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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.

Jun 3, 2020

Welcome back to the Department of Tangents Podcast, a special new episode with Paul Hansen of The Grownup Noise. You may have noticed I haven’t done an official episode of the Department of Tangents in several months. More recently, I’ve been doing the Artist Check-In Podcast which focuses on how creative people are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. That series has a very particular focus, and this episode didn’t quite fit that. Paul and I have been friends for nearly 30 years. I was the drummer in one of his first bands when he was in high school, and it has been amazing to see where he has gone since we were playing Aerosmith, Joe Walsh, and Eric Clapton covers at high school dances.

Paul is the songwriter at the center of The Grownup Noise, a beloved and hard to characterize indie rock outfit in Boston. Over the years, the band line-up has changed, but Paul has always been out front with his guitar and voice. This week, on June fifth, Paul is putting out a new Grownup Noise with a very new sound. The music was mostly constructed on an analogue synth, rather than Paul’s guitar. If you’re a fan, you’ll notice the difference in sound immediately. But you may also notice that, while Paul is challenging himself as a songwriter, this is still very much a Grownup Noise album.

In this conversation, we cover writing and recording the new album, working with a new instrument, the decision to keep using the Grownup Noise name, and some of our own history. Much of this is focused on the music, but this is very much a conversation between old friends who know each other well. Which means the very first thing you hear is Paul asking me about my own process for writing fiction. I debated cutting the stuff where Paul asked me about my own work, but I think that also shows Paul’s generosity and curiosity as an artist and a human being.

You will hear three songs from the album sprinkled through the conversation. You can look for the full thing Friday, June 5th on BandCamp, and look for more info on www.thegrownupnoise.com and search for The Grownup Noise on all your social media.