Father John Misty in 2013


The always-enigmatic Josh Tillman (AKA: Father John Misty) has a new album coming out. So it seemed like a good time to revisit this classic 2013 interview with the goofball and pop star. Please enjoy.

What are you up to today?

I’m making some tea right now. That’s one of the perks of the solo-tour life is having a lot of personal space. It’s actually my first-ever tour on a bus, so I’m just kind of lazing about right now.

Before you used to tour in jets, right?

But now you’ve downgraded to bus level? Yeah, the jets… Actually, have you ever seen that Iron Maiden airplane? The lead guitarist of Iron Maiden is licensed to fly commercial jets, like 747s. One time, I was on a layover in Reykjavik, and I saw it land. It’s got Eddie emblazoned across the whole side of the thing. Incredible. If you’re traveling by jet, your music is dead. It’s dead, banal and popular.

Iron Maiden’s got a beer, too, and I know you’ve got that perfume out…

Nobody is buying that perfume. I gotta put a sex tape on the internet or something. I mean, there’s only a couple hundred bottles of it. With the perfume, though, it’s funny: I will very trepidatiously admit it’s satirical in some respect. But it’s actually, like, a really good perfume. It’s made with these incredible, rare oils, and it’s all natural. But I think people enjoy it more as a satirical commodity than a real commodity. But I regret nothing. I still think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

Do you feel like you put yourself out there and got rejected?

Um, no, certainly not based on the sales. I’m being a little hyperbolic when I say it’s not moving at all. It’s paid for itself; it’s all good. It’s not a money hole or anything. But I will say that, with the perfume, some of the glibness around it I thought was a little unsavory or something. In my mind, it was this really simple thing: I have this friend who makes these small-batch perfumes, and my sense of humor is very subtle. I was just thinking, like, “This is hysterical, but people will also see the merit in this.” I thought there would be a little wink to it.

But I think people ended up interpreting it like a gag or something—this big, gross, tacky gag. Like, [puts on obnoxious voice] “It smells like weed!” I would rather kill myself than put out a weed perfume. No exaggeration. I would rather kill myself than put out a weed-scented perfume. This is the way people think, in these blunt terms. Like, what I should have done was put out a men’s boutique beard maintenance shaving kit with tobacco and scented oils. That’s just not me, though. That’s a little too earnest or something.

Do you really not have friends?

Well, yeah, I think so. Yeah, I have some friends. But not many. I’m 32. When you’re in your 20s, you have friends as a means of survival. You don’t even have to try to have friends. You have a job or you drink at this certain bar and you’re surrounded by this network of other people and it’s good and it’s comforting and et cetera. But there’s just more and more that I wanna do and experience in seclusion than with other people. I can’t explain it. It’s not so much about people; it’s more about me. I haven’t made a conscious decision about that or anything, but I find that the things I want to accomplish require me cultivating some kind of internal silence. If you played “I’m Writing a Novel” for Neil Young, what do you think he’d say? You know, I’ve actually played that song in front of him before—in a really intimate setting. This was years ago, right when I started writing these songs. Half of the set was J. Tillman material and half of the set was the new Father John Misty material. I was opening for his wife in San Francisco at this tiny club that holds maybe 150 people. Neil Young was playing guitar and watching the set from the side of the stage. I have no idea what he thought, but I imagine he must have some objectivity on the fact that he’s considered an inspiration or a prominent figure in the songwriter archetype.

The Fiery Furnaces


Rehearsing My Choir (2005) It’s the opposite of a Christmas present. Today’s indie-rock scene sports some incredible and varied experimental music. Deerhoof’s frenzied squall, Animal Collective’s hippie folk and Lightning Bolt’s noisy, well, noise are a few reasons why rock lovers should realize they’re living in a golden era. And even the straight-ahead rock bands are embracing a special kind of chaos. Did you see Future Islands’ recent performance on Letterman? If not, do yourself a favor, put this magazine down (sorry, editors!), and pull it up on YouTube. Seriously, I’ll wait. It’s thrilling, right? To see someone put themselves out there like that? Experimentation is great. Now is a time when CBGB’s should be embracing these exciting new sounds instead of going broke by letting derivative pop-punkers headline the same stage David Byrne and Joey Ramone stood on at the onset of their careers. Instead of turning the thing into a forgotten museum of a once-special age. Weird rock is a good thing, and the Fiery Furnaces are card-carrying members of this miscreant club. From the oddball pop of Gallowsbird’s Bark (2003) to the space-prog of Blueberry Boat (2004) to EP (2005), Matt and Eleanor Friedberger have to this point gotten better with each release while shoving the proverbial envelope right off the table. More than that, it’s connected with people, clearly a sign that these strange sounds are something we’ve needed, even if we didn’t necessarily have the vocabulary to ask for them previously. And it’s often brash to make an umbrella statement such as “sometimes experimentation goes too far,” but that’s exactly what happened with the Friedberger siblings’ third full-length, Rehearsing My Choir. A theme album of sorts, Rehearsing My Choir is based around the mid-20th century memories of the Friedbergers’ eighty-three-year-old grandmother, Olga Sarantos. Pushing it a step further, Sarantos, in her world-weary speaking voice, handles many of the album’s vocals. Meanwhile, the Friedbergers do their usual – Eleanor even plays her vocals off of her grandmother’s. On paper, it’s a fascinating thought, and no doubt an endearing, delightful familial document that will be cherished and revisited by various Friedbergers for generations to come. Thrilling prospect though it may be, the choice to commercially release this piece is dubious at best. Many of the lyrics are intriguing, almost poetic, but even the most complicated and beautiful poetry wouldn’t stand up over a background of seemingly random and ever-changing music. At times, the accompaniment shows brilliant flourishes of the Furnaces’ back catalogue, but much of it is musical mush with little-to-no vocal melody. Think awkward high school play put to music written for a different awkward high school play. Or, perhaps better yet, grandma talking about her life while the grandkids beat out a rudimentary tune on pots, pans, you know, whatever just lying around the living room. If you’ve listened to “Last Call,” the final, lengthy track off Kanye West’s The College Dropout (or if you’re familiar with hip-hop-album skits in general), you know how this album wears on the ears. The first time through, it’s creative, interesting, even funny. But on repeated listens, each track becomes something to skip through as the longing for the good stuff becomes stronger. Unfortunately for this album, the problem isn’t a skit that can be skipped. It’s not a batch of kids entertaining granny (and vice versa) from which you can escape, into the kitchen, for another beer and a few moments of silence. Matt and Eleanor’s output slowed considerably in the wake of Rehearsing My Choir, which seems telltale of something bigger. Hard to say what that might be, but their recent solo careers seem to suggest that the Fiery Furnaces are on hold for some good time. Who knows, though? Maybe they’ll again strike experimental gold. Until then, we’re left with this ambitious, unlistenable, admirable disappointment.

Three Producers Who are Redefining Cider

PAINful Drinking:

Three Producers Who are Redefining Cider

Austin L. Ray

For too many Americans drinkers, cider has been relegated to the unfortunate territory somewhere between “cloyingly sweet” and “embarrassing to drink.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, much like the craft beer and small-batch spirit worlds, cider is seeing a revolution of sorts. “Today’s drinkers are becoming more and more interested in trying new things, and cider gives them something a little different from your classic beer or wine options,” Angry Orchard’s Ryan Burk says. “When it’s done well, it’s made with high-quality ingredients and intention, and I think that is what drinkers are looking for. It’s our goal to continue to innovate in the cider world, whether that’s with trying different yeast strains, uncommon ingredients, or new techniques. We’re also seeing drinkers start to experiment with hard cider much like they did with craft beer years ago, using cider as an ingredient in cooking, pairing cider with foods and even in mixology, creating some pretty interesting cider cocktails.” Part of the work might be in the hands of makers around the country whose product will help define the future. While acquisitions occur and terminology gets argued, there’s plenty of delicious cider being made all over. Below, we highlight three of the United States’ most exciting producers. Ryan Burk, Angry Orchard Hard Cider Who: Burk grew up in New York, but made his way to Chicago for law school, where the local beer scene convinced him he was pursuing the wrong career. After helping Michigan’s Virtue Cider start up, he left for Angry Orchard where he now leads “innovation efforts and small batch experimentation at a new R&D facility on a historic 60-acre orchard in the Hudson Valley.” Where: Hudson Valley, N.Y. Why his ciders are special: “It really comes down to the high quality ingredients and unique apple blend we use for each of our ciders. For example, our flagship cider, Crisp Apple, took the team nearly 20 years of tinkering and experimenting with recipes until arriving at the perfect pairing. We use a blend of culinary apples and French bittersweet apples from Normandy and Brittany regions of France. They’re bred expressly for cider making and have roots in orchards that have been growing cider apples for centuries. We think it’s an incredibly balanced cider, and gives just the right amount of sweetness and tartness.” Steve Wood, Farnum Hill Ciders Who: Wood started working on his orchard in 1965, started managing it in 1973, and bought it in 1984. “This is where I grew up,” he says. “I’ve pretty much been doing this my whole life.” Where: Lebanon, N.H. Why his ciders are special: “We know how little we know. We’ve been making cider pretty much as long as anybody on a commercial scale. And we feel like neophytes. We live in a constant state of something resembling fear and eager expectation and uncertainty. We know quite a lot of stuff, but we don’t think we know nearly enough. We’re not confident in anything. We don’t feel expert. And in a way, I think our ciders reflect that. Beyond that, they’re chiefly good because we’re growers and we’ve been paying very, very close attention to the fruit we grow, and how it’s grown… When you start getting confident that you’re an expert at something, you’re probably starting to lose your expertise. We still feel like we’re muddling around in a dark closet.” Kevin Zielinkski, E.Z. Orchards Who: “I am from Oregon, and have always lived here,” Zielinkski says. “I live with my wife Vicki on the farm where I was raised, so this may lead you to the conclusion of what I have done for the last 54 years.” Where: Salem, Ore. Why his ciders are special: “The experiences I had of drinking cider before I began my explorations are few, and I did not have an epiphany that caused me to crave cider. I did find in cider a fruit I understand, that is what pulled me toward the method I use, and the stubborn adherence to pre-prohibition and European production history. I have the intention to allow the fruit it’s truest voice in my cider. And attempting this is often thrilling and challenging.”

Classic Pain: What’s the deal with coolships?

Austin L. Ray


It doesn’t look like much Unlike the tall, gleaming fermenters you have likely seen on a brewery tour, the device consists of a simple metal pan, usually longer than it is wide and only a foot or two deep. No one knows exactly where the coolship originated (there is evidence of shallow, uncovered brewing vessels dating back to at least medieval times), but its practical application is clear to anyone who didn’t sleep through physics in high school.


“I would imagine someone was boiling that liquid a millennium ago, adding spices or hops, and they said, ‘Well, it’s not going to ferment until it cools down,’” says Dan Carey, co-owner and brewmaster of Wisconsin’s coolship-rocking New Glarus Brewing. “And then somebody had the bright idea, ‘Let’s increase the surface area by putting it in a pan.’”


As the years went by and technology advanced, coolships as old-fashioned heat exchangers were no longer necessary. Most modern breweries—adopting the cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness mantra you see in most commercial spaces today—eschewed these shallow pans in favor of more modern refrigeration techniques.


But not everyone.


The Belgians realized that, in addition to speeding up the cooling process, these open vessels also exposed wort (the sugary liquid that ferments into beer) to naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria in the atmosphere. While these microorganisms can easily spoil a brew through contamination, they are also capable of producing stunningly complex flavors under the right circumstances. The catch is that you can only control the process so much; mostly, you just have to sit back and let nature take its course.


Cantillon wasn’t first brewery to make spontaneously fermented sour ales, but it may be the best.

It’s hard to pinpoint which brewery first started making spontaneously fermented sour ales, but Cantillon in Brussels is the most commonly cited reference point—both because it’s been around for a while (since 1900), and also because it feels like every U.S. craft brewer interested in wild ales worships at the feet of its tippling, chair-tipping label mascot. Cantillon wasn’t first, but it may be the best.


Jean-Pierre van Roy, Cantillon’s fourth-generation brewer, has owned the Brussels institution since 2011. He says very little has changed in Cantillon’s 114 year history aside from the bottling line, and that time and patience are simply part of the process when it comes to making these carefully crafted sour brews. “We don’t control our fermentation, so some beers could take less than one year to be ready for a blend, and some even two years,” van Roy says. “Patience [is important for brewers considering a coolship] because a brewery has to build its own natural environment, and it takes a lot of time. Love and passion are very important for me, as [they are for] a lot of craft brewers.”


Inspired by forefathers like Cantillon, U.S. breweries have caught coolship fever in recent years. Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, ME is widely cited as the first to set one up for spontaneously fermented sour beers, back in 2008. (Anchor Brewing, it should be noted, has used one for a while, but not to make sours.) Others, like Russian River, Anchorage, New Glarus, and Bluejacket have followed suit in the years since. Their motives vary, from lambic admiration, to a thirst for innovation, to a desire to make beer with a sense of terroir.


Oftentimes, it’s a mix of these and other factors. Denver’s Crooked Stave Artisan Ales was born from a dissertation that owner/brewer Chad Yakobson wrote on a wild yeast called Brettanomyces. (Crooked Stave has a coolship, but hasn’t put it to use yet.) Jester King in Austin, TX incorporates local yeasts from the surrounding Texas Hill Country into its coolship batches. Allagash is experimenting with different blends and aging with cherries and raspberries—a traditional technique used to balance out sourness with natural sweetness from fruit.


These beers, collected under the nebulous umbrella of “American wild ales” by the microbrewing community, are still very much a small niche in an exploding craft scene that for years has been dominated by the arms race to make bigger, hoppier IPAs. But breweries like Boulevard, Surly, The Lost Abbey, and Wicked Weed are taking home Great American Beer Festival medals in various sour-leaning/wild beer categories, and there are more and more events cropping up to celebrate this funky corner of the brew world, like Chicago’s annual Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer and the roving, collaborative bottle-sharing meet-up, Where the Wild Beers Are. All signs point to a continued rise in the production of complex, tart beers in years to come.


In the meantime, the proliferation of coolships around the country is a testament to the mouth-puckering, refreshing appeal of lambics; the maturing craft-beer market, which is looking for a break from hop bombs and imperial stouts; and the enduring influence of old-world breweries like Cantillon. Asked if it’s fulfilling to see this movement happening in the states, van Roy seems pleased, if modest. “Yes, for sure, but I don’t consider it a success for Cantillon itself,” he says. “More as a success for traditional lambic.”

Classic Pain: Gentleman Jesse in 2011

Wash coronary artery disease has been introduced in these findings, possibly secondary to gastric haemodynamics around the healthy ostia and limited diastolic ventricular filling. Another distracting factor had been the scalloped Baclofen online purchase regarding mineral functions in the cores of anal prescription diet pills uk alli slimming plaques, as normative by Candy and coworkers in NewcastleuponTyne.

Austin L. Ray

Jesse Smith is sitting in the Old Fourth Ward’s cozy, Twin Peaks-themed watering hole, Bookhouse Pub, on an unseasonably warm mid-May evening in Atlanta. Tonight, Smith will play a solo gig next door at the Drunken Unicorn as Gentleman Jesse, opening for Ted Leo. But now, he’s discussing the myriad engagements that have him constantly in the weeds.

As the lynchpin of the Douchemaster Records roster, an imprint he’s helped label head Bryan Rackley forge, he’s become something like Atlanta’s garage/punk ambassador. Just before the interview, he was making sure the Memphis rockers of Cheap Time, who opened for Guitar Wolf at Masquerade the night previous, were taken care of at the “band house,” Smith’s home near East Atlanta. Also under the umbrella of his Douchemaster duties—which include his and Rackley’s sussing out talent from all over for regular releases—is the organization and booking of the Atlanta Mess Around, a scrappy EAV music festival that has grown much in its three years.

Following a number of bands Smith played with in his formative years—including legendary Atlanta punks the Carbonas—he released his debut single, “I Don’t Wanna Know,” as Gentleman Jesse on Douchemaster in 2006. The ridiculously catchy power-pop anthem was an Internet sensation, piling up MySpace plays and lighting up certain corners of the ’net with giddy praise. After a couple more singles, Smith followed with his 2008 debut full-length, Introducing Gentleman Jesse and His Men, also on

Douchemaster, its cover an ode to Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model.

“I feel like the songs are better written,” Smith says. “I feel like there’s less filler, but whenever somebody says that, they’re usually wrong and it sucks.”

In the years following his first LP, Smith had his nose broken in Little Five Points—his 2010 “You’ve Got the Wrong Man” single sports a picture of his face shortly after the incident—while trying to chase down a thief who took his girlfriend’s purse. Worse yet, Smith’s friend, Atlanta rocker and scene fixture Bobby Ubangi (born Benjamin Jay Womack) passed away in 2009 after struggles with cancer. Smith went from a songwriter who doesn’t write in the first person, one lacking the requisite drama from which to craft conflict-driven songs, to suddenly experiencing what felt like near-constant drama. “There was so much bullshit, like a rain cloud hanging over the city,” he remembers.

Smith hopes Leaving Atlanta will be released on Douchemaster in the fall. Before that, there will likely be another single, this one on seminal Memphis label Goner. Meanwhile, Smith recently formed Cops with former Carbonas and current GG King frontman Greg King. While it’s a project that may not appeal to every Gentleman Jesse fan, it’s precisely what Smith needs right now. “I’ve never been this pop-focused in my entire musical career,” he explains. “I need something a little ugly. I joke that it’s a grunge band because I use a wah-wah pedal and all the chords suck and it’s really murky. I don’t expect anyone to like it.”

While you wouldn’t be faulted for assuming music is Smith’s

sole love these days, that’s simply not the case. For one thing, he’s getting married in October. But aside from rock ’n’ roll and the lady he’s pledging his life to, Smith is deep into Atlanta’s food scene. As a server at The Brick Store Pub and JCT Kitchen, he’s accumulated skills that he’ll soon put to use at the restaurant he’s been planning for five years with Rackley and two other food-service veterans.

If all of this sounds like a lot for a 31-year-old to handle, that’s because it is. But Smith likes it that way. From helping run a record label to working in fine dining, playing in multiple bands to helping out still other bands, it’s all a part of the grind for Gentleman Jesse, even if serving up catchy songs takes a back seat to serving up hot dogs and craft brews. “I don’t know,” Smith says. “At this point, it’s like, who cares? I’m gonna keep making records and I’m gonna keep doing shows. [Running a restaurant] is a lot easier way to make some money. I’m gettin’ old!

Pain Classic: The B-52’s in 2012

Austin L. Ray

Back in 1977, a couple of the band’s friends were holding a Valentine’s Day house party at a place on Milledge Ave. in Athens, Ga., just across the street from where the Dunkin’ Donuts sits today. The B-52’s – a band that would christen itself after the beehive hairdo that bore an aesthetic similarity to a Boeing-designed strategic bomber – were playing for 25 or so people, who were dancing like crazy. The band set up in the foyer, the audience was in the living room. It was cramped, but there was a keg. Someone was taking photographs of hands, feet, dresses, legs. The floor was about to cave in.

On a warm Athens night in 2012, just about a mile and a half from that house, and 35 years nearly to the day of that very first, awkward, performance-art of a performance, the B-52’s played the Classic Center. But it felt less like a couple thousand people housed within a fancy venue and more like a gathering of old friends – ones who came bedecked in pinstriped blazers with leopard-print lapels, colored wigs, and lights draped or attached all over their bodies, but old friends nonetheless.

Unsurprisingly, it was also a tribute night of sorts to Athens itself. From local upstarts Tunabunny, who were recommended as an opener to Schneider by the folks at legendary local record store Wuxtry, to the local Terrapin Beer Company brews flowing in and out of flimsy plastic cups, to the “sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name” vibe of the crowd itself. The whole event practically screamed “quintessential college town.”

For their part, the B-52’s brought the party. Schneider’s speaksinging delivery, one of the most recognizable in all of pop music, still sounds great. Kate Pierson’s pipes are stunning despite three-and-a-half decades of wear, and Wilson and

Strickland strut like it’s the Seventies. Songs like “Hot Corner” and “Roam” earned massive responses, thanks in no small part to their Classic City connections, and the latter was especially emotionally resonant, pairing the group’s globe-hopping past with its homecoming present. They played a handful of tracks from 2008’s Funplex, and those songs went over fine, but it was clear on both sides that this was going to be a hits showcase.

Then there’s that moment when “Love Shack,” a ubiquitous cultural force, karaoke hall-of-famer, wedding dance-floor igniter and grocery-store staple, comes to life in front of a group of people and the group goes completely bonkers. Even the most steadfast of the crowd’s non-dancing throng seemed moved to stand up and shake it, if only just a little bit. The security guards even lost it.

With the recent disbanding of R.E.M., the B-52’s became the last remaining vestige of Athens’ college-rock origins, the final band from that first wave of talent that gave the town its first real musical presence, opening the metaphorical door for future bands as varied as Neutral Milk Hotel, Widespread Panic, Of Montreal and Drive-By Truckers. That history is not lost, it seems, even in one of Athens’ latest buzzy acts, Tunabunny, who opened the show with its noisy, art-damaged pop, receiving welcoming and rapturous applause in return for its unhinged music.

“Athens is a great place for music, and it’s not always perfect,” Tunabunny singer/guitarist Brigette Herron said as a precursor to the final song of the band’s set. “We have the B-52’s to thank for that.”

PAINful Drinking: SweetWater Brewing Company in 2011

Austin L. Ray

In February 1997, Freddy Bensch founded SweetWater Brewing with his Boulder, Colo., high-school buddy, Kevin McNerney. Fast-forward 14 years, one important move from Fulton Industrial to Ansley Park, and myriad national awards, and Bensch, whose official brewery title is Big Kahuna, finds himself at the helm of the 18th biggest craft brewery in a country with more than 5,000 of them. That’s no joke!

Bensch and guys behind SweetWater Brewing Company in Atlanta are some “heady” so-and-so’s. They, um, like to partake of the good things in life. Chances are they read Pain’s sister publication, Headquest. You get what we’re saying right? Wink wink, nudge nudge? Anyway, here’s a chat with a man who’s managed to lead a huge, successful business all without switching out of his aloha shirt and flip flops. There’s something to be said for that.

Describe your first beer experience.

Jesus, I guess I should’ve read up on this. [laughs] I’ll tell you what we used to do out in California where we grew up: St. Ides forties. The sticker on the bottle said, “This beer contains the highest alcohol of any beer on this shelf.” As a 16-year-old, of course that resonated. With our fake ID and all, we proceeded to buy as many as we could fit on our bikes, and we drank ’em all. Let me tell you, I didn’t feel the same for two weeks.

You’ve spent a lot of time sitting at this bar in your tasting room. Thinking back, do any notable people who you’ve shared this room with come to mind?

You never know who’s going to walk in the door. I could talk to you or someone who’s driven up from Miami. Blondie read a fucking four-hour poem in here one time. We brought her in for

Michael Goot’s [former SweetWater “Beer Pimp,” current owner of Ormsby’s] birthday party, and she wrote and read a poem. It was never-ending.

As a part of SweetWater’s expansion and renovation, you’re increasing your barreling capacity by five times: 100,000 to 500,000 barrels. That’s a pretty staggering figure.

When it’s all said and done, we’ll go from being able to do what we’re doing now to double that, with the propensity to take it further. Out of the gate, we’re not gonna go that big. Theoretically, on paper, you could do it, but right now, we wanna focus on quality of beer. We have this saying, “Local beer for local folks.” The further you push your beer out, the worse it is for the environment, the higher the opportunity it has to go out of date, the less people know about who we are.

You mention the environment, and the forthcoming solar array on the rooftop is part of the renovation, but do you think craft brewers in general are doing enough to lessen their impact on the world around them?

It is mind-blowing the ways you can actually participate in that area. In our industry, you have ample ways to participate in that. I think the low-tier, easy-hanging fruit? I think we are. Our community is very oriented in that fashion. But once you knock off the low-hanging fruit, I think it becomes more difficult in that you have large, monetary things. Across the board, it gets spendier. But as an industry, yes, I think we’re very much about it.

PAINful Comedy, Classic Edition: Tom Shillue in 2012


Austin L. Ray

Tom Shillue is just like any other working comedian. He wakes up in the morning, puts his pants on one leg at a time, and then starts working on the 12 albums he’s going to release over the next year. Of course, that’s substantially downplaying the thought process that led to his ambitious project. “At first I thought of doing a three-hour album,” Shillue says. “Then I thought maybe I’ll do five albums instead, and price them really low, and people can collect them all. Then I thought, ‘What about 10? Why not? I’m sure I can do 10 albums if I dig deep. It will be a creative challenge, which always gets me going.’ Then I thought, ‘If I’m going to do 10, I might as well make it a dozen.’ Why not?”

Previous to this epic set of material, the NYC stand-up has worked with The Daily Show, created a two-man show with Jim Gaffigan, founded the storytelling show Funny Story and done countless shows over the year. All of which is to say: He’s not been wanting for work, exactly, which perhaps makes it less surprising that he’s tackling such a massive undertaking now. But his first comedic inspiration was his upbringing in suburban Massachusetts. “All fodder,” Shillue says in describing his time growing up in The Bay State. “Of course, one doesn’t think that when they are experiencing it. It’s just life, then later you take the experiences up on stage and people are laughing, and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is funny.’ Massachusetts must be funny—a lot of comics and presidential candidates have come from there.”

But his surroundings weren’t his only inspiration growing up. Comedy classics were around him early on. “I used to listen to the old albums at the library when I was a kid,” Shillue recalls. “Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby. We could only listen to the clean stuff. When my fellow comics talk about growing up with Pryor and Carlin, I’m like, ‘You were allowed to listen to that?’ I couldn’t even listen to Meat Loaf records in my house. Which was fine, really, because I loved the Carpenters.”

Funny Story is Shillue finding his niche. The series, which bounced around various venues before settling on Brooklyn Brewery in June, gives talented writers, comedians, and storytellers a place to showcase their words. Notable comedians like Bobby Tisdale, John Mulaney and Gabe Liedman have graced Funny Story’s stage. “It’s a really fun show,” Shillue says. “It gives me an opportunity to have some of my favorite comics and storytellers onstage together, and serve good beer. The show is always a blast. I never know what anyone is going to do—I just tell them to bring a story that’s funny. Then I can sit and enjoy the show along with the audience.”

For now, though, Shillue’s main focus is on the dozen-album project. Two are finished already and on sale for $1.99 via his website tomshillue.com. “I’m editing number three now,” he says. “I’m sketching out the theme for four and five. The second album was totally changed at the last minute. I had most of it done, and then I recorded two live shows when I opened for [Gaffigan] in a big theater, and they went well, so I just used those recordings for the two long tracks on the album, which I titled Big Room. Then I edit the album in GarageBand and knock it out. I can’t fuss too much, I’ve got deadlines!”

Stand-up comedy comes in many forms, from one-liners to music to avant-garde weirdness. But much like Kyle Kinane, Tig Notaro, and Dylan Brody, to name but a few modern-day contemporaries, Shillue prefers a long, elegantly unraveling bit as opposed to a quick-and-dirty setup/punchline combination. “It’s what I’m interested in,” Shillue says, in a rather large understatement. “I want to hear people’s lives. And I’m patient—I like listening to comedy as opposed to watching it. I like listening to a story on a long drive. And the kind of person who likes that, they like my style. I think part of the reason people are enjoying [storytelling] lately is we’ve pretty much mastered the short-attention-span style of entertainment, and it’s all around us. People want to slow down, take in more of a meal.”

PAINful Laughter: Some Bits of Wisdom From Zach Galifianakis


Austin L. Ray

In 2008, I sat with actor and comedian Zach Galifianakis in a tent on the grounds of the Bonnaroo music festival. We talked for a couple hours until it became pitch black and I could no longer read the questions I’d scribbled in my notepad. It was a fun chat. The Hangover was released about nine months later, at which point he became a millionaire star. As far as I can tell, he’s still a pretty genuine and interesting and kind-hearted person to this day. Here are some interesting things he said that night in Tennessee.

“College, to me, was a gigantic waste of time. It really was. If I ever have kids, I’m going to tell them, ‘If you’re 18, go rob a bank. Hijack a train. Don’t go to college. Go to India and open up a 7-11. That was a horrible joke.”


“My brother was very mean. He’s now not; he’s the sweetest person I know. But I’d be sitting at the kitchen table, and this is when I was going through puberty, and he’d get me up from the kitchen table, he’d take me outside and he’d rip all my clothes off me until I was completely naked. We lived on this grass hill, and he’d drag me up and down naked on this hill and hold me by the street until cars came by and they could see my naked body. My brother really kind of designed me, because I always thought his cruelty had a creative edge to it.”

“My first gig was in the back of a hamburger restaurant in Times Square. I lied to myself a lot: ‘You can really do this.’ Then you just keep doing it. I really loved it, going out, standing on bar stools with people’s backs turned to you and trying to tell jokes while they watch a hockey game in the background. At least with music, you don’t need an instant feedback. But with comedy, if you don’t have that laugh, you don’t have much to go on.”


“When I make horrible racist jokes, that’s because I think racism is so stupid that it’s funny. If people get it, they get it. I’ve also noticed that certain races are okay to make fun of and certain ones aren’t. I used to have a joke about a Chinese roommate and everyone would laugh at that joke. But if I did more touchy things about people who had more representation in our culture… To be quite honest with you, not a lot of Chinese people go to comedy shows. So I kept thinking, ‘Why is it OK to say that?’ I respect you if you’re offended by all of it. That’s fine. But don’t be offended by one thing and think another is OK. That just blows my mind. I’ve tried to preach to audiences that are uptight. But then I’ll do a joke that has the n-word in it and black people are the first to laugh.”


“I take things that come my way. When I go do acting jobs, I really miss standup, and when I’m on the road for a while, I need to go act. If I’m in an Ashton Kutcher movie here and there, I know it’s really against my style, but I’m not so elitist. One day I hope to be that, don’t get me wrong; I’d love to be so snobby.”

“I really wouldn’t mind being a serious actor. I don’t know if I could pull it off, but I think a lot of comedians really kind of want to be taken seriously sometimes and I feel I’m a bit guilty of that.”

PAINful Music, Classic Edition: Brendan O’Brien in 2009


Austin L. Ray

Brendan O’Brien is a record producer. He’s actually kind of a big deal, as far as record producers go. If you’ve listened to alternative rock in the last 20 years, chances are you’ve heard his work. His credits including a veritable laundry list of monster acts, from Stone Temple Pilots to Bruce Springsteen, Mastodon to AC/DC, Incubus to Rage Against the Machine. But a band he’s worked with as much as any is Pearl Jam. Here’s a 2009 chat with him about that relationship.

When did Pearl Jam first get in contact with you about working on Backspacer?
I guess we started talking about a year before we actually started recording. But a little before that, they were asked to do a song for a movie, the Who cover [“Love, Reign o’er Me” for the movie Reign Over Me], and we had a blast. We’d known each other for years and we had such a great time doing it, we were like, “Why don’t we just get back together and make a record?” They’ve kind of gone their own way the last 10 years, and it’s been all good. So yeah, we just started talking about it. That was it, really.


It’s been a little while since you guys have worked together. When you got back in the studio, was it awkward at all?
No, no, no. Not even a little bit. We worked together for quite a while before that, and I think for a while they just wanted to do things on their own. At this point, they were ready to be, for lack of a better word, “produced” again. It was actually awesome. We all worked very hard, but I think I can speak for all of us in that we all had a great time doing it.

Is there any way for you to compare or contrast it to previous records you worked on together?
Oh, yeah. [laughs] I would say the first records we worked on, I was very proud of them, and they were great, but at that time, we were all in a different place. There was probably more tension back in those days. A lot had to do with the position they were in, and Eddie in particular; there was a lot of stress in their lives. That provided stress toward me, just because of our position. It was a different time. We made four records together, and we did quite well and we had a great time, but I would say it was harder then just because they were in a different headspace and maybe I was still learning my craft a little bit. It was a very singular goal this time.


What a typical day in the studio like?
Once we started recording, mostly we would just get together around noon, and when we were tracking, we were tracking all together. We actually recorded most of it in L.A., and I think that was good for them. They weren’t at home, and that was a good situation. They had been resistant to recording in L.A. before, and I live in Atlanta, but that was a good, neutral place to do it, because it kept them out of the routine of their house, and yet they weren’t too far from home. Every day we got to work and everyone was really focused on work. Pretty much every day, their head was in the game.

How close do you work with a band on song ideas? It sounds like you were right there for the writing on this one.
Well, every artist is different. Everybody’s different. In this particular situation, they worked a lot on their own with the songs and I helped them with the arrangements. There was another writing session—I didn’t write the songs, but I was there—in Montana up at Jeff’s place where Eddie wasn’t around, it was just the band together, and it was sort of my job to help them pull all the ideas together and get them arranged. I feel like, on this record, they allowed me to be more of a part of it than maybe in the past.


Tell me a about how you’ve watched Pearl Jam evolve over the years?
I’ve known them almost since day one, not quite since day one, but almost, and I’ve seen them evolve from being… They’re still a huge band and they still fill up arenas and all that, but they are not quite the phenom band they once were, and I think that’s great for them. You can’t sustain being a phenom band for 20 years. The first five years of their career, I think, was very hard for them, even though it was massively successful. It happened so quickly, so fast, and a lot of bands burn out at that stage. I believe they withdrew a bit for a while. They sort of made music for themselves, and it was something they needed to do and wanted to do.