• "Cruisin'" with Jesse J & Smokey Robinson, Plus Chatting with Kandace Springs, Steve Arrington and AJ Croce

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    photo credit: Autumn de Wilde

    Jesse J joins Smokey Robinson on his solo classic "Cruisin'," the exclusive video featured here. "Jessie J is such a powerhouse as a performer," says Smokey. "She gave an amazing take on 'Cruisin' for Smokey & Friends, and it was an absolute pleasure to have her join me on stage to perform it live in Edinburgh. I look forward to seeing and hearing where her career takes her in the future. She is a true artist."


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    An Interview with Kandace Springs

    Mike Ragogna: Kandace, it's a real pleasure to meet you.

    Kandace Springs: You too!

    MR: Thank you. It's going to be virtually impossible to keep a linear interview going with you because there's so much stuff.

    KS: Aw, okay, forget linear!

    MR: Alright, let's start with "West Coast," which was just released. It comes off of your EP. What went into creating it?

    KS: Well, first of all, "West Coast" and "Meet Me In The Sky" were done by incredible producers. They've worked for Usher and Alicia Keys. I went to Philadelphia and a little bit of L.A. and worked on those tracks with them and did some writing together. The other two, "Love Got In The Way" and "Forbidden Fruit" were by Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken. They're the guys that developed Rihanna years ago now.

    MR: Kandace, you got to work with Prince for a while, he being one of your musical influences, right?

    KS: Yes, absolutely!

    MR: What is that story?

    KS: Well I like to do covers, I did a Sam Smith cover of "Stay With Me," it was tweeted, and I guess, before I knew it, I was on Twitter and getting these messages from Prince. I was like, "This isn't really him, is it?" and before I know it, it actually is him and he's following me and before I knew it I was on an airplane flying out to play these parts in Minneappolis. I was playing it that weekend, it was sick, man.

    MR: And he had you as part of his entourage for a while, didn't he?

    KS: [laughs] Yeah, we're still friends, dude, we talk fairly often. He's a really nice guy.

    MR: What's your creative process like? How does your writing come out?

    KS: Well we got in the studio and we kind of came up with concepts. One of my things is I'm a huge car fanatic. I love cars, especially muscle cars, Corvettes and stuff like that I actually own a Corvette, so that's one of the main lines in it. "I can't forget that my Corvette is in the garage just sitting there." It took my love of cars and the West Coast and we were just collaborating and laying down chords on the piano and cool drum mixes and we took some samples. Anyway, they killed it.

    MR: Is it a little red Corvette, big nod to Prince?

    KS: [laughs] I know, right? No, mine's silver unfortunately.

    MR: You were a Nashville resident for a while, you mloved to New York, you've been moving around a lot. What moves you?

    KS: Well I was born and raised in Nashville and I figured out eventually after I got a deal that I need to be in New York, just because they understand me musically and culturally the best, so I moed here probably a couple of years ago now, I've been to LA quite a few times.

    MR: Do you feel like that plane is landing eventually? Where ideally do you want to be?

    KS: The West Coast. The weather's beautiful, the car culture, the music, the people out there, I just love it.

    MR: What got you into music?

    KS: My dad is a professional singer in Nashville, he's had a huge influence on me and he sings a lot of soul. We started playing piano when a friend of my father's fell on hard times and she had us keep her old piano at our house. A couple of weeks later my dad got me piano lessons after he saw me playing on it a little bit. Then he started pushing me to sing and artists like Billy Holliday and Nina Simone and Nina Simone and Erykah Badu inspired me.

    MR: Did he influence your choice of covers, for instance the Sam Smith song?

    KS: Not much on that one, that was more of my current team, but a lot of the way I sing it... I grew up in the church so I sing a lot of gospel riffs and add more gospelly, bluesy chords to it and stuff, absolutely yes. My dad always plays a part somewhere in there as far as the musicality of it.

    MR: So how do you get your muse? Do you sit at the piano and say, "Okay, come on out?"

    KS: [laughs] Sometimes it's just a title idea and then somebody will come up with a melody or a hook and somebody else starts playing chords on the guitar. Other times, people have a track that already exists and we write around that. It just depends. It's honestly different every time.

    MR: You just did an EP, so I'm imagining you're working on an album.

    KS: Yes. The EP comes out September 30th and the record should be coming out in March.

    MR: Do you get nervous about performing on Letterman, etc., or are you just a big ol' pro now?

    KS: [laughs] It's not that bad at all, actually. I used to get really nervous but this is my passion so I just feel very comfortable and natural up there.

    MR: Kandace, you grew up in Nashville. Your music certainly doesn't sound country, but what would you say you got creatively from growing up there?

    KS: The songwriting there is so good. I definitely picked up on some of that lyrically, but it's all more about music there as well. People are really into finding perfect chord progressions there, so I think I got that, too. You kind of interpret it into the music I'm doing now. Even though it's more country there, there's a lot of soul there, too.

    MR: What about your vision? Where are you heading with this? Where do you picture yourself a few years from now?

    KS: Ooh! Well I just got a tour with Ne-Yo, I'm hoping to get more of these, touring the world and performing on shows and just getting out there. My main goal is I want to keep the respect of that old soul music, old jazz for the greats out there. I want to establish that in my career and just be known as one of those artists who has sustaining, deep music. I want people to hear my songs at a wedding a hundred years from now.

    MR: You want to make a contribution.

    KS: Absolutely!

    MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

    KS: I would say stick to who you are, don't let people change who you are as far as being an artist and write from your heart. Sing from your heart and just don't take s**t from anybody else. I got that so much, espeically in the country world, growing up, people saying, "You should do this, do more pop stuff, do more that." But apparently, sticking to who I was has been the best decision of my life.

    MR: Yeah, it gets confusing, doesn't it? These heavyweights are telling you, "No," but you push through and it works out. You've got to be commended for hanging on to your vision.

    KS: People can tell when you're not being yourself, and I can tell that people are moved more when you are being yourself. That's what will stick ultimately longer and what people will remember.

    MR: Kandace, what do you play right now that comes out the most "Kandace Springs"?

    KS: If I had to say one thing or sing one thing?

    MR: Why not both?

    KS: [laughs] Man. Sing from your heart. Honestly. There's a lot of that going on in "Forbidden Fruit."

    MR: What's a song that moves you?

    KS: There's a song by Sade called "Pearls" and it's gorgeous, oh my God. That's a song that inspires me. You can probably hear some of my influence from that on the EP. "Forbidden Fruit" is a salute to that song.

    MR: It's interesting, Sade will put out an album, it will be huge, then she'll disappear for a while and come back again when she's good and ready.

    KS: She's gone like that!

    MR: But you know what that means? She's at the point where she's making art. She puts out what she feels when she feels like it. She's somebody who stuck to her guns, too. There was nothing like Sade when she had hits in the eighties. I remember that personally. But enough about Sade, back to you! Is there anything left that you really want to talk about?

    KS: I think we did pretty good. If you have anything anything else, feel free to ask it!

    MR: What's the immediate future? You've got Letterman and what else is happening?

    KS: I just got done talking with Tavis Smiley, I'm opening for Chance The Rapper and Ne-Yo in six months. My EP's coming out September 30th. Letterman is on the 3rd...

    MR: Basically, the future looks really good, doesn't it!

    KS: Yes! I'm so happy, I feel so blessed and so thankful.

    9/30 - New York, NY @ The Box - record release show
    10/10 - New Brunswick, NJ @ Rutgers University - Verge Campus Tour w/ Chance The Rapper
    10/11 - Saratoga Springs, NY @ Skidmore College - Verge Campus Tour w/ Chance The Rapper
    10/12 - San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield w/Ne-Yo
    10/14 - Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues w/Ne-Yo
    10/15 - Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues w/Ne-Yo
    10/16 - Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues w/Ne-Yo
    10/17 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues w/Ne-Yo
    10/20 - Dallas, TX @ House of Blues w/Ne-Yo
    10/21 - Houston, TX @ House of Blues w/Ne-Yo
    10/23 - Atlanta, GA @ The Tabernacle w/Ne-Yo
    10/25 - Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues w/Ne-Yo
    10/26 - Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore w/Ne-Yo
    10/27 - Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore w/Ne-Yo

    Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne


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    A Conversation with Steve Arrington

    Mike Ragogna: Your new album Way Out is basically an overview of your career from 1980 through 1984. What are your thoughts of your body of work presented here?

    Steve Arrington: It's a good representation of that time. The unreleased and unfinished tracks, add an exciting dimension for me, they sit well with the rest of the songs represented for the period, yet still feel fresh.

    MR: Now that you've had time to live with the collection as a whole, what do you think it says to the listener as a whole about Steve Arrington of that period?

    SA: Steve Arrington was more diverse and innovative than perhaps we thought and made some music that has stood the test of time.

    MR: What's the story on the unreleased material?

    SA: I wanted to add a different look to a retrospective project, with eight unreleased/unfinished jams, instead of just one or two, to give more depth to the project, plus, for me, in my late fifties to speak to the unfinished music of my mid-twenties. Conclusion...younger Steve Arrington and older Steve Arrington connected well...smile. Also, I'm proud of my drumming on "Tribute to John Coltrain," don't think too many people knew I could swing.

    MR: What's the short history lesson on Slave and Steve Arrington for anyone wanting a quick catch-up?

    SA: We're both from Dayton, Ohio. In school, prior to Slave, many of us were in local bands together. We were always interested in doing some thumpin', funky music, heavily influenced by Sly Stone, Ohio Players, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire.

    MR: How would you describe your music and in your opinion, how has it evolved over the years?

    SA: My style has always been to follow my heart, as a singer, an instrumentalist and as a songwriter. I started, as a drummer playing Latin music with the Escovedo's, became lead vocalist and songwriter with Slave. In my solo career, I started to move away from the Slave formula, with more jazz tinged offerings, like "Beddie Bye" and more bluesier, grittier offerings, like "Weak At The Knees." "Dancing in the Key of Life" displayed more of a pop sensibility. "Pure Thang" displayed more of a diversified, gospel outing. My resent collabs and features have put me in interesting musical settings. I'd say, I'm a music adventurist, I enjoy doing different things.

    MR: Now that funk and R&B have been absorbed into virtually all other genres of music, what do you think is the state of funk these days?

    SA: I think funk music will continue to find a way of expression, the way blues, rock-a-billy, and other genres have done, when it's no longer the fresh new music of the time. New generations will discover and older and newer musicians will stand up and be heard. Funk has kind of been absorbed into "funky." It doesn't matter to me, I just want to be in the mix, doing what I do, seeing what I see, and hearing what I hear.

    MR: Do you feel that Way Out shows a side of Steve Arrington that either might surprise listeners because of what it achieves?

    SA: Yes, in it's diversity and the interaction between late-fifties Steve Arrington and mid-twenties Steve Arrington, and how they came together in a smooth cohesive way, as well as, the intensity of the collection as whole.

    MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

    SA: Find your place of uniqueness...stick with it. Understand it's a business...learn it. Choose carefully who you a line yourself with. Don't get too high, don't get too low, because the goal is for a marathon career...long distance.

    MR: Did you learn anything new about Steve Arrington from working with and completing these recordings?

    SA: Yes, I'm still as hungry and as excited about music today, as I ever was. Listening to myself, then and now, I hear that I'm still serious, honest and passionate. Over the years, that hunger can wane and it happens slowly, so you don't notice it. But going back to those multis and listening, I realize I absolutely still, love it! And, I don't think that will ever change. I'm a huge fan of music and making music.

    MR: What's next for Steve Arrington?

    SA: Well, I'm looking forward to continuing to be on the road, performing live and traveling. Be looking for some new, interesting and fun collabs and a new Steve Arrington album in 2015.


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    A Conversation with AJ Croce

    [piano music playing in background]

    Mike Ragogna: AJ, that's you playing?

    AJ Croce: Yes I am!

    MR: Awesome, nice way to kick off an interview, man! so your latest album is called Twelve Tales. We talked about that as it was being recorded, so let's not only talk about those twelve tales but let's also get an update. What are you up to?

    AJ: You know, I've been living Twelve Tales for a couple of years now. I got started at the end of 2012 with the first two recording sessions with Cowboy [Jack Clement] and with Kevin Killen. I was touring and writing and recording and while the project was going I was releasing one song a month and then finally released the album this year. Then I was touring for the album. It's been kind of nonstop. I've really enjoyed it, it's the first time in many years that I've really enjoyed touring so much. I think it's largely because my kids are older and I can travel with my wife. It just makes life nicer.

    MR: How you assembled this is a very original idea, basically releasing singles over and over and then making it make sense as a top-to-bottom project when released as a physical product.

    AJ: Well that was a scary part of it. I played iwth different bands in every city, each producer has their style, there was a different engineer on every session, so I was really concerned about the flow of it. But honestly I guess I'm the common denominator first of all whether I'm playign piano or guitar, it's my voice that's holding at least part of that together, and then the other thing that I realized kind of recently of why it worked was that every session was live. There were some overdubs but the most i had with a producer was two days. So even though it took a year to make because of logistics and because of everyone's schedules and so forth that live factor contributed greatly to it holding together I think. I hadn't really thought about that being a factor that bred consistency.

    MR: How did the mixing work to make all of the recordings sound cohesive?

    AJ: Well, that's the thing. Every producer was different. Some of the producers were engineeers. Kevin Killen is a master, from U2 and Peter Gabriel and Elvis Costello over the last thirty years and countless other people, he's an amazing engineer. Allen Toussaint is not an engineer, he's an aranger, a musician, a songwriter. We had an engineer there but then it ended up getting mixd in California. So it's one of those things where the engineers contributed but they weren't listening to other people's stuff. I guess it's sheer luck. I've kind of felt like if there was a thirteenth tale that it might have unraveled.

    MR: [laughs] The artist is at the heart of this. In the old days when vinyl was emphasized you had a side A and a side B and artists used that flaunt different aspects of their talents or they would set up different stories--one play in two acts.

    AJ: Yeah, a lot of times you'd have the label's choice of, "Here's the single, here's the A side," and then the artist would get to pick the song they liked the most which might be an uptempo thing but most likely it was a more thoughtful piece they really loved to play, and that was the concession: The B-side.

    MR: Right, so in this case, the singles are what you just described. I guess the unifying factor, regardless of the producer, was the vibe of AJ Croce. You as an artist shine through.

    AJ: I think that most recordings are going to sound different with different producers and I think had I had more than two days there wouldn't have been the same kind of consistency or fluidity because then you would've seen more of a stamp. All of these producers have a real distinctive sound. Mitchell Froom has a really distinctive sound and Cowboy, even though it's the same as when he was with Sun Records, this live thing, it's consistent. And the arrangements that Allen Toussaint writes are very much him and you can hear it in there. So the songs would sound different. I think for a lot of listeners that aren't musicians that makes a huge difference. For me I can hear a demo of a song with just the artist--which is kind of my favorite way to hear stuff, really pared down and really kind of raw--hear a demo of a song and then I can hear it a hundred ways as far as production goes. But most people don't because that's not their field, that's not what they do. So things really sound different when they hear a production and I think that goes even for a lot of people at big labels, they can't hear the potential of a song even if they think it's a good song, they can't hear what the production might be.

    MR: It takes a creative musical imagination. It's asking a lot. A lot of people complain about people in that position not having "ears," but it really comes down to, "Do you expect them to be the artist?"

    AJ: Right! And yes, in the old days, I think that was a common thing, whether it was staff producers like John Simon or George Martin or whether it was someone that had a vision for an artist like John Hammond, you were in the hands of really creative people who were extremely passionate about music and gifted in that way.

    MR: You have way too much knowledge about roots and Americana and New Orleans music. What led you down those paths?

    AJ: I think I heard someone play a blues scale on the piano and I was like, "Wow, what is that?" I had heard it in the music that I loved like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, I heard that scale in there but I didn't know how to play it. I was trying to play along with the stuff that I was hearing on the radio and that was in my dad's record collection which I listened to. I heard it in Bessie Smith and I heard it in Mississippi John Hurt and Bill Broonzy and all that stuff, but at a certain point I learned how to play that scale an dall of a sudden it opened up my eyes to twenty different ways to do it and I started hearing that. When I fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, I saved up and I went to London by myself. I would stay with a family or I would stay in youth hostels or the last year that I went there I got my own apartment and shared it with someone. When I was fifteen, I landed and I was out of sorts and I was walking through North London and there was a pub. I looked in or I heard something and there was a piano in there and I said, "Can I sit down and play?" because I was practicing a lot as a teenager. They said, "Well do you want to come back later tonight and play? We'll buy you dinner and get you a tip jar." I was fifteen and they gave me a Guinness and a tip jar.

    So people were shouting stuff out and I realized it was just sort of ingrained. I knew the Muddy Waters stuff and I knew the Ray Charles stuff and I knew the Bessie Smith stuff and I knew the Big Bill Broonzy stuff. That part of London was pretty affluent and this was an audience that had grown up listening to and buying American music in the sixties. This was the early mid-eighties and I was a kid. That really had a big influence on giving me a certain confidence and just understanding how to play other people's stuff. I was into psychadelic music at the time and I loved that underground, I loved all kinds of different stuff, I loved Tom Waits and all different kinds of music and of course a lot of rock 'n' roll stuff, and I'd throw that stuff in, Chuck Berry of course and Little Richard and Fats Domino. It was one of those things where people dug it.

    MR: There are a lot of really great pianists that I've interviewed and having seen what you do a few times now, I can honestly say you put many of them to shame. I think you're one of the best-kept secrets on keyboard.

    AJ: [laughs] I don't know man, I really don't. I guess I love it so much, it's one of those things where there's a combination of a few factors and influences that come through. I think the rootsy stuff really comes through. I love to find melodic dissonance. I love Thelonius Monk because of that. I love hearing him play solo because of that. While I don't play like him and I don't want to that concept is important. Finding a balance between playing simple and then showing off I think is the other thing. I practiced a lot as a kid and I was fortunate. Another person who was really influential and I don't know if I mentioned him in any of our conversations was a guy named Francis Thumb. Franny was part of the Harry Partch Ensemble. If you're not familiar with them, Harry Partch was an avant-garde classical composer who worked outside of the common western scale and invented his own instruments and his ensemble would perform with these instruments.

    Some of it was hard to listen to and some of it was just truly amazing. Franny had studied with some really amazing legendary classical artists and conductors and so forth. He and Tom Waits were best friends, they grew up in San Diego. He wrote two plays with Tom Waits and countless songs. Franny had no interest in being an artist in his own right as much as he did being a teacher. He loved it. He taught at the school I went to in ninth grade. When I got into his class he had me play for him and I did and he said, "Okay, what you need to do is practice." And he was right, so every day I would go in and for the hour I was in class I would practice and then on Fridays he would say, "Well if you want to be a good songwriter, if you really want to say something in a way that's unique and very individual you need to read this stuff." And he'd take me to the library and he'd pull out Neruda and Dylan Thomas and Voltaire and Baudelaire and E. E. Cummings, Ogden Nash, very different, unique voices that completely inspired me. He made a big impact because of that.

    There was also a guy here who had a record store that just closed this year after like forty years that was all folk arts music. He was a musicologist who worked at the library of congress and he turned me on to some amazing stuff. When I was young it was hard to play stride piano, not that there were a lot of kids in the eighties trying to learn how to play stride piano, but what excited me about it was that it was freaking hard. It was hard to do, and I had something to prove because I knew I wanted to do this for a living and I also knew that I had to practice and be doubly good because people were going to say, "Oh, he got a shot becausse of his dad," and, "He had it easy," and all of that stuff, not really knowing my life. That was just sort of what they'd think. But it was hard because I was a kid still, I was a teenager and those guys could reach a thirteenth. Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Duke Ellington, Basie, Earl "Fatha" Hines, those stride guys could really use that in a great way. It was hard to figure out, but I figured it out through a couple of different people. I figured it out through Little Brother Montgomery who was kind of raw blues player. He used stride sloppy but understandable and beautiful. And then Mississippi John Hurt was basically playing stride. The same thing with Lonnie Johnson, he was playing stride on the guitar. That simplified it so much--for a guitar player it's incredibly hard to do that stuff right but for a piano player it's much easier. I shouldn't say it's easy, but it's much easier, and it taught me how to do it. I said, "Okay, I'm just going to break these thirteenths and tenths apart and figure out how to do it that way," and that's what I did.

    MR: Where does this go? And because you did the album as a sampling of different production styles, are you tempted to do this again? Are you tempted to do it yourself?

    AJ: I can call all of the above. Everything you mentioned sound good to me. The next project was influenced by this, and it's just in its earliest planning stages so I don't really want to give it away because I've already got a lot of people that love the idea and are doing their own Twelve Tales now, but it's so hard for an independent artist to get anyone to write about them that you need the story and if someone else has already done it then it's hard, but I have a really cool idea and it's influenced by that and it's going to be equally challenging, it's going to take a year and a half or so before I can record it. Hopefully the next recording, as far as the production style it's hard to say what'll happen because a lot can change in a year but my main goal is to find a producer that is a little different than the producers that I worked with on this, someone that has a little bit less of a fingerprint on the project. There are a lot of different kinds of producers who basically figure out who might be the best players for it and find an engineer who's not going to put their idea of what is great all over it and it's very subtle. That's what I'm looking for, someone that's very subtle because it'll be very, very song-driven.

    MR: AJ, what advice do you have for new artists? I know we already got a lot of it from your musical history, but please, it would be great if you would put it succinctly.

    AJ: We've done this before and I question my own advice. Clearly, I'm not a superstar or a household name or anything like that. If that's what you're looking for, then my advice is probably not going to be any good for you. But if what you're looking to do is be the best that you can be and you don't really care for the celebrity or the fame of that side of it--that's fine if it happens. But if your goal is to just do your thing whatever the result may be as far as success in the public eye, I would say a couple of things. I would say figure out what you want to do besides music. Figure out three things that you would want to do in your life besides music. It's something that was proposed to me when I was looking for my second manager, I met with a guy and that was one of the questions he asked me and it stuck with me, clearly. That was a long time ago. Besides music, what's important in your life? To know that is to know that you might sell millions of records and if music is your only focus you could be fifty or sixty years old and have a ton of accolades but be completely lonely. You could be in a milliion different situations but I think that to know what you really want besides music is the key. From a musical standpoint, I think you need to keep your ears open.

    I think you need to try and play as many styles of music as you can. You need to listen to every genre of music until it's not a novelty. When you first listen to a twenties recording, espeically on a 78, it's a novelty. It's fun and it might be cool or it might be funny or it might be ridiculous or it might be anything that you can think of, but at a certain point if you listen to it enough that novelty wears off and then the actual art of it becomes really clear. Same thing for music that you may not listen to whether it's jazz or hip hop or metal or classical or electronica, with any kind of music the more that you listen to it the broader your palate's going to be. Even if it's not your thing, no one needs to hear your hip hop album, your electronica album, especially if that's not who you are. But I really believe that if you practice it and you listen to it until the novelty has worn off and you see the value and the art in it, I think you become much more able to contribute something unique.

    MR: And that's basically what you did.

    AJ: It's what I do.

    MR: Right, still do, nice. So I've heard you play "Operator" in one of your more recent performances. I think people often wonder when they go to see you if you're going to play any of your dad Jim Croce's songs.

    AJ: It is a curious thing. It's kind of a surreal thing on one hand and on the other hand I feel like I'm in this family business so it's important to pay some tribute to what came before. There have been people in my family playing for a long time but a lot of people know my dad. It's strange to not really know what people are looking for. I've had opportunities, many many opportunities to make cover albums and do whole albums of his and I don't understand what the fascination with that is. I really don't. I don't know if people are looking for this connection where I play a song just like him and they feel like they can connect to me through that, I don't know if they want to hear something that's totally different because I do it my own way; it's a no-win situation when I think about that stuff, and that's why I've never done it. And the other thing is, if I choose to do one of his songs it'll be just because I love the song and I want to do it and I'm really attached to a particular thing, you know what I mean? So when someone says, "Why don't you do an album of your dad's stuff?" I say, "Why don't we just listen to an album of his? He did it great." [laughs]

    MR: I've always wondered about those recordings, where people do live versions of whole albums...or even re-recording a whole album.

    AJ: I've played in cover bands before where we did a night of Queen and I'm playing the keyboard and doing piano and strings and then singing harmonies and doing all of that stuff and it's fun and it's challenging and I've done that with Bowie and it's really fun and I've done it with Prince and it's really challenging. I think that cover bands are a unique phenomenon. I guess people want to hear something that's familiar and they want to hear a band play it well. I'm having a really surreal experience right now, too, because I'm leaving in just a few days for Europe and on a couple of the shows there's a cover band in Holland called The Alluring Ajettes and they cover my stuff. Their whole set is my catalog, right, but it's three women singing. They've been doing it for a while and they have a following and they're goingt o come and sit in with me on a couple of shows and sing background on a couple of songs. To me that's a very surreal experience. Then I sort of took it further and said, "I wonder if they have a bigger crowd than I do." But yeah, that's sort of existential.

    MR: Is there anything you like to do other than playing music? And raising kids and being a husband?

    AJ: Yeah. I'm a fan of old cars and I have an old '64 Skylark Convertible. It's nothing fancy, but I love it. It needs paint, it's not in perfect cosmetic condition but it runs beautifully and I just love it. I love old cars and I've had a bunch of them over the years--different kinds. This one's my favorite. My son has the bug, too and he has a '57 Rambler which has not been the most reliable vehicle, but now it is. Now that I've put all of my money into it. [laughs] But I love that. And I love travelling. I love new experiences. I love meeting new people and new places. I'm putting a New Orleans group together that I'm going to tour with next year. There'll be all kinds of music but it'll mostly be festival-driven. I'm holding auditions in New Orleans in November and some phenomenal players are going to be coming in. When I was there, there were a lot of great players who came to the show. I'm not looking to do a Doctor John show or a Professor Longhair or The Meters or something, I just wanted to have that element as part of it because it's part of what I do. There are so many talented musicians down therre, espeically rhythm sections, horn sections, singers. So I'm putting together a pretty big group to do some shows next year and I'm looking forward to that. And then travelling. Besides just being on tour, my wife and I are going to drive around and meet up with the tour wherever it has to be. I'm contemplating renting out the house and just being a gypsy for a while and just enjoying the new experiences that you have every day.

    MR: So, Europe is going to be your next experience, I wish you a lot of fun and luck, AJ. I imagine it's pretty energizing for you.

    AJ: It's great, yeah. I'm excited. The first show is a big festival with eighteen thousand people, it's a big difference from my last gig at Yoshi's in Oakland where we had two hundred fifty people or whatever there. It's a completely different experience. I love it.

    MR: AJ, that feels like a nice ending but I know there must be one last thing we need to visit. What else you got?

    AJ: Well, if people are interested and they want to get a sense of my stuff--I hate to try and sell myself or try and sell Facebook but--my Facebook page is better than my website in some ways than my website because I put up performances of shows that I've done, shows that I'm doing, a lot of times there's links to live performances while they're happening--I really try and get people that are into it to like the page so they can see what's happening.


    Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

  • 8 Moments In Music History That Were Completely Spontaneous
    The spontaneous gesture, the offhand remark, the happy accident: These are the reasons why we pay attention to pop culture. These are the things that we remember, that we talk about decades later. After all, why would we see live music that we’ve heard dozens of time before? Why do we watch interviews with our favorite artists? Why are we obsessed with arcane trivia? We’d argue that it’s the endless possibility for spontaneity, the glimpse of realness behind the glamour.

    In partnership with Juicy Fruit, we’re bringing you eight moments in music history that gave the phrase #spontaneousfun new meaning.

    1956: The Million Dollar Quartet holds a once-in-a-lifetime jam session
    Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis walk into a room….

    Elvis Presley (now signed to RCA) was at the peak of his popularity, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins were certified stars, and Jerry Lee Lewis was a relative unknown, but all of them found themselves at Sun Records on this fateful December day. The temporary supergroup jammed on country and gospel songs; luckily, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips was savvy enough to hit “record” and bring in a reporter to ensure this was preserved for posterity.

    1960: Ella forgets her lines in Berlin
    “But it was a swingin’ tune / And it’s a hit, too / So we tried to do / Mack the Knife.”

    Ella Fitzgerald’s performance of “Mack the Knife” begins innocently enough:

    “We haven’t heard a girl sing it, and since it’s so popular we’ll try to do it for you,” she says, the band vamping quietly behind her. “We hope we remember all the words.”

    Well, she makes it through one verse seamlessly, but soon enough, the wheels come off and she’s improvising new lyrics with cheerful abandon: “We’re makin’ a wreck / A wreck / Of ‘Mack the Knife.’” By the middle of the song, she’s moved on to a singing history of the song, a dead-on impression of Louis Armstrong, and some more metacommentary on her performance. By the end, she’s completely brought down the house. This charming “wreck” won two Grammys for Best Female Vocal Performance in 1959.

    1969: The Beatles take over the roof of the Apple Corps Building

    "You've been playing on the roofs again and that’s no good. ‘Cause you know your Momma doesn’t like that. She gets angry! She’s gonna have you arrested!”

    To be fair, the Beatles’ infamous final public performance, on Jan. 30, 1969, wasn’t spontaneous on the band’s part; they had long planned a live show as the conclusion to their Let It Be sessions and settled on the Apple rooftop four days before the performance. The session, and the crowd reaction, is fully documented in the film.

    Given that it was their first performance in nearly three years, Londoners on their lunch break -- and the London police -- were certainly surprised. Quickly, a crowd formed down below, and their reactions are captured in the documentary, from “Fantastic!” to a grumpy “This type of music has its place.”

    1973: Keith Moon of “The Who” is replaced by a random fan
    O KEITH MOON 570
    Talkin’ about my generation? Talkin’ about being in the right place at the right time.

    It was Nov. 20, 1973, and Scot Halpin was already having a pretty good day. He and his friend had scalped tickets to The Who’s show at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, arrived 13 hours early, and fought their way to the front of the stage.

    When The Who’s legendary (and legendarily reckless) drummer Keith Moon passed out on his drum kit halfway through the set, Halpin ended up on stage. Promoter Bill Graham simply asked: “Can you play?” And the next thing he knew, Halpin was up on stage playing “Smokestack Lightning,” “Spoonful” and “Naked Eye” with the band that was left standing.

    1979: The Sugar Hill Gang records “Rapper’s Delight” in a single take
    I said a hip hop / Hippie to the hippie / The hip, hip a hop, and you don't stop, a rock it

    Widely considered to be the song that popularized hip hop. Contrary to popular belief, the Sugar Hill Gang did not “sample” Chic’s “Good Times”; rather, the group used a studio musician to recreate the infamous bass line -- for 15 minutes straight. Luckily, they finished the whole thing in one take.

    1984: ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ premieres

    These go to 11.

    This Rob Reiner-directed movie will forever define "cult hit.” It tanked with test audiences, but upon its 1984 release, it received rave reviews from critics and became mandatory viewing for music geeks of all stripes. Fun fact: the cast shot the movie with a four-page treatment and the rest is completely improvised. In 2002, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress.

    2005-2013: Kanye West does well … anything. But mostly this:

    I’mma let you finish…

    What more can we say? Since breaking through the culture in the mid-2000s, Kanye West has made sure that we would never be bored. Whether he was pontificating on sneakers, television, commerce, or leather sweatpants, West’s spontaneous speeches ensured that the spotlight was focused squarely on him.

    But West REALLY outdid himself at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards when he stole the glory from Taylor Swift's win for Best Female Video. After grabbing the mic from Swift's hands and infamously insisting "imma let you finish," West gave his honest opinion: "I’m sorry, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”

    Brutal, Yeezy. Just brutal.

    2011-2014: Live entertainment comes to a plane (or train) near you

    They really got their wish right now (wish right now, wish right now).

    To be honest, spontaneous moments on public transportation are usually a bad thing. However, the rapper B.O.B. gave Delta travelers a pleasant surprise when he serenaded them with his hit song “Airplanes” on a NYC to LAX flight. Although flash mobs and spontaneous performances have become pretty much ubiquitous, some, like the above and, of course, the Broadway cast's subway rendition of "The Circle Of Life" can be epic for those lucky enough to witness them.

    Sometimes, the best things in life are unplanned. Check out Juicy Fruit's website for some more #spontaneousfun.

  • Stoppard in India
    2014 09 30 IndianInk063r Thumb

    Rosemary Harris, Romola Garai and Bhavesh Patel in Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink. Photo: Joan Marcus

    Mid-period Stoppard -- that is, the work of the acclaimed Czech-born British playwright in his fifties and early sixties -- brought forth a remarkable series of intricate, thought-provoking-but-inviting plays like Hapgood (1988), Arcadia (1993), The Invention of Love (1997) and The Coast of Utopia (2002). Each of these was brought stateside in effective productions by Lincoln Center Theater, and each was a highlight of their respective seasons.

    And then there's Indian Ink, written in the middle of the group; it premiered in London in 1995, and met with substantial acclaim. The play didn't make it to New York, though. There was a well-received 1999 production at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, which was directed by resident director Carey Perloff and which opened the very same evening that Stoppard won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love; but something about Indian Ink was presumably deemed "too foreign" to follow Hapgood and Arcadia here. Many of Stoppard's plays have been foreign by New York standards, sure; but it's one thing to be veddy English or even Russian, as in the case of The Coast of Utopia. Indian Ink, as the title suggests, centers on India. More precisely British India, with the action jumping back and forth between 1930 (India) and 1980 (India and England) in a typically Stoppardian shuffle.

    While British audiences were understandably at home with this tale of the subcontinent, the flavor was thought to be too exotically spiced for those Yankees across the sea. While almost all of Stoppard's original plays (as opposed to translations) have been seen here, the successful Indian Ink has been -- if you will -- blotted from the sight of New Yorkers.

    Until now, that is. Ms. Perloff has been imported from San Francisco by the Roundabout to mount a new production at its off Broadway-sized Laura Pels Theatre. The answer seems to be both yes and no. That is, Indian Ink works perfectly well for New York audiences even if it is not quite so accessible as Stoppard's masterworks. The production is lovely and pretty much a treat, and perfect fare as a subscription offering for a major nonprofit. But it is not compelling, exactly; while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Jumpers, Travesties, Arcadia and The Coast of Utopia give us much to discuss and ponder, Indian Ink -- at least as presented here -- is welcome but not indispensable theatergoing.

    What is indispensable is Rosemary Harris, who plays the elderly (in 1980) younger sister (in 1930) of the risqué poetess who goes to India (in 1930) and dies of tuberculosis, leaving behind a batch of juicy letters and a mysterious nude portrait of herself. To say that the eighty-seven-year-old Ms. Harris is incandescent is overtly clichéd, except it's true. We shouldn't be surprised every time Ms. Harris -- or Maggie or Judi, for that matter -- comes along with one of these brilliant portrayals; we should just go out of our way to watch them and add to our personal theatrical memory bank.

    2014 09 30 Unnamed Thumb

    Firdous Banji and Romola Garai in Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink. Photo: Joan Marcus

    Sharing the stage with Ms. Harris, and doing quite nicely, is British actress Romola Garai, whose credits range from film to screen to the London stage. She plays the dying poetess, a role which Stoppard wrote for then-muse Felicity Kendall, and does indeed pose for that nude portrait. Ms. Garai is very effective, altogether, as is Firdous Banji as the shy painter. In a smaller role, Bhavesh Patel makes a strong impression playing opposite Ms. Harris as the painter's son, searching for answers about the mysterious portrait of the nude Englishwoman he found in his father's effects.

    Perloff's delicate production -- with evocative work from Neil Patel (scenery), Candace Donnelly (costumes) and Robert Wierzel (lighting) -- is lovely, and just what the Roundabout should be giving its subscribers. (They have more Stoppard on tap, with The Real Thing starting previews this week at the American Airlines Theatre.) But it is Ms. Harris -- rather than Mr. Stoppard -- who makes this Indian Ink a treat for playgoers.


    Indian Ink, a revival of the play written by Tom Stoppard, opened September 30, 2014 at the Laura Pels Theatre

  • Kevin Spacey Unveils 'Frank Underwood's Guide to Philanthropy' Between Songs
    WASHINGTON -- Rarely do leaders from both parties come together to support one cause, but if "House of Cards" has taught us anything, it's that nothing stops Frank Underwood from getting what he wants.

    Thus it came as no surprise that everyone from second lady Jill Biden and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Aaron Shock (R-Ill.) descended upon Sidney Harman Hall on Monday night to support Kevin Spacey, who plays Underwood in the Netflix series. The occasion was a concert to benefit Spacey's foundation for the performing arts. Hoyer and McCarthy, whom Spacey said were "instrumental" in his research for the role of Underwood, were honorary co-chairs of the event.

    Despite battling a cold, the Oscar-winning actor enthralled a packed crowd of nearly 800 while performing a range of classic songs, including "Fly Me to the Moon," "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Luck Be a Lady." Spacey also brought his Washington alter ego with him, welcoming the audience to "an evening to benefit the Frank Underwood super PAC."

    "I do apologize if you were misinformed about the intentions of this occasion," he said in Underwood's Southern accent, a move that won him instant laughter and applause.

    Aside from a few jokes, Spacey mainly assumed the character between songs to offer "pearls of wisdom" collected from two seasons of playing the ambitious House majority whip-turned-president. He tied the spirit behind a number of Underwood quotes to his nonprofit foundation, which fosters emerging talent in the performing arts through scholarships and grants. From what he called "Frank Underwood’s Guide to Philanthropy," he offered such advice as, "If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table," "Generosity is its own form of power," and "Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value."

    The crowd responded enthusiastically each and every time Spacey spoke as Underwood, a testament to the popularity of "House of Cards" in the nation's capital -- despite the tendency among politicos to criticize its portrayal of Washington. Spacey acknowledged that irony and noted that Hoyer and McCarthy, despite having helped him with the role, later went on to criticize the show.

    "You’ve got to give credit to the power of Frank Underwood to get both sides of the House to agree on something," he quipped.

    After a brief intermission, Spacey reappeared with a harmonica for a rendition of Billy Joel’s "Piano Man," which was undoubtedly his most well-received bit. The audience erupted into cheers from the moment he began the song on his harmonica, which Spacey said he hadn't learned how to play until just days before the concert.

    Another highlight came in the form of his fellow actor and friend Jeff Goldblum, who surprised the audience by performing a duet with Spacey to "Me and My Shadow" and accompanying him on the piano for Lionel Richie’s "All Night Long." Dancing around the stage himself, Spacey added lines of his own, telling the audience to "Dance like Beyoncé! Dance like Nancy Pelosi!"

    Short films between the live acts served as reminders of what the evening was really about, showcasing young students whom the Kevin Spacey Foundation had helped to pursue their dreams as actors, singers and dancers. Funding for art programs is often among the first items on the chopping block as governments grapple with budget cuts, and Spacey later told The Huffington Post that he hoped to raise awareness of why art matters before an audience that could make a difference.

    "Look, there are some who believe that arts and culture are a luxury and that we can do without it, and there are others who believe, like I do, that it's a vital part of our lives," said Spacey, who noted that in 2011 he delivered the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy with a similar message. (Back then, he declared, "The real question is not whether we as a nation can afford to continue to support the arts, but whether we can afford not to.")

    "I hope that more and more will begin to realize that these are vital parts of our lives," Spacey said. "These are the things that we have shared experiences about and we talk about culturally -- music, dance, theater, film, television. This is what people are passionate about."

    The tagline of Spacey's foundation, "Sending the elevator back down," is a phrase he picked up from Jack Lemmon, the legendary actor who was a mentor and close friend. Asked by HuffPost what those words meant to him, Spacey described the idea as something far beyond simply giving money.

    "It's when I'm in a workshop and I see that kid in a corner who is really shy and wants to be involved but doesn't know how or maybe is a little scared," Spacey said. "I was that kid, and I want that kid to have an experience of realizing something about themselves that they didn't know that they were capable of, that they could stand in front of their peers and experience something, share something, find a level of confidence they didn't know they had. That's the moment I live for, because that was me."

    "I think any teacher will talk about that happening in a classroom, when you see a child suddenly figure it out," he added. "It's an extraordinary thing, it's the most powerful thing in the world, and it's really tiny -- but for them it's gigantic. And I'll never forget when that happened to me."

  • Here's The Real Reason Mila Kunis Became The Voice Of Meg Griffin
    "Family Guy" wouldn't quite be the same without Mila Kunis voicing the family black sheep, Meg Griffin.

    But if not for a contract mistake, that might have never happened.

    Originally, "Mean Girls" star Lacey Chabert was cast in the role of Meg, but since she reportedly wasn't under contract for the entire series run, she chose to leave after the first season. Rumors ran wild that Chabert had a falling out with the show, perhaps partly fueled by this exchange in an episode from Season 8 :

    Though that seems pretty straight forward, the actress cleared up any controversy an interview with GameSpy:

    GameSpy: Does this mean you have a grudge against Mila Kunis, who does her voice now, and if so, can this be settled in a game of Sonic the Hedgehog?

    Lacey Chabert: No, I actually left the show of my own accord. And only because I was in school and doing Party Of Five at the time. But I think the show is hilarious, and don't have a grudge against her at all. I think she's a great actress.

    Then, in an interview with IGN, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane stated that the reason for Chabert leaving was definitely a contract issue ... probably:

    I think there was a mistake in her contract, and I guess she had not intended to be involved for, like, the full run of the show. I don’t even remember. To be honest, I don’t really, to this day, know what it was. It was nothing –- there was no tension or anything.

    MacFarlane would go on to say that Chabert did a phenomenal job, but Kunis was "more right for the character."

    So there you have it. "Family Guy" fans can thank a contract mistake for Kunis becoming the voice of Meg, thus further ensuring that the word "Fetch" would never become a thing.


    H/T Uproxx

  • Lena Dunham Says She'll Pay Acts On Book Tour
    This is what happens when you call out Lena Dunham. The "Girls" star, who is kicking off a huge book tour in support of "Not That Kind of Girl," was criticized on Monday after it was reported she was not paying artists who are performing during her tour events. In response, Dunham confirmed via Twitter that she is now compensating all the performers and also took a shot at Gawker for posting an article that revealed how much she was making on the tour.

    After writing "some good points were raised" and she would ensure "all opening acts would be compensated for their time," Dunham posted this:

    The fact that Gawker pointed this out really proves Judd Apatow's saying that "a good note can come from anywhere."

    — Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) September 29, 2014

    Before announcing that performers would be paid, Dunham had gathered a variety of opening acts through an open call on her website. The New York Times reported the acts were originally performing for free.

    In the end, Dunham seemed pretty sympathetic to the whole situation:

    As an artist raised by artists, no one believes more than I do that creators should be fairly compensated for their work.

    — Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) September 29, 2014

    Season 4 of "Girls" premieres in 2015 on HBO. Dunham's book is out now.

  • Bette Davis Skewers Sexism In Unheard Interview From 1963
    When film legend Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) sat down with entertainment journalist Shirley Eder to discuss the sexes, the year was 1963, and Davis was smack in the middle of her career. But even today, her words remain as relevant as if she said them yesterday.

    In this previously unheard interview -- resurrected and animated for the PBS series "Blank on Blank" -- Davis reflects on being a woman in a male-dominated industry and remarks on the obstacles facing intelligent, independent women in the workplace.

    "As a female, I think [intelligence] is a terrible hindrance in business," she says. "I think it’s a terrible hindrance for any female to have a lot of intelligence in private life. But I think in business sometimes it’s even worse because there’s deep resentment ... from the male side of the business. We all work for men, you know, they’re the people in charge, and I think they find women easier who haven’t the ability to think for themselves or stand up for themselves. One can make more enemies as a female with a brain, I think."

    Davis also calls for men to elevate their views of independent women.

    "I think men have got to change an awful lot," she says. "I think, somehow, they still prefer the little woman. They’re just staying way, way behind. ... As a rule, I think millions of women are very happy to be by themselves. They’re so bored with the whole business of trying to be the little woman, when no such thing really exists anymore. ... This world’s gone way beyond it."

    She even points to the lack of female-focused characters and plots in entertainment, an issue that continues to receive attention today.

    "There’s no writing for women anymore," says Davis. "This is the truth. ... Women are the essential part of the theater but the writers are not writing about women."

    Check out the video above to hear more from the interview.

  • Jessa Duggar Compares Abortion To The Holocaust
    A good hard-and-fast rule to live by: "Do not compare anything to the Holocaust. Ever." Jessa Duggar does not live by this rule.

    Last week, the 21-year-old "19 Kids and Counting" star and her fiancé, Ben Seewald, visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The "sobering" experience prompted Duggar to share a photo accompanied a lengthy note in which she compared the systematic murder of 11 million people (possibly 15 to 20 million people, according to a recent study) to abortion:

    I walked through the Holocaust Museum again today... very sobering. Millions of innocents denied the most basic and fundamental of all rights--their right to life. One human destroying the life of another deemed "less than human." Racism, stemming from the evolutionary idea that man came from something less than human; that some people groups are "more evolved" and others "less evolved." A denying that our Creator--GOD--made us human from the beginning, all of ONE BLOOD and ONE RACE, descendants of Adam. The belief that some human beings are "not fit to live." So they're murdered. Slaughtered. Kids with Down syndrome or other disabilities. The sickly. The elderly. The sanctity of human life varies not in sickness or health, poverty or wealth, elderly or pre-born, little or lots of melanin [making you darker or lighter skinned], or any other factor. "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?" (Proverbs 24:10-12) May we never sit idly by and allow such an atrocity to happen again. Not this generation. We must be a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Because EVERY LIFE IS PRECIOUS. #ProLifeFollow

    Trips to the Holocaust Memorial Museum seem to inspire similar views in Duggar women. Jessa's mother, Michelle Duggar, wrote a blog post after her own visit to the nation's capital.

    "A couple of weeks after we went to the Holocaust Museum, it dawned on us that there is a holocaust taking place right here in America!" the matriarch of the Duggar family wrote, in March 2013. "More than 56 million lives have been destroyed in our country! That is over 4,000 babies being killed and 4,000 women being wounded each day!"

  • On Amanda Bynes' DUI
    Oh, Amanda Bynes -- not the girl you want to read was arrested for a DUI over the weekend. But alas this past Sunday at the witching hour (3 a.m., to a lot of us), the 28-year-old former child star was indeed taken in and determined to be on something, though what that is isn't known.

    This isn't one of those oh-there-LiLo-goes-again situations or even a look-how-crazy-Shia-LaBeouf-is (though those news reports are pretty tragic as well). Many of those who reacted to Bynes' bizarre behavior last year (throwing a bong out the window, tossing Twitter shade at people like Rihanna, wearing weird wigs, et al) seemed amused. But even those behind the so-called hilarious headlines and Funny or Die parody videos had to know there isn't anything too funny about mental health issues, no matter how famous the person or bizarre the symptoms. Celebrities deserve what they get, the philosophy behind such gleeful schadenfreude seems to be. If they throw a bong out a window, we're allowed to laugh.

    I wonder how those same people would feel if it were their mother or daughter self-destructing and not a girl who's been famous since the age of 11 (at which point, we can safely assume, she didn't understand the potential perils of stardom). Considering the fact that the media documenting her downward spiral didn't show glam photos of the actress partying with other famous folks or at least some hangers-on in cool nightclubs but pictures more likely to show a homeless person having a bad day, it shouldn't have been that difficult to feel sad for her.

    But the crash-and-burn Bynes story seemed to have a happy ending: after being 5150'd and then receiving six months of treatment, she emerged looking calm, mostly keeping away from Twitter and hanging out with her family. Best of all, she appeared to be taking a u-turn away from the spotlight by enrolling in fashion school. But people with first-hand experience with the sort of struggles Bynes seemed to be having perhaps recognized the warning signs amidst what may have sounded like a tale of redemption. Having your lawyer boast about you not being on meds not only reinforces the notion that all medication is created equal (i.e., a mood stabilizer or anti-depressant is as risky to take as an addictive substance like Oxycontin or Klonopin) but also perpetuates the stigma of mental illness. Whether Bynes is an addict or not isn't something we non-medical professionals who do not know her are in any position to diagnose. But when your attorney is also doth protesting a lot about your lack of drug abuse history despite your emergence from rehab -- well, maybe you're not as much on the road to recovery as you could be.

    But hey, we all know relapse is common and fruitful recovery can follow stories that sound like they couldn't end well. It's just... well, if we stop finding this all so funny, maybe it will give the girl some space to acknowledge there's a problem and then, ideally, get help for it.

    This story originally appeared on AfterPartyChat

  • Ben Affleck Talks About Going Full Frontal In 'Gone Girl'
    Fans awaiting the release of "Gone Girl" may be surprised by one particular inclusion in the film: a full-frontal shot of Ben Affleck.

    "Is this the debut of Ben Affleck's penis on-screen?" MTV's Josh Horowitz asked the star during a recent interview.

    "I try to get it in every movie," Affleck joked before talking about the importance director David Fincher placed on letting it all hang out, literally. "There may be some very brief nudity," he said. Watch the interaction below.

    “Gone Girl” opens in theaters on Oct. 3.

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  • 'Let Her Go' The Movie Cliché Supercut
    Women. You leave them unsupervised for one minute and they go do something silly, like getting kidnapped by a super villain, hell-bent on world domination.

    No one understands that sexist cliché better than cinema’s action heroes, who tirelessly toil to retrieve Hollywood's damsels in distress. Fortunately, these protagonists are armed with a foolproof strategy to secure safe release: the phrase “Let her go!” (which is often said with steely-eyed determination).

    Praise, then, to these great feminists of cinema -- the Chuck Norrises, the Arnold Schwarzeneggers and the Jean Claude Van Dammes. Without them, those women would probably still be held in the patriarchal clutches of their male oppressors.

    Watch the movie compilation above, and learn how heroism is done, at least for cinema’s greatest action stars.

    Tip of the hat to Vince Mancini of FilmDrunk for providing the inspiration.

    Full List Of Movies In Order Od Appearance:
    "Code of Silence" (1985)
    "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
    "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005)
    "Get Smart" (2008)
    "Rush Hour 3" (2007)
    "Tango & Cash" (1989)
    "I, Robot" (2004)
    "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" (1998)
    "Hercules (1997)
    "Black Knight" (2001)
    "The Dead Pool (1988)
    "The Matrix Revolutions" (2003)
    "The Lone Ranger" (2013)
    "Seeking Justice" (2011)
    "End of Days" (1999)
    "Waterworld (1995)
    "Year One" (2009)
    "Me, Myself & Irene" (2000)
    "The Conjuring" (2013)
    "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" (2012)
    "Swordfish" (2001)
    "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" (2011)
    "Drive Angry" (2011)
    "The Tourist" (2010)
    "Heist" (2001)
    "Breakdown" (1997)
    "Green Lantern" (2011)
    "The Warriors" (1979)
    "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (2004)
    "Slither" (2006)
    "Ticker" (2001)
    "Batman Forever" (1995)
    "Rise of the Guardians" (2012)
    "The Abyss" (1989)
    "The Godfather: Part III" (1990)
    "Timecop" (1994)
    "48 Hrs." (1982)
    "Bride of Chucky" (1998)
    "The Rocketeer" (1991)
    "Jackie Chan's First Strike" (1996)
    "Ghost Rider" (2007)
    "Panic Room" (2002)
    "Blue Ice" (1992)
    "15 Minutes" (2001)
    "Witness" (1985)
    "The Jackal" (1997)
    "Mission: Impossible III" (2006)
    "30 Minutes or Less" (2011)
    "The Samaritan" (2012)
    "Children of Men" (2006)
    "Cop Out" (2010)
    "Speed" (1994)
    "Point Break" (1991)
    "Duel at Diablo" (1966)
    "Ticker" (2001) clip 2
    "Metro" (1997)
    "For Your Eyes Only" (1981)
    "The Last Boy Scout" (1991)
    "Orgazmo" (1997)
    "Léon: The Professional" (1994)
    "Commando" (1985)
    "Universal Soldier" (1992)
    "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (2011)
    "Licence to Kill" (1989)
    "The Crow" (1994)
    "Taken 2" (2012)
    "Dr. No" (1962)
    "Timecop" (1994) clip 2
    "Loaded Weapon 1" (1993)
    "Shaft" (2000)
    "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (2014)
    "K-911 (1999)
    "12 Rounds" (2009)
    "Mission: Impossible II" (2000)
    "Ride Along" (2014)
    "Flashdance" (1983)
    "Dogma" (1999)
    "S.W.A.T." (2003)
    "The Last Boy Scout" (1991) clip 2
    "Get Shorty" (1995)
    "Into the Blue" (2005)
    "American History X" (1998)
    "Collateral" (2004)
    "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984)
    "Men in Black" (1997)
    "All About the Benjamins" (2002)
    "Toy Story 2" (1999)
    "Loaded Weapon 1" (1993) clip 2
    "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot" (1992)
    "The Siege" (1998)
    "Shoot to Kill" (1988)
    "Lethal Weapon" (1987)
    "Thelma & Louise" (1991)
    "Spawn (1997)
    "Sin City" (2005)
    "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997)
    "The Dark Knight" (2008)

  • YouTube Acapella Supergroup Pentatonix Read Their Fan Fiction

    In celebration of their new album, PTX, Vol. III, our favorite acapella supergroup Pentatonix joined What's Trending to read some fanfiction. Things got steamy. And ridiculous.

    Check out Pentatonix and buy their new album: http://ptxvol3.ptxofficial.com

  • Michael Che Reveals Why Getting Hired At 'SNL' Is 'Weird'
    "Saturday Night Live" may have a little communication problem.

    While on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," Michael Che revealed that even after "SNL" hired him, he had no idea he worked there. In fact, the comedian only found out because Meyers brought it up while they were watching a basketball game.

    The good news is that "SNL" seems to have corrected any communication issues since then. Che looked more than prepared for his recent debut as the newest anchor on "Weekend Update."

    "Saturday Night Live" airs Saturday at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

  • Carnivore!
    Carnivore was one of the hottest games of the late 90s. The first person shooter is back with a new iteration that may be possible if they meet the goals of their Kickstarter campaign. Digital Dream Entertainment LLC in collaboration with Tatem Games announced Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter Reborn for the PC. This game is a sequel of the original classic dinosaur hunting video game, Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter. Carnivores is a first person shooting game where players hunt the largest and most dangerous creatures to ever exist -- DINOSAURS! The game was originally released for the PC back in 1998 to great reviews and a loyal fan following. Since then there have been several Carnivores versions on mobile and one for the PlayStation Network. Key members of the original team have been reunited to develop this game. Yaroslav Kravchenko, the game's original creator says, "I'm very excited to work with Digital Dreams Entertainment LLC along with members of the original team, to bring Carnivores: Reborn back to its rightful home on the PC." I spoke to producer Mike Mendheim about the new version!

    2014 09 29 Aof7Pahm5lhoWKBoqh7mwuPMNvDAmr3JeKK6UoN9ZQ Thumb

    How does this version differ from the original?

    The original Carnivore was released in 1998, and the hook of the game is it's a realistic hunting simulator, only instead of hunting deer; you're hunting dinosaurs on a distant planet during its Jurassic period. The biggest difference between this version and the original is the games visual appearance. The world we have created is a beautiful, lush and realistic environment. The grass blows in the wind. There was nothing like this in the 1998 version of the game. The creatures that inhabit this world are much more believable too. We have spent an enormous amount of time and effort improving the dinosaur behaviors and their intelligence, which directly ties into gameplay since different behaviors require different hunting strategies.

    How much has your vision for the dinosaurs changed in the intervening years?

    When we were developing the original Carnivores we were using references from bones, paintings and of course the Jurassic Park movies. Every year scientists learn more about dinosaurs and as we move forward, we will reflect those new discoveries in the game, such as adding colorful textures and feathers to some species of dinosaurs. We want to be as accurate as possible.

    How has the business of making games changed since the original?

    The amount of platforms and systems you can run the games on is quite different than it was back in 1998. We have mobile game systems, tablets, a variety of consoles and of course desktop PC's. It's important to have a development strategy across all of these platforms so you can maximize your revenue. Back in 98 we didn't have to worry so much about cross development on mobile systems and tablets. Probably the biggest difference is the level of expectations on the games visual graphics. People expect things to look and move very realistically. Their eyes are quite sophisticated and they know what's good and what's not. It costs a lot of money to develop high quality graphics.

    If there was a movie version of the game, what sort of would be ideal plot for you?

    This is a Carnivores plot so we'd probably build a story around hunting, maybe involve a very arrogant billionaire taking his (coming of age) son on what he thinks is the ultimate vacation. They travel into space to a distant planet so he can teach his boy how to "become a man" by hunting the most dangerous beasts of all -- dinosaurs. The billionaire's family want no part of killing anything and that's where things take a turn for the worse. The Father maybe kills a young Velociraptor and the rest of the Velociraptor pack doesn't take kindly to this and are out for revenge. The billionaire and his family end up being the ones hunted and must figure out a way to survive. Humans vs. dinosaurs and the billionaire's riches can't help him now...

    What's next?

    To keep improving our core technology so we can deliver a believable world with even more realistic dinosaurs within it as well as deeper, more intense gameplay. Obviously if the product does well we will bring it to other platforms like Playstation 4 and XBox One. Right now we're fighting for the PC version on Kickstarter and we have 1 week left.

  • 'Selfie,' 'Manhattan Love Story' And The New Fall Comedies To Embrace And Avoid
    Recently, I posted a roundup of reviews of the new dramas on the broadcast networks, and that list of capsule reviews was preceded by some thoughts on the State of the Network Drama.

    This roundup doesn't require much of an introduction, because all you really need to know is that most of the new fall comedies are not that great. (And far too many of them have burly, bearded, often red-haired friends wandering around for no particular reason. Why this crime against gingers, television? Why?)

    There are a few bright-ish spots (including "Black-ish," which I've already reviewed), but generally, the comedies I'll watch on the broadcast networks this fall will be the returning gems. The new stuff is constrained by something critic Alan Sepinwall has repeatedly (and rightly) complained about: Networks want high-concept premises for their comedies, but those premises often hobble attempts to make the shows good in the long term.

    Of course, many of the good network comedies airing currently were once were struggling newbies, so there's a chance these shows could turn things around. Except for "Manhattan Love Story," that is, which needs to fall into a subway grate and not come out again.

    "Selfie," 8:00 p.m. ET Tuesday, ABC: Karen Gillan is a treasure, and it's only by dint of her presence that this comedy works some of the time. Yet in a larger sense, "Selfie" does not really work, because there are a lot of unpleasant and judgmental elements lurking in its premise. Gillan plays Eliza, a social-media loving career gal who is continually shamed regarding every aspect of her existence, and John Cho plays Henry, an executive who takes on the allegedly arduous task of making her over. It's fine that Eliza's self-absorption is called out, but the big problem with "Selfie" is that it doesn't make it clear that Henry is just as much in need of a personality intervention, and thus all the "comedy" leans on jibes at the expense of Gillan's character. Ultimately, the whole enterprise comes off as shrill and mean-spirited, though given the talent of the cast and given that Emily Kapnek ("Suburgatory") is at the helm, I'm hoping this show is able to course correct. #TryAgain

    "Manhattan Love Story," 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, ABC: This annoying show is not quite as drenched in dumb and/or sexist assumptions as "Mixology," but that is the lowest possible bar to clear. Much of my podcast rant about this show centered on its highly questionable casting: Jake McDorman is a bland dudebro with little presence; Analeigh Tipton is equally charisma-free. Together they both fail to enliven this generally lunkheaded material, which tries for rom-com lightness but falls conspicuously flat at every turn. Did you know that women like purses and men like breasts? Would you like to watch a comedy in which these observations are treated as amusing revelations? Didn't think so. This show is part of a rom-com trendlet on the broadcast networks, a mini-trend that is wobbly at best and has made me recommend a much better option in this arena: FX's "You're the Worst," which has all the specificity and intelligence many of these shows lack.

    "Bad Judge," 9:00 p.m. ET Thursday, NBC: Nope. The likable and skilled Kate Walsh tries hard to make this strained comedy work, but it keeps resorting to broad gags and dopey jokes, and, just to mix things up, every so often it lunges at sincerity. None of it lands, unfortunately. The show can't really make up its mind about whether Walsh's irresponsible-judge character is someone to emulate or dislike, and in any event, there just aren't many laughs here. Motion denied.

    "A to Z," 9:30 p.m. ET Thursday, NBC: Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti are good actors and undeniably adorable together in this competent pilot, so I'm hoping this high-concept comedy will turn out to be one of the new season's few comedy keepers. The voiceover narration, supplied by Katey Sagal, states that the show will chronicle the entire duration of the couple's relationship (though I'm sure the producers will find ways to extend the show if it does well). There's a bit of "How I Met Your Mother" DNA here (let's hope it's the good strands of that DNA), but this is basically a much tamer, constricted version of "You're the Worst." Still, the charm of its cast and, ideally, sharp writing from the NBC show could keep it afloat.

    "Mulaney," 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox: Who thought this particular format -- a multi-camera comedy loaded with unamusing stock characters -- would work for John Mulaney? I have been scratching my head over that question for a couple weeks, and I'm no closer to an answer. Mulaney's standup work and his "Saturday Night Live" resume reveal that he's a very funny guy, but this contrived, airless comedy is not a good vehicle for him, nor is there much enjoyment to be found in the show's musty supporting characters (a bitchy female friend, a gay neighbor whose characterization is so full of stereotypes as to be offensive, a Black Friend, a burly, bearded friend, etc.). John Mulaney should be part of comedy ventures that many people see -- as long as they're not this show.

    "Cristela," 8:30 p.m. ET Oct. 10, ABC: I am glad this solid and confident show exists and I hope it succeeds. That said, it's made for people who like multi-camera sitcoms and family-oriented sitcoms, and I have never gravitated toward either of those things. The good news is, comic Cristela Alonzo created the show based on her own experiences, and it rings with the kind of authenticity you don't often find on family sitcoms. Alonzo is smart, knows what works for her, and she and co-creator Kevin Hench have crafted a vehicle that serves her very well. I won't often be checking in, because this kind of thing just isn't my cup of tea, but this is well done and I hope "Cristela" runs for a long time.

    "Marry Me," 9:00 p.m. ET Oct. 14, NBC: I am going to stick with this show and I have reasonably high hopes for it, even though the pilot is on the manic side (especially the first few minutes, which are frankly grating). Executive producer David Caspe and one of the show's stars, Casey Wilson, are veterans of the late "Happy Endings," which I still miss a lot, and flashes of that show's skewed/sweet vibe come through here and there in the first episode of "Marry Me." More good news: Ken Marino co-stars as Jake, the would-be fiancé of Annie (Wilson), and he's been in too many wonderful comedy project to count, and he (like Wilson) is very good here. The pilot is high-strung but basically acceptable, and I'll keep watching in the well-founded hopes that it will find consistently entertaining groove and use its fine cast (which includes Tim Meadows and Dan Bucatinsky as Annie's dads) as well as "Happy Endings" used its fab ensemble.

    "The McCarthys," 9:30 p.m. ET Oct. 30, CBS: As previously noted, CBS is in the habit of snatching up fantastic actors of a certain age and putting them in unthreatening, formulaic shows. The latest in that nest-egg crowd is Laurie Metcalf, who, in this tame comedy, plays the matriarch of a Boston family that is obsessed with sports. One son comes out as gay, a development that occupies much of the pilot, but it'll likely be a typical CBS sitcom going forward: full of broad characters and predictable moments but reasonably amusing and decently made. The main thing I appreciated about this pilot was Joey McIntyre's epic Bah-ston accent.

    Ryan McGee and I discussed "Selfie," "Mulaney" and "Manhattan Love Story" in a recent Talking TV podcast, which is here, on iTunes and below.

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