Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pheaturing Phile Alum Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz From Weird Al Yankovic's Band

Hello, and welcome back to the Phile for a Thursday. You know, I'm not always hooked on a feeling... but when I am I'm high on believing. Haha. I'm so excited, today I'm gonna go see Guardians of the Galaxy. I haven't looked forward to a movie like this in a long time. Speaking of...  you may be cool but you'll never be James Gunn with Rocket Raccoon cool.

Alright, what else is going on? Immediately after participating in a panel discussion on the upcoming DC superhero crossover film Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, filmmaker Zach Snyder tweeted out an incredibly underwhelming image of Gal Gadot as she will appear as Wonder Woman in the film. If you haven't seen it here it is...

 It is unclear whether this is the final costume design, or if they're still working on ways to make it more generic.  In other geeky news Academy Award-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix is reportedly in consideration to play cosmic sorcerer Doctor Strange, protector of Earth against all threats, either magical or mystical in origin, in an upcoming cinematic adaptation of the character's cult Marvel comic book series. You've got to wonder, though, if the idiosyncratic actor wouldn't be bringing something a little too otherworldly for the a role like this.  Infectious disease researchers think they might have struck upon a halfway decent vaccine for malaria. According to their data, it appears to have a 75 percent efficacy and provides protection from the virus for 18 months after the injection. At time of press, Nature has not yet responded with a new strain that makes your head explode upon infection. If I ever get malaria I hope it's from something fun like a monkey bite and not just some ordinary boring mosquito or CDC drone strike.  The British government will reportedly soon be allowing driverless vehicles to join human motorists in traveling about the country on the left side of the road. During this initial testing phase, a percentage of these cars will have humans on hand just in case the computer-pilot suddenly comes to its senses and attempts to drive on the correct side of the road. Can’t wait until we all have driverless cars to take us to our mindless jobs where we do soulless work! My job is not soulless by the way. I work at a spaceport. Haha.  It may have seemed unlikely, at times even impossible, but liberal-slanted cable news network MSNBC has finally realized its goal of becoming an even-less-popular alternative to the conservative Fox News than CNN. Polling shows that the network has dropped 33 percent among day-time adult viewers aged 25-54. On top of that, it currently has only five viewers over the age of 65, according to research I just made up, but which is still almost certainly true.  NBC has announced that it will follow up last year's massively successful live performance of the musical "The Sound of Music" with a production of "Peter Pan" this December. "Girls" co-star Allison Williams will lead the cast as the gender-bending, fairy-befriending little boy who flits around and fights a creepy old man with a prosthetic metal hand in this timeless family classic. I was exactly sure who Allison Williams was so I looked her up.

She's really cute. Apparently though she's the not naked one from "Girls".  I have to mention this story from England... A 19 year old UK mom took out an $8,500 bank loan to buy herself a huge pair of 32G breasts because, obviously, they will make her a better mother. Tamsin Wade from Suffolk was refusing to take her son Finley, 2, swimming, on play dates, or to after school clubs because she was so embarrassed by her tiny breasts. In her words: "I was unable to go swimming with Finley as I felt so self-conscious. I was forced to wear baggy clothes to hide my figure and getting into a bikini made me feel so uncomfortable that me and Finley had never been swimming. I started to shy away from going out at all as I just felt so bad about myself." Sure, plenty of people, moms even, manage to show themselves in public without rocking killer cleavage, but she was never meant to have small tits! As she told the Daily Mail, "Before I had Finley my boobs were a 32D but the aftermath of being pregnant left me with double A’s." So, it makes sense that she would get bigger boobs for the sake of her son, because, you know, it was kind of his fault. Since the surgery she has become the world's best mom. "I felt so much better and immediately started joining mum and baby groups for me and Finley," she told the Daily Mail. "He loves them and I love spending quality time with him." Sure, she's paying about $250/month to pay off her parenting aids, but she is sure they are worth it. Now that she has huge boobs she can plan to travel abroad with her son and "wear skimpy clothing" like she was meant to. And her relationship with her boyfriend Joe Johnson, 26, has improved as well. "He is thrilled with the results, too." It's great that there are still men out there who care about parenting. Wanna see a picture of her?

Quit staring at her locket, her boobs are down there. When I was reading this story I was thinking of her breasts, I was thinking her son's name is the same name as one of our dogs... Finley. I'm so old.  Okay, there was a rumor I was at San Diego Comic Con this year. This isn't me...

Haha. Now next year I'm going... that's the plan anyway.  So, have you been to the beach lately? There's a few new warning signs popping up... including this one.

That's gross!  Well, as you know it's Summer and all though Summer I am showing you some different types of bikinis you might see if you go to the beach. Check out this totally jawesome Sharkini.

The toothy swim suit was designed by Bad Aby Designs and is being sold over at Storenvy for $100.


Alright, before we continue I have to mention this, over at they you can vote for

I don't have to tell you which one to vote for. The poll closes Aug. 3, 2014 at 11:59PM ET. You can vote once an hour until then! So, go to "Slow Ride" vs. "Free Ride" - Clash of the Titans at Let's see who is winning...

Alright!! Go vote, people. As the Phile was on hiatus for a few months, and there was no Star Wars Month on the Phile this year, and because I'm going to Tampa Bay Comic Con tomorrow I thought it would be fun to have back on the popular bounty hunter/stand-up comedian back on. Straight from his run of two days on Coruscant, here is the one and only...

Me: Hey, Tractor, welcome back to the Phile. Can you start with a limerick today?

Tractor: Good to be back, fuzzball. The Princess hastily stalled upon seeing the target was Alderaan, she named a fake base, a bluff just in case, one which the Governor called her on.

Me: That was great. Any jokes?

Tractor: What happened to the violent Power Droid?

Me: Power Droid? Oh, the Gonk droid? Ummm.. I don't know.

Tractor: It was arrested for aggravated battery.

Me: That wasn't that good. Any others?

Tractor: Did you hear about the candle shop on Endor?

Me: No, I didn't.

Tractor: It's called Wick It.

Me: That was funny and stupid. Okay, one more, Tractor.

Tractor: This is a good one, laser brain. Why was Yoda such a good gardener?

Me: I don't know, why was Yoda such a good gardener?

Tractor: He had a green thumb! That's it. Don't eat the bantha.

Me: Tractor Beam, everybody.

The 32nd book to be available in the Phile's Book Club is...

Jeremy Croston will be on the Phile in two weeks.

This is so cool... Today's guest is a Phile Alum and is a drummer best known for working with Weird Al Yankovic, whose latest CD "Mandatory Fun" which is available on iTunes, and reached number one on the Billboard charts. Please welcome back to the Phile, one of the most popular guests I ever had here... Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz!

Me: Hey, Bermuda, welcome back to the Phile. Should I call you Bermuda or Jon? Do you ever go by Jon anymore?

Bermuda: I’m Jon at home, but pretty much everyone else calls me Bermuda. For the purposes of this interview, I’ll be Bermuda today!

Me: Okay, first things first... you were recently on "Conan"... at last. I have a screen shot of you on the show here...

Me: It's not the best screenshot... Anyway, the last time you were here on the Phile in 2011 Al just did a cameo on "Conan", but now you got to play. But you were jipped. Al spent most of the time walking backstage when he was singing. Who came up with that idea, and what did you think?

Bermuda: That was based on the continuous camera shot of the "Tacky" video, which was based on the continuous shots used in the “24 Hours Of Happy” video. Not a problem not being seen much, I got paid the same either way and I didn’t have to wear makeup!

Me: But it cut down on your TV time. Was the show still fun to do?

Bermuda: It was great fun, everyone there was having a good time, it must be a great party five days a week. But, everyone works hard, and there’s a schedule, so it’s not all fun & games.

Me: I read somewhere that the band didn't play live on the show, but I say you did, with backing tracks, am I right?

Bermuda: We absolutely played live! But, we don’t have female voices or enough hands for clapping, or a conga player... so those parts were on a track.

Me: Last time you were here you mentioned that it was Al who gave you your nickname Bermuda. When he did, what did you think, and did you ever think it'll stay with you most of your life?

Bermuda: I guess at some point early on, I must have decided I’d be Bermuda for a while. I had my driver license changed, and also got credit cards and bank accounts under Bermuda Schwartz. As long as I sign things that way and pay my bills on time, it’s legal... isn’t it?

Me: I think so. You first met Al on the Dr. Demento Show, right? What was your first impression of him when you met him?

Bermuda: I initially thought he fun and personable, enough so that I offered to be his drummer. But I soon saw the methodical and clever side of him that was evident in his choices and writing of parodies and videos. For whatever reason I thought it was a good idea to try and work with him as soon as we met, it was obviously a smart choice!

Me: Bermuda, you're from Chicago, am I right?

Bermuda: I am, you are.

Me: When did you first move to L.A.?

Bermuda: After a move to Phoenix in 1960, we moved to L.A. in late 1968.

Me: I was born in '68. You currently live in L.A. now I think. Do you like living there?

Bermuda: I’m in Torrance, technically a suburb, but all of L.A. metro is called L.A. I do like it here, but like many who’ve lived here for a while, I’d like to grow up and settle down somewhere else some day. I haven’t quite figured out that part though, and all of my work is here, so I guess I’ll stick around a while longer.

Me: How old were you when you first took up the drums?

Bermuda: I had just turned 9, and I inherited my brother’s drums (he switched to guitar, and became quite well-known in the industry.) I took private lessons from a few local drummers, Jim McIntosh and later, Frank Sanchez. That was back in Phoenix. I wonder what became of them? They should be proud to know that I stuck with it and have a career in music!

Me: I am sure they know. Do you play any other instruments?

Bermuda: Not anymore, however I did take accordion lessons before taking drums. Music lovers everywhere can rejoice that I don’t pick up the instrument and attempt to make sounds anymore.

Me: Yeah, and Al plays accordion. I don't think I mentioned this to you before, but you recorded and toured with Neil Diamond and Mark Knopler. I bet those were two different experiences. Was this before you met Al?

Bermuda: That’s actually my brother, Richard Bennett, who worked with Neil, and continues to work with Mark. They’re just a few of the many feathers in his musical cap, and he’s been in Nashville for 30 years recording and producing some of the biggest names out there. However, Mark’s and my work appear together on Al’s “Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies”, and I also cut several demos with Neil’s band in 1982, so there is a connection.

Me: Stupid Wikipedia. Okay, I was wondering, you have been in the music business for a long time... did you ever come across my dad or seen Foghat live?

Bermuda: I haven’t met him or seen the band, but always loved the music, and Roger Earl’s drumming.

Me: Okay, sorry, side tracked... you also played with someone who was on the Phile before, someone you might've hooked up the interview with me... it's been years and I can't remember... anyway, Karling Abbeygate is who I'm talking about. I love her music. Do you still play with her? I need to get her back on the Phile as well.

Bermuda: Karling is a sweetheart, and I love her songs! I played fairly steadily with her for over a year, but the "Alpocalypse" tour took precedence over all of my local work, and she wisely sought a more permanent drummer. I’ve done a couple of gigs with her since, the last one was about a year ago.

Me: Okay, let's talk about Weird Al's new album "Mandatory Fun". What a great name, who came up with it?

Bermuda: That’s Al, and the dictatorial-style artwork helps reinforce the concept and irony of the term.

Me: There's some great tracks on this album, Bermuda, like "Lame Claim to Fame". Was it fun to do?

Bermuda: Yeah, I guess it was fun. Perhaps this album more than any other, I really got to stretch out playing-wise. But it was also work. I was put to the test with sounds and sequencing on some of the parodies in particular. But I’m especially proud of my work on it. If this was the last thing I ever worked on, it would be a nice legacy.

Me: I heard a rumor that Al was retiring from the music business and this is his last CD, do you think that's true?

Bermuda: That’s the rumor, but it stems from the fact that Al’s contract ended with this album. Al likes making music too much to retire, although it probably is his last CD with a major label. Going independent is completely do-able for an established artist, and there are a lot of freedoms that go along with not being signed.

Me: How long did the album take to record?

Bermuda: It was a little under 2 years, starting in late-2012 during the "Alpocalypse" tour, right up through the first week of June, 2014. the album was released July 15.

Me: You guys do a version of Pharrell's song "Happy", called "Tacky". That song is everywhere, when Al approached you guys with the list of the songs you were gonna do did you cringe?

Bermuda: Not really, our approach is slightly clinical, and whether we like the original or not, that doesn’t affect our work. There are certainly parodies we’ve done where I didn’t necessarily like or even know the original, but it eventually grew on me after I got into it and began to understand all of the inner workings.

Me: I would guess Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" which is called "Inactive" would be quite complicated. Do you ever get the acts that you guys parody involved to help you figure out what instruments or how they recorded the song?

Bermuda: That was a real brain tease, with majorly effected sounds. While those are usually the engineer’s responsibility, we still had to dissect the basic sounds through all of the effects. I contacted Daniel Platzman, the drummer, and was able to get the snare sample. That was the first time I’ve ever consulted with anyone on the parody target side of things. I just really wanted to get that sound exactly right, and figured it was worth a shot to ask.

Me: With "Mandatory Fun" you guys made eight videos. That's a lot... do you like doing videos?

Bermuda: The band was only involved in two of the videos, and Jim somehow got out of doing "Sports Song"! The rest were either animated, or live action done by Al with occasional celebrity cameos. Jack Black, Margaret Cho, and Eric Stonestreet (from "Modern Family") were in "Tacky", and undoubtedly brought the video, the song, and the album a lot of media attention.

Me: Will you be going on tour for this album?

Bermuda: 2014 was destined to be a year off before we finished the last tour, and we weren’t even sure there’d be a new album so soon. Unless there are some tempting offers in the immediate future, the plan is to go back out in 2015 and beyond.

Me: You played a million shows over the years, is there one that sticks out as your favorite, Bermuda?

Bermuda: Very hard to pick one or ten or 100, they’re all fun and memorable for different reasons. Bonnaroo in 2013 was pretty cool, and different for us. We’ve done one or two festivals, but Bonnaroo was about as close to Woodstock as we will get!

Me: I have to mention this, as I think I forgot last time... you were on "The Simpson's". That's great!!! Was that a big honor for you?

Bermuda: Absolutely an honor, and I still proudly use a screen grab of myself for different avatars and on Facebook. Of course, people assume I use one of those Simpsonizer sites that takes converts your photo into a Simpsons character.

Me: I got the picture here.

Me: Did you like the way they drew you?

Bermuda: Yeah, I actually supplied photos of the band to them for reference. Apparently one of mine looked liked that!

Me: As well as being a drummer, you also are a web designer. When and how did you get into that?

Bermuda: I started designing pages in 1995. I saw that some of the more technical Al fans had created web sites dedicated to him, and figured I’d jump on the bandwagon and make an official site. I had a book, and learned to code from scratch. Granted, it was very simple back then, I wouldn’t recommend anyone learn to rely on code today, although I still do... all of my sites are written in Notepad, a simple text editor. I soon had other clients, got a business license, and still do some work today, including Al’s site.

Me: What kind of computer do you use, Bermuda?

Bermuda: I’ve always been a PC guy, although I did have a brief and unsuccessful bout with a MacBook a few years ago. The hard drive crashed, the Superdrive stopped reading or writing, and the battery stopped holding a charge, problems I’ve NEVER had in over 22 years of owning PCs. Currently I’m using a new Toshiba Laptop with Intel i7 chip, and Windows 8.1, which is without a doubt the most obtuse Windows OS yet. Even the Microsoft experts couldn’t figure out how to do things that I easily did with XP. But the machine itself is speedy, and boots up fast and runs everything smoothly and with few hiccups.

Me: And you are the historian for Weird Al... you must write everything down, or do you remember everything?

Bermuda: Way back, everything was written down. By the mid eighties, I had entered the info into a computer, using dos-based Wordperfect, and Rapidfile, a simple database.

Me: I want to ask you about another band you are in... Idle Hands. Is that band still playing?

Bermuda: We are, I just played in Hollywood with them the night of the album release.

Me: Who is in Idle Hands with you, Bermuda?

Bermuda: The founder and rhythm guitar player is Paul VanDuine, lead guitar is Vince White, lead singer is Lori D’Itri, and Eric McCann plays bass when he’s available. Due to everyone’s schedule, there are subs for Lori and Eric, and of course me from time to time.

Me: Does Idle Hands have any music out?

Bermuda: There are 3 or 4 CDs on VanDuine’s label, Stingray Records, all available through the usual digital outlets.

Me: Okay, so, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Ready? Would you rather meet your great grandparents or your great great grandchildren? I say grandchildren.

Bermuda: Given that I don’t have kids, meeting grandchildren would be very interesting! I guess I’d like to meet my great grandparents. I hear they were great! It would be fun trying to explain computers and cellphones and today’s music.

Me: Bermuda, thanks for coming back on the Phile. Please come back soon, I hope this was fun. Tell Al I said hello, and maybe he'll wanna be on the Phile. Take care.

Bermuda: Will do, thank you!

There you go. What a great interview. Thanks to Bermuda and of course yourselves. There's not going to be a Phile entry tomorrow as I will be at Tampa Bay Comic Con, but the Phile will be back next Thursday with singer-songwriter Karen Bella and then on Friday with Phile Alum Alley Weitz from Wise Girl. 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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pheaturing Peter Calandra

Hey there, welcome to the Phile once again for a Friday. How are you? As you probably know the Phile was on hiatus from February all the day through this month. Some of you are still wondering what happened and where I was all that time. Well, I will settle it once and for all.

Yes, people, I was floating around in space. Looking sad as well apparently. That's so stupid. Christmas came early for the Internet yesterday, as someone unveiled his special named-Coke-can version of the classic nativity scene using cans sold in Mexico, where these four names are fairly common.

There's so much to like about this photo, despite its simplicity. First of all, it confirms many people's suspicions that Jesus was a darker-colored can than centuries of European church doctrine have taught us. I mean, he could have used a white-and-blonde Caffeine-Free Diet Coke can, but that would have been the biggest sacrilege I can imagine. Finally, we can't see the top of Maria's can, so we'll just have to take it on faith that it was, indeed, unopened. It's probably not a marketing ploy, since even Coca-Cola probably wouldn't try to appropriate a religion while making a joke about Hispanic names, all while being 5 months early. Probably. Merry Julymas, everyone.  During a court appearance for that bizarre bicycle-related screamfest that got him arrested in New York City a few months back, actor Alec Baldwin was forced by a Manhattan Criminal Court judge to "be a good boy from now on." This may seem like a tough thing for a 56 year old man to endure, but really he was just happy for the attention. I bet a lot of people have been woken up to the sound of Alec Baldwin yelling.  So, you might not want to watch the new trailer for the upcoming film adaptation starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan... of that best-selling book your mom keeps reading over and over again, because now you're gonna know exactly what was going through her head while she was sitting next to you on the couch. I'd watch the 50 Shades trailer but I'm a little tied up right now. According to recent research, that happy little octopus with all those cute waving arms at the local aquarium is into some really dark shit in the bedroom. A new paper published in Molluscan Research explains how strangulation and cannibalism are regularly incorporated into octopi's mating rituals. Now see if you can eat noodles without thinking about an octopus sex party.  Remember that enormous charred hole that opened up in the earth in some godforsaken corner of Russia? Neither do I. Anyway. Good news! Now there's two! So, it would appear as though Armageddon is really speeding up. Which is kind of good news. Any chance it'll get here before the 50 Shades of Grey movie opens? Fingers crossed.  Yesterday I told you the story of a girl's smiling selfie from Auschwitz that had people angry. Well, there was another photo that no one is blinking an eye about... and should be.

What the hell? That's so stupid.  Another story I mentioned yesterday was air conditions in Western Wisconsin are currently 66% humidity, 85% flying insects. Well, a Phile reader from Wisconsin sent me this photo...

Man alive, that's fucking gross. I can't imagine.  Well, there's a new movie coming out about Paddington Bear, who I am not sure that most American's know about. My sister on the other hand was a big fan of Paddington as well as my mum. Anyway, I'm not so sure about the movie when I saw this screen grab...

Why is he in a grave?  Let this scene grab from from the upcoming Syfy epic film Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda stand as testimony to all the naysayers who nayly said that Conan O'Brien's major motion picture acting debut would be less than dignified. Or "cheesy," if you will.

You know, until just now I assumed that Matthew McConaughey had the Emmy for Best Actor in a Program About Lovecraftian Demon-Monsters wrapped up. But now I think this is gonna be a real competition.  San Diego Comic Con is going on right now and I don't know if you saw but they have reveled a new Han Solo action figure for Episode 7.

Okay, that is really bad looking. And I am not sure the movie will be called Rise of the Sith. I think that's fake.  Okay, it's Summer and all through Summer I am showing you some different bikinis that you might run into at the beach. Not me, I don't like the beach. Anyway, check it out. In 2009, Designer Pistol Panties created the Swarovski crystal-coated Bling-kini, which was on sale at Selfridges for £2,000 (almost $3,500), or £100 ($170) per square centimeter.

Maybe you won't see it at the beach. And now for...

That should be an easy one to figure out. Okay, so, like I said San Diego Comic Con is happening right now, and as I didn't have a Star Wars Month this year as the Phile was on hiatus, I thought this would be a good time to invite a good friend to the Phile... one of the Phile's most popular characters. He's a bounty hunter by day and a stand up comedian at night, straight from the Outlands, please welcome back to the Phile...

Tractor: Hello, great to be back here. What's the difference between a dianoga and a lawyer?

Me: I don't know, what?

Tractor: One's a garbage-diving parasite... and the other's a dianoga.

Me: Hey, I know a few really good lawyers. My brother-in-law is a lawyer for crying out loud.

Tractor: Wanna hear another one?

Me: Yeah, sure.

Tractor: Which Neimoidian spoke only in three-line poems?

Me: I don't know.

Tractor: Rune Haiku.

Me: Clever, but most people won't get that, Tractor.

Tractor: How about this one? What was Count Dooku's favorite game?

Me: I don't know. Count something?

Tractor: Jenga Fett.

Me: Okay, now you are getting desperate.

Tractor: I have one more, laser brain. Why did Darth Vader visit a Verizon store?

Me: I don't know. Why?

Tractor: He needed a hands-free device. That's it, don't eat the bantha.

Me: Tractor Beam, everybody.

Okay, the 32nd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Jeremy Croston will be a guest on the Phile in a few weeks. Okay, guess what time it is? He's a patriot, singer and renaissance man... you know what time it is.

A tree planted in honor of George Harrison has to be cut down due to being infested by Beetles. In related stories... The Beach Boys all got sunburns, Klaus Meine was bitten by a scorpion and Don Henley was attacked by an eagle. Random thought of the day... It's been said that good things come to those who wait... Tell that to the guy in the waiting room about to get a colonoscopy.

Okay, today's guest is a New York City based composer and pianist. He is most well known for his work composing music for film and television as well as conducting and playing piano in Broadway and Off Broadway productions. His latest CD "Ashokan Memories" is available on iTunes. This guy is more interesting than I thought. Haha. He's not just a New Age piano player. Anyway, please welcome to the Phile... Peter Calandra.

Me: Hey there, Peter, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Peter: I'm doing well.

Me: You're from New York, right? What part?

Peter: Brooklyn born, grew up in Northport, NY.

Me: I grew up in Port Jefferson... ever been there?

Peter: Yes I have and was just out there last fall taking the ferry to Bridgeport.

Me: Okay, you are piano player, and have been playing for a long time. How long have you been playing piano, Peter?

Peter: Started picking out melodies on the piano at age 6. Started a few years of lessons right after that, spent a few years learning to play by ear and then had a couple years of classical piano lessons in high school before attending college.

Me: You're a jazz or New Age musician really, right? Was that the first genre's of music you got into?

Peter: I have always been sensitive to music even before i started playing the piano. Some of my earliest memories are of walking around with melodies floating around in my head. I was very attracted to blues rock music like Traffic (John Barleycorn), Allman Brothers (Chuck Leavell specifically) during my early teens. I learned how to play by ear, the piano solos from "Empty Pages" and "Jessica". Then there was exposure to jazz piano in early high school after being given given a stack of jazz piano albums by a family friend. They were some great albums by Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, Hampton Hawes, and a few others.

Me: You don't just do jazz though. You wrote music for over forty movies. What?! That's crazy! What are some of the movies you wrote for?

Peter: Two of my earliest movies were very successful independent films. Unknown Soldier won the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2004, played in festivals all over the world and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award (Currently on Netflix). In 2005 I scored another independent film, Jellysmoke starring Michael Ealy that won the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2005 and was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. More recently I scored a really great film in 2010/2011 called Rise. In 2011 there was a feature length documentary about Oprah Winfrey's girls school in South Africa that aired on OWN. In 2012 I scored a fun romantic comedy, BearCity 2 and have also scored two films for ESPN, Unmatched (2012) that was part of the "30 for 30" series and Pat XO (2013) that was part of the "9 for 9" series.

Me: What is your favorite movie you were part of?

Peter: Rise was a great experience. The film was directed by my friends Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern and produced by the USFSA. It was a memorial to the tragic 1961 plane crash that wiped out the entire US Figure skating team, coaches and some family members. The story was very emotional and in addition to interviews there was incredible archival footage featured thru out the film. Skating is usually inspired by beautiful music and, in reverse, it was very inspiring to compose the score to a film featuring many clips of incredible figure skating. The film screened on the 50th anniversary of the crash at the BestBuy Theater in Times Square and was a Fathom Event hosted by Matt Lauer broadcast to over 550 theaters across America. Additionally, they screened two videos using excerpts of my score with people skating to the music. One featured Evan Lysecek, Gold Medal winner at the Vancouver Olympics who choreographed a routine to a cue from the film. The entire project was almost magical for me in many ways and the music just flowed. I even got a chance to collaborate on writing and producing a vocal theme song with singer/songwriter/artist Joy Askew. This project was the best composing experience so far.

Me: And you wrote 2000 compositions for TV... that's a lot. I wrote over 700 entries of the Phile, but that's nothing compared to what you have done. Anyway, what are some of the TV shows you wrote music for?

Peter: Between production/library music that has been placed and actual shows I have worked on, my music has been in over 260 shows broadcast here in the USA and in 60 countries worldwide. Some of the shows are "Sesame Street", "Hope and Faith", "All My Children", "Dog Whisperer", "Unlikely Animal Friends", Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman, "The View," "The Today Show", "CBS Evening News", "The Early Show", "Sunday Morning News", "Good Morning America", "20/20", "Primetime Thursday", "The Bachelor", "Wife Swap", "America's Most Wanted", "MLB on FOX", "NFL on Fox", "Football Night In America", "Sports Science", "Real Time With Bill Maher", "Wicked Tuna", "Average Joe", "NBA on NBC", NBC Olympic Broadcasts since 2000, Martha Stewart. I also composed theme songs for many sports shows. Some of the shows currently on air are "Big Ten Network: Greatest Games" and "Big Ten's Best", "Comcast SportsNet", "Comcast SportsNite", Hockey and postgame live and college sports themes, "Madison Square Garden Network", "HockeyNight Live". "SNY Geico SportsNight"

Me: Wow. That's a lot. Is there a big difference in writing for movies and TV?

Peter: In my experience, there is a difference. Theme songs need to create a recognizable 'brand' that drives a show. Much TV programming (with the exception of dramatic series) has music that deals with momentary on screen activities and not with a long arc for story telling. Film deals with a longer form story and the music is part of that. For me, this means you have to think about developing themes and musical textures that support the narrative over the duration of the film.

Me: Do you get lots of freedom or does the director or producer or whoever tell you what you need to do?

Peter: It depends on the project and the people involved. Some people are very hands on and some are less so. There always is, at the minimum, a discussion about tone and direction of the music and how it fits into the project.

Me: How did you start in this field, Peter?

Peter: I started out in the late 1990s by writing a few hundred tracks of production music for "Killer Tracks" and "FOX Sports". All that work was a great experience as it made me really learn how to record and mix music and learn music technology which is the basis for my work now.

Me: You probably can go anywhere in the world, turn on the TV and hear some of your music, am I right?

Peter: Not all but many places for sure.

Me: You have also worked on Broadway shows, but I don't think you have written music for them, am I right?

Peter: Correct. While I have done it, writing vocal songs is not my forte.

Me: You played for "Les Miserables", "Miss Saigon", "Phantom" and "The Lion King." That has to be the most poppiest of music you have done... "The Lion King."

Peter: Actually the first show I did, "Little Shop Of Horrors" was the poppiest music and to be honest, the best experience of all. I loved being in that show. I was very young and in addition to how great the show was, the entire scene that evolved around the show was amazing and many of the people involved with it have become lifelong friends.

Me: Does it take you long to learn a piece?

Peter: It depends on the music, some music seems to just fit and learning it is effortless while some music takes an incredible effort to learn.

Me: You must've seen hundred and hundreds of shows? Is there anything that happened wrong on stage that you witnessed, or anything in the audience that you witnessed that stuck out?

Peter: Actually, I think the number of performances over the past 30 years comes out to over 6500. Musical Theater has become a very complex, team endeavor and while most nights things go well, over the course of a long run things happen, scenery gets stuck on stage or doesn't fly in properly. Actors forget lines, musicians play some wrong notes. One time at "Miss Saigon", the conductor had to leave the podium in the middle of a song as he was passing a kidney stone, the bassoon player who was the assistant conductor got up on the podium in mid song, took the baton from the conductor (who rushed out of the the theater to the hospital) and started conducting. It actually went pretty seamlessly but was an interesting experience. One night at "Little Shop Of Horrors", the actor who played the dentist and various other roles in the second act, hit his head going down the stairs and had a huge gash and was bleeding profusely. He needed to rush to the hospital. No understudies were available so the only alternative was to have the stage manager go on for him the rest of the show. This was especially funny in the part when that character plays a woman and the stage manager had a beard. There are so many.

Me: Okay, let's talk about one of your newest CD's... "Ashokan Memories". What does Ashokan mean? Is that a place?

Peter: Ashokan is an area in the Catskills region of New York State and the title of this song refers to the Ashokan Reservoir which is a huge body of water (that feeds the NYC water system) surrounded by mountains. Its really breathtaking. The Catskills and Hudson Valley is a very beautiful area that i love very much and the entire album is dedicated to places in the area.

Me: The CD is just you playing piano, right? It's really a solo CD.

Peter: Yes, solo piano music!

Me: Did it take you long to write the music for it?

Peter: I wrote the music in August of 2012.

Me: Where was it recorded?

Peter: I have summer home in the Catskills and built a project studio next to the house. I usually spend the entire month of August up there. Every day that August I would go into the studio, clear my head and improvise piano music with the recorder on. The album contains the best of those sessions.

Me: I have never been to the Catskills, what is there to do there?

Peter: Great hiking, biking, in the Summer there are lots of music festivals of all kinds that take place. Even something as simple as sitting on the deck watching nature unfold can be a very interesting endeavor. The natural beauty is really great and, unlike NYC or Long Island, it's not really crowded unless you go into Woodstock or New Paltz.

Me: You must really love New York, you released an album years ago called "Sunrise Over New York". Where in New York is your favorite place to go?

Peter: There are a wide variety of places in NY that i like, from Montauk to the East Village, to Central Park to Prospect Park to the Catskills, the Shawangunks. New York is a pretty big state with lots of attractions.

Me: So, where was the cover of the CD taken? It's a panoramic shot of the Ashokan Reservoir I took with my phone!

Me: Okay, so, you wrote an album about The Catskills, and one about the city. You need to do an album about Long Island. Whatcha think?

Peter: I might have to pass on the Long Island album. Way too much drama out there for me :)... But never say never...

Me: Seriously, what projects are you working on right now, Peter? Anything you can talk about? 

Peter: Currently I am scoring a feature length documentary that will be a permanent exhibit in a major historical library.

Me: Okay, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Are you ready? Who has inspired you as a mentor and why?

Peter: There are a few teachers that were very inspiring and important to my development not only as a musician but as an adult. My high school piano teacher, Russell Stevenson was one of the first people who really showed an interest in my talents. In college there were two teachers, Sol Berkowitz and Howard Brofsky who both took an interest in mentoring me. Sol was a composer/orchestrator who had worked on Broadway, TV and films in the 1960s. He would give me extra work in classes designed to help me develop skills that would be invaluable during my career in these fields. Howard was the only teacher at Queens College in the late 1970s early 1980s that taught any jazz improvisation classes (in the late 1980s he, along with Jimmy Heath, successfully pushed for the establishment of a Masters level degree in jazz performance that is now a very successful program attracting students from all over the world). He would often give me suggestions of things to practice/ transcribe on the piano to develop my musical vocabulary. After college, he got me involved with the artist/musician Larry Rivers Climax Band that Howard and I performed in for 16 years. I was close to all of these men until they passed on and miss them all greatly.

Me: I have to ask you about Aretha Franklin... you worked with her? When and how was that?

Peter:  In the early 2000s I performed a series of concerts with her and her band what was called the John Harms Center in Englewood, NJ. On one hand it was a great experience as her Atlantic sides recorded in Muscle Shoals during the late 1960s/ early 1970s is some of my favorite music. On the other hand I thought the concerts were not very well rehearsed and performed so ultimately while I got to perform with a legend it was a frustrating experience. One that, however, I am grateful to have had.

Me: I heard she is tough to work for, Peter, is that true?

Peter: That question is above my pay grade :)

Me: Fair enough. Haha. Thanks for being on the Phile. Mention your website and take care. Continued success, sir, and I cannot wait to hear your Long Island record. Haha.

Peter: Thank you, Jason. Great questions. Here are my online/social media sites: My website is: Facebook:  Twitter: Soundcloud:  YouTube: Updates and new content are regularly posted on all those sites. Feel free to connect and subscribe to any of those sites. Thanks again!

Well, that about does it for this entry. Thanks to Laird Jim and Peter Calandra. Next Friday I'll be at Tampa Bay Comic Con, but the Phile will be back next Thursday with Phile Alum Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz from Weird Al Yankovics's Band, who has the number one album right now! Very cool, right? 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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pheaturing Mark Baxter

Hello there, good morning. Welcome to the Phile once again. It's a good day to go the beach. What am I talking about, no day is a good day to go to the beach.  San Diego Comic Con is going on right now and I wish I was there. Next year, people, I am going. Anyway, let's start with some potential spoilerish news... According to Internet rumors... ones that are supposedly pretty well-sourced, for whatever that's worth, the events of the new, highly anticipated Star Wars trilogy will begin with the discovery of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber-grasping hand, which has apparently spent several decades falling through space after being severed from its arm by Darth Vader in the final moments of The Empire Strikes Back. That may sound a bit odd, but not every movie can be about the labyrinthine political fallout from a complex trade embargo. And now, for no other reason than it's pretty cool, here's J.J. Abrams and an actual X-Wing fighter. Somewhere, George Lucas is crying a solitary CGI tear...

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are reportedly spending half-a-million dollars to secure a look-alike baby to impersonate their one year old daughter North in the hopes that it "will really throw paps off the scent." Apparently, they're hoping that the child can have somewhat of a normal childhood. Kim defended her parenting skills to critics on Twitter saying she is a devoted parent to both her children, North and Kanye.  For the second consecutive year, Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man star Robert Downey, Jr. has been listed as the actor who's pulling in the most dangerously enormous amount of money. With $75 million funneled into his already-overflowing bank account since last June, the charismatic actor out-earned Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson by about $23 million. 
I love Robert Downey Jr's sexy cocky guy persona. It never gets old. I hope it's not an "act" and that he's an asshole in real life too.  Hey, are you reading this in Wisconsin? If so, I feel sorry for you. Western Wisconsin residents who live along the Mississippi River are currently experiencing a blight of mayflies so massive that clouds of the flying insects are showing up as weather patterns on radar screens and the entire landscape is covered with a buzzing insectoid blanket. Luckily, the little guys live for under a day, so Midwesterners will only have to deal with billions upon billions of mayfly cadavers in the coming weeks. And I thought love bugs here in Florida were bad. Check this out...

That's fucking disgusting.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry has caused some controversy after announcing that he would be sending 1,000 mostly powerless troops from the U.S. National Guard to the border between Texas and Mexico so that they can stand around showing potential voters how serious Rick Perry is about both protecting our borders and being fiscally responsible. I would like to mobilize the Texas National Guard to prevent Rick Perry from migrating to the White House. The U.S. film industry is facing its worst financial slump in eight years, as movie studios seem incapable of getting audiences to come out en masse and see this year's crop of thrown-together sequels of remakes of sequels and adaptations of children's toys. "They still want to go to the movies. They just want to go to really good movies," media analyst Paul Dergarabedian explained. Amazing to think The Expendables 3 is only the third movie in Hollywood history to be written by a piece of beef jerky.  Speaking of movies, You know that television show from the '80s that you can't believe actually existed in real life and wasn't just a sketch from the Phil Hartman years of "SNL"? No, not "Max Headroom". Think weirder. Not "Misfits of Science", either. Go even worse. Yes, "Manimal!" That show about the the guy who could transform into any animal he wanted and somehow used that power to fight crime? Well, Will Ferrell's production company is turning it into an ironic nostalgia-bait comedy movie. Finally, right!? Hopefully, it's as good as Land of the Lost!  I have to talk about a story I just read on AOL News... Teens take selfies everywhere they go, which unfortunately includes many places where taking selfies is probably a bad idea. That said, if you're going to throw decency to the wind and take a selfie while standing at one of history's most gruesome crime scenes, a good rule of thumb is to not to make it look like you're at the premiere of 22 Jump Street standing next to Channing Tatum. And including a smiley face emoticon with the words "Selfie in the Auschwitz concentration camp" will only make matters worse. Some people don't see a problem with that. People like American teen Breanna Mitchell. By every account, Breanna's visit to the Nazi concentration camp was made with the best of intentions. She claims she and her late father studied the Holocaust for years and she was happy to finally make the trip. She clearly wasn't looking to upset people or become famous, but once people began retweeting the picture, that's exactly what happened. Pretty soon the Tweet was being sent around and Breanna started taking heat. She seemed annoyed by the attention at first, and tried to explain herself, tweeting, “Omg I wish people would quit tweeting to, quoting, retweeting, and favoriting my picture of my smiling in Auschwitz Concentration Camp.” For some reason, Business Insider deemed it newsworthy, and Breanna responded the way most self-absorbed American teens would, by announcing, "I'm famous yall." Not surprisingly, that jump-started the Internet outrage machine, with thousands of people jumping in to criticize the shot, and others lending their support with words of encouragement. As of now, Breanna's original tweet is still up. But at this point, it hardly matters, because, regardless of her original intention, or whether she has a change of heart, Breanna's name will forever be linked to inappropriate selfies. And in case you didn't see the Tweet, here it is...

So, the football players are starting to go back and practice and do what they do before the pre-season. Did you see what Tom Brady looks nowadays? 

That's a good look for him. Haha.  So, as I said San Diego Comic Con is going on right now, and they revealed a new poster for the new Batman vs Superman film. Here it is...

I don't like the direction it's going.  A lot of you have still been asking where I was for 5 months when I wasn't doing the blog. I'll show you...

It was a good knight.  Alright, if you go the beach you might notice there's a few new beach warning signs out there... like this one.

I don't mind Jason Mraz. Well, it is Summer and all through Summer I am showing you different kinds of bikinis you might find at the beach. Here's one... Geek gals are always looking for cool apparel, especially when it comes to comfortable swimwear. So, here's some good news: Now, there's an Evil Dead-inspired Necronomicon bikini that's supposedly “super comfortable,” according to its makers.

The made-to-order Brazilian-cut silicone bikini, available through Etsy by Bloodlust Productions, is styled after the human flesh-bound "Book Of The Dead", the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis from Sam Raimi's original Evil Dead movies. I have never seen those movies so I have no idea what they are talking about. Oh, well. Anyway, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Phive Startling Similarities And Differences Between Putin's Presidency And Sharknado 2
5. Is an unwanted sequel to a surprisingly popular first installment.
4. Is repellent to anyone with half a brain.
3. Is terrible, but good for cable ratings.
2. Seems aware of its own stupidity.
And the number one startling and difference between Putin's presidency and Sharknado 2...
1. Has really boosted Tara Reid's career.

That might be a hard one to figure out. So, as San Diego Comic Con is going on, and I didn't get to do a Star Wars Month this year on the Phile I thought it would be appropriate to invite back one of the Phile's most popular characters. He's a bounty hunter by night and a stand up comedian by day, or the other way around. Straight from doing a comedy tour in the Outland's please welcome back to the Phile...

Tractor: Thank you, thank you. So, how did Darth Vader cheat at poker?

Me: I'm not sure.

Tractor: He kept altering the deal.

Me: Ha. That's really bad, Tractor.

Tractor: Here's another then...  What happened when Luke left a spoon in the oven?

Me: I don't know, it became luke warm?

Tractor: No. He got a ladle cooked but he's okay. Haha.

Me: Haha. That was pretty good, if I don't say so myself. Last year when you were here, Tractor, you gave us a few limericks. Do you have one today for us?

Tractor: Of course, womp rat. When being placed in carbon-freeze Han Solo was filled with unease. A slight itch arose, inside his nose, but they froze him right in mid-sneeze.

Me: Very good. Tractor Beam, everybody!

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

James Garner
April 7th, 1928 — July 19th, 2014
At the tone, leave your name and message. I'll never get back to you.

Today's pheatured guest is the author of "Elizabeth, Peter & Me", the 31st book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. Please welcome to the Phile, the handsomely dressed... Mark Baxter.

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

Mark: I'm good, Jason. Tired after a busy year, so I have enjoyed the last couple of weeks doing as little as possible. Re-charging the batteries for another busy year in front of me.

Me: Your friends call you Bax, right? Do you want me to call you Mark or Bax?

Mark: Most people call me Bax, only my mum calls me Mark! So Bax is fine.

Me: Bax, you're from London, England I believe. What part?

Mark: I'm from Camberwell, South East London... which is about four miles from the centre of London.

Me: I live in Florida now but was born in Balham: Gateway to the South. Do you go to Balham often?

Mark: Ah. A fellow South Londoner, good lad. I remember that Peter Sellers monologue well. To be honest, no I'm rarely in Balham. Most of my work and social life is in the West End or City of London.

Me: Have you lived in London all your life?

Mark: Yeah, born and bred in SE5 and still live there. So handy for everything, why move? My missus is from nearby Kennington, so a lot of our families are local too.

Me: Ever been to the States before?

Mark: Yeah. New York in 1988 and 2008. Florida... Disney and all that in 2000 and Memphis in 2002 for the Tyson/Lewis heavyweight fight. Also took in Graceland, had to be done.

Me: Your book "Elizabeth, Peter & Me" is the newest book in the Phile's Book Club. Before we talk about that one, let's talk about some other books you wrote. You have co-written a book or two with another author named Paolo Hewitt, am I right?

Mark: Thats right. Our first book was 'The Fashion of Football' in 2004 and that looked at the fashions within football (soccer) worn by both the players off the pitch and the fans on the terraces. We also examined the classic UK clothing labels like Fred Perry and Ben Sherman.

Me: I should have Paolo on the Phile as well. If I did, what should be the one question I should ask him?

Mark: Ask him the title of his favorite book.

Me: When and how did you first meet Paolo, Bax?

Mark: I knew of him through his writing for the NME music paper and I had bought a couple of his books. One day he called me out of the blue, looking for some photos from the 60s ( I used to trade in these) and we hooked up to do the deal and I pitched him my book ideas.

Me: Do you like working with him or someone else or by yourself better?

Mark: I find writing very tough, so working with someone to bounce the ideas off is easier, but really I just go with the flow.

Mark: What was the first book you came out with, Bax?

Mark: The first book I thought of was "The Fashion of Football" in 2004 and my first attempt at writing was in 2007 with a book called "The Mumper".

Me: When I was little I used to loved the football player George Best. My grandmother gave me a biography on him when I was little. I probably still have it somewhere in storage. You are a big football fan, right?

Mark: I'm a massive football fan, and watch 3 games a week at least. George was up there with the greats in the game.

Me: What team do you follow, Bax?

Mark: I support my local team Millwall. They are a couple of miles from where I live. I think everyone should support the club closest to where you were born.

Me: George is on the cover of your book "The Fashion of Football". I have  a picture of it here...

Me: Is he your favorite footballer of all time?

Mark: No, my favourite player is a guy called Terry Hurlock. Not very skilful, more industrial, but he had the heart of a lion.

Me: Have you ever met George? What does he do now?

Mark: Sadly no, he died in 2005, due to alcohol problems.

Me: Oh, man. I did not know. That sucks. I follow The New York Giants, an American football team. Do you watch or like American football?

Mark: I used to watch a lot of it in the 80s/90s, but rarely get the time to squeeze a full game in now. I really like the NFL documentaries I see from time to time. Great footage on those.

Me: Since I moved to Florida in 1987 American football has become really popular in England I think. Why do you think that is, Bax?

Mark: Basically I would put it down to TV exposure and our general love of sport over here in the UK.

Me: Another book you wrote is "Mumper" which you just mentioned. Mumper is a horse, am I right?

Mark: The Mumper is indeed a real horse, named after the book and the subsequent film of the book.

Me: Was that your first novel?

Mark: Yes it was. I would write a chapter and then send it to Paolo for him to add to and rework if needs be. It was published in 2007.

Me: What does Mumper mean?

Mark: It is a 19th century word for a beggar or scrounger. That got corrupted to the word ponce in my area, which basically means the same thing.

Me: "Mumper" was turned into film called Outside Bet starring Bob Hoskins who just does this year. When did that film come out and why did they change the name?

Mark: It came out in the UK in 2012 and why the name change? Good question, not really sure, think you need to speak to Universal Films really.

Me: Does the movie stay true to the book, Bax?

Mark: Pretty much... there are a couple of changes I would have made, mainly in casting, but once we sold, we had very little we could do or say with it really.

Me: Did you get to meet the actors and visit the set?

Mark: I did. I went down on the first day and met all the actors and crew and really enjoyed the experience, good people.

Me: How did they approach you about making a movie based on the book?

Mark: I was told to send a copy of the book to a TV producer called Tony Humphreys, who was looking for projects. He liked the story and then set about raising the funds to make a film.

Me: Did you agree to it right away? 

Mark: Once we had consulted our book/film agent, pretty much yes.

Me: Were you happy with it?

Mark: Ninety percent of it yes. Couple of tweaks here and there would make it better, but I'm very proud of it.

Me: Another book I'll mention you co-wrote is "The A to Z of Mod". I know what a mod is, I love The Who, Style Council and Madness as well. But I am sure there are a lot of readers of the Phile who have no idea what a mod is. I am sure no one in middle America knows what a mod is. Haha. So, how you you describe a mod?

Mark: I'm not sure I know anymore! Mod is short for Modernist and these were a group of very young men in the late 50s, who loved hand made clothes and foreign films. Their influences appear to be Miles Davis and Jean Paul Belmondo... Anyway, they strut their stuff and gradually were joined by more like minds, until they had their own movement going on. Within a few years, the media caught on and we ended up with Carnaby Street, Swinging London and great music from bands like The Small Faces and The Action.

Me: Are you or were you a mod growing up, Bax?

Mark: I got into it in the late 70s, through the film Quadrophenia and the band The Jam. I then discovered Blue Note jazz as a result of being involved with good people and I was hooked. I was 17 then, and I'm 51 now. A lifetime of Mod really.

Me: They wear certain clothes, don't they? Are their any modern mods out there right now?

Mark: It is basically a very smart look. Sharp, hard, clean, stylish! Here in the UK, the biggest names involved are Paul Weller... The Modfather, Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and Hobbit actor Martin Freeman. All very nice chaps.

Me: Are you a fan of the bands I mentioned? Who is your favorite band or musician?

Mark: I have seen all those bands live at concerts, so yes, great choices. My fave musician however is Tubby Hayes, a London born sax player who sadly died in 1973. I hope to finish a film project on Tubby this year.

Me: Do you play anything yourself, or sing?

Mark: I used to play the drums and sax as a kid (not at the same time I hasten to add) but now I just whistle!

Me: On the Phile I was lucky enough to interview Graham Parker a few times and Eddie Reader and Martin Stephenson. I'm sure you heard of those people, right?

Mark: Yeah, sure. I know more about Parker than the other two if I'm honest.

Me: Ever heard of the band Foghat or Savoy Brown?

Mark: Savoy Brown rings a distant bell, but not a lot of knowledge on them I'm afraid.

Me: Alright, you're here to talk about your book "Elizabeth, Peter & Me". The 'me' in the title is not you, right?

Mark: Thats right. The 'me' in the book is our hero, one time villain, now reformed character Vinny Hawkins.

Me: This is a novel... tell the readers what it's about.

Mark: Thanks. Vinny commits a massive burglary from actress Elizabeth Taylor in 1962, but ends up in prison though, the result of another job going wrong, a few weeks later. Fifty years later in 2012, he has need to revisit the Taylor crime, though by now he is in his 70s and living in a old peoples home! It is the story of that journey, full of laughs, sadness and plenty of twists and turns.

Me: There's a great video on YouTube of a guy talking in a chair that advertises the book. I have a screen shot of it here...

Me: Who is that actor, I seem to recognize him. Was it you who wrote that piece?

Mark: Glad you like it. The actor is a great friend of mine, a guy named Eugene Manzi, same fella on the book cover. Yes, I wrote the script for the YouTube film.

Me: How long it take you to write this novel, Mark, and where did you come up with the idea for it? 

Mark: Overall it took about three months time wise, but that was spread over eighteen months due to my other work. The idea just popped in my head one day, and kept coming back, so I decided I had better start writing it down!

Me: Do you think this book would be or could be turned into a movie?

Mark: I think so, but you can never tell. A lot of people who have read it,  have said it would make good cinema, We'll see I suppose.

Me: I saw there are pictures of people holding your book, and one of those people is Paul Weller. Did you see him on the street and asked him if he would get a picture with it?

Mark: No, I now know Paul pretty well, so we arranged to hook up and he kindly did the photo for me.

Me: That's cool! I have to mention as well Neil Sheasby, who was a guest on the Phile last year. He is the bass player for the band Stone Foundation. How do you know Neil?

Mark: I met Neil at a gig a few years ago now and really liked what he and the band were doing . A year or so later, my wife and me spent a weekend with Sheas and his wife Claire up in their town in Atherstone, becoming good mates as a result.

Me: Are you a fan of his band?

Mark: Certainly. I booked them to play at my 50th birthday in 2012 at The 100 Club in London. Wait til you hear the new album.

Me: So, have you come up with an idea for your next book yet, Mark?

Mark: I have two more books that I am contracted to write. One for 2014 and one for 2015, so plenty to come. Can't really say too much about them yet as we are still finalising details. I have another idea for a novel brewing, I just need to invent 8 days a week to finish it all!

Me: Do you like writing?

Mark: Honestly, it''s a perverse pleasure. I genuinely find it hard and difficult, but keep going back to it, so I must like it!

Me: When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?

Mark: It sort just happened. I think I am more of an ideas man really and now I have an outlet for these projects, which is great.

Mark: So, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Ready? What got you in the most trouble for when you were young?

Mark: Impatience. Even to this day, I don't like waiting around. Lets just get on with it, and crack on shall we.

Me: Mark, thanks for being on the Phile, I hope it was fun. Was this your first American interview? 

Mark: Enjoyed it, Jason, many thanks for asking and yes, I think you are the first US interview I have done.

Me: Would you come back when your next book comes out?

Mark: It will be my pleasure.

Me: Tell the readers where they can purchase your books, and plug whatever you want. Take care, and please come back soon. All the best.

Mark: The easiest place to get the book is through under the title "Elizabeth, Peter and Me". Cheers.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile.  Thanks to Mark Baxter for a great interview. The Phile will be back tomorrow with New Age piano player Pete Calandra. I have to say New Age is my least favorite kinda music. 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.