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Category Archives: Interviews

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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Love and Death and Melvins: An Interview with Dale Crover

Photo by Chris Casella

Most articles about the Melvins will discuss their longevity (they’ve been around since 1983), their revolving cast of bassists (currently they’re recording and touring with Steve McDonald of Redd Kross), or singer/guitarist’s King Buzzo’s hair (which is still over the top, but mostly grey).

Never one to go quietly into that good night, the band is constantly challenging themselves and their fans. Recently, they’ve released bizarre covers albums (2013’s Everybody Loves Sausages), weird compilations (Tres Cabrones, also from 2013), and the 2016 Basses Loaded “concept” album whose main concept was including various bassists (the aforementioned Steve McDonald, Krist Novoselic, Jeff Pinkus, Jared Warren, and more) and at least one extended baseball pun.

The band released A Walk with Love & Death earlier this year, a double album which features their first-ever film score for the short film of the same name, directed by Jesse Nieminen. We caught up with drummer Dale Crover to find out the scoop on fans, books on tape, fave TV shows, and more.
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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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‘Art Has Big Shoes To Fill’: Talking To INVSN’s Dennis Lyxzén

INVSN will be playing the Bovine in Toronto on Wednesday, September 13. Tickets are FREE!

Photo credit: Selma Grönlund

If you were into punk in the 1990s, you’ll remember Refused. If you were into punk at the turn of the millennium, you’ll also remember The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Singer Dennis Lyxzén is the common element in both of those exceptional bands. Not content to rest on his laurels, he’s now part of another Swedish punk collective called INVSN.
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Rest in peace, Len Wein

I am sitting on my couch and I’ve just read the news that Len Wein, the creator of Swamp Thing and Wolverine and so many other great comic book characters, has passed away. My heart hurts. I interviewed Len last year for a cover story I wrote for Rue Morgue Magazine #169 on the 45th anniversary of Swamp Thing. I’m sharing it with you now, and I would encourage you to pick up the issue itself from the Rue Morgue store as well. Meanwhile, I wish all the best to Len’s family and friends. I hope they know what an incredible legacy he has left us.

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The Saga of the Swamp Thing

Since the days of the classic Universal Monsters and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, there’s always been something ominous about the swamp that has made its environs ripe for storytelling. What surrounds it, amongst the overgrowth of vegetation? What lies beneath the boggy marsh and water? What things make their home in its depths?

Swamp and muck monsters have long been a part of horror comics, dating all the way back to the 1940s with The Heap, considered by many historians to be the original comic book swamp character. The Heap first appeared in Air Fighter Comics, and was originally a World War I German pilot who, after crash landing in a European marsh, experienced a strange transformation into a living monster of vegetation. Various iterations on the theme would manifest themselves over the ensuing decades in stories like The Thing in the Swamp, The Monster from Swamp Sinister and Beware the Man-Lawn (for further exploration on the vast history of the swamp monster genre, Comic Book Creators’ Swampmen: The Muck-Monsters and Their Makers from TwoMorrows Publishing is an absolute must-read).

Come 1971 and a new creature would arrive to join the pantheon of monsters from the depths. Debuting in Issue 92 of the DC Comics anthology series House of Secrets in July 1971, Swamp Thing would be the creation of two men – writer Len Wein, who had previously worked on titles including The Flash and Superman and who would go on to create Wolverine for Marvel Comics, and a young, up and coming artist named Bernie Wrightson.

Wein and Wrightson’s first Swamp Thing tale is a gothic exploration set at the dawn of the 20th century, crafted to be the stand alone tale of scientist Alex Olsen, killed in a lab explosion by colleague Damien Ridge, who had set his eyes on Olsen’s wife Linda. Chemicals and supernatural forces in the swamp change Olsen into a swamp monster, which then saves Linda from the murderous Ridge. The story ends with Olsen’s Swamp Thing heading back into the muck, realizing he was no longer the man Linda loved.

However, that wasn’t the end.

The sales figures for House of Secrets Issue 92 were the biggest for DC that month, and before long Wein and Wrightson began work on an ongoing Swamp Thing series for DC. Changes were made – the setting was now contemporary and the scientist in question was named Alec Holland. In the ensuing issues, the duo would introduce horrific characters including the mutated Un-Men, evil Anton Arcane and his niece Abigail, and federal agent Matthew Cable. Thought Wein and Wrightson collaborated on just ten issues of the Swamp Thing series together, their work would leave a huge impact on a audience of horror lovers, some of whom would make their way into the comics industry themselves (see sidebars).

The first Swamp Thing series only lasted 24 issues before it was cancelled due to dwindling sales, but the character returned in 1982 to coincide with the release of a Swamp Thing film from director Wes Craven. The film was a minor hit, and helped revive the character, who became a mainstay of DC Comics going forward, proving ripe for the creative juices of a variety of artists and writers. Among them would be future industry legend Alan Moore, who Len Wein, acting as series editor, handpicked to guide Swamp Thing through the mid-80s. Other notables who have put their mark on the character over the ensuing decades include luminaries like Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughn and Scott Snyder.

With 2016 marking the 45 anniversary of the birth of Swamp Thing, we spoke to co-creator Len Wein (Bernie Wrightson has struggled with health issues the last few years) about the inspiration for his legendary character, its horror roots, working with Alan Moore, the recent mini-series he worked on with noted horror artist and Wrightson acolyte Kelley Jones, and much more.

Swamp Thing BErnie

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN WRITING COMICS IN THE FIRST PLACE? Read the rest of this entry

Director Dan Trachtenberg discusses 10 Cloverfield Lane

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Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 saw the Blu-ray/DVD release of the J.J. Abrams-produced 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE. Rather than a direct follow-up to the 2008 hit sci-fi/horror film, CLOVERFIELD, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a spiritual sequel that relies on vibe, atmosphere and originality to make its connection.

In 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is trapped in a bunker with two strangers, Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) following what may have been a horrible event in the outside world. The three form a makeshift family unit until suspicions about what’s true and what’s not beginning to tear at them.

I had the chance to talk to first-time director Dan Trachtenberg about casting 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, what surprised him most and more. Be warned: there will be SPOILERS in this interview.

Andy Burns: Why was 10 Cloverfield Lane the right film for you to make your big-screen directing debut with?

Dan Trachtenberg: I love movies that combine genres. I love when something is more than just one thing. Jaws is my favourite movie of all time. I never label Jaws as a horror movie. When it’s scary, it’s terrifying. When it’s funny, it’s hilarious. When there’s drama, it’s the most sincere stuff on screen. And when there’s adventure, there’s swashbuckle. It’s got all of those things, and I always hoped to make something that can be on those terms and play to many different genres. When I read the script I was really struck by how tense it was, and by how funny it could become and by how satisfying it was in the end. And how new it was. That ending, I knew it would be devisive, I knew it wouldn’t be for everyone, but I knew for some it would be an incredible experience to have it.

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Director Phil Joanou discusses his cult film The Veil

Depending on where you’re living, in late January or early February THE VEIL was released onto various platforms – Netflix, VOD and iTunes. The film, from Blumehouse Productions, stars Thomas Jane as Jim Jacobs, the religious head of the cultish Heaven’s Veil, a group that commits mass suicide for one unknown reason. Years later, the only survivor (Lily Rabe) is approached by a documentary crew led by Maggie (Jessica Alba) to return to Heaven’s Veil and uncover the truth of what happened that day.

Watching it at home alone, lights turned off, THE VEIL absolutely scared the shit out of me, first from a jump scare, and then from the overwhelming feeling of dread that permeates the film as the story moves forward. The movie also features solid performances from its lead actors, especially Thomas Jane, who is equal parts holy man and rock star.

Enamoured by THE VEIL, I reached out to its director Phil Joanou (with much appreciated help from writer Jim Hemphill) to see if we could chat about his movie via email. It was certainly exciting when Joanou agreed – you see, along with countless commercials and films, including classics like Three O’Clock High and State of Grace, Joanou directed U2: Rattle and Hum, which I dragged my father to see when I was just 11 years old (turning dad into a U2 fan in the process). I think it’s probably not coincidence that Joanou’s work has affected me as both a kid and now, as an adult.

On that note, enjoy my exclusive interview with Phil Joanou (mild spoilers ahead).

Andy Burns: Phil, congrats on a great film. I found THE VEIL to be a really wonderful, well-crafted horror movie with some seriously scary jump scares. It’s a departure from your previous work. Can you tell Rue Morgue the process by which you came to direct THE VEIL?

Phil Joanou: Like most directors, I’ve been fascinated by the horror genre since I fell in love with movies.  In fact, one of my first super-8 movies was a horror film called “Albino Hill” (I’ll leave the reader to imagine what that was about!).  I was really inspired and influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween which was right around the time when I first discovered the power of what a director could do on film.  I used all of Carpenter’s tricks and even the “Halloween” score on “Albino Hill” and I promise you that’s what made it work (if it worked at all!).

Later on I was heavily influenced by Hitchcock, De Palma, Wise, Polanski and of course, Kubrick as I studied all of their forays into the genre.  So when Blumhouse came to me with the script for “The Veil” I was immediately attracted to the material, as I felt it was more of a “throwback” to those seminal directors’ styles and the stories they told.  Each of them used the “slow burn” style of storytelling… allowing the story to build and build and build as you discovered the characters and what the movie was really about (and in some cases, you are never really sure what it was about!) THE VEIL uses those same techniques (which is unusual in horror today) and I was intrigued by the opportunity to emulate that kind of filmmaking that had originally inspired me.  I think some modern viewers will find it “slow” or even “boring” as it doesn’t include super aggressive violence and gore to create scares (there is a little blood, but not much) and the real moments of terror, are more psychological.  And I liked that about this project.

Andy Burns: It’s my understanding that THE VEIL began as a found footage film, but that a decision was made before shooting to go in a different direction – can you give us insight into that change, and why it was made? Read the rest of this entry

Gilbert Reviews Teri Wilson’s Romantic Comedy, ‘Royally Roma’

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Have I mentioned how much I enjoy being the senior writer for Biff Bam Pop? I get to interview the most talented people. Lately, I’ve been doing book reviews for the site, and while I’ve enjoyed reading all the books assigned to me, Royally Roma by Teri Wilson has been my favorite by far. Set in the eternal city of Rome, Teri Wilson takes her readers on a spectacular adventure of mistaken identity. Meet me after the jump for the review. Read the rest of this entry

Rob Zombie Likes It Raw: Talking About Movies With Shudder

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Rob Zombie is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to his work as a director.
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Marie Gilbert Interviews John Paul Ruttan and Ella Ballentine of Against the Wild 2: Survive the Serengeti

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A few days ago, I posted a review of a new film, Against the Wild 2: Survive the Serengeti. I really enjoyed the film and, so will you. I also had the pleasure of interviewing the producer/director Richard Boddington which you can read here. I wanted to ask the two young stars of the film what they loved best about doing this film. Join me after the jump with my interview of John Paul Ruttan. Read the rest of this entry

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