Monday, July 11, 2016

Christopher Pappas From Miracle Parade

Hey there, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you? It's free Slurpee Day at 7-11! Just in case you didn't know. The world is gone crazy this week. The augmented reality game "Pokemon Go" came out just 5 days ago. Since then, it has turned residential neighborhoods everywhere upside down as hordes of children (and adults!) seek to capture cuddly fictional monsters with their smartphones in backyards, parks and waterfronts. It's gotten thousands of gamers to go outside and has lead the discovery of at least one real dead body. I am not playing though, I like Pokewomon better. Haha. I am in kinda of a good mood so let's start with a nice feel-good story. According to the "Boston Herald," a cab driver recently walked into the Boston Police Department's Hackney Unit ("hackney" is an old-timey word for cabs, limos, etc) and dropped on their desk a backpack containing $187,000. The driver wasn't turning in a criminal, however; he was saving someone's inheritance. The backpack had been left in his cab by a passenger earlier in the day, and the cab driver "looked in the backpack to look for ID, found the money and brought it straight over to HQ,” according to BPD spokeswoman Officer Rachel McGuire. “It seems this guy has come into his inheritance and left it in the cab." While there are some big questions here, like why it was in cash, the fact that it was an inheritance is perhaps the only explanation for leaving a six-figure sum in a backseat. Someone clearly died recently, so let's cut the mystery idiot some slack and focus on how awesome the driver is. BPD did confirm that the owner of the backpack showed up with identification and has been reunited with his small fortune, and presumably teased a lot for forgetting it. Said McGuire, "Thank goodness for the honest cab driver."
Have you heard about a woman's urgent decision to get divorced caused a seven-hour delay on Russian flight. I don't know what caused this woman to want to terminate her marriage. Did he clip his toenails in public? Spoil "Game of Thrones"? Tell her to "shh calm down, babe"? I do know that she felt it was urgent enough that she needed to walk off her plane as it was readying for take-off, forcing 500 passengers to also disembark due to safety regulations. The incident went down at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport on Monday, RT reports. According to witnesses, the woman kept saying "I am not in the mood to fly now" and demanded that flight attendants let her leave the plane. As a result, the Moscow-Vladivostok flight was delayed for seven hours while every piece of luggage had to go through security screening a second time. Passengers were, understandably, pissed, and they documented the whole fiasco on social media. One passenger named Elena posted several videos on Instagram and wrote, "A woman aged 40 took a decision to divorce her husband. Urgently! And she needed to walk off the plane. Cabin crew tried in vain to persuade her not to leave the aircraft because this is a long procedure." Other passengers posted videos of people exiting the plane and boarding a waiting bus. Families traveling with kids were the most angry, and reportedly urged the airline, Rossiya​, to penalize the woman with a heavy fine.That's a pretty terrible and self-centered thing to do, and she should have to pay a fine. Unless he told her to "shh calm down, babe" when she was angry, in which case, my thoughts and prayers are with this poor woman as she goes through a hopefully swift divorce process.
Many people are struggling to find the right words to describe how they feel about the tragedies in the news this past week. But who needs words when you got pictures? Luckily for us tongue-tied folks, a "Pokemon Go" player at what seems to be a Black Lives Matter protest has taken the perfect photo to sum up exactly what this week was like for many Americans.

This pic, which shows a Pinsir Pokemon superimposed on a policeman at a rally, was tweeted by Eric Hu two days ago with the caption, "This week in a single photograph." Gizmodo declared it the "photo of the summer," and seeing as how it captures two things that are distracting people so much they're walking into traffic, that seems about right. The photographer is unknown, but the photo may have been taken in Oakland of this Twitter user. Is it a commentary on the way the Black Lives Matter movement struggles to keep its head above water in a sea of online distractions? Hard to say, but hurry up and catch that monster!
As an homage to George Takei, the writers for the new Star Trek movie decided to make Sulu openly gay in the upcoming film, which would be a lovely tribute, except for the fact that Takei totally hates the idea. Takei played Hikaru Sulu in the original "Star Trek" TV series and in the early films, and despite being out and proud himself, told "The Hollywood Reporter" that he found the news of Sulu's sexuality to be "really unfortunate." Takei, who is a vocal advocate for gay rights, gives many reasons as to why he thinks Sulu should remain straight, including that he thinks making a change like this would be disrespectful to the character that Gene Roddenberry created (woof, if that is the case, he probably has some strong opinions on the new Star Trek movies as in general). He told "The Hollywood Reporter," "I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate." Although Takei urged the film's director Justin Lin to keep Sulu's heterosexual identity, production decided to move forward with making him gay. Takei noted, "This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek," the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character. I urged them. He left me feeling that that was going to happen." Another reason why Takei disapproves of decision is because of the implication that Sulu had been in the closet up until revealing his sexuality, something Takei suffered with in his personal life for over 40 years in the industry (he came out publicly in 2005). Here is more of what Takei told Lin, "Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted." Simon Pegg, who co-wrote and starred in the latest Star Trek movie (and is also that guy from Shaun of the Dead), disagrees with Takei. In a statement, he told "The Guardian," "He’s right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?" He closed his statement by adding, "Justin Lin, Doug Jung and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic. Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It’s just hasn’t come up before."
If you've ever cried into a bar of chocolate or sprayed a box of Oreos with Windex to keep from eating them, you might have a sugar problem. Sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine, according to one scientific study. Maybe that's why you always hear people say, "I can't keep cookies in the house" but rarely, "I can't keep cocaine in the house." Much like other white powders with more street cred, when sugar hits your bloodstream, it stimulates your brain's pleasure center, releasing dopamine, as this article in the "The Daily Mail" explains. Dopamine is that crazy chemical that makes you feel anywhere between "good" and "a golden god who can feel no sadness or pain."
But just as quickly as these chemicals spike, they fall. So by the time you've scraped the sides clean of your pint of Ben & Jerry's, you're going through a mini sugar withdrawal. This can trigger a craving for more. And so begins a vicious cycle that is not so different from the vicious cycle that drug addicts and alcoholics go through. Think you might be addicted? "The Daily Mail" has published a helpful (read: life-ruining) quiz with fifteen yes-or-no questions, including: "Do you ever eat sweets when you are feeling sad or upset?"and "Do you plan to eat a small portion, i.e. 'one serving' of ice cream, but then end up binging on the whole pint?" (If you answered: "duhhh" and "I thought a pint WAS one serving!" you may have a problem. But take the whole quiz to find out.) If if turns out you're addicted, the good news is you're not alone. Sugar addiction is super common. To break the vicious cycle, experts recommend going cold turkey. And that includes cutting out fake sweeteners and diet drinks, which actually boost sugar cravings. You may experience withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, tiredness, and foggy vision, but those should pass in a few days. And then? Congratulations. You now have a boring, sugar-free life.
Okay, so, as you know by now this is the Phile's 10th anniversary year and I have been showing you pics of actual people reading the Phile. Like this one for instance...

Yes! So, this summer if you go to the beach you might see this sign placed somewhere...

Ugh! Not my back though. So, there's one thing you might not know about me is that I don't like to break rules. Unlike this guy...

Get your foot off the grass! Sheesh. One of my favorite inventions in life is the bikini... and this summer I am showing you bikini pics with something not so sexy on the background.

"For the last time, those pipes aren't romantic!" With all the talk of Pokemon this week, some of you might not know that Pokemon is a British creation. You thought Japanese, right? Wrong! And I have proof.

I love kids, and I love kids drawings... especially when they draw something that isn't meant to be perverted but comes across that way. Like this one for example...

Actually, I think it was drawn by Melanie Griffith on her first day on set of Working Girl. Haha. I'm so stupid. Gluten free food is becoming so popular nowadays that some paintings are being "edited" to remove any sign of gluten. Check out Johannes Vermeer's "The Milkmaid," but with a fraction of the calories.

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

Top Phive New Things You Don't Want To Hear Coming From The Next Bathroom Stall
5. Hello, Mr. Toilet... I hope you're hungry!
4. I don't know what I just made, but it's already got 50 likes on Instagram!
3. Ooh, I like you1 Into the Ziploc you go!
2. Damn automatic toilet flushed before I could take inventory!
And the number one thing you don't want to hear coming from the next bathroom stall is...
1. Let it go, let it go, can't hold it back anymooooore!

This one is kind of hard. If you spot the Mindphuck please let me know. Alright, so, I love jokes, and I don't know if you know joke telling is old. There's an comedian who is 100 yeas old and tell good jokes, but there's a problem... no one really understands them. But as I am old, I do, so I thought I would have him tell the joke and I would translate. So, once again, please welcome to the Phile...

Me: Hello, Alan, welcome back to the Phile... how are you?

Alan: I am good, Jason.

Me: Okay, that's good. So, tell us a joke.

Alan: Alright. Old Lady Lovejoy, aged just threescore, whose lusty footboy rode behind before, is in a fit of fondness grown so kind. He rides within who rode before behind.

Me: Ha. Let me translate. A 60-year-old lady started screwing her horny footboy, so now instead of riding on the back of her carriage, he rides inside her vagina.

Alan: Good job, Jason.

Me: Haha. Thanks, Alan. Alan Raglafart, the 100 Year Old Comedian, everyone.

An elevator is a type of vertical transportation that moves unowned farts between floors of a building.

Today's guest is a musician from Los Angeles whose album "Hark and Other Lost Transmissions" is available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile from Miracle Parade... Christopher Pappas.

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

Christopher: Thanks! I am doing well Just got back from San Francisco... had a great show there.

Me: I have to ask first, you are the lead singer for the band The Everyday Visuals who has a solo album out under the name The Miracle Parade. Why didn't you release the album under your name Christopher Pappas? I always wonder why artists I interviewed record under band names when they are not a band.

Christopher: Well... I can't speak for everyone, but I know the reason why I did it, and I suspect others do too is because recording and performing under your name has a certain connotation to it. Even being pegged as genre wise as a "solo singer-songwriter" has a certain ring that puts you in a box even before people have heard your music. Sort of disguising that solo vibe behind a band name, I feel, is a good way to not right off the bat get pigeonholed to a genre (as I consider singer-songwriter to be a genre) without people hearing your music. For example... if I were to say, "Have you heard that new solo artist John Smith? (Or any name)" I think you would be surprised if I then told you it was a punk record. When you say just a name, you sort of already get a picture in your head on what ballpark the music is in.

Me: That's a good point. Where did the name Miracle Parade come from?

Christopher: To be honest, I really don't know. Originally the name of the project was Forest Fires. However, there was already a band from Brooklyn called Forest Fire. I knew I was moving to L.A. to record the record and so I thought I mine as well change the name and have a clean start. But really... I think the breaking point came when I exchanged a few emails with Chris Swanson from Secretly Canadian. When I was looking for a label to put out the Forest Fires record, I sent him the music for him to check out and he wrote back saying he didn't really feel it... but he was, as of late, really into Forest Fire... at that point I was like: I got to change the name. Hahaha.

Me: You played all the instruments on the album yourself, am I right?

Christopher: Yeah, I did. But there are some parts on it I had friends come in and play. Even though I am finding myself in love with sort of being a loner in the studio, I do truly, deep down think music is a collaborative, shared experience. So I think it's good to get a least some other people into the kitchen, even if it's a solo record. My good friend Tim Walker played pedal steel on a few tracks... which just, in my opinion, was the cornerstone of the album's sound. Pierre played some bass, sung on it... as well my friends Anthony Polcino and Rebecca Correia, who are both talented musicians with their own great projects. Also, I had a trumpet player Ian Souter come in and add some really cool stuff.

Me: Where are you from, Chris?

Christopher: I was born and raised in Auburn, New Hampshire. It really is a great place to grow up. It has the best of both worlds in the sense that... the town literally doesn't have a traffic light in it. It is incredibly small and rural, we had a big back yard growing up... and I would play with the neighborhood kids all day, running in the woods, riding our bikes... in fact I remember spending one whole summer building a makeshift log cabin that we actually were able to eventually hang out in. Conversely, this town is under an hour from Boston, 45 minutes from the beach, 10 minutes from Manchester (which is one of the largest cities in the state), so really have the best of both worlds growing up their. I feel my childhood was simultaneously rural and urban.

Me: I am guessing you don't like the Yankees then. LOL. Are you a sports fan?

Christopher: You know, I watched the Red Sox when they won that historic world series in 2004. But I really watched it for the history making aspect of it. It had been so long since they had won, and you know, I just root for the underdog. As soon as they won, I was like: Okay... now I want the Cubs to win. But speaking specifically of the Yankees, I can say that it was quite a treat to see the Sox historically come back in that series to beat them. I mean, even if you're a Yankees fan, you have to admit... that was a pretty spectacular comeback.

Me: Christopher, I have to tell you I am very impressed with you, sir. You were born with your neck fused and your fingers crossed, which is an unusual disease. Did you have lots of surgeries when you were a kid?

Christopher: No. Growing up I would say that I was a pretty healthy kid until I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is a type of arthritis. Basically what happens is my immune system attacks my spinal cord (they don't really know why) and these attacks cause inflammation and pain, which then cause calcium build ups that fuse the vertebrae together. It's progressive so over the many years it's sort of fused my bones more and more. Now when some people see me they ask if I have a 'stiff neck' or have been in an accident or something. Unfortunately surgery is still a pretty risky treatment for it and at this point in my life, not really worth the risk. I have good days and bad days with it... but overall I think that I manage it well.

Me: With all that, somehow you learnt to play a bunch of different instruments. I bitch when I have a headache and have to go to work, or post an entry of the Phile. Did you always want to be a musician growing up?

Christopher: My father was a musician and there was always instruments and music around. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in my fathers acoustic guitar case banging on it like a drum while his acoustic trio practiced. When they took a break, I would take a break with them, pretending I was in the band. I think that for me, as I grew older I had this process in me of taking things that hurt me, or things I worried about, or fears I had and going over and over them in my mind. I was a very anxious, nervous child. And so, there was some point when it just clicked that: I can get all of this out of me through music. I can write lyrics about how I feel, I can bang on the drums when I'm angry, I can focus on singing to myself when I am worried, or scared. So, I feel like what came first was this need to create, to have that outlet, and music was something I had a deep connection with. 

Me: What was the first instrument you learned to play?

Christopher: I suppose I would say that technically I started singing when I was very young. I would write songs in the shower and perform them as far back as kindergarten. I remember putting concerts on in my back yard with my my sister and the neighborhood kids... we would all play tennis rackets as guitars and I would sing original songs. However, the first instrument other than voice that I learned was guitar. What happened was: in 7th grade, my best friend Tim and I wanted to start a band. So we both vowed to learn an instrument over the summer; he would be the guitarist, I would be the bassist. So I went home and I asked my father to teach me bass. In an amazing act of foresight... he said, "Well, I can just teach you bass... but I think you would be better off learning guitar, and THEN taking that knowledge and learning bass." So I learned guitar and started writing songs immediately with it... that was the thing: I ALWAYS wanted to learn instruments so I could write songs. The first day of 8th grade arrived and Tim said, "I learned an instrument." I said, "I did too!" Then we started my first band.

Me: Okay, let's talk about your new album "Hark and Other Lost Transmissions" which I downloaded from iTunes. When you were writing the songs for that album did you know it was gonna be for a solo album, or did you plan to write then for The Everyday Visuals?

Christopher: It's funny... the catalyst for Miracle Parade was really born out of two things that happened simultaneously. First we (The Everyday Visuals) were getting a lot of show offers and things floated out way that I really wanted to do. I wanted to keep playing and touring, and I think the rest of the guys were sort of done with touring for a bit. So my anxiousness to get back out and record another record, etc. caused me to think outside of 'The Visuals box,' as it were. The second was that I WAS writing songs that had a different sort of feel to them... and quickly realized that having an outlet for more quiet folky stuff was good for both projects: The Everyday Visuals could be pure jangle pop (think Big Star, Jayhawks, R.E.M.) and Miracle Parade could be pure folk melancholia (think Sun Kil Moon, C,S,N,&Y, Judee Sill, etc.) Before, I think, as a songwriter, I was trying to fit those pieces together in one project and not having very much artistic success with it. Thus Miracle Parade was born!

Me: I love the whole album, but I have to ask you about the song "Son Son (Son)"... what an interesting song title. Where did that come from?

Christopher: That song was one I wrote about the sadness I felt at the time about the things you miss out on choosing the life that I've chosen. My sister married a wonderful man, has two amazing daughters, a beautiful house... I see her life and think I really wanted a house and a family someday... and I thought that music could afford me those things. Sometimes I feel like instead of music enriching my life... it's held me back, and kept me hostage, waiting; for the phone call of a great opening slot, or word that this mag is going to review the record, or this producer is on board to do the next record. So really that song is apologizing to the son I never had because I spent my life holding my breath for something that may never happen.

Me: What bands are you into, Christopher? What bands did you listen to growing up?

Christopher: Growing up I listened to, basically, what my dad was playing America, CSN&Y, Buffalo Springfield... even more garage 60s stuff, like The Zombies. When I first started buying my own records I was obsessed with Nirvana, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, and Bjork. The whole grunge thing happened RIGHT when I started playing music... so that was a big time for me. Currently, my favorites are Pedro The Lion/David Bazan, Sun Kil Moon, I love the new Bon Iver, and I'm really digging Yuck.

Me: I can picture R.E.M. doing the songs on your album, Chris. Are you an R.E.M. fan?

Christopher: Oh, man... HUGE. R.E.M. more or less is my favorite band of all time. I could literally write a short book on all their records and how each one is basically perfect and totally necessary in context of their whole catalogue. People say after Bill left that was effectively the end of R.E.M.... and yes, I see that there is a BIG schism between "The New Adventures of Hi-Fi" and "Up," but what's funny is that R.E.M. has made a career of bridging these huge gaps. For example, everyone thought that the band was basically done when they left IRS and went to Warner Bros. People split them into pre "Losing my Religion" post "Losing My Religion." People split them pre MTV post MTV. I think the way people section them off based on different points in their career is proof enough at how consistently relevant and long lasting this band was.

Me: Okay, let's talk about your other projects. What's this you wrote a musical called "Pope! An Epic Musical." Where was that performed?

Christopher: That had a short run at this theatre in New York City called The Magnet. It was supposed to only have one show... but it sold out in like, 2 minutes or something crazy so they gave us a month. Then those shows started selling out like mad, so they extended it for longer and longer. Then it was accepted into the Fringe Festival in New York City, which is basically like the SXSW of musicals. Amazingly, we broke box office records there and were asked back for their encore series. We got some pretty amazing press; hailed in the "Wall Street Journal" and the "New Yorker" as "Proof that the musical is not dead." We were posted as "one of the musicals to see" online at the "New York Times"... Crazy stuff and all pretty amazing since I basically know nothing about music theatre. Really, the genius behind the whole thing was my friend Justin Moran. He is a college friend of mine, and just a remarkable talent. In college I had this idea for a comedy music called "Pope!" and told him the basic plot outline. We wrote a musical together for fun in college that was never really performed, and then one day he came to me and was like "Let's write "Pope!"... seriously." The next thing I knew he had a first draft all done, and I started working on the music. He is just such a hard worker... once he imagines something, he does it... come hell or high water. We actually are writing a new one together right now, I don't want to say too much on it... but I'm really excited.

Me: What was the musical about?

Christopher: It's so silly. The plot is about this nice Pope (whom everyone loves) and this power hungry archbishop who, with the help of a crooked news reporter, frames the pope in a sex scandal to get him excommunicated. The Archbishop then takes over the papal throne for the purpose of eventual world domination... hilarity ensues, etc. Honestly, we wrote it as just pure enjoyment for us... to be this really cartoon-y, over the top, ridiculous thing. (i.e. "what if we added THIS... wouldn't that be hilarious?!?!") And I think ultimately that's what people attached to... people had fun seeing it.

Me: And what's the Middle East Downstairs? You played there with a 30 piece orchestra? I bet that was fun. Where did you get the orchestra from? Did you perform your own music with them?

Christopher: The Middle East Downstairs is one of the coolest music venues in Boston... perhaps even the country. Traditionally, they showcase touring acts, rock bands, etc... a normal venue. The talent buyer at the time when I was living in Boston was a friend of mine and I approached him with this idea of assembling a 30 piece orchestra (via Craig's List) and performing original orchestral works with bands opening up the night. The idea was very specific though... I didn't want to play Miracle Parade songs backed by an orchestra. I wrote three orchestral pieces that I wanted to conduct that night. So we got it together, and boom! You can see footage of it on YouTube. I called ourselves The Hark! Philharmonic.

Me: Thanks so much once again for being on the Phile, Christopher. Any websites you wanna plug? Take care, and continued success, sir.

Christopher: Hmm. A website plug. Well, I always like to give a shout out to my compatriot Anthony. He and I have been friends for a long time, and we now play in each others projects. He has a solo thing called Soft Pipes, and it's pretty damn incredible. I have the good fortune to be part of the live line-up and every show is pretty stellar. Also, one of my best friends (and brother-in-law) Jared Ainscough has a website showcasing more of his graphic design work... but he also does amazing art as well. He was the one that designed the album covers for more or less all the records I've made (Miracle Parade, The Visuals, etc..) and is a great guy to boot:,  And then there is my own: Thanks for the great questions - and I'm truly honored that you took time to listen to the record! Thanks!

Me: Anytime. You are great!

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Christopher for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Sunday with Mike Brown from A Lull. 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: