Eli Hastings [Interview]

EliHastings3Eli Hastings is an incredible author living in Seattle who has just published a new memoir titled, Clearly Now, The Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips.

Clearly Now, the Rain traces the decade-long relationship of Eli Hastings and his friend Serala: from ill-advised quests for narcotics in Mexican border towns through summer road trips, from southern California to Tennessee and on to New York City and Seattle, from 1996 to the very last days of 2004, when Serala’s journey concluded tragically at age 27.

Kirkus Reviews says “Clearly Now, The Rain” is “… a candid, bracing memoir of love, addiction and self-destruction … as elemental, lyrical and cringe-inducing a love story as they come.”

Eli is passionate about using writing to help at-risk youth, and is a team leader at PONGO TEEN WRITING.  We caught up with Eli to ask him some questions about his life, his new memoir and to learn more about his work and the lessons he’s learned.

Can you tell us a little about Clearly Now, The Rain?

Clearly Now, the Rain traces the ten years I shared with my lover and best friend.  It takes place in Seattle, NYC, Venezuela, Mexico and many other places.  Because of how wild a ride those years were, the book has the good fortune of being a gritty travelogue, one of those “mental illness and addiction memoirs,” an unorthodox love story, a painful reflection on trauma and abuse and, in many ways, a tale of adventure.  But most important to me, it’s an elegy.  I used to tell Serala (my friend) that when she died, I was going to write a book about her.  She’d scoff and say “you’d better.”  Of course I lied.  It’s not a book about her; it’s the story of a friendship through which I’m trying to share what she taught me about loving people—and letting them go.

The book goes into great depth about your best friend Serala’s struggles with mental illness and addiction. What advice would you give to someone with a loved one dealing with similar mental illness?

I could write an epic response here.  Instead I will say this: be courageous in cultivating your spiritual beliefs.  You will need them.

At the Jack London Bar in Portland Oregon you talked about using writing to heal. How long did it take to write this book, and how long until you started feeling that healing? 

Serala died in the last days of 2004.  In February of 2005, I had a month’s residency at the Vermont Studio Center.  My first day there I stared at a blinking cursor for over an hour and then began to type.  I wrote 385 pages in 12 days.  Then I drank two bottles of wine and got into bed for two days.  Then I got up and started revising.  The book was published in May of 2013. All of the interim was a ceaseless and often painful fight through 17 revisions.  I could not allow it not to happen.  That is the nutshell.

Clearly Now The RainHave mutual friends read the book as well? What was it like having them read it? 

I think that virtually everyone in the book has read it.  I had some mild concerns but have received almost nothing but overwhelming positivity and support.  One person—Serala’s other closest friend—was impressed by how differently she would have written it and felt I didn’t capture Serala’s joy.  So she didn’t love it.  Of course, she knew Serala when her joy was more intact, earlier.  We agreed her response is what it should be.

What was the writing process like?

Ha!  Like digging big shards of glass out of your knuckles.  Which is something I also did in that era.  It really was like digging a bullet out of yourself—exquisite pain that means you will survive.

How would you describe your writing style?

Hmmm.  Unapologetically lyrical?  Risky?

Any favorite writers who have inspired you or influenced your work?

Oh man.  I’ll take only the second part of that question on: Ann Patchett (Truth & Beauty: A Friendship), Mark Doty (Heaven’s Coast), Mary Karr (The Liar’s Club), William Styron (Darkness Visible), David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives. And even though it only came out when my book did, I wish I could have read Christa Paravanni’s Her at the time of first writing.

Which phrase or passage from Clearly Now are you most proud of?

Too much pressure!  Maybe this one:

“We circled the fire clockwise, scoping out gaps between logs to float the remaining MISSING posters. The embers were a huge spill of searing heat and it was hard to get close enough. We managed to, though not without burns. One by one, stepping in enough to singe our brows, to release and back out, like a martial art or a dance. Her face whirled and slid with the air currents around that massive blaze, falling with something like grace into the pulsing white center, curling into the holy nothingness of ash, delivered through the whirling smoke to the impossible silence of the sky.”

Much of the book takes place with the backdrop of the Pacific NW in the late 90’s early 2000’s. What local albums or bands were you listening to during that era? 

You know, it’s funny—I grew up in central Seattle in the 90s, my mother’s house not a stone’s throw from Kurt Cobain’s.  But in high school we were all steeped in Led Zeppelin, De La Sol, A Tribe Called Quest.  It wasn’t until college that I realized the musical mecca I’d come from.  Then I dove pretty hard into Pearl Jam, Mad Season, and even reached back into Nirvana and Mudhoney and stuff.

How have the experiences you discuss in the book influenced and informed your current career path?

Let me count the ways…we don’t have the space here.  I work with distressed and traumatized youth via therapeutic poetry in Juvenile Detention for Pongo Teen Writing and I am finishing my clinical internship in youth and family therapy.  I think that if I hadn’t lived what I did with Serala, I would still be banging my head against the academy, trying to scrap my way to tenure somewhere (which isn’t to say that I wouldn’t take it if someone put it on a platter).

Eli Hastings4What do you hope people take away from your book?

A compassionate but severe self-interrogation about how well they are loving others.

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

My little boy, Pax, wearing nothing but Crocs and blue sunglasses dancing in a sunray this morning.

Learn more about Eli and his new book at his Official Website.

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Smooth Hound Smith: Smooth Hound Smith [Album]

Smooth Hound SmithWho says kids don’t know a damn thing about the old days?  Well, probably every baby boomer still kicking, but that is not the point.  Should some of these death to the new school folks actually learn this Google thing, they might be surprised what they will find.  And if we were to speak in terms of those damn young people taking over Americana and old school folk music, I am absolutely certain they would dig the sultry and satisfying sound of Smooth Hound Smith.

From within the depths of the great band of show(wo)manship known as The Dustbowl Revival, we find Caitlyn Doyle hooking up with her man Zack Smith and moving out on their own on this slightly more stripped down, less ragtime-ish, and entirely beautiful debut album of theirs.  Just as you should come to expect from any Americana artists, here you will find wonderful ditties about love, loss, and what exactly it means to have a damn good time even when you feel like doing nothing more than crying yourself to sleep.

Caitlyn Doyle’s beautiful west coast meets down south vocals pair up oh so perfectly to Zack’s smoking bar room pipes when they share lyrics.  Hearing these two sing together is an amazing contradiction that is simply a delight.  When it comes to finding the best Americana artists out there today, there simply is no contest.  Smooth Hound Smith is as good as it gets.  And the getting is pretty damned good!

Pick up a copy of Smooth Hound Smith’s debut full length album right HERE.

 

Mark Anthony Galluzzo [Interview]

Mark Anthony Galluzzo

Several years ago, I came across a little independent horror film entitled R.S.V.P.  And while the concept seemed intriguing, a Hitchcockian like mystery where you already knew who the killer was (but not who was next on his list!), I did have to admit that it was the appearance of the legendary View Askew favorite Jason Mewes that led me to checking out this film.  But, what I was not expecting was to completely fall in love with the film.  It had a certain touch of brilliance in the mystery genre that you simply didn’t see much during that time (circa 2002) and even to this date.  It still remains a steadfast go to film when I am looking to be thrilled, scared, and yes, even laugh a little at the terror of others.

The film became even more intriguing when I discovered that the film’s director, Mark Anthony Galluzzo was sort of a one man show behind the camera.  Writing, directing, filming, producing, even some stunts.  The idea of a filmmaker taking the reigns like this has impressed me ever since I caught my first Robert Rodriguez film twenty years ago.  So, I did some research and discovered some of Mark’s previous work including his amazing and acclaimed film Trash, which is a must see for anyone who is a fan of other side of the track films.

Mark as been out of the game for a little while, but he has definitely kept himself busy as I would learn after asking this modern marvel a few questions.  So ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce a cult hero in our time, Mark Anthony Galluzzo.  Enjoy!

 

What was the first film you remember seeing and realizing that you wanted to be in the world of film?

That’s a tough one. I don’t really remember any eureka moment. I think it was more of the fact that my dad loved to watch old movies on TNT on Sunday. So I got a good early exposure to Hitchcock (Rear Window, Strangers on a Train come to mind), War films (The Great Escape, Battle of the Bulge, Longest Day), Bond films (Dr. No, Goldfinger) and Westerns (Shane, High Noon, Once Upon a Time in The West).  When I got older I gravitated to the films of Oliver Stone, Scorsese and Spike Lee and that naturally led me to want to go to NYU.

I understand you were a real “go for” guy on the set of Saturday Night Live in the beginning of your career.  How was this experience?  And overall, what did you take away this experience?

Ha. I reckon it was more the ‘go get it’ guy.  I was a writers’ assistant, which meant I had to hang around all night in case one of the cast/writers needed something.  SNL was written fresh each week so after the show Saturday night followed by the party Sunday morning (1:30 am it would kick off) everyone would recover on Monday and roll into 30 Rock on Tuesday.  Table reads were Weds afternoon so a lot of the talent would just pull an all nighter on Tuesday. And that’s where I came in.

David Spade wants some onion rounds and sugarless peanut butter at midnight?  Sure I’ll get it. Sandler left his guitar at his apt? Sure I’ll get it.  XXXX forgot his special cigarettes?  Well you get the picture.  But let me tell ya finding sugarless peanut butter in midtown Manhattan at midnight ain’t easy!

All in all it was a good time. I learned a hell of a lot about deadlines and execution, as writing the material was one thing but then only having 4 days to make it real with costume, rehearsal, set design, hair and make up, props, graphics, camera blocking… And after all that frantic work, they put it on live. No net…  That’s old school.  That’s what makes it special.

Your Hitchcockian-esque thriller R.S.V.P. is be far one of the most interesting modern horror films I have seen.  What made you want to make this film?  Where did the idea and story for this film come from?

Other odd one this… After Trash I was approached by a guy who said he had the cash to shoot this remake of Rope. I think it was called Unscrupulous or something. I read his script and it was terrible. A complete retelling of Rope without any changes or insight. I explained it wasn’t possible and offered to write something new that was ‘inspired’ by Rope instead of just ripping it off.  At the time, teen horror was quite big but the formula was getting so stale that the audience could anticipate the beats like a veteran script analyst. Thus I thought, hey, let’s turn this mo-fo on its head and completely take the piss out of the current genre expectations. Instead of putting the ten beautiful people in our story and having the audience guess who the killer is whilst watching them get bumped off one by one, let’s just show the audience who the baddie is and let them come along for the ride.  This lead to some very strange developments that really pushed the script into black comedy and satire territory. For by simply pulling apart and reordering the old teen thriller genre, it threw up a lot of laughs as well as insights into why audiences even go to see these movies in the first place. Thus the motif of Bull Fighting throughout the film.  A bullfight is very scripted with the outcome pretty much never in doubt.  Same with the teen horror. Oh there may be a twist or two but they all end pretty much to script. Thus turning the genre on its head sort of lets the Bull win for a change. Although as I found out to my peril, when you fuck with a genre / audience expectations, be prepared to make some of em fighting mad.  Yeesch, some people were really pissed off.  Where’s the tits! Where’s the blood! I knew who the killer was in the first ten minutes (um, duh, we did just tell/show you)!  I think the one key shortfall of winning over these people was we didn’t have a likeable enough protagonist.  Rick did an amazing job considering the circumstances but originally we had Ian Somerhalder to play Nick (Ian dropped out 3 days before shooting for a film with a bigger paycheck) and I think his boyishness would have taken some edges off our twisted psychopath. Somehow we also let Ryan Gosling slip through the cracks during auditions.  Kicking myself for that one.   I’d love to see the old audition tape again to figure out what I missed or if he was just having a bad day.

Mark Anthony Galluzzo2Your casting of Kevin Smith’s well-known sidekick, Jason Mewes seemed sort of shocking and surprising.  What led you to casting the young Mewes?

He was a friend of the casting director Shannon Makhanian. Originally I was going to use Troy Garity who lived nearby in Venice Beach and did some table reads of the script as Terry, but when the film got pushed by six months, he was booked.  Shannon thus set up a meeting with Jay, and he must have been on good behavior because I thought he was perfect. I was unaware of some of the personal problems he was going through, which made for a very stressful shoot. Still I’m glad he’s back on his feet and doing well as he has a lot of heart and talent.  Glenn Quinn was pretty much the same. When I met him he was all business and fired up to play Hal, but once in Vegas, the temptations were too much and he headed on a downward spiral.  Glenn tried to clean up after he hit rock bottom in LA but fell off the wagon for one lousy weekend and it ended with tragic results. I’m just glad Jay managed to pull it together in time.  Losing Glenn and his great talent and love of life was enough.  I joked with my bro that I should have shot in Provo Utah.  No drink, no drugs, no gambling. Perfect!

Exactly how much of your acclaimed independent film Trash is autobiographical? 

All the characters in Trash are based on people I knew and the things I saw growing up outside of Jacksonville.  I took traits (good and bad) from several different individuals and combined them to create the lead characters.  Most of the events are true but aggregated from the town itself and attributed to the leads.  The opening hunting accident is real.  Great guy I played football with, Curtis Cantrell, was tragically shot and killed by a young boy while turkey hunting. It profoundly affected a lot of people. Shortly after graduation, another boy was shot by the police after robbing a jewelry store (His girlfriend was the getaway driver).  A third boy was killed cleaning his father’s gun.  Two others died in a car accident.  We had a pretty bad run of luck my senior year culminating in a brawl between some parents, students and teachers involving baseball bats and chair legs. Blood, broken bones, cops, ambulances and a crying baby. Quite surreal in hindsight.  Shame, I never figured out how to weave that one into the story!    Back then too, the trailer park community wasn’t as stereotyped as it is now thanks to reality TV. Back then it was just how poor folk lived and no one thought too much of it.  As the character Sonny says “Here or there, poor is still poor.”

Mark Anthony Galluzzo3What was behind your decision to move to become an English citizen, and begin teaching over there? 

The usual…. A girl.  A Welsh one in fact, so we have to be careful with the English citizen bit. Technically I’m a dual citizen US/UK.  I got the 2nd passport as it makes travel a lot easier in the EU and supposedly I will get a pension one day if the government isn’t broke by then.   Also I have three kids now and all have these funny British accents, so I guess I’m in for the long haul.

Teaching was just a way to stay active and get involved in the UK film community. I’ve stepped back though as I think they are pumping out too many media grads and there just aren’t enough jobs out there… well, unless you want to teach. Sort of a ponzi scheme I didn’t want to be a part of.

And do you think you will be getting back behind the camera soon?

Definitely. I took a few years off to run a business and start a family. Both have been a smashing success and have allowed me the opportunity to return to making films.  I also reckon the time away from the industry has helped mature my storytelling.  When you’re young and ambitious you are convinced that what you’re doing is always the best way and if people don’t get it then they are just wrong. As you get older you learn to take on feedback and comments and pick out any hard truths that you are willfully ignoring.  I look at Trash and see a young artist who needed a guiding hand to really make that film a classic. It was very close to achieving greatness but the handling of the final reel held it back.

I’ve got three new scripts on the go. One is an ensemble comedy / drama called Dirty Little Secrets that I’m shooting in Wales next Summer.  My producing partner and I are taking it out to talent at the moment. It’s sort of a Gen-X Big Chill.  The other two are bigger budget genre pictures.  First up is a sci-fi thriller called Prisoner’s Dilemma that we’re hoping to take to IFP Film Week in New York.  It’s a futuristic noir using post WWII Berlin as inspiration.  Lots of spies, smugglers, femme fatales and outlaws. After that is a Western adventure about a motley group of hunters, trackers and killers hired to track down a monster that killed the son of an old West land baron. It’s called Helen Ballard and The Fall Creek Ten and has gotten some good heat on the new Blacklist.   Sort of a Western version of Avengers Assemble.


What was the last thing that made you smile?

My three kids waking me up on Fathers’ Day with homemade cards.

Scott Schiaffo [Interview]

Scott Schiaffo1

 

Every once in a great moon, a film comes out that is absolutely perfect in so many ways.  And one of the things that makes said film so wonderful is usually (don’t quote me) is a wonderfully assembled cast.  Granted there are great films out there that only require on terrific lead character to make the whole thing work, but who can resist a group of great actors all gather as one?

And in 1994, a little gem of an independent film came out known as Clerks.  This is a film that shocked the world with its vulgarity, roughness, and brilliance.  It is also a film with an amazingly real and wonderfully spoken cast who ironically enough, had never been heard of before appearing in this now cult classic memoir of the everyman.  And one of those characters was portrayed by the amazingly talented actor/musician Scott Schiaffo who starred as one of the most heinous characters of all time (think the indie film’s version of Nurse Ratchet).  It was Scott’s interaction with Dante (portrayed by Brian O’Halloran), Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), and an angry mob that really kicked things into gear for Clerks, and has marked itself in history as one of the greatest scenes of commotion and hilarity in independent film history.

I thought it would be cool to see what Scott Schiaffo has been up to these days, and man, the man has had a career that is definitely of note, and has come along way from portraying one of the most infamous pricks of all time.  And I can personally vouch that he is one of the nicest, kind, and generous folks you could ever know.  Nowhere near is insulting to human life as the gum slanging douchebag we all love to hate.  So check out what Scott has been doing, what is in his future, and basically gain a little insight from one of the independent film world’s greatest talents.  Enjoy!

How did you score the gig as the ever hated Chewlies Gum representative in Clerks, and how was the experience of shooting with the young Kevin Smith?

It’s funny that you label the Chewlies Gum Guy as “ever hated” because I tend to agree that he’s pretty much an “A-1 LOUDMOUTH A$$HOLE” but fans of the film seem to embrace him in an almost oddly endearing way, which is awesome for me 20 years later, but still it makes me wonder why he’s “liked” because he’s pretty despicable. I say that all the time and the response usually is, “well he’s pretty funny” so I guess that redeems him but he was written to be an A$$HOLE and I played him like one.

I scored the role by auditioning. I didn’t know Kevin or any of the production folks I was coming from about an hour and change away from the auditions. I saw the ad in a New Jersey newspaper classified section. Usually I’d get audition notices in papers like Backstage but this was in with the classifieds of a north jersey newspaper, the Star Ledger I believe, and it struck me as interesting. The wording was something like, “Indie film maker explores the day in the life of a convenience store clerk.” I am paraphrasing, of course, but it was a very interesting little ad.

It was additionally attractive because it was going to be filming in New Jersey and back then there weren’t that many indie films being shot in NJ, at least not any that were listing auditions in the trades I was following at the time. We’re talking no internet or cell phones at this time, the stone ages!

As for shooting with the young Mr. Smith, I personally was very quickly impressed by Kevin. I was older than most of my fellow cast mates on this film. I went in feeling like an older statesman. Kevin’s command of the English language was very apparent from jump. He has a great vocabulary. The banter between Dante & Randall is priceless as is the interplay between Brodie & T.S. and so on and so on.

I felt quite confident that he’d whip us all into shape and make a cool little film. Of course none of us had any idea this cool little filthy B & W film would outperform our wildest expectations. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it was a dream come true for pretty much all of us on that film and balls man, how often do you get to be a part of something like that?

Did you ever foresee Clerks becoming the legend that it has become? 

Absolutely not. If I could foresee that type of thing I’d produce films and make tons of dough! No man that was kismet, serendipity or just plain old dumb luck. Honestly, I didn’t think we had a chance at cross over or mainstream success because of how crude the dialogue was at the time.

Scott Schiaffo2I thought the film was hilarious and quite unique but I thought we’d get a small run and become a cult thing in the college and indie world. I mean come on; if you remember they wanted to slap an NC 17 on it because the language was so brutal so usually that meant a smaller audience which would have been fine by me too. When it was accepted to Sundance I was floored and when it won at Sundance I was speechless. What a wild ride that first year was for all of us involved in the film!

You are a renowned Jersey boy, and have been featured in several films shot and based there.  What do you feel is New Jersey’s status in the film industry?

You can’t have an intelligent conversation about the film industry and not give New Jersey the recognition it deserves.  Well known New Jersey native, Thomas Edison, not only invented and built the apparatus for filming and projecting motion pictures, he also produced films for public viewing.

As far as New Jersey’s current status in the industry, it’s common knowledge we’re a force to be reckoned with.  I’ll give you a conservative guesstimation and say half of the actors, directors, writers and producers working in Hollywood today came from the Garden State or the East Coast.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the 2006 film, Idiots Are Us, in which you starred, co-produced, and wrote?  How did the idea for this film come about?

The main character of Mo came from a short film I did many years ago called I Got Stuff.  Writer/director Michael P. Russin saw this short and enjoyed the hapless nature of the character and he and I being frequent collaborators decided to build a comedic duo off of the back of this character and do a feature length treatment.  Michael’s instincts served us well as Idiots Are Us won Best Comedic Feature in the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in 2006.

I understand you are a musician as well as a man of the screen.  What do you play?  Do you still perform?

I’ve been playing guitar since age 13 and it’s my main instrument and the one I embrace above all of the others. But in no particular order I also play piano/keyboards, bass, harmonica and the drums.

Scott Schiaffo3I have a project studio where I record, mix and master professional recordings for musicians and songwriters, but I mostly create music for film and video in my studio. I do digital video post and media design too. It’s on a per project basis and level but it’s really been a lifelong passion and dream to have a project studio set up where I can do everything from MIDI keys/strings to live drums and loud guitars!

I am releasing a CD later this year. It will be a collection of film music I’ve scored and produced for indie films over the past 15 years.  The proceeds will go to the abused and homeless animal charity I’ve been working with called the Angels of Animals. They are based in northern New Jersey where I live.

Is there a role or type of character that you feel as though you were just meant to play?  

If you asked me that question many years ago I would have waxed on tirelessly! Today I am thankful to continue to be cast in a myriad of interesting roles and projects. Certainly my turn as the Chewlies Gum Guy in Kevin Smith’s audacious debut film Clerks assured me the opportunity to be seen as a versatile and spirited actor.

What have you got going on these days and what can we find you doing in the near future?

I appeared in two films which were shot over the last 18 months that I am looking forward to seeing released in the not too distant future.  The Puppet Apocalypse, the brainchild of Scott Meaney and Christopher Laudando of Constellation Park fame, is an insane comedic half man half puppet madcap romp.  I can say no more, but be afraid – be very afraid…

Charlie Esser’s I Know You Want This is a physiological thriller set in a Jersey strip club (my home away from home LOL).

Both of these films are unique and independent in spirit, and run the gamut from drama to comedy and back again. I am very fortunate to have been cast in these projects.

Lastly I’m still promoting my book from 2012, “Vicious Dogs Attack Me in Sleepless Nights of Summer” which is available worldwide on Amazon.

(www.amazon.com/Vicious-Attack-Sleepless-Nights-Summer/dp/0615587402)

What was the last thing that made you smile?

That is such an awesome question, I am glad you asked! This past weekend I went to the New Jersey State Fair with people I am very blessed to have in my life today. We had a fantastic night of fun, excitement, laughs and memories.

Scott Schiaffo4As we walked around the fair grounds and took it all in I became consumed with happiness and gratitude for the life I have today and most importantly for the people who are in it! I mean I could not wipe the grin from my face all night and I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve all night long!

 

Be sure to head over to Amazon.com to pick up a copy of Scott’s incredible book, Vicious Dogs Attack Me In Sleepless Night Of Summer.  You’ll be glad you did! 

Two Years of Trainwreck’d [Exclusive!]

2nd-anniversaryIt has been two years.  Two strange, trying, yet overall, pretty good years.  Awakening to say the least.  It was Independence Day 2011 in a hotel room just outside of Biloxi, Mississippi where I found myself surrounded empty bottles of cheap vodka and cartons of take out Buffalo wings and a feeling of longing and a great deal of loneliness.  I was once again displaced from my loving family, albeit on two months this time around.  I was fresh of the release of the collective works book for charity that I had been pouring my every waking moment in to for the the better part of 7 months.  In fact, I had just completed one of these “questionnaire based interviews” with College Magazine about the book, and something struck me: I’ve got nothing else to do.  Well, nothing is a bit of a stretch as I always had the wonderful man known as Andy Fenstermaker and his blog Fensepost in which I had been a minor character at for around 3 years.  I loved Fensepost, and I still consider it to be the finest music blog on the interwebs.  But, I was longing for something more.  Maybe it was some sort of control factor I was searching for.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that is what it was.  Almost certain.

And somewhere between e-mail conversations with dear friends Tyler Averett and Chris Eaves, and the loss of a very dear friend, It was decided that I should venture out on my own.  So, I stole the title of one of my favorite indie folk songs that never was, and made it happen.  I stuck to my known format with a review for The Coffin Collectors, and we were off and running.  And since then, we have managed to produce countless interviews, features, and album reviews that we couldn’t be more proud of.

And now we are here, two years in to the game.  And though we have had the consistency of Harry Caray on the WGN actually reporting what is happening during a Cubs game, I think we have had some great things happen over the years.  And one of the things we have developed as  a key point of TWS is finding out what makes people smile (all credit due to one singular interview I read that was conducted by author/musician Jess Gulbransson at another former stomping ground known as Crappy Indie Music The Blog! who asked this question once, and has stuck with me since.)  And with that in mind, I decided it would be fun to invite back a few friends of ours that have been featured on this site over the past two years.  Some old, some new.  Hell, even some brand new folks who will surely be around for the long haul.  I asked each of them one simple question:  What was the last thing that made you smile?  I know for me it has been the last two years spent behind laptops in various cities hammering away at this little web site.  Thank you all for joining in the madness and continuing to rubber neck at the wreckage.  I can’t wait to see what we have in store for the coming year, and maybe the formable years to come.  Hell, I don’t know if this trip will last that long, but isn’t it pretty to think so?  Enjoy!

(P.S.  there are various links throughout the following content that will send you along a journey back in time over the last two years to various relevant stories and features related to the contributor at hand.  Enjoy!)

Addison, Brin

Brin Addison (musician, Guilt Monkey)

“I used my wife’s vagina as a hand-puppet to sing a song this morning.”

Angel, Vanessa

Vanessa Angel (actress/fashion designer, Weird Science)

“Watching my beautiful daughter singing at the graduation ceremony from her elementary school.”

Botterill, Andy

Andy Botterill (musician/poet)

“A photo my wife Harriet took of our daughter Daisy lying on her bed last night in her pink pajamas with a big cheesy grin on her face…”

Bukowski, John

John Bukowski (musician, Ebony Sorrow)

“Seeing Mouth of the Architect last night, playing 4 songs from their amazing new record.”


Capozzi, Catherine

Catherine Capozzi (musician, Darling Pet Munkee)

“Finally repairing my Fuzz Factory after 8 years and using it to record and play! It sounds amazing!”

Jeremiah Chechik
Jeremiah Chechik (filmmaker, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)

” Jenny Slate’s comedy and both my dogs, pickle and scooter.”

Cope, Lindsey

Lindsay Cope (blogger, Love Lindz)

“A 1 a.m. phone call from a good friend with a crazy-awesome story about an acquaintances drunk, inept, split personalities. There’s nothing like late night phone calls that make me laugh until I cry!”

Dobi, Dan

Dan Dobi (filmmaker, Please Subscribe)

“My dog at the beach!”

Doyle, CaitlinCaitlin Doyle (musician, Smooth Hound Smith)

“Being on tour for two months and coming home and seeing our dog. Damn I missed the crazy ball of fur!”

Dye, Cameron

Cameron Dye (actor, Helliversity)

“My son Mason dancing in his wheelchair to my playing and singing our own bastardized version of John Lee Hooker’s ‘San Francisco’.”

Eaves, Chris

Chris Eaves (writer/director, Sound Skript Entertainment)

“[My girlfriend] Jill and my week ago trip to Stevenson, Washington in the Gorge along the Columbia River. It’s a small town, with nothing going on but a lovely charm. It was a beautiful day. Jill got a small swirl ice cream cone from a roadside vendor. The small was still bigger then any one person could handle. It melted all over the place. It was the first real day that felt like summer and I was happy to have shared it with Jill.”
11 Michael J. Epstein
Michael J. Epstein (musician/filmmaker, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling)

“A picture of a grumpy turtle.”

Faith, Elsa
Elsa Faith (musician, Madame Torrent)

“Receiving a text message from a loved one whom is 17,000 miles away but that message erased the distance.”

 Feigh, Ryan

Ryan Feigh (writer/blogger, The Portland Mercury)

“I was checking my instagram feed, and saw that my little sister Alison had took a picture of my sixty-something-year old parents in MN. The photo wasn’t anything special aesthetically, no filters were used, and it wasn’t necessarily a very flattering picture, considering they were both squinting into the sun. But it was good to see my parents happy and together, thousands of miles away from me. So I smiled.”

 Geoghan, Jim

Jim Geoghan (writer/producer, Family Matters)

“I was having lunch today when three dolphins swam by.”

Giaratta, Kali

Kali Giaratta (musician, There Is No Mountain)

“Trying a bite of [my husband] Matt’s homemade salsa.”

Grey, Robin

Robin Grey (musician/poet)

“Teaching a uke student how to play a song from The Jungle Book.”

Haley, Doug

Doug Haley (actor, Hot Bot)

“Today was Fathers Day…and I was left with a huge smile on my face thanks to a friend of mine who I’m not even very close with.  My friend Christie Burson-who is also an actor, asked me what I was doing after the BBQ or where my Dad is today and I said I don’t know…he has never been in my life but I know he lives in San Diego somewhere.  And she said well have you ever wanted to find him?  And now that I am old enough to take care of myself….and I feel solid and comfortable with who I am…I thought sure…now that I’m responsible for my life and I’m on a path that I love…maybe I’ll make an effort in the near future.  And she left…and then she texted me a few min later saying that she knows we don’t know each other very well but if I was to find him she would be happy to go with me and be at my side because that must be scary and intense and if I needed someone with me…it could be her.  And I was so touched by her honesty and her sensitivity…it made me smile the entire remainder of my day…when people are that kind, and that gracious…how can I not smile?”

03 Alexander Hallett

Alexander Hallet (musician, Bodi)

“Seeing the kids at the Faraja orphanage in Kenya smile.”

Kramer, Vince

Vince Kramer (Bizarro fiction author, Gigantic Death Worm)

“Getting Anakin Skywalker to fuck Obi-Wan in the ass so well during their lightsaber battle.”

 Maupin, Lelah

Lelah Maupin (musician, Tacocat)

“This message! Does that count?”

 Minne, David

David Minne (musician/blogger)

“My daughter Sayla tickling my feet.”

Haviland MorrisHaviland Morris (actress, Sixteen Candles)

“This question.”

Nyberg, Ola

Ola Nyberg (musician)

“When I saw my son.”

 O'Grady, Katie

Katie O’Grady (actress/producer, Rid Of Me)

“It’s not usual for an adult to be tickled, but this morning my fiancé got me in a tickle attack that got me giggling so hard! Everyone should be tickled…no matter how old!”

 Palumbo, Mark

Mark Palumbo (musician, Tenderkill)

“I was caught day dreaming at work and told “wake up! shift’s not over yet!” the long arm of reality made me smile.”

Prez, VJ

VJ Preziosi (comedian)

“Making jokes with friends at work. If I make other people laugh, I make myself smile. Simple as that.”

Ragel, Jon

Jon Ragel (musician, Boy Eats Drum Machine

“This….

Ragel, Jon 1

Frederic Raphael

Frederic Raphael (author/screenwriter/filmmaker, Eyes Wide Shut)

“Every morning when I wake up, in whatever glum or torpid mood, I look at my wife and she is smiling at me, because she is someone who has always known how to be happy (which does not entaill that she always has been) and I smile back, in admiration and gratitude. So there, as they used to say.”

Redford, Corbett

Corbett Redford (musician, Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children Macnuggits)

 “My cat Alice discovering, and subsequently disapproving of, a new toy.”

 Rice, Bob

Bob Rice (DJ, 88.1 KYRS in Spokane, WA)

“Locking eyes with a friend that I had not seen for many years, and then sharing a long energy exchanging embrace!”

Richard Riehle

Richard Riehle (actor, Office Space)

“I’m still fortunate enough to wake up smiling at the possibilities of a new day. And the possibilities have been turning into wonderful experiences, the rewards of saying ‘yes’.”

Romanos, Robert

Robert Romanos (actor/musician, Fast Times At Ridgemont High)

“Watching a jazz jam with awesome musicians at my coffee shop.”

 Roze

Roze (actor/writer/director, Dead In 5 Heartbeats)

“The last thing that made me smile was my wife, Candace. She is my one true love, my teacher and partner.”

Sessions, Steve

Steve Sessions (writer/director/composer, Torment)

“Whenever my dog works hard with paws and teeth and nose to arrange the bedcovers in a little nest before snuggling into it, I smile. I don’t want to laugh out loud because it snaps him out of his ritual – he looks at me like, ‘what?” – so I grin quietly the whole three minutes of tugging and pulling and pushing, and through him circling and settling down, followed by his long sigh before he closes his eyes to sleep. Why this produces a smile, I’m not sure. It could be tragic – he’s running a program in his brain written long ago for tall grass, and is helpless to it. But it’s so damn cute.”

 Tremolo King, Phil the

Phil The Tremolo King (musician/composer)

“Your message asking me what made me smile.”

Victoria, Samantha
Samantha Victoria (writer/director, Summer O’Horror)

“Hearing my favorite song on the radio, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” by Fall Out Boy, because it reminded me of seeing them perform live.”

Jess Walter

Jess Walter (author, The Financial Lives of the Poet)

“For Father’s Day my kids made archery targets with things I (jokingly) hate on them, including our cat.”

Anna Lynn Williams

Anna-Lynne Williams (musician, Lotte Kestner)

“I recently resuscitated an old b-side and starting playing it again. It’s called Bee, because after I’d spent the whole afternoon recording the song, I discovered a bee had been sleeping on my sweater. I was just running through it with my boyfriend to play at a show tomorrow night, and when he started singing along with me on it for the first time I couldn’t stop smiling. Harmonies make me smile.”

Williams, Timmy

Timmy Williams (comedian, Whitest Kids U Know)

“On the last day of the 2013 Whitest Kids tour, Darren and I decided to fake a fight in front of the other members of the group as a prank.  Since we’re the only two parents in the group we decided to make it about parenting  The fight went well and after dragging it out just long enough (the other guys thought Darren and I were about to throw punches) we started cracking up and let them know that we had just fucking owned them.  It was a great fun moment with four of my best friends in the world and made me smile ear to ear!”

Jack Wilson – Spare Key [Album]

Jack-Wilson-Spare-Key-Cover-w-sticker-420x420When an artist does is best to poor out his heart to you, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love.  This is especially so when an artist has a voice that is both harrowing and comforting at the same time.  Yes, a beautifully told story with a wonderful set of pipes serenading directly into your years is something to cherish.  And that is exactly what Jack Wilson is trying to give to you on his beautifully perfected album Spare Key.

Much like any great album, Spare Key really doesn’t have any stand out tracks.  Hell, there are only 9 of them, so it’s not as though there are many to choose from.  And that being of no matter when you throw in the fact that each track is blissfully beautiful in their own right and stand out all on their own.  Each track is just another example of just how passionate and talented Jack Wilson is when it comes to creating stylistic spaced out folk songs that reach right down in to the core of the human psyche, and make us smile, laugh, and cry.

Listening to this record brings on a bit of sadness in some ways.  It is a shame that smoking has been banned from almost every bar across the continent, because there a few tracks on Spare Key that belong in smokey bars, swirling around whiskey bottles and lost souls.  This is music to lose and/or find yourself to.  This is beautiful.  This is refined.  This is the soundtrack to life.  Or at least it should be.