Todd Martens

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ishmael Butler, Allison Janney & Michel Gondry

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Ishmael Butler
Guests: 
Allison Janney
Guests: 
Michel Gondry
Guests: 
Todd Martens

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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. About five years ago, he teamed up with Tendai Maraire to form a new group called Shabazz Palaces.

Shabazz Palaces' new release is called Lese Majesty, and it expands on their interstellar sound.

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.

Todd Martens Recommends Pop-Punk and Garage Rock: the Muffs and Twin Peaks

Is there still good pop-punk out there? What's the musical equivalent of a drunk text? Music critic Todd Martens of the Los Angeles Times stops by to answer both of those questions!

He recommends a listen to two new albums: the Muffs' first release in ten years, Whoop Dee Doo, and a new record from Chicago garage rockers Twin Peaks called Wild Onion.

You can find Todd's writing in the LA Times and on their blog, Pop and Hiss.


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"The Song That Changed my Life": Director Michel Gondry Gets Nostalgic for "Le Sud" by Nico Ferrer

There's a certain kind of feeling to the director Michel Gondry's films. A little bit of happiness mixed with sadness. Nostalgia for something that you experienced, or maybe something you wish you had experienced. You may have felt it watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, or his new film Mood Indigo.

For "The Song That Changed My Life", Gondry describes the feeling of saudade and how he felt watching Nico Ferrer perform the song "Le Sud" on a Saturday night.

Gondry's new film Mood Indigo is a fantastical story of love and loss, starring Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris. You can find it in theaters now.

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Allison Janney, from Loose Cannon Sitcom 'Mom' to Intimate Drama in 'Masters of Sex'

If you've seen Allison Janney on television lately, it's been in one of two very different roles. On the Showtime series Masters of Sex, Janney guest stars as a somewhat naive, vulnerable 1950s housewife who experiences a breakthrough after many years in a sexless (but not loveless) marriage. Her story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. In the CBS sitcom Mom, she plays Bonnie, a recovering alcoholic who's outrageous, biting, and very funny. Bonnie's been down, but she's making peace with her estranged daughter and getting her life back together. Janney's characterizations are versatile; they allow her to be warm, steely, confident, and thin-skinned by turns. Janney is currently nominated for Emmys for both roles; 'Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama' for Masters of Sex, and 'Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy' for Mom.

She spoke to us about her early acting days (including auditioning for an intimidatingly handsome Paul Newman), getting comfortable with the inevitable nude scenes for Masters of Sex, and the ways that her mom's background and brother's struggle with addiction gave her insight and empathy for her current roles.

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.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Fred Willard & Vocoders with Dave Tompkins

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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.

Fred Willard on his comedic beginnings, playing the clueless buffoon, and working with Christopher Guest

For over fifty years, Fred Willard played ignorant, self-absorbed buffoons that are impossible not to laugh at. He's a master improviser and comedian who started with his comedy duo, Greco and Willard, and moved on to work with the Second City and improv groups The Committee and the Ace Trucking Company. Today, he's probably best known and loved as one of Christopher Guest's troupe in films like Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show.

Willard tells us about drag-performances in his military school, the real life inspiration for his improvised comedy, and being the exact opposite of the happy-go-lucky optimists he plays on screen. (This segment originally aired in August 2013)

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Eleni Mandell on "Tom Traubert's Blues": The Song That Changed My Life

Singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell had one of those experiences as a kid that was a hallmark of experiencing music before the internet. She heard a song she liked, went out to the record store, and picked an album by the same artist. The problem? It sounded totally uncool, and not at all like the song she'd heard. It did, however, open her up to a whole new way of listening to music.
Eleni talks to us about the song that changed her life, Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues." Eleni grew up in Los Angeles loving both punk rockers X and folk rocker Bob Dylan, and her own music mixes airy vocals with 60s pop, country, and folk sounds. Her newest album is "Let's Fly a Kite" is available now.
(This segment originally aired in September 2012)

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Todd Martens recommends two perennial favorite albums by Material Issue and Wilco.

Beyond interesting conversations with people in culture, we like to tell you about interesting cultural stuff. There's so much stuff out there, you don't have time to listen to everything. That's why we've brought in Todd Martens, who writes about music for the LA Times, to tell you about two albums you can dive into without hesitation.

Martens recommends Material Issue's 1991 album, International Pop Overthrow, a combination of cynicism and ideals.

He also recommends the album Summerteeth by Wilco, an album which explores a different side of Wilco.

You can find Martens' writing in the L.A. Times or on their music blog, Pop and Hiss.

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The power of a robot voice: Dave Tompkins talks vocoders, talk boxes, and how they changed music

You may not know it, but when you talk on your cell phone, you're using technology that was first developed for the vocoder. Bell Labs invented the vocoder to make long distance calls cheaper. But it had another application in World War II, when we used it to encode Allied messages.

The vocoder was in large part an analog machine, but it was also one of the first digitizations of speech. It broke down speech into its constituent parts, its separate frequencies, to create the codes. The technology that was in that huge code-making vocoder in 1944, twenty or twenty five years later, became a musical instrument.

Dave Tompkins is the author of How to Wreck a Nice Beach -- which is the way you might hear the phrase “How To Recognize Speech” if it were rendered through a vocoder. The book describes how the vocoder was created to guard phones from codebreakers during World War II, and soon became a voice-altering tool for musicians. Tompkins talks about how the vocoder changed music, the technology behind it, and some examples of music using a vocoder.
(This segment originally aired on The Sound of Young America in October 2010)

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THE OUTSHOT: The Long Goodbye

Elliott Gould may not seem like the hard-boiled noir type, but in 1973, under the direction of Robert Altman, he had that perfect combination of intellect and self-satisfied cool. With Gould playing Raymond Chandler's most famous character, Philip Marlowe, The Long Goodbye explores the powerful narcissism that governed the streets of 1970s Los Angeles.
(This segment originally aired in July 2013)

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Judy Greer, Richard Ayoade, Nick Stoller

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Judy Greer
Guests: 
Richard Ayoade
Guests: 
Nick Stoller
Guests: 
Todd Martens

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.

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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 new book, I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star is available now. You can also catch her in one of our favorite series, Archer, on FX, or on her new sitcom Married this July.

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Todd Martens on New Music: Le Butcherettes and Wye Oak

It's time to get out of your winter music rut and spring into something new! Music critic Todd Martens of the Los Angeles Times joins us this week to introduce us to some of his own current favorites.

His first recommendation is Le Butcherettes' new album Cry is for the Flies which has a feral, guitar-driven, riot-girl feel.

He also suggests checking out Shriek, the new album from Wye Oak, which uses synthy sounds to give an ethereal, reflective feeling.

You can find Martens' writing in the LA Times or on their music blog, Pop and Hiss.

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I Wish I'd Made That: Nick Stoller Talks About 'Children of Men'

We often talk to artists about their influences -- the movies, music, and art that inspired them creatively. Some of that stuff is so good and so perfect that they sometimes wish they’d made it themselves.
This segment is about just those kind of things. It's called "I Wish I'd Made That."

This week, we talk to Nick Stoller. He's the director of the new Seth Rogen comedy Neighbors. But the thing he wishes he'd made isn't a comedy. It's a well-crafted science fiction movie that had him sitting in shocked silence -- Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men.

Neighbors is now in theaters nationwide.

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'The Double' Director Richard Ayoade: Dealing with Public Persona, Identity, and Viewing Your Own Work

If you know the English actor and comedian Richard Ayoade by sight, it's probably from his role as IT worker Maurice Moss in the English sitcom The IT Crowd. Or maybe you've even seen him alongside American movie stars like Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in The Watch.

He's got a very precise and funny presence on-screen, but he's most comfortable behind the camera. He co-created and directed the perfectly stilted and styled horror-slash-medical drama Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, and he's also directed two feature films. The first, 2011's Submarine, is a coming-of-age movie about a teenager's solipsism and romantic obsessions. His new film, The Double, is a comedic drama, and an exploration of the self and identity based on a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel of the same name.

'The Double' is about a lonely, unremarkable government clerk named Simon, played by Jesse Eisenberg, whose life is slowly usurped when James, a new employee, shows up -- also played by Jesse Eisenberg. James is a physical double of Simon. Personality-wise, though, they’re the opposite. James is self-assured and charismatic, everything Simon wishes he could be, but isn't.

Ayoade joins us this week to talk about working with Jesse Eisenberg, forming identity, and why it's hard to sit back and enjoy his own work.

The Double is in theaters and available on VOD now.

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The Outshot: Bill Murray's oft-forgotten 90s flick '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.

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