The East Coast of the United States Of America - it is a lovely place!

36. Lyrics first or music first?

Differs on each track. Mostly, music first.

43. What's the road ahead look like?

Sleepy. Burnside is pretty inactive right now but my Pocket work is in full swing. Check it: www.music-by-pocket.com

52. At what point did you realize that music was going to be your full-time occupation?

Um...it's not. Well, actually it is - I work in music branding and licensing. But I don't think that's what you mean...

60. What's the worst show you've ever played? What would you have done different?

Way too many to count - probably at Pianos when I lost my shit and kicked a mike off the stage. That's about as punk as we get. It was pretty cathartic for us.

67. Do you reach any kind of personal catharsis when it comes to songwriting/performing?

I reach catharsis through kicking mikes off of stages, as I mention above.

68. Favorite interview you've ever been a part of (aside from this one obviously)?

No, this one is pretty terrible. My best interview was probably while on tour in Japan and I had no idea what they were asking - I just answered everything with "green and tumbleweeds."

81. If you could sync an album of yours to a movie (like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz), what movie would it be?


82. Current pop song that you would file under "guilty pleasure"?

I really like Rihanna and I will kick anyone with a mike who disagrees with me.

85. What's the biggest mistake you've made that you inadvertently learned a great lesson from?

Agreeing to do this interview.

88. What's your deepest source for musical inspiration?

The world around me, television, paranoia.

89. You just died. I'm sorry. Fortunately, your will states that you want very specific music to be played at your funeral. What did you choose?

New Order for the upbeat parts, Replacements ballads for the part when everyone cries.

92. Which venue are you dying to play but have not yet had the chance to?

The Houston Astrodome.

94. What's your hardest song to replicate live?

Well, probably the ones we never played live like "Outside Tennebrae" or "An Easy Sell"

98. Would you say that there's somewhat of a political undertone to your music? If so, what motivates it?

Absolutely - though I keep it purposefully subtle. What motivates it? A deep and utter hatred for right wing lunacy and left wing failure to give a shit.

99. Licensing your music out to companies for TV ads: good or bad?

Have you seen our songs on TV?

100. Even with the gradual decay of the B-side, most artists still have vaults of unreleased songs. What's in yours?

Loads of garbage - it's unreleased for a reason, in my opinion.

Photo by Angela Langer.
Visit the Burnside Project's website.


ALEATORY #13: Pale Young Gentlemen

This is a first.

Here at Globecat, we receive e-mails all the time -- be it publicists, readers like you, or even band members themsleves: we happily sift through all of these, but something was quite different when Pale Young Gentlemen drummer Matt Reisenauer contacted us, eagerly discussing the second disc from his band's album Black Forest (Tra La La). We followed up on the lead, and soon found Black Forest to be a tragically beautiful album of indie-folk done right: dramatic without being theatrical, touching without being self-serving. Ripe with cellos, acoustic guitars, and singer Mike Reisenauer's pointed vocals, this is the kind of disc that will sound just as good five years from now as it will when you pick it up later this month. Yes, this is the first time we've featured an artist who has contacted us instead of the other way around, but, really, this is the first band to contact us who genuinely deserves to be on our Aleatory wall. Mike R. takes this opportunity to gladly discuss re-recording radio interviews, the big spoiler he knows about wolf packs, and how Rufus Wainwright gave one of the worst concerts he ever saw ...


20. Favorite new band?

Our old bass player (Andy Brawner) left the band to work on his own stuff. He released an album called "A Sun Goes Down" as Time Since Western that is amazing.

27. Favorite chord/chord progression?

Any half-diminished chord. Most chords/chord progression have a lot of baggage- they're hard to make your own- but these things add a lot of nuance, I think, so ended up using them a lot on the new record.

30. How many languages do you speak?

One and a half. For some reason, I remember a lot of the Spanish I learned in middle and high school. Or at least I think I remember it. Or at least nobody I knows more than I do and feels alright correcting me.

32. Best thing you learned this week/month?

I saw a thing on PBS about the origin of dogs and how they split from wolves. I won't ruin it for you, but a nicely done show.

36. Lyrics first or music first?

Same time. Back and forth. Like two young boys trying to outrun each other.

39. What's something you could probably beat anyone you know at?

I'm really good at trying to be funny.

40. What was your best/worst subject in school?

Who cares?

42. What's an image that haunts you to this day?

Once I saw a dog get hit by a car as I was pumping gas, a springer- spaniel, I think. It was very dramatic from start to finish.

44. Something you've heard, know is false, but wish were true with all your heart?

That people still listen to entire albums. I wish we were limited to 8-track players sometimes. Make everyone listen to the whole side at least.

45. What's the best lie you've ever told?

My brother and I used to be clowns with my dad. We'd perform skits and tricks on the street. This is totally true. Anyway, fooling another person with a magic trick has to be the most pleasant, guilt-free lie possible.

48. Biggest moment of triumph?

I think I'm still waiting for this one...

57. Most rock star thing you've ever done?

When I was six, my mother told me to take my little garbage can up to my room. I paused and said "No you". My mom reacted in such a way that has prevented any more rock star moments.

60. What's the worst show you've ever played? What would you have done different?

Once we played a show as a three-piece that was all-the-way embarrassing. Christ, we really should have rehearsed. I still regret it.

63. Band/artist you're secretly envious of?

Anybody that's actually making a living at this.

68. Favorite interview you've ever been a part of (aside from this one, obviously)?

We did an interview once for a local radio station that was being taped for a later airing, but the interviewer forgot to press record for the first 40 mins. of it. It's not a terrible thing to lose 40 minutes, but it is weird to re-answer the same questions and try to seem genuine. We ended up with a big inside joke we couldn't share with the audience.

69. There's got to be one: who has been your craziest fan?

We had a fan in Chicago once that wanted to pay us a hundred bucks to play "Clap Your Hands" again. We didn't do it, but maybe we should have.

84. Most disappointing concert you ever attended?

I once saw Rufus Wainwright at the Barrymore Theater. I think I remember wanting him to shut up and play the songs. The whole thing seemed kinda cheesy or something.

87. Ultimately, you will want to be remembered as …

Somebody's dad who wrote some nice songs.

96. The one thing that no one knows about you (yet)?

I am a fantastic cook and I'm really great at driving cars.

97. Your label wants to do a music video for a song off your album, and have inexplicably procured $1,000,000 as a budget, then decide that you'd best direct the visual accompaniment to your own music. What song do you choose, and what will your video look like?

I'd keep the money, split it with my band, and have my dad shoot it for free. I'd probably want to do "Kettle Drum" or "She's All Mine, I Think" because I've always pictured those songs taking place on my dad's property in rural Wisconsin.


Visit the Pale Young Gentlemen's website.