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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.

Sep 26, 2019

Dave Ross has a fantastic new album out now called <em>The Only Man Who Has Ever Had Sex</em>. You can download it, but if you see him at a show, you can buy a download card with a special flipbook he’s made with some beautiful photos and silliness. It’s Ross’s attempt to give you a little something extra for your participation, which is something he does in his comedy, as well. A few years ago, I reviewed the aptly-titled album Holy Fuck for the comedy review site The Spit Take. It was a who’s who of alternative comedy taped at the recurring show of the same name, curated by Ross. But his new album was my first prolonged exposure to him, and I’m glad for that.

The album captures his love for dumb comedy and his compulsion to try to say something meaningful. He talks about getting high and eating the best fried chicken he’d ever tasted at a gas station in Florida, but he also interrogates extreme masculinity, poking fun at the type of guys what might utter phrases like, “I want to marry violence” and “I wish I could be a truck.” It’s an appealing mix, and there are a lot of lines that make me laugh just remembering them. I was happy to find that Ross was coming to Boston shortly after the album’s release, to a Monday-night show called CitySide Comedy. I caught up with him there to talk about dumb and thoughtful comedy, the influence of punk, and, as we started the interview as he was finishing his supper, kale.

I usually make at least some minor edits to a conversation to make it flow a bit better or cut out some pauses and stammers, but since we have near-constant background noise, the edits would have been noticeable and distracting. So this is the full thing, start to finish.

You can find out more about him on his Web site at <a href="http://davetotheross.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">www.davetotheross.com</a>, and also find him on <a href="https://twitter.com/davetotheross" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/davetotheross/?hl=en" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Instagram</a> under @davetotheross. The new album is called <em>The Only Man Who Has Ever Had Sex</em>, and it’s out on aspecialthing records now, and you can find them at <a href="http://astrecords.virb.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">www.astrecords.com</a>. Thanks also to Sam Ike and Anjan Biswas of CitySide Comedy for bringing Ross to town. If you happen to live in the Boston area, you can find out about the show on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CitySideComedy/?epa=SEARCH_BOX" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Facebook by searching CitySide Comedy</a>.

This week's featured track is an early rehearsal version of “California Uber Alles” by <a href="http://deadkennedys.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Dead Kennedys</a>. A couple of years before their debut album, <em>Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables</em>, punk pioneers Dead Kennedys got together and recorded a rehearsal of a lot of the music that would wind up on that album. That’s being released on September 27 under the name <em>Iguana Studios Rehearsal Tape – San Francisco 1978</em>. Jello Biafra wrote the song about then California governor Jerry Brown, but has said in interviews he softened on Brown a bit once the Reagan era began, and even changed the lyrics to include the line “We’ve got a bigger problem now.” This version is a bit slower and a bit more sinister. The recording is from 1978 and includes the band’s original line-up of Biafra, East Bay Ray and 6025 on guitar, Klaus Flouride on bass, and Ted on drums. It’s a wonderful lo-fi punk slice of mud. There are a few tour dates planned for the beginning of October, but casual fans, if there is such a thing as a casual Dead Kennedys fan, should note the current line-up does not include Biafra. The album is out September 27 on <a href="http://manifesto.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Manifesto Records</a>.