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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.

Oct 27, 2017

For the past several years, David Ramirez has been traveling around the country with an acoustic guitar, pouring his heart into his fine, passionate tunes. He’s mostly been doing that alone, with no band to back him, while the arrangements on his albums have grown both more subtle and more expansive. On his new album, We’re Not Going Anywhere, the follow-up to his 2015 breakthrough Fables, his sound has taken another new turn. Ramirez is backed by a full band, and brings in earthy-sounding synths and chiming guitars, an almost nostalgic 80s vocabulary of instrumentation to bounce off his often-elegiac songwriting. “People Call Who They Want To Talk To” sounds like Rodney Crowell writing the theme song for a John Hughes movie. “Time” is a rhythmic patchwork of mournful pedal steel and a bubbling synth that could have been sampled from a Howard Jones album.

It would be difficult to tour with this album alone, and when I caught up with Ramirez before a recent show at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, Ma, he was glad he didn’t have to. As you’ll hear in the beginning of this interview, he’s happy to round out the live sound on the current tour, but he’s also thrilled just to have some company. Ramirez was relaxed and engaging when we sat down to talk. He doesn’t raise his voice much, but he’s quick with a smile. The new album is personal and political, and we talked about the inspirations for songs like “Stone Age,” “Twins,” and “Eliza Jane,” and about how he came to be that lone road warrior troubadour. If you haven’t heard his stuff, head over to his site or to iTunes to pick it up, and come back to this podcast once you’ve ingested it. You won’t regret it.

Also in this edition, I debut a new feature, doing the “New Release Round-Up” at the top of the show, detailing some of the best stuff coming out this week in comedy, music, and horror. I attended the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival over the weekend and came back with a couple of things to tell you about. And as with every episode a new track after the conversation. This week it’s comedy from Dana Gould, from his new album, Mr. Funny Man. I’ll be speaking with Gould for WBUR Boston’s ARTery site about the new album and season two of Stan Against Evil, so look for that on their site soon.