Bullseye

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: What Happened, Miss Simone? & Oliver Wang

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Liz Garbus
Guests: 
Oliver Wang

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo: Monty Fresco/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What Happened, Miss Simone? Liz Garbus Explores the Passionate Life of Nina Simone

Nina Simone pursued freedom in her politics, her music and her personal life. Yet, it was something that often eluded her when she wasn’t on stage. Struggles with bi-polar disorder, a complex and often violent marriage and a legacy of racism caused her great pain, but these same things also shaped her into one of the most quintessential performers of her generation.

Filmmaker Liz Garbus’ documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, reveals the life of the performer using an exhaustive collection of archival material, interviews and even excerpts from Simone’s personal diaries. The result is a film that reveals an artist in all her complexity, a woman whose ability to be simultaneously vulnerable and powerful helped define her as a voice of her generation.

Garbus joins us to discuss Simone’s beginnings as a child prodigy in the Jim Crow south; how the civil right moment changed Simone’s professional and personal life; and how the contradictions that make a human being made Nina Simone truly unforgettable.

Liz Garbus’ film What Happened, Miss Simone? is now available to stream on Netflix.

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Oliver Wang on the Rise of the Filipino Mobile DJ Crews

If you don't know about the dozens of Filipino mobile DJ crews that rocked garage parties, weddings, birthdays, school dances and showcases in the Bay Area during the 1970s to 1990s, you're not alone. The DJs who made up these crews were mostly teenagers, initially inspired by what they heard and saw at nightclubs. They even tended to fly under the radar at school or outside of their Filipino communities. Yet their work is an important, if understudied part of the history of turntablism.

Academic, journalist and DJ Oliver Wang spent nearly fifteen years researching and interviewing these crews to spotlight a scene that created a foundation for famed scratch DJs like DJ Qbert, Mix Master Mike and DJ Shortkut. Wang's new book on the subject is called Legions of Boom.

Wang joins us to talk about what these mobile DJs borrowed from the discos of the 1970s, how continuous mixing ensured the party would go on, and why the California-style two car garage became the perfect place for that party.

Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area is available now. You can hear Oliver Wang on our pop culture sister podcast, Pop Rocket, every week.

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The Outshot: The Promise of Summer

Jesse explains how The Hold Steady's "Constructive Summer" seems to capture the season's essence.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: What Happened, Miss Simone? & Oliver Wang

| 0 comments
Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Liz Garbus
Guests: 
Oliver Wang

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo: Monty Fresco/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What Happened, Miss Simone? Liz Garbus Explores the Passionate Life of Nina Simone

Nina Simone pursued freedom in her politics, her music and her personal life. Yet, it was something that often eluded her when she wasn’t on stage. Struggles with bi-polar disorder, a complex and often violent marriage and a legacy of racism caused her great pain, but these same things also shaped her into one of the most quintessential performers of her generation.

Filmmaker Liz Garbus’ documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, reveals the life of the performer using an exhaustive collection of archival material, interviews and even excerpts from Simone’s personal diaries. The result is a film that reveals an artist in all her complexity, a woman whose ability to be simultaneously vulnerable and powerful helped define her as a voice of her generation.

Garbus joins us to discuss Simone’s beginnings as a child prodigy in the Jim Crow south; how the civil right moment changed Simone’s professional and personal life; and how the contradictions that make a human being made Nina Simone truly unforgettable.

Liz Garbus’ film What Happened, Miss Simone? is now available to stream on Netflix.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this interview with a friend.

Oliver Wang on the Rise of the Filipino Mobile DJ Crews

If you don't know about the dozens of Filipino mobile DJ crews that rocked garage parties, weddings, birthdays, school dances and showcases in the Bay Area during the 1970s to 1990s, you're not alone. The DJs who made up these crews were mostly teenagers, initially inspired by what they heard and saw at nightclubs. They even tended to fly under the radar at school or outside of their Filipino communities. Yet their work is an important, if understudied part of the history of turntablism.

Academic, journalist and DJ Oliver Wang spent nearly fifteen years researching and interviewing these crews to spotlight a scene that created a foundation for famed scratch DJs like DJ Qbert, Mix Master Mike and DJ Shortkut. Wang's new book on the subject is called Legions of Boom.

Wang joins us to talk about what these mobile DJs borrowed from the discos of the 1970s, how continuous mixing ensured the party would go on, and why the California-style two car garage became the perfect place for that party.

Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area is available now. You can hear Oliver Wang on our pop culture sister podcast, Pop Rocket, every week.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this interview with a friend.

The Outshot: The Promise of Summer

Jesse explains how The Hold Steady's "Constructive Summer" seems to capture the season's essence.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this Outshot with a friend.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Shamir & Pete Rock

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Pete Rock
Guests: 
Shamir

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

Shamir: Adding Light to Darkness With His Music

Shamir is a musician who is really hard to pin down…literally. His countertenor voice adds a distinctive flair to his infectious, sometimes poignant dance music but it’s a quality that’s also led to confrontations with classmates who were unaware of his Taekwondo training.

With his debut LP, Ratchet, Shamir draws inspiration from his life in Las Vegas, a Vegas that has nothing to do with The Strip. Instead, it’s a different Vegas that includes tumbleweeds and the distinctive odor of a hog farm. It’s a life that touches on the passion of youth, but also explores the pain of age and loss.

As Shamir describes it, “I kind of decided to make my music more danceable and lighthearted to take away from the heaviness of the lyrics. Because why not, why does your music also have to be heavy if your lyrics are?”

Shamir joins us this week to share: how he has constructed a creative identity in a city known for producing more entertainers than artists; how his love for country music inspired him; and how his mother’s proclivity for earth magic isn't quite his thing.

Shamir's newest album is called Ratchet. He's embarking on a U.S. tour this fall. You can find more on his website.

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Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Hip Hop Producer Pete Rock on Finding & Shaping the Perfect Sample

The revolutionary hip hop producer Pete Rock grew up in a house full of records, mentally cataloging the songs that excited him. His parents listened to all kinds of music, from jazz to classical to funk. Years later, he would reach back into his brain and record collection to select and transform the perfect sample.

He started out as half of the hip-hop duo Pete Rock and CL Smooth, later going solo and collaborating with and producing for many of the biggest names in rap, from Nas to Kanye West.

Pete Rock joins us to talk about his earliest music memories, meeting James Brown as an elementary-schooler, and how he took a sample from an album called "The Honeysuckle Breeze" and used it to create a classic hip hop track.

Pete Rock's new album of instrumentals is Petestrumentals 2.

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The Outshot: Summertime Jams

Jesse counts down his top five Summertime jams.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Judy Greer & Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces

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New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

CLICK HERE FOR A DIRECT DOWNLOAD OF THIS EPISODE.

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Judy Greer on Always Being the Co-Star and Midwestern Modesty

Judy Greer engages in fan-profiling. It sounds kind of sketchy, but before you get upset -- know that it's nothing bad. It's just a useful tool. Strangers stop her in the street, or at the airport, or in coffee shops all the time. It's always a variation on the same question... "What do I know you from?" And they won't let her go until she can help them solve the riddle.

She's an actress, so they probably know her from one of her many roles as "the best friend", in a movie like The Wedding Planner or Thirteen Going on Thirty. Or maybe they recognize her from her role as the slightly unhinged secretary Kitty Sanchez in Arrested Development. It could be any number of things, since Greer has almost a hundred credits on her IMDb page.

She rarely plays the lead, however, and so people often don't know her name.

Greer joins us this week to talk about love for the animated series Archer, the modest Midwestern roots that never allow her to turn down a role, and the freedom she finds in not being the leading lady -- and of course, she'll fan-profile our host, Jesse. Her book I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star is available now in paperback.

Greer co-stars in the FX series Married, which begins its second season this week.

This interview originally aired in May 2014.

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Ishmael Butler on the Short Life of Digable Planets and the Cosmic Hip Hop of Shabazz Palaces

In the early 1990s, the hip hop group Digable Planets broke through with their single "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)". The single was jazzy and laid-back, and became a crossover hit. The trio were pegged by some as a counterpoint to gangsta rap, but they didn't love the efforts to categorize their sound. They went further on their next boundary-pushing release, the classic record Blowout Comb. The album was critically acclaimed, but didn't sell well, and the group drifted apart shortly afterward.

Founding member Ishmael Butler was only in his mid 20s when Digable Planets broke up. And so he tried other things, like filmmaking. He still made music, but the releases were few and far between. A few years ago, he teamed up with Tendai Maraire to form a new group called Shabazz Palaces.

Shabazz Palaces' most recent release is called Lese Majesty, and it expands on their interstellar sound. Shabazz Palaces is playing shows and festivals across the U.S. this summer and fall.

Butler spoke to us about his days as a indie label gopher, the awkward audition Digable Planets had to endure for a record company executive, and the the transformative sounds of Shabazz Palaces.

This interview originally aired in August 2014.

The Outshot: Orson Welles and 'Touch of Evil'

Jesse explains why the last Hollywood picture Orson Welles directed, Touch of Evil, tells us so much about Welles as an artist.

This segment originally aired in August 2014.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Penelope Spheeris & Bhi Bhiman

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Penelope Spheeris
Guests: 
Bhi Bhiman

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo courtesy Shout! Factory

Penelope Spheeris Unveils the Worlds of Punk, Hair Metal in 'The Decline of Western Civilization'

Penelope Spheeris says that she loved punk rock when she first heard it in the 1970s because "the chaos was attractive and familiar to me." She directed, filmed and organized that chaos, spending time with LA punk bands Black Flag, the Germs, and X among others, for her movie The Decline of Western Civilization. She strived to show everything -- the good and bad -- and let the audience decide how they felt about the people on-screen.

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years focused on the over-the-top lifestyles and big dreams of hair metal bands in the late 1980s. And the third film in Spheeris' Decline series went deep into the world of gutter punks in the 1990s.

After many years of VHS-to-DVD bootlegging, the Decline films are now available together for the first time in a box set on Blu-Ray and DVD from Shout! Factory, with a collection of bonus materials and commentaries produced by Spheeris and her daughter, Anna Fox.

Spheeris talks to us about the chaos in her own upbringing, the worlds of punk and metal as depicted in her documentaries, and directing a little feature film called Wayne's World.

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Bhi Bhiman on Slyly Subverting the Folk Rocker Stereotype

The Sri Lankan-American singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman encounters some challenges when he goes on-stage. As he tells it, " I have a couple of things going against me. I’m South Asian looking, I’m playing acoustic guitar and singing and as a general rule people just don’t want to see that. But I have to work up hill against that."

Bhiman's newest album Rhythm & Reason is loosely themed around the immigrant experience, but it's not as earnest as that sounds. He's got a Randy Newman thing going on, too.

Bhiman talks to us about not fitting people's expectations of a folk singer with a guitar, his inspirations for the new album, and why he's got love for the Newm.

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The Outshot: Falling in Love with Catastrophe

"What does romance mean when you're a fully formed adult human being?" Jesse explains why he's sold on the new romantic comedy Catastrophe.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Alan Rickman & Sacha Jenkins

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Alan Rickman
Guests: 
Sacha Jenkins

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo credit: Matej Divizna/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Alan Rickman on 'A Little Chaos', Hans Gruber in 'Die Hard', and His Training at RADA

Alan Rickman stars in and directs the new movie A Little Chaos. It's a romantic drama, set in the court of the Sun King, Louis Quatorze. Kate Winslet plays a landscape architect who is contracted to design a garden at Versailles.

Rickman says he was attracted to the screenplay because of its love story, and the historical reimagining of the construction of Versailles.

He spoke with us about the logistical challenges of staging an elaborate period film, playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the secret conversation he had with JK Rowling before shooting the Harry Potter films, and yes, what it's like to act for sixteen hours with a rubber alien head.

A Little Chaos is in theaters now.

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Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Sacha Jenkins on the Evolution of Hip Hop Fashion in 'Fresh Dressed'

Why is fashion such a meaningful part of hip hop's history? Jesse talks to Sacha Jenkins, the director of the new documentary Fresh Dressed, about the evolution of style in hip hop, from the influence of white biker gangs, to the remixing of luxury brands by Harlem couturier Dapper Dan, to the rise and fall of brands founded by rappers and hip hop artists.

Fresh Dressed is in theaters and available on VOD.

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Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The Outshot: Reliving Memories with the Golden State Warriors

Jesse describes what it felt like to see his favorite childhood basketball team in the NBA playoffs.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Chris Gethard & Lawrence Weschler

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New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

CLICK HERE FOR A DIRECT DOWNLOAD OF THIS EPISODE.

Chris Gethard on Public Access, Comedy, and Confronting an Internet Hater In Person

Jesse talks with comedian Chris Gethard about taking his anarchic stage show to television, how being bipolar has affected his creative work, and confronting one of his Internet haters in real life. His book is called A Bad Idea I'm About To Do.

The Chris Gethard Show started out life at the UCB Theater in New York, moved to public access TV and the internet, and recently found a new home on the cable network Fusion. You can see The Chris Gethard Show on your television, or live streaming on Tuesday nights.

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Lawrence Weschler on Goat Sacrifice, Storytelling, and the Uncanny Valley

Jesse talks with a master of creative nonfiction, Lawrence Weschler, about a goat sacrifice at UC Santa Cruz, the dangers of humans' bias toward narrative, and why the CGI faces in movies never look quite right. Weschler's most recent book is The Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative.

This interview originally aired in January 2012.

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Photo credit Gerard Victor

Karriem Riggins on The Song That Changed My Life: "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose"

Drummer and producer Karriem Riggins explained how James Brown's "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose" changed his life. It all started because he liked the album cover.

Karriem's most recent album is called Alone Together.

This interview originally aired in November 2012.

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The Outshot: Quick Change

People often talk about two phases of Bill Murray's career. Think of Caddyshack and Ghostbusters in the 80s. Then, Lost In Translation and Broken Flowers in the 2000s. But there’s an oft-overlooked Bill Murray movie that was released in 1990; and you’ve got to watch it.
Jesse shares his love for the only movie Bill Murray has ever directed -- Quick Change.

This segment originally aired in May 2014.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jen Kirkman & Bryce Dessner

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jen Kirkman
Guests: 
Bryce Dessner

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jen Kirkman's Unapologetic, Unafraid Thoughts on Marriage, Divorce, and Comedy

Jen Kirkman is fierce when it comes to pain and fear and figuring stuff out, both in her stand up comedy and her writing. In her new stand up special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), a lot of her material is about getting married, getting divorced, and why she thinks we're all just doing our best. While her jokes about being divorced at 40 and physical aging could be sad sack in someone else's hands, Kirkman's take is unapologetic and unafraid. She's OK with those things. Why aren't we?

Kirkman explains how part of her opening sequence is an homage to Joan Rivers, how she found her audience after spending years playing rooms of alternative comedy fans, and why she thinks dying alone doesn't have to be a bad thing.

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Photo credit: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Bryce Dessner on "The Day I Became an Artist"

Bryce Dessner is a classically educated composer and musician. He grew up playing classical guitar, piano and flute. He also plays guitar for the rock band The National.

As a kid, classical music was something he did by himself. That changed as he grew older, and he collaborated and played with friends and took on small commissions.

For "The Day I Became an Artist", he talked to us about a pivotal moment in his career as a composer -- writing his composition "Aheym" for the Kronos Quartet.

You can hear Dessner's music many ways -- a new recording of his composition Music for Wood and Strings was just released. You can hear him in the rock band The National. And if you want to hear his compositions live, you can find them being performed all over the world. Details of current performances are available on his website, BryceDessner.com.
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"The Red Umbrella", Saul Leiter (1957)

The Outshot: Saul Leiter

Jesse talks about the photographer Saul Leiter, whose great talent lay in not telling you the whole story.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Baron Davis & Paul Dano

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Baron Davis
Guests: 
Paul Dano

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

"How Hard Are You Willing to Play for Nothing?" NBA All-Star Turned Documentarian Baron Davis on 'The Drew', LA's Pro-Am League

Baron Davis is a two-time NBA All-Star. He was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, and went on to play for several other teams before his most recent stint in the New York Knicks. He was barely middle-school age when he started playing in the Drew League, a pro-am league named after Charles R. Drew Junior High School in South Los Angeles. The Drew was a place for amateurs to play competitively, to begin careers, and help build existing ones. A number of NBA players, including Baron Davis, have returned to the Drew in the off-season to hone their skills. The Drew has also fostered a sense of community, and created a safe haven away from gang activity.

Davis joins us to talk about his early days in the Drew, recovering from injury, and why he turned to filmmaking.

The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce has its world premiere at the LA Film Festival this week.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Paul Dano on Capturing Brian Wilson's Essence, Slapping Daniel Day-Lewis and Turning 30

The new biopic Love & Mercy shows Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys during two different periods of his life. Paul Dano plays Wilson during the production of the critically acclaimed album Pet Sounds, as Wilson experiments with drugs and descends a bit into darkness. John Cusack plays Wilson in the late 80s and early 90s, as he suffers under the control of his legal guardian and struggles to wrest himself free.

Dano takes on Wilson's quiet spirit and gives us a glimpse into the mind of a musical innovator. His past work includes a breakout role as a silent teenager in Little Miss Sunshine, a novelist in Ruby Sparks, a power-hungry young preacher in There Will Be Blood and an overseer in 12 Years a Slave.

He joins us to talk about how physically playing music helped him connect to his character, feeling out the dynamics of Wilson's relationship with his father, playing opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood and what's changed since he turned 30.

Love & Mercy is in theaters now.

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The Outshot: Finding the Heart of a Song in Five Notes with "The Plum Blossom"

Jesse explains why he loves "The Plum Blossom", a beautiful song Yusef Lateef wrote for an instrument that only produces five notes.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Corin Tucker & Kyle Kinane

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Corin Tucker
Guests: 
Kyle Kinane

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney on The Early Riot Grrrl Scene, Finding Her Voice, and S-K's Return

Sleater-Kinney is one of the most-loved indie bands of the past two decades. The band formed in the latter days of the riot grrrl movement in Olympia, Washington, and found an intense following. They were fierce, and they let their ideas "fill the room".

After recording eight albums and tons of touring, they went on hiatus. The band's members pursued other musical and creative projects, but there was a nagging question -- what would it be like if Sleater-Kinney returned?

In January of this year, the band released a new record called No Cities to Love. It had been nearly a decade since their last LP.

Corin Tucker, the group's co-founder, joins us to talk about soaking up the punk and riot grrrl scenes of the early 1990s, finding her voice, and why Sleater-Kinney returned.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Kyle Kinane finds "the puzzle that could never be solved" in stand up comedy

Kyle Kinane lives every day as if his good luck is about to run out. Or at least, what he considers to be good luck. Kinane has worked hard refining his stand up comedy for fifteen years and taken the leap from Chicago to Los Angeles to further his career, but part of him still can't believe he gets paid to tell jokes.

His comedy is often a special brand of self-deprecation. So many of his jokes are about him messing up. Falling out of the shower. Literally throwing away money. But he says he finds the joy in these moments.

He joins us to talk about how he started out in stand up, measuring his success in comedy, and his life philosophy of "can, so should".

Kinane's newest stand up special is called I Liked His Old Stuff Better.

Kinane's just finishing up a round of tourdates in the Midwest (if you move fast, you can catch him this week in Ohio and Indiana). You can find all of his upcoming shows on his website, or check out I Liked His Old Stuff Better in audio and video format via Comedy Central.

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The Outshot: What Will $150 Million Buy You? Blockbuster Insanity

So, is Mad Max: Fury Road really worth its $150 million budget? Jesse takes a look and finds out.

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