Friday, April 24, 2015

Pheaturing Phile Alumni Mike Gent And Pete Donnelly From The Figgs

Hey, welcome to a Friday entry of the Phile. How are you?  In the upcoming issue of Marvel's "All-New X-Men" comic book, author Brian Michael Bendis has the psychic character Jean Grey reveal to Bobby Drake... more commonly known as Iceman that she is aware that he is gay, causing many comic book fans to think about the character for the first time in years. The fact that Iceman is now gay and no one's used the line 'The Iceman Cometh Out' makes me despair, it really does.  Yesterday's speculation that the impending Comcast-Time Warner Merger was in danger of falling apart due to reservations from the FCC has turned out to be right on the money. "Today, we move on," Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts said in a statement. "I couldn't be more proud of this company and I am truly excited for what's next." What's next is almost certainly revenge upon society for not lying down before its ultimate overlord, but in what form that revenge will come remains to be seen. Only about two-in-five U.S. citizens will idiotically believe that the sanctity of their marriage is being destroyed when the U.S. Supreme court almost certainly decides to legalize gay marriage across the according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll and ABC News. This is the lowest percentage of ridiculous opinions on this matter that has been found to date. In an extremely silly and unnecessary op-ed voluntarily written for the New York Times, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced to the world that he is proudly standing in opposition to history, mounting public opinion and probably federal law by opposing the right of one male taxpaying U.S. citizen that he does not know to marry another male taxpaying U.S. citizen. "I hold the view that has been the consensus in our country for over two centuries: that marriage is between one man and one woman," he wrote. "I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter, even if it becomes a minority opinion." A gesture of dumbness of this magnitude must mean he's nearly ready to officially announce his presidential ambitions.  Netflix is not going to let a handful of Native American extras and crew members... who seem to have recently discovered that Adam Sandler movies are offensive in multiple senses of the word put a kink in their plans to bring original Sandler context to the masses via their streaming service. "The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of... but in on... the joke," a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to ABC news. This statement is about as respectful to the word "satire" as the movie seems to be to the culture of the Apache people. I can honestly say that the news of Native American actors walking off his set has not changed my opinion of Adam Sandler one bit. I like him... he's funny.  Regular and rigorous exercise really isn't going to do much for your giant gut or big butt if you're heading home and following it up with a pizza and six-pack, according to an article recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. "Regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers by at least 30%. However, physical activity does not promote weight loss," the authors write. "You cannot outrun a bad diet." See?! I've been telling my girlfriend for weeks that exercise is useless.  Okay, before we continue I have to mention something that is really cool. Like many people, my childhood was steeped in Muppets. And while I did watch "Sesame Street", "Fraggle Rock", and "Muppet Babies", my favorite Muppet projects were always the ones that were, despite their G rating, a little aged up... like the original Muppet Movie or the prime-time "Muppet Show." Now there's word that ABC is developing a mockumentary-style, "adult" "Muppet Show" reboot, where we'll see more behind-the-scenes of the show (it's being compared to "30 Rock") and into the Muppets' personal lives. The show hasn't been picked up yet, but ABC is considering a full series order, and I'm all like... yeeeaahhh!!! There's no word yet on which specific Muppets the show will focus on, but it's pretty obvious, I think, that there will be a good dose of Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and Gonzo. And hopefully Statler and Waldorf, Sam the Eagle, And, dare I dream... "Pigs in Space"? I hope that the reboot also keeps the original "Muppet Show"'s tradition of bringing on guest stars. The classic show didn't just have great antics from Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and the rest of the Muppet crew, it also had great late 70s and early 80s performers hosting and doing bits with the Muppets. Like Steve Martin, or Alice Cooper, surrounded by monster Muppets, or Elton John and his talking lunch. The Muppets have done more "adult" entertainment before, too... there was a series of reoccurring sketches on the first season of "Saturday Night Live," known as "The Land of Gorch." The sketches were not well-received, though, and ceased after the first season of the show. The fact that NBC has one "Land of Gorch" sketch online under the heading "Dregs and Vestiges," which I'm pretty sure is a synonym for "We really love this and definitely want you to watch it." Go to YouTube to look it up... but finish this entry of the Phile first. Haha.  So, a movie is coming out or is coming out in China I think called Fungus the Bogeyman. This is 100% real...

I really want to see this movie. If any of you dear readers know where I can get a copy please let me know.  A few days ago I went to Starbucks I found out something I didn't know before. Starbucks wasn't originally called Starbucks. Don't believe me? This is the original logo...

I don't love guns and coffee personally.  So, last week I mentioned the Star Tours trailer. I saw it again and think Disney is putting too much synergy in it.

See what I mean?  I just mentioned the Muppets and that reminded me that earlier this week a frog called a glass frog was found that looked just like Kermit. Take a look...

Well, there's other Muppets who have look-a-likes as well.

Man, that Dr. Oz... Dr. Oz is promising his television audience that he will not give up the hugely successful money-making scheme that has made him a national celebrity in the wake of ten doctors signing a petition for Columbia University to fire him. "I vow to you right here and right now," he told the cameras, "we will not be silenced, we will not give in." Brave, brave words for an rich, rich man. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York here is...

Top Phive Ways Chris Brown Spent His Community Service Hours
5. Cleaned up... his own tray table while on a private jet to Dubai.
4. Mentored at-risk youths... specifically, 19 year old fashion models at risk of dating Chris Brown.
3. Assisted the disabled... by not parking his Lambo in handicapped spots during peak business hours.
2. Worked for a non-profit organization... by updating his Wikipedia page.
And the number one way Chris Brown spent his community service hours...
1. Looked for Rihanna... to hit on her again.  

It's 5:59 am, 85°F and it's Kelly's birthday! Happy Birthday, Kelly!!!

Fuck, I love that picture of her. Okay, so you know I live in Florida, right? well, there are things that happen in Florida that happen nowhere else in the world. That's why I started a pheature called...

This is one of those "only in Florida" stories. Of course, sometimes those stories happen in places besides Florida. But if you ask me, anywhere a sexy grandmother in a bikini is doing a field sobriety test while her grandson watches, there's a little Florida in the air. Forty-nine year old Patricia Ebel refused when cops asked to perform a breathalyzer test, but they were already pretty sure she was drunk. She reeked of booze and couldn't balance on one leg (although she told them she couldn't do that "on a good day"). What's more, she had just rear-ended a parked car in her BMW. And considering her 10-year-old grandson was in the car, they weren't going to let her drive home. A test would later reveal her to be blood alcohol content to be twice the legal limit. Thankfully, the boy was unhurt, although the other driver had to go to the hospital with minor injuries. Ebel is out on bail, but faces DUI charges with a minor in the car. Pretty soon, she might be trading in her rainbow bikini for a prison-issue orange one. She'll probably still look good, though.

Today's guests are two members of one of my favorite bands... The Figgs. They are both Phile Alum who have been here several times separately and now I am happy they are both here at the same time. The Figgs' new album "Other Planes of Here" is now available on iTunes. Please welcome back to the Phile... Mike Gent and Pete Donnelly.

Me: Hey, guys, welcome back to the Phile. How have you been?

Pete: Very good, thanks.

Mike: Great, Jason, how are you?

Me: I'm doing great. It's so great to have you both here at the same time... with a new Figgs album out. We'll talk about that in a minute. First, I cannot believe it's been ten years since Graham Parker's "Songs of No Consequence" came out. Does it seem that long ago to you?

Mike: Yes, seems like awhile back now. I know Pete mentioned he listened to it recently.

Pete: Yeah, I found it on Amazon Prime, searching for something to listen to while traveling. Even over a phone, the worst way to listen, it still sounded great. GP always delivers and we we're right there with him.

Me: As you both know, and my readers know, I am a huge GP fan and "Songs of No Consequence" is one of my favorite albums from him. It's the only studio album The Figgs played on, right?

Mike: Thanks, Jason. I love the record. Artwork, not so much!! Waiting for Bloodshot or someone to release it on vinyl. It is the only studio record with GP & Figgs. There are a bunch of live records and a DVD we are on. Pete plays bass on "Deepcut To Nowhere," I play drums & some guitars on "Don't Tell Columbus" & "Imaginary Television."

Me: I kinda like the cover artwork. I have to show it here now...

Pete: Jason, I can't say I've heard too many people claim it as a favorite GP record. But I agree. There are songs on there that are arguably as good as any.

Me: He's working with the Rumour again now but do you think you will do another album with him ever?

Mike: I really hope so.

Pete: Yeah. It would be great. I think the Rumour records he's doing are what he should be doing. When the time is right we'll get it together with him.

Me: What are your favorite songs on the album, guys?

Mike: I like them all. "Dislocated Life," "Ambivalent" & "Did Everybody Just Get Old?" stick out for me.

Pete: "Bad Chardonnay," "She Swallows It." Yeah, "Ambivalent."  I love "Local Boys."  Something about it just cracks me up. Graham really knows how to get the story across.

Me: I love the live CD "103 in June" you guys did with Graham. There's another guitarist on that CD, who is it?

Mike: Out of all of the live records with GP, that's my favorite. One of the best shows we have done with him. Great crowd that night. Love the Double Door and always have a great time in Chicago. The other guitar player is Brett Rosenberg. He played with me in Graham Parker & The Latest Clowns. Brett also played with The Figgs for about a year. Then he moved to Nashville to chase his dream of becoming the next Ricky Van Shelton.

Pete: Haha! Yeah, Brett's great. We've often had other people join us, rounding out our sound. That was a fun, sweaty night.

Me: Mike, I know you have been working GP here and there. Have you seen him lately?

Mike: No, I have not seen him for a couple of years. I have been writing some songs with him over email though.

Me: I think it's cool that you both come out with your own solo albums and then get together to record new Figgs albums. So, who wrote the most songs on the new album, or did you both write the songs together?

Mike: We co-wrote some of the songs and also brought some in on our own.

Pete: This record is very much studio album. Some of the songs were written in the studio. Mike and I always have tunes to contribute at the onset, but this record definitely has some good collaboration going on.

Me: A lot of your solo releases and Figgs music, including this new album are available on vinyl. I love vinyl, and I am guessing you both do as well. Do you both collect vinyl records?

Mike: Yes. I have been collecting since I was a little kid in the early 70's. Never stopped.

Pete: Yeah, sure. That was where it all started. It's got mystique and all, the association with formative times. But lot's of vinyl sounds like shit. It's not really about the fidelity so much as the medium. Though I do love it when I've got some good clean vinyl. Nothing like it.

Me: What was your first record purchases and the last, guys?

Mike: Not sure what the first one was but some of the early ones I remember are Beatles "Let It Be," Wings "Hi, Hi, Hi" single, Brownsville Station "Smoking In The Boys Room" single. Today I ordered the third Paul Westerberg "Suicaine Gratifaction" on vinyl.

Me: That's on vinyl? I need to get that. what about you, Pete?

Pete: I'm the youngest in my family. My bro's and sister always had lots of records, as did my parents. I didn't start buying my own 'til i got a stereo at 13. First records I bought were Steely Dan's greatest hits, Allman Bro's "Live at Fillmore," The Who "Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy" and "Led Zeppelin III."  Mike and I, we were just in LA and I bought the most unhip jazz records in the store. everything else is so overpriced. All of them turned out to be great. David Frishberg, Lou Donaldson and Keith Jarrett. I never got into Keith before but this record is unbelievably good.

Me: Mine was actually Graham Parker and the Shot's album on vinyl, but my last CD purchase was Robbie Williams' "Intensive Care." Do you guys like Robbie Williams?

Mike: No, can't say I do. I do know "Steady Nerves" however. Saw them open for Clapton when Graham was touring that record.

Pete: Robbie Williams? Don't know his music. I've heard of him for sure.

Me: The Figgs' could do a rocking version of his song "Make Me Pure." Okay, so, let's talk about "Other Places of Here." How did that album get that title?

Mike: "Other Planes Of Here."

Me: Haha. You're right. I'm an idiot.

Mike: That's Pete's title, Pete?

Pete: It's a Sun Ra reference. The music seemed kinda other worldly, so it was a natural connection to make.

Me: And who did the great artwork on the cover?

Mike: That is an artist here in Boston that I really like. Nicole Anguish.

Me: There's a song on the new album called "Keith and the Buddha." Is that Keith Urban you are singing about? Haha. I know, it's probably Keith Richards. Who wrote that song and what is the story behind it?

Mike: Keith Urban? Nice hair and wife, but not interesting enough to have a song written about him! I wrote that with our friend John Powhida. We were going for an Urge Overkill vibe.

Me: When you guys play solo concerts, do you throw a Figgs song in the checklist, and when you do a Figgs stuff do you throw in solo stuff?

Mike: Yes to both. I love the idea of being able to throw any song into the set, whether we wrote it or not. The possibilities are endless.

Pete: Yup, the music is to be played.

Me: You have been known to play a few covers in your sets as well. What are some of the covers you have done?

Mike: "Black Lincoln Continental."

Pete: "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Momma."

Me: You know, you should cover a Foghat song. Whatcha think?

Mike: Sure! The first record is great. Produced by Dave Edmunds, but you already know this, Jason. Also really like "Stone Blue." I've had "Fool For The City" and "Live" since I was a kid. We covered their version of "I Just Want To Make Love To You" in the early 90s.

Pete: There you go.

Me: Do you both have the same tastes in music?

Mike: I think so. That's one of the reasons we hit it off. We had a lot of the same taste and we were both discovering stuff together. Our ears were really open to anything and we usually agreed on what we thought was good enough for repeat listening. When we lived together, I think Pete bought more of the out there stuff, and a lot of jazz.

Pete: Yeah. Having brothers and Mike and other people around collecting music, I naturally gravitated towards what wasn't already covered in our collective record collections. Yes, we all had a lot of the same records, but it was more economical and exciting to look outside of what we already knew was good. Still doing it.

Me: Mike, I have to ask you about The Gentlemen. That's the other band you're in, right? Or were in?

Mike: Yes. We still exist.

Me: Who was in that band with you?

Mike: Three guys from the New Haven band The Gravel Pit. Lucky Jackson, Pete Caldes, and Ed Valauskas.

Me: Ed... he's a Phile Alum as well. Okay, so, what's next for the both of you? Any new solo stuff? 

Mike: Figgs are working on a new record. I have a new band called The Needy Sons with Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom). That band is working on a record with Dave Minehan (The Neighborhoods, The Replacements) at his studio. My solo band The Rapid Shave are also in the middle of recording. Hahaha! Busy.

Pete: Always making records. That's what we do. I started and indie duo band with Shelby Lynne. We're called The Marbulls.

Me: Cool! As you both know, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Are you both ready? Which of your ancestors would you most like to meet?

Mike: Probably my dad's father. My grandfather died when I was maybe 3 or 4.

Pete: My dad's parents I did get to know, but I would have liked to been at their house in the 40s and 50s. They hosted a lot of writers and artists that we're guests of the University of Michigan. Seems like such a cool time.

Me: Thanks, guys, for being on the Phile again, at the same time this time. All the best, and please come back again soon. Take care.

Mike: Thanks Jason. Always a pleasure to chat.

Pete: Cheers!

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Mike Gent and Pete Donnelly. The Phile will be back on Monday with British music legend Boz Boorer. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pheaturing Rich Bernatovich

Hello, welcome to the Phile... I am your host Tony Stark. I feel like Iron Man, I am currently hooked up to a holter EKG that I have to wear for twenty-four hours. My doctor wants to check to see what is going on with my heart. I told him I didn't have one. Haha. Just kidding.  Hey, kids, it's 4/20, and you know what that means. Yep, it's the 20th day in April. It's also Pot Day or something. I don't need pot to be hungry, lazy, and paranoid. It's actually called National Weed Day and tomorrow it's National Surprise Drug Test Day.  Okay, what else is going on? After a quarter-century, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering changing its stance on homeopathic remedies and requiring their approval to be based upon science and evidence instead of wishful thinking and good intentions.
Wait, you're telling me a Nothing pill does NOTHING? Whaaaaaaaaaaat?   GOP primary frontrunner Jeb Bush seems about to throw all of his conservative credentials away by kind of stating in sort of plain-ish words that climate change could possibly be a real thing that we might maybe have to deal with eventually at some point down the line. "The climate is changing, and I'm concerned about that," Bush told a crowd of certainly stunned supporters at an event in New Hampshire. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker could be heard immediately afterwards yelping victoriously from several states away.  HBO is reportedly seeking legal action against Internet brigands who downloaded and shared the four leaked episodes from the first half of "Game of Thrones" fifth season. It makes you wonder: where could fans of the show have come up with justifications for such amoral behavior? 
The vast majority of discerning comedy fans do not need to be reminded of the somewhat humdrum state of late night comedy these days, but longtime "Conan" writer Andres du Bouchet did anyway. He entered into an unnecessary and unnecessarily vitriolic tirade on Twitter. "Comedy in 2015 needs a severe motherfucking shakeup. No celebrities, no parodies, no pranks, no mash-ups or hashtag wars," he wrote, capping it off with a profound call for Americans to "shove your lip-syncing up your ass." Strong words. Strong, silly words. Conan himself Tweeted "I wish one of my writers would focus on making my show funnier instead of tweeting stupid things about the state of late night comedy." Twitter is the new Human Resources department. Conversations like this have probably occurred in more than a few writers rooms, stemming from the content shift in late night comedy. du Bouchet has since deleted his tweets, but I found it interesting to hear a writer's opinion about his own field. This was clearly stream-of-conscious writing, because at the end of one tweet he added "I'm fat" making it my favorite Tweet in the rant. I hope when this issue is discussed in HR at TBS, du Bouchet doesn't lose his job over his Sunday afternoon spas.  So, you now Hillary Clinton is running for President, right? Well, I thought this was funny. A Phile reader sent me this real life sign at a muffler shop...

Pretty funny.  So, are you still watching that Star Wars trailer again and again? I watched it again today and I noticed something that was pretty familiar.

Haha. That is so stupid. Clever... but stupid.  I'm not going to go into my thoughts about if kids should gat vaccinated or not... I don't need that anti-email right now. But I thought it was funny that Disney released this Captain America poster...

Haha. By the way, this poster has nothing to do with Disney... just saying.  The new Jurassic World trailer came out today, but the movie is not called Jurassic World. Take a look...

Alright, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Phive People Have A Worse Monday Than You
5. Jon Stewart, because he doesn't enjoy "The Daily Show" anymore.
4. A passenger who was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for jabbing her snoring seatmate with a pen.
3. Big Sean, because Ariana Grande's father warned him not to give her the D.
2. Zooey Deschanel, because she never wanted to be called "adorable." And the number one person having a worse Monday than you is...
1. A British soccer player fired for having sex with a fan in the opposing team's dugout.

Hahahaha. That's the best one yet! If you spot the Mindphuck let me know.

Drug Enforcement Administration 
The Drug Enforcement Administration (or DEA) is the government agency in charge of losing the War on Drugs.

Okay, today's guest is the writer of the graphic novel "Bugged" which is the 37th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. Yes, a graphic novel is a book as well. Please welcome to the Phile... the head of Drumfish Productions... Rich Bernatovich.

Me: Hello, Rich, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Rich: Great! Thanks for asking.

Me: Okay, I have to ask you about Drumfish Productions. Is a drumfish a real fish? I never heard of it.

Rich: Yes, there is actually a fish called a drum fish (spelled with two words), but it’s not what I named the company after. I just combined two positive things from my childhood memories together and came up with the name for the company.

Me: Rich, you are the creator, writer and inker for a lot of Drumfish's comics... but did you found the company?

Rich: Yes, I founded the company once I decided that I wanted to jump into the world of self-publishing.

Me: Your graphic novel "Bugged" is pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. That's not the only thing you have written though, is it?

Rich: No, I’ve written many things over the years from plays to prose. I love telling stories through visual mediums. In addition to "Bugged", I’ve written the graphic novel series, "Sentinels" as well as the on-going comic series, "Neverminds" through Drumfish Productions.

Me: Where are you from originally, Rich?

Rich: A small town outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I loved growing up there, but eventually moved to the big city… NYC!

Me: I have been reading comics myself since I was like six or seven... okay, I admit at first I used to just look at the pictures. I started off with Batman but over the years I am more of a Marvel fan. How old were you when you started to get into comics?

Rich: I was about 12 and a friend had loaned me a few of his comics. I was immediately hooked and starting buying my own at the local store where they sold them 3 for 75 cents.

Me: So, what was the first comic series you got into, Rich?

Rich: Anyone who’s read my Sentinels series can immediately tell I was a HUGE fan of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s "New Teen Titans." It was one of the first comics I read and I’m glad it was. To this day, it’s still one of the most classic series done that influenced a generation of comic creators.

Me: Do you watch the "Teen Titans" TV show? Whatcha think?

Rich: Yes, I watched the first 5 seasons of it and I loved it! It was great for all ages and really captured the Wolfman/Perez characters and storylines. I think the series that’s on now is clearly aimed at a very young audience, but the first series was great and even help get my nephew into reading comics.

Me: So, are you more of a DC fan or a Marvel fan? 

Rich: Growing up I was definitely a DC fan. But over the last ten years, I’ve found myself more into what Marvel is doing. I fell DC has abandon most of their past audience in favor of getting more media hype and attention. All of their books feel like they’re on the Indy 500 going around and around at 200 mph, but going nowhere. Nothing moves and when it does, they reboot or create a new universe, multiverse, alternate version, etc., to just explain it away. And while Marvel might have alternate realities and universes, no matter what you think of their story-telling, they continually moves forward at a natural progress. They might change things, but at least they don’t say it never happened (ie. "One Day More", Jean Grey alive, dead, alive, dead, etc). My only hope is that all holds true for them with their up-coming "Secret Wars" that is rumored to combine their alternate realities and universes.

Me: So, when did you decide you wanted to work with comics?

Rich: I’ve always know I wanted to tell stories since I was a child. At 6 years old, I wrote my first book, which I would do spot illustrations for. I didn’t know about comics back then, but my natural instinct for graphic story-telling was always there.

Me: Did you go to school to study drawing or writing?

Rich: Yes, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Illustration and Design from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and I received my Master’s Degree at the Actor’s Studio in NYC.

Me: For a while you went off and became an actor, am I right?

Rich: I was an actor in New York for about ten years before I decided to stop and focus on creating comics.

Me: You appeared in several TV shows and movies and even a few videos. What are some of the shows and movies you were in?

Rich: I mostly performed on stage and did many plays throughout the city. The only TV I did were small parts or background extra work. I also did a bunch of independent films, most of which never saw the light of day and I did a few music videos and print work.

Me: What did you like being in better, Rich?

Rich: The stage was where I was most at home. I enjoyed the interaction with other cast members and the live reaction of the audience. There’s a thrill to not knowing what might happen. You really get to be in the moment and continue through with a scene without having to stop. Film, TV and print is slow work and you spend most of your time standing around waiting. I know it sounds odd, but I found that exhausting.

Me: So, do you still act?

Rich: No. I’ll admit that occasionally, I miss it. But I truly love writing, drawing and telling stories through comics that I don’t think about acting too much. But, I also never say never… who knows, one day I might jump back into it.

Me: You got back into comics after 9/11... is that THE 9/11? I know, that's a stupid question. How did that day get you back onto the comic world, Rich?

Rich: Yes, I made the decision to start self-publishing after the event of 9/11. Being in New York City that day and experiencing what happened, you can‘t help but be changed. I looked at the life I was living and decided I wanted to change it and do something more fulfilling. It was as easy as that. Once I made the decision, I spent a lot of time researching and developing a publishing plan for "Sentinels."

Me: Alright, let's go through the few titles that Drumfish has. First though, how long has Drumfish Productions been around?

Rich: Our first original graphic novel came out in December 2003 and it was the first book from our "Sentinels" series.

Me: What is "Sentinels" about?

Rich: "Sentinels" is the story of a second generation superhero team who parents disappeared when they were young. As they step into the role of heroes, they get pulled into the mystery of what happened to the first generation. We did a total of 4 trades that carry that storyline through the series. We ended the series as we always intended to with the fourth volume. In 2006, I met Jamie Fay and we started developing "Neverminds." It took us a while to get the series started, but our first issue of "Neverminds" came out in 2011. It focuses on an all-female covert-ops team of super-powered, but not superheroes, characters. The last of Drumfish Production’s published work is "Bugged", a story about a teenage boy and a talking roach, written by me and artwork by Facundo Teyo. "Bugged" was a straight to trade original graphic novel that came out in 2013.

Me: Which one is your favorite?

Rich: I honestly love all of the titles in different ways. I could never pick a favorite. I feel each is unique and special to me.

Me: As I mentioned before you are a writer, and inker and creator. Which one came first and do you like inking or writing better?

Rich: I definitely love writing more. I’ve always been creating stories since I was young and was lucky enough to have some artistic abilities. So, I usually would write and draw all my own work. But since starting Drumfish Productions, I’ve been mostly focused on writing. I hope to change that this year when I start my webcomic that I will be writing and drawing. But as a writer, it’s amazing to see what other artists will do with your ideas and plots. I’m really fortunate to work with all the talented artists that I’ve been able to. It’s a thrill to see them bring my words to life!

Me: You also are a fantastic artist. I like your Batman piece and of course your Rocket and Groot pieces. I have to show that here...

Me: Those are panel pieces, am I right? For readers that don't know, tell them and explain what a panel piece is.

Rich: Thanks for the kind words on my art. I wasn’t so confident in my art until recently when I made a conscious afford to try to really develop my style. I found that the comic convention scene changed over the last few years and having just books at your table alone, doesn't draw people to your table. So, I started doing small headshot sketches and would put them on my table for sale for $10 each in hopes of attracting people to check out all of the Drumfish Productions books. And it worked! I couldn’t draw fast enough. I was selling out of all the headshot sketches I did at shows and had very little time to replenish my supply for the next show. Jamie Fay (artist of "Neverminds") shares the table with me at shows and he sells prints that work very well for him. So, I decided that it would give my art much longer life at shows if I did prints instead of original art. But I didn’t want to compete with Jamie, so I thought I would do a different size other than the 11 x 17 size prints he was doing. I saw a print by someone that was an off-sized print and it gave me the idea to do prints in half of the 11 x 17 size. Cutting them straight down the middle. This gave me a unique size to draw in and looked similar to a screen panel to me. So, that’s why I called them Panel Prints.

Me: Okay, so, I am sure I also have readers that don't know what an inker does. He or she pretty much inks over someones pencil drawings, doing the shading, am I right? 

Rich: Inkers are embellishers. They enhance an artist’s pencil work by defining the line weight and shadows. They often add detail for artists. In the past, I would say you were right about the shading, but today, most inkers let colorist handle that.

Me: And then it gets turned over to the colorist?

Rich: Yes. The art usually gets handed over to the colorists after inking. Today, more than ever, I believe that colorists are a huge and integral part of the comic making processing. They really set the mood of a comic with the color palette they pick and the techniques they use. They are absolutely “world creators” along with the writer and artist.

Me: Okay, in the titles there seems to be more women characters, am I right? Why is that, Rich?

Rich: "NEVERMINDS" is definitely intended to showcase female leads and I believe that "Sentinels" had a fairly equal balance of male and female characters. I make a very conscious decision to try my best to define the female characters in my books so that they aren’t just powers and boobs. I honestly see just as many female fans of my work as male fans, so it would be an insult to them if I didn’t develop the female characters I write about just as much as the male. I like strong and complex women and feel there should be more of them in comics. I also enjoy writing them, LOL.

Me: I have to ask you about "Bugged" which you write as that is the pheatured book. That's an interesting story, can you tell the readers what it's about.

Rich: "Bugged" is a story about a boy named Felix. He’s unpopular, awkward and misunderstood. He tries his best to do the right thing and be a good person, but he really just can’t seem to win. That is until he meets a talking roach (Bob) who teaches him that he has special abilities that enable him to see the wrongs others have done and that he must enact vengeance on them.

Me: How long does it take for you to write, Rich?

Rich: It really depends on the subject. The more characters you have in a book, the long it takes. You rethink lines and actions a lot to make sure they are true to the character you’ve created. I find writing one character or just a few characters works very quickly. I wrote "Bugged" in about a week. But team books take me much more time and a single issue can take two or three weeks.

Me: Are you constantly coming up with different ideas?

Rich: Always! I have so many ideas that I find myself frustrated that I don’t have enough time to get to all of them. I have three other titles already under development and that I can’t wait to start working more on. There’s just never enough time in the day!

Me: Is there any idea you came up with that you thought was stupid and lame and didn't use?

Rich: Of course, LOL. I think every creator and writer has written something lame or stupid. The trick is to catch them before they get out there in print. I believe the key to be able to avoid that is two-part. One, you have to be able to step away from your work and come back to it a day or two later and re-read it with an open mind. Usually, you’ll see things in a different light and catch a blunder before it becomes a big deal. And then, two, have someone you trust read over your work and be objective. Whether it’s a collaborator or a friend, just be sure they will give you an honest review. 

Me: Okay, if someone approached you and said they wanna make "Bugged" into a movie, what would you say?

Rich: Hell, yes!

Me: Is there anything new you are currently working on, Rich?

Rich: We’re two pages shy of being finished with our second "Sentinels Anthology." I’m really excited to get that out and show off the amazing work that the 37 (yes, thirty seven!) different creators have done on the "Anthology." It’s a big deal for fans of "Sentinels" as it shows the third generation of the Sentinels team grownup and on their own. I also have the next two issues of "Neverminds" in the works that will wrap up the first storyline. After that, I’m really eager to start on my own webcomic called "Kowa" that I will be writing and drawing. It’s an all-ages story that will be free and on our Drumfish Productions website. Then I have an all new dark and kind horror-ish series that I’ll be doing with Ihor Loboda (colorist on the re-visioned "Sentinels" issues and on the 3rd Gen "Sentinels" in the anthology). And finally, as if I didn’t have enough in the works, I have two other original graphic novels in the works. I guess you can say I’m pretty busy, LOL.

Me: Alright, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Are you ready? What was your favorite family vacation?

Rich: Definitely going to Ocean City, Maryland every summer when I was growing up. You have the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. There were so many things to do and the weather was always great. Plus, back when we first went there, I went to my first mega-comic store, Geppi’s. It was amazing.

Me: Rich, thanks, so much for being here on the Phile. Go ahead and mention your website and where a Phile reader can pick up your comics.

Rich: Our website is and you can get all of our latest news by following us on Facebook at  There is a link on our website that leads to our store where people can buy all of our books and even our 7 figurines, but here is it too: And readers can also get digital version of "Bugged", "Neverminds" and the re-visioned and colorized "Sentinels" on Comixology here:

Me: Good stuff. All the best, and take care. Please come back again soon.

Rich: Thank you! Best to you too. I appreciate the interview request!

There, that about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Rich for a great interview. The Phile will be back next Friday with Phile Alumni Mike Gent and Pete Donnelly from The Figgs. And then on Monday it's music legend Boz Boorer. I wonder how many of you readers heard of him. Surely you heard of the Polecats, right? Anyway, spread the word not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pheaturing Rex Haberman From War Poets

Hey there, welcome to the Phile. How's it going? What a week its been... Star Wars! Avengers! Batman V Superman! It truly is a great time to be a virgin. I of course am not a virgin. I have a son... There's papers to prove it. Anyway, did you see the new Star Wars trailer? Only beef I have with the Star Wars trailer is when Chewie lowered his shades, looked at the camera and said, "Where's dat space pussy?" It was an odd moment. If you haven't seen it I'll save you guys two minutes... it's just the characters choosing teams for a pick-up basketball game. Wish I could say that watching the new Star Wars trailer marked the first time I've cried while having a boner. It was good to see some familiar faces in the trailer.

Hahaha. I crack myself up sometimes.  Let's talk about some other movie news... A crappy, camera-phone version of the full two-minute trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice... which wasn't supposed to be officially released until next week has already been uploaded to the Internet. So, if you want to be introduced to the first real footage from next summer's most anticipated movie in the least pleasant way possible, simply go to YouTube. But finish this entry of the Phile first, will ya?  In the wake of Thursday's surprise release of the second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the excitement generated by it, Disney's stocks rose by approximately one percent. That doesn't sound like much, but it's the equivalent of about two billion dollars or twelve parsecs.  ESPN reporter Britt McHenry has publicly apologized for being stupid enough to get caught on tape acting like herself and berating a towing company employee, thus requiring her employer to suspend her for a full week. "In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and regrettable things," she unconvincingly explained via Twitter before beginning her unexpected seven-day vacation.  A bunch of jealous human doctors... who have not yet discovered how to harness the immense weight-losing power of green coffee bean extract or how to be factually accurate on television nearly half of the time are demanding that Columbia University relieve Dr. Mehmet Oz from his faculty position. The university, however, has bravely decided to stand by its cash cow. I'm an optimist so I see the Dr Oz show as "half-accurate." Haha. That's really not true. I'm a pessimist really.  More than 20,000 people have already applied for citizenship in the brand new 2.7-square-mile nation of Liberland, located in unclaimed territory between Serbia and Croatia. The micronation boasts no military and has a "passive defense" policy toward aggression from neighboring states. Based upon everything we know of Eastern European history and politics, this country will last for a thousand years.  Do you kids like Pokemon? All that time I thought they were from Japan but really they are from the same place I'm from... England. Don't believe me? Check it out.

Fuckmented Shitjizzle?  Thinking of Superman, I like the old Christopher Reeves Superman movies so much better. But I don't like his original costume they were gonna have him wear. Did you ever see it? No? Well, I have it right here.

I don't like it one bit.  Alright, I live in Florida as you know and in Florida some strange things happen that would not happen anywhere else in the world. So, that's why I started a pheature called...

You take certain risks when you live near the beach... hurricanes, tidal waves, the cutthroat local taffy-pullers union. Sharks generally aren't a problem unless you swim out really far, or if you live in the town from Jaws. Or if you live in Bonita Springs, Florida. The city's Hickory Avenue is lined with condos that jut up right next to a calm backwater bay. Residents can dip their toes into the ocean or go for a swim, except they shouldn't do that anymore because an eight foot long bull shark has been trolling the bay. Residents claim that no-good, lousy fisherman have been "chumming"... throwing fish guts into the water nearby to attract bigger fish. Hickory Avenue residents asked the city to tell people to stop throwing fish guts into the water, on account of the shark, so did the city post some "no fishing" signs and drag the shark away in fin-cuffs? Nope. A representative for Bonita Springs told beachfront property owners to call the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with their concerns, because the coastline is the agency's jurisdiction. But residents shouldn't get their hopes up about the shark going away anytime soon, because it's perfectly legal to chum on the beach in Florida. Florida: Where You Can Throw Fish Guts in the Water and Have a Shark in Your Backyard!

"We're gonna need a bigger fence."

Everyone has probably seen this before but just in case you haven't... if you spot the Mindphuck let me know.

The 37 book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

The author, Rich Bernatovich, will be a guest on the Phile on Monday.

Today's guest is the lead singer of the very cool band War Poets whose new EP "Searching for the American Dream" is now on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Rex Haberman.

Me: Hey there, Rex, how are you, sir? Welcome to the Phile.

Rex: Doing very well, thanks. Thank you for having me.

Me: Okay, we have two of your music projects to talk about. Let's start off with Light Over There. That's a duo with you and a young woman from Ireland named Aileen Henderson, am I right? I have to see if she wants to be interviewed for the Phile. What do you think?

Rex: Yes, that’s correct. Aileen Henderson is from Galway, Ireland. I’m sure she’d be happy to be interviewed by the Phile.

Me: Light Over There is more a country sound, and your other band War Poets is a rock band. What made you go off and do two projects that are different, Rex?

Rex: When Aileen and I began to write songs, I could tell that she definitely had a country feel to her style. That guided us for the most part in terms of genre. Historically, I’ve written many country songs and rock songs, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to write in a more Americana style with Aileen. Aileen and I met through Twitter and after exchanging several messages we decided to try to write some songs. I sent her lyrics for "Solitude Gratitude" and she sent me back a demo that showed me how talented this young woman is. After that, we traded songs ideas until we finally came up with 5 songs and those are on the EP "Light Over There."  

Me: What do you prefer? Rock or country?

Rex: I like both but I am a rocker and I want our songs to have a message that is clear and takes a stand on today’s important issues. So maybe rock with a social message is what I prefer.

Me: You're from Minneapolis, am I right? I guess you grew up listening to one of my favorite bands... The Replacements. Did you ever see them live or meet Paul Westerberg?

Rex: I am from Minneapolis, well actually we live in St Paul. The Replacements are Twin Cities icons. One of our producers, Kevin Bowe, has done a lot of work with Paul and the band. I have seen them live, they’re great.

Me: Okay, back to Light Over There. You have an EP out under that name, Rex. Where was it recorded? Did you fly Aileen over from Ireland?

Rex: The EP was released on St Patrick’s Day (of course). We recorded simultaneously in Ireland and at Drum Farm Studio in Menomonie, WI over several days in the fall of 2014. We did a basic instrumental track, then we’d send an mp3 file to Aileen’s producer, she record her vocals, and they’d upload her WAV vocal files to a data transfer site that we would download and put into our session files. So no we didn’t fly Aileen here to record.

Me: So, where did you meet her? Twitter? She's a lot younger than you. Haha.

Rex: Last summer, War Poets followed Aileen on Twitter. She sent a Twitter message asking us to view her YouTube videos. I did and subsequently sent her a message on Twitter about how good it sounded. We traded a few more messages then agreed to start co-writing. She is 18 years old and still in high school, graduating in June, so yes she is younger than me. One of the great things about music is that the spirit of the song can transcend generational, gender, racial, and religious differences. In our case, our music comes from a lot of hard work where we both respect and admire each other’s talents. The age difference doesn’t really matter.

Me: She has a really good voice, doesn't she?

Rex: She has one of the most unique and beautiful voices I have ever heard. She reminds me so much of Stevie Nicks and also of Bonnie Raitt. She is easy to listen to and spurs the listener to sing along. This kind of voice doesn’t come along very often.

Me: So, will you be working with her again, Rex?

Rex: There’s always that chance. We’ll see what happens with this release and see how our schedules shape up. I have loved working with her and would always support her in any way I could, so if that’s to write more songs with her then great. If it’s to watch her become a star, that’s great too.

Me: One of the Light Over There songs called "Where Memories Live" is a song about dementia. Yup, that's how I think I'm gonna die. What made you decide you write a song about that disease? It's not the happiest of subjects.

Rex: It’s not a happy topic, but it’s one that people, especially young people, need to be aware of and think about within their own families. We’ve taken elderly people out of their homes and placed them where they don’t want to be. We’ve seen American seniors lose autonomy and self-respect as they lose their family connections. In past times, elderly people were looked up to as being wise and their life experiences helped younger people make better decisions. Now it seems we no longer depend on that wisdom. For "Where Memories Live", my wife asked me to write a song about it because her stepfather has pretty bad Alzheimer’s Disease. I wrote the lyrics and sent them to Aileen. She did a masterful job writing the music and singing it. In the video, it is not all sadness. We show that there can be laughter too. The lyric hook is: to understand you I must be you. That is referring to the nearly impossible task of loved ones trying to understand the loss of the person suffering, not physical loss but instead the cognitive loss.

Me: Okay, let's talk about War Poets. Where did that band name come from?

Rex: We named the band after Wilfred Owen who wrote the classic 1918 poem "Dulce et Decorum Est." He was the first war poet. We wanted a literary term for the band name and since I write about social issues, it only seemed right that war protesting would be a potential source of a name. War Poets came to be when we realized that name describes us really well.

Me: A war poet is a real thing, I think, am I right?

Rex: Yes, indeed. They write poems about the tragedies of war and for the most part are protests of war and its inherent savagery.

Me: War Poets have been compared to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and another of my favorite bands... Social Distortion. Who would you compare War Poets to?

Rex: I think Dylan and Springsteen are what we’d compare ourselves to. Also, Tom Petty.

Me: So, who is in the War Poets with you, Rex?

Rex: War Poets is made up of myself, Jonny James (guitar, vocals), Maureen McFarlane (keyboards, vocals), Mike Menard (bass), Whelan Keenan (drums), Park Evans (guitar), and Jacy Smith (vocals, keyboards).

Me: Don't you have a someone who played with Kelly Clarkson in the band? Just wondering...

Rex: Joe Baldridge from Nashville is one of our producers. He has worked with Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban, Josh Groban, and many other well known Nashville stars. Joe has 5 Grammys to his credit and is a super talented producer. He and Kevin Bowe produced all the songs on the American issues trilogy: "American Police State", "Hot and Cold: American Relationships", and "Searching for the American Dream."  

Me: You do have two cute girls in the band, so good job there, Rex. Haha.

Rex: Yes, we do and we’re very fortunate to have them. They’re great musicians and very important to the band’s success.

Me: I love the EP "Searching for the American Dream", but this is not the bands only release. In a short time you have released a lot of music, right?

Rex: Thanks for the kind comment. Since November of 2012, we have released 5 records.

Me: Are you constantly writing, Rex?

Rex: Yes, although it comes in spurts. I call it writing mode. I’ll write 3 to 5 songs then stop for a while. I’ve always been that way. Of course the vast majority never make it to the studio. I have a backlog of songs that I want to record, but can’t seem to figure out where they should go. Some songs are clearly going to be recorded, some are not. I have also collaborated recently with a French author that writes fantasy stories. She has allowed me to take lines from her writings and adapt them to lyrics. We’ve recorded two of those songs and are about to record 3 more.

Me: So, what do you think the American dream is?

Rex: The American dream is finding a sense of fairness in life where ones work and contributions are not measured by financial success but by their own self-satisfaction and self worth. Too many people are being swept aside from the insatiable American appetite for money.

Me: You have a song called "Sarah" on the EP. I thought I can send that song to my girlfriend Sarah but I don't think the lyrics are appropriate. Who is the Sarah you are singing about and what is that song about?

Rex: Sarah is a fictitious character. The song, Sarah, is about two people who love each other in a non-traditional sense. They live their lives separate and together, but Sarah is trying to find the American dream, and the other, who believes he’s reached it, wants to take her along but realizes it’s too complicated. The challenge to the listener is to not make judgments against either character, but listen to their decision to purse the relationship they’ve both chosen.

Me: Hmmmm... it sounds like it is about us. Haha. So, how long has War Poets been together and how did you go about and put that band together, Rex?

Rex: War Poets has been together since 2012. I started by asking several key musicians I’ve worked with to play new songs that I wrote or co-wrote. We recorded "Dulce et Decorum Est" in 2012 then started to tour. The band was chosen with the help of management and legal team. We wanted people that could tour and were great musicians.

Me: "Dulce et Decorum Est."... What language is that and what does that mean?

Rex: It means sweet and honorable and the language is Latin. It is also connected a broader theme in Owen’s poem where he satirizes the British Government’s position that is sweet and honorable to die for your country in war.

Me: So, are you taking War Poets on the road? Think you'll play down here in Florida?

Rex: We play coast to coast. We’re heading to L.A. this month and off to other places too. Florida is definitely on the radar.

Me: So, are you going back into the studio with another project?

Rex: Yes, we’re recording 4 new songs and those will come out in a 6 song EP probably in the late summer. Two songs are already done.

Me: Cool. Okay, so, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Ready? I don't know if you have siblings but the question is what do you enjoy most about each of your siblings? If you don't have siblings let's change it to band members.

Rex: I have 3 siblings, 2 brothers and a sister. I enjoy the camaraderie with the brothers and talking about old times and our kids. My sister and I tend to talk about political issues and what our country needs to do.

Me: Rex, thanks for being on the Phile. Go ahead and plug your website and ask Aileen if she wants to do an interview.

Rex: For War Poets they are,,  For Light Over There they are and  I’ll discuss with our PR people and Aileen. Thanks for taking time to interview me.

Me: All the best, and please come back soon. I love your music.

Rex: Any time. Thanks for having me. And thanks for listening to War Poets and Light Over There.

That about does it for this entry. Thanks to Rex Haberman for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Monday with author Rich Bernatovich. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pheaturing Rick Elliot

Hey there, welcome to the Phile. How are you? Hillary Clinton bashing season is officially open, kids. With Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign now official, Americans have received the all clear signal to begin meticulously tearing her down, molecule by molecule, over the course of the next 18 months. This started yesterday, when every conservative politician in the country climbed over one another to condemn her on Sunday talk shows and continues today as every person with an Internet connection provided us with a detailed critique of her campaign logo. I wish Hillary Clinton would just make her campaign slogan "It's About Fucking Time."  Senator Marco Rubio announced to top Republican donors today that he intends to run for president, thus informing top Republican donors that he intends to fill the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket, be that alongside Jeb Bush, Scott Walker or whomever else happens to win the primaries.  Nearly nine out of ten adults now have health insurance... up from eight out of ten two years ago according to new numbers from a Gallup poll. The reason for the spike remains a mystery, but the fact that it is now against the law to not have insurance is suspected to play somewhat of a part. Obama gave us health care and all-day McDonald's breakfast, which were floated in 1993 by Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, respectively. In his new history book, "The American People" Larry Kramer lists George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Richard Nixon as a few of the important statesmen who were secretly gay. When asked by the the New York Times about his claims, Kramer said: "People say, 'Can you prove to me that George Washington was gay?' and I say, 'Can you prove to me that he wasn't?'" Very convincing point! Was Abe Lincoln gay or a vampire hunter? Geez, history, pick a lane!  Marvel Studios just released the first full trailer for their upcoming superhero film Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd as a guy who has the ability to get really, really small while retaining the strength of a normal, not-particularly-super human being. It appears to be about as fun and ridiculous as you would hope it would be. Here’s the first picture of Ant-Man’s wasp-themed villain, Yellowjacket.

Haha. I'm so stupid.  Hey, in a few days it's Tax Day. Just remember that you still have plenty of time to do your taxes at the last minute.  On Saturday's entry I mentioned the brand-new postage stamp honoring poet Maya Angelou with a wrong quote. Well, that's not the first time the USPS screwed up...

Yesterday I was at MegaCon and I noticed the latest issue of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and thought I had to share, kids. This is 100% real, and I think the best cover ever.

Hot, right?   So, Disney... the greatest company to work for ever is always changing shit around. Well, they just changed TinkerBell's dress. I have no idea why it looks like this...

There has to be a reason, right?  Anyway, at MegaCon I found a comic book I didn't know existed...

Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive sheep in an alternate reality. He was given the name Sheep-Boy... Na na na na, baa! Sheep-Boy! Ridiculous, right? And no, I didn't buy it. And now, from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Startling Similarities And Differences Between "Game Of Thrones" and Hillary Clinton's Campaign
5. Basic plot involves people who will do anything to gain access to the throne.
4. Is a bizarre mixture of fantasy, violence and silly clothes.
3. Is bankrolled by New York liberal elites.
2. Will be going strong in 2016.
And the number one startling similarity and difference between "Game of Thrones" and Hillary's campaign is...
1. Is going to end badly for most of its main players.

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, yesterday I went to MegaCon and had one of the best convention experiences of my life. I got to see some of the artists who are Phile Alum... DJ Clulow, Chris Hamer, Michael Banks and Jasmine Becket-Griffith. There were some others who were there but I didn't get to talk to. I don't normally wait on line to meet a celebrity but my girlfriend Sarah wanted to meet Norman Reedus who plays Daryl Dixon on "The Walking Dead." Now, I met some asshole celebrities in my life... remember my Bill Nye story? And I also met some real cool celebrities... but I have to say that Norman Reedus was one of the coolest celebrities I ever saw. he greeted each guest separately and was really down to earth... even going as far as walking around with a little girl who was dressed up as a bride or something, shooting silly string at people. Anyway, it was a really good convention and I was lucky to get an press pass once again. Next year the convention will be four days and over Memorial Weekend and run by the Canadians... so I hope I'll be able to get a pass pass again. Alright, also at MegaCon I'm sure was the intergalactic bounty hunter/comedian Tractor Beam. Coming straight out of his tour from the Outer Rim here he is...

Tractor: What did the Jedi say to the sheep?

Me: I don't know. What?

Tractor: May the Force be with ewe.

Me: Tractor, that was horrible.

Tractor: What did the sweet potato say to Luke Skywalker?

Me: Why would a potato talk? I don't know, what did it say?

Tractor: I yam your father!

Me: That was as bad as the first joke. You have one more chance, Tractor. Please tell a funny joke. 

Tractor: Where did A'Sharad Hett buy his furniture?

Me: Tractor, I think only like 1% of my readers will know who A'Sharad Hett is... but where did he buy the furniture?

Tractor: Krayt and Barrel and it's real. Look, nerd herder boy.

Me: That's great. Okay, do you have a limerick to leave us with?

Tractor: It's a shame Lando didn't invest in some decent wall wiring for Bespin 'cause as R2 knows those sockets alone are enough to make any droid's head spin.

Me: Good job I guess, Tractor. See you here soon.

Tractor: Thank you, don't eat the bantha.

An accountant is a person whose job it is to ensure that only people who can't afford accountants end up having to pay any taxes.

The 37th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

The author Rich Bernatovich will be guest on the Phile a week from today. He was at MegaCon as well but I didn't see him.

Today's guest is a young country singer whose latest single "West of the Rockies" is available now on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Rick Elliot.

Me: Hey there, Rick, or should I say howdy. Welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Rick: I'm doing good! Staying very busy.

Me: Man, you look so young, but you don't sound that young. How old are you, Rick?

Rick: I'm 18 years old and counting!

Me: Are you still in school?

Rick: No, I quit that stuff a long time ago... haha.

Me: How long have you been writing songs and performing?

Rick: I've been performing for nine years and writing for about five.

Me: You are on a crusade I read to preserve outlaw country. Is it going away do you think?

Rick: I think it took a small detour and is now making a large resurgence. Outlaw music will be around, as long as there are free spirited individuals who have the guts to express themselves.

Me: What do you think of the country music scene now?

Rick: It's bigger than ever, with an amazing amount of talent! Although, I must say the stuff on the radio isn't what it used to be.

Me: Have you always been into country music, Rick?

Rick: I grew up listening to mainly classic rock but have always had country influences.

Me: Who were your influences growing up?

Rick: Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Allen Coe, Jimmy Buffett, Eddie Rabbitt among many others.

Me: Whatcha think of Taylor Swift? She's not country anymore I know, but she started out that way. Miranda Lambert is better, right?

Rick: I don't listen to either of their music, so I wouldn't be a great judge of it.

Me: Rick, where are you from?

Rick: I was born is Santa Monica, CA and raised in Oceanside, CA. Southern California is my home.

Me: Okay, let's talk about your music. You have a new single out called "West of the Rockies." Have you been to the Rockies? They are in Colorado right?

Rick: I have been to the Rockies and many places both west and east of them. The Great Divide is much more than one could imagine.

Me: That song is taken from your new upcoming album "Let it Shine." That's your second album, am I right?

Rick: Actually "Let it Shine" is the name of our next single. These songs will be a part of an EP that will be released later this year.

Me: What was the name of your first album?

Rick: Our first Album is called "First Hand."

Me: So, have you learnt a lot since about recording, playing or the business as a whole between albums?

Rick: John Avila produced our latest singles and he taught me so much about producing and recording, it is unbelievable. It takes great talent to record.

Me: So, you are a young, talented man, Rick. Do you get a lot of woman fans coming to your shows?

Rick: We get a lot of everyone at our shows.

Me: You started off playing piano but moved to guitar... what do you prefer playing and what do you play mostly on the albums?

Rick: I played a good mix of both on our recordings. I can't say I prefer one over the other, but I do get on kicks where I will just play one or the other.

Me: Speaking of guitar, I watched the video for the song "Dust in the Road" and your guitar has autographs on it. I have a screen shot of the video here...

Me: Whose autographs are they?

Rick: I have 4 autographs on my guitar. 1. Paula Nelson 2. Billy Joe Shaver 3. Albert Lee 4. John Avila.

Me: How old were you when you started playing any instrument?

Rick: I learned piano when I was six years old.

Me: And how were you when you first wrote a song? Do you remember what it was called?

Rick: I wrote "West of the Rockies" when I was fourteen and it was my first song. Since then, I have really taken off.

Me: I have to mention your band the Smokehouse Smoke Band. Did you form that band, or did they find you?

Rick: I started the Secondhand Smoke band when I was fifteen and have had a number of different members over the years. My drummer has always stuck with me and is a childhood friend of mine. 

Me: Who came up with the band name, Rick?

Rick: My dad thought it would be a clever name for a band.

Me: You toured a lot last year I think. Do you have any good road stories? What's your favorite gig you have played so far?

Rick: The road stories... Let's not go there... hahaha. We had a great time on tour in 2014 and look forward to more this year. I can't say I've had a favorite gig. I've had good ones, bad ones and everything in between.

Me: So, being young what do your parents think about your music? They must be proud.

Rick: They love it! I have been very fortunate to have very supportive parents.

Me: I thought this was cool... you opened for The Marshall Tucker Band. Were you aware of their music beforehand?

Rick: I have always been a big fan of their music! So opening for them was a great honor. It was a great moment when Doug Gray told me my band was cookin'.

Me: A Phile Alum once opened for MTB as well... Graham Parker. Do you know who that is?

Rick: I'm not hip but I'm going to check him out!

Me: Rick, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Ready? Oh, this is a good one. If you could would you rather live in a boat a tree house an igloo or a teepee. A teepee would be very in tents. Hahahaha. I'd say boat, but it would have to be a bloody big boat.

Rick: I love the ocean so I will have to go with a boat.

Me: Rick, I hope this was fun and I hope you'd come back on the Phile when your album comes out. Will you?

Rick: I'll be back!

Me: Mention your website and all the best to you.

Rick: Thanks so much for having me! You guys can find me at or or my life Tweets at or checkout my selfies at

Me: Good job, Rick. Take care, man.

Okay, that about does it for this late entry of the Phile. Thanks to Rick Elliot for a great interview. The Phile will be back next Saturday with Rex Haberman from War Poets and then on Monday it's author and artist Rich Bernatovich. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker