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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Mavis Staples

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Mavis Staples


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Mavis Staples talks about Singing Gospel, Civil Rights, and Working with Prince

Mavis Staples is one of the greatest singers of our time-- a gospel, soul and R&B vocalist known for her rich, throaty voice. She began as the lead member of The Staple Singers in the 1950's, a family gospel group formed by Pops Staples and several of his children.

The Staple Singers achieved hits with "Respect Yourself", "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do it Again". They also became a musical voice of the American Civil Rights Movement with their protest music.

Staples has reinvented her sound over the decades. She's worked with Curtis Mayfield, Ry Cooder, Bob Dylan and Prince (Yes, THAT Prince).

Her most recent album One True Vine was released in 2013 and produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. You can find a partial transcript of this interview here.

This segment originally aired January 30th, 2011.

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My Brother, My Brother and Me Offer Pop Culture Advice

Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy from My Brother, My Brother and Me join the show to answer pop culture quandaries from listeners.

Are you ever too old to hang up posters on your walls? Should you ever tell your children that the shows they like actually suck? Is it ever a good idea to talk to a stranger about the book they're reading? The brothers proffer their advice with a healthy amount of goofs mixed in.

If you liked what you heard, over 200 episodes of My Brother, My Brother and Me are available on
iTunes and right here on Maximumfun.org

This segment originally aired February 28, 2012.

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The Outshot: Bill Cunningham New York

Jesse examines the often superficial fashion world and finds a stunningly sincere and emotional portrait of a man. The man is New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, and the portrait is Richard Press's biographical documentary Bill Cunningham New York.

This segment originally aired March 24, 2012.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Lewis Black, Syl Johnson & Annie Hart

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Still Fuming: Lewis Black on Drama School, New York, And Why He's Still Fired Up

No comedian is angrier than Lewis Black. For the past 25 years, America has been infuriating him, and he's been on-stage telling us why.

After graduating from the Yale School of Drama in 1977, Black spent ten years as a playwright at the West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theater in New York. He transitioned to stand-up comedy in the late 1980s and has been regularly featured on The Daily Show's "Back In Black" segment for the past 16 years.

Lewis tells us about nearly getting expelled from Yale, why he loves performing in Bismarck, ND, and how theater is like heroin.

Lewis Black's most recent special, Live at the Borgata, is available now in digital formats. This interview originally aired in August 2013.

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Hip Hop with Andrew Noz: DJ Quik's Pacific Coast Remix and Rammellzee's Beat Bop

Hip hop blogger and Pitchfork columnist Andrew Noz joins us with a couple of his all-time favorite hip hop tracks. His first recommendation is Pacific Coast Remix by DJ Quik (featuring Ludacris), a track devoted to sunny Los Angeles's dark side. He also suggests checking out the 1983 track Beat Bop by Rammellzee and K-Rob. It's a song from an era where the uptown and downtown communities mingled in a way that the rap world would rarely see again. This segment originally aired in June 2013.

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"The Song That Changed My Life" with Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone

Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. As the story goes for a lot of teenagers, she didn't quite fit in. The kids at her school wanted to spend time at the mall. They weren't interested in making stuff, shooting videos and writing zines.

Annie found a whole new world, and a whole new group of friends, through music. The song that changed her life is "Knew Song", by the Long Island hardcore band Silent Majority.

Au Revoir Simone's most recent album is Move In Spectrums. This interview originally aired in January 2014.

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The Enigmatic, Grammy-Nominated Syl Johnson

Inspired by the sounds of Jackie Wilson, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson set out to make his own mark in music in the 1950s. His own gritty, bluesy voice and funk rhythms earned him a place in the Chicago soul and blues scene. Over the course of a career on Chicago's Twinight and Memphis' Hi Records, Johnson released several singles that climbed their way up the pop and R&B charts ("Different Strokes", "Come On Sock It To Me", "Is It Because I'm Black?") and but never attained the smash success of contemporaries like Al Green or James Brown.

He found ubiquity later in life, when dozens of hip hop artists from Run-DMC to Kanye West dug into his catalog to sample his sounds (perhaps foremost his signature scream on "Different Strokes"). Johnson found himself in the spotlight again a few years ago when the archival label Numero Group assembled a Grammy-nominated boxset of his early cuts, titled Syl Johnson: The Mythology. This interview originally aired in October 2012.

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The Outshot: "Coney Island"

Jesse recommends a portrait of an American caught in between its past and its future in Ric Burns' documentary Coney Island.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Aisha Tyler, Bilal Oliver, God on Sports

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Aisha Tyler
Guests: 
Bilal Oliver
Guests: 
Seth Morris
Guests: 
Marah Eakin
Guests: 
Nathan Rabin

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The AV Club's All-Time Favorites: Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" and Warren Zevon's "Stand in the Fire"

The AV Club's Music Editor Marah Eakin and Head Writer Nathan Rabin discuss a few of their all-time favorite albums. Marah is a fan of the layered, sampled feel of Fleetwood Mac's post-Rumors album, Tusk. Nathan Rabin suggests a listen to Warren Zevon's intimate but ferocious live album Stand in the Fire.

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Aisha Tyler: Actress, Comedian, and Former Third-Grade Maypole

Like a lot of funny people, Aisha Tyler often found herself on the outside looking in as a kid. She was the only black girl in her school and thought of herself as kind of a geek... Standing six-feet tall by third grade didn't help things, either. Ultimately, feeling out of place gave her the feeling that she could survive anything -- and the confidence to pursue performance. She's since performed stand up, hosted E!'s Talk Soup, appeared on CSI, 24, Friends...and even competed on an episode of Jeopardy.

She also has a starring role on the FX animated series Archer, where she voices Lana Kane, a beautiful and brilliant secret agent who plays the straight man to her idiot co-workers.

Aisha joins us to talk about her choice to do comedy in her own voice, the challenges of voice acting, and about living a real-life version of Fame in high school.

Archer airs on Thursdays at 10/9c on FX. The show is in its fourth season; it was just renewed for a fifth. Aisha will host The CW’s reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? this summer. You can also catch Aisha at a performance of Archer Live!.

This interview originally aired in January 2012.

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Comedy: An Excerpt from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God

You'd think that God would be pretty focused on the choice of a new Pope right about now. But might some of that attention be diverted to.... spring training? Has the Almighty ever swayed athletic outcomes? Does He care for sports at all? Get the straight truth from The Man Himself (as relayed to David Javerbaum). The answer may surprise you.

This excerpt is from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God, with David Javerbaum.
David Javerbaum is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and former executive producer of The Daily Show. You can see more of his work with God on Twitter @TheTweetofGod.

Our voice of God is provided by comedian Seth Morris, who is also on Twitter at @SethISMorris.

This segment originally aired in April 2012.

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Bilal and His Unique Blend of Soul, Hip-Hop, and Jazz

Here's one way a musical artist can succeed: artist records album, sends it off to the label, label rejects album, album is leaked online, fans and critics love album, artist goes independent.

That's exactly what happened to jazz and soul singer Bilal, who wanted to follow up his debut album, 1st Born Second, with something a little more experimental. That album (titled Love For Sale) was never officially released, which left a nine-year gap between his debut record and his second album, Airtight's Revenge. That album earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

The wait between Bilal albums this time around is a little more manageable: his new album, A Love Surreal, was just released last week. It's a beautiful, headspinning collision between 1960s soul and modern hip-hop, sounding like neither the past or the present.

We spoke with Bilal back in 2010 right around when Airtight's Revenge was released. Bilal talked to us about his high school identity, growing up with jazz music, and his choice to go wild on Jay Leno.

Bilal's new album, A Love Surreal, is available now.

This interview originally aired in September 2010.

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The Outshot: The Cold Open

Looking for the perfect cold open? Jesse's found it. Newsradio. Season 2, Episode 9.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: R.J. Smith on James Brown, Cameron Esposito, The Low Times

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Bullseye
Guests: 
R.J. Smith
Guests: 
Cameron Esposito
Guests: 
Maggie Serota
Guests: 
Daniel Ralston


Summer Music with Daniel Ralston and Maggie Serota of The Low Times

For summer music recommendations, we’re joined by our rock music correspondents Daniel Ralston and Maggie Serota of the Low Times podcast. They recommend Henrietta by Yeasayer and Life by Summer Camp.

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R.J. Smith profiles the Godfather of Soul, James Brown

R.J. Smith is a former senior editor at Los Angeles Magazine and a music journalist who's written for the Village Voice and Spin. For his latest project, he took on the task of profiling the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Smith's extensive biography, The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, follows the musician from his childhood, raised in a whorehouse, wearing burlap sack underwear, to stardom, and then to reinvention.

James Brown was a hugely influential musician and performer, known for hits like "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Get Up (I Feel Like a Sex Machine)," and he was one of the driving forces behind the creation and popularity of funk music. But he was also much more than that -- a tenacious businessman who ran his finances into the ground, a man of messy and confusing political alliances, and a hardliner on drug abuse (who eventually fell to his own drug addictions).

Why didn’t Brown’s politics fit neatly into a particular mindset? And why, unlike nearly all of his black contemporaries, did he endorse Nixon? What drew crowds of screaming fans to his performances? And how did he survive the rise of disco? Smith's book delves into Brown's storied and complicated life and music career of six decades, as well as his effects on pop music, politics, and race relations in 20th century America.

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Comedy from Cameron Esposito

Cameron Esposito is a standup comic who's been featured on this show and performed at TBS' Just for Laughs Chicago, South by Southwest, and the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festivals. She recently moved to Los Angeles right in time for the 4th Annual MaxFunCon, and joined us to perform a set musing on her childhood appearance.

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The Outshot: Cheers

Why not go where everybody goes your name? This week, Jesse recommends that you revisit Cheers.

Do you have a piece of pop culture that keeps you coming back? Share your own Outshot on our forums.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Rachel Dratch, the creators of Eagleheart, Jason Kottke and Jordan Morris

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Rachel Dratch
Guests: 
Michael Koman
Guests: 
Andrew Weinberg
Guests: 
Jason Woliner
Guests: 
Jason Kottke
Guests: 
Jordan Morris

Internet Recommendations from Jason Kottke

This week's pop culture picks come care of Jason Kottke, of Kottke.org -- a site that's been called the New Yorker of internet links. Jason tracks down the best the internet has to offer, and he shares two of his favorites with us this week: Jerry Beck's list of the 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected By 1,000 Animation Professionals, a Warner Bros.-heavy list topped by some Looney Tunes classics, and What the Space Shuttle booster saw, an HD video journey out of Earth's atmosphere.

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The Creative Team of Eagleheart: Michael Koman, Andrew Weinberg and Jason Woliner

Michael Koman, Andrew Weinberg and Jason Woliner are the creative team behind [adult swim]'s hilariously funny and blood-soaked action-comedy Eagleheart, starring Chris Elliott. Koman and Weinberg had worked together as writers on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, where they were responsible for culling the clips played whenever Conan pulled the Walker Texas Ranger Lever. It was a job that required them to wade through hundreds of hours of Walker, Texas Ranger, and the inspiration for Eagleheart was born out of a desire to parody the show. But to call Eagleheart a parody of WTR sells it way short, as the show is much crazier and more comically-inspired than that.

Koman, Weinberg and Woliner join us to discuss the show's ability to cram an absurd amount of story into an eleven-minute run-time, making magic happen fast on Eagleheart's wild production schedule, and what inspires them about the show's star, Chris Elliott. Eagleheart has just begun its second season on Cartoon Network's [adult swim], airing Thursdays at midnight.

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Jordan Ranks America, for April 2012

It's an upside-down world out there, and some days you just don't know what to make of it. Luckily for us, there's one man who can keep this country in order! Comedian Jordan Morris puts America in its place for the month of April 2012. You can find Jordan on Twitter @Jordan_Morris.

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Comedian, actress and author Rachel Dratch

Rachel Dratch is a comic actress best known to audiences as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1999 to 2006, and from recurring roles on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. Her new book is the very funny memoir Girl Walks Into A Bar...: Comedies Calamities, Dating Disasters & A Midlife Miracle. While there are a number of behind-the-scenes stories from her days at SNL in the book, it's mainly the story of life after the show, as Dratch dove head-first into the dating pool after years of using being busy with SNL as an excuse not to date. The titular miracle was an unexpected pregnancy at age 44, having been in a long distance relationship with the father for just six months prior.

Dratch joins Jesse to discuss her comedy background in Chicago, the development process of getting some of her most famous SNL characters to air, and the inherent humor of balancing midlife motherhood with a romance still in its infant stages. Girl Walks Into A Bar... is available now in bookstores everywhere.

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The Outshot: “Swiss Movement”, by Eddie Harris & Les McCann

For this week's Outshot, Jesse digs into the record collection and pulls out a vibrant classic: Swiss Movement, by Eddie Harris and Les McCann. The live album, recorded in 1969 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, was the first time the band had ever played together, and the record captures the feeling-out process as the group pioneered the soul-jazz genre. It crackles with life.

Is there a classic record that never fails to get your toe tapping? Let us know! Head on over to the MaxFun Forum and pick your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Swamp Dogg, John Mulaney, Comic Book Picks, and Kasper Hauser

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Swamp Dogg
Guests: 
John Mulaney
Guests: 
Brian Heater
Guests: 
Alex Zalben
Guests: 
Kasper Hauser



Comics with Alex and Brian

Our comic book experts are in residence! Brian Heater and Alex Zalben recommend My Friend Dahmer, and the novel Dotter of Her Father's Eyes.

Alex Zalben is a writer and a host of the show Comic Book Club. Brian Heater is a journalist and Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Cross Hatch, which highlights alternative comics.
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Soul Musician Swamp Dogg

Swamp Dogg, born Jerry Williams Jr., is a legendary psychedelic soul musician. He put out his first record in 1954, under the name Little Jerry. Over the next 15 years, his stage name would change to Little Jerry Williams before dropping the "Little" and performing as simply Jerry Williams. Finally, in 1970, he re-christened himself as Swamp Dogg for the release of his first LP, Total Destruction of Your Mind. The album combined humor and social commentary with the acid-soaked psychedelic sound of the late '60s / early '70s, and the Swamp Dogg name stuck.

Swamp sat down with Jesse in 2008 for a laugh-filled conversation discussing his long career in music, from the mindset behind all those name changes, to finding his best successes as a songwriter for country music, including a Grammy nomination for writing the Johnny Paycheck #1 hit "(Don't Take Her) She's All I Got".

His career compilation, It's All Good: A Singles Collection 1963 - 1989 is available now.
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Kasper Hauser News Update

We here at Bullseye feel a moral obligation as a public radio show to provide you with some news content, so to get you caught up on all the top stories you've never heard of (as they're entirely made up), here's the latest from our fake news team: the San Francisco-based sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser.
You can catch Kasper Hauser live next month, performing alongside the honorable judge John Hodgman at Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco on Sunday, April 29th.
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Comedian and SNL Writer John Mulaney

John Mulaney is a stand-up comedian and comedy writer based in New York City. He served as a writer on the Comedy Central series Important Things with Demetri Martin, but you probably know him best from his current job, writing for Saturday Night Live. One of John's responsibilities on SNL is writing ridiculous recommendation lists for the Bill Hader character Stefon, a regular contributor for Weekend Update. Mulaney has also performed on Update himself, showcasing his upbeat brand of humor on a segment called "I Love It".

John joined Jesse back in 2009 to talk about somehow earning money while getting black-out drunk, and subtle differences between writing for sketch and writing for stand-up. His hilarious new comedy special New in Town is available now on CD and DVD. You can follow him on Twitter @Mulaney.
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The Outshot: Jerry Lee Lewis' "Live at the Star Club"

On this week's Outshot, Jesse hails the wild-child rock & roll of Jerry Lee Lewis's Live at the Star Club, Hamburg as perhaps the best live album ever recorded. In 1963, at the deepest depths of his career, Lewis went to Germany a man disgraced, and played for a crowd willing to embrace him regardless of his troubles. The result is an historic scorcher of a performance from the man they call "The Killer".
Is there a live album you feel should be considered the best of all time? You can make your pick by heading over to the MaxFun forum and naming your own Outshot.
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Jackie Wilson Said

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Probably my favorite song by a white person.

Also: who knew that Fred Wesley toured with Van Morrison?

Yeah, you better give Fred Wesley a solo.

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