Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pheaturing Brett Ryan Stewart

Hey there, and welcome back to the Phile. How are you? Don't ask me how I'm doing... it's been a rough couple of days.  Well, I wouldn't be British if I didn't mention this... There's a new royal baby in town and she is taking over your news feed. The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a daughter, and both mother and baby are "doing well." Do you know who else is doing well? Every single person in all of England. In fact, they're not just "doing well," they are going absolutely crazy over the birth of this baby. Although the baby's name has yet to be announced, the reaction she's causing across the land leads me to believe one day she will rule the world (probably with Blue Ivy Carter).  British Airways have a big sense of humor... check this out, this is real.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And now for more important news...  Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron pulled in an astonishing $27.6 million dollars on its first night in theaters, putting it on track to be the top earning movie in its opening weekend. Resistance in futile. You will see this movie. You will.  The specter of scandal has descended upon N.J. Governor Chris Christie after his ally David Wildstein pled guilty to his part in closing lanes of the George Washington Bridge in an apparent act of political revenge. Expect Christie's support among Republican voters to spike in the next day or so.  Tesla Motors has just unveiled the Tesla Powerwall, a large rechargeable lithium ion battery capable of powering a home through solar power. It is selling for $3,000 and is capable of humbling up to twelve friends or co-workers daily. I think it's cool the band Tesla has a car named after them. I think Foghat should also have a car named after them.  A flight attendant on a plane ride from from New York City to Washington, DC required stitches after being bit on the hand by an agitated Barbra Streisand. (Or maybe it was her dog. Sorry, I should have paid better attention when reading this story.) “This never happened before and Barbra apologized profusely to the flight attendant,” a representative of legendary singer told Page Six.  Jay-Z has promised to perform in "exclusive concerts" for people who sign up for his new music streaming service Tidal. Seems like he's really gunning for the people who can't figure out how to unsubscribe from music services market. McDonald's is discontinuing nine sandwiches... including the Quarter Pounder Deluxe and six variants of chicken sandwiches in order to condense its excessively large number of menu items amidst flagging sales. "There will be further moves on menu simplification coming up now, because we have a number of tests in place," chain CEO Steve Easterbrook said during a conference call last week. I really hope they don't dumb down the menu too much. It would be a shame if they lost the entire backstory to family of snack wraps.  So, apparently there was a big fight on pay-per-view last night. I didn't watch it, but after seeing this pic I almost kinda wish I had...

What is that about?  It's May, and do you know what else it is? It's National Masturbation Month. Here's a real poster to prove it...

Yep. It's true.  Speaking of posters, Disney and Marvel have released a new inspirational poster.

Haha.  Last week I showed you some Muppet look-a-likes... well, I have another, kids.

That's so stupid.  So, did you get the Apple Watch? I'm not sure about it when I saw this...

I'm allergic to apples so I probably won't be buying it. And now for some sad news...

Ben E. King
September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015
Save the next grave for me.

They're building a giant machine now, a machine made of movies. To participate in the machine's agenda of taking your money, it will not help to begin by looking at this perpetual motion installment and working backwards, trying to catch up. You must, at least, return to the first Avengers film, the first Thor movie and both Captain America chapters, or you must instead have a thorough superhero briefing from a Comic-Con attendee who has already logged the hours for you. Otherwise, Avengers: Age of Ultron will be merely loud, densely detailed, and incomprehensible for 141 minutes.  We begin in mid-battle, and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) are busy slow-mo flying through the air to triumphantly kick at HYDRA evildoers. Somewhere during this frenzied roar, a bad person says, "Can we hold them?" and another bad person responds, "They're the Avengers..." Meaning no, dummy, you can't hold them. Nobody can hold them. Not even what's coming next can hold them, and Thing Next is an unstoppable robot army led by an ultra-Libertarian super-intelligence named Ultron (perfectly voiced by James Spader). Even that. They're the Avengers. Unless the title of the movie is Avengers Something Whatever Fighting Jam, Part 1 they're going to win.  Like any effective terrorist... and if these films are about nothing else, they are about unseen forces invading us from all directions and how fear guides our responses... Ultron has only ideology to guide it and access to the most complex of human technological achievements, the better to decimate everything that gets in its way.  And the frequent confusion attending this real age of terrorism is matched by the confusing messages that accompany the Avengers. It's a world of alien aggressors that require nothing less than extreme displays of destructive force as a corrective. The most trustworty of those destructive forces are benevolent corporate and militaristic entities that will save you. Maybe. Because you can't trust anyone, sometimes even those saviors. But we're all in this together so, uh, sorry, you simply have no other choice. Comforted yet?  Writer-director Joss Whedon's humanism is never far away, and it tempers those no-win scenarios with comic ensemble dialogue that wouldn't feel out of place on an old episode of Roseanne (his first writing credit). Packed with a disgruntled family's worth of characters already, Age of Ultron crams in several new ones...Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)... as well as sequel-seeding details the observant and experienced will pick up on, even as they fly past the rest of you. And by "you," I mean me... something about Infinity Stones that I expect future films will walk my brain through, even though, yes, I know, they've made cameo appearances in the other movies.  To his credit, Whedon juggles these franchise-fulfilling facts efficiently and the story's competing character agendas with light touches of humor and warmth, even if the characters themselves have become known by some shorthand tics and quirks. (Cap hates profanity, goes the best running gag.) You've visited with these particular guardians of the galaxy before, no need to remediate, and the new batch still feel like welcome additions. One question, though: how sardine-tin-like is this hero train going to become when the actual Guardians of The Galaxy climb on board? Hulk is going to eat that raccoon and pick his teeth with that tree. From 1 to 10 I give Avengers: Age of Ultron an 8.

This is an easy one. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, this past week as you probably know some shit has been going down in Baltimore. You know, I didn't see the welfare office on fire in Baltimore. But that's none of my business. Anyway, a friend of the Phile has something to say about it. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man. You know what time it is...

Dear people of Baltimore.... You're fucking kidding me, right? How about you stop acting like a bunch of rabid animals long enough to get your SHIT together and do something positive for a change? Instead of destroying hope, making change all but impossible... pull yourselves together, organize your voices and direct them in a manner that will bring about change. You've got the world's attention... and the best you can do is riot, burn down your city, bring out the riot gear clad cops and armored vehicles. You've now attacked police officers and hospitalized several. One of whom is unresponsive and in critical condition. The media LOVES this... they're drooling over your behavior. The stores you're burning down are owned by your neighbors. You're putting THEM out of business. And you are indeed hours away from having the national guard called in to put this lawlessness to an end. You make me fucking sick! And now a few thoughts on boxing.... Aside from the Ali - Frasier era hoopla, I was never a fan of boxing. I learned how to box as a self defense measure but take no interest in watching two sweaty gladiators pummel each other into early dementia. The only fight I'm interested in is with the guy who's stupid enough to grab a handful of my date's ass... or swipe my smokes off the bar. just sayin'...

Today's pheatured guest is a very talented musician whose latest album "Tilt" is available on iTunes. Check it out, it's great! Please welcome to the Phile... Brett Ryan Stewart.

Me: Hello, Brett, welcome to the Phile, man, how are you?

Brett: Sorry for the cliche... but glad to be alive.

Me: Usually in an interview on the Phile there's a lot of small talk before we get into the guests' music, book or art, or whatever they are here to talk about, but with you, Brett, I want to go straight to your music first. I downloaded your album "Tilt" from iTunes and really like it. It's a very emotional album for you, isn't it?

Brett: Well, first of all, thanks! Yes, it is the end result of a helluva lot of personal hardship and turmoil. Thankfully I made it out alive, and feel stronger because of it. That's really the part that I hope is conveyed.

Me: One of my favorite songs on the album is "Death Ain't Sex." What was going through your mind when you wrote that song?

Brett: Well, it's important for me to leave a certain amount of the song open to interpretation, since music is subjective and I'd like the listener to draw their own conclusions. However, I'm sure it can be sensed in the lyrics that something once meaningful had gone terribly awry. I do remember where I was, psychologically, when it was written, and it wasn't a flowing meadow with sunshine and glee.

Me: Where did the album title "Tilt" come from, Brett? Somehow I don't think it's pinball related, is it?

Brett: It could be! It could be a number of things. You may notice the tone of the record takes a turn about halfway through. Or maybe there's a "tilt" in perspective, which changes everything.

Me: And explain what the album cover is. I will show a picture of it on this entry, so people know what I am talking about, but I can't figure out the meaning. What is it, and did you come up with it?

Brett: After months of experimentation and countless drafts of a more detailed album cover, we returned to the simplest. My friend Bruce Seaton did the artwork, expounding on a very basic idea I'd thrown at him: clarity comes as you change the angle from which you look at something.

Me: On the album you work with a guy named Chris Tench, is that right? You guys used to be in band together I think.

Brett: Chris and I started Wide Eyed Sleeper in 2007, shortly after I moved here. The band approach didn't work, as I, in all honesty, was not as willing to compromise. Chris and I continued working together under my name, which eased that strain, as well as gave us strong footing in working relationship.

Me: What made you decide to release "Tilt" under your name instead of Wide Eyed Sleeper, or Brett Ryan Stewart and Chris Tench, or something like that?

Brett: We dissolved Wide Eye Sleeper just as it began. Although we go under my name, Chris and I work as a unit and our writing process most often a collaboration. I'm fortunate to have found a partner whose ego doesn't not supersede his talent.

Me: Chris must be one helluva nice guy. I am selfish and would want my name on the album cover. How do you two work together job wise? Does he write the music, lyrics, play instruments? Is it 50/50 on what you guys do?

Brett: Behind the scenes, we took the Lennon/McCartney approach. We didn't want to have the concern over credits getting in the way of our process, so anything we even remotely collaborate on we split down the middle. That means if either of us brings a nearly finished song to the table, but finish it together, it's 50/50. This lends itself to a much more enriching creative mode. And yes, I consider Chris to be one of my greatest friends. He's been behind me through my personal struggles as well as musical... Okay enough mush.

Me: Okay. I have to ask you about the producer of "Tilt," Brett. Roger Moutenot produced Lou Reed and Guster. I am guessing you are a fan of Guster, but what about Lou Reed? I am a big fan of his solo stuff myself.

Brett: I was a big fan of Velvet Underground. I think I played "Heroine" on repeat for a solid year at one point. Needless to say, it was quite the thrill hearing Roger's stories about working with Lou, most of which I'm not at liberty to discuss...

Me: Where are you from, Brett? Your album was recorded in Nashville, is that right?

Brett: I'm a Delaware native. All my family is rooted in the Philadelphia area. "Tilt" was recorded at TrueTone in Nashville by David Henry. He also played cello and violin on a number of songs. I think the album sounds a far from "Nashville" as it possibly can for having been recorded here.

Me: Congrats on being number one on Neil Young's Living With War website. What songs of yours was on his chart?

Brett: Thanks! The songs were "Yet Again" and "Face to Face" from my debut album, "Necessary Lies." Rumor had it that Graham Nash had caught wind of my music as a result, and was talking about it at a cocktail party in San Diego.

Me: How did your songs get on his chart? I take it they are political songs, am I right?

Brett: I submitted them and they immediately began climbing quickly. I was shocked, especially considering the competition was of really high caliber. They are political, though I've since withdrawn from that scene to a degree.

Me: You also had a song in a Heineken commercial and a Microsoft commercial. If I was a songwriter I would find that so cool having my songs in an ad. I know some artists don't like that at all. My dad was a songwriter and musician and when a song of his was in an ad we all thought it was great. It gets the song out there. What is your take on it? Were you supportive of it all the way, or were you hesitant? Or did you not know it was gonna happen?

Brett: That's very cool about your dad! Care to share details?

Me: Yeah, recently you can see one of my dad's songs "Slow Ride" in a commercial for Glucerna. Haha.

Brett: Those songs were featured by Heineken and Microsoft on the internet, so it wasn't a commercial, per se. Given the conditions, I didn't have any opposition. I do have boundaries in regards to corporate sponsorship and commercial use of my music. However, these features were a great way of reaching a bigger audience, and for that I'm grateful and glad to have done it.

Me: Speaking of my dad, he passed away in 2000, but I was an adult, had a wife and son, but you lost your dad when you were just a kid, right? I know that changes someone, and I am sure you weren't writing songs back then, but did it effect how you write songs now? Do you often think how your dad would like your music? I often think how my dad would like this blog.

Brett: It's never an easy thing, at any age. I'm sorry about your father. I think about my dad all the time. I ask my mom often if he'd be supportive of my musical endeavors. She assures me he would've once I'd proven to him that I wasn't budging on the matter. And I think he would've liked my music. After all, my first exposure to music was when I was very little, and we'd dance to his jukebox as he sung along to Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin...

Me: Brett, what's your next plan, sir? Any new music planned? Any chance you'll be playing down here in Florida?

Brett: Before we finished "Tilt" I was ready to make the next one. We've got an enormous catalog of songs to be recorded. We may start releasing new singles instead of albums. Lot's of things planned, if we could just keep up with ourselves! When we hit the road, Florida will be on our map (Lou pun intended).

Me: Thanks for doing this interview, you truly have an amazing talent. I wish you all the best, and hope you'd come back to the Phile in the future. Why don't you go and mention your website?

Brett: Thank you for the opportunity! Website is and folks can get some free stuff by joining the mailing list there.

Me: Thanks again, and all the best.

Hahahahaha. I am so stupid. I just noticed it says "tilt." I don't know why I never noted it before. Boy, don't I feel stupid. Anyway, that about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim and Brett Ryan Stewart. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Seth & Zakk. 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

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