Sunday, May 4, 2014

9 QUESTIONS WITH TIMOTHY TRUMAN - and the eagerly awaited return of SCOUT

I've been on a recent comics kick, because my father gave me a few thousand more of his collection.  In my bliss of swimming through comics (almost literally), I was reminiscing about how much I love the work of Timothy Truman, particularly in Scout and Turok.  I spontaneously decided to try to contact him  for an interview.  To my surprise, he was willing to answer all of my questions with spectacularly thorough responses.  What a cool guy!!  He mentions many artists that I know nothing about.  We all have some research to do!  Read on.    

1)  Who are your inspirations?  Did one particular individual make you desire a career in art?

TT:  Many folks have inspired me over the years. For writing, comics writers Don McGregor, Doug Moensch, Al Feldstein, and Archie Goodwin were early influences. A lot of my writing inspirations were novelists, though: Robert E. Howard (of course!), Samuel Delaney, Lin Cater, Michael Moorcock, my pal George R. R. Martin, Fritz Leiber, John Jakes, and an adventure writer named Robert F. Jones. Lately I've been reading a lot of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Lyricists like Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Lowell George, Robert Hunter and  Darrell Scott have also been big influences on my writing, too, believe it or not.  Artwise, early influences were Sam Galnzman, his brother Lou Glanzman (illustrator), Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben, Paul Neary , Tom Sutton, Pat Boyette, Joe Kubert, Steranko, Paul Gulacy, Michael Golden, Walt Simonson, John Severin, Russ Heath, Frank Thorne, Jim Starlin, Mike Kaluta, Jeff Jones, Bernie Wrightson, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Barry Smith, and Jack Kirby, to name a few of the earliest and most formative. The underground artists had a huge impact on me, mainly Greg Irons, Rick Griffin, Rand Holmes and Spain Rodriguez. Guys I've worked with have been big inspirations-- John Ostrander, Joe R. Lansdale, illustrator Keith Parkinson, Quique Alcatena, Tom Yeates, Steve Bissette, John Totleben and Rick Veitch.  I learned a lot working with them or watching them work. There are also a lot of movie director influences in there-- Walter Hill, Sergio Leone, and Robert Aldrich, especially. A lot of Hammer films and B-movies, too. 

For the past twenty or thirty years my comic art influences have been mostly European: Mobius, Alberto Giolitti, Hermann, and Victor De La Fuente were biggies. My two favorite current  artists are  two European guys, Alfonso Font and Corrado Mastantuono. Their work is absolutely awesome. I pull their stuff out a lot when I need a jolt of inspiration. It's like drinking coffee. They get me going. 

The guys who made me realize that I could make a career of this were my high school art teacher, Glenn Toler, and of course Joe Kubert and instructor John Belfi when I was attending the Kubert School. 

2)  You often work with Native American characters, is there any particular reason for this?  Are you a Native history buff?

TT:  I've always been interested in Native American culture and history. A lot of it might stem from the fact that my great grandmother was full blooded Cherokee. When I was a little boy, I used to hang out a lot with my grandfather and though I didn't realize it at the time he taught me a lot of things that I now know he must have learned from his mother. But when I was young watching cowboy flicks,  the "Indians" were always far more interesting to me than the cowpokes. As I got older, I started do a lot of research into Native cultures. It's just an interest that's always been a part of me, for whatever reason. When I started weaving that interest into my work with Scout, Wilderness and whatever, I just wanted to be sure I did things as accurately as possible. My goal has always been to depict Native peoples and their cultures respectfully but not patronizingly. 

3)  I heard a rumor that you are currently working on new Scout material.  Is there any validity to this?  

My Favorite Issue of
Scout: War Shaman
TT:  Yes, my son Ben and I are currently working on a new Scout arc, Scout: Marauder. It's the story of Scout's two sons, Victorio and Tahzey, who were separated after the death of Scout in Scout: War Shaman. the story occurs about a decade later, after the boys have grown up. It's how they get together and become a family again. A publisher asked us to work up a pitch and it seemed like the right time for new Scout material. I'm really excited about it. We're co-writing the story and Ben is writing the script. I'm doing the art. Ben was the original model for Tahzey, all those years ago, so doing the book with him has sort of brought things full circle. We'll see if the publisher likes it and what sort of deal he can offer.  If it doesn't work out, we'll shop it around.  I really want to do the story. 

4)  Do you enjoy modern comics?  If yes, could you name a few?

TT:  I love Geof Darrow's work, He's an amazing artist and great friend. I love Zach Howard's work, too. Mike Mignola. The FUBAR books. If Mark Schutz puts anything out, I'm there. My pal Tom Yeates just adapted a Louis L'Amour story in graphic novel form and it's amazing. A friend just sent me the Barbarian Lord comics, which are a hoot. However, there's not much that I follow regularly, sad to say. The last things I picked up were a bunch of European Tex graphic novels by Alphonso Font and Corrado Mastantuono, whom I mentioned above. Can't get enough of their work.

5)  You have had a lengthy career in art.  How do you manage to find continuous inspiration for new material?

TT:  Well, the mortgage helps. However, I always try to pick and choose the stuff I do. It has to be something that lights a fire under my ass. As far as staying inspired goes, I've learned you can't call it down when you want to. You can't whistle to it like a dog and expect it to come. Or to use a better metaphor that I coined, "Ideas are like rabbits. The harder you chase them, the father they run." Inspirations or the ideas for stories tend to come to me when I'm least expecting it. Something will hit me and I have to go with it. 

6)  What was your favorite comic that you have worked on and why?  

TT:  My favorite so far has probably been the last thing I did with my son, A Man Named Hawken. It was woefully under-publicized, which is heartbreaking, but I think that issue 1 is the absolute best art I ever did. And working with my son Ben, who scripted it, was really fantastic. I think that the Scout: Marauder project will be even better. We just want to demand from the publisher that they make sure to give it some promo, so that folks know it's out there. 

7)  Do you have any advice for aspiring artists (not necessarily in the field of comics)?

TT:  Just to stay true to your muse. Accept ideas and input, but don't let anyone talk you out of any path you want to take. Another thing I'd advise is to get into using reference-- stuff from the real world. You never know when a thing that you took time to learn something about will end up being a key to a project somewhere along the way. For instance, my studies of desert people and Southwestern Native culture was invaluable when I did the Tusken Raiders stories for Dark Horse's  Star Wars comic. There have been countless times when some point of obscure historical or cultural research that I've done has come into play for some piece of art or some story that I'm doing. So don't be afraid of doing research.  

8)  You also have a strong interest in music.  Is there anything that you wish to say on this subject?

TT:  It's a part of my life, just like drawing, writing, or breathing. I have to do it. Sometimes I'll get busy with a project and  play less guitar or record less music than I'd like to, but I always come back to it. and as I  said above, the music I listen to has always informed my art. 

9)  Any additional random comments/thoughts/concerns/opinions for your fans?

TT:  Just thanks for following my work over the years. You don't know how much it means to me. The best is yet to come. I feel my drawing, especially, has gotten infinitely better over the last 10 years or so. Still so much to learn, though! 

For more information on Timothy Truman you can visit his official website here:
http://www.ttruman.com/

-Orenda

Monday, April 28, 2014

LINDSAY DRAGAN - Be Good To Yourself

Funny story.  The first blog post for "Music and Philosophy" was meant to be for Hot Corners by Lindsay Dragan.  I started writing it, and I just couldn't seem to find my voice as a writer back then.  What I wrote was boring.  I could not let Lindsay's wonderful music be described with such uninspiring words.  Actually, I just pulled up the unfinished file and found one part that wasn't so bad:

"Looking To Fall" opens up with some grungy power chords that lay the ground for some nasty vocals (in a good way).  They sound like Courtney Love, but with a personality that does not make people run in terror.  
Be Good To Yourself

That was the best I could muster.  Now, Dragan is releasing Be Good To Yourself - a full length album!!  "I says:  Hey Lindsay, let me write some letters for you.  I can do hundreds."  She was impressed.  I received an advanced listen based on this skill.  

One of my favorite experiences as a music-listener is hearing how an individual has progressed over the years.  My first LD experience was when I saw the Meridians perform in Pittsburgh a few times circa 2008.  Lindsay was on lead vocals and guitar.  I remember being mesmerized at how cool she was on stage.  She had a god-like presence as a true-born rocker.  I had closed-minded music taste at the time, so I was indifferent towards their songs, but I became a Lindsay fan for life.  She startled me during some Korg Electribe knob-tweaking in the University of Pittsburgh’s Music Building  one day, and we stayed in touch.  I followed her solo Hot Corners release and was anxious to see how her sound would develop. 

Be Good To Yourself is a testament to the timelessness of artistic influence.  Dragan, like me, is primarily derived from pre-contemporal (not a word) musicians.  I hear the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s in her music, but with a modern human intellect arbitrating the interactions of sound.  This is not your brother’s scene kid.  This is a real musician.  I believe that authenticity cannot be faked in a vocal recording.  The details of Dragan’s voice tell the honest story of her life.  Listen closely.  

Los Angeles is one of the grooviest tracks on the record.  It has an undeniably cool and catchy melody that sounds like a synthesizer, but also could be an extra crazy guitar effect (sounds a bit like some of the synth-guitar pedals available).  The world may never know.  At any rate, there are definitely some synthesizers on this album, such as in Distance and the Rain - a heavily emotional piece.  My favorite song has to be Leave A Way Out.  The guitar work is phenomenal.  This song tastes like whiskey, particularly when pronounced by Andy Samberg.    

Also, I love how additional listens can completely change how you experience music.  Upon my first listen of BGTY, I was like "hmmm not sure what to make of this."  I was immersed in feelings of love on my second listen.  I have always noticed that the second listen of a musical work tends to be the best.  The 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. tend to be really good and then it will start to taper off.  Although, sometimes a random listen hits you hard.  The Things You Said by Depeche mode can still give me amazing chills on random listens when I have already heard it over 100 times.  I will leave with these parting words:  Listen to New Music!  If you do not enjoy it, listen again!  If you hate it, listen 20 times!!!  You just may find that it is the best album ever made alike to the infamous story of Matt Groening and Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica.  Music is good.  Really good.  Thank you, Lindsay.

-Orenda     

Dragan on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/pages/Erin-Lindsay-Dragan/113720610189
Dragan’s Official Website: http://www.lindsaydragan.com/

Monday, April 21, 2014

SHOW ME ON THE DOLL - The New Frontier and the Wagon Wheel

Show Me On The Doll?  What does that mean?  You'll be all like "whooooaa" when it clicks.  Anyway, I decided to reach out to the community and offer my pen for anyone that responded.  The first message that I received was from an engaging band known  as Show Me On The Doll.  I had to travel out to Smyrna, Delaware to see them, so I grabbed my cowboy hat and shoved myself in the Oliver Queen (yes, this is the name of my car if you haven't picked up on that from previous articles).  

I rolled up around a quarter after 9, because that's how I roll... in the up position.  The venue was a hot little place called the Wagon Wheel.  I sensed good energy outside and even better when I entered.  Everyone sort of stared me up, and several attendees complemented my particular look.  I suppose I often forget that I have greatly evolved from my unfashionable teenage days.  The SMOTD guys were chilling in a corner booth and motioned me over.  A few minutes later we all stepped outside and began to talk the talk (the one with the words).  

Introducing The Band:
Fatz Hawkins-Bitch - Keyboards, Drums, Vocals 
Jabo 4D - Lead Vocals, Bass
Urge - Guitar, Keys, Vocals
J.P. ("sneaks into the band sometimes") - Primarily on Drums

"New Frontier Type Noise" was the label they preferred as a self-descriptor.  What's the saying?  "If it's good enough for DC, it's good enough for me."  I asked them what their goals were with composition and/or live performance.  They said they wanted to open the minds of their audience, and they also said something or other about creating "New Life" (Depeche Mode anyone?).  The last critical point of this conversation was when Urge asked me why I wanted to write about them.  I said "Because I love local music."  They all kind of looked at me like an alien for a second.  Usually, bands react very positively to this statement.  Later, I noticed (on the F Book) that they had t-shirts made that say "FUCK LOCAL MUSIC."  I found this to be quite hilarious.  I think the point was, not enough bands venture into new soundscapes.  This is what SMOTD was interested in.  In a sense -  "fuck normal bands."  I like to support all musicians, but part of me... totally fucking agrees!  

Divider - at some point Urge and I started talking about comics, and he teased me a bit for Jim Lee being my favorite artist.  

When the music began, I was a little surprised at how talented these guys were.  Jabo 4D was an amazing bass player and a smooth vocalist.  Urge had some rockin' ass guitar licks (but no ass lickin' involved).  Fatz gave the music a hell of a lot of personality on his varying methods of keyboard playing.  J.P. provided a strong backbone to the New Frontier sound that we were all experiencing.  This was good.  This was really good.  Better than damn fine cherry pie.  Their music was hip hop, but it was rock and roll and funk and more than that.  It was new, fresh, and hoTT with capital T appearing twice.  SMOTD received the official Orenda stamp of approval.  Good job!

They were nearly finished with their album, Coffee Cup, at this time, and they sent it to me shortly afterwards.  It was a fantastic listen in the fact that every song sounded like it's own person.  It wasn't like some boring rock band where every song has the exact same format/formula.  As I opened each sound file, I felt like I was opening a gift-wrapped present that could have anything inside.  Above all else, I give SMOTD major points for being a band with character.    

At the end of the night, Urge introduced me to Jessica Furman, the manager of the Wagon Wheel.  She told me her sentimental story about doing her best to promote her family's venue to keep it alive.  Most astonishingly, one of her marketing points was to emphasize ORIGINAL music at her establishment.  This was the best thing I've ever heard (aside from the exchange in the film Clerks that ends with the line: "In a row"?).  Jessica, I commend you.   She greatly encouraged me to return during the week for open mic night.  I was like - "I live all the way in Newark" but she said she also lived nearby in Bear, Delaware.  Urge chimed in - "Yeah man, your argument is shit, because she travels down from an animal"!  We all finished the night with some laughs, and Urge walked away.  I turned around and said "Wait!  Jim Lee is DOPE!" and went out the door.  

-Orenda

Show Me On The Doll on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/ShowMeOnTheDoll

Monday, March 10, 2014

THE GREAT SOCIO - and Music as Transformation

The Great Socio.  Other words.  The end.  Ohhh wait, I will fill in the gaps too!  The Great Socio are a Philadelphia-based group that originated in the Lehigh Valley.  Their most peculiar feature is that they are a rock band with no guitar player.  This gives adequate room for the other instruments to breathe (like practicing Tai Chi on stage!).  What instruments?  I am glad that you asked, imaginary friend.  We have Monty on the synthesizer, Alberto on that vocal thing and trumpet, Craig on bass guitar, and some other dude on drums (his name is Drew).  In a serious manner, I would like to use TGS as an example of how music can act as transformation in order to change lives.  

Soooos, I walk into the World Cafe Live in Wilmington, Delaware last Friday and I ask the guy if any Socios were playing tonight.  “Why yes actually!  The GREAT one”  he replied.  Disbelieving in a spiritual connexion to coincidences, I said “One ticket please!”.  The event at hand was called the Homey Awards and this was the 8th annual gathering.  It seemed to be a means of recognizing semi-undiscovered regional talent.  I arrived rather late, and The Great Socio had already won best rock song for Modern Grip.  I thought to myself, what a liberal political structure this must be in order to allow a non-guitar band to win best rock song.  Happiness was for me in this thought.  They also won best Live Act shortly before taking the stage.  Talk about pressure!  G’luck!  

Let me rewind.  Although, I do not need your permission.  I’m an adult!  I have seen TGS perform 3 times prior to this night.  My reaction has always hovered around:  “These guys are talented and put a lot of effort into what they do, but I’m not in love with any of their songs.”  Bass Man Craig had told me that people adore them when they perform for large audiences in Philadelphia, and this resulted in having a good many die-hard fans.  But Craig, I mean, statistically there’s going to be several Bruce Willis fans in large groups of people.  He said I wasn’t getting the point.  I said he wasn’t.  We probably met in the middle with mutual confusion.  To sum up all the historical data, I thought TGS have always been fun, talented, and cool guys to hang out with.  I cannot honestly say I felt anything more than that.  Now, Music as Transformation begins.

Socio commenced.  It was like 2 independent exploding things had big enough explosions to reach each other and amplify into a larger exploding conglomerate of fire.  It was hot, to say the least.  Berto was moving his whole body with the music (Orenda approved!), but it did not appear to be choreographed.  That shit was natur-al!  Monty was rockin’ the fuck out on his wall of synths and making noises that Depeche Mode would give a thumbs up to.  Craig’s fingers and face were all like “I’m damn good at bass.”  No rhyme intended.  It was like seeing Optimus Prime as a vehicle and then later seeing him as a robot without observing the gradual change and just having to make a David Hume style Necessary Connexion.  Just for the record, I hate Transformers.  Not a joke.  The Great Socio earned their middle word with this new edifice that stared down on it’s spectators.  

There were 2 main factors that made me love their songs this night.  The first being the way Alberto enunciated his words.  So finite, so perfect, so on-point!  His vocal presentation made their music so damn enjoyable that I was smirking throughout.  Secondly, Monty’s synths were bangin’.  He had such a large number of pieces of gear linked together that I had no idea exactly how he synthesized each timbre.  The synthesizer has been my favorite instrument for as long as I have been a serious musician, and I can honestly say that this man did justice to my people (electronic music community).  Let us not discredit the contributions of Craig and Drew.  They played with incredible precision and gave off great energy as well.  The whole package was an easy sell.  

This was not the same band that I had experienced in the past.  It was illustrated perfectly when they played Criminals.  I never cared for this song when I had attended previous performances.  This round, I got chills.  Chilly chills that I liked, and I hate being cold!  They all delivered.  It was a new energy for a new collection of people.  Quick side note:  Berto threw down his top hat at one point and kicked it.  It flew over the entire audience near the stage and followed an immaculate trajectory to a girl sitting down.  It was executed to such perfection that I couldn’t tell if it was spontaneous or not.  It had to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed at a live show.  The audience was better for it.  We were transforming too.  Lastly I would just like to emphasize the music as transformation concept with two pictures of Monty that I stole from his Facebook (don’t hate me).  Monty - a normal looking dude to Monty - holy fuck that’s a shiny golden god of handsome!  Believe me now?  Catch the Great Socio on their current tour, and also please support their Kickstarter campaign (link below) if you like what they do.  There is only four days left to meet the goal, and they are well deserving.
Monty Before
Monty After
-S.O. out…   

Extra:  Craig is my ex-landlord.  According to Mitch Hedberg, Craig and I will probably build a go-cart in a dream one day.

Links:
The Great Socio on Facebook -www.facebook.com/TheGreatSOCIO