Monday, April 29, 2013

Pheaturing Rees Shad

Hello, kids, welcome to another entry of the Phile. How are you?  The other day was the NFL draft... did you feel it? The draft. The NFL draft is a huge deal. This is the time when college football players go from being paid under the table to being paid OVER the table. The number one NFL draft name for 2013 is Barkevious Mingo. It sounds like a character from "Game of Thrones."  All five living presidents were in Dallas this week for the opening of the George W. Bush presidential library. President Obama said he was happy to support the opening of the library. He should be. After all, Bush got him elected twice. Blame Bush on that one, sir! In President Bush's high school yearbook, he was voted least likely to have a library named after him. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was in Texas  for the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library. The library is already done, but they brought in Christie for a second groundbreaking.  The $100 bill is getting redesigned for the first time since 1996. It has new security features that will make it harder to counterfeit. And this is kind of amazing: Benjamin Franklin's hair is real. You can comb it and everything.  NBC has plans for a new game show called “The Million Second Quiz,” in which contestants will answer trivia questions 24 hours a day for 12 days straight. Does NBC really expect us to pay attention to something that lasts a million seconds? I can barely get through a 45-second cat video on YouTube.  There’s a new iPhone app that tells women where they can buy Michelle Obama’s clothes. Not only that... there's another app that tells men where they can buy Hillary Clinton's clothes.  The stars of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” have a new project in the works. Yeah, they say they're working on a family cookbook. Which sounds good until you find out that the first recipe is just going to McDonald's.  A new study has found that men have a hard time reading women's facial expressions. The main reason? They are not usually looking at her face.  Basketball great Dwight Howard, who reportedly has four children from four different mothers, is expecting a fifth child with a fifth woman. Dwight’s going to be a father again... as opposed to the rest of the Lakers, who are mostly grandfathers.  You know what the worst job in America is? It's newspaper reporter. I guess the pollsters forgot to ask the guy who cleans the toilets at Dodger Stadium how things are going for him. It was dubbed the worst job because it's high stress, low pay, and often requires working in dangerous conditions. This must have been a fun story for the newspaper reporters to report. “Hey guys, guess what? Our lives stink." According to a study, the best job in America is actuary... primarily because no one knows what an actuary is. So they don't have to do much.  The Internet celebrated a major milestone this week. It’s the eighth anniversary of the very first video uploaded to YouTube. YouTube was founded in 2005 by a small group of visionaries who asked the question, “What if nobody in America ever got anything done ever again?”  Have you seen the new warning sign being made? I have no idea what the hell it means.

Where are they gonna put it?  Did you see the ad that the drug companies put out? I am not sure this is a good thing.

My son and I went to Game Stop the other day, as he wanted to get a new video game for his XBox. I swear, they'll release a game about anything.

It might be good. Not exactly "Halo" I know.  One of the things I like to do in my spare time is go on Twitter and look up certain words. One of those words is Foghat, and this is what I recently found.

Is that a compliment? I don't know. Hey, guess who joined me in the Phile's office...

He never hangs out with me when I'm doing the Phile. Griffin is a cool dog. What was I gonna do next? Oh, yeah... Alright, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Phive Under-Reported Events At The Opening Of The George W. Bush Presidential Library
5. The festivities got started with Bush doing a stirring reading from "My Pet Goat".
4. Donald Rumsfield was heard commenting, "You open a library with the books you have, not the books you want."
3. After the ninth time, people just stopped correcting Bush when he said "li-berry".
2. Al Gore wept during the entire ribbon-cutting ceremony.
And the number one under-reported even at the opening of the Bush presidential library was...
1. Colin Powell arrived very late, claiming he was given "bad intelligence." (Just kidding, Powell didn't go. He still considers Bush a dumb, lying warmonger.)

If you spot it, email me at Alright, well, he was here yesterday, and he is here again today. You know what time it is, kids. Please welcome back to the Phile... singer, patriot, renaissance man, and phriend of the Phile... Laird Jim.

Good morning, humans... time to beat Monday's ass! Just stopped some JAG-OFF from kicking his dog. It was a beautiful Husky/Shep mix puppy... just doing what puppies do. Being a pain in the ass as biting at his leash trying to be playfull. This idiot starts kicking the dog like a soccer ball. I told him that if he didn't stop within 5 minutes, I'd have a video of him up on YouTube with a fat lip and a leash around his neck. He stopped... and the little girl on the corner, holding her mother's hand smiled and blew me a kiss. When life gives you lemons... make certain it also gives you water, sugar and ice or your lemonade is really gonna taste like shit.

Thanks, Laird. Man, I would of got mad at that guy for kicking his dog as well. Alright, the 30th artist to be pheatured in the Phile's Art Gallery is Chris Hamer, and this is one of his pieces...

Chris will a guest on the Phile in a few weeks.


Today's pheatured guest is a professor and musician whose albums are available on iTunes and could be heard on the Graham Parker tribute album "Piss & Vinegar". Please welcome to the Phile... Rees Shad

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

Rees: I'm doing great, thanks. You?

Me: I could be better. Rees Shad is a cool name, very Star Wars-ish. Does it have a meaning?

Rees: Double last name syndrome... Rees was my grandmother's maiden name. Welsh from enthusiastic. Never thought of it as Star Wars-ish, but I'm cool with that. Actually my whole name is Rees Edward Eric Shad, which makes me an acronym… kinda weird.

Me: I used to write stories and I had a character who was a professor named Professor Rees. But Rees stood for Ready Every Eternal Second. That's pretty lame, right?

Rees: Ah, you were working with acronyms too! Have to give that to my students, who interestingly enough call me "Professor Rees."

Me: I interviewed a few musicians who are also professor's in the last few years. So, what do you teach and where do you teach?

Rees: I taught for several years at my alma mater Parsons, where I focused on usability studies and interactive design, but started developing curricullum for the City University of New York (CUNY) about seven years ago. That led to me developing media programs (graphic design, animation, game design, and music production) for a CUNY community college in the South Bronx called Hostos... a really wonderful place founded on social activism and true community development. Within months I was applying for a full time position there, and shortly thereafter became the coordinator of the programs I had designed. Its an incredible gig with really lovely and dedicated folks making a difference in a community that by and large has been left out of the world of media development.

Me: How long have you been a professor?

Rees: Nine years.

Me: You were a musician first, am I right?

Rees: Yep.

Me: How long have you been a musician, Rees?

Rees: I started writing songs when I was four, and recording them only a couple of years later. Started recording in ernest when I was fourteen, and started my record company Sweetfish when I was still in high school. How long? I guess that would be about 45 years, but working professionally for over thirty years.

Me: I first heard about you when I recently got the reissue of the Graham Parker tribute album "Piss & Vinegar". I love your version of "Long Stem Rose". That's the only song on the whole I like better then the original. Did you decide to make it more uptempo?

Rees: My dear friend and mentor Gary Burke had played on the Parker album with "Long Stem Rose" on it, and when I heard the song for the first time I started working out arrangements in my head that were a bit less chamber based. My band and I had actually jammed the tune up here and there, so when we got the call asking if we'd contribute to the project, it was an easy choice. We didn't listen to the original track, just plugged in and worked it until it felt like us.

Me: Were you aware of Graham before you were asked to take part with the CD?

Rees: Are you kidding? I was a huge fan from early on. "Mercury Poisoning" was a little record industry lesson when it came out. Got me investigating contract negotiations long before I ever had to deal with that stuff. Years later, Graham sang on my debut album "Anderson, Ohio". It was, Graham , Guy Clark, and I singing a cross generational story of young men and the wars of the 20th Century called "Hero's Son." So when the opportunity to express my thanks came along (the "Piss & Vinegar album), I leapt at the chance.

Me: Have you heard from Graham what he thinks of your version of his song?

Rees: We were hanging out back stage at a show in Albany, NY where my band opened up for him and the Figgs. He was very kind and complementary.

Me: Rees, where are you from and where do you live now, sir?

Rees: I grew up in Manhattan, but moved to upstate New York to go to college. I settled there and started a recording studio on an old dairy farm. I toured for years and did the record industry thang, but always went back upstate. After a couple of decades doing that, I went back to grad school and started commuting into NYC to teach. I live now in Putnam County about an hour from the South Bronx where Hostos is.

Me: You work in your own studio, right? How long have you had that studio?

Rees: I ran and operated a studio called Sweetfish according for almost 20 years. We worked with some major label acts and a bunch of folks that should have been but didn't get the support they needed. A few years ago, I began recording more original music for film and theater projects under the name Fester Spunk, and I picked up a hammer and built a new studio that I call Stressless Sound. A little production space where I can record drums and such, but no big console room like in the old days.

Me: Do you rent it out often?

Rees: My son, who grew up in the studio, has since become an incredible audio engineer. Much better than his old man ever was. He and I work with various projects at Stressless, but we don't rent out the space the way we used to at Sweetfish.. Just work on stuff that we're creating or producing.

Me: Fester Spunk. That's another cool name. Where did that name come from?

Rees: Uncle Fester but with more Spunk. It was a persona that just seemed to fit when I was in grad school at Parsons and creating music for other students' projects. Nothing like the old Rees Shad stuff with acoustic guitar and narrative word-smithery. Synths and samples and computer experiments... this music needed another personality on the mast head.

Me: How would you compare Spunk's music to the music you release under your own name?

Rees: Rees Shad is a story teller. Fester Spunk is an experimenter. But Spunk is also a jokester... he's a member of the comedic rock band Scheissfinger. This is a collection of some of my dearest friends who come together periodically and record insane concept records... a rock opera about my 4th grade shop instructor, a musical based on the classic film Deep Throat called "Cumalot"… just weirdness, and not for everyone. So Spunk is about doing something unexpected, while Rees Shad is about getting serious about the issues at hand and uncovering central narratives in the human experience. He's rather full of himself actually. If I had no Fester in my life I'd probably just go to the dentist more often.

Me: What was the last release you had out, Rees?

Rees: As Rees Shad?

Me: Yeah.

Rees: That would be "Life & Times" which my son Dylan recorded up at Dreamland in 2010 with Jay Turner on bass, Rob Kovacs on drums, and the incredible John Platania on guitar. Almost entirely live and working with the huge church space that is Dreamland. Not a single digital reverb was used just natural spacial ambiance… gorgeous… and then there's me sitting there singing my heart out with these great folks covering my ass. I love them all very much.

Me: I have to congratulate you for being the 2012 New York Professor of the Year! That's very cool. How many professor's were nominated and did you win anything?

Rees: That was a big wow moment in my life - for sure. There were cash awards to the four national winners, the rest of us got lunch and lapel pins. Thirty folks in all, it was a huge honor. Really great. I think there's a professor Rashad somewhere at Cornell or somewhere that was the real New York State awardee, but a typo got me the title. Shhhhhhhh.

Me: I won't say a word. Let's talk about the Hive Cooperative. Can you explain what that is?

Rees: The Hive Cooperative was developed to create a textbook for a game design program that I started at Hostos. It involved several current and past students who joined my son and me (yeah we do lots of stuff together... he's great) in developing and testing the materials for the book, some of whom also illustrated the book. Its called Einstein and the Honeybee, and it was developed to help high school and early college students understand iterative design, game interaction, and collaborative play. The group of us now have equal ownership (a bit of profit comes in, but more importantly these folks are all now published!) in the book and are on to other projects. This coming summer we'll be doing a textbook for introducing recording technology to folks. Really cool.

Me: I have no idea what you just said. LOL. Man, you're very busy, Rees. Do you have a family? Is Dylan your only son?

Rees: A wife of over thirty years... incredibly wonderful journey still ongoing, and two kids... Dylan and his little sister Lillian who just gave us our first grandchild. Awesome! Family is the root of all this energy for me. without their love and support, I wouldn't care to even try most days.

Me: You started your own record label called Sweetfish. Is that just to release your own music, Rees?

Rees: Sweetfish released several other people's work... a wonderful album by Paul Burlison (from the Rock and Roll trio) stands out as one of the highlights… another, "All the King's Men" actually got a Grammy nomination.

Me: Do you still like writing and working on music?

Rees: For me the creative process is the essence of life, I don't care about performing in public, but creating in the studio is incredibly important to me. I created some chamber music last fall and recorded it with the Macedonian Radio Philharmonic. OVER SKYPE! What a world we live in…

Me: You wrote music for films and animation. Is there anything you did that the the general public might've seen?

Rees: General public, yes... but not a wide swath of it. My work with the Hostos Repertory Theater has been incredible. Our production of "Boom" actually went to the Kennedy American College Theater Festival where it won a couple of awards… actually beat out Yale and Brown! A few of the animated works have gotten into festivals, but no larger audience, yet… not really the point for me anymore.

Me: What medium do you like working in the best?

Rees: Audio, written, film film, installation art, interactive design... if I get to express, I'm happy.

Me: I have to ask you about the album cover for "Carving Away the Clay". How did you stand having all that shit on your face? I know it's not really shit but you know what I mean. I have a picture of that cover here.

Rees: That's a great question. It wasn't shit, but clay slip, which is watered down clay used in creating larger sculptures. It was a very cold experience since the clay drew the heat out of my head when I covered my skull and started carving away the clay to reveal my true form. They put heaters around me to warm my body, and the room was intolerable to all but me. Ebet Roberts, who is a phenomenal photographer, has worked on more record covers than God... was blown away by the experience and effect. As the clay dried, it began to chip and peel and contract causing me to age right in front of her eyes (lens). The interior parts of the album package show that process... weirdly entertaining. But that album was all about me redefining who I was... giving up the chase of stardom, and just settling into being a creative who could be noticed or not noticed without needing validation. It was a symbolic act to re-emerge in front of Ebet's camera like that. My life has been much happier since.

Me: I couldn't have done it, having all that clay on me. Alright, on the Phile I ask random questions from Tabletopics. Are you ready? What are the the most important qualities you look for in friends?

Rees: Kindness, passion, self-awareness, and a willingness to laugh at oneself. Take it all too seriously, and I'm out the door.

Me: Rees, thanks so much for being here on the Phile. I hope it was fun, and please come back soon. Wanna plug your website or anything?

Rees: Thanks for listening. This has been fun. I have nothing to seriously plug of my own... if folks want to hear stuff they can go to iTunes and type in my name, or Fester Spunk, or Scheissfinger (for the weird stuff). They can Google me to find out what I'm doing, but if they want to get involved and make a difference in the lives of young media makers they should check out what we're doing at, and if they want to contribute to our Ravenfox scholarship fund, they can visit That would be really terrific!

Me: Take care and all the best, Rees.

Rees: Big love to all. And thanks for taking the time.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Laird Jim and of course Rees. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Australian singer Sarah D and on Monday singer Carrie Johnson. Next weekend also starts the second annual Star Wars Month on the Phile. I'll leave you with another picture of my Disney career celebrating 25 years working there. They'll will be Star Wars themed pictures through May, but in June we'll continue with more pictures of me working at Disney. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Strawberry Blondes Forever!

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