Thursday, December 31, 2015

Four Short Poems, March 2010

Four short poems, March 18, 2010

1. Running down
a jealous moment
Locked in the
arms of shifting
torn between
how I feel
and what I want.

2. The lights fizzle
in the haze of the evening,
peering out
over the distance
between there and here.
Motion hints at other
letting us know
where something else resides,
and where I stand.

3. Once
I passed a friend's house
in the night, each of us
knowing nothing
of the other.
If I had never met them,
what would I have
thought of their place,
their possessions,
coupled with my assumptions,
Would I have moved on,
taking it as another
distant light in the darkness?

4. I hear
your voice again,
and I am there,
the thoughts of that time
thrown back in my head.
I am reminiscent,
unsure of the footing,
and how to proceed
from here.

-Daniel Coston

Ranger Doug/Riders In The Sky Interview, 2010 Online Redux

Riders In The Sky: Always In The Saddle
Introduction, interview and photos by Daniel Coston

For nearly 35 years, Riders In The Sky have carried on the traditions of original country and western music, while marking out their own place on the musical map. With 700 Grand Ole Opry appearances, movie soundtracks and over 6,000 shows performed by the time you read this, Riders In The Sky are to today’s western music what Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters were to first generation Americana music. Night after night, from albums to CDs, this Nashville quartet has been the living, touring embodiment of western music, and the ones that have helped to keep this music in the here and now.

Made up of guitarist Ranger Doug, fiddler Woody Paul, bassist Too Slim, and accordionist Joey The Cowpolka King (who also produces the band’s records), Riders In The Sky are also to many kids through their work on the Toy Story soundtracks, and two Grammy winning children’s CDs. However, any band that proudly endorses the slogan, “Always drink upstream from the herd,” shows that there’s a little something there for kids of all ages.

Along with their annual shows at Tweetsie Railroad, the band recently made a stop at the Old Time Threshers Reunion in Denton, NC, which is where I talked to Ranger Doug.

Tangents: When did you first start traveling to North Carolina?

Doug: We first started playing in North Carolina  some thirty years ago. We’ve always enjoyed playing here. It honestly ranks as one of the best states for us to play in. The folks in this state have always had a fascination with cowboy music, which has benefited us.

Tangents: Do you think that the fascination is due to the fact that the cowboy landscape is something different to the people in this state? That it seems a bit exotic to us?

Doug: Yes, to a degree. But folks in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, even, haven’t responded to western music the way that this state has. The state of North Carolina has always has the most fascination with western music. I really don’t know why.

Tangents: How do you guys come up with material? Do you find songs together, or separately?

Doug: That’s a three-pronged answer. One, we write our own songs. All three of us write. Second,  we introduce classic cowboy songs into the set. Woody just picked a song for us to play that we’d known forever, we just had never learned it. The third is when we have a project. We’ve been writing for a new project, which is an inspirational album, which we’re going to start recording next week. People have been asking us to record an inspirational album for some time, and we’ve been putting it together.

Tangents: Is it easier to write for a project, as opposed to on your own?

Doug: Yes, it is. It was easy to write for the Disney album we just did. The characters were already laid out for us, and we had a really good time.

Tangents: You’ve been doing your own show on cowboy music for XM. How has that been to do?

Doug: Great. We were just in the XM offices yesterday, and the guy that runs a couple of their channels told us that Willie Nelson had just been in there, and he wants our show to be on 24 hours a day! There just aren’t enough shows to do that.

Tangents: How do you put those shows together?

Doug: We usually record three of four of those shows at one time, at [producer] Joey’s studio. It takes at least an hour to record the introductions, and edit them. The recordings depend on when we can fit them into our schedule. We discuss tunes what tunes we’d like to play, and then we make a CD of those songs, so that I can have them on my computer. It sometimes takes us a few different takes to get the introductions, as we sometimes mess up a word, or something else. We leave a lot of the goofs in the show, if it wasn’t too bad.

Tangents: Which sometimes give the show some of its character. You know that you’re really listening to you guys talking about the music.

Doug: That’s true, and we want that in the show.

Tangents: Has the way that people discover you guys changed with technology? Are more people discovering you via the internet, or records, radio or TV?

Doug: It has always been a word of mouth thing. Radio helps, when we can get it. The Disny movies have helped,TV appearances do help. Basically, its still people seeing us, and telling their friends, “You’ve got to see this.”

Tangents: Where are you recording your new album?

Doug: In Nashville, where we live. We were going to record in Nashville this paast May, but we got flooded out. We weren’t home at the time, our wives had to deal with that. I made a reference to that during our afternoon show, and nobody in the crowd got it. A lot of jokes are like that!

Tangents: Have you gotten to explore some of the more famous music spots throughout the Southeast?

Doug: Not much. People mostly assume that we got to do a lot of sightseeing. We see the highway, we see the hotel room, we see the venue, and move on to the next place. It’s not always a glamorous life. We did recently get to visit this radio station in Virginia that Flatt & Scruggs played at for a couple of years, and met with the crew. But mostly, it’s getting to the next show.

Tangents:Tonight’s show is show number 5,964 for Riders In The Sky. How in the world do you keep up with that?

Doug: When you start it with show number one, you just count up from there! It’s been 35 years, coming up on 6,000 appearances and counting, its more and more amazing as it goes along, and we’re very thankful for that.

My thanks to Greta Lint and the Old Time Threshes Reunion for helping to set up this interview.

Bruce Hazel Interview, 2010 Online Redux

Bruce Hazel: Classic Sounds For The New League
introduction, interview and photos by Daniel Coston

For over a decade now, Bruce Hazel has put his stamp on rock n' roll throughout the Carolinas. Be it with the Noise, Bruce Hazel & Some Volunteers, Temperance League, or under his own name, Hazel has merged his love of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and other classic sounds to form his own version of what Rock can be. His current project, Temperance League, joins him with longtime local starwarts Shawn Lynch, Mark Lynch, Chad Wilson and D.K. to create an inviting merge of garage rock and classic-sounding guitars riffs. Temperance League are now touring throughout the East Coast of the U.S., in search of the wider audience that they deserve.

Hazel is also well known in Charlotte for heading up the Fool's Brigade, an annual event that covers a famous musician or band for charity. This event has become that many look forward to, and has packed whichever venue its held in every year. Hazel is also a fun frontman and an all-around good guy, a frontman you can root for when he's onstage.

Tangents: How did the Some Volunteers evolve into Temperance League?

Hazel: The Bruce Hazel & Some Volunteers moniker was something I could put on anything I was doing at the timeThis is something differentThis is a band.

Tangents:  How do you feel about this lineup now?

Hazel: I remember Mark and Shawn talking about the early days of Lou Ford. How they were a gang. I wanted to be part of a gang.

Tangents: You've been writing and playing a lot of new songs, and you have been recording with this new lineup, as well as the Volunteers. What's your plan for the next record?

Hazel: There are a ton of songs. We have enough completed material for a Volunteers record. We should have probably put it out by now. But at least I have it. Currently we are trying to make something that represents Temperance League. I want to capture the raw energy with minimal overdubs. The Volunteers record is layered. I want the Temperance League record to be stripped. I want all the records I make to be something I'm excited to listen to. I would like to make something that represents us and our live show.

Tangents: Talk about your role as a frontman. What do you have to do to get people into what you and the band are doing?

Hazel: It is the simplest thing that took me the longest time to realize... to just be honest and be myself.

Tangents: What has been your favorite Temperance League gigs so far?

Hazel: It's always nice to be home at Snug Harbor.

Tangents:. The League has been playing more out of town. Do you hope to continue that for a while?
Hazel: As much as possible.
Tangents: What changes have you seen to the Charlotte scene over the past several years?

Hazel: More beards.

Tangents: Between The Journey And the Destination (released in 2004) is still one of my favorite records to come out of Charlotte in the past ten years. What do you think about when you hear that record?

Hazel: I'm very proud of that record. We had a blast making it. Justin [Faircloth, of the Houstons]  was the most comfortable producer to work with. I just invited all my favorite players to stop by Cougar Camp [Studios]. We had DK, Chad [Wilson], Benji [Hughes], [John] Morris, [Chris] Lonon, Rodney [Lanier], Joey Stephens, Michael [Anderson] and [Brent] Bagwell. We had everybody. Somebody was always hanging out or stopping by. Mark [Lynch] came by to offer his sage advice. But I don't think we ever got Matt [Faircloth] or Mark on tape. 

It was easy. Very casual. We'd have lunch and some drinks and just play. Shawn was living at [Cougar Camp] at the time, so when he'd get home from work I'd say, "Get in there and play this guitar part," or, "We need you to play drums on this." I think the record reflects how much fun we were having. When I listen to that record I picture us hanging out in the kitchen listening to someone tracking in the next room. They'd come out and say, "How'd I do?"  I'd yell to Justin in the control room "How was that?" He'd say, "Perfect." I'd say, "Sounds like you're done." But you were there, you know?

Tangents: How did the annual Fools Brigade shows start?

Hazel: Just thought it was time to get involved in my community. It was during the time the Pillowtex factory closed down outside Charlotte in 2004. I organized a fund raiser for those families affected. It happened quick. I made some calls and everyone responded. We raised a little money and had a good time. Later that year I got involved with Rock The Vote, and put together a show to get people registered. Again the neighborhood responded. There is a mission statement on the Fool's Brigade site that Phil came up with so we could sound more official. But really The Fools Brigade Annual Benefit is as much for us as it it is for the charity. It's fulfilling and satisfying that feeling of knowing you belong to a community.

Tangents: Do you have any favorite years of the Fools Brigade shows?
Hazel: Luckily each show we've done has been a success. All have had memorial moments but something really special happened in the room the night we did Bowie. 

Tangents: What records are you listening to these days?
Hazel: I can't stop listening to Reigning Sound. I'm going thru a huge Greg Cartwright phase right now. 

Tangents: Okay, here's the scenario.... Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits are gonna settle things once and for all, but they're gonna dance it out, like the gangs in West Side Story. Who wins, and why?

Hazel: I never saw West Side Story.

Tangents: Was there any person or show you saw, or met when you growing up that made you want to be a musician?

Hazel: Some I've know personally and some I've just admired as a fan but I continually seem to discover them just when I'm ready to throw in the towel. 

Tangents: Any questions for the interviewer?

Hazel: Of all you've interviewed who was the toughest to get a straight answer out of?

Tangents: There's been a couple... and I'll tell you about them the next time I see you.

Houston Brothers Interview, 2010 Online Redux

The Houstons: Back To The Future
The Tangents interview by Daniel Coston

For nearly ten years, brothers Matt and Justin Faircloth have pulled off a musical tightrope act like no other. Simultaneously playing multiple instruments while singing two-part harmony, the brothers perform with a dexterity that often leaves first-time witnesses in awe. The Houstons, as they now go by now (after being shortened from Houston Brothers), have recently returned to their original-two piece lineup, and released a new EP, The Archer, an excellent showcase for their ambient, literate sense of pop music.

Justin Faircloth is also a longtime veteran of the Charlotte and North Carolina music scene, with a resume that includes Jennyanykind, Flyweb, Goldenrods, Les Dirt Clods, and several others. But its the music that he continues to make with his brother that both friends and fans clamor for. 

Tangents: After playing with other bands, what led you to form the Houstons with your brother?

Justin Faircloth: Matt and I had been bouncing this idea of a two person band for a long time, back to probably '97 when we were living in Wilmington.  We didn't know how we wanted to make it happen and started out experimenting with a drummer and some keyboard bass, then I learned to play bass, then drums and guitar, acoustic guitars, you name it.  Then I moved to Asheville and I was playing in a sort of country-punk band called The Rich and Famous and started to work on this keyboard and drumming thing, only it was with a snare, a small tom for kick drum and a Casio.  

Matt and I booked our first show at Vincent's Ear and coming right up to it we didn't have a name, so our buddy Jeremy Boger named us the Houston Brothers.  We played acoustic guitars and did some beat looping, etc.  Maybe a little Rhodes.  After I moved to Charlotte, and Matt moved to Asheville (!), we started in with the Goldenrods, which was a larger 6-person outfit and became this traveling entourage of everything rock and roll.  Matt and I decided that we could make the Houston Brothers happen as a 2 piece and travel really light, and go for this really minimal sound that still had all the essentials to fill a room with tons of vibe and character.  We bought some old Crumar bass synth pedals--the ones we still use today--and we were off.

Tangents: You play keyboards with your right hand, while drumming with your left band, all while singing. 1. How did you come up with that? and 2. How do you DO that?

Faircloth: Well, I touched on this above, but we were just trying out different ways of being able to create a full band sound without the extra members.  Our fans and press have always made a pretty big deal out of the piano-drum-sing thing, but it's not much different than a good piano player that has a developed left hand for walking bass and comping chords.  It all becomes one thing, not several, at least in the way that I hear it.  I have to say that what Matt does, walking bass with his feet and playing guitar and singing has got to be just as difficult.

Tangents: Contrast the music of this new EP with the first two Houston Bros. CDs (pre-Still).

Faircloth: The first record, I Take Care of You, was very different.  It's out of print now, and is soundtrack music with a dark bent and perhaps a preview to our eventual Houstons vibe.  The Houston Brothers, or the blue record as we call it, is probably the most similar to our new release The Archer.  Matt and I play nearly everything, with a few guests here and there.  We use the instrumentation that we use live with only a few extra parts, usually supporting guitar textures, synth bits or percussion.  Thematically, though, we're talking about two records that are about 8 years apart and the songs really illustrate that span of time in ways I couldn't hope to describe.  Matt wrote two songs on the blue record, and that is something we intend to bring back on our next release.

Tangents: How did The Archer come together? And describe the music on this EP.

Faircloth: Matt and I had a collection of songs that we wanted to release as a more stripped down production, relative to Still.  Our friend Mark Lynch got involved with pre-production and insisted that we track the songs as we play live, the keys/drums and bass pedals included.  Two of the songs were years old and the other four were new tracks.  I'm not going to tell which ones are which!  But they all fit cohesively and were a good representation of where we are with the Houston Brothers, ten years from when we started.

The songs are a bit more outwardly aggressive in some ways than ever, but I'd like to think also more refined in scope and in theme.  We have always wanted to relate our lives through the music and I think these do just that.  For now.  It's more appropriate for me in my life now to rely on love rather than be angry with it, for example.  We are celebrating life and at the same time targeting some aspects that we find provocative.  That's the art, I suppose.

Tangents: After starting as a duo, you spent a few years working with other musicians in the band, culminating with a six-piece lineup for the 2006 CD Still? How did the music change during that time?

Faircloth: The songwriting changed a bit before we put he band together. . . I was in a more introspective place and trying to put some pieces of my life together.  The songs on Still basically chronicle those times, or as much as I would want to put out there.  Matt and I also felt that we needed to try some different sounds and new directions so we put together a band packed with badass musicians.  We made the record with very little rehearsal and some highly charged-up creative days, mostly at my house in Charlotte.  The recorded music became quite a bit more arranged and dense--interestingly, on a collection of very personal songs.  Our live shows were fun, I got to really focus on singing and improved at that quite a bit, and we had great rhythm sections and textures.  We were both able to open up quite a bit relative to having to do so much at once.  I think this was a time of really learning about who we are and what we really want to do.

Tangents: What brought you and Matt back to the two-piece lineup?
Faircloth: We felt that we had lost some of our uniqueness. To be honest, a bunch of our friends and fans demanded it. And it's really hard to even hold a band together when you're not 20 and everyone has tons going on in their lives. It's so easy for Matt and I to travel together, find the vibe we want, learn songs really fast. . .whatever.  It's what we do naturally at this point.  As much as we want to break free of the constraints sometimes, they can become what sets our creativity free. My wife would call it Tantric.

Tangents: What's next for the Houstons?
Faircloth: We're taking most of the summer to quiet down and write, record, experiment, play new instruments.  I think that whatever we accomplish at the end of the day, I want it to constantly grow and change around our minds and what we find interesting, provocative, outrageous, compelling.  I don't want to ever make the same record twice and I don't want to regurgitate issues or themes.  I'm learning how to write an unbridled love song and a song for nothing but dancing.

Tangents: How has your fanbase changed over the years?
Faircloth: They've grown up with us.  Which is awesome.  I mean, we attract fans of all ages and I am still surprised by some folks that love us, who I thought would hate us. 

Tangents: How has the Charlotte music scene changed?

Faircloth: It's larger and more diverse.  More than ever when traveling I hear other artists, musicians and otherwise, asking me about what is going on in Charlotte.  I think our Southern town is almost a city.  But what I really love about Charlotte musically is the people--there's very little hate and a whole lot of love.  We support each other no matter what the opportunity or style of music.  Our label, Chicago-based Chocolate Lab, just signed another Charlotte artist (our friend Jon Lindsay), so we are seeing more and more interest.  And the successes of folks like The Avett Brothers and Benji Hughes are pretty awesome.

Tangents: So what happens if and when your kids form their own band?

Faircloth: We're already on it!  Their first experience will be our family band.  They are both incredibly musically talented already and writing original music.  So it's on.  Whatever they do later. . . what can I say?  Dad's seen it all.  Well, most of it.

Terry Manning Interview, 2010 Online Redux

Terry Manning: On the way to Big Star
introduction and interview by Daniel Coston

While countless people now state themselves as Big Star fans, there were only a handfull of those that can say they were there from the beginning. Terry Manning is one of those people. Along with an amazing producing and engineering career (which we’ll cover in a forhtcoming article), Terry was part of the late 1960s Memphis scene that created their own sound at Ardent Studios. This included Manning, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel, and a couple of others. When Alex Chilton joined Bell, Stephens and Hummel in 1971 to form Big Star, Manning was there to see it all happen, and how their first two albums came together. 

While this interview with Manning was done before Chilton’s recent passing, what still comes through is the love and respect that Manning and others still have in the music, and for the music they were a part of.

Tangents: Chris Bell played with you on a couple of singles for different bands, and on your Home Sweet Home album. How did that come about, and describe playing with Chris at this time. 

Manning: In addition to my band Lawson and Four More that I played and recorded with, I also played music often with some guys in my neighborhood. And in fact, my good friend Steve Rhea lived right across the street from me. Steve played drums, and we would play along with albums, write songs, record on little home tape recorders. I went to Central High School at the time, but Steve went out East to MUS ,a private boy's school.  One of his classmates there was Chris Bell, and before long we had all hooked up to practice and play together.  

It's pretty well known now that Chris had what we called the "Back House" on the property that his parents had built a large new home on. Steve and me and Chris and a few other guys would hang out there and practice. We could play as loud as we wanted to without disturbing anyone, and also had a darkroom that we could use for our photography any time of the day or night.

Chris was VERY interested in the fact that my "real band" had been recording at Ardent and other studios, and he of course knew that I was working at Ardent and Stax, engineering recordings by professional artists. He would always ask me to take him over there, show him the equipment, etc..

I was constantly recording my own things in Ardent, and occasionally in Stax, when other things weren't already happening in there, and Chris was very interested in this.  He would bring me songs he was writing for input on how he was doing.  So when I wanted some guitar playing on these recordings that would be better than what I felt that I could do myself, it was natural to have Chris come in to play.  He was thrilled, and very excited to be in "the real big time studio."  

I first got him to do first very short harmony guitar in a Beatles' song I was working on (One After 909), but then the "big thing" which became his first professional appearance on a released record was getting him to play on a few of the tracks on an album that I got to record for, and license to, Stax Records with me as artist. This became the Home Sweet Home release.

Tangents: Describe working with Alex Chilton on his solo album (later released as 1970) Did Chris and Alex ever run into each other at that time? 

Manning: Alex and I had become friends when I was an engineer (and sometimes player) on The Box Tops' recordings.  Alex had become disillusioned over time with Producer Dan Penn and Executive Producer Chips Moman, feeling that they were mostly just telling him what to do, rather than ever giving him much of a chance to be creative himself.  I recall on a couple of the vocal overdub sessions that Alex was constantly making faces behind Dan's back, and he started talking to me about wanting to do his own thing, rather than just be The Box Top Guy for his whole life. Remember, he was barely past 15 when the band had broken with "The Letter."  I commiserated with Alex, listened to his songs, and agreed that he should be trying some new things.  So we finally decided to just do it, and started recording the album that later became "1970" (I had actually named it the much better "1969," but it got changed when some people were worried about the timing of these recordings, relative to the official exit from The Box Tops).  

We recorded pretty much on our own, under a veil of secrecy to the outside world (as if anyone would have cared).  The whole thing was done with very few outside people.  The fabulous Richard Rosebrough played drums, and Alex and I did most of the rest. He played guitars and did lead vocals, I did bass and keys and harmony vocals, and then we got in Paul Cannon to do a solo or two, and a great steel player from Nashville, Jeff Newman, to do a couple of crazy rock and roll steel guitar leads.  

We had talked to Brian and Carl Wilson, and had a plan to release this on their Brother Records label, but then we changed plans, and took it to Jerry Wexler at Atlantic in New York. Jerry loved it, but was afraid to release an album first, wanting to start out with "Free Again" as a single to test the waters.  This angered me and Alex, as we were looking to be album artists, not single artists, and he thought he saw "Box Tops Syndrome" starting up again with the record labels.  So we just didn't completely finish the album (there would have been a few other overdubs like horns and maybe a bit of strings, and a couple of more guitars), ad put it away in a box. Never even made real mixes at the time.  

And pretty soon, we would be moving ahead to Big Star anyway, so there was no need to pursue this album further.  I don't strictly recall Chris being around for these recordings, I think maybe he was away at his first year of University in Knoxville maybe, or maybe he did come by a bit. Not sure exactly, but I don't remember him being at all involved in this.
Tangents: What was your impression of the Big Star formation? And describe the recording sessions for Number 1 record. Did you do some engineering on the overdubs, as I’ve heard elsewhere? 

Manning: Big Star, as has been written elsewhere, was an extension of a couple of other groups that Chris and I, as well as Jody and Tm Eubanks, and a couple of other guys, had been messing with, mixed with Alex after the 1969/1970 sessions doing his own thing...really just the Ardent Crew of the time.  The very earliest recordings that became part of Bg Star were several of us just continuing on with the same things we were doing already.  So the "first impression" of BS to any of us was more of the same, moving ahead.  

On #1 Record, Chris became the main motivator after a bit.  I was working on several things (had a Day Job at Ardent and Stax), and by this time Chris had learned a good bit of engineering and production technique from John Fry and me, and his own studio experiences. I engineered some of the tracking and overdubs, Chris did a good bit, and of course John was doing some (later on the mix, John was in complete control, with Chris' wishes at hand).  I had played keys and bass on 2-3 tracks previously, and then Andy re-overdubbed the bass parts ion those, but we kept the keyboards.  The #1 sessions went on over a long period, none of it was "just played.” It was carefully crafted, with many overdubs.  Chris was a perfectionist, and would do and re-do things until he felt it was right.

Tangents: You sang backup on several songs on number one record. How did that come about? 

Manning: That was just from our previous studio relationships. When Chris wanted a certain vocal sound (and later Alex), we just all sang together. The backing harmony vocals were pretty intricate, and very much a necessary part of the sound, so more voices were a good thing. I don't recall Jody singing much in the early days, nor Andy as well, I suppose, so it just seemed the best thing to do to have the three of us do most of it.

Tangents: You also played the Moog on “Give Me Another Chance,” and “Feel,” I’ve heard, is from an Icewater track, which you played on. 

Manning: Yes, I had gone to Robert Moog in Trumansburg, New York, and had bought a Moog IIIC synthesiser (in fact, with George Harrison's former keyboard, the one he actually used on some Beatles recordings). I had played this on a bunch of recordings, including Leon Russell's "Stranger In A Strange Land," and Chris had been fascinated by the Moog. In fact, we had done a recording together of his composition "I Created A Monster" for a school class he took in music. So he asked me to put "stringy" sounds into "Give me Another Chance" with the Moog. The only thing I think slightly negative about it all now is that the Moog is awfully loud in the mix. But in the day, it seemed important!

Yes, "Feel" was tracked first by Chris and me and Tom and Jody as the band Icewater...the same band track with most of the instruments (bass replaced by Andy), and with a new lead vocal was included on #1 as Big Star.

Tangents: I saw you sing “When My Baby’s Beside Me” at SXSW with Big Star. How was that experience? 

Manning: That was a lot of fun. Alex and I sang that together on the original recording, but hadn't sung it together since until that show!  On the "Radio City" sessions, Alex had asked me to sing "second lead" on "When My Baby's Beside Me" because he said I sounded a lot like Carl Wilson, and that's the tone he wanted.  He sang the first verse alone, and then we come in together on dual lead in the first chorus. After that, we are both in there in varying degrees, but always in the chorus equally.

To repeat this 30 years later at SXSW was a real treat, and it's always good to play or sing with Jody, who just really pounds the beat live!

Tangents: At SXSW in 2004, you told the story about how you switched the master tapes to Number 1 record, so that Chris wouldn’t destroy them. Why did he want to do that? Do you stil have the tapes? 

Manning: Chris had decided, being the perfectionist that he was, that #1 wasn't good enough. He had "performance anxiety," in my current opinion. Plus he had probably gotten mad at John, or at me, or at both, over some perceived wrong (something that happened from time to time). He actually did do away with the multitrack masters (eight tracks). They do not exist today. I got word that he was coming up to Ardent to destroy the stereo mix masters, so I beat him there, and changed them to a different box. When he destroyed "the tapes" they were really something else that didn't matter. It turned out that there were probably a couple of "copies" anyway. An original, and a safety, so the album might well have been OK anyway.  But I do still have that original stereo tape. I recently transferred it to high quality DSD 5.6 digital tape.
Tangents: What was your involvement, albeit limited, with the band during the Radio City, Third period? I’ve heard that you sang back-up on “September Gurls.” 

Manning: Not as much involvement as on #1 of course, but a bit. Sort of like Chris himself, who ostensibly had left the group, but was "included" without any credit in a place or two.  I sang co-lead on “When My Baby's Beside Me" as mentioned previously, and yes, did also sing some of the harmony on "September Gurls." Alex wanted to keep some of the "sound" of the first album on that one.  There was a piano part or two I recall that I played, but I would have to listen back directly to remember what that was.

Tangents: What comes to mind when you think of Big Star, and those records? 

Manning: For many years (over 25) I did not listen to those records at all, ever.  The very first emotion I always have is sadness. Sadness primarily about how it ended for Chris, but also that the world did not "get it" for so long.

There was a lot of emotion involved in the day, a lot of conflict. Conflict amongst band members, between Chris and me at times, Chris and Alex, Chris and John, Alex and John, as well as all the good times.

But I can also now listen with joy, joy because of the quality of the songs, performances, recordings, and spirit, and that the world did finally "get it."  And that everyone did really appreciate and love each other.

Stephen Perry/Cherry Poppin Daddies Interview, May 1998 issue

by Daniel Coston and Carl Fulmer.

After years of being relegated to the memories of our parents and grandparents, the "swing" music of the 1930s and '40s has recently begun to catch fire again with a whole new generation. Among the leaders of that rebirth have been the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, whose song "Zoot Suit Riot" has been all over the radio airwaves in the past three months.
Despite their ode to the suits worn by the likes of Cab Calloway, the eight-member group is anything but a retro band. Formed in Eugene, Oregon in 1989, the eight-member band has spent years building a loyal following with a head-spinning mix of swing, ska, soul rock, topped off by their enigmatic lead singer and songwriter, Stephen Perry.

After years of constant touring and releasing their own self-produced records, the band worked out a record deal last fall with the Los Angeles-based label Mojo Records. Against the band's initial wishes, Mojo released "Zoot Suit Riot" to modern rock stations, which spawned a flood of sales for their CD, "The Swingin' Hits Of...," and garnered the band heavy airplay on MTV.
If the band's summer plans are any indication of the future, the Daddies won't be going away anytime soon. Along with recording their next record, the band has recorded "Fly Me To The Moon" for an upcoming Frank Sinatra tribute album, as well as the Harry Belafonte classic "Jump In Line" for the upcoming Zucker brothers comedy, 
Baseketball. The band will also be a part of both the Warped and HORDE tours, and recently turned down an offer to do "The Love Boat" theme song for the resurrected TV show.

Sitting down with us before the Daddies' red-hot show at Tremont last March [1998], Perry talked about the band's recent success, planning for the next record, and a little bit of history on the song "Zoot Suit Riot."

Tangents: How did your deal with Mojo Records happen?

Perry: We met the head of the label last fall while we were on tour, and we said, "Look, we've been doing this for years. We don't need tour support. We always make our own records on a budget. The problem is that we can't get our records in certain stores." We'd call ahead and say, "Hey, we're coming to your town. Can we put in the store some of our records?" And they'd say, "Sorry, we've never heard of you." So we had pretty much done as much as we could do on that level. We were hitting a glass ceiling, and we were getting tired, and it was frustrating to not get our CDs in stores. So we told the guy that, and he said, "I want to sign a deal with you, but I don't have much cash." We said, Hey, we don't need cash. We've got a record done. [The Swingin' Hits Of..., 1997.] We'll give you the damn record. It's no loss to you, just get us into stores. And we'll tour like crazy for it, like we always do." So we put it out on a national level, and it started to sell. Our whole idea was, "Let's keep it small-time. We don't want to go to radio. Maybe college radio, so that people would know that we were coming to their town." Since the record was doing so well, [Mojo] decided at some point to take it to modern rock radio. And we were like, "I don't know. I think it's a waste of money." We tried to talk them out of it. So we compromised. We said, "Put it out on some stations, just to put a toe in the water." And every one of the stations where they tried it immediately added it.

T: You once told us that you were hated in your hometown for your name.

P: Yeah. At the time that we started was right at the apogee of that political correctness. It was part of curriculum at colleges, at that point. The idea was that language controls thought. If you said something like "Cherry Poppin' Daddies," you were actually contributing to all sorts of goddamn things.

T: What do you think is going to happen with this resurgence in swing?

P: I think that there will be a tiny swing blip on the screen. But it's good that it's opened up music a lot. The problem with swing music, I think, is that there's only a few bands doing it, and there's a lot of nostalgia shit involved. You have to do something new with it. We inoculate ourselves against the Swingwasi kind of people, and we'll play a ska song, and what not. The third-wave ska fans have followed us throughout our careers. They've not worried about whether we were a ska band or a swing bad. But when the swing scene started happening, they were way more elitist. It is 1998. To do something totally retro really isn't that interesting. We're essentially a pop-rock band with swing influences. And ska influences, and soul influences, and stuff like that.

T: What's your next record going to be like?

P: It's going to be swing, but there's a lot of weird songs. We just recorded 15 songs, and we're going to do two more recording sessions, so we'll have about 45 songs, total. It's [hard to] pare it down to 12, but the question is what songs do I like the most. A lot of the stuff I've written is weird pop. We're trying to branch it out some, so we don't have to make "Zoot Suit Riot II." We've already done that.

T: What's the writing process like for you and the band?

P: It's just totally random. I just write whatever's in my head, and I try not to make myself go, "Oh, that's not a Daddies song." That's the big danger. The big trick is to not make yourself a marketing tool.

T: After nine years of doing this, is it strange to be considered by some as a "new" band?

P: Yeah. The trip behind the record was so different to begin with, because the expectations were so low. Now I'm told that it's gonna go gold, easy. We made that record at our home studio. In fact, on "Zoot Suit Riot," after I did the vocals, I said to the engineer, "Okay, I think I'm ready to sing it now." And [the engineer] said, "Hey, Steve, you should come here and listen to it. It didn't sound bad." So I went in, and he said, "I think that you should keep that in there," cause we know that it was the first take. We were recording it for our fans, and our label, so we left it in. And now, it's being played on Top 40 stations. [laughs]

Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol Interview, 2010 Redux

Ashley Hutchings & Ken Nicol
Interview and introduction by Daniel Coston

Look at any folk record from the past forty years, and the names Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol will pop up in some prominent places. Hutchings was the founding bassist in Fairport Convention, leaving after fabled 1969 album Liege & Lief to form another legendary folk/rock act, Steeleye Span. He is still very active today, with the Albion Band, his series of Morris music albums, and the Rainbow Chasers.

Ken Nicol has been Hutchings’ longtime partner in the Albion Band, and has been the guitarist in Steeleye Span since 2002. Now the two have released their first album as a duo, entitled Copper, Russet and Gold. The album, available through Park Records (, is a fun and eclectic collection of songs that are not bound by any one genre. 

Coston: How did this record come about?

Hutchings: The record came about through Ken contacting me and suggesting we write and record an album of newly written songs. He said (quite correctly) that we write good songs together, and had composed many fine ones for The Albion Band, and wasn't it time we composed together again?

Coston: What surprised me is the diversity of the music on the CD. Some rock, folk and jazz mixed in. Was that something that evolved during the writing process?

Nicol: Both Ashley and I are very eclectic in the way we view music. Largely it’s a case of, the way you think, is consequently the way you write. If there was a process that could be described as evolvement, it would be less of one that just sort of happened by itself, and more a case of wanting to give the album a breadth of expression and colour that could be achieved effectively by using a whole mixture of musical genres. 

Coston: Both of you keep busy schedules. Was it hard to find time to write and record this album?

Nicol: Yes, I mentioned earlier that it slowed down the recording process quite considerably. I should add also that, for me at least, it’s not just a case of grabbing any available time you can get you hands on. With anything I become involved with, there is always a period of time within which I have to ‘think my way’ into it. I have to capture a feel for that task. This isn’t an issue so much if it’s, say, recording or mixing, but when it comes to writing, it takes me a while to get my head into that zone. It can actually be quite difficult when you have a number of things on the go at the same time.     

Hutchings: The album took some time to record, probably two years, during which we would do a bit, have a few months off, do a bit, record some more after a long break, etc..

Coston: Do you find that the writing process is different in working with each other, as opposed to writing on your own, or with others?

Nicol: It’s quite different. If I write alone, often melodies and chord progressions initiate the subject matter of a song. Ninety-something percent of the time, when writing with Ashley, he’ll send me his lyrics, and I then set them to music. 

Of course, there’s little difference between the two when it comes to reaching deep within for that spark, that essence of something that gives one the sense of having found something inspirational, or at least something that inspires oneself. But one of the reasons I believe our partnership works well is because our songwriting roles are clearly defined. Ashley writes the the words, and I write the tunes.    

Hutchings: The writing process is inevitably different when we work together. Put simply, I write the words and send them to Ken who sets them to music, just like Rodgers and Hammerstein!

Coston: Ken, Steeleye just finished a lengthy 40th anniversary tour, and a new album. What's next for the band?

Nicol: I’m not 100% certain just at this moment, but my guess is that there’ll probably be a couple of tours in 2011.  

Coston: While it's been many years since Ashley was in Steeleye, did he have any advice for you when you joined the band?

Nicol: Keep your head down. And always carry an extra pair of boxers. 

Coston: Ashley, you've been a key part of four legendary groups. Fairport, Steeleye, Albion and Morris On. What would you say has been the keys to your success?

Hutchings: I've absolutely no idea about the key to success. I just do what I want to do and hope for the best!

Coston: How would you describe your bass playing? Does it change, depending on the project?

Hutchings: My bass playing is pretty conventional nowadays. It was more adventerous back in the Fairport and Steeleye days. I think of myself as a writer, producer, band leader first, and bass playing comes well down the list.

Coston: When I interviewed Dave Mattacks last year, he told me that playing on the first Morris On record [Morris On, 1972] changed the way he thought about what he could do on drums. What have you gotten out of the Morris On series?

Hutchings: Constructing the Morris On series of albums, and there have been six, has been fun and therefore a relaxing change with all the strongly emotional songs I've recorded.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas, And Happy New Year

Hello All-

On behalf of everyone here at Tangents Magazine, Merry Christmas, and stay tuned for news for new adventures and new issues in 2016. Best wishes and safe travels,
December 21, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Announcing The Return Of Tangents Magazine In 2016

When we put together the surprise 20th anniversary issue of Tangents Magazine, I intended it to be one last word on what that magazine was capable of. One more chance  to have fun, shake some things up, and say, “We did this, and we’re proud of it.” To my surprise, many of you welcomed us back with open arms. You wrote us to ask when the next issue would be. You asked if you could buy ads in the next issue. When Tangents originally folded in the doldrums of 1998, I thought that someone would surely figure out the formula that the magazine had concocted, and create something to fill that void. Nearly 20 years on, it turns out that it was us all along that would pick up where we had left off. And so it goes…

With that in mind, I’m happy to announce that Tangents Magazine will return in 2016. We’re still working out how many issues we’ll do, but we are looking to return to the newsstands in the spring of 2016. Yes, I said newsstands. We’ll be posting new and archival issues at, but we will once again be print-based, in glorious high-end ‘zine quality. Just the way that you, and we like it.

All of that being said, this new era of Tangents needs you, in many ways. While many of us that oversaw Tangents back then wil be back onboard, the magazine has to be more than nostalgia to be relevant. Tangents was, and is a loose collective of people that wanted to create something different. Something that speaks to the collective experience of our lives, what we’re interested, and what makes us want to speak up. Be it now, or in the days to come.

So, if you would like to write, or contribute to Tangents, welcome. Email us at, and feel free to send us articles, essays, poetry, ideas, or just general thoughts and outbursts. If you contributed to Tangents the first time around, welcome back. Email us, and let the conversation begin again. And if you would like to buy an ad in Tangents, email us. Because creativity and commerce can co-exist, if we allow it to do so.

Thanks for your time, and please check back soon for updates. The future is un-written, so let the story begin, all over again. 
See you on the journey.
December 2, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Holidays/Stay Tuned

Hello All-

Happy holidays. Tune back in next week for an announcement about a big upcoming event.
November 25, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015

Jimbo Wallace, Reverend Horton Heat Interview, Summer 1998

The Healing Powers Of The Heat
By Daniel Coston

In these times of soul-searching and yearning for enlightenment, some find healing in the form of therapy, while others have discovered strength through religion. However, there any many others that have found religion through Heat, as in the Reverend Horton Heat, a Texas-born and bred trio that has become a savior to many a listener.

For nearly ten years, the Heat, made up of guitarist and lead singer Jim "Reverend" Horton Heat, bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla, have burnt up and torn down people's expectations. Their mixture of rockabilly roots, punk attitude and a wild live show has brought many a fan to their knees, and their legion of converts is continuing to grow.

Along with continuing to play over 200 shows a year, the band made a high-profile guest appearance this past spring on "The Drew Carey Show." The band also recently released their fifth album, Space Heater, on Interscope Records.

With the band's hectic tour schedule, it was no surprise to find that Jimbo Wallace was calling in from the road. In this case, Mizoula, Montana. "We're at the local university here," said Wallace. "One of those places where they send up the 90-pound entertainment director to help you load equipment."

Coston: Tell me about the new record.

J: It's a little bit of a departure for us. This time, I think that we leaned towards our punk influence a little more. A little more aggressive guitar, more guitar chords, instead of the lightning country picking. It's cool for us. We never play it safe. We always try to do different stuff, and pretty unpredictable.

We had Ed Stasium produce it. He did a lot of Ramones records. We've been known for our crazy producers, from Al Jourgensen to Gibby Haynes. [laughs]

Coston: Who's been your favorite producer to work with?

J: I would have to say Ed Stasium. He was the most level-headed. Gibby Haynes was a lot of fun to work with, and Al Jourgensen was a nightmare. [laughs] But we somehow got that done. Every story you've ever heard about him is probably true. [laughs] But some people think that's our best record. [Liquor In The Front, 1994] Something went right.
Coston: Was the change on this record a conscious decision?

J: No. I think that we get bored sometimes. [laughs] We had a limited time frame for this record, so we just locked ourselves in a studio and tried to write a song a day. We came up with about thirty of them, and used what we thought was worthy, and threw away the rest.

It was kind of a challenge with this record, because we did have a limited time period. Of course, working with Ed Stasium, he's a slavedriver. I hope that he reads this. [laughs] If we messed up, or if he didn't like a part, he made us do it over. [laughs]
Coston: You guys recently appeared on the Drew Carey show.

J: Yeah. We first did on his HBO "Mr. Vegas" special, and that was pretty cool. We got to meet Wayne Newton, who was also a guest on the show. We were backstage, and Wayne was waiting to come [onstage]. I had on a silver tux jacket, and I walked up to him, and said, "Wayne, look. I'm sorry that I outdressed you tonight. You're going to have to do something about that," 'cause he just had a black [tuxedo jacket]. And he said, "Yeah, I'm been wanting to talk to you about that, Jimbo." [laughs]

But he was the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. "Take all of the pictures that you want," and he was just real down to earth. Since that thing turned out successful, Drew asked us to be on his sitcom.

I guess the whole scenario was that the bar where they hang out was having a Battle Of The Bands, and they had an actor that they added to our band as a fourth member. We were called the Underprivledged. It ended up that we won the contest, but they stole the trophy at the end of the show.

As the credits were rolling, he announced, "Rev. Horton Heat," and let us play a song as they took the credits out.
Coston: There's a lot of different influences in your music. Where do some of those influences come from?

J: I don't know. Growing up in Texas, of course, there's a lot of great guitar players, and I'm sure that it inspired the Rev., or Jim, in his early years. Growing up, I was into all different types of music, like heavy metal. And then punk hit, that was all I would listen to. And then the Stray Cats came out, and that's what inspired me to play the upright bass.

It all kind of melts together. It's nothing we really planned. Each one has a different kind of music we like, and once we get together, you can hear traces of it in most of our songs.

Also, there's a little truth in every song. I don't know if everybody knows that, but a lot of our songs are true stories. I know the "400 Bucks" girl. It's a long story. The Rev loaned this ex-girlfriend of his some money while we were on the road to buy this car, and we get back home, and she breaks up with him, with the car and the 400 bucks. So he wrote a song about it. [laughs]
Coston: I loved the last song on It's Martini Time (1996), "That's Showbiz."

J: We're doing that as an encore. Guess there's a lot of truth in that song, too. There's a line in that about "rats the size of loaves of bread." That comes from a club in Washington, DC called the 9:30 Club, which is now big and beautiful since they moved locations.

They used to be in this little basement behind the Ford Theater, where Lincoln got shot, and the alley back there was just full of rats, and they'd come and steal the pizza out of your dressing room while you were on stage.
Coston: At one point in your show, you turn the bass on its side and play it while the Rev stands on top of it. Where did that all start?

J: Back in the fifties, the bass players used to be pretty crazy with their upright bass. They'd stand on it and play. We've been fans of Bill Haley and the Comets, and they did tricks like that, so we kind of reintroduced it back in.

Although, [The Rev's] put his foot through my bass a couple of times. Of course, he never offers to pay for it. I'm always paying for it, so I might stand on his guitar next show. [laughs] No, he fixed my bass.

I've been in the band ten years now, and I guess that it's taken ten years to be an overnight success. Good things are starting to happen for us, finally. For a band that's never had a hit on the radio, we've got a pretty big following as compared to bands that do have hits.

Our following is pretty big, and we're real excited about that, 'cause we put many years of hard work into that, and it's paying off. A lot of our loyal fans are still with us today. We still see their faces at the show, and that's cool.
Coston: How important is it for you guys to have that loyal fan base? Those people who have been with you five, ten years?

J: That's number one. Record companies come and go, but they'll still be there, and that's the main reason we do this. Interscope's been pretty good to us so far, but I trust all record companies about as far as I can throw them. [laughs].


This interview was originally slated for Issue 31 of Tangents Magazine, a near-mythical issue that did not see the light of publication in 1998. Seventeen years later, it's finally a part of the Tangents archives. Yay!
October 12, 2015

Douglas Adams Interview, October 1996 Issue, With 2010 Notes

There is no way to describe Douglas Adams' sci-fi comedy opus The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and accurately capture why it has become one of the most popular books of the past 20 years. With characters such as Guide researcher Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin The Paranoid Android, it 's one of those books that you just have to read to understand its popularity.

It's also very hard to describe the career of its author, who has now sold over 15 million books worldwide. Born in Cambridge, England, Adams did everything from odd jobs to write with Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame before he found his voice in Hitchhhiker's.
Originally done as a radio series for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio in 1978. He has since adapted Hitchhiker's into five books, a popular 1981 TV mini-series and every other form of media imaginable. With a second popular book series, Dirk Gently, now under his belt, Adams has now positioned himself at the forefront of the Computer Age, with several upcoming CD-ROMs now in the planning stages.
During his stay in Charlotte last month for the Novello festival, I sat down with Adams to talk about Hitchhiker's, his experiences with Monty Python and "Doctor Who," and the numerous Hitchhiker followers that fill the Internet.

Tangents: What were some of your early influences as a writer?

Adams: I'd have to say that Monty Python influenced me a great deal from a comedy standpoint, because I consider myself a comedy writer. Doctor Who also was a big influence from the standpoint of science-fiction. I don't know if you can imagine it now, but the impact that Doctor Who when it was first broadcast was amazing. It was so huge that the following week, they had to run the first episode again, and stagger the rest of the series back a week.
I guess on a prosaic level, I was influenced by the classics. Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, P. B. Woodhouse. They were the ones that you always looked up to as a writer, and always convinced yourself that your never be as good as theirs. There were a few science-fiction comic books in England when I was growing up. They were the rather sort of upper crust comic books that were there, I think, to instill good Empire values into young boys. But I think that the great one was called Dan Dare, Pilot Of The Future.
I must profess that I have a bit of a problem with a lot of today's science-fiction. I just find that it's very hard to read. In what many people think of as the "Golden Age" of science-fiction that produced [Arthur C. ] Clarke, [Isaac] Asimov and those guys, they were all working for voracious editors. You always read them complaining about how much their editors beat them up, but it produced very clear, clean, lean storytelling.
If you read science fiction nowadays, everybody's been to creative writing classes, and you get page after page, after page of "creative storytelling" without it ever actually going anywhere.
There was one great, great writer who is now, alas, largely overlooked. His name is Robert Sheckley. He was a very funny science-fiction writer, which was unusual. In fact, I'm going up in a few days' time to meet him, because we're probably going to collaborate on a little thing.

[At this point in the interview, Adams and I noticed that my new tape recorder was starting and stopping due to the machine being switched to voice-activated, a problem that Adams actually spotted. And yes, the irony of technology going awry in the middle of a Douglas Adams interview was not lost on me.]

Adams: I was a junior producer for BBC radio, and I was doing a radio show for Christmas...that was based on the story of Cinderella, and it was called "Black Cinderella II Goes East." We had a bunch of luminaries taking part in it, including John Cleese. John was, predictably, the only one couldn't turn up for recording. So I worked this out with the writers that it was written in such a way that John, who was the Fairy Godperson, was such and successful Godperson that she could never turn up to see Cinderella, but she would leave all her spells on her answering machine.
So I had to go off and record all of his bits, and it was terribly difficult finding a moment in his busy schedule when he could do this, and he finally could see me at 8 o;clock for an half-an-hour to do this. So I turned up with my tape recorder, tested everything to make sure it was all right. I did a quick test record and everything was fine, and I said, "Okay, let's go ahead."
And at that moment, John just happened to say, "Do you think it's a bit warm in here?" And I said, "Yes, it is a little bit. I'll fix that," and didn't think anything more about it. And it turned out that when I turned on this air conditioning fan, it set up a hum over the whole tape.
So I had to call [Cleese] the next day and say, 'I'm terribly sorry. I know we took weeks of work trying to find the time, but can we do it again, please?" And he was a little bit shirty, but eventually he agreed to do it, but unfortunately the second recording wasn't such a good performance, because he was a little cross about it. So I understand your frustration.

T: You came from a largely medical family.

A: That's right, yes. My mother was a nurse, and my father's father was an ear, nose and throat surgeon. My stepfather, because my parents divorced, was a doctor, and my sister from time to time is a nurse.

T: Did you expect to be a doctor when you grew up?

A: Well, I don't know about expected. It certainly crossed my mind from time to time, and there were certainly times when I thought, "Oh God, that's what I should have done." But it was never really an option, or if it was an option that I had taken, then it would have involved taking a U-turn in life, and suddenly giving up another eight years.

T: You said once that you became a writer because you couldn't think of anything else better to do.

A: Yes, that's true to a certain extent. That's funny, looking back now I would have a whole bunch of ideas about different things I'd like to do, but they weren't clear to me then. If I'd known back in 19747 which is when I left University, what I know now, among the things I would've thought of doing was being an evolutionary biologist. I guess a better time to decide this would've been before I went to University. But also a computer scientist, I would've loved to have been a rock musician...

T: Yes, you actually play some musical instruments.

A: Well, I actually play only two musical instruments, really. One is the guitar, and the other is the computer-driven synth. I'm a fairly poor keyboard player, but I can write music pretty well, so I basically write to a sequencer.

T: One of your first jobs was writing with Graham Chapman during the last season of Monty Python.

A: Well, it was something that seemed to me at the time as a young kid just out of University like this was having the clouds opening. "Wow! I'm working with all the Pythons." It wasn't quite as straightforward as that. Graham, and I think is a matter of record, so I'm not doing him any disservice, was a very, very heavy drinker at the time. He wasn't working with John Cleese anymore, and he was working with a lot of different people, but an awful lot of work really wasn't being done. So it a period of mixed output, and after eighteen months of that, I really felt that I was better off taking the plunge myself.

T: What were your impressions of the Pythons when you worked with them in that period?

A: Well, I do want to emphasize that it wasn't really working with them. My actual input to the Python era was about two lines. But, to a greater or lesser extent, they're all friends of mine. I know Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, John [Cleese] I know to a small degree, Mike [Palin] to a small degree, Eric [Idle] to a small degree. But the two Terrys are great.

T: In between that and getting the radio deal for Hitchhiker's, you worked as a bodyguard.

A: Yes, for an Arab Royal Family, the Altoni of Gutar. That was strange. It wasn't what I was expecting to be doing at that point, but like anything that happens to you in life, it turns out useful in some way or another. I think some of the weirder ideas that carried me through the next couple years after that came from long nights sitting opposite the elevator shaft at the Hilton Hotel, while I was trying to keep my sanity.

T: The ideas for Hitchhiker's came from several different inspirations, didn't they?

A: Yes. The actual title, as I've told many people, came to me while I was lying in a field, in a capside, actually, in Innsbrook at night, and looking up at the stars. There was a book around called The Hitchhiker 's Guide To Europe, which I had a copy of, and it occurred to me that somebody should write a Hitchhiker 's Guide To The Galaxy. I then promptly forgot about the idea until six years later.
I was intrigued by the idea of doing science-fiction as a form of comedy, and it was only while I was at work on the story that became Hitchhiker that I suddenly remembered this title, and that idea that folded into it.
One thing that I always want to tell people is that people always described Hitchhiker rather carelessly or loosely as being a spoof on science-fiction, and it isn't at all. Basically, a spoof or parody might give you enough material for a couple of pages, but that's about it. So it was very much using science-fiction to enable one to parody everything else, but there's no, or certainly hardly any attempt to actually parody science-fiction.

T: You also once said that a lot of the characters in Hitchhiker's were originally based on friends or people you knew, but then you expanded on those characters.

A: Well, I think you'll find that's common for most writers. Very often you have an idea for a character from just some little aspect of someone you know. something they do or say, or some thing about them, and then it grows into something else. It's often quite a surprise when you look back and think, "Oh, this character came from that person. It's not much like them now."

T: Marvin, for instance, came from a friend of yours.

A: Yeah, who's a comedy writer called Andrew Marshall. Hence the name in fact, because in the original draft of the script, he was actually called Marshall, because I did want Andrew to be absolutely clear that I meant him.
It was the producer who said to me, 'I'm worried about you naming him Marshall, because it has other connotations which you don't intend, but maybe the audience will pick up and then be confused by it." So I thought, "Oh, yeah. Mar, Mar-vin, then." It practically became Marvin on the way to the recording studio.

T: While you were writing the Hitchhiker's radio series, you were hired to become a writer and script editor for Doctor Who.

A: The sequence of events was that while I was waiting for the BBC to make up its mind about doing Hitchhiker, which took a long time, I needed some income from somewhere, so I thought, "Well, I've got this one script I've written that I've written for Hitchhiker. What else could I generate with this?" And the obvious place to send it was Doctor Who.
So they said, "Okay. Come in and see us." So we talking about storylines, and the inevitable happened, which is that [Doctor Who] took a long time to sort out, and the commission for the rest of the Hitchhiker 's series and the commission to write four episodes of Doctor Who came in the same week.
So it was pretty hectic. I really had hardly a day off for four years after that, until I finally decided, "That's it," made the escape from London, and holed up in a hotel in New York for a month, and tried to figure out what to do next.

T: What's your feelings now about your work with Doctor Who?

A: Well, Doctor Who's great in all sorts of ways. I remain tremendously fond of the actual idea. I think the idea is brilliant, and it obviously got very well-worn and tired over the years. I think the problem with it was simply that we were doing 26 episodes a year on a very, very small amount of resources, and there comes a point where you're having to compromise on so many things, and rush so many things just to get to the next problem that you're no longer getting any satisfaction out of it. It's merely a collection of missed opportunities.
Now, obviously anything you're working on there are compromises, missed opportunities, things that go wrong and things that you can't quite do. But the question is at the end of the day, have you done a good job? And I feel on Doctor Who, there was just too much. Too much expected from too little in the way of resources, so at the end of the day, you feel, "Well, we didn't even do a good job, I'm afraid." So it was a little disappointing.

T: The character of Ford Prefect in Hitchhiker's was originally conceived as a sort of anti-Doctor Who, wasn't he?

A: In a kind of a way, yeah. One of the keynotes of Ford was that given the choice between saving the world and going to a good party, he'd go the party. Or even a bad party. [laughs]

T: Whereas Doctor Who would just save the world.

A: Yeah, he was that kind of boring guy about saving the world over and over again. That's why I thought with Hitchhiker, "Let's just get the world out of the way from the word go." Boy, that was a decision I came to regret. [groans] Good God.

T: Why is that?

A: It was such a problem thereafter. It's one of those you do, like a gesture. Michael Nesmith, who was one of the Monkees, told me how there came a point when he wanted to leave the Monkees, and everybody was very down on him for that, 'cause as far as they were concerned, they were doing well, everything was going great, everyone was earning money. Why kill it now?
So somebody said to him, "Look, it's all very well for you. You've very comfortably made this amount of money. Now you just walk away from it. Is that right?" And Michael said, "No, it isn't about the money," and they said, "Oh, yeah." So he said, "All right, how much have I made from the Monkees? I'll give it all away." So he did that, and he said he woke up the following morning, and he thought, 'I've got no money now." [laughs]
That's the problem with it. You make this grand gesture at the beginning, and you give up the earth, and you think, "Damn. Now where's the thing going to be set?" You haven't got any good reference point thereafter, so I've made these sort of futiling attempts to bring it back from time to time, but it never quite works.

T: What's you feelings about the various Hitchhiker incarnations?

A: The top ones in my mind are the radio series and the books. The TV series was kind of a mixed blessing. I was very fond of the towel. I thought that was a good read. There was a couple of comic books over the last couple years that, well, I don't know, I'm not a great expert on comic books. It's not a media I'm really sufficient to converse with and to have an opinion, but I guess I'm old fashioned to think that it works better as a book.

T: There was also the record albums, there was a sort of musical that was done...

A: A couple of stage productions, yeah. It's kind of difficult to perform on stage. One of the reasons why it keeps on being about to be a film, then never quite becoming a film is that the whole thing is essentially picaresque, which means it's just one damn thing after another. It's the momentum with which it rolls forward, rather than sends it going anywhere in particular, and that's very, very hard to translate into a movie. A movie has to be 100 [minutes], maybe 110 at the most, but it's beginning, middle and end. I've been able to come up with a couple of scripts that observed those constraints, but somehow, it now fails to be Hitchhiker. It's become more like Star Wars or whatever. No disrespect to Star Wars, but Hitchhiker ain't that.

T: Do you think the Hitchhiker's story can be taken any further?

A: I'd like to, actually. A lot of people have not particularly liked Mostly Harmless [1993], including myself. The problem with it, and most people never notice this when they're reading books, was the year in which I wrote that book was just full of terrible problems at home. Professional problems, family problems, a sad death in the family. I don't want to talk about it all, because it's personal stuff, but it was a really, really bloody year, and against the background of that, I had to write a funny book.
It was tough, so there's a little bit of me that, I know I'll keep on saying that I'll never do another [Hitchhiker book], and then I do it, but I might well another one at some point because I'd like to leave it all on a slightly more upbeat ending than Mostly Harmless was. Take the thing back up again, because it seems sad to leave it at that downbeat flavor.

T: Do you ever tire of people asking you what you were working on next?

A: I got very crazed by it, actually. I'm afraid that I went through to almost a sort of parodic degree a real mid-life crisis, hitting forty, thinking, "What am I doing? I'm going round and round in circles, doing the same things over and over again."
When I started out, I did something in radio, then I did television, I did this, I did that. Then I did a book, and then suddenly, the book was such a hit meant that the next thing I did was another book, and the next thing after that was another book. And that wasn't the kind of life that I really wanted, but there was a huge pressure on me to keep on doing that, and for years I found myself sitting in a room alone not really enjoying myself at all.
So a little while ago, I started thinking, 'I've got to do something different," and it's a hard call to make. Because you're a well-known author, everyone's expecting another book from you next year, and you think, "Well, I also have a life I have to try and sort out." Essentially, what I wanted to do was to find a way of working which could enable me to go back to doing what I did to begin with, which was moving from one medium to another, and working with people and actually having fun.
So I've set up with a bunch of very complimentary and bright bunch of people, and we've formed a company called the Digital Village. It's turning out to be enormous fun. My first project is a CD-ROM, which I'm working on at the moment, and television, and film, we hope at last. But the center of it all is going to be a huge Web presence. Everything will sort of flow into that.
I'm just having the best possible time. Suddenly, all the creative juices are flowing again, and I'm working very hard on the CD-ROM, Starship Titanic. Now that looks like it'll go on into different media, but I don't want to do what I did with Hitchhiker, which was "Okay, now I've done the radio series. Now I'll do the book of it, and now I'm gonna write the television series," and this and that, and virtually become my own word processor. So what I'm intending to do with each of the projects that I start with the Digital Village is that I will do the first alliteration of it, and then hand it over to other people to take it to the other fields. So this Starship Titanic starts as a CD-ROM, but as far as the novel is concerned, even though a lot of people will think that I should do it because that's basically what I do, in fact I'm handing over the novel to Robert Sheckley to write, because I want to go on to these other projects.
One's called Secret Empire, which will be a television project. I want to go on to another project, which will be a film. I can't tell you what the title of that yet, simply because I can never get the right title for it. But in each case, I want to hand on to whatever else may come of it to other people to do, because I want more variety.

T: What's your feelings about the different Internet groups that follow you?

A: It's kind of weird, actually. Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. Now he would say that in the future, everybody will have their own group. There was a point where I used to go into the different newsgroups from time to time, but I found that it was an uphill battle because you get a lot of flak from people saying, "Oh, it can't possibly be you, so butt off out of here."
But the other thing is the effect of Chinese Whispers, because of the way in which notes would fall off the bottom of it. Someone would ask a question, and I would go on and answer it, and I might right a full piece. And over the next two or three days, your piece would disappear, and a lot of people would miss it and ask "What did he say?" And then you'd watch as more and more people garbled versions of what you'd said would proliferate around, and got to be a full-time job just trying to keep it under control.
So I thought, "I'll duck back out of this now," and wait until I can do my own web site, where I can keep control of things. The other thing I have to say, and this is an important issue because the Digital Village is about to start producing some major Hitchhiker's Guide sites, and this is the tricky thing on the web, because some people who are doing fannish stuff, which is great, terrific.
And then when you see where a major Web designing group is calling itself "the hitchhiker's guide to" this, that or the other thing. No, sorry, that's my property. Back off. I'm having to start being a little bit tough about that, which I don't like. But you feel that people are saying, "Hey, he's a good, cool guy. Let's go and burgle him." [laughs]
Unfortunately, my lawyers have said, 'If you're going to preserve your right against major infringements of copyright, you've got to protect from all infringements of copyright." So I'm having to go out of the way and say, "Oi guys, stop doing that, 'cause it looks like you're starting to look like you're doing a professional thing here."

T: Would you ever do another nude scene like you did in the TV version of Hitchhiker?

A: [laughing] No! Absolutely not! They got me very drunk to do that.


This is still one of the better interviews I’ve ever done, and almost completely in spite of myself. I was frightfully young, on the late side of 23, but still in the first few months of knowing how to interact with other people. I had only been doing interviews in April of that year, and while the questions I asked aren’t bad, I can hear the overeager edge of my voice, trying to be funny and “cool” around a guy whose work I had just recently gotten into. On top of which, I had bought a new tape recorder for this interview, which unbeknownest to me was set on Voice Activated. So, I start the interview, and the tape recorder is cutting on and off. It rolled intermittently for the first few minutes while Douglas told me a great story about a similar problem he’d had while recording John Cleese for a BBC pantomime. Eventually, we both picked up the tape recorder, and Douglas figured out what the problem was. Not only did the machinery go heywire during a Douglas Adams interview, but Douglas then fixed it. Even back then, it seemed absolutely brilliant. After the interview was done, mind you....

What it did establish in my favor was that I literally had no airs about myself. I was the innocent fan with some half-decent questions, and Douglas really went out of his way to give some very in-depth answers. I kept running into him the rest of the day, as I had to stay at the library until Douglas’ speaking engagement and signing. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t bugged him as much (at least I feared I did), but it was such a cool day, it was hard to let it go. I also hate that I never got the chance to talk to him again, and tell him how much it had all meant to me.

And how that we get this interview? Tangents was the only one that wanted to interview Douglas in person, while he was in town. All of the papers only wanted pre-show interviews before that week (all of which Douglas was doing at the time via email, or internet chats, which was still in its dodgy infancy), and I wanted to meet him. A few weeks before the interview, the Main Library had temporarily banned our magazine from the building, as someone got scared by our “content.” And then, there I was, representing the media through the Main Library of Charlotte, and we were back in the library. Even then, it struck me as bizarre, and hilarious. 

This gig also became notable for other reasons. It was one of the first events I ever photographed, as our photographer at the time didn’t show up. I took photos from my seat, sitting next to the girl that had dumped me the week before, as we’d had already gotten the tickets weeks ahead of the show. I then took photos at the signing, which were the best pics of him I got that night. I would soon discover the combination of music and photography at Farm Aid the following week, and I was off on another adventure. 

-Daniel Coston, February 2010