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.

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