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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.

Jun 21, 2018

Years ago, I reviewed Mark Geary’s album Ghosts for the sadly departed Boston Phoenix. I would pop that CD in my player on occasion, but fell out of touch with his music for a while. Then a couple of months before this interview, I got an instant message from Geary on Facebook that he’d be playing a few miles away. It was around two in the morning, but I got my tickets a few minutes later, and saw a fantastic show at a little place called The Carriage House in Newburyport, Massachusetts. It was wonderful to catch up with Geary and hear his new music.

At the beginning of the conversation, we talk a bit about his recent gigs in Portugal, a place Geary had not played previously. That piqued my curiosity, since Geary is such a talented lyricist and a great storyteller live. I wondered how that would translate in a place where there might be a language barrier. That’s where we start, talking about playing for international audiences.

The circumstances of the Carriage House show led to a conversation about Facebook and Instagram as tools for getting the word out about shows and new music. In the middle of his career, the parameters of promoting yourself as a one-man-traveling-band changed, and while it’s still very hands on, it can feel kind of insincere. We talked about not letting social media get in the way of actually creating art, a difficult proposition when you need to fill a room to keep gigging to even have a place to play your songs for people.

We got into details about his new album The Fool in the latter half of the podcast, how people don’t always catch the humor in his lyrics, and about watching Colin Quinn during his time in New York. For horror fans, there is a bit at the end about the movie A Quiet Place, which Geary had said he was looking forward to seeing when I saw him live. Very slight spoilers in that conversation, if you’re sensitive to that type of thing. If you don’t know Geary, I hope hearing him prods you to check out his music, and if you do know him, this wide-ranging conversation should be a treat.