Category Archives: interviews

Hot Buzz: I interviewed Simon Pegg for Air & Space/Smithsonian

Sofia Boutella and Simon Pegg in "Star Trek Beyond." (Kimberly French/Paramount)

What a pleasure it was to speak with Simon Pegg, an actor and writer whose work I’ve long admired, for my day job with Air & Space / Smithsonian magazine. I’ve been overseeing a special section of our September issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and I was especially keen to have Pegg — as the co-screenwriter of the new movie Star Trek Beyond, as well as one of its key cast members — be a part of our coverage. He was as enthusiastic and smart and funny as I’d dared hope. You can read the interview here, and my NPR review of Star Trek Beyond will be up Friday. Continue reading

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They Mostly Come Out at Night, Mostly: ALIENS, recalled briefly on All Things Considered.

I was thrilled to get an invitation from All Things Considered to blab briefly with the great Audie Cornish about one of my favorite movies on the 30th anniversary of its release: SpaceCamp. No, it was ALIENS. Duh. The segment aired at the very end of an ATC that started off with live audio of the “Roll Call Vote!” chant from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. They’re coming out of the goddamn walls, just like Private Hudson said.

You can hear the segment here. I had more to say than they could use, but that’s radio, and hey, this is a show primarily devoted to, you know, real news. One of the first pieces I ever wrote for NPR was largely about ALIENS. I have a narrow range of interests, I guess. And Fox just released a new batch of stills and behind-the-scenes photos from the movie, many of which even I have never seen before, so I’m posting those, too. Enjoy.

I’m Interviewing Matt Damon

Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) finds himself stranded and alone on Mars, in THE MARTIAN. (20th Century Fox)

I’m a big fan of Andy Weir’s debut novel The Martian. I was actually listening to the audiobook on the day in April when I visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where the book is partially set. (It’s also set in space and on Mars.) I was out there doing some reporting for my day job with Air & Space / Smithsonian, and it was in that capacity that I got on the phone this week with Matt Damon, who plays the story’s protagonist, stranded astronaut Mark Watney, in Ridley Scott’s film adaptation, due out Oct. 2. The film hasn’t screened for critics yet, but the fact its release date was moved up by nearly two months suggests the studio is convinced it works. Continue reading

Can of Wormholes, or Accretion Discography: My Interview with Kip Thorne, Interstellar Progenitor and Scientific Adviser

INTERSTELLARFor my day job at Air & Space / Smithsonian, I interviewed Kip Thorne, the theoretical physicist who, along with his friend the movie producer Lynda Obst, conceived the film Interstellar back in 2006. Thorne remained closely involved with the picture throughout its writing, production, and editing, and has now published a 324-page companion to the film called The Science of “Interstellar” laying out his scientific rationalization for every aspect of its story — even the Love Tesseract Wormhole.

DUH: Don’t read this interview if you intend to see Interstellar but haven’t yet.

Continue reading

Talk Back in Anger: Marc Maron, interviewed.

The ubiquitous Marc Maron. Photo by Max S. Gerber, courtesy IFC.

The ubiquitous Marc Maron. (Max S. Gerber/courtesy IFC)

You see? I managed to make even my interview with comedian and podcast host Marc Maron mostly about 60-year-old musicians. But we talked about some other stuff, too. That’s on Arts Desk today. Maron plays Sixth & I tonight, promoting his new essay collection, Attempting Normal.

We Still Care: A Conversation with Rhett Miller of Old 97s

Old 97s play their best album, 1997’s “Too Far to Care,” at the 9:30 Club tonight. Miller is second from the left.

Formed in Dallas in 1993, the alt-country act Old 97s combines the heart-tugging wordplay of Townes van Zandt with the attack of The Clash. After a couple of indie releases in the mid-90s, the group were the beneficiaries of a bidding war, signing with Elektra Records. Their major-label debut, 1997’s Too Far to Care, remains their best and best-loved album. Despite retaining a substantial following — their show at the 9:30 Club tonight is sold out — the group never reached the level of stardom their big label demanded. Since 2004, they’ve been recording for the New West label.

Their current tour supports a 15th anniversary reissue of Too Far to Care, which they’re playing in its entirety in sequence, along with a selection of other songs. I spoke with singer-songwriter Rhett Miller (whose career as a solo artist runs parallel to that of his band) by phone about the quest for perfect setlist, the excesses of major label recording contracts and the perils of singing songs you wrote at 25 when you’re 42.

This interview appears today on the Washington City Paper’s Arts Desk. Continue reading

Old 97’s Rock Obama in Balmer

Real quick — one of my favorite bands, Old 97’s, played a special gig at SONAR in Baltimore last night to benefit the Obama campaign in what was referred to all night as “the crucial swing state of Ohio.” I’d never been to SONAR before, but I liked the club a lot, and its entire staff was working for free last night, along with the talent. The merch and the concessions were all donated, too. Whether you bought one of the $20 T-shirts or the $10 event poster signed by all four 97s or just a beer for $4.50 (the same ones you pay $6 for in D.C.), every penny you pried from your wallet was, we were told, to go straight to Obama’s Ohio machine. 97s frontman Rhett Miller and bassist/second singer Murry Hammond each performed a solo acoustic set in the Talking Head Lounge (SONAR’s equivalent of the Black Cat’s backstage) for people who sprang for the $100 tickets. The tix for just the Old 97s gig in the main room were $25. Two Balmer bands opened the mainstage gig, Desert Boys and Caleb Stine and The Brakemen. Neither of them were bad at all. Stine sounds eerily like Jay Farrar, but Uncle Tupelo-era Farrar, so that was no bad thing.

It was a fun evening, though I wish the club had been more than half-full. The 97s just played a sold-out show at the 9:30 here in the District six weeks ago, so that plus the fact that it was a Monday night might have depressed the turnout a bit. Their set was on the short side for them, at a mere 20 songs, but that was forgiveable given that Murry and Rhett had each performed a solo set beforehand, and anyway, the band’s actual performance absolutely smoked.

For me, though, the evening’s clear highlight was the interview Murry gave me about his fine new solo album, I Don’t Know Where I’m Going but I’m on My Way, and about the origins and history of the 97s. We spoke for about 20 minutes before his solo set, and then he actually came and found me after he and Rhett were finished so I could ask him the rest of my questions. Hell of a nice guy, he. I’ll be posting the interview on DCist probably late next week, in advance of Murry’s solo gig at IOTA on Monday, Sept. 22. I’ll see y’alls there.

Old 97’s at SONAR, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008

The Setlist

01 The Fool

02 Barrier Reef

03 The One

04 Buick City Complex

05 No Baby I

06 Mama Tried

07 Indefinitely

08 Early Morning

09 St. Ignatius Alone So Far

10 Question

11 Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue

12 Dance with Me

13 Hands Off

14 My Two Feet

15 W. Tx Teardrops

16 Rollerskate Skinny

17 The Easy Way

ENCORE:

18 Salome

19 Murder (Or a Heart Attack)

20 Timebomb

The Band

Philip Peeples — drums

Ken Bethea — guitar

Murry Hammond — bass, vocals

Rhett Miller — vocals, guitar