BJ McDonnell [Interview]

Photo by Dustin Pearlman

Hello Folks! We have an absolutely wonderful interview for you all today! And I have to say that I had completely different intentions as to why I wanted to get some words from the brilliant filmmaker and DP BJ McDonnell on the site in comparison to why I am even more excited to have him on now. BJ has worked as a cameraman on some of the finest projects you know and love in the last couple of decades. Whether it is Marvel blockbusters, Rob Zombie horror flicks, or just about any big budget comedy film…BJ has been there. He is a staple in the world of cinematography, and has done some damn amazing work.

But, what I was at first just mildly interested in was his work with the band Slayer. He wrote and directed a couple of very infatuating music videos for this iconic metal band that I was interested in knowing about simply to try and impress my dear friend and recent interviewee, Adam Mattson. But, what happened was that I became a huge fan of the band based almost solely around the amazing videos from Slayer that BJ happened to have directed. Holy Shit Folks, they are SO good. One of them is below, and I suggest you check out the rest. What a fucking ride he sends you on, and it’s just a brilliant example of the brilliance that lives inside such a wonderful artist.

So, please enjoy this amazing interview with the brilliant filmmaker and cinematographer, BJ McDonnell!

What inspired you to get into the world of filmmaking and cinematography? Was it something you felt destined to do from a young age? Or did you just find yourself in this line of work one day?

My Grandfather sparked my interest in filmmaking. He was an actor named, Leif Erickson. As a young child I was exposed to filmmaking as a career. My grandmother pushed me to pursue my dreams of films. I also would make short action films with my best friend Jesse with old VHS cameras. We loved doing that. Why not make a career out of what you love right? So I went for it.

What was your very first paid gig in the world of filmmaking? And is there anything from this project that you learned that you still use to this very day?

My first paid gig I worked as a grip. I can’t even remember the name of what the project was. I was overwhelmed and had to jump in head first. I guess what I took from that is always be confident and make decisions on your own.

I absolutely loved the music videos, which are more like extremely well down short films, with the legendary group Slayer. How did you come to work with this group so frequently? What drew you to the band and made you want to work with them so often?

I’ve always been a punk rock / metal head. Slayer just kinda fell into my lap honestly. I went for a interview at nuclear blast records. They were looking for a horror director to do the first video off their new album Repentless. My view on what should be done is make a video Slayer has never had before. We don’t have censorship like MTV anymore and most videos are seen on YouTube. I wanted to make a brutal story driven video like they use to make in the 80’s. I pitched my idea for a prison break for Repentless.  It was a simple story of a prisoner who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. He wanted the head of another cell mate in a different section of the prison. So he created an all out prison riot to get to his destination. Basically do what you gotta do without any remorse , REPENTLESS. The video was a hit and that spawned two other videos as a prequel and a sequel. It was a fun project because I had to create a storyline off of a middle story.

BJ on the set of Jack Reacher

 

You have been heavily involved in the wonderful Victor Crowley franchise known as Hatchet. You even stepped into the director’s chair for duties on Hatchet III. How did you become involved with this franchise initially, and what inspired you to step in and direct the third installment?

My friend Sarah Donahue got me a interview to do Hatchet 1. The guys were looking for someone who loved horror films. When I was interviewed I totally threw out John Carpenter references as well as Wes Craven, etc. because of my knowledge of horror I was hired.

I stepped into the directing chair because Adam didn’t want to direct the third installment. He was busy writing a tv show about himself. When I directed the third one I wanted to open up the world and make it more action and cinematic. I wanted to blow up the Crowley house and have a SWAT team battle kill. I presented that to Adam and he wrote it into the script. It was blood sweat and tears making this film. I learned a lot of what to do, what not to do, etc…..

While the world of horror is far from being a mainstay as a genre for you, it is a genre that you have had so much great success with over the years. We absolutely love the world of horror here at TWS. So much so that we dedicate an entire month to you it even! So I feel compelled to ask what it is that you enjoy most about the world of horror? What sets this world apart from other genres you have worked on?

Horror filmmaking is more explorative. We don’t have to follow certain guidelines that regular films have to use. We can break the mold and get very creative with it. From storylines to camera angles you can be more free with your decisions. I also think it’s more a rollercoaster thrill ride that sets a tone for people to flock to see these films. I love doing horror. I would say action films are close to that too.

Of all the sets you have worked on, what projects do you remember having the best craft services, either for uniqueness or variety or whatever made it memorable to you?

Hahaha never had a craft service question before. Hmmmmm…let’s say craft service on commercials are usually the best.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m looking for the next directing project. I’m still shooting as a cameraman and I’m headed to do Annabelle 3. It’s important to find a project I believe in. I learned that if you direct something just because it is there it usually has no heart. You gotta want to do the project and put your heart and soul into it. So I’m looking for that next project that just jumps out at me.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’d say getting married to my best friend.

Advertisements

Pamela Ross [Interview]

Hello Folks! Today we have a very exciting interview for you all to check out as we wrap up the month of November which already very packed full of goodness. As we have come to do lately, we have some words from an absolutely brilliant stand up comedian and writer who is on the rise and is currently one of the best in the business right now. It’s Pamela Ross Everyone!

I discovered Pamela’s brilliant comedy in the way that I have tended to find all of my favorite comedians today. From the world of podcasts! Specifically, I heard Pamela on a brilliant podcast hosted by past TWS guests Tommy McNamara and Tom Thakkar. And ironically enough, I knew of the latter because of his multiple appearances on a different, you guessed it….podcast! Seriously though, this medium has helped me come to know some of the funniest people out there right now. And Pamela Ross is definitely one of the young greats in the business. We are so honored that she was willing to share a few words with us as she graced our digital pages.

So with that, please enjoy some incredible words from the absolutely hilarious and immensely talented, Pamela Ross! Enjoy!

What inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it a deep-rooted passion you always felt you could excel at, or did you just sort of stumble on stage one day?

I started listening to comedians’ podcasts my senior year of college. To graduate you had to complete a thesis in your major, so I wanted background noise besides the music I usually listened to. I found podcasts through Twitter, which at a certain point became an invaluable resource to comedians publishing and circulating content. I realized that literally *anyone*, for better or for worse, could write a few minutes of material and try it at an open mic. I’d grown up performing – musicals, plays, dance, and singing – and had always been told I was funny and had a distinctive point of view. That summer, before my move to Boston and grad school began, I started writing material and lying to people, saying I was already a comedian who performed regularly. I boxed myself into a corner where I HAD to try it, or I’d keep lying forever – which would make it pathological, not a fun quirk to self-motivate. That winter I finally did an open mic while on vacation from school, and started micing all the time that spring. That was in 2014 and I haven’t quit yet! 90% of stand up is just not quitting, I think.
 
I should probably have verified this, but I probably won’t, so let’s just go with it…..I believe you are the first comic to come out of Boston that we have featured on the site! Boston being a frequently mentioned city in the dozen or so podcasts I listen to daily. So with that, how was it coming up in Boston? What is it about this scene that makes it unique and possibly sets itself apart from others?
Wow, I’m honored! It’s quite a scene and a legacy to represent in any capacity. It shouldn’t be surprising that someone who came out of Boston has a chip on her shoulder about it. I think it’s a fantastic scene that produces particularly strong writers, and it deserves more industry recognition than it gets! I’m very defensive of Boston and feel an allegiance to it that I’ve never felt to sports team – which confused Boston sports fans deeply. More than once saying “I don’t follow any sports” shut a conversation down there. Anyway, coming up there was great because there’s ample stage time between open mics and booked shows. You get to watch everyone from brand new open micers to rising stars to masters of the craft – great comics like Gary Gulman who headline nationally and stop in Boston. Performing there regularly helped me appreciate how far I’d come from the time I started, and how much work I had to do to become better. Some of the funniest people in the world – period! – incubated there, and that fact keeps you working diligently – or at least, that’s the effect it had on me. “You think you’re funny? Patrice O’Neal was funny. You suck.” That was my internal monologue for four years there.
And how has your transition to the world NYC comedy been for you? What sort of differences have you noticed in this scene?

It’s been good so far! I’ve been in NYC since early August, so I’m still adjusting and getting into a rhythm. I keep overestimating how much I can get done in a day, or maybe underestimating how often the trains are delayed. I’m still mastering the logistics. Regardless, the big difference is the scale – it’s massive. So, so much bigger than Boston. There isn’t one cohesive scene – there are a bunch of smaller ones that form an ecosystem of sorts. I’ve noticed that people here tend to be more multitalented – they create using several mediums, or do several forms of comedy – and are more professionally focused. I don’t think a pure hobbyist moves to NYC or LA to do comedy. It’s more competitive at every level, from free bar shows that pay in drink tickets to paid spots at the best clubs. It keeps me focused and productive. I get lazy if I’m not being terrified into action.

I first became aware of your wonderful comedy when you appeared on our friend’s, Thom Thakar and Tommy McNamara’s, podcast Stand By Your Band where you defended AFI. Each time I listen to this show, I am curious as to what kind of backlash the guests might get after they’ve done it. Even if it’s all in good fun, have you received any shit for your support of AFI on the podcast? And how did you enjoy appearing on the podcast?
No backlash yet! I think AFI’s not as hated as, say, Nickelback or Puddle of Mudd – or within the punk genre, Green Day or Blink 182. They’re also more obscure on the whole. I loved doing the podcast! The day I did it, I actually recorded two podcasts back-to-back in Brooklyn, which made me feel like a bona fide New York City comedian (tired, hungry, and slightly lost).
Over the last year and some change, there have been a lot of strives towards making the comedy world a safer, or at the very least more comfortable, for the amazing & hilarious people working in the business who just happen to be female. But, as a professional in the business….has anything changed at all? Like, actual change of any kind? As an outsider looking in, it’s really hard to tell if any good has come out of the #metoo movement and more? 
Thanks for calling me ‘professional’! What a wonderful rumor to start. That’s a great question and I think the answer would vary somewhat among comics. Personally I think the attention paid to personal stories and insights from female-identified performers/writers has effected positive changes on the whole. There’s more awareness of what women deal with that men never or rarely have to consider, from being properly compensated to sexual harassment in its various manifestations to being physically unsafe or intimidated in professional spaces. Industry gatekeepers are feeling more pressure than ever to make sure women are treated equitably. But not everyone will bow to that pressure, especially if there aren’t consequences legal or otherwise for mistreatment. Social progress of all kinds isn’t linear – we’ve already seen that with the backlash to feminism in the 90’s, and the backlash we’re seeing now towards queer people and people of color under Trump’s administration. So it’s an ongoing process, but I’ve already observed positive changes happening.
What does the future hold for you? Is there anything coming up that you would like to share with our readers? (This will go live early December)
 
I started a weekly show in Williamsburg in late October with my comedy spouse, Kendall Farrell. It’s every Tuesday at 8:30 at The Graham if you’re in town! It’s a fun, fast-paced show of stand ups and a musical comedy act. Our accompanist, Sami Schwaeber, is fantastically talented. Besides that, you can follow me on Twitter @PamNotAnderson or through my website http://pamnotanderson.squarespace.com.
 
What was the last thing that made you smile?
 
My foster cat Leo sneezed and it was adorable 🙂

David Steven Cohen [Interview]

 

Emmy-winning writer/producer David Steven Cohen began his career working on television projects with Steve Martin. Later credits include Pee-wee’s Playhouse, ALF, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, Living Single, Comedy Central’s Strangers With Candy starring Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert, and Steven Spielberg’s animated feature Balto. David was head writer of Cartoon Network’s cult classic Courage the Cowardly Dog and received a Writers Guild Award and two Emmy nominations as executive producer of Nickelodeon’s musical series The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss. Also Emmy-nominated for PBS’s Arthur, David holds the #1 and #7 spots on WIRED’s “Fifteen Geekiest Episodes of Arthur”. He recently won an Emmy for his writing on the PBS series Peg + Cat.

Also a lyricist and composer (songs performed by Elaine Stritch, Megan Mullally, Lea DeLaria, The Cat in the Hat, others), David was thrilled to have his work featured in Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series. The New York Times hailed his libretto for the opera Lilith (Lincoln Center, 2001) as “a haunting contemporary parable.”

David has served as executive producer of the Writers Guild Awards in New York, with hosts including Tina Fey, Alan Cumming, and John Oliver. His collaborations include TV projects co-written with Chris Rock and New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. David lives in Brooklyn Heights with his wife and, depending on circumstances, a son or two. www.dstevencohen.com, @CohenDS (Twitter)

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant David Steven Cohen!

When did you first realize that you had a passion for storytelling? What inspired you to jump into this world to make a living? Was it a deep-rooted ambition, or did you just find yourself doing it one day?

I can’t remember not being passionate about storytelling. It was never an “ambition”, it just… was. Doing it professionally was a natural evolution. A few memorable highlights of my formative years:

I was probably about 3 when I decided to illustrate a tale I was conjuring – by drawing on the wall next to my bed. Rather than punishing me, my mom put glossy erasable paper on the wall so I could draw stories as much as I wanted to. My parents indulged and encouraged any and all creative endeavors, even messy ones.

Second grade offered me a new approach to crafting stories. We’d have weekly spelling tests. A related assignment was to write a story using all five words, none of which had much to do with the others except that they were on a second-grade spelling level. It was like connecting dots that had no numbers and I loved it. This would turn out to be great practice for my career. We’re often tasked with writing stories from someone’s idea of good story elements that are as randomly combined as those spelling words. Weaving disparate elements into a coherent story is challenging, but it’s a game I love. 

I kind of saw my future when I was about 8 years old. The Dick Van Dyke Show was in syndication by then, and I’d watch it daily. One night, I dreamed an episode: It was time to set the clocks ahead an hour. Rob sets the kitchen clock ahead. Then Laura does. Then little Richie does. (None knew the others had done this.) Rob gets up in what he thinks is the middle of the night and goes to the kitchen for a glass of water. He sees the clock and thinks he’s late for work and hurries out. When he gets to the office, no one else is there. It’s dark. Rob is very confused. Okay, it was more of a set-up than an episode, and a thin one at that, but I was 8, so back off.

And I have to mention high school. I think it was Martin Mull who said that show business is high school with money. I agree. I went to a huge Brooklyn school, surrounded by brilliant, inspiring teachers and students. It was a creative playground. During those years, I discovered how much I really did want to be in the arts, to write stories and songs, to create images, to perform – and to share the glorious experience in collaboration with like-minded pals and colleagues – and then to celebrate it all with the unvarnished elation of teenagers after a school show. 

What was your very first gig in the world of television writing? And how did that job impact your career and way of thinking in the business? Does it still have an impact on your work today?

Steve Martin hired my (former) writing partner and me to write an episode of a TV show he was producing, an anthology series called George Burns Comedy Week. (Burns did the intro and outro, and each episode was a stand-alone half-hour single-camera comedy and pilot for its own series.) The story we came up with was about a guy who wants to be taken seriously as a dramatic playwright, but to his dismay, he (inadvertently) becomes famous for a cartoon series he (inadvertently) created, The Honeybunnies. Aaaaand… he’s miserable about the whole thing despite the millions he’s making. 

So Mr. Honeybunny, as he’s come to be known, wants to get rid of the Honeybunnies. He arranges for production of a “special clip” from the “upcoming Honeybunnies Easter special”. On a talk show, he rolls the sneak peek: We see the Honeybunny family hopping across the tracks of the Carrotland Express. But it seems Mr. Sun had warmed the tar on the tracks to a sticky goo, which traps the sweet bunny family… and – OH NO! – here comes the 9:09 barreling down the tracks. The reflection of the train grows larger in the eyes of the terrified bunnies. The reflection of the bunnies grows larger in the eye of the horrified conductor. Closer and closer: Bunnies. Conductor. Bunnies. Conductor. Bunnies. And… cut to black. Coming back from the clip, the alarmed show host asks how they get out of this. Explains Mr. Honeybunny: “They don’t. They’re dead.”

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. We had Mr. Honeybunny, finally rid of the profitable-but-pesky creatures, go off to Sweden to write his bleak plays. Steve had only one note on the story: Mr. Honeybunny would not be able to shed his adorable identity and would have to learn to live with it. That was when we realized we had sorta kinda written the Steve Martin story, the Wild and Crazy Guy who also wanted to be taken seriously for his dramatic plays (and much more). And he was exactly right, for himself, for Mr. Honeybunny, and, as it turns out, for my partner and me. 

That was the first bit of animation we ever wrote: the Honeybunnies getting mowed down by a train. Together and, then, separately, we haven’t escaped our Honeybunnies. We hadn’t intended to continue writing animation, but, amid all the prime time shows we were working on, there were animation projects. To this day, no matter what else I do, no matter how dark or adult, I’m still wedded to children’s animation, as a writer and songwriter. This was not my plan (not that I ever had a plan). I’ve had to learn to live with my Honeybunnies – sometimes happily, sometimes, well… Let’s just say there are moments I hear the Carrotland Express in the distance, getting closer… closer…

You worked with our old friend Mitch Rouse on a show that I would argue to be one of the greatest of all time, Strangers With Candy. I am curious to know what it was like during the time you were making this now cult classic program? Did you realize at the time that you were creating something special?

Comedy Central wanted someone with a lot of experience writing full-length stories and scripts to help shape the episodes. I’m pretty good at getting inside someone else’s vision and helping in the storytelling process. Strangers With Candy was an amazing place to do that with stunningly inspired people. The show was psychedelic, bizarre, and brilliant. I loved it. (Hell, Amy Sedaris could make faces at the camera for a half hour and I’d be riveted.) 

It felt like a nascent cult classic, but I really don’t think much about the potential success of a project while I’m working on it. I’d start to worry about the wrong things. The only thing I want to be thinking about is the story in play. Once Strangers was on the air and I could take a step back, I knew it would live long in the cultisphere.

And the show that really brings it all home to me, one that I absolutely adored as a youth, was the amazing Living Single. As somebody who worked on the show in both a writing and a producing capacity, I am curious to know what you believe sets Living Single apart from the other classic shows that were coming out in the same time period? I know why I loved it as a viewer, but what are your thoughts?

Yvette Lee Bowser created the show based on people and relationships in her life. The characters felt real in a basic, honest way. Their relationships were tangible and, often, moving. When I first saw the pilot, I smiled throughout (and laughed plenty). I knew these were people I wanted to hang out with. (And they lived in my beloved Brooklyn.) My affection for the characters extended to the cast. And the staff… Wonderful people – and a beautifully diverse group: many distinct voices and experiences filtered through the show’s specific character constructs. 

Working on Living Single changed me in ways I’ve only come to realize in more recent years. I feel more comfortable with cultural fluidity in my writing. It showed me how diversity can reveal similarity as much as it does difference. Khadijah, Regine, Max, Synclaire, Kyle, Overton… I miss those guys, but they still live in me. 

I’m thrilled that the experience of working on Living Single translated to the screen, and that the series was embraced by a diverse audience. It was really an honor to be part of it all. And in the show’s first holiday episode (Living Kringle), written by my partner and me, we got to sing Winter Wonderland on TV with Kim Coles, Kim Fields, and Queen Latifah! And, hey, look… Here’s photo evidence. (I’m the guy in the hat and beard.)

 

You’ve worked quite extensively in the world of television geared toward younger audiences, from my favorite as a youth like Pee-wee’s Playhouse, to the more current Space Racers. I am curious as to what it is like to switch to shows like this from other shows like the aforementioned Living Single or Strangers With Candy? What are some similarities between the two genres that people may not realize are there?

Whether writing for 46-year-old boozer-loser-user high school freshman Jerri Blank in Strangers With Candy, or Pee-wee Herman, or an anthropomorphic space ship in a cartoon produced with NASA – or George C. Scott and Madeline Kahn as the President of the United States and his adoring sister-in-law (Mr. President, FOX, 1987-88) – it’s all about character and stories coming from characters’ passions, mistakes, obsessions, decisions. Crafting stories for any genre starts from the same place: human behavior. There’s lots of filigree to add, sure. But from that basic beginning, a project can go anywhere. 

The strangest juxtaposition I had of two disparate jobs was during the late 90s. I was executive producer of the first season of Nickelodeon’s The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss. We did 20 half-hour musicals with Henson-built Seuss characters in a CG environment. It was intense work, but it was magical. 

At some point during my year on the series, a classical composer I knew asked me to write the libretto for an opera: a dark, neo-biblical, revisionist, feminist story based on the myth of Lilith. In Jewish folklore, Lilith was described as Adam’s wife before Eve, conceived as was Adam, not of his rib, but of earth. She was banished from Eden essentially for wanting to be Adam’s equal, sexually and otherwise. Lilith was cursed to an eternity of flying through the night, stealing the seed of sleeping men, and birthing demonic offspring. (And thus began the patriarchy. Ugh.)

Needless to say, the two projects could not have seemed more different. I began to have fever dreams with Lilith speaking to me in Seuss verse: “I meant what I said, I said what I meant: I’ll sow your seed, baby… 100 percent.” Still, the work of understanding the characters and how they move the story forward… that was the same, no matter how different the tone and intended audience. But it was a crazy experience. I wrote a piece about the weirdness of the whole thing. You can find it HERE.  

Having worked in the world of comedy writing for over 30 years, and having seen the world change so drastically in regards to technical advancements, I am curious to know what your thoughts are on the current wave of having so damn many ways to view entertainment? Has the plethora of options in this world of online streaming and more been a blessing in your opinion? Or is everything becoming a bit rushed and oversaturated? A combination of both, maybe?

It’s been interesting watching all this ongoing change. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is and we adapt. It can be overwhelming, but there has never been more excellent television than now. Writers and creators can go places they weren’t able to – I hate to say it this way – back when I started in the business. Styles and tastes change, social context shifts, technology and magic become indistinguishable… but when it comes down to it, for writers (or that clinical term “content creators”), it’s still about character and story. And that’s been true everywhere and always (or so I imagine; I haven’t been everywhere and I haven’t been always).

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I frequently look back on my career thus far and try to figure out my professional “personality” in order to think about what might be next. From the wanton destruction of the adorable Honeybunnies, through Pee-wee’s Playhouse, the often surreal Parker Lewis, the musical Seuss series and the opera Lilith, through Strangers With Candy, four seasons as head writer of Courage the Cowardly Dog, and on to some particularly psychedelic episodes I wrote of the PBS series Arthur, my penchant for the strange and twisted is pretty clear. And with my passion for storytelling, songwriting, and comedy… I’m developing a project that incorporates all those elements. I’ll see where it goes. I hope you’ll see where it goes.

In general, I’ve gone with the flow of my career and will continue to do so. And I’m still learning to dance with my Honeybunnies, because you can’t get rid of those adorable bastards. 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Besides tumbling through memories to answer your questions, yesterday I met a seven-month-old baby girl who just ignited me. Raye. Raye’s eyes were brilliant, eager, and immediately engaging, her squeals were tuneful communications, her quick laugh melted my heart. I told her stories using simple sounds and gestures. It was pure and basic. It was music. It was sheer wordless joy. 

And for a moment, all was well with the world. 

Adam Mattson [Interview]

 

Welcome Dear Readers. I am extremely excited to share with you all what is not only our 400TH INTERVIEW here at Trainwreck’d Society…but I am just going to go ahead and say that it’s my FAVORITE interview we have done thus far. I can’t believe it took 399 interviews before we finally got the great Adam Mattson to be our digital guest. But, here we are!

I have known Adam Mattson for a solid number of years. In fact, very recent debates which led to the unearthing of photographic evidence, has led me to realize that it has been 16 years since Adam, myself, and fellow dear friend and musical inspiration to this very website, Tyler Averett, solidified our friendship on a cold November night, in a basement in Kelso, Washington circa 2002. And since that very day, even though distances have kept us apart for many years at a time, Adam has been one of my very best friends in the world, and that will never change.

But, the purpose here to today is not to just talk about a dear friend. No, I am excited to showcase and praise the work that Adam has done as an artist. And this man is truly a god damned artist. He puts beautiful work out into the world, but I would whole-heartedly say that Adam’s main form of artistry is: communication. He has always been the easiest person to talk to, listen to, and simply a joy to be around. So much so, that when he was working in the retail industry as a salesman, I was continuously known to lift the classic line from David Spade’s character in Tommy Boy by stating that Adam “could sell a ketchup flavored popsicle to a woman in white gloves”. And I stand by that argument 666%.

And with his amazing ability to communicate, Adam has found himself engage in the craft of podcasting in several different capacities. Regular readers may remember a few years ago, before our extended 15 month hiatus, we were frequently collaborating with and boasting about a little podcast entitled Four Guys Drinking, that I absolutely adored and was sad to see go by the wayside. We had some fun with that one. The climax of that show having to be the set up of an interview with legendary Foghat drummer Roger Earl which involved casino antics and a GoFundMe that was widely backed by a plethora of Jean Claude Van Damme characters for some reason. It was genius, but sadly, it just wasn’t going to last.

But, I knew in my deepest heart of hearts, this wouldn’t be the last we here of Adam in the podcasting game. Soon after he picked up duties as a third host on another amazing podcast that we all know and love around here entitled Super Geeky Play Date. In fact, we literally just talked about them two days ago in our interview with Paris Themman, in regards to the tyranny of Grandpa Joe and the legend of the fart stew. This god damned show is so great for so many different reasons. Generally, I don’t know what the hell they are talking about. The show is so engrossed in geek culture, from comics to D&D and everything in between, within, or around. But I will be damned if I don’t whole-heartedly appreciate the enthusiasm that they have for this culture. And it has indeed led me to dive into some of these things. In fact, that is sort of where Adam Mattson found his own niche on the program. Let it be known, that Adam is indeed a certified geek, in my opinion. But, his geekdom tends to spread more into the world of heavy metal music (of which he literally knows EVERYTHING, or at least how to find anything), horror films, Star Trek, and basically just pop culture in general. I only began listening to SGPD when Adam came on board, but instantly became a fan of the trio of Brady, Bryan, and Adam. It is a truly wonderful show. In fact, when we were offered the chance to interview the legendary Kevin Eastman, I knew in my heart of hearts that I was not the right person for the job, and thankfully the SGPD boys here able to pick that one up. You should check that one out, for sure. Also, one of their more recent episodes in which they provide commentary for our “friend”, Jim Wynorski’s, film Chopping Mall is downright one of the finest pieces of work I have ever heard.

And if that weren’t enough, our hero has even taken it a step further with another recently developed project that finds Adam on the direct front line as the host of the brilliant conversation oriented show, The Listening Tree. I’m going to straight forward and blunt here: while it is easy for me to be slightly bias…this is my favorite podcast out now. Bringing back Zac and Cody, and adding our dear friend and frequent contributor Chris Eaves as well as former Ted Dancin’ Machine bassists and studio host Brett, Adam has created something so great with The Listening Tree, that I dare say it is whimsical. The topics vary so widely, and sometimes have no real relevance to each discussion, except that they are all FASCINATING. With five unique minds in one room, the energy of this podcast because almost surreal and becomes a show that I makes me feel almost physically ill when it ends and I know that I will have to wait and unprecedented amount of time to hear it again. I sincerely can’t recommend this show enough. If you are at all interested in history, pop culture, the works of Orson Welles and Arnold Schwarzenegger, cat weapons, the Yao Ming dynasty, cupcakes, and more….you HAVE to check out The Listening Tree!

Alright folks, I know that I went a little longer on the introduction here than I normally would. But like I said, this is by far the best interview we have ever had grace our digital pages. I love Adam Mattson like a brother, because he basically is one. He has the biggest heart I’ve ever known in a man, and has the power of the spoken word on his side. In fact, I would have much rather done this interview in person, and I assure you that someday we will! I am so thankfully to have Adam in my life, as well as the weaving in and out of Trainwreck’d Society within the his worlds of Super Geeky Play Date and The Listening Tree. And we will be here to support whatever it is he does next, as he will surely do as well for us.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some words from the beloved Di’s son himself, the brilliant Adam “Metal” Mattson!

How did you become involved in the world of podcasting? What was it that initially drew you into this world, and what is it that keeps you working within it?

My favorite thing in the whole world is conversation with friends. That’s what podcasting started as for me, and fortunately I’ve been able to maintain that throughout. Podcasting sounded like a terrific way to document these conversations, and now it has evolved into a creative outlet. I continue working within this realm because I’ve been able to surround myself with so many kindhearted, interesting and talented people. 

You and I grew up in a time before the idea of an “internet radio program” would have simply been a strangely strewn together 3 word sentence. But, we did grow up in the era when radio DJ’s reigned supreme. I am curious to know if you had any influences from this era that influence the way you do podcasts now?

I absolutely wear my influences on my sleeve. When I was very young, riding around in the car with my mom, she would keep the radio tuned to radio personalities Mark and Brian. This was one of my first introductions to comedy, and their brand of PG-13 humor consistently had me cracking up. They weren’t shock jocks, just friends joking together.

After I got a bit older, and Howard Stern flooded markets all over America, I was introduced to shock humor. I read his books Private Parts & Miss America and connected with what I considered a punk rock attitude of boundary pushing via terrestrial radio. The local personalities from Portland’s “101.1 KUFO” had an impact as well. Craig the Dog-Faced Boy & Pork Chop in particular.

However, my biggest influence was Norm Macdonald hosting Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. I think it’s even safe to call him my hero. He spent years making jokes he liked, and pushing SNL into unknown comedy territory. He carried himself with a fragile confidence, knowing that his jokes were funny (in fact too funny for SNL), no matter what the general audience expected.

How did you make the connection with the wonderful Super Geeky Play Date podcast, which would lead you to becoming a full time co-host on the show?

It all started when the former podcast I cohosted, Four Guys Drinking, invited Bryan on as a guest. Bryan invited me on to share my Geeky Credentials on SGPD and I found a niche for myself. Brady, Bryan and Matt had found a great podcast territory, and were having a blast doing it. It was too much fun to not join. I’m really glad they brought me on.

Could you tell us a bit about your new podcast, The Listening Tree? How did you come up with the concept of this very intriguing show?

Well I have to give credit to my cohosts for this one. We were brainstorming ideas for themes and titles, when Cody came up with our name. Emphasis on the “Listening”. We all consistently bring new ideas to the table…… and I’d say that’s our main concept. We are an experiment. Just like any other organic conversation, it can go a million different directions. So why not keep the podcast that way as a whole? No real rules about who we are, or where we are going. Just talking about whatever we want, making sure to treat each other and our guests with respect, putting ego aside, and trying new things. 

When you look back on your experience, in like 40 years, from the world of podcasting, and the digital records that will still be floating around in the atmosphere, what do you want to know you accomplished? And what do you want other people to recognize?

Personally, the legacy I hope to leave, is one that made people laugh. That’s my favorite thing to do. 

Beyond the world of podcasting, you are also a renowned and extremely knowledgeable in the world of Heavy Metal music. In fact, TWS pretty much relies on you for the knowledge of anything involving this genre of music. With that being said, where did your love for Metal begin? And how do you think your fascination with this genre affects your work in podcasting?

My love of metal started by riding around in my mom’s Pontiac, listening to the same radio network where I heard Howard Stern and Craig the Dog-Faced Boy, 101.1 KUFO. I bought Master of Puppets by Metallica when I was about 12, thinking it would be the same post-haircut/pre-Napster hard alternative rock I was hearing after school. But it was insanely aggressive thrash metal, with songs about war, drug addiction, and the hypocrisy of the church. I was fresh out of Catholic school, so it was perfect for my pre-teen angst. From there I got deeper and deeper into metal until it became a part of my identity. Metal was just always my thing. Now that podcasting is my thing too, I suppose they go hand in hand. Just like any passions in life.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers? 

I guess I’d just say check out The Listening Tree. Write us a letter. Also listen to Super Geeky Play Date, Blue Tiger, Story Time with Brady, and The Nightmare Podcast. Also listen to Slayer. ALWAYS listen to Slayer.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Someone asked if they could come on to the podcast and yell at us because Bloodsport lost in our Action Movie Tournament.

(L to R) Adam “Metal” Mattson, TWS founder Ron Trembath, and “Train Wreck” songwriter Tyler Averett, circa 2003 looking dapper AF.

 

Sunday Matinee: Five Fingers For Marseilles [Film]

“The residents of the colonial town of Marseilles are under the thumb of police oppression and only the young rebels known as the Five Fingers are willing to stand up to them. Their battle is just, until Tau kills two policemen and flees the scene. The remaining rebels disband while the banished Tau resorts to a life of crime.  Twenty years later, now known as feared outlaw The Lion of Marseilles, he is released from prison. He returns home, desiring only peace and to reconnect with those he left behind. The battle for South Africa’s freedom has been won, and former comrades-in-arms are in prominent positions as mayor, police chief, and pastor. But it quickly becomes clear to Tau that Marseilles is caught in the grip of a vicious new threat — and he must reconstitute the Five Fingers to fight frontier justice. Standing against former allies and new enemies, the re-formed Five Fingers saddle up and ride out, and put their lives at risk to save their beloved Marseilles.” – October Coast PR

I am torn on whether I should truly express just how much “fun” I had watching this incredible film. While at its core, Five Fingers For Marseilles is indeed a brilliant western film with a similar story that has been played time and time again in the world of western films, there is something very different about this tale. Maybe it’s the modernization of it all. Maybe it’s simply being old enough to remember that South Africa was not free from oppression even within my own relatively short lifespan. Or, probably most likely, it’s that this film is so damn gripping and visually stimulating that you are left with that “so awesome” feeling and then go back to recapture what exactly it was that you just saw portrayed on the screen in front of you. Very much like, and I hate to make a comparison but, like the Academy Award winning western, Unforgiven. While technically classified by its setting as a “western”, this film is a dramatic thrill ride that hits so hard with a terrific story and amazing cinematography.

Five Fingers For Marseilles is available now on Video On Demand. Check out the trailer for this incredible thrill ride, here:

Chip Chinery [Interview]

Hello Everyone! I hope this Black Friday finds you well and preferably not in a commercialism hells cape. But, if you do find yourself in such a space, I’m happy you have turned to our digital pages while you are in line awaiting to purchase that $100 HP laptop. And we have some wonderful words from one of the funniest stand up comedians who has been killing it on stage and on screen for over 30 years. It’s Chip Chinery!

Chip has been a figure that I have recognized from so many different projects, specials, etc. since I was but a young boy. Most recently I truly loved his role in the hit comedy The Battle of the Sexes in which he truly brought his A game. I was truly excited to talk to Chip about his work on this film, his history in the world of stand up, and even one specific project that we always seem to have to bring up here at Trainwreck’d Society. The man has really put in the work to be considered a legend, and we truly believe he is one.

So with that, please enjoy some wonderful words from the legendary comedian himself, Mr. Chip Chinery!

When did you first discover you were a hilarious person and wanted to make people laugh for a living? What initially drew you into the world of stand up comedy and other methods of performance and creating art?

I was funny in grade school. Some people were gifted academically or athletically, My thing was a good sense of humor. I found a “What I want to be when I grow up” essay from grade school. I wanted to be Rich Little or Johnny Carson. Speaking of whom, every weekday night when I was in grade school, my mom would watch Johnny Carson’s monologue. I used to sneak out of bed and sit just outside my door, where I got a clear shot of the TV down the hallway in my parents’ bedroom.  It was then, at nine years old, sitting silently on the rug in my Six Million Dollar Man pajamas, that I knew what I wanted to do:  Be a guy on TV, being funny. I had no idea how I was going to accomplish this. But I knew Johnny did it, and he was from a much smaller town than Cincinnati.

At 13, I started writing down ideas for jokes.  My gems: “I was so fat all I had do was look at a gas station hose and the bell would ring.”  “Can dogs do sit ups?”  “Do birds come from birdseed?”  C’mon, I was 13!

At 16, I answered a classified ad and started doing stand-up at a University of Cincinnati area bar named “d.w.eye”.  This was back in 1981, only six months after Jimmy Carter left The Oval Office.  It was a less politically correct era when a watering hole had no problem calling itself “d.w.eye” and was even less concerned about employing someone who had yet to become acquainted with a razor. My big closer was an impression of Richard Nixon doing a commercial for Maxell cassette tapes: “Back in the early 1970s. I needed a tape I could rely on.”  C’mon, I was 16!

I put stand-up mostly on the back burner to finish high school and college. It wasn’t until a year out of college while I was working at a TV station as a cameraman, that I got back into doing stand-up at open mic nights. After a year of open mics, I hit the road full-time in 1988.  From 1988 to 1994, I worked 50 weeks a year on 475 stages, in 296 cities, over 42 states, making my way up to comedy club headliner.

In 1994, at 29, I decided to take my chances in Hollywood. It would be 160 auditions over 3½ years before I booked my first commercial, and almost four years before I booked my first TV show: 3rd Rock From the Sun, playing the inept maintenance man in several episodes from 1997-1999.  Good News: That is where I had my first onscreen kiss.  Bad News: It was with John Lithgow.  But it was official: I was now a real working actor in Hollywood.

After all of your years on the road as a stand up, what would you consider to be some of your favorite cities to perform in, that others may not realize are amazing places for comedy?

I loved Chicago, especially Zanies and The Improv. I always had a great time in Baltimore at Slapstix and Garvin’s in Washington D.C. (where 16 year old Dave Chappelle opened for me). Des Moines Spaghetti Works was a fun room and The Funny Bone in Columbus, Ohio. I had some great shows in my hometown of Cincinnati but also some of my worst ones as. You are never a prophet in your homeland! Best kept secret: Ogden, Utah.

Last year you appeared in the absolutely brilliant film Battle of the Sexes. What was it like to work on such a unique and brilliant story? Where you already well versed in that infamous match?

I am old enough to have seen the Battle of The Sexes match live on TV as a young’n. In the movie, I played Roone Arledge but was actually ten years older than the ABC Sports President was when the match took place. I owe it all to Oil of Olay.

I had a cool experience on set. I was chatting with Emma Stone on a break between scenes.

Me: Where are you from?
Emma:  Scottsdale.  You?
Me: Cincinnati.
Emma:  My parents grew up in Columbus.  They went to Miami.
Me:  I went to Miami.  What year did your folks graduate?
Emma: 1982.
Me:  I graduated in 1986.  Were they in a fraternity or sorority?
Emma:  My mom was a DG.

I texted my buddy whose wife Margaret was a DG. We came back from lunch an hour later.

Me: Emma, the world just got smaller.  I went to school with your Aunt Karin.  She was housemates with my friends Margaret and Katy.  She dated my friend Roger.
Emma: No way!! How do you spell your name? (As she pulled out her phone to text Karin).

I know it was only one episode, on one of the many television programs you have been on, but I always ask every guest we have had on here who even remotely appeared in one of my favorite television shows of all time how their experience was…..that show is Becker! In 2002 you appeared in this brilliant Ted Danson vehicle that I still consider one of the greats. So, what do you recollect about when it comes to working on this damn fine program?

Ted Danson is really down to earth. He’s just another actor on the set. One of the things I really liked about Ted: He wanted to change the order of my line and his at the beginning of our second scene. He asked me if that it be okay. I said, “Sure.” He asked the director Gail Mancuso who said yes. Then he came back and told me we were going to do it the new way.

I asked him if it was difficult to do a new show every week after 20 years of it. He said that Becker is harder because that’s much different than how he usually speaks. Becker talks much faster.

We taped in front of an audience on Wednesday night. My scene was second up. After Ted finished the first scene, he came over and sat in our doctor office set and said, “Do you want to run lines?” I said, “Yeah, sure!”. That was so cool and helped focusing me.

My mom was a big fan of the show. During the week, I got a photo with Ted. He had his arm around my shoulder. I had it blown up into an 8×10 and asked him to autograph it for my mom for her birthday. He wrote, “It was nice to work with your son. Happy Birthday, Ted Danson” That was very thoughtful of him. My mom had it hanging on her wall in the nursing home until she passed away.

When you look back on your illustrious career as an entertainer, what would you say you are most proud of?

I’m glad that I created several hours of stand-up and sketch comedy that didn’t exist before I thought of it. I like that comedy lightens peoples’ loads. I remember doing a sketch show here in LA at The Acme Comedy Theatre the weekend after 9/11. People needed a laugh and we had a great show. It’s a blessing to be able to make people laugh.

When you are not appearing on just about every damn show on television, or working on something else in the creative world, what would we find you doing to enjoy a little bit of “me time”?

I enjoy playing poker in several competitive leagues around town. Some of us make the annual trek to Las Vegas in the summer for the World Series of Poker. My best finish was in 2015 when I made it into Day Three of The Colossus event. There were 22,374 entrants. I placed 369th.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I keep creating content on my personal finance website ChipsMoneyTips.com. That’s where I give money tips a candy-coated shell. It’s free to subscribe!

Showbiz-wise, I just shot an episode of ABC’s new sitcom The Kids Are Alright in which I play Bob Parson the town pharmacist. I also did an episode of the new CBS sitcom FAM in which I had a fun part as a race track announcer. I also lend my pear-shaped dulcet tones to the animated Dragon’s Rescue Rangers.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Norm MacDonald has a show on Netflix. He’s very funny. I also went on a YouTube bender with Norm as well as Bill Burr while I was doing stuff at my desk. Those guys are funny!

Stay in touch with what Chip is up to at chipchinery.com.

Paris Themmen [Interview]

Hello Folks! We have a very exciting interview to share with you all on this wonderful Wednesday. Today we have some words from a man who was once a part of one of the most special cinematic experiences the world has ever known. That man is actor & so many more things, Paris Themmen. You may remember him as one Mike Teevee, one of the “lucky” kids who found the well sought after golden ticketing the legendary film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

Themmen has had a wonderful career beyond the world of Wonka, and also has done a fantastic job at keeping the wonder and excitement of this almost 5 year old treasure of a film alive and well with all of us. Regular readers here at Trainwreck’d Society, just by all means be regular listeners to one of our affiliated podcasts, Super Geeky Play Date, and should know that some great questions are coming up for Paris. SGPD has been notorious for diving hard into the theory that Grandpa Joe is actually the most evil character of the film. So with that, we were curious to see what a person who was actually there during the making of the Roald Dahl adaptation. Also Paris is renowned traveller in his own right, and we were equally as excited to ask him about that.

So, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Paris Themmen!

You got into the world of acting at a very young age. What compelled you to do so? And how was your experience as a child actor during the 60’s and 70’s? And what was the very first gig you remember getting? How old were you, and was there anything from that early experience that you learned from that experience that as continued to bleed into the rest of your work?

My parents were both classical musicians: my dad was a conductor and a clarinetist for many years at American ballet Theatre and my mom was a composer and a pianist. She was honored at the Kennedy Center one year. At times they would play Broadway shows. My mother brought my older sister into a talent agent one day and I went just along for the ride but the agent asked if I wanted to try acting as well, I was six years old. I booked the first commercial I went up for, Jiff peanut butter. I kept booking commercials, eventually doing about two dozen of them. When I was eight I was on Broadway in Mame with Ann Miller. My mom would travel around the city with me for auditions and work on lines with me. I would show up at these big office buildings with my portfolio, I think the ad guys were surprised to see me acting so professional at such a young age.

I built up a reputation around the city and when the auditions occurred for Willy Wonka I was one of the few kids in town called in. After Willy Wonka I was on Broadway in the Rothschilds. I was attending the Professional Children’s School and had to leave early on Wednesdays to go to a matinee. I would ride the buses and subways for eight shows a week. It made me very independent.

And as I am sure you are asked regularly and maybe getting tired of it, but it behooves us to ask about your experience on the set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. My specific question is what catering would be like on a set based around candy? Also how was your experience overall?

We shot Willy Wonka in Munich Germany in late 1970. Oktoberfest occurred around that time where I saw a baby drinking beer from a bottle. Also they were setting up the ‘72 Olympics. There was definitely candy on set. One of the sponsors for the film was Quaker Oats. Although there was beautiful European chocolate nearby, the chocolate bars were made by Hershey and flown in from the states. There were food stylists on set to turn candy into interesting concoctions; my favorite was the “gum” that Violet ate, it was actually a rather tasty toffee. Our actual meals were eaten at a canteen at the Bavarian Filmworks studios where the movie was shot. Other movies shot there include Cabaret, Das boot, Never ending story, etc. I remember particularly liking Wienerschnitzel. Overall the experience was excellent, if you are ever going to be an 11-year-old in a film, I recommend that it be Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

As an obvious expert, I was hoping you may be able to help me out with this: My friends at the podcast Super Geeky Play Date are obsessed with the online theory that Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is a sort of whimsical take on the 7 Deadly Sins. Now, I know you were but a child working on the film, but was this ever discussed? Is this real?

Certainly I have heard this theory along with endless other theories that the Internet hive mind presents. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a cautionary tale, the children each have a tragic flaw and they pay a price directly related to that flaw. I recently read an online article about Dante’s Inferno and Willy Wonka recently, that one seems closer to the mark than seven deadly sins. But it’s all the same stuff, from slightly different angles. Scratch the surface and you will find online references to Grandpa Joe as the villain and his alleged coke nails. People come up with these theories and then run with them. It’s a blessing and a curse: see covfefe.

I was a kid so I wouldn’t have been a party to those conversations but Mel Stuart, Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson were very bright guys so I’m sure the theme  of sin and retribution was not lost on them.

One other argument you may be able to settle: Is Grandpa Joe the real antagonist of the film? Was it odd that he was lying in bed eating cabbage soup all day, and suddenly he walks just fine when there is something to be gained?

I just covered this a bit but in my opinion the theory is over wrought. I think he’s a good man, although more flawed than Charlie due to his being an adult. That’s why Wonka needed a child.

You have worked in just about every aspect of the world of film, television, and the theatre, both in front of the camera/audience and behind the scenes. With that in mind, which aspect of the world of entertainment have you enjoy the most?

I’ve had the most fun acting, but I wish I had spent more time writing or directing.

I understand you are quite the renowned traveler, even working in the world of travel agencies for a while. I’ve been living outside the states for the last 6 years as well, and try to travel as much as I can. One thing I am always curious to know is this: What was one place that you were completely surprised to have enjoyed visiting? Maybe somewhere you were sort of indifferent about going to, and it turned out to be one of your favorite destinations?

Interesting question. I have had a ton of amazing experiences on the road but almost all of them were in a sense, expected by me. I’m a planner. Lonely planet guide was always there to help me decide where to go. I also find that almost every country has some amazing things to offer. Here are two tidbits that might qualify: I was traveling to New Zealand once and while at a youth hostel, I signed up for some horseback riding on a ranch. As it turned out, I was the only person that signed up so I got to spend a week with a herd of horses, and the two lovely people that run the ranch. Every morning we would ride, then break for lunch, then would ride again until sunset. I had the whole place to myself. In 2006 and 07 I traveled for an entire year. I was in Zanzabar and torn as to whether I should continue down towards South America or head north and begin a swing up through Europe and eventually home. I’ll always wonder what I missed by not turning south but one unexpected benefit of turning north was a visit to a place called Jinja, Ethiopia. It was by far the most culturally primitive place I’ve ever been. Completely tribal. It took me days and days to get there but so worth it.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

My standard plug these days is for:

Wonkapops.com

That’s the website I run where I sell funko pop vinyls, pictures, posters and replica props signed by me and the other cast members from Willy Wonka.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’m smiling right now as I pet one of my two British shorthaired cats, Winston. Soon my wife will be home. I smile a lot.