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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.

Nov 25, 2019

I know I have said this podcast is on hiatus for the year, and technically, it is. I’m developing new ideas, both for the Department of Tangents Podcast and some new podcast projects. But, this interview came through after I had made that decision, and it has a bit of a special meaning for me as I get ready to head back to home to Bloomfield, New York for the holidays.

Bloomfield is just outside of Rochester, one of the most hardcore classic rock cities in the nation. Foreigner was a staple on local radio there when I was a young fellow, at least in part because Gramm is from there. And, as I found out in this interview, Gramm still lives there with his family.

The occasion for the interview is the release of a new Foreigner live album, Double Vision: Then & Now, a CD and DVD combo that includes the current line-up of the band plus a reunion of original members Gramm, Mick Jones, Al Greenwood, Dennis Elliott, Ian McDonald, and Rick Wills. The album was released November 15, and I hope you can head out to a local brick and mortar record store to pick it up. If you’re in Rochester, you can try the Record Archive, Bop Shop, or House of Guitars. I just might see you there.

Gramm was supposed to join the band again for some dates, but had to bow out due to illness. He’s fully mended now and hopes to get another chance to do that in 2020. He’s also got some new music of his own, which he says harkens back to his days in Black Sheep, his band before Foreigner. We talked about what it felt like to be onstage with the original members and the current members of the band, and I get to debunk at least one story told to me by a schoolmate from high school about meeting Gramm on the Canandaigua Pier years ago.

Watching the video footage of the show, I was surprised how many of the songs I could sing along with, how many I remember hearing on my old stereo in my room on WCMF, which broadcast from Rochester. And I surprised myself in the interview by how much of a fanboy I became. I was not expecting that reaction from myself. Apparently, though, I’m not alone. Gramm says he gets people telling him stories about how Foreigner’s music fit into their lives through the years. I thank him for his patience.