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The Department of Tangents Podcast


Years ago, playing a sort of improv game with friends in which we all picked super powers based on our personalities, I dubbed myself “Tangent Lad.” I was not a very strong superhero, and I could not defeat a super villain on my own, but I could distract them with Monty Python quotes and football trivia. I have many times since apologized to an interview subject in my capacity as a journalist by saying, “I am either very good or very bad at tangents, depending on how you feel about tangents.”

I had a rough time coming up with the concept and naming this blog/podcast. I knew I wanted to create a place where I could address things I’m passionate about – comedy, music, and horror. Finding a name that communicated all three of those things proved a bit impossible. I bugged my friends, and they all tried to help. To no avail. Then I thought, maybe I’m approaching this from the wrong angle. Maybe my lack of focus should be the focus.

As a journalist, I have written for The Boston Globe since 2000, starting out writing CD reviews and then writing a regular column on comedy for seven and a half years. I still contribute there, and to Kirkus Reviews, and other publications. I’m also a musician, and released my debut full-length album, Blue Skies and Broken Arrows, in March of 2015. And I’ve been publishing short horror fiction for a couple of years.

I like to climb into things I love and see how they operate. That’s what the Department of Tangents is for. I’ll be writing regular features, essays, and news bits about the big three – comedy, music, and horror – and offering clips from people I’ve taped interviews with over the past nearly twenty years of writing. Some of the best parts of the interviews I’ve done have been completely off-point and inappropriate for print. I’ll get to explore more of that here. I’m also hoping to convince some friends to tell me about the things they love that I might not even know about, and pass that along to you.

The DoT podcast might be short or long, depending on where the conversation leads. You cant purposefully create an interesting tangent in conversation – it has to happen naturally. But I can confidently forecast that there will be moments in the individual podcasts where things veer off wonderfully.

The main thing here is love. To write about the things that make I’ve loved forever, and some new things that might stand the test and be around, at least for me, for decades to come. I’ve had to be critical in my writing at times, and it might not all be nonstop roses here, but in the end, what I really want to talk about is the good stuff. That’s why I will regularly write about things I think are “Perfect,” even if someone can demonstrate empirically that they are flawed. Still perfect to me.

Also, fish.

I hope you, dear anonymous surfer person, will come to expect only the highest-quality, free-range, grass-fed tangents. And I hope some of you love the same things I do and find it useful. Or at least a welcome distraction until the others get here.

Feb 1, 2018

I first became aware of Matt York’s music when he released his Americana album Boston, Texas in 2016. I also write and play music, and we had a few friends in common. We played on a couple of bills together, and I got to know a bit more of his history, how he had been part of Boston’s rock scene years before and had quit for a while until he got the bug again. He released a new album, Between the Bars, in 2017, and it felt like a good time to catch up and explore that history on the mics.

His hiatus is something that interests me – how does the artist define their art, and how does it define them? What does it do to someone to be away from their creativity? I explored that a bit in EP35 with comedian Billy D Washington last year. We talked about that, and about how a relatively settled and happy guy writes a full album about loneliness and heartbreak in which most of the action takes places in a variety of bars.

The new album has a lot of different sounds – I hear everything from Built to Spill to Billy Joel. That leads us to Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, the Pixies, Steve Earle, and all over the map. York is also a huge comedy fan, and we have a discussion toward the end of the podcast about how the music and comedy scenes in Boston compare. You can find out more about York at MattYorkMusic.com.

As always, we have a featured track of the week after the conversation. This week, it’s a song from Prateek called “Emma.” It is his latest single, and was recently featured on Vanyaland: Music & Beyond. Prateek is a fantastic writer and performer, and you’ll definitely be hearing more from him. You can find out more about him at PrateekSongs.com.