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Category Archives: interview

Playing to ‘A New Standard’: Exclusive Interview With Jazz Pianist Thompson T. Egbo-Egbo

Among family, friends, and his many acquaintances, Thompson T. Egbo-Egbo is known for his infectiously positive spirit, his playful hijinks, and a smile that absolutely lights up a room.

But it’s the music that emanates deep within Egbo-Egbo’s soul his piano as a constant appendage, his jazz, classical and pop leanings and the constant intermingling and pushing of musical genres that reveals the creative standard of the man. As a Toronto-based pianist, composer, producer and sound designer, 2018 marks the official release of his new musical work, appropriately titled A New Standard.

The twelve-song album contains a wide selection of entries originally created by a number of legendary composers over the last two centuries. They are, naturally for Egbo-Egbo, culled from disparate genres: classical, jazz, and curiously, even rock music. In A New Standard, Egbo-Egbo lovingly performs a fun and up-temp version of Sigmund Romberg’s and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise,” as well as a rollicking account of John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” that merges brilliantly into the classically jazzy and beloved theme song from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon by composers Paul Webster and Robert Harris.

In a more contemporary sense, Egbo-Egbo’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s”Make You Feel My Love” brings a wonderfully fresh and emotional sense of affection to the beloved classic, but surprisingly, there’s also a perfectly lonely interpretation of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)” found on the new compilation, whose aural sense of isolation any fan of the band might expect and adore. This time, it’s just with a piano.

Biff Bam Pop’s consulting editor and regular contributor, JP Fallavollita, got the chance to steal Thompson T. Egbo-Egbo away from his busy schedule to talk music, his home city of Toronto, and the release of his latest album, the shimmering and wonderful A New Standard. Read the rest of this entry

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EXCLUSIVE: Billy Sherwood of Yes talks Topographic Drama, Chris Squire, Open Your Eyes + more

Earlier this month, progressive rock band Yes released their new album, Topographic Drama: Live Across America. It captures the group in all their live glory, as they perform their now-classic 1980 album Drama in its entirety, along with with Sides 1 and 4 (and a bit of 3) from their 1973 divisive double album Tales From Topographic Oceans. In a band where line-up changes have been a way of life, the group on Topographic Drama features Steve Howe (guitars), Alan White and Jay Schellen (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals) and Billy Sherwood (bass).

In 2015, former member (1997-2000) Sherwood was given the ultimate request. Yes founding member Chris Squire had been diagnosed with cancer, and asked his longtime friend to take his place in the band until he regained his health. Sadly, Squire never recovered, and passed away on June 27, 2015. Under truly heartbreaking circumstances, Billy’s risen to the challenge of standing in the shadow of a giant of a musician.

I had the chance to talk to Billy Sherwood about the new live album, celebrating the music and memory of Squire, the 20th anniversary of Open Your Eyes, his first album as a band memberand much more. Read the rest of this entry

Biff Bam Pop EXCLUSIVE: Andy Burns Talks to Michael Eklund About ‘Stegman Is Dead’

Michael Eklund is one of the hardest working actors around. Along with starring on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and Wynonna Earp, he’s a familiar face to movie fans. The Vancouver-based Eklund has been featured in Chokeslam and The Sound (with Rose McGowan) in 2017 alone. He’s currently starring as the lead in Stegman Is Dead, a new crime film directed by David Hyde and co-starring Michael Ironside (V, Total Recall, The Machinist). In Stegman is Dead, Eklund plays Gus, a low-level criminal hired by Don (Ironside) to retrieve an incriminating video tape.

I first discovered Michael Eklund’s work in 2011’s The Divide, where he stole the entire film about survivors of a nuclear holocaust. When I had the chance to talk ask talk to him over email about his work, I jumped at the opportunity. Eklund is smart, articulate and passionate, and in possession of outstanding acting abilities. On that note, here’s our interview:

Andy Burns: You, sir, are one of the hardest working actors I have ever seen. Before we even get into Stegman is Dead, talk to me about why you like to stay so busy, and how you stay organized?

Michael Eklund: Well, that is nice of you to say. However, I would disagree. It seems to me that every time I turn on the television or see a film there are more and more extremely talented actors and film makers creating and displaying amazing work. It is a very exciting time right now for artists as well for the audiences. There are no more excuses. If you are not working then you can literally pick up a camera and create your own work. Write something. Shoot something. Create something. Art can be created anywhere. And it isn’t limited to anyone or any kind. The work that is coming out from all territories of the world is inspiring. The bar is being raised at an accelerated rate like no other time I have ever seen. It just keeps getting better and better. The gap, or rather, the road block in the way of working and creating and being permitted to work and create has been closed and removed. You seriously have no reason or excuse nowadays to say that opportunities are not there. We live in a time with the technology present that we are able to create our own opportunities and if you are not then you have no one else to blame but yourself.

I know I could be doing more. Creating more. And if I don’t someone else will. And you don’t want to be caught sleeping at the wheel, because if you are you can be sure that the next artist is going to run you off the road. If I don’t stay busy then I will find myself rolled over in a ditch with my hazard lights on and help isn’t on its way because everyone else is too busy to stop. So being organized is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. If you don’t have your stuff figured out or don’t have your shit together than you better do it quick and you better do it now because in this business no one owes you anything. It no longer is a question of how you do. It is an answer of you must do.
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Review of Renegade: Martin Luther, The Graphic Biography

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I really enjoy reading graphic novels, but when Biff Bam Pop’s fearless leader asked me if I wanted to review a graphic novel about Martin Luther that was timed for the 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation, I was at first hesitant, but then my curiosity took over. Why did Martin Luther risk his life to go against Papal edicts? Meet me after the jump for my review of Plough Publishing‘s presentation of Renegade: Martin Luther, The Graphic Biography followed by an interview with Dacia Palmerino and Andrea Grosso Ciponte. Read the rest of this entry

Exclusive: Andy Burns talks to Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews of ‘The Houses October Built 2’

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Sometimes movies just come around and hit you in that sweet spot – that was the case with The Houses October Built and its sequel. To be honest, the first one, released back in 2014, absolutely slipped past me, but when I received an email about the sequel and whether I’d be interested in talking to any of the principles involved, and I went back and watched the original.

I loved it. The Houses October Built is a found footage/documentary style story about a group of friends looking for the most extreme haunt in America (haunts is the vernacular for haunted house attractions). Legendary among fans is The Blue Skeleton, which as the film shares, is supposed to be the most extreme of the extreme. Which means, of course, that our leads wind up facing off against what The Blue Skeleton has to offer.

The Houses October Built 2 picks up immediately following the first film, and serves as a chapter two rather than a sequel or follow-up. Both films give audiences a look into what goes into making a great haunt, as the ones depicting are the real deal. They also feature believeable performances from everyone involved, and make a strong case for the ongoing use of found footage in horror films, especially when its done right.

On that note, here is my email interview with series director/co-writer/actor Bobby Roe and co-writer/actor Zack Andrews. Be warned – there are spoilers contained for the first film here:

Andy Burns: Congrats on a great new franchise. I love what you guys have created with The Houses October Built. How did you two come up with the concept?

Zack Andrews:  Thank you very much.  We wanted to take a setting that we loved, Halloween haunted houses, and make a film around them that felt unique and not just the same old thing that has run the genre stale.  We knew we had an audience: over 35 million people a year go to these attractions and Americans spend over 8 billion dollars on Halloween every year.  So it was about finding a narrative that would allow us to shoot on real sets using real scare actors in order to take the audience on a genuine Halloween adventure.

Andy Burns: For those of that don’t know (including me), how did you two meet in the first place?

Bobby Roe: AP English. We grew up in the same town playing basketball and both loved movies. We’ve known each other for 25 years.  And actually, in high school in October, we used to love going to a horror movie and then hitting up one of our local haunted houses.

Andy Burns: I think we all know that at this time in the horror genre, found footage/documentary style films are really hit and miss. I’m happy to say you nailed the genre in my mind. Did you have any concerns with the first film wading into those waters? Read the rest of this entry

#FXC17 Exclusive Interview: John Bolton On Horror, His Art & His Graphic Novel: Shame

Artist John Bolton has had a long and storied career in comic books and sequential art. He made the jump from working in English magazines such as Warrior, to burgeoning American periodicals like Epic Illustrated, in the early 1980’s. He’s been working in and around the mainstream comic book industry ever since, as comfortable drawing superheroes as much as he is painting fairies, vampires and demons.

Drawn to the genres of fantasy and horror as both an illustrator and painter, Bolton has worked alongside some of the greatest writing names the comic book industry has known, including Chris Claremont on Marada The She Wolf and Black Dragon, both for publisher Epic Comics. With Neil Gaiman in The Books of Magic for DC Comics, he created the look of the reluctant boy-wizard, Timothy Hunter, based on his eldest son. His acclaimed graphic novel series, Shame, alongside writer Lovern Kindzierski, is where Bolton’s efforts most currently dwell, with the first three acts being recently complied into a single hardcover volume.

There’s a sense of wonder, amazement, power, and sexuality inherent in Bolton’s work, combined alongside an overt menace that makes a viewer full of trepidation. Even when his sense of horror is not manifest, nothing is ever as it seems in Bolton’s completed visual offerings.

On the eve of an infrequent visit to Toronto via the 2017 edition of Fan Expo Canada, JP Fallavollita caught up with John Bolton in an exclusive interview via email, and asked him about his process, his female-driven subject matter, and his recent work on Shame.

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Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly looks back on his debut film

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DONNIE DARKO is, in many ways, the definition of a cult movie made good. The film was first released right around the time of September 11th, 2001, and barely found an audience in theatres. Drew Barrymore helped bring the story of the disturbed Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose new friend is a large bunny named Frank and who is deeply interested in the concept of wormholes and time travel, to life, but at the time the film went unfairly unseen. The following year, DONNIE DARKO would find its audience on DVD, one that became so devoted that director Richard Kelly was able to go back and create a director’s cut of the film, which screened in 2004 and made efforts to be a little more literal and less obscure in its storytelling. Depending on your opinion, that version is either a masterpiece or a bit too on the nose with its explanations.

This spring has seen both version of DONNIE DARKO remastered and released in a new Blu-ray set from Arrow Video, along with screenings of the film across the world. We had the chance to talk to director Kelly about the movie’s roots, his collaboration with his lead actor, and much more, .

Andy Burns: DONNIE DARKO is such a unique film. Where did it come from?

Richard Kelly: I like to say that it came from 23 years of life. It was my first screenplay, I’d been through a rigorous education at USC and I had a film degree. I was looking to write a screenplay and this is what emerged.

Andy Burns: The film deals with universal fears – the idea of death and dying alone, time passing and what we can do with our time.  How much of you is in that story? Were those concerns of yours?

Richard Kelly: Well, there’s a significant amount of me, my adolescence in the film. They’re all personal stories. I don’t really know how to tell a story that isn’t personal. At least not yet. There’s plenty of that in the DNA of the story.  My high school English teacher who taught us Watership Down, he said to us, “Write what you know.” Everybody should be writing something that’s emotionally true and that’s authentic. Otherwise, you risk writing into cynicism or into the market place, and people can see that. Emotional authenticity is what I’m aiming at.

Andy Burns:  How much of the character of Donnie Darko was on the page versus how much was collaboration with Jake Gyllenhaal?
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Interview with War Machine’s Topher Grace

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Biff Bam Pop! Founder and Contributing Writer Andy Burns, and other interviewers, had a chance recently to chat with actor Topher Grace, who folks might remember from That ’70s Show and as Venom in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, and now stars in Netflix’sWar Machine with Brad Pitt. Come join us for this fascinating discussion after the jump.

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Gilbert Reviews Edwin Herbert’s Historical Mystery: ‘Mythos Christos’

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I was offered a chance to read and review a novel written by Edwin Herbert. The write-up that his publicist sent was quite intriguing and something that was definitely up my alley: Vatican conspiracies, history, mystery, and adventure. Edwin Herbert is president of his local free thought society and has been a regular op-ed newspaper columnist on topics concerning science, skepticism, and the mythical roots of various religions. Mythos Christos is his debut novel. Meet me after the jump. Read the rest of this entry

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Zhen Lyu’s Intruders

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I love working for Biff Bam Pop because not only do I get to interview some really cool people, I also get to review films and television series. This time, our fearless leader, Andy Burns, asked me to review Zhen Lyu’s science fiction book, Intruders. It was an interesting read, but would the book make a great gift idea? Pull up that easy chair and meet me after the jump. Read the rest of this entry

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