Friday, July 18, 2014

Pheaturing John Funkhouser

Hey ho, welcome back to the Phile, Jason Peverett here. It's Friday, people. How are you? Speaking of Friday, have you ever heard that whole conspiracy about Rebecca Black's song "Friday" being about the JFK assassination? “Friday” is about the JFK assassination. No? Let me explain. 'The man driving the car JFK was in was named Samuel Kickin (Kickin' in the front seat, sittin in the back seat…). The assassination occurred on a Friday, and after JFK was shot the secret service told Jackie Kennedy to “get down” (got to get down on Friday). The cold war and the spread of Communism are referenced (everybody’s Russian). Finally, instead of eating a breakfast of eggs and sausage that morning, JFK opted for a bowl of Bran Flakes (got to have my bowl... got to have cereal). The following Monday, JFK was due to sign a law that provided bus transportation to all students (got to catch my bus…). There, now you know. Okay, what's going on in the world?  Things just keep getting worse for racist, sexist, obsessive nerds who pound their fists upon the presswood surface of their desks in their parents' basements at the very mention of a change in the comic book status quo. One day after "View" host Whoopi Goldberg shocked the world by announcing that a woman will now be wielding the hammer of Thor, Marvel editor Joe Quesada stepped onto "The Colbert Report" to announce that a black man will be carrying on the title of Captain America, now that Steve Rogers is an old, wrinkly white dude with a WWII-era understanding of the world. Are there any white, male superheroes left, aside from almost all of them?! People mad about black Captain America and Female Thor. Cause remember, if there's one thing comics taught us it's "being different is bad."  A 40 year old Mississippi woman with two children and a debilitating kidney disease recently realized her dream of becoming a professional cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints, and all she had to do to achieve it was be preternaturally attractive and athletic for her age and health. Newest New Orleans Saints cheerleader is 40, basically the female Rudy. I want to see what this woman looks like.

Not too bad, she has a weird look in her eyes though.  A federal judge has declared California's death penalty system to be unconstitutional, as the vast majority of inmates sentenced to capital punishment spend years and years and years waiting for the sweet embrace of death that never arrives. Apparently, US District Judge Cormac J. Carney has been listening to a lot of Smiths and Cure lately. It looks like CBS sports announcers will be given the choice of whether or not they feel comfortable using the name "Redskins," when referring to Washington D.C.'s football team on-air this season. "Generally speaking, we do not tell our announcers what to say or not say," network chairman Sean McManus very unconvincingly explained during an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.  This is going to sound like some kind of weird Midwesternism, but you have to believe me when I tell you it's not: the University of Wisconsin-Madison is being inundated with some kind of voraciously hungry, jumping "crazy worms." The unusually hearty, invasive earthworm species currently covers about an acre of land on the campus, and officials are taking great precautions to keep them from spreading into other parts of the state and country. Don't wave to earthworms. It stresses them out. While reporting live on yesterday's Malaysian Airlines plane crash, MSNBC's Krystal Ball spoke on the air with a Howard Stern fan pretending to be a member of the US military stationed in Ukraine. “Well, I was looking out the window and I saw a projectile flying in the sky and it would appear the plane was shot down by a blast of wind from Howard Stern’s ass,” the caller said. Ball apparently didn't catch the end of that, as she proceeded with the interview as if she hadn't just been caught in a prank that's been plaguing TV call-screeners for decades now. “So, it would appear the plane was shot down," Ball continued. "Can you tell us anything more from your military training of the sort of missile system that may have been coming from?” To which the caller replied, “Well, you’re a dumbass, aren’t ya'?” They quickly went to break, and when they came back, Ball explained that they thought they had an eyewitness on the scene, but "that individual was obviously not actually an eyewitness." He's probably witnessed a few things in his lifetime. Nothing we'd ever want to hear about, sure. But he's seen some stuff.  I have to mention this other story that I have been meaning to talk about... The hunters have become the hunted. Or, at least, the trolled in wilderness of social media. The hunting photo frenzy began last week when the Facebook page of a Texas teen cheerleader/trophy hunter went viral. Seems a lot of people were furious that a lot of other people liked the photos of her posing next to exotic, dead animals that she'd travelled to Africa to kill. Overnight she was divisively famous, with one weird perv so "worked up" he offered $100,000 for "nudes" and "dirt" on the girl. The whole story took on the viral nuttiness that only the combination of "hot teen" and "dead animals" could produce. Which means that people began coming out of the woodwork to add their two cents, because it's what was trending at the moment and it beat doing whatever they were being paid to do at their jobs. Which leads us to this photo of Steven Spielberg posing next to a "dead" Triceratops.

That was posted to Facebook by Jay Branscomb with the description "Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a Triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man." That's pretty funny. Because we're dealing with Facebook, however, not everyone got the joke, which lead to even funnier comments from people who were outraged by the heartless brutality of Steven Spielberg. Which lead to even more people chiming in to goof on them, which ultimately lead to a lot of man-splaining, and clarif-emaling(?).  The internet is weird. At least Spielberg isn't sitting with a dead E.T.   There's a new movie coming out about Paddington Bear, which I am not sure most Americans know about. I'm English, so I know about Paddington. My mum and my sister Lucy were huge Paddington fans. I am not sure though on the route they are taking with this movie. Check out this screen shot.

Why on Earth did they make the movie black and white?  Some of you are still emailing me asking where I was for five months. Well, her is the answer...

I didn't make a habit out of it though. Haha.  Yesterday as you probably know by now legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter passed away. In 1978 he took part in the Blues Tribute show Foghat put together. Well, I thought it'll be cool to show you this screen cap of my dad playing next to Winter.

It's not the clearest picture but I still think it's cool.  I have to mention this, at Disney they have their own intranet called the Hub which anybody who works at Disney in the world at Disney can see. I have been working at Disney for 26 plus years and my picture has never been on the Hub... until now. Check it out.

Haha. Can you even spot me? At least I am there. Moving on...  Well, it's Summer and one thing that is great about Summer is the bikini. So, all through Summer I will be showing you some unusual bikinis that are out there. Behold the N12, the first 3D-printed bikini ever, a high-tech garment that's the result of a collaboration between Continuum Fashion and Shapeways.

For something that's completely customized to your own shape, the price isn't even too bad... the top will set you back about $260. As well as being the first 3D printed bikini, it is also the first bikini that actually becomes more comfortable when it gets wet. The N12 is named for nylon 12, the waterproof material it's printed from.  And now for...

That's a hard one. You might want to look at it sideways. Okay, it's story time, people. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man. Please welcome back to the Phile... Laird Jim.

This just in. Her: "I'm thinking of packing a picnic basket and stopping by this afternoon... you interested?" Me: "Sounds great... I'll be home around 4pm." Two things come to mind here... Clearly, she thinks I'm Yogi Fucking Bear... and... It's gonna rain today around that time. We'll wind up back at my place sooner than she thought. See you at 4, Boo Boo!

Elaine Stritch 
February 2, 1925 – July 17, 2014
A Stritch in time saves none.

The 31st book to be pheatured in the Phile's book club is...

Mark Baxter will be the guest on the Phile next Thursday.

Today's pheatured guest is a jazz piano, keyboard and bass player whose latest album "Still" is available on iTunes and Please welcome to the Phile, the guy with one of the coolest names ever... John Funkhouser.

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

John: Most excellent, thanks.

Me: Okay, I have to ask you about your name... Funkhouser. It's great! I wish my last name was Funkhouser... or Phunkhouser. The Phunkhouser Phile. How cool does that sound? Anyway, is that really your last name?

John: The eternal question! If I had become a doctor, like two of my sisters, people wouldn't ask that question. I'm like a piano tuner I once met named Robert String. Who knows, maybe he changed his name, but I doubt it.

Me: You were born to be a artist or musician with that name, John. People always made fun of Peverett... calling me Pervert. Did you get picked on at school with your name? 

John: I guess it had to be. Third grade was Funky Chicken, middle school it was Funky, then Funk (one a-hole changed the N to a C), and a lot of my friends still use those names. I always liked them, and there may have been a certain point when the nicknames nudged me in the direction of hipper music! I started as a classical musician.

Me: Do you have kids? What do they think of the Funkhouser name? They should love it. Are they musicians as well?

John: I just have one daughter, and her first name is Willow, and she loves both her names. She's a singer and dancer, deep into musical theater. She's more Willow, less Funk at the moment, but we'll see what happens... she's only 13.

Me: What does your wife think of her last name after she married you?

John: She likes how everyone remarks on it, but it took some getting used to... at first she tried to talk me into both changing our names to some third name we would choose together, but I wasn't going to part with the name Funkhouser NO MATTER WHAT!

Me: Alright, we will stop talking about your name. You're a talented jazz musician that plays bass and piano. What came first, John?

John: I was the youngest of five kids, and we all had to start on piano. We were allowed to switch to another instrument if we wanted to when we were old enough. Our mother was a fairly serious amateur pianist and thought it was important for all of us to study that instrument for a while before we made up our minds. The piano studies started at 7, bass at 9. My mother had given me a record with the sounds of all the instruments in the orchestra. The one I liked best was the contrabassoon. But then I found out you had to learn bassoon first, and oboe before that, since they're all double reed instruments. I didn’t want to do that because oboe wasn’t cool. The next lowest instrument was the bass, so I chose bass. 

Me: What was the easier instrument to learn for you? I'm guessing bass.

John: Definitely bass. It's hard technically and physically, and you have to worry about playing in tune (not that I did when I was 9!). But I mostly just took what I knew from piano and applied it to bass. And reading is easy because you only have to worry about one note at a time!

Me: How long have you been a musician and how long have you been writing music?

John: I started writing music relatively late... I only got really into it in my early 20s. My main motivation was that I didn't hear any music out there that sounded like what I imagined in my head. 

Me: You have recorded I think four of your own albums, but have played on a lot of albums. How many albums have you played on, John?

John: About 70 at last count. All over the map stylistically. 

Me: Do you prefer doing your own thing?

John: I think I wouldn't feel fully satisfied if I weren't leading and writing music for my band, but I also love the challenge of trying to be the consummate sideman in any style.

Me: Have you always been into jazz?

John: Yeah. I heard it a lot around the hour growing up, along with classical music. The idea that I could make a career of it didn't occur to me until much later.

Me: Who are your influences music wise? I'm guessing Thelonious Monk is one of them, am I right?

John: Definitely, although my earliest influences were Benny Goodman, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, and Boston pianist Dave McKenna... the people my dad and step dad were into.

Me: And everybody says The Beatles. Did you grow up listening to them?

John: The Beatles were my first love in pop/rock music. My real first loves were Mozart and Handel though. I still love the Beatles, and use their music whenever I can in my teaching.

Me: I interviewed a lot of people who went to Berklee in Boston, or taught there. You currently teach there, am I right?

John: I've been there 12 years now.

Me: What are you a professor in, John?

John: I teach ear training, piano, bass, and ensembles.

Me: Where did you go to school?

John: I majored in music at Cornell, and then got a Masters at New England Conservatory.

Me: Are you originally from Boston?

John: Yeah, I grew up in the suburbs.

Me: You have played all around the world. Is there a favorite gig you played at, or a favorite place?

John: The Jazz in the Sangres Festival in Westcliffe, CO. A thunderstorm came through during our set and they pulled the plug in the middle of a tune so we all wouldn't get electrocuted.

Me: Do you get nervous on stage?

John: Sometimes... less now that I'm older, but if it's a huge crowd or an unfamiliar situation, or the music is really hard, I still get a twinge from time to time.

Me: Alright, let's talk about your new CD "Still". How did you come about choosing that song to be the title track?

John: I just liked the word, and how open ended its meaning is. I guess it's one of the themes of the record as well. The stillness from which all music arises.

Me: I love the cover of "House of the Rising Sun". There's no singing on that song, it's just an instrumental. Did you think of having someone sing on that song, John?

John: Truthfully, it never crossed my mind.

Me: You wrote some songs on the album, am I right? Not all are covers?

John: Right... the only covers are "House of the Rising Sun", "My Romance", and the Monk tune, "Little Rootie Tootie".

Me: I have to ask you about the song "Indigo Montoya's Great Escape". First of, who is Indigo Montoya?

John: My cat.

Me: You named your cat Indigo Montoya? That's original? What is the song about?

John: Yeah, he's named after the hero in The Princess Bride. We found out later that his name is spelled wrong... it's supposed to IƱego. Oh well. But the cat Indigo Montoya is an indoor cat, and he's always trying to get out, dreaming of all the birds he could be eating and all that. So the song is about his inner life, which is pretty tortured at times, as you can tell from listening to the tune. Sometimes he's wicked chilled out, though, and you hear that in the music as well.

Me: You have another song called "Leda". Is that about anybody in particular?

John: It's a tribute to a woman I met in Costa Rica, when I was on a tour there recently. She was an incredibly graceful and giving person, taking the leader of the band to the police station when a bunch of his stuff was stolen, and generally taking great care of all of us.

Me: You have your own Trio, right? Do they play on the album? Who are they, John?

John: I've had this trio together for quite a while with the same personal. The drummer Mike Connors joined in 2001, and Greg Loughman joined us in 2007. For the last two years we've been playing more and more with guitarist Phil Sargent, so now we're really a quartet most of the time, even though Phil is only on three tracks on the CD. We're all old friends, and the group feels pretty telepathic a lot of the time, and always very empathetic.

Me: A lot of jazz musicians I interviewed have worked with piano player Ran Blake, who I would love to interview on the Phile. You played with him, right?

John: For sure, and studied with him at New England Conservatory.

Me: What was that like and did he teach YOU anything?

John: Ran is one of the most unique people I've ever come across, musician or not. He's an extremely intense improviser... you get the feeling that his raw distilled soul is being poured out in a devastatingly direct way when he plays the piano. He's a wonderfully caring and devoted teacher as well. I have the deepest respect for him.

Me: You have appeared on "20/20" and "Today". What was that about? It's not as cool as being on the Phile though, right, John? Haha.

John: Nothing compares with the Phile, but your readers already know that! My high profile TV appearances were all as the bassist with then child prodigy and autistic savant Matt Savage. Playing with him was an amazing experience, starting when Matt was eight. We have traveled all over the world together, and watching him grow and mature has been a blessing. Our most recent gig together was playing at the Boston Beantown Jazz Festival last September with Bobby Watson. That was another amazing experience... Bobby Watson is NOT kidding around when it comes to playing the saxophone!

Me: On the album you have a young cute singer named Aubrey Johnson. What track does she sing on, John?

John: "Leda" and "The Deep"

Me: How did you meet Aubrey?

John: Mutual friends--when I met her, she was a student at NEC with a couple of my other friends. 

Me: So, do you think she'd like to be interviewed on the Phile? You wanna put in a good word?

John: I'm sure she'd be happy to do an interview with you... she's a super nice woman.

Me: Is there anybody you'd love to perform or record with but haven't?

John: Herbie Hancock. Dave Holland. Actually, it's a long list... I have a lot of heroes!

Me: Alright, on the Phile I ask random questions. Are you ready? This is thanks to Tabletopics... If you didn't have to worry about money what would you do with your life? You're a professor at Berklee, do you worry about money?

John: I think everyone worries about money to a point. Hmmm... probably do just about what I'm doing. Maybe perform a little more and teach a little less, but I wouldn't want to stop teaching because I love it. I might get a nicer house or something, but I'm very happy doing what I do... playing, teaching, and hanging out with my family. I'm very lucky to be leading such a blessed life... I can't imagine what I did to deserve such good fortune.

Me: John, thanks so much for being on the Phile. Is there a website you'd like to plug? Thanks for being here, and come back again, and don't forget to mention the Phile to Aubrey.

John: Many thanks for having me on! Everyone check out "Still"! We think it's a great CD, but we may be a little biased.

There you go, another Phile entry done. Thanks to Laird Jim and John Funkhouser. The Phile will be back next Thursday with author Mark Baxter and then on Friday another keyboardist... Pete Calandra. 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.

No comments: