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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.

Mar 3, 2017

This week on the Department of Tangents Podcast, a conversation with Allison Russell and JT Nero of <a href="" target="_blank">Birds of Chicago</a>, plus a preview of comedian <a href="" target="_blank">Jenny Zigrino</a>'s upcoming album, <em>JZ's New Album</em>. I was able to sit down with Birds of Chicago before their February 2 show at <a href="" target="_blank">Cinema Salem</a>, and I got to see how their touring team operates. Russell and Nero are the creative center of the band, and tour with backup musicians and tour manager Suzi Boelter, who keeps everything in order. It really is a touring family, as Russell and Nero are husband and wife and tour with their daughter Ida Maeve (you can hear here towards the end of the conversation here). They were back on tour nine days after finishing recording sessions for their upcoming album, <em>Love In Wartime</em> (no official release date for that yet). They keep a fairly relentless schedule, and do it with good humor. Everyone on the team seemed genuinely happy to be in each other's company.

The show was intimate and spirited. As they were in conversation, Nero showed his sly sense of humor and Russell was effervescent. The set relied heavily on their last album, the Joe Henry-produced Real Midnight, and they also previewed tracks from the upcoming album, including the title track, "Lodestar," and "Baton Rogue." They new one, they told me, is a bit more upbeat than <em>Real Midnight</em>, and was co-produced by Luther Dickinson (Black Crowes, North Mississippi All-Stars). Photos from that show are in the gallery below.

Also on this podcast, comedian Jenny Zigrino tells us what every country song sounds like to her, and imagines Winston Churchill's diaries in a track from JZ's New Album, which is out March 10.