Category Archives: radio

Talking Christmas Songwriting on All Things Considered

With Rhett Miller at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Dec. 2018

Christmas music has been an interest of mine for long time, obviously. My yulemix project is in its unfathomable 14th year, I wrote a Slate piece six years ago asking where the follow-ups to “All I Want For Christmas Is You” were (several complicated answers), and now that that last of the breakthrough secular holiday hits is 25 years old, I have at last gotten to bring this passion of mine to its natural habitat: The radio!

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Talking Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on All Things Considered

We didn’t think I’d actually get to interview everyone I had on my to-interview wish list. That never happens. Only this time it did, which is how I came to have five different voices in my four-and-a-half-minute All Things Considered piece on the animation in Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse, a movie I cannot wait to see again.

All of them—producer Chris Miller, producer/co-screenwriter Phil Lord, co-screenwriter/co-director Rodney Rothman, co-director Peter Ramsey, and finally, Eisner Award-winning comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis, who (with artist Sara Pichelli), created Miles Morales, the primary hero of Spider-Verse—had smart, illuminating things to say. I spoke to Bendis solo and Lord & Miller and Rothman & Ramsey in pairs, and pretty soon I had something like 75 minutes of good tape for a story that could accommodate mmmmaybe two-and-a-half minutes of that.

It was an epic job of cutting, followed by more frantic cutting, and then more surgical cutting. My editor, Nina Gregory, and news assistant Milton Guevara, showed me how radio pros get things done on deadline. Bob Mondello, who’d suggested the piece in the first place, gave me some vocal coaching in the booth.

I wish we could’ve used more of what all those smart, imaginative people had to say. I wish we could’ve made the segment 15 minutes long. But I’m very happy with what we managed to pack into about 240 seconds.

You can listen to the piece here.

B-Boys & B-Sides: Presenting (the first quarter of) my Lucky 13th Yulemix, Blue Wave Christmas

Have mercy! This is just getting ridiculous now. For the lucky thirteenth iteration of my Yuletunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series, I thought that instead of releasing it in two indefensibly long parts, as had been my habit since I stopped burning and printing physical CDs of this thing—a nice bauble to thrust into some unsuspecting person’s hand, but expensive—I thought I would do a sort of podcast limited series of four episodes, released weekly, counting down to the Feast of Christmas. Because four is more than two—one hundred percent more, from a numerical perspective. And I believe in always giving one hundred percent, Christmaswise. 

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Putting the “All” in All Things Considered: Can Wonder Woman Find a Superhero Theme That Sticks?

WONDER WOMAN

Here we are in Year Ten of the Marvel Cinematic Era, and not one piece of music has emerged from any of the two dozen films based on Marvel characters (released by Marvel Studios and others) that can rival John Williams’ mighty score for Superman: The Movie or even Danny Elfman’s brooding Batman theme.

For years I’ve wondered why this is. But only two days ago did I at last get to ask someone who might know. On today’s All Things Considered, I speak with Rupert Gregson-Williams, who composed the score for director Patty Jenkins’ fine Wonder Woman. You might even hear a cameo by one of the most venerable heroes of the National Public Radio universe, the great Bob Mondello.

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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.

Radio Radio: On Downtown Boxing Club, for Metro Connection

Downtown Boxing Club trainer Dave White

Trainer Dave White

The thermostat at Downtown Boxing Club read 43 degrees — Fahrenheit — the Sunday afternoon I spent reporting this story for Metro Connection. It felt strange to be in a boxing gym and not be moving around. I’ve wanted to go train at this place for years; a couple of the guys I train with off and on have told me good things. Anyway, I’d better get on it: Downtown Boxing Club will have to move this year, for the third time in its 15-year existence.

You can hear the piece here. I was sorry to have to lose the part where trainer Dave White says that to land a punch you have to be quick enough to catch a penny.

Radio Radio: On Donald Tillery, for Metro Connection

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I have a story on today’s episode of Metro Connection about Donald Tillery, a DC music legend who played with the Soul Searchers for 15 years. He’s a fascinating man, and I hope I’ll be writing about him again at much greater length this year. You can hear the piece here. Continue reading

Talkin’ Yulejams on Word of Mouth

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Thanks to Virgina Prescott and Word of Mouth for having me back on yesterday to talk about the dearth of new Christmas songs and make a few recommendations of less-familiar old ones. They were awfully nice about it when the battery in the borrowed phone I was using died mid-interview.

You can listen to the segment here.

Spoilers on the Radio

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Baby daddy.

The New Hampshire Public Radio Word of Mouth show talked to me earlier this week for a short segment on my Four Types of Spoilers essay for The Village Voice. You can listen to that here and read the essay here.

Radio, the Final Frontier, or To Go With Some Reasonable Measure of Boldness Where I Myself Have Not Personally Managed, Entirely, to Go Before

My first radio story will be broadcast today. You can listen to it here right now. The process of assembling and editing it was not all that much different from making these. Although in this case I had expert help — WAMU managing producer Tara Boyle — to make the piece sound better. The story is about the starship Enterprise. That is, the impressively large, now-49-year-old model that appeared in every episode of Star Trek, 30 years before computer graphics became Hollywood’s defacto visual effects methodology.

I haven’t spent enough time with the various spinoff series to get much of a read on them, but original-flavor Kirk-Spock-McCoy Star Trek is a thing I love.I initially imagined this segment as a Daily Show-style news package wherein I would feign indignation that an artifact as significant as the civilization-seeking, boldly-going Enterprise ​rates a spot only in the basement of the National Air & Space Museum. (Apparently they also have some spacecraft there that have actually flown in space.) That approach proved to a be little ambitious for my first time out of the gate. There were a couple of jokes and a couple of clips it pained me to lose, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

My favorite formal thing about the story is that I managed to use, chronologically, music from three eras of Trek: Alexander Courage‘s 1966 theme for TV series, two snippets of James Horner‘s score for The Wrath of Khan from 1982, and finally, Michael Giacchino‘s theme from the 2009 Trek reboot directed by J.J. Abrams. Continue reading

On the radio with Andy Cirzan!

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On Friday I had the honor of doing 35 minutes of live radio with Andy Cirzan, the great archeologist of obscure holiday records who provided much of the inspiration for my own Yule-Tunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series. (I interviewed Andy a month ago for an essay about my mixtape project that ran in the Washington Post just after Thanksgiving.)

Anyway, Minnesota Public Radio’s The Daily Circuit invited us both on to talk about our mixtapes and recommend some yulejams that haven’t been played to death. I was afraid no one would be in the mood for this silliness when I realized our segment would follow an hour of reaction to the NRA’s spectacularly tone-deaf press conference about the Newton, Conn. school shootings, which the station had carried live a little over an hour before we went on. But I thought the segment turned out well. I had a great time.

You can listen to the whole segment here.  Should it happen to pique your curiosity, my 2009-2012 yulemixes are on the upper periphery of your frame of vision, on the Musics of Christmas page of this site. You can grab Andy’s 2012 mixtape, Santa Soul, from Sound Opinions.

Happy holidays, everybody!

I Haven’t Been on Vacation

With two of my trusted Fringe & Purge Action News and Commentary Squad colleagues, Rachel Manteuffel and Derek Hills. I’m on the right.

A laughable suggestion, HA HA HA! I wouldn’t know a vacation if one punched me in the face and then told me my flight was cancelled!

I spent most of July running the City Paper’s coverage of the seventh Capital Fringe Festival, archived here if you’re curious. I started a Fringe podcast this year, which took more time to produce at an acceptable level of quality than I wanted it to, but that’s how it goes. The episodes I think came out the best are here and here and here and here. Continue reading

Taffety Punk’s “The Faithkiller”

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Seeing it probably Saturday. But I already had a good time interviewing director Marcus Kyd (pictured above at left) for my preview for the Paper of Record.

Because Christmas Is a Dish Best Served Weird…

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Santa Claus and Popcorn, the third in my annual (so far) series of radio Christmas cards featuring yule-tunes eclectic and inexplicable (TM), is now sliding its merry way down chimneys around the globe.