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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.

Aug 31, 2016

Brett Netson is a cheery and intense guy. He's got an easy smile and open personality, and quite a musical legacy. He's been a sideman with Built to Spill and Earth and led the 90s heavy psychedelic group Caustic Resin. On September 9, he'll release Caustic Resin's 1998 album The Medicine Is All Gone on vinyl for the first time. The album was a turning point in that band's history. The songwriting was tighter, the sound more fully realized. "We just tried to go as deep into our own heavy trip as we possibly could," said Netson.

That was Caustic Resin's attitude. "We tried to kill it every time," says Netson. "We weren't fucking around." The goal was to put their full selves into every song, every album, and every show. You can feel that on the records they made. "I don't care about money or being famous or girls," Netson says. "That's what Caustic Resin was about. Like, we want to a serious fucking show for everybody."

That led to band members were pushing themselves to the brink with drug abuse. It cost Netson, in terms of felony charges and personal crisis, and he spoke very plainly about it in this interview. "You get told you're a fucking monster and you just kind of believe it," he says. 

The conditions weren't perfect for the interview. We spoke a couple of rooms over from the main room at Boston's Paradise Rock Club, where Netson was playing with Earth that evening opening up for Japanese doom metal band Boris. We had a choice - work through Boris's soundcheck or sit in 90-plus degree weather in the van. It gets loud. But then, that's part of what the conversation was about it in the first place.

Stay tuned after the conversation for a new track from comedian Dan Crohn's great new album, It's Enough Already.