Tag Archives: terre t

Soundtracking

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but writing a novel is kind of hard. One the main reasons it is so hard is the time needed to complete it, time that can be spent in so many ways that don’t involve sitting at home by yourself in front of the computer screen. Not to mention that simply being at a computer screen offers so many distractions. I’m constantly worried that I’m “missing” something on Twitter; breaking news about the Mets, perhaps, which I am semi-professionally obligated to keep on top of, or perhaps a hilarious meme that cries out for my contributions.

One of the biggest enemies of novel writing is lack of focus, be it internet enabled or just the wandering of mind that tends to happen when you have to do one thing and one thing only. My biggest problem is I’m a multitasker by nature. I find it extremely difficult to work on one single thing when I have ideas for a dozen others, all of them vying for headspace. When it comes to shorter nonfiction stuff, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with working on more than one project simultaneously. But that method is deadly for fiction writing in general and novel writing in particular.

Colson Whitehead (whose novels The Intuitionist and John Henry Days are in my own person canon) wrote a great piece about this a few years back for the Times, “What To Write Next.” The intent was humorous, but even more so than the jokes, what struck me about the piece was its subtext: The writer’s fear that you’re toiling away on one thing when you can and should be working on something else, an impulse that can prevent you from doing anything at all.

An excellent way to combat this lack of focus is through music. I’m far from the first person to point this out, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts anyway, as I owe a debt to all the music I listened to while writing this book. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without clasping headphones to my dome and letting music push the outside world away for a while.

I found listening to albums (remember those?) helped the most. A complete album–a good one, anyway–immerses you in a universe, which helps you focus your energies and attention for the running time and hopefully beyond. The albums I listened to most often while writing Love and a Short Leash were:

  • Miles Ahead, Miles Davis
  • Double Nickels on the Dime, The Minutemen
  • Mikal Cronin S/T
  • David Comes to Life, Fucked Up
  • Under the Bushes, Under the Stars, Guided By Voices
  • Get Happy!, Elvis Costello
  • Singles 06-07, Jay Reatard
  • The Tyranny of Distance, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • Melted, Ty Segall
  • Murmur, R.E.M.

In addition to these records, I also got sucked into various boots of Petit Wazoo/Roxy and Elsewhere-era Mothers of Invention shows (1972-1974). I can’t quite explain why; I listened to a ton of Frank Zappa in high school and college, but only rarely since then. This was an addiction I thought I’d conquered. Whatever the reason, my desire to listen to this music again reemerged right when I was finishing up my final draft, and I’m glad it did. I found the funk-and-jazz charged jams of this era of Frank Zappa’s oeuvre to be helpful for this particular stage of my toil.

I found that commercial radio doesn’t help me all that much, with its incessant breaks and complete lack of imagination, but listening to WFMU definitely did. I did most of my work on the weekends, and the Saturday afternoon block of Michael Shelley, Fool’s Paradise with Rex, and especially Terre T’s Cherry Blossom Clinic powered me through many marathon writing sessions.

To honor this debt, I wanted to share a playlist of songs that were often drilled into my ears when writing the novel. Some have particular resonance for reasons related to novel’s plot/subject matter, some are mood setters, and some are just bitchin’ tunes. I’ve arranged them in an order that helps my own process: Get pumped up, settle in, shot of energy, scale back again, repeat. I’m not sure if this will be instructive to anyone or if it really shares anything except a glimpse into my weird headspace. But hey, you get some rad tunes, so shut your noise. Playlist available here, deets after the jump.

Continue reading Soundtracking

My Annual Plea

I've used this pic four years running, and if it was good enough for 2008, dagnabbit, it's good enough for 2012

Every year around this time, I entreat you, the Scratchbomb reader, to consider donating some funds to WFMU, the Fun 91, the Freeform Station of the Nation. That time is upon us again.

WFMU does not get any money from the government (federal, state, local, what have you), nor does it get any money from corporations. It also refrains from constantly begging for money throughout the year a la PBS. WFMU has but one two-week pledge marathon that raises the bulk of their operating costs for the year. That is why it is crucial to add your support at this time.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but radio in the New York area is bad. Like, really bad. Atrocious, one might say. For a city that likes to think it’s the Center of Everything, particularly when it comes to the arts, New York’s radio stations are unlistenable, robotically programmed swill. WFMU is an island of goodness amid this raging sea of garbage.

Because they are not owned by some huge Conglomco, and because they are not beholden to any taskmasters governmental or corporate, WFMU gets to do whatever the hell it wants (within FCC confines, of course). I don’t love everything I’ve ever heard on WFMU, but I do love the fact that all of it is made by real humans who love music and radio, which definitively cannot be said for everything else on the airwaves.

I first started listening to WFMU well over a decade ago. A roommate turned me on to Terre T’s Cherry Blossom Clinic, which was exactly the kind of punk/garage/glam show I’d been searching for my entire life to that point. I made my first WFMU donation to her show when I was still powerfully, crushingly unemployed, because I believed in it that much, and if I couldn’t share what little money I had with something that made me that happy, well, what was the point of money anyway?

I still love Cherry Blossom Clinic and listen every Saturday I can; in my push to complete my novel over the last few months, I probably wrote 75 percent of it listening to Terre T. And so I feel somewhat indebted to WFMU for providing me with a soundtrack to my industry.

WFMU is also home to The Best Show, which is not only one of the funniest things humans have ever done, but which would be impossible on any other station. To do the kind of humor that Tom Scharpling does on that show–be it sparring with callers, chatting with guests, or performing comedy with Jon Wurster–requires large swaths of time that other spots on the dial would never allow in a million years. Even if you don’t listen to The Best Show, chances are you enjoy some form of comedy that has taken inspiration in some way from The Best Show. (SNL, for instance, counts many Friends Of Tom among its writers and performers; peep Bill Hader’s t-shirt in this video for visual evidence thereof.) That alone makes it, and WFMU, worthy of your attention.

I’ve volunteered for WFMU events for last few years and it is always a joyous experience. I am not blessed with a huge amount of free time, but I make time for WFMU, because being a tiny piece of what makes it happen is so rewarding. For instance, two years ago, I got witness this bit of amazingness–a Nerd-Off between John Hodgman and Patton Oswalt–live and in person.

My wife and I will be assisting in The Best Show’s first marathon program this evening. We will also be donating funds in addition to our time, and if you have any change to spare, I urge you to do the same. If you can part with 5 bucks, I assure you it is appreciated. I’ve manned the phones at the marathon and received pledges at that level, and I can promise you that every little bit helps.

However, if you care to listen during tonight’s show (which will feature special guests Ted Leo and Julie Klausner) and care to donate $75 or more, you are entitled to the Hammer of the Gods Best Show Demon Summoning Pack, which includes:

  • A Best Show magazine with contributions from such luminaries as John Hodgman, David Rees, Robert Popper, Michael Kupperman, and more, plus an interview with Michael Nesmith and many other awesome tidbits and treats.
  • A flexidisc with an exclusive song from Kurt Vile
  • A CD of brand new comedy from Scharpling and Wurster.
  • A free download of the audio from last year’s Radiovision Conference panel, featuring Tom, Marc Maron, and Ira Glass.
  • A new Best Show sticker! A Vance the Puppet stressball! Some other stuff, I bet!

If all of that ain’t worth $75, I don’t know what is.

High rollers can donate more and get premiums from other DJs, which are always fantastic; the premium CDs from Terre T, Rex, and Evan “Funk” Davies always contain some amazing vinyl finds you simply can not get anywhere else. Think you can just get anything from anywhere in our digital age? You are completely wrong, and WFMU’s DJ premiums prove it every year.

I believe I’ve made made my case. This concludes my annual plea on behalf of WFMU, one of my favorite things in the world, until next week when I bug you again during Marathon Week Two.

The Freeform Station of the Nation Still Needs You

As I stated in this post, WFMU is currently in the midst of its annual pledge marathon, and could sure use your help. I will be pitching in tomorrow from 3 to 6pm during Terre T’s show. She’s the first WFMU DJ I listened to many moons ago, and I still tune in every Saturday to hear her spin the best punk/garage/glam/psychedelia on The Cherry Blossom Clinic.

This year, a donation to her fine program gets you not only a CD with many rockin’ rarities which you will not find anywhere else on Earth so don’t even try, but also a special Cherry Blossom Clinic apron! And what could be more rockin’ than keeping your clothes free of flour while making a souflee?

So call tomorrow from 3 to 6 to donate to her fantastic show, and to WFMU. You might even get to speak to yours truly and have me ask you to repeat the spelling of your last name eight times. If you can’t wait for 24 hours, feel free to use the handy dandy pledge widget to your right. DO IT.

TomThon 2011 is Go!

The annual WFMU Pledge Marathon has begun, and The Freeform Station of the Nation needs you. Yes, you. And you. And even you. If you can swing it, please use the handy dandy WFMU Pledge widget to your right to donate today.

Just in case you are not aware: WFMU (91.1 on your FM dial in the NYC area, streaming at WFMU.org) is a 100 percent listener-supported radio station that broadcasts out of Jersey City. None of their funding comes from the gubment. Very little (if any) comes from corporate entities. None of the DJs are paid. The vast majority of the labor needed to keep the place up and running comes from volunteers.

Why? Because it is one of the only radio stations in the tri-state area–and America–where people can play pretty much whatever they want. In a world where most frequencies are programmed, and in many cases DJ’ed, by robots, WFMU remains a bastion of The Human Element.

Perhaps the very idea of a radio station seems quaint to you, in our world of MP3 players and fax machines, but I strongly disagree. I have been introduced to so much awesomeness thanks to WFMU, whether it’s music or comedy or just plain talk (although nothing they do could be described as “just plain”). Things that I never would have heard of otherwise, and wouldn’t even think to seek out. And I know that I would not have heard any of it on any other radio station. On any other thing, period.

My love for The Best Show on WFMU is well documented. What Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster do on that show would be impossible to do anywhere else. No other station would give them the amount of time needed to make their “mayhem” happen. Not NPR, and certainly not Clear Channel-dominated commercial radio. And The Best Show is just the tip of a very deep iceberg. That is why WFMU needs and deserves support.

Continue reading TomThon 2011 is Go!

The Difference Between a Chump and a Champ is U!

Thanks to the graciousness of host Tom Scharpling, I was able to visit the WFMU studios in beautiful downtown Jersey City during the second Best Show marathon program this Tuesday. To say this was a thrill would be a vast understatement. To say that it made me one with the cosmos and eternity itself…that’s probably an overstatement. So let’s say the experience was somewhere in the middle.

It was amazing to see the sheer amount of work that goes into the marathon, from all of the Phone Slaves taking pledges to wrangling all the premiums to feeding the assembled host (which was amazingly done by WFMU’s own Terre T, one of the coolest people in existence). It felt a lot like being backstage at a Broadway production or a live TV show circa 1957, with folks coming and going at breakneck speed in confined quarters to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible. Except that not a single person involved received a dime for their work. It was all, literally, a labor of love.

And as if witnessing The Best Show raise an unbelievable $80K+ for WFMU wasn’t enough, I got to see funnymen Patton Oswalt and John Hodgman lend their talents to the cause. I also captured some of these moments on video, thanks to my lil’ iPod. The picture quality is not stellar, but the audio is pretty good, and their historic import compels me to share them with you. (You can hear the actual show here.)
Continue reading The Difference Between a Chump and a Champ is U!

Return of the Son of Give ‘Til It Hurts So Good!

goodguys.jpgBeginning at 7pm tonight, WFMU is holding a 24 emergency pledge marathon. Normally, they hold only one pledge drive a year, but the station is in some dire financial straits.

Should you pledge out of the goodness of your heart and to keep the only radio station worth listening to in the tri-state area on the air? Of course. But if you need some extra motivation, know that The Best Show on WFMU is giving away a monstrously awesome HEROES DO WHAT HEROES DO FUN PACK! What do you get? WHAT DON’T YOU GET?!

  • A special Best Show t-shirt designed by Michael Kupperman, genius behind Snake and Bacon, Tales Designed to Thrizzle, and many other comical works of gut-busting hilarity;
  • A MP3 CD of Best Show rarities to satisfy lunatic completists like yours truly; AND
  • A special CD of punk/rock rarities compiled by WFMU’s own Terre T, who ALWAYS puts together an awesome compilation.

Tune in tonight starting at 7pm, and I’m sure you’ll hear even more reasons to pledge. Special guests! Hilarity! HELICOPTER RIDES! And much much much much more!

Listen: I got no end of things I gotta spend dough on. I’ve got birthday parties, engagement parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Bastille Day…I’M STILL PLEDGING, AND SO SHOULD YOU! CAPS LOCK!

And remember: SOME WILL BURN, ALL WILL PAY!

We Did It Again…We Did It Again…

If you didn’t get a chance to listen to The Best Show‘s second and final Pledge Marathon Night, first of all SHAME ON YOU. But hey, maybe your kid was sick or your dog was on fire or something. So if you didn’t get to listen to it, Stereogum has an excellent play-by-play for you. And no one says you can’t listen to the show from The Best Show Archives, or subscribe to The Best Show podcast, ya know.

For those of you who did listen, but would like visual evidence to accompany your fahntasies, Stereogum has plenty of pics from the event. Here’s one of my faves: Tom Scharpling in his stellar Judge Smails outfit, with co-host Therese, John Hodgman looking strangely servile, Paul F Tompkins in a Napoleon pose, AP Mike appearing not nearly as creepy as I expected him to, and just in the background you can also see Aimee Mann, Ted Leo and Terre T in their FOT sailor hats.

fotship.jpg

It’s easy to grin, when your ship has come in…