I spent about 30 years interviewing musicians the old-fashioned way: Talking on the telephone, transcribing the tape (or digital recording) and turning it all into a story or Q&A. Then Zoom came along. Now I can actually see the people I’m talking to — and I can just slap the video up on YouTube and be done with it. Yeah, I know I have a face made for radio, a voice made for mime, and no broadcasting skills whatsoever. Thankfully, many of you were willing to put up with all that to see and hear these artists. Here are the most-watched interviews of the past several months (based on the total number of site and YouTube views):
1 | Episode 51 | Derek Trucks
Derek Trucks has been married to singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi for more than two decades. But he’s been in love with Layla for pretty much his whole life. Of course, that’s Layla as in Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, the legendary 1970 double album by the Eric Clapton-led supergroup Derek And The Dominos. Trucks says his dad named him after the band, and used to play the LP for him and his brother as they went to sleep. When the slide guitar master toured with Clapton, he worked many of the songs into his set. And in 2019, the Tedeschi Trucks Band covered the album live in its entirety, releasing the recordings in 2021 as Layla Revisited. But if you think he’s done with Layla, think again. The TTB’s latest album I Am The Moon might be his ultimate Layla tribute — a four-album, 24-song concept piece loosely inspired by the same 12th-century Persian poem about star-crossed lovers that Clapton read decades ago. As the first volume Crescent arrived, Trucks — who also happens to be one of the nicest people I have ever interviewed — talked about the project, his relationship with Layla, becoming a baseball card and more.
2 | Episode 31 | Urge Overkill
For a minute there in the mid-’90s, it looked like Urge Overkill were going to be huge. Maybe not Nirvana huge, but certainly Smashing Pumpkins huge. Indeed, for the Chicago trio — singer-guitarists Nash Kato and Eddie ‘King’ Roeser, along with drummer Blackie Onassis — the stars had truly aligned. Their fourth album Saturation was one of the best releases of 1993. Their single Sister Havana hit the top 10. Their faithful yet ironic cover of Neil Diamond’s problematic Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon was on the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction. They had it all. Until they didn’t. Like countless bands, they couldn’t hold on to the brass ring and imploded due to the usual rock-biz cocktail of drugs, ego, excess, bad decisions, bad luck and bad timing. Nash and Eddie spent nearly a decade nursing their wounds before they buried the hatchet, and released the excellent 2011 comeback Rock & Roll Submarine. A decade later, they’re back again with Oui, which features more songs from the same sessions (and the best cover of Wham’s Freedom! I’ve heard). Watch as Nash and Eddie talk about the new album, the old days, their approach to covers and more.
3 | Episode 39 | Ivan Doroschuk of Men Without Hats
When you hear the words Men Without Hats, I bet you immediately think of one thing: The Safety Dance. And fair enough. It’s been 40 years since Ivan Doroschuk and his Montreal synth-pop band released the worldwide hit — and in all those years, it’s never left the airwaves. You can’t say the same for Doroschuk. While he has continued to tour, he only releases a new album every decade or so. The good news: Men Without Hats are finally back from hibernation. Last year they broke the silence with the covers EP Again Pt. 1. Now they’ve followed up with Again, Pt. 2, their first full album of original material since 2012. The better news: Their new stuff sounds like their old stuff. Instead of chasing trends, jumping on bandwagons or trying to fix what wasn’t broken, Doroschuk sticks to his musical guns and delivers an album that could have been written 30 years ago. In fact, some of it was — Again, Pt. 2 includes both new songs and unreleased fare that Doroschuk pulled out of the archives and re-recorded. The day before the album dropped, Ivan Zoomed in from his B.C. home to talk about his slow pace, Safety Dance’s place in pop culture, how long we have to wait for his next album and more.
4+5 | Episodes 22+23 | Serge & Dave Bielanko of Marah
I still remember the first time I heard Marah. It was 2000. I was on my couch listening to CDs and writing reviews. I put their second album Kids In Philly in my Discman, pushed play, and was hooked. Their sound was big and boisterous, joyful and jubilant, combining some of the finest qualities of early Bruce Springsteen, The Faces and Van Morrison. But ultimately, their songs didn’t really sound like anybody else — the lyrics were richly detailed street poetry, the songwriting broke all the rules, and the production was full of life, momentum and vitality. More than 20 years later, Kids In Philly is still one of my favourite albums. And Marah are still one of my favourite bands. I’ve reviewed all their records. I’ve seen them play as many times as I could. I’ve collected bootlegs of their shows. The one thing I never got to do was interview the Pennsylvania band’s founders and sole permanent members, singer-guitarist brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko. And since Marah basically stopped being a full-time entity after Serge backed away from music in 2008 to raise a family and focus on writing, I never expected to chat with them. But recently the stars aligned: Marah announced their first show in two years, a Christmas gig in their former Philadelphia stomping grounds. And I was able to track down both Bielankos to talk about their upcoming show, the band’s rich legacy and even a possible future for Marah.
6 | Episode 24 | Baxter Dury
Baxter Dury is hardly a household name in North America. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that far more people are familiar with his late father Ian Dury, the eccentric British new wave artist who wrote the song (and coined the phrase) Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll on his 1977 album New Boots and Panties!! (Fun fact: The young lad standing next to Ian on the cover is Baxter at age six.) Like a lot of second-generation artists, Baxter has followed in his father’s footsteps to some degree — while also carving out his own path over the course of six esoterically entertaining albums. Bottom line: If you like Ian, you should get to know Baxter. And there’s never been a better time: This year, he released his frank and revealing memoir Chaise Longue, and prepped the forthcoming compilation album Mr. Maserati, due for release in early 2022. From his riverfront apartment in London — the same suite where he used to live with his father and a minder known as The Sulfate Strangler — Baxter discussed his life and career, his future plans and whether his father should be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
7 | Episode 43 | Yelawolf & Shooter Jennings Of Sometimes Y
Sometimes things happen when they’re supposed to. Case in point: Yelawolf and Shooter Jennings’ new band and album Sometimes Y. The roots-rocker (who is the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter) and the southern rapper (whose mother’s partners toured with Randy Travis and Alabama) have known each other for 15 years — and moved in the same Nashville circles since childhood — but it took them until 2020 to finally get into the studio together. The results are more than worth the wait: Sometimes Y is a blast of classic ’80s-inspired arena-rock — a long-lost artifact from a world where Night Ranger, Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, Funkadelic and Ram Jam made an album together. And if you talk to Yela and Shooter — as I did — it was apparently meant to be. And just as exciting to make as it is to hear. The dynamic duo joined me to chat about collaborations, taking their act on the road and how long they’re going to make us wait for a sequel.
8 | Episode 26 | The Cutthroat Brothers
The Cutthroat Brothers are the real deal. And not. They’re not actually brothers. And they don’t literally slice people’s windpipes. But singer and slide guitarist Jason Cutthroat and drummer Donny Paycheck (formerly of notorious speed-punks Zeke) are both actual working barbers who know how to wield a straight razor. And as the so-called ‘Sweeney Todds of Punk’ — who sometimes perform in blood-soaked smocks — they also know what they’re doing on the musical front: Their latest album Devil In Berlin is a blast of deep, dark and dynamic blues-punk and garage-rock that routinely and rightly earns them comparison to The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave, X and The Stooges. That last one isn’t hurt by the fact that their studio lineup now includes former Stooges, Minutemen and Firehose bassist Mike Watt, who literally volunteered to record with them when they were on his podcast. During a day off from recording their next release, they called up to talk about Watt, barbering, horror movies, whether they’re on the lookout for a great keyboard player with a podcast, and more.
9 | Episode 50 | Steve Earle
Some people say good things come in threes. Others say it’s bad things. For Steve Earle, it works both ways. The Texas roots-rocker’s latest album Jerry Jeff is a posthumous tribute to singer-songwriter, mentor and longtime friend Jerry Jeff Walker. It follows similar albums devoted to the work of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, the two other artists who were a major influence on the young Earle (for better and worse). Despite being inspired by loss, these albums — along with the devastating J.T., his 2021 tribute to his late son Justin Townes Earle — have been rightly praised as some of the finest and most moving work of Earle’s career. Which says a lot about the man behind Copperhead Road, Guitar Town, The Revolution Starts Now and other musical landmarks. The dependably forthright Earle — who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing multiple times over the decades — talked about Walker, making a musical of Tender Mercies, what he has in common with Marianne Faithfull (it’s not what you think) and which Texas troubadour he just might honour next.
10 | Episode 47 | Russell Simins & Jilly Weiss Of Service
Russell Simins used to be the drummer in the New York blues-garage power trio Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Jilly Weiss used to front the Indiana goth-punk band We Are Hex. Then her band opened for his on tour in 2015. They hit it off. And here we are. Now they’re married. They live in Indianapolis. They lead their own band Service. And they recently released their excellent debut album Drag Me. It’s a monstrously great set of darkly intense post-punk propelled by Russell’s groovy beats, laced with his multi-layered production, and topped with Jilly’s otherworldly vocals. I highly recommend. But first, watch them chat with me about living and working together, their double-entendre band name, carrying the torch for rock, what’s on their turntable and plenty more.