Episode 28: Joey Cassata/John Polydoros

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Joey Cassata, the very first guest for Journey of a Frontman nearly a year ago, makes his return to share some exciting news. He’s currently the drummer for the hit Broadway production, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. The musical has been selling out, getting great reviews and is certainly giving Hamilton a run for its money. Joey reflects on what an incredible experience it has been so far, what he’s taking out of it and everything that led up to this opportunity.
Plus, John Polydoros makes his first appearance on Journey of a Frontman following a successful acoustic tour as part of Off With Their Heads. John plays guitar alongside Ryan Young and it’s been quite an experience as of late. The band’s very best songs have a new feel on stage and on the brand new LP. John shares stories and insight about how this helps strengthen the songs, being in the spotlight alongside Ryan for the acoustic performances, what 2017 holds for the band and plenty more.

Episode 27: Joel David Moore

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Joel David Moore has made a name for himself on the big screen, as well as the television screen. He’s getting ready for a big 2017 which includes starring in an Amazon pilot called Budding Prospects, as well as directing an upcoming feature.
Joel and Alex get into an in-depth discussion about marijuana in modern day society and how it ties into Budding Prospects, their memories and experiences with places like Circuit City and Best Buy, taking on the role of Joey Ramone in the CBGB film alongside the late Alan Rickman and plenty more.
In addition, Alex takes some time to share his thoughts and reflect on what a year it has been for Journey of a Frontman. A big thanks and happy holidays to all of the wonderful guests throughout 2016 and of course to you, the listener!

Episode 26: Ryan Young [Off With Their Heads]

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Ryan Young is the powerful voice of the highly regarded punk band, Off With Their Heads. He recently released an acoustic record called Won’t Be Missed and it features ten of their best songs stripped down and reimagined. While on tour for the special acoustic gigs, Ryan and Alex sat down to talk about Won’t Be Missed, the straightforward lyrics, his relationship with CM Punk, the results of the 2016 election, the observations of everyday life and plenty more.

Episode 25: Whatsoever

Episode 25: Whatsoever

Alex sits down with Matt Whitney and John Dotson of the alternative rock band, Whatsoever. It’s been quite a 2016 for the Connecticut band…releasing their debut album, playing shows all over Connecticut, balancing band life and family life, getting songs ready for 2017 and much more! Get to know two out of three members of this awesome rock trio in this fun episode.





Episode 23: Austin Farmer

Austin Farmer is a drummer based out of Los Angeles and has taken part in some interesting projects. The entertainment business is in your blood when your dad just so happens to be Bill Farmer, a Disney icon and the legendary voice of Goofy. Austin and Alex talk in-depth about learning how to play drums, capitalizing on opportunities, anxiety-inducing gigs, the highs and lows of tour life, the importance of character and much more.

Listen to Episode 23 HERE



Episode 22: Myles Kennedy

He’s the frontman in Slash’s band, the frontman for Alter Bridge, but today…he’s on Journey of a Frontman! It’s none other than Myles Kennedy, the ultra-talented and down to earth vocalist who, with Alter Bridge, just released the fifth studio album: The Last Hero. There’s plenty of great insight to be heard from one of the modern-day torchbearers of rock n’ roll.

Listen to Episode 22 HERE



Episode 21: Joe Murray

Joe Murray brought a wallaby, a steer and a turtle to the table…along with the dream. And once that dream became a reality, it turned into a legacy. As the creator of Rocko’s Modern Life, Murray made a significant contribution to the legendary Nicktoons era, as well as nineties pop culture.

But for those who are wondering if we’ll ever take a trip back to O-Town, a huge announcement was recently made. There is a TV special in the works! And it’s all coming from the creator himself. Talking in this episode about getting Rocko on television originally, Regular Show, plans for the TV special, amusing merchandise and more.

Listen to Episode 21 HERE



JOAF on YouTube 02 – Ken Anderson

Whether you know him as Mr. Kennedy from the world of WWE or Mr. Anderson from the Impact Zone, you know that he’s no stranger to a microphone. And it’s always a can’t miss event whenever Ken appears on Journey of a Frontman.

Outside of the ring, he co-hosts the podcast Push The Button with David Vox Mullen. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s going to be taking a new approach in the wrestling ring very soon because he’s opening a wrestling school with Shawn Daivari.

Plenty of wrestling stories from his time in WWE and TNA, insight and opinions, and good times to be had…right here on Journey of a Frontman!




Episode 19: Cody Bondra

Cody Bondra is an up and coming rock musician with plenty of stories, insight and honest opinions about his biggest passion on the planet…music! Whether it’s a gig at Foxwoods that felt like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm or playing on the same stage that The Rolling Stones did, it’s all part of the journey for this charismatic frontman.

Listen to Episode 19 HERE



Episode 18: Larry Legend

Alex heads on over to New York City to sit down with the finest ring announcer today, Larry Legend. His voice is taking the worlds of wrestling and MMA by storm and you’ll be able to hear the story for yourself straight from the man behind the voice. From how he initially got his practice in to his thoughts on the massive wrestling boom in 2016 and plenty more, make your way down to check it out!

Listen to Episode 18 HERE





Episode 17: Andrew Freeman

Andrew Freeman has taken charge as the voice of Last in Line, a band formed by members of the original Dio lineup. He’s also been rocking the stage as part of the rock n’ roll spectacle, Raiding the Rock Vault, at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. Andrew and Alex sit down backstage after a recent show to talk about various replacement singers throughout the past couple of years, where fans are getting their music from, the feeling on that stage, Steel Panther, karaoke and much more.

Listen to Episode 17 HERE



Episode 16: Warped Tour 2016 – Bret Bollinger and Johnny Christmas

The 2016 edition of the music showcase had a packed and diverse lineup…and that includes Pepper and Reel Big Fish. Alex first sits down with the singer and bassist of Pepper, Bret Bollinger, for an incredibly insightful talk about life, philosophy, nonconformity, live shows and plenty more. Then it’s a face to face discussion with trumpet player for Reel Big Fish, Johnny Christmas. The raw and honest thoughts and opinions continue as the two discuss touring, fan misconceptions about bands and the importance of strong relationships.

Listen to Episode 16 HERE




Episode 15: Anthony Carelli

Formerly known as Santino Marella in the WWE, the comedic king of the cobra has been keeping busy since stepping out of the ring. Now he steps into the ring at Battle Arts Academy, the ultimate training center for tomorrow’s stars of pro wrestling and MMA. He’s also got thoughts on the upcoming brand split, the big changes for Smackdown and addressing the possibility that he could be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame one day.

Also unlocking the vault from September 2014…a sit-down chat with Matt Sydal, formerly known as Evan Bourne in WWE. The high flyer shares stories about learning from Kid Kash, how WWE discovered him, how he planned on gaining new viewers, the RKO that had everybody talking and more.

Listen to Episode 15 HERE



Episode 14: John Ryan


John Ryan has lived life as a frontman on two opposite sides of the spectrum, with the original hard rock band Down Monday and the high energy cover band, Explicit. He knows all about having a good time and has plenty of stories to share from his experiences with both bands…playing gigs at the beach, opening for Buckcherry, being a weekend warrior at Mohegan Sun and Margaritaville, putting his own spin on covering songs, keeping the setlist fresh and exciting, collaborating and playing with an assortment of bandmates and bands throughout the Connecticut scene and much, much more!

Listen to Episode 14 HERE



Episode 13: Ken Anderson

Episode 13: Ken Anderson

Ken Anderson knows how to turn up the trouble and make an impact…plus he’s no stranger to a microphone! Though no stranger to Journey of a Frontman, the Green Bay native makes his first appearance on the JOAF podcast. Controversies, stories, opinions, facts, nothing is off limits throughout this highly entertaining episode! …Episode!

Listen to Episode 13 HERE

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Episode 12: David Starr

Episode 12: David Starr

At just twenty five years old, David Starr has quickly become one of the wrestlers to watch on the independent scene. Beyond Wrestling, CZW, House of Glory and NYWC are just a few of the companies where “The Product” has made his mark. Obert and Starr sit down for a fun and thoughtful chat all about the big world of wrestling.

Listen to Episode 12 HERE

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Episode 10: Alex Shelley

Alex Shelley, a Detroit native and one half of the Motor City Machine Guns, has made a big name for himself by wrestling for TNA, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. And he’s got great taste in music too! Alex Obert and Alex Shelley sit down to talk all things music and wrestling. Later on, the vault is being unlocked from April of 2015 when Alex sat down with one of the most popular (and most polarizing!) tag teams today, The Young Bucks! Nick and Matt talk about why Twitter is so important for wrestlers, share stories from their time in TNA, the experience of meeting fans and much more.





Episode 8: Mike Karolyi

Alex sits down with the voice of The Rock 106.9 WCCC and iRockRadio, Mike Karolyi. It’s been a very eventful couple of years for Karolyi and the beloved station. From being pressured to adopt a classic rock format in 2013, getting bought out by a Christian station in August of 2014 with one final major broadcast and the revival in December of 2014 with iRockRadio, a worldwide internet radio station with an accompanying app. The former FM station made a heroic comeback with the authentic format featuring bands such as Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Sevendust, as well as playing new bands and singles daily. Karolyi takes time to reflect on the past year and a half of iRockRadio and what the reaction and support from listeners and musicians has meant to him. The future for iRockRadio is so bright, you’ll have to pull out a pair of shades!





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Episode 7: Eric Bischoff

Eric Bischoff has seen it all in the world of wrestling. He’s certainly no stranger to controversy, shocking surprises and the art of entertainment. Obert and Bischoff sit down to discuss his WWE experience, getting yourself over as a wrestler and his thoughts on present-day WWE.

Plus, a special exclusive for JOAF! The vault is being opened…from September 2014, it’s a never before heard discussion with Rob Van Dam. The Whole F’n Show shares his thoughts on the legalization of marijuana, the concept of noncomformity and his NXT experience when he faced Neville at Full Sail.





Episode 5: Michael Aspinwall (Part One)

Michael Aspinwall was featured on WWE programming throughout 2012 and 2013 as Dr. Shelby, the anger management therapist for Kane and Daniel Bryan. The character was met with critical acclaim and Aspinwall knocked it out of the park every time that he was there. In part one of a special two part discussion, he opens up about his WWE experience and how much it meant to him. Learn more about how he connected with Kane and Daniel on a personal level, the crazy situation that took place backstage during his first night on RAW, his thoughts on Daniel Bryan’s retirement, witnessing firsthand how hard everyone in the WWE works 24/7 and much more!





Episode 4: David Z and Ralph Sutton

It’s a special NYC edition of JOAF! Alex first sits down with David Z at Rockwood Music Hall in the Lower East Side prior to his show with Paulie Z later that night. Get filled in on his experiences with ZO2, Soto and Rubix Kube. And later on, get inside the mind of Ralph Sutton from The SDR Show and The Tour Bus Radio Show. The two engage and interact in the big city about breaking out in radio and podcasting, interviewing big time musicians, the best ways to consume entertainment in 2016 and much, much more.





Episode 3: Paulie Z and Tom Landon

Paulie Z broke out onto the entertainment scene as the frontman/guitarist for ZO2 and one of the stars on the hit IFC series, Z Rock. Fast forward to 2016: He’s a solo musician and still takes the stage weekly…but with a twist! Also, Alex sits down with Tom Landon, a drummer based out of Connecticut. The two catch up and share stories about the ups and downs of the local music scene, the misadventures of karaoke at college bars, their views on Spotify and plenty more!





Episode 2: Josh Segarra and Marko DeSantis

Josh Segarra drops in to fill everyone in on his past, present and future. He’s got stories to share about his time on Sirens, meeting The Miz on set and how appreciative Josh is of wrestling. He currently has a big gig on Broadway right now as Emilio Estefan in “On Your Feet!” Get ready to learn more from the perspective of the man on stage. Marko DeSantis, lead guitarist for Sugarcult, makes his JOAF debut with a collection of fun stories about gig life, Henry Rollins, Lemmy, James Brown and much more.





Episode 1: Joey Cassata and Frankie Kazarian

Joey Cassata, best known for his time as the drummer of ZO2 and on the hit IFC series Z Rock, makes history as the very first guest on the Journey of a Frontman podcast. Joey is ready to fill everyone in on his upcoming sitcom, Wrestling with Joeylicious. And there’s plenty of wrestling memories and ZO2/Z Rock stories too! Highly regarded pro wrestler and bassist for VexTemper, Frankie Kazarian stops by to share his thoughts and feelings on Daniel Bryan’s retirement as well as his VexTemper experience.






On the Line with Austin Willacy

Austin Willacy is as likable as he is talented. But where does he showcase his talents, you ask? For over twenty years, he has been a member of The House Jacks, a tremendous a capella group known as “the rock band without instruments”.  On top of that, he has utilized his voice on video games including Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution. Songs he sang on include Killer Queen, Woman, Higher Ground, Fat Lip and many more! I caught up with Willacy during the holiday season to go over the history of The House Jacks, his appreciation for a capella, lending his voice to the biggest rhythm video games, the hard work that goes into perfecting a song for the games, Pitch Perfect, holiday projects and more.

Alex Obert: What originally drew you to a cappella?

Austin Willacy: I joined choir my senior year of high school because I was really psyched about this girl and she was in choir. She heard me humming along with something and said “You have a high voice! You’re a tenor! You have to join the choir!” I tried explaining that I didn’t sing, but she just wouldn’t leave it alone until I agreed that I would join the choir. But who actually got me into a cappella was the director of the choir, Ron Morgan. He needed to put together an octet to do a barbershop song called “Vive L’Amour.” There were only eight tenors in a choir of eighty people. And even though I had only been singing for six or seven months, he put me as one of two second tenors. After we learned our parts individually, we started putting it together.

I just couldn’t believe how rhythmic, full and driving it was. I was shocked by how satisfying it was to be making music with so few people and having it sound so full and purposeful. That really hooked me. I really appreciated what those eight voices and four parts were capable of doing. One of the guys who was a first tenor, Shaun Anderson, was, and is, an absolutely phenomenal gospel tenor. He asked me to join a gospel group that he was putting together for the summer. I was really intimidated, but I said “yes” and that was also really amazing. And then I went to college and saw The Dartmouth Aires perform, they’re an all­male a cappella group. They were doing pop stuff and jazz standards and college songs and classic rock and Motown. It was a mixed bag of everything and it was all their voices. I said, “Oh my God, I have to be in that group!”

Alex Obert: When you first started performing on campus, what were you singing at the time?

Austin Willacy: I joined the group my freshman fall. My first solo was that fall and I sang “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. The group was also doing “Peg” by Steely Dan and a spoof of “Rock Me, Amadeus” by Falco that was called “Rock Me, Eleazar” about the founder of Darmouth College. We also did “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5, “Mary, Don’t You Weep” and “Gold Mine” by Take 6, a phenomenal gospel group. I also sang “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia and “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael. It was in that group that I realized there was a pretty wide range of stuff that I was interested in singing. And because of the way that the music was being made, it was very accessible to a wide range of people. People who wouldn’t necessarily want to listen to Led Zeppelin and Michael Jackson and George Michael would want to listen to it coming from guys who were singing a cappella. That was another thing that was really compelling about it.

Alex Obert: What did a capella teach you about expressing emotion with your voice?

Austin Willacy: I grew up listening to a lot of powerful, expressive singing: Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Bill Withers, a lot of blues and whatever was on MTV. It was easy for me to feel the emotion of the songs that I was singing when I liked the song, but I didn’t have any training. I started learning basic vocal technique in the Aires. We sang most of our shows unamplified and so we really needed to learn how to balance ourselves. What I learned in that was when I really needed to sing loud and how to do that in a way that I still was blending with the big picture. It’s like being in a band, but the guitarist is louder than the lead vocalist and louder than the bass. Things are out of balance that way and it’s actually not a satisfying experience for the audience. The same thing applies in a cappella music, it’s just that it’s all voices. I didn’t really know a lot about vocal technique at that time, so I was just trying to learn anything from anyone who knew more than I did.

Then, I just started trying to explore my voice and figure out what it could do. I was recording myself because I had heard the way that other people had heard my voice isn’t what I was hearing because I was on the inside of my ears and they were on the outside. So I started recording my voice so I could get used to what I sounded like and so I could figure out its natural fluency, as well as the different colors and textures my voice could make. I was able to learn how to control that and know what I actually sound like on the outside.

Alex Obert: How did all of this lead to you joining The House Jacks?

Austin Willacy: The House Jacks were formed by seven guys who sang a cappella at Tufts, at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Brown University. I had sung with five of the seven guys touring around with the Aires in college; mostly at invitationals with a bunch of a cappella groups. I moved out to the Bay Area to pursue music about a year after The House Jacks were founded, but having no idea they existed. I saw an ad in Bay Area Musician Magazine saying “The House Jacks, a rock band without instruments are looking for an experienced high tenor, age 18 ­- 27. Looks good. Moves well.” With a phone number. I called and the person who answered the phone was somebody that I had known since my sophomore year. He was in a group at Tufts called The Beelzebubs. He asked if I could put together a demo. I said, “Yeah, I’ll put together a demo by borrowing my friend’s 4­track. It’ll take me a couple of weeks.” So I go out of town for a few days, I come back and there’s a message on my answering machine. “Skip the demo, just come in for an audition.” So I scheduled the live audition. The first thing that I sang at the audition was an original song. Then I started singing some of their stuff and sang with them. It was just a very natural fit, musically and interpersonally, from the beginning.

Alex Obert: Several years after that, how did you get on board with Karaoke Revolution and Guitar Hero?

Austin Willacy: The House Jacks was another really amazing arena in which I got a chance to explore my voice and the textures and sounds it could make. I was also exploring how to safely do a couple hundred shows a year because we were really busy for quite a while. I learned how to take care of my voice so I could sing well and not destroy my voice doing all those shows. I started playing guitar and started writing myself stuff and I said, “You know what, I feel like I need to explore other parts of my range.” So I started writing songs with melodies that were way lower than anything else that I was singing just so I could get some facility. A few years after that, I was playing a lot in the club scene in the Bay Area/San Francisco. A keyboard player from one of the bands that I had been on the bill with kept saying to the people who were doing the music and tracking all the production for the games that they really need to call this guy. “He’s great and he can sing all sorts of stuff.” “Eh…we don’t need the black rock voice for any of the songs on this.” He said, ”No no no, you don’t understand. I heard him do this, I heard him do that.” And they finally called me for Karaoke Revolution Volume One. They said “There’s this one vocal where we can’t find anybody who can sound like this guy. Can you sound like Eagle Eye Cherry?” And I said, “I don’t know, let me hear it.” They sent me the song and I said I could do that. I did a great job and I prepared really, really well. I sang it very well, very quickly and the leads and the background very efficiently.

Then they said, “Well, this is the last one for this game, but would you be interested in doing more? If this game takes off, we’re probably gonna be doing several more volumes.” I said “Absolutely!” I did one song on Volume One, four leads or so on Volume Two and then six or seven on Volume Three, etc. They were bringing me in also to do background sessions. I was doing soundalike vocals for Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson and Billy Joel and Freddie Mercury. Did a whole bunch of Queen stuff. I was on the Big & Rich song in Karaoke Revolution Country. So by the time that Guitar Hero started, which was after several volumes of Karaoke Revolution had done very well, it was the same people who were involved in the production of that. They basically said, “Here’s our song list, what do you think that you could sing? We have a couple of people who specialize.” There was a guy in a cover band called Stung who sounded exactly like Sting, so he was gonna do the Sting stuff and the Police stuff. We picked the stuff that I thought that I could do really well. I ended up recording that on Volume One and on Volume Two. I think I sang on Karaoke Revolution Volumes One through Seven or Eight.

Alex Obert: Which songs do you recall singing on Guitar Hero?

Austin Willacy: I sang “Woman” by Wolfmother. I sang “American Woman” as performed by Lenny Kravitz. I sang “Spanish Castle Magic” by Jimi Hendrix and the Hendrix Review Board decided that because of the special nature of Jimi Hendrix’s vocals, his singing and laughing at the same time, they thought I sounded too much like him and that people might think it was actually him. Then they said they were worried people would think somebody was making fun of him. They ended up deciding to do it as an instrumental. I feel that I did great work. Unfortunately, it was so good that they decided not to put a vocal on it at all, so that was kind of funny. I did “Fat Lip” by Sum 41. “Higher Ground”, by the Chili Peppers and “Killer Queen”, by Queen. That was really fun. The thing that was great about the Queen stuff is that I got to do all the backgrounds, too, which was at least as fun as doing the leads. All those background vocals are absolutely insane. But yeah, “Killer Queen” was really fun to do.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about knowing that your voice was representing some major rock songs on a video game franchise that quickly blew up?

Austin Willacy: I was totally honored to know that my voice was a part of those games and that I was singing along with people who were rocking out to some of the best rock songs ever, all over the world. It was so cool, and so much fun!

Alex Obert: With all the songs that you’ve recorded, which one do you consider your proudest accomplishment because you nailed it so well?

Austin Willacy: I think “Killer Queen” was the first one where I was like, “Oh wow, I’m really dialing in on this Freddie Mercury thing.” I felt great about it. With the backgrounds, I think I did a great job of really recreating the atmosphere of that track with both the lead vocals and the backgrounds. Another one where I think that I did a great job was on a song called “Perfect” from Simple Plan. It was another case of “we don’t know anybody who can do this”. There’s this really weird whiny, throaty voice and it’s supposed to sound teenage angsty. Because of the background in a cappella and me exploring different parts of my range, I was able to figure out where this guy was resonating his voice and what he was doing to make those sounds. I think it sounds a lot like the original version of it.

I also feel great about “Makes Me Wonder” by Maroon 5. There’s also some Michael Jackson stuff that I did that turned out really well, too. I really enjoyed it and it was an opportunity for me to get paid to teach myself and to really get a chance to explore while doing some amazing stuff. I got to do the vocal on “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, which turned out really well. I don’t mean to go through and say that I nailed them all, some of them were harder than others to get or evoke. I sang a lot of leads on them. I’d say those are some that I feel really, really good about.

Alex Obert: So when you’re given a list of songs for a game, how do you go about researching and studying the tone, emotion and technique for the singer?

Austin Willacy: Whatever previous association I have with the song, whether it’s a guilty pleasure song or I just totally hate the song, I have to just put that aside. Now I need to love this song. That was one of the things that I had to do when I was preparing. It’s actually a really useful thing because as a songwriter, I’ve realized that I learn as much about how I want to write and what I want to write from music that I don’t love as I do from music that I do. The process of arriving upon something that I feel great about is as much about choosing not to do the things that I don’t want to do as it is about choosing to do the things that I do. I got to try to get inside of the head of the people who wrote the song and really try to get inside the vocalist. It’s really fun! It was a great opportunity for me to teach myself. For all of these, it was sounding as much as possible like the original. But it’s also about really evoking the vibe and the atmosphere because that’s the missing piece. Particularly for Karaoke Revolution, the phrasing had to be identical to the original version. If Michael Jackson sings it a particular way and I don’t go up where he goes up or something like that, then somebody who actually studied it more than me would get penalized for doing it better than I did. And that’s just not right.

So, I would get the lyrics and then create a guide, a color­coded system that I used. For words that require a little bit of extra energy, I’d put those in a dark red. If there are lots of runs that are written in, like a Stevie Wonder song, then I will write it out. It’s so my ear knows it, but my eyes are seeing it too. I practice it that way so when I’m in the booth doing it for real, I don’t have to try to remember how that run goes. I’ve practiced seeing it and doing it and hearing it. Then I’ll write other things like long vibrato or if there’s a crazy timing thing. I did a pretty good job on “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai. His phrasing on that song is totally all over the place, it’s amazing. It’s a masterpiece of a song and he’s a brilliant singer. It was really, really hard to prepare for that because on most of the songs people are singing on downbeats or offbeats so, I could just remember it or write myself a quick note “this word ends on 3”, but Jamiroquai was definitely really laid back and very elastic with his phrasing, so in a lot of places i was splitting sixteenths to find where he was coming in. It was as much really just owning every aspect of the feel and the phrasing of it as well as taking notes as clearly as possible about “here’s where this line comes in, hold this one, the vibrato hits on the downbeat of three and then there’s a little flip and a trill up and then cut on the downbeat of one”. So some of them were really, really involved in terms of the notetaking.

My lyric sheet would look like this crazy rainbow of black and red and green and blue. Bright blue would be the things that sounded like they were also a background vocal, like if I was singing “Yeah!” by Usher. Then I get into the place where I’d say, “Okay, this is a Michael Jackson style vibrato.” or “This is a different person’s style vibrato, a fast vibrato.” I would first go through and do the leads and then I would go through and need to triple track these backgrounds if they’re huge. And then spelling things phonetically for the way that they need to be sung. I don’t need to know what the lyrics are, but I need to know how I’m supposed to make it sound like the original.

Alex Obert: Getting back into a cappella, I read that you influenced a song that was featured in Pitch Perfect. Is that correct?

Austin Willacy: Yeah! So The House Jacks, we were messing around and getting ready to go on tour in Germany. We said, “We should probably have a big anthemic pop song. Wouldn’t it be cool to take an American Idol song that was done by a woman and do it like a rock version?” “You know what, Kelly Clarkson kinda rocks. There’s a cool song that she did called “Since U Been Gone.” So I started messing around with that on lead and then we started arranging it and coming up with the textures for that. Then we started performing that live and people really dug it. It was a chance for me to really belt it out, and make no mistake, that song is so high. But what ended up happening is people really dug it and that was the song that was used and the arrangement that was used for the audition scene in Pitch Perfect. It all came from what we were doing when we were trying to figure out a new opener for a Germany tour. It was really cool to see that on screen and to know that we had influenced something so huge to that degree. That was a sleeper hit, such a great movie!

Alex Obert: How do you feel about the film itself and its depiction of the experience and bond between an a cappella group?

Austin Willacy: I love Pitch Perfect! I think it’s really hilarious. And it was the best kind of hilarious; it didn’t take itself too seriously. I thought that it was really faithful to itself. There’s some superhero movies where the origin story, like for some of the early X­Men stuff, wasn’t so great, but once you got deeper into the series, it was good. This origin story for the Barden Bellas and what was going on and introducing the world to it, I thought it was very, very effective. A lot of great performances. Fat Amy and the dude who looks like and acts like a young Jack Black, he was hilarious. The music was really good. The live performance scenes were great and the arrangements were great. I think that it did really good job of showing people that this quirky passion, which does have some nerd elements at its core, is actually a really cool and accessible way of making music. So yeah, I really dug the film. In terms of its faithfulness and accuracy, it’s a dramatization. But the thing about it being the Super Bowl of a cappella, the ICCA (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella), that’s a real thing. Though most of the college a cappella groups are not in the position of being kicked off the campus by the administration if there’s some minor PR gaffe, college groups that are on The Sing­Off bring a lot of favorable attention to their universities. The set up for the Bellas having to totally rebuild and find their sound and all of that, that’s something that they actually have to do. They have to find their sound. Every a cappella group does.

The group comprises of disparate voices, people who have different influences. Some groups will try and take a bunch of people who sound exactly the same and it’s easy to blend, but then you don’t have any breadth of what you can offer. It doesn’t matter who’s singing lead because they all sound the same. Some groups will take a really broad array of voices so that there’s a lot of stylistic diversity that you can bring, like if you have a great rock singer and a great jazz singer and a great R&B singer, but then if your voices don’t match or really sound like each other, then you have to really do the work of finding out how you unlock each other’s voices so that you can blend. So talking about blending and all that, that’s actually a really crucial part of what you have to do if you want to sing a cappella well. And I think that that was represented to a degree in Pitch Perfect. The whole thing about “let’s match pitch”, that’s not a thing, but it was hilarious that they kept doing it in the movie.

Alex Obert: How did your a cappella background develop towards a solo career?

Austin Willacy: I started playing guitar when I was in The House Jacks when they were signed to Tommy Boy Records. I decided that I wanted to see what some of my songs with instruments sounded like. I had recorded a bunch of demos and some album tracks of the stuff that was written on instruments, but designed to be recorded and performed a cappella. So I knew a ton of singers and I basically knew no instrumentalists. I had taught myself how to play guitar and bass, so I played those. The guy who was the beatboxer from The House Jacks, Kid Beyond, was the only drummer that I knew, so I asked him if he could beatbox on this thing and “play” drums. So my first three songs on a demo was me playing bass and guitar and singing and him beatboxing. That caught the attention of Buddy Saleman, the person at whose studio The House Jacks had been recording all of the demos. Buddy said “I’ve always liked your writing on the things you guys did with Tommy Boy, but I also really dig the stuff that you’ve done with instruments.”

He was getting funded to start an indie label and said he wanted me to be the first artist that he’d release. He asked if I could put together a demo for him of fifteen songs, a home studio demo. I sent it to him and we picked ten or eleven songs that would be my first album. So the a cappella background bridged into my solo career in two ways; the guy who was the drummer on the recording that caught the attention of this guy was an a cappella singer and beatboxer and the guy who ended up signing me to his label had first met me through recording a cappella stuff with The House Jacks. Locally and also domestically, because of The House Jacks having some degree of awareness, people were curious. Some were predisposed and like, “It’s a dirty thing when an a cappella person puts instruments behind their music.” But the covers are a cappella covers of stuff with instruments anyways, so what’s the big deal? It was interesting to start navigating that, but now people are wide open to it.

Alex Obert: Outside of a cappella, who are some of the biggest influences for your solo career?

Austin Willacy: Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, The Police, Tracy Chapman, Ben Harper, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana. They’re all huge influences on me. Somehow and I don’t really know where it happened, there’s a Latin influence in some of my writings. I’ve written three or four tangos. I definitely know that I owe some of that to a guy named Mark Orton, who is a brilliant songwriter and composer. He’s scoring films now. He’s the principal writer and arranger in a group called Tin Hat. At the time, they were called Tin Hat Trio. They were doing some Klezmerish sort of stuff and some tango. And he was the soundman for The House Jacks for about five years. He had been around me all the time when I was writing and we usually roomed together on tour. He’s an excellent guitar player and he would give me tips on guitar and I was running all my songs by him.

So when it came time to put an actual band together to record my first album, I said, “Hey, you know musicians. Can you play guitar on my thing and do you know anybody who could play bass and drums and beats and violin and cello?” And he knew people. He did arrangements and talked to Jon Evans who has been playing bass for Tori Amos, also Andrew Borger who played drums for Tom Waits. He asked those guys come in. I was in a band briefly with both of those guys for different purposes. Lee Alexander was playing upright bass and bass. He subsequently ended up moving to New York and dated Norah Jones. He was her bass player for almost a decade. So between those three guys, the rhythm section all was touring with famous people. And so that was another a cappella connection through Mark. So Mark was a huge influence there. I listened to a lot of blues growing up. My dad was a huge blues fan. Bill Withers, not for the blues but for his songwriting and singing. B.B. King and Albert King are definitely influences in terms of the way that I try and inhabit songs, some of the bluesy stuff.

Alex Obert: So it has been noted that The House Jacks are releasing a holiday album. With the holidays near, what is your take on why a lot of a cappella groups to be drawn towards performing holiday music?

Austin Willacy: I think that the draw probably is the fact that it’s a commercial opportunity and it’s something that might sell each year. So unlike a song that gets played to death on the radio and you never want to hear it again for a while, maybe you get drowned in holiday music, but it happens for like two months a year. There are some really excellent holiday songs and, never having done it before, it was an opportunity for us to unleash our creativity in a very focused way. Many, many years ago, we wrote a song called “Saturnalia Smile”, that was sort of a pagan holiday song. That was the only holiday thing that we have done as The House Jacks. I did a version of “O Christmas Tree”, a spooky, haunting, version of it in a minor key for a Christmas compilation about ten years ago. And then like maybe six or seven years ago, I did a very bluesy version of “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”, that Elvis tune for KFOG’s Christmas compilation.

But neither I nor The House Jacks had ever put out anything that was explicitly a holiday EP or album. And so we started talking about it and getting really excited about the idea of really getting creative with it. I did an arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne” in 5/4 and wrote a bridge for it in 6/4 so we could play with it and make it more open. There’s a beautiful arrangement of “Danny Boy” that fellow House Jack Nick Girard did. We had decided that there was gonna be at least an original song on it. The original song that’s on it is a song that I wrote called “‘Cause You Kissed Me”, it’s about falling in love in the holidays. It’s not explicitly about Christmas. There’s a reference to a Salvation Army Santa in the lyrics in the first verse, but otherwise the song is about snow falling and love in the air. So it was a fun challenge to focus our creativity on making this something that we’re really, really, really proud of and excited about. It’s been great!

Alex Obert: What is the general on­stage attire when The House Jacks go on tour?

Austin Willacy: Usually we’re wearing collared shirts, some of us will wear vests. One of the guys sometimes will wear a vest and a tie, but light jeans and sneaks. It’s club attire, but not like Vegas club attire where it’s like “Hey, look how fabulous I am! I’m trying to be fabulous and sexy and need everybody to look at me.” It’s more like “I’m going out and I want to look good.”

Alex Obert: In closing, what are some projects up ahead as we get into 2016? Or perhaps recent releases?

Austin Willacy: The most recent thing from House Jacks is an album called Pollen. It’s really, really cool because it’s ten original House Jacks songs. We have traveled extensively internationally and have formed some friendships with some very talented singer and beatboxers in other parts of the world. Courtesy of the power of digital recording media and the interwebs, we sent super basic versions of all these songs to friends of ours around the globe. We have a Japanese beatboxer, a Korean a cappella group, a Chinese and Taiwanese a cappella group, we have an Australian a cappella group, a Brazilian a cappella group, British a cappella group, Italian, Canadian, German. All of these are friends of ours and we said, “Hey, we think it’d be absolutely killer if you could add some stuff to this song. Add whatever you hear. Before, during and after the song. And then send it back to us. And so they did. Then we added a bunch of stuff. Then came the hard part; distilling everything down and mix it. That’s what’s on Pollen. The album artwork looks like a subway map for the tube in London. It was a great way to color code things so people can see that this color goes to this song and this group on this song is from this part of the world. It was really, really, really fun.

Alex Obert: What was your reaction when you first listened to what was sent back to you? How did it make you feel?

Austin Willacy: The first song we got back collaborative tracks on was “Quiet Moon.” BR6, a fantastic, Rio­based a cappella group infused the song with totally legit, beautiful bossa nova feel and lines. It was then that I realized how frickin’ cool the album was gonna be! It was so exciting!

Alex Obert: It’s a really cool concept. And everything you’ve done is quite remarkable. I’d love to thank you so much for your time and I wish you the best ahead.

Austin Willacy: Thanks, Alex! Appreciate it!

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Sit Down Series: Trish Stratus

Trish Stratus is undoubtedly a superstar in the worlds of fitness and entertainment. She’s a seven-time Women’s Champion, a member of the WWE Hall of Fame and one of the most popular and beloved names in WWE history. On top of that, she has taken her passion for fitness and yoga and put out countless DVDs, fitness products, guides, YouTube videos and much more! (All available on her massive website: TrishStratus.com) And much like John Cena and Dave Bautista as of late, she’s taking her box office appeal from the ring onto the big screen with the action film, Gridlocked!

I sat down with Trish to get caught up on all the recent happenings, and of course reflect on some of her best memories in the WWE. She’s also been keeping an eye on the women who have made a huge impact on NXT and has a lot to say about them. (And the vision that Triple H has for the future as well!)

Alex Obert: So you’ve been making appearances with Lita as of late at various events. But going way back, what was your first impression of her when you two met?

Trish Stratus: We were both brand new to the WWE. We knew we were coming into this crazy world together and we were both nervous. We met each other over the phone actually as I was waiting for my Visa to be processed before I could enter the US for work. We came into WWE at the same time knowing there was not really a place for women in the current landscape as far as wrestling went. We were in a unique spot where we were there for the beginning of it all. Though we were nervous to be in this world, we luckily connected and had one another to support each other because we realized that this was a great opportunity we were being given. We hit it off right away. They saw the chemistry between us and thought that would translate really well in ring. And it did. The fans got really into it. There was a rivalry from the beginning. Once Lita and Trish were in the ring, it was on.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about her unique look?

Trish Stratus: I always thought she had a great look – her ‘character’ so to speak, had a great look. And when I say ‘character’, I mean her whole package – from her outfits to her moveset and her matching attitude – it was all great. And the fans loved it too. I’ve always felt that it was our responsibility of the Superstars to present a package to help define the identity of our character. She nailed that right from the beginning.

Alex Obert: Throughout the last few years, you were both involved with Tough Enough on separate seasons. Have you two gotten a chance to reflect on your Tough Enough experiences? What did you both agree you took out of it?

Trish Stratus: We did exchange some thoughts. We both were feeling like that came at a good time for us, we were excited about the idea of passing on some of the knowledge we had gained from being in the business for so long. We both enjoyed the opportunity to work with and develop some of the up and coming talent and potential future Superstars.

Alex Obert: While you two engaged in feuds throughout the years with different storylines, which way did you prefer who was the face and who was the heel?

Trish Stratus: I think our funnest work from my perspective was probably when I was heel as she was a babyface. It was when I was making fun of her during the pregnancy, the Kane angle – well, recalling that now – I think it was more fun for me than her during that time.  I had a lot of fun with the Trish Stratus character during that time as I was exploring my new found ‘bitch’ role. When she finally broke out of that pregnant victim role, we got to see the Lita attitude back on. That was good stuff between us. I also like what was going on when Carlito and I were aligned and her and Edge were a couple. She was a pretty good bitch as well. We had so many angles and I guess years in the WWE, there were even times when we were on the same team for brief moments. When she came back from injury, we were together. We teamed up when WCW and WWE went against each other. We’ve had all different variations of facing each other and it’s worked every time. That’s unique thing to have.

Alex Obert: When you turned heel at Wrestlemania XX, it really was a breath of fresh air.

Trish Stratus: For sure! The original story was that the Jericho/Stratus romance was finally supposed to come true, the couple that the fans loved seeing together and go through so much would finally be back together. Vince came to us the day of Wrestlemania and said, “So we’re gonna change this up.” And we’re like, “What…?” You know, you gear your mind towards something and literally all the work we had done was with the foreshadowing of what was gonna happen. And, Jericho and I were  were looking forward to working together because Chris and I have a good relationship and we like working together. We weren’t sure what to make of Vince’s plan to spin that completely on its head and go a total different direction. But Vince just knows. I didn’t think it was the right move at the time, but we did it. It turned out to be the right move for sure. And, Jericho and I were still able to capitalize on our chemistry in the ring, just on opposite sides. It absolutely breathed fresh life into the Trish Stratus character. I got to grow the most during that phase in my career. It was awesome.

Alex Obert: Who helped you to become comfortable with promos?

Trish Stratus: It was mostly just working on the material. The more you did it, the better you got, as each week was an opportunity to flesh out your character more. Of course, working alongside with my writers, like Brian Gerwitz, we worked together to find her tone and disposition.

Alex Obert: While making appearances here and there after 2006, did you get a chance to connect with anyone in particular backstage?

Trish Stratus: When you work with someone in this business, you really get to know them. They are your world for either a few weeks or a few months. Working with Michelle McCool and Layla was really great. I got to know them a lot more because I didn’t really know them before that. We were in the same company, but when you work on different shows, Raw versus Smackdown, there really isn’t an opportunity for crossover. It was nice to connect with Nattie every time I went back – I love that girl, she is such a sweetheart and absolutely loves the business. I don’t think there is anyone more passionate about the business.  We never got the chance to actually work together so catching up all those years later was cool.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about the women who have been making names for themselves on NXT?

Trish Stratus: I think it’s amazing. It’s about time. The girls are ready and the fans are ready. I’m really excited to see what’s gonna happen. I think they’re doing a fantastic job. I want to see who is going to break out from the girls now since they came in as a cluster. It’s an exciting time to see these strong characters, these strong athletes, and to be able to sit back and watch who is going to break out and be that star. They’re all stars. They are all great in the ring – and what I love is they all have pretty defined characters from what we’ve seen so far.  I’m proud of them. It’s a good time for women in our business right now.

Alex Obert: Bayley and Sasha Banks main-eventing TakeOver in an Ironman match was a huge step forward. The last time something like that happened was when yourself and Lita main evented RAW in 2004.

Trish Stratus: It’s amazing. It was a bold move for NXT to do that, an amazing move. The great thing is that they’ll sometimes give you the ball to see if you can run with it, and they did. They completely represented and they totally killed it. They proved that women can hold that spot. They showed the world that the women can hang like the men do in the ring.

Alex Obert: What’s your advice for these women to stand out and continue to make names for themselves?

Trish Stratus: They have to challenge themselves and step out of the box every time they go out there. They have to stand out and give the fans something that intrigues them and will make them want to see more of them. I think people get used to their go-to moves and like staying in their comfort zone. But, even if its working, you still gotta mix it up. At the end of the day, it’s about going out there and making it the best damn two minutes you’ve ever made for yourself. Also spotting the opportunity to do that is important. I think right now is the time we are waiting for that big star from the women to break out.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about this vision for NXT coming from Triple H?

Trish Stratus: Well the thing about Triple H is he’s very smart and is a visionary really. As the person in charge of talent, his job is to recognize their abilities, spot their potential, then provide them with the opportunity that could elevate them that way they can make the most of them in the company. The cool thing is that he looked at the Divas division and he didn’t just see them as women, he saw these amazing athletes and characters that could do well on the show and connect with the fans. That’s what he did, he gave them the opportunity. Once the fans connect with them, they’re golden. It’s cool to see Triple H in this role, it’s no coincidence this vision is coming from a multi-time champion who knows a thing or two about what works in the ring.

Alex Obert: On another note, what might we find on your iPod?

Trish Stratus: Right now, there’s a lot of toddler tunes. (laughs) But I’m really diverse. I have everyone from Elvis to Led Zeppelin to Black Eyed Peas. It depends on my mood and what I’m doing at the time. I like to have it mixed up in there. Then you’ll also get my zen yoga stuff on there. It really is a mishmosh of everything.

Alex Obert: What television programming have you had to watch over and over as the result of having a child?

Trish Stratus: Baby Einstein has been a mainstay on our TV since Max was an infant. It is a learning DVD that is set to classical music, so I never minded having that on. He still asks for that to be put on. And, not sure if it is connected or not but Max loves music and is obsessed with instruments. Since he was 18 months he would rattle off the names of various instruments, like french horn, violin, etc. I took him to the orchestra recently, and my 2-year old sat through a 2 hour symphony and violin concerto completely transfixed. It was amazing. So I think those DVDs are amazing. We also went through a Wiggles obsession and now a show called Caillou is big on the playlist – but I think that is a Canadian show.

Alex Obert: Throughout the years, what were some of your favorite outfits that you wore on WWE programming? I’ll always remember the red and white outfit that was representing the Canadian flag.

Trish Stratus: That was at Wrestlemania in Toronto with 68,000 people at the SkyDome. That was iconic for me to have that on in Toronto. I think the phase in the beginning with the valet stuff was really fun. If you saw my closet, there was a point where there were just rows and rows of boots, tons of hats and jackets. I knew that as a character, I wanted to make sure that ‘Trish Stratus’ was a character. You know,  I thought, “If she was a Halloween costume, what would she be?” So that’s why I really put a lot of attention into what she wore. When I returned from my back injury for the tail end of my career I worked with a stylist (Madistyles), and those outfits were really fun and had a good defined ‘look’, stylistically anyway. A few mentionables were outfits done by the long-time WWE seamstresses – they do amazing work. I really liked the outfit Julie had made me for my Backlash match against Mickie – I was disappointed I didn’t get more out of the outfit. What I mean by that is that match was cut short as I dislocated my shoulder during the match so we wrapped up earlier that we should have. What was fun was as my character evolved, so did my outfits and the style. One constant was my 100% Stratusfaction Guaranteed logo – that always made the cut. I actually coined that phrase before I came into the wrestling world, having developed that while I was in the fitness industry.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, what can readers expect from you heading into 2016?

Trish Stratus: I’m really excited about my upcoming movie, called Gridlocked – it should be out spring or summer of 2016. I star alongside Danny Glover, Dominic Purcell and Stephen Lang. It’s basically like a throwback to the 1980s action flicks. We’ve had two premieres already and it was met with great reviews. I’m just really proud to be a part of this. Especially for my second feature film – I was very lucky to be surrounded by such a strong cast. And, everyone was very supportive of my growth – I learned a ton on set.  Then there’s my site, TrishStratus.com that continues to grow as my brand Stratusphere continues to evolve. We have 3 DVDs out so far, and we are in pre-production for the fourth. I just finished developing a new line of wellness teas, which will be out soon. And my yoga and fitness products – thanks to my great partners we are working to create new products to add to the assortment. With all the Stratusphere products, we working on getting people healthy and living balanced lifestyles.

Alex Obert: Did you utilize yoga as a full-time wrestler or did it become a part of your life afterwards?

Trish Stratus: During wrestling. I discovered yoga as a means to rehabilitate my herniated disk which put me out of action in 2005. But I can say this, when I came back from the injury – having the yoga in my life made me a better performer for sure. Athletically and being able to recover better it made a huge impact on me in the ring and outside of it as well. So much so that once I retired it was what I pursued as a business venture – I opened my first iyoga studio (Stratusphere) in 2008. And, we had a pop up studio at the Ritz Carlton in Toronto in 2014.

Alex Obert: Have you gotten a chance to chat with DDP over yoga? How do you feel about his approach and what he has done?

Trish Stratus: We have chatted and I think he is doing a great job spreading the word about yoga. We share a lot of the same philosophies actually. Both of our styles integrate strength training into a yoga flow. This perspective no doubt came from us being high level athletes.

Alex Obert: How much did promos and performing in front of huge audiences help with acting in a film?

Trish Stratus: It definitely helped. Although acting in a film is very different as we were always working to give big almost over the top reactions whereas in film its a more intimate medium, so I needed to dial that back once I began acting for film and television. What really helped was kicking ass for almost seven years. My fighting background has proved to be super helpful when doing these action movies. And, the ‘movie people’ are always stunned at how far we go and how real it looks. I kept getting asked if I was okay and I’d jump up and go ‘yup, that’s what I do best’.

Alex Obert: In closing, would you say you have one last big match left in you?

Trish Stratus: I do. Absolutely. I mean physically, I’ve kept my training up and sure – in the past, I found out wrestling is like riding a bike. But, the question is, “Who would you want to see me wrestle?” It’s a matter of if the fans want to see me back and what they want to see. To me, it has to be a challenge. It has to be about elevating the game or elevating the person.

Alex Obert: And a captivating storyline!

Trish Stratus: A hundred percent. I want people to be interested and Stratusfied.

Alex Obert: Agreed. I’d love to thank you so much for your time.

Trish Stratus: Thank you!

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Ryan Nemeth Returns



Since Ryan Nemeth and I originally spoke in 2013 for Journey of a Frontman, he’s certainly been up to a lot since that time! We had discussed his releases Life Advice for Your Life and I Can Make Out with Any Girl Here previously, but now he’s back and better than ever with a dynamite release. Hardbody: How to Be One is described in the Author’s Note as “a collection of stories about men and women who have accomplished incredible things, coupled with some advice how you can accomplish incredible things, too”. Above you will find a listing of those who contributed to Hardbody (“AND TONS MORE!”) Nemeth made note that this book is “for anyone who is thinking of considering maybe someday perhaps perchance possibly starting to try to attempt to incorporate exercise into their life”. However, it should be known that a HARDBODY is defined in the intro as “someone who puts forth ultra-focused, driven and unflinching effort in the gym or elsewhere”.

We spoke in-depth about fitness being in his life and in the world of wrestling, exercise and nutrition habits from those who have spent time in NXT, his cheat meals and guilty pleasures, how he honed his skills as a writer, the time that his peers thought he randomly debuted on RAW, his involvement with Swerved, telling others about his occupation as a professional wrestler and much more.

Alex Obert: When you first stepped foot into the gym, what were some mistakes that you were originally making?

Ryan Nemeth: I first stepped foot into the gym before high school. Kinda clueless, don’t know anything. I really just knew what the magazines said. Back then and a little bit now too, magazines aren’t the best way to learn things. You are reading what professional bodybuilders do every day. A two hundred and seventy pound, shredded, five percent body fat bodybuilder who has probably been taking tons of drugs for the last ten years, what that person does in a gym every day really does not relate to anything a normal human should ever be doing in a gym ever. I was just as misguided as anyone else who just reads a magazine and goes, “Oh, I should do what this guy does!” But really, everyone’s bodies work differently and bodybuilding is not the only style of training. There are things that I would pick up on as I started training a lot with Rob MacIntyre in FCW and NXT. He was the strength and conditioning coach back then for us. This guy’s amazing at everything and he’s so smart about all these different styles. We would do bodybuilding style, we would do strength, we would do injury prevention, endurance, Olympic lifts, functional training. Any kind of training you can think of, he had it scientifically worked into our training program. You would see guys including myself show up in FCW and NXT and after training with him for a few months, they would be the strongest and biggest and best looking they’ve ever been. Ever.

Alex Obert: Now I have to ask since it appears to be an annoyance to people who work out at the gym, how do you feel about those who choose to curl at the squat rack?

Ryan Nemeth: (laughs) That’s fine to do as long as nobody’s waiting to squat or deadlift. If anyone’s waiting to do that and you’re curling, that’s pretty stupid. You could do that anywhere! You don’t need the squat rack to do that. However, if the gym is dead and you just feel like doing that, I don’t care. It’s fine.

Alex Obert: As we head into 2016 and a new year, what’s your view on gyms getting very crowded in January due to new year’s resolutions?

Ryan Nemeth: I love that because it brings a whole lot of new faces to the world of fitness. And not all of them disappear. Some of them do stick around. It’s kind of like if you’re throwing a bunch of darts at a wall and one of them sticks, it’s not like you miss ninety nine darts, it’s like you got one. It’s like pitching ideas creatively, there’s a million things and one of them will stick. So maybe three of them stick around the rest of the year, cool, so now there’s three more people who know that fitness is great.

Alex Obert: And even though three may seem like a small number, that’s three individual lives where fitness will make a giant impact with a whole world of potential.

Ryan Nemeth: It’s not just numbers, it’s actual people. So is it bad that only one guy’s gonna keep working out? No, it’s awesome that one guy will keep at it. It’s great.

Alex Obert: Who were some of the first wrestlers that you worked out with when you were breaking into the business?

Ryan Nemeth: This would be in OVW in Kentucky when I was training with guys like Mike Mondo, Paradise, Cliff Compton. The lifestyle there was very repetitive, but in a good way. You wake up, you’re eating the healthy stuff you wanna eat, go to the gym with these guys and everyone’s rallying around each other. Very motivating. The lifestyle is understood: you go to the gym, you need to tan, you need to wrestle. Every day was the same : wrestle, gym, tan, wrestle, work out. Sometimes you’re working out a couple times a day and you’re wrestling for four hours a day. But again, I didn’t pick up on all these different factors on how to program training over a period of months, set specific goals, do specific training and direct your own stuff to get towards those goals. Switch it up every two months. I learned those kind of things with Rob MacIntyre. And I still learn about it, still value it, still use it with people I work with now, whether they’re pro athletes or not. That kind of specific training can be beneficial to anyone from a housewife, a stay at home dad, a screenwriter, whoever. We’re all humans. You don’t just have to be a pro wrestler to benefit from this kind of thing.

Alex Obert: There is an impressive and lengthy list of those who contributed to Hardbody. One of the names that stuck out to me was Percy Watson because I am curious about what he’s been up to since he left WWE. What can you share?

Ryan Nemeth: He’s still in Florida and still goes to Hard Nocks South. He’s still a trusted member of the loyal society of Hard Nocks South. And he’s been doing some acting too. We used to have the same acting teacher so she’ll give me the updates on what he’s auditioning for and what he’s in. The last thing I remember he was in was an episode of Under the Dome. He’s happy outside of the world of wrestling. He’s still super crazy jacked and strong as always.

Alex Obert: Once you got to NXT and shared a locker room with the wrestlers of tomorrow, what did you notice about their eating habits as it goes for nutrition? Anything that really stood out?

Ryan Nemeth: I remember Big E just walking around with cooked chicken breast, just holding it in his hand with no silverware or plastic fork. He would just hold it all the time and eat. Ryback’s a guy who is eating nonstop, around the clock. He’d time it all perfectly and he’d carry a bag around with him full of food. It’s not insane because someone with his frame always needs to be eating. When he says “Feed Me More”, it’s true. (laughs) You don’t look like that without constantly monitoring yourself and doing that all the time. Rob Terry is another guy who’s always carrying around his little bag of food and supplements. He has it perfectly timed out, very scientific. The funny one is Erick Rowan because we would see him in between training sessions just eating raw potatoes and carrots. Just uncooked vegetables in his hand as if they were apples. To me, that was very funny cause it’s of course a healthy thing to do, but who would think eating raw potatoes is delicious? But it was always entertaining to me.

Alex Obert: What is your breakfast routine at the moment?

Ryan Nemeth: Right now I’m on a thing that’s very boring. It’s mostly eggs and egg whites and vegetables. It’ll be like five egg whites and two full eggs. And a whole bell pepper, green or orange or whatever color. I’m doing that about three times a day. I’m not so strict about my body fat or anything because I’m not currently wrestling on TV or anything. I’m a little more relaxed than I used to be. If I have something where I have to be on camera coming up, then I’ll change things around and make it more strict. But right now if I want to go eat sushi one night a week or have Ramen soup or whatever, that’s fine. It’s not the end of the world. It’s something Mason Ryan talks about in my book too in his chapter. He says that you don’t have to hit A+ on your diet and training every day for it to be perfect, but it should be pretty good consistently. That’s much easier to maintain and you will yield much better results.

Alex Obert: Was there a particular food that you were disappointed to learn wasn’t as good for you as you thought it was?

Ryan Nemeth: Ice cream and Boston Cream Pie, that kind of thing. (laughs) I was a little disillusioned as everyone eventually becomes when they find out all these supplements that I’d been buying since high school and college from GNC and all these stores, a lot of them are just completely pointless. You look back and go, “Oh my God, I spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on all this stuff and aside from protein powder, caffeine and creating, most of that stuff is completely pointless.” In my opinion, it’s just a huge waste of money. That would be one I could think of right off the bat. During high school wrestling, I’d buy tons and tons of protein powder and all these little things where this is a new thing that’ll give you more energy, this and this and that. It’s all just fake stuff.

Alex Obert: Being in Los Angeles, what is the meal that you have to have if you are setting no restrictions?

Ryan Nemeth: Chipotle is always in that list, no matter what city I’m in. I discovered the beauty of Asian Ramen soup here. It’s something they make in Japan, but now there’s so many restaurants in LA. It’s basically delicious broth, noodles, a soft-boiled egg and pork and chicken mixed in, all these spices. It’s so good! That would be my guilty pleasure thing. And of course Chipotle.

Alex Obert: What’s your order at Chipotle lately?

Ryan Nemeth: I’m mixing up the medium green with the corn salsa. I like to get the burrito. I think it’s more fun than the bowl because it’s something you can hold and it’s fun to eat. I like the chicken burrito with white rice, black beans and maybe some veggies thrown in. Oh man, so good. If it’s my birthday, I wanna eat some cannolis. A lot of my family was Italian and cannolis was the favorite pastry. Still is, I love cannolis!

Alex Obert: Do you put a birthday candle on one and dig in?

Ryan Nemeth: (laughs) Alone, sitting on the floor with no one around. Crying and just eating cannolis with candles in them. Still lit and the wax dripping and stuff.

Alex Obert: You have worked out with many wrestlers, but did you ever get the chance to work out with Jim Cornette?

Ryan Nemeth: I have never shared a gym with Jim Cornette. I did spend a lot of other time around him just at the shows and stuff, never a gym. I would’ve loved to, I think that would be very fun. Maybe I can do a Kickstarter and try to get a documentary shot of Ryan Nemeth doing a training session with Jim Cornette. I would love that, I think that’s a great idea!

Alex Obert: Do you think his blood pressure would be an issue from how angry he gets all time?

Ryan Nemeth: We can take it easy and I think we can lower it. Some moderate day-to-day exercises can lower it a little bit.

Alex Obert: If you could work out with any comedian, who would it be?

Ryan Nemeth: Easy answer. Chris Farley. I’ve just heard tales of how strong and athletic he was. He played rugby at Marquette and he was rumored to be just so strong. I was told by a lot of people who were around him in Chicago back then that he would do back flips during improv and sketch scenes on stage. I would love to work out with him. We have to rugby background in common. I think he is one of my top favorite comedic actors of all time. That’s pretty easy, yeah.

Alex Obert: Though Hardbody puts your passion for fitness on display, it is also a showcase of your love for writing. When you were able to choose your own topic for a paper you had to write in school, what’s something memorable you picked?

Ryan Nemeth: In graduate school while earning my Master’s Degree, one of my final papers was on wrestling. I was a grown-up college graduate who’s trying to get a graduate degree, of course I’m writing about wrestling. That’s where I was headed. It was the history of the English language, I did a paper on the language of the squared circle, jargon and something something used in professional wrestling. Something like that. I remember thinking this was my favorite project I’ve done. I put together this PowerPoint presentation and the class loved it. It was the hardest class I’ve ever taken my life, but the paper was pretty easy to write. The class loved it because this was something that was so foreign to these scholars of English literature and medieval text and all this stuff. I showed a couple clips of pro wrestling matches. I interviewed my brother and a couple other wrestlers, it was kind of cool to have them on there. I had this high school teacher in tenth grade, Mr. Barker. We were doing a section on satire and parody and so we were reading stuff by Al Franken and all these other comedic writers. He had a contest to see who could do that style of writing. I won the thing. I think I did a funny pick on some kind of Hemingway short story. I’m so proud of it and that was kind of a key moment. We posted them up all around the classroom and people voted. I got the most votes and thought, “Woah…this is pretty cool!” I took an original and familiar source, Hemmingway’s books and stories and all that and put a twist on it. It didn’t disrespect it, just twisted it a little bit. It was such a powerful feeling to think, “Ah…writing? Feels pretty good. You’re in control of something and making these people laugh.” It was a good feeling.

Alex Obert: So you also wrote for the school paper at one point?

Ryan Nemeth: Yeah, I used to write for the St. Edward High School Paper. It was called The Edwardian. I also wrote for the Xavier University Newswire as well. Written pieces and comic strips that I would draw and other kind of weird stuff. The English department in high school realized I had a thing for writing and they assigned me private tutoring lessons of Brother Joseph Chvala, who was very esteemed in the Jesuit community with writing and all this stuff. I would do sessions with him to work on creative writing stuff. It was pretty cool. I gotta thank my parents for putting me in school because I didn’t feel like I was in the factory of just getting stamped for a high school diploma. I really was treated like an individual and nurtured and challenged. Having to report back to Brother Joseph every Tuesday or whatever after school to show what I’m doing on my creative writing piece, this was not for a class or for a grade, just because the school felt like they wanted to stimulate and challenge my writing skills. That was really, really helpful.

Alex Obert: Was there ever a point in your life where you always kept track of your thoughts in a journal?

Ryan Nemeth: I can’t think of a time where I haven’t been doing that. Even since I was little, I used to just write weird short stories and read them all the time. An outpouring of creative stuff has never not been a part of my life.

Alex Obert: Do you have writings that you look back on from years past and think you could have done so much better on them?

Ryan Nemeth: Yeah, I do. Every time I go back home to my parents’ house in Cleveland, I’ll find a stash of pieces of art that I’ve created through high school and college and I’ll also find all these little pieces of writing. It’s almost embarrassing to read! (laughs) But then there’s little gems once in a while. I won some writing contest in seventh grade and they published the thing I wrote in this book and we all got a copy of it. I cannot even dare to read that. It makes me cringe. Apparently it was good at the time for a seventh grader, but you could not pay me enough to read that right now. So yes, that is true.

Alex Obert: I wanted to get your thoughts on something in the WWE that has especially been criticized by wrestling fans this entire year. What are your thoughts on opening RAW every week with a twenty minute promo, generally by the Authority?

Ryan Nemeth: I took a break from watching any wrestling at all for several months. I was working out with someone and they asked me what I thought about RAW. I said, “I will tell you I haven’t watched it in about four months, can I guess what happened on the show?” “Sure.” “Here’s my guess, Triple H and his buddies are talking for twenty minutes at the beginning and the whole show is based on him and how everyone hates him.” “Yeah.” “Okay cool, so it’s the same episode as it was from a month ago? Cool, I’m not missing much. And once every two months, someone from NXT gets called up. Great, I got it. I think I got it covered. ” (laughs) I like Cena and those promos he was doing on the top of the show a couple years ago. I enjoyed those. I think he’s a great speaker. He’s great at either coming out with nothing or a few bullet points and improvising. He’s very, very skilled and talented in that respect.

Alex Obert: So Dolph had a pretty solid year and made some interesting tweaks to his look and his attire. However, there was a brief change in 2011 that caused some controversy. When he had short brown hair for a few weeks, what was your reaction?

Ryan Nemeth: I was just freshly in FCW. In OVW and FCW, I’d been making a very strong point to not look like my brother. And that’s hard cause that’s all I ever got compared to. I was dying my hair black and keeping it short. As long as it’s not long and blonde, but short and black, I won’t look like him. So he’s overseas in England or something and comes out with short dark brown, black hair or whatever. I just stood up in my living room and I go “Nooooo! God! Come on, man!” And I got about thirty or fifty texts and calls from everyone I know going “Congratulations, your dreams came true. I just saw you on RAW. Congrats! Good job! I’m so proud of you! We’re so happy!” And I’m looking at these texts going “Oh my God, this is so embarrassing! This is not me!” Tommaso Ciampa sent me a message and he goes, “Heard the good news!” I responded back “No, it’s not what you think.” And he sent back to me, he goes, “Don’t worry, I get it. You have to keep it a secret. I get it!” He didn’t like it, I know he loved the long blonde locks and looking at different and having the rock ‘n roll Mötley Crüe thing going. I’m sure that was a nightmare for him. It was so annoying to me.

Alex Obert: I’ve seen photos on his Instagram recently with his hair dry and straightened. It seems so much more authentic and true to rock ‘n roll and Mötley Crüe. I feel it’d be a far better look right now!

Ryan Nemeth: (laughs) I think it just takes so long because he’s got such wild, big, weird hair. It takes so long for him to do that kind of thing.

Alex Obert: Now that we have made it through another gift-giving season, what was exchanged between you and Dolph for the 2015 holidays?

Ryan Nemeth: He’ll give us fake gifts, like funny/silly ones. And so I thought this year I would join in on that fun. I got both my brothers a bunch of really awful gag gifts from the bookstore. Fake mustaches, farts in a can, so stupid things. Terrible, like even little kids don’t want them. We got each other real gifts and gift cards or whatever. Then I got the refrigerator magnets that are so not funny. (laughs) Basically the memes that your aunt thinks are funny on Facebook like the guy from Star Trek facepalming himself and it just says “Facepalm” on it. There’s like nothing funny about it, but I got that for him. But then there’s real gifts too.

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Alex Obert: Do you ever happen to tell women at the bar that you are a pro wrestler? I’d imagine it would get an interesting response.

Ryan Nemeth: I used to kind of lie about what I did. I would say I was something else because I didn’t want to talk about wrestling. I hated the idea of someone doing what you’re saying, using it to show off or whatever. So when I first moved to Florida, I would deny it. I would never talk about it and I’d say, “Nah nah, that’s not what I do.” I was talking about one day it with Trent Baretta and he said “Of course I tell people I’m a wrestler! I’m proud of it! This is my dream, why should I be ashamed of that?” And that was like a light going off in my head like “Yeah, screw that. I’m gonna be proud!” I was very open about it where if someone asked what I do for a living, I’d tell them I’m a pro wrestler. They’d tell me it’s weird, but I think what they do is weird. I went to a wedding in Cincinnati halfway through my NXT days and I showed up with a black eye with a super orange face tan and my hair was dyed black. I think I had two black eyes. And I meet the girl my friend’s gonna marry. “Hi, I’m Ryan. Nice to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.” She looks at me, goes up and down. She sees the black hair, the orange tan and just a busted up face and she couldn’t even get out the words of what she wanted to ask me. I said, “I’m a pro wrestler and I live in a real life circus. That’s why I look like this.”And she goes, “Okay, I get it. That makes sense. Got it.”

Alex Obert: So I understand you had some involvement with Swerved on the WWE Network. How did you get on board with that?

Ryan Nemeth: Jeff Tremaine and his crew from Dickhouse and Gorilla Flicks, they came to see my brother and I do an improv set in San Jose the Friday night before Wrestlemania. We had a comedy show there and those guys all came to check it out. They loved it, which was kinda cool to hear. And so my brother said, “Hey, Jeff Tremaine wants to know if they can contact you about maybe writing on this show they’re doing.” They got in touch with me and I came to meet them and they said, “Hey, we saw your comedy show. We know you’re really good and you’re funny and we know you know the wrestling business and WWE really well cause you worked there for a couple years. We need someone who’s funny and who knows wrestling and can get along with wrestlers. You’re the only person we can think of who meets all those boxes.” So we have writer’s room meetings and we’ll basically think of pranks to pull on wrestlers and pranks that wrestlers can pull on themselves. It’s been a whole lot of fun. I think I’ve appeared a few episodes too, which is kinda neat. I’m very, very psyched about it. I think it’s cool. I’m very excited about it. Great group, they’re very fun. Obviously I’m a fan of all the stuff they’ve done with Jackass and Bad Grandpa and all those kind of movies. It’s another cool door that’s been opened by just following things I love like wrestling and comedy. Basically that’s how I see it.

Alex Obert: There was speculation online that the filming of the show was unpopular backstage because of dealing with getting pranked in addition to the stress of lengthy travel every week.

Ryan Nemeth: There’s probably someone who felt that way and there’s other people loved it and couldn’t wait to do more. I think it depends on your personality. Nobody likes getting pranked, but everyone likes to do the pranks. I think it depends who you ask and what happened that day. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable, that’s the point. The job of a wrestler is never comfortable anyways. I could see the point if someone was upset, but I also see the point of “Get over it. You work here. You probably knew about it and signed a paper. Deal with it.” (laughs) But not everyone is involved with Swerved, you can choose not to be. If certain guys don’t wanna be, that’s fine. We’re not gonna force someone to get pranked cause that’s not fun for anybody. There’s certain people you know who enjoy it, someone like Xavier Woods enjoys a prank if it happens to him. No one likes it at the moment, but one second later, it’s funny. If people really don’t want to be pranked, and there are a few of them, that’s okay. No one will be forced to be cattle prodded. But it would be great if Brock Lesnar opens a door and water falls on him. I think that would be a good prank for him. It’s simple and he is pretty straightforward. He’s a badass, ass-kicking tough guy. I think that’s the most straightforward prank there is, open a door and water falls on him.

Alex Obert: But then the water will immediately turn to steam once it lands on him!

Ryan Nemeth: And then we all run.

Alex Obert: As we get towards 2016, how do you plan to balance wrestling, fitness, writing, comedy and everything else you’re working on?

Ryan Nemeth: Lately, I’ve been reaching a pretty good balance. I would say three months ago, I started to feel really good about things. I had such good balance of performing live comedy, writing gigs for comedy and fitness stuff. Now I launched this book and it seems to be very well-received. That book kinda embodies my perfect blend of all the things I love: comedy, writing, wrestling and fitness. I think that book is the balance. I will keep just trying to blow that thing up as much as I can.

Alex Obert: Now that it’s been over a month since Hardbody was released, how has the response been?

Ryan Nemeth: I’m so happy about the response. It spent two weeks on Amazon’s best-selling list for Humor. Now it’s on the best-selling list for Wrestling for two weeks after that. Every review I’ve read, and they’re not fake reviews, but they seem fake cause they’re all so flattering. (laughs) My dad will call me and go “Are you writing your own reviews?” “No! People like it that much. They’re excited about it.” I just saw a bunch of guys who were in the book I saw Ryder and Tyson Kidd and Natalya and The Miz. It’s cool to hear from them and say that they’re proud and that they read the book and think it’s awesome. They thanked me for having them in it. That is such a nice thing to hear from your actual peers, people you’ve worked with in the past or whatever. It’s great.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, what do you hope those who check out Hardbody will take out of it?

Ryan Nemeth: The foreword was written by Rob MacIntyre, the former NXT strength coach I talked about earlier. He trains guys like John Cena, Big E, Cesaro, all these different guys. These huge, strong people. In the foreword, he summarized the entire message of the book. “Fitness is not complicated. It’s simple. There’s two main principles: Don’t eat too much and get out and move sometimes.” In this book, I show there’s all these stories from all these guys and girls that I talked to. There’s WWE Superstars, Divas, screenwriters, actors, filmmakers, comedians, bodybuilders, fitness gurus, singers, all these people who have excelled in whatever their craft is. My great example is Max Landis. He’s a screenwriter and he also did Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling, the wrestling spoof of Triple H. He is an extremely successful screenwriter and filmmaker. He is not athletic and he is not a gym guy. I put him in my book as a hardbody. I put him in there because the idea of hardbody is more at the core of the person. They don’t have to have abs or big muscles. They don’t have to be Ryback, but they could be Ryback. Max Landis has worked so hard and so passionately and so tirelessly in writing. I think that kind of effort and dedication and love of what you’re doing and risk-taking, all that stuff embodies the exact message. Maybe you’re not gonna be a screenwriter, maybe you’re not gonna win a Judo World Championship, maybe you’re not gonna be Seth Rollins, but some little part of what they do is gonna help you live each day a little bit better and easier and healthier. I want people to take away that fitness is not complicated, it’s not the hardest thing in the world. There’s challenges and it’s not easy, but you can do it. If you have an interest in it and you want to work a little bit harder at something, this is how you do it.

Alex Obert: Sounds like the perfect blueprint! I wish you continued success with the book and everything else that you work towards. I’d love to thank you very much for your time.

Ryan Nemeth: Thanks! Thank you for having me back on!

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Pictured: Nemeth, Rob MacIntyre, EC3, and Trent? together at the legendary Hard Nocks South gym

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Jim Florentine Returns

Jim Florentine has been quite busy throughout 2015 with the fourteenth season of That Metal Show, touring as a stand up comic, delivering a hit podcast and most recently, releasing Terrorizing Telemarketers Volume 6 with Don Jamieson. Jim is no stranger to Journey of a Frontman as we originally chatted nearly two years ago, which you can check out here. We sat down the other day and chatted about what he’s been up to since.

Alex Obert: The biggest recent news in the music world is passing of Scott Weiland. What are your thoughts?

Jim Florentine: It sucks, man. He was a huge talent. They wrote some great songs. The first four Stone Temple Pilots records are fuckin’ great. The few they put out after that were okay too and the solo stuff was decent. It’s too bad, man. I don’t know exactly what went down. I know he’s had some issues in the past. Chester just left Stone Temple Pilots to go back to Linkin Park full time, so who knows if Scott woulda been back with them and doing shows again.

Alex Obert: Some can handle that type of a lifestyle for decades and others get caught up in their demons. The Ozzys of the world continue to hang on.

Jim Florentine: It’s a whole different level now with pills and the heroin, it’s so easy to get in everybody has complete access to it. That’s really fucking people up. They said something like a hundred and ten people a day in the United States die from drug overdose, just finding pills in the parents’ cabinet and getting hooked. The prescription pills are so powerful and the drug companies don’t give a shit. They just want to sell ’em, the doctors just wanna push ’em; they don’t give a fuck. It’s tough. Once you get hooked on that stuff, you can’t stop. I don’t know if that was the case with him, but I know he’s had problems with that stuff in the past. It’s a lot easier to get really caught up in that shit. When I was growing up, there was like one guy in town that had coke. You had to try and track him down if you wanted to get coke. Now, anyone has pills. You can get addicted to heroin all of a sudden.

Alex Obert: You’ve been up to a lot with shows, albums and your podcast, but not much has been going on with That Metal Show. It’s only been one season a year as of late. What’s your take on that?

Jim Florentine: That’s pretty much what we’ve been doing the whole time. Look, I’m busy doing other shit the whole time. When That Metal Show is ready to tape, it takes two weeks out of my life when we go do it. And then I go back on the road and do the stand up. Whenever they call and they block out some dates, I go do it and then I’m back doing my thing. They call when they’re ready.

Alex Obert: Nothing has been pitched for 2016 yet?

Jim Florentine: It’s around the holidays, nobody does anything right now. I’m sure we’ll be doing something in January.

Alex Obert: Those who keep up with the show know that Ozzy, Gene and Paul are three of the biggest names who have yet to be on. Aside from that, who do you feel is in that category?

Jim Florentine: Eddie Van Halen. Alex Van Halen. David Lee Roth. James Hetfield. I think those are the ones that are the big ones that I would like to see on there. Bruce Dickinson would be great. A lot of times, it’s all about timing and if they’ve got something to promote. If we’re taping in February and Maiden’s got a new record coming out in August, they’re not gonna do it in February. They’re not doing press then. It’s tough to pull them out. It’s all timing. Look, whoever shows up, I’m interviewing. I’m just happy that people wanna come and do the show.

Alex Obert: How do you go about researching a guest whose music you’re not as familiar with?

Jim Florentine: I know pretty much everybody on there. But you Google somebody, Wikipedia, go to YouTube. Watch some of their videos of them getting interviewed to see what kind of vibe they’re putting out during an interview. Luckily I don’t have to do too much of that because I’m a fan of the music.

Alex Obert: The three of you have been taking That Metal Show on the road over the past couple of years. You each have individual time on the stage and although you and Don are quite familiar with that setting, it’s something different for Eddie. How do you feel about his set?

Jim Florentine: Well he does more like storytelling and tells funny rock stories. He does great. He can do a whole show by himself. He can be a comic, he’s that good at it. He’s confident up there. It’s great for us three to be on the road and have fun. I look forward to those dates when we do them together. We’ve got something in Rochester in January.

Alex Obert: You brought up Van Halen earlier as those who should go on That Metal Show and it reminds me of a tweet you sent out a few months ago. You recently saw Van Halen live and thought they were amazing, despite negative reviews.

Jim Florentine: Everybody’s got a thing with Van Halen. “We saw ’em once and Dave didn’t sound good and other nights they did.” These guys are older, you gotta cut ’em a break. Dave’s sixty years old, let’s see some other sixty year old go up there and do that shit. I would say go see them on tour because you’ve got fuckin’ Van Halen playin’ ten minutes from your house. Whatever venue it is, they played everywhere this summer. You had Eddie Van Halen playin’, he’s sober and he’s playin’ great. Alex is a monster on drums. The set list is unbelievable. Wolfgang on bass. It’s a great show. Playing all the old shit. And why are you not going? People got in contact with me and they’re like, “Dude, you convinced me to go check that show out cause I wasn’t gonna go and thought it was gonna be a disaster. It was the best thing I did. It was an amazing show.” People just go in with a negative attitude and think it’s gonna suck. Do they have off nights? All bands do. To go see those guys up there playin’, I’ll go pay for that any day. As a comic, I have off nights too. I try not to and you try your hardest, but you never know.

Alex Obert: Comedy Metal Midgets continues to get bigger and bigger. You’ve covered a lot of various topics and have series such as “Awful Facebook Posts” and “Awful Vanity License Plates”. What are some ideas for future episodes?

Jim Florentine: Just the usual shit like the Facebook and the slang. But then I’ve also been doing these random rants now because I don’t have enough material to do an hour. I’ve always had these topics, but I don’t have enough on them. Now I just do little pieces on them and it’s going good. People love that stuff, so I’ll just keep doing it. They like to hear it on Monday morning when they get in the car and they have a shit work week ahead of ’em. They like the anger and rage. And I can build it up, no problem.

Alex Obert: How would you feel about taking callers to discuss and debate topics?

Jim Florentine: I would do that, but I just don’t have set up for it. I have no problem with it, absolutely. It’s just real simple with a little Zoom Recorder. I talk into it in my house and I upload it. My nephew puts it out there and that’s it. I don’t have time to go meet people and set it up in a studio and all that shit. I’ve got a busy life going on. If I could somehow work that out, I would definitely do it. It would be great.

Alex Obert: I heard you mention your son on one of the random topic episodes. On that note, what shows does he have you watch with him?

Jim Florentine: He watches that Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon, I got no problem with that. We watch PAW Patrol. He likes Dumb and Dumber, both those movies. He likes Shrek and shit like that. I saw the Peanuts movie with him. It’s not like it’s Frozen, but as long as he’s enjoying it.

Alex Obert: Is your son getting into the music that you listen to?

Jim Florentine: He loves the music, absolutely. That’s all we do is listen to music all the time. We wake up in the morning and we got Slipknot on, Foo Fighters, all that shit. He’s a hundred percent into it. We just play name that tune in the car when we’re listening to it in the car and we’re driving. I put music on it and say, “Let’s see if you can get ten in a row.” As soon as he hears the opening chords to something like Cat Scratch Fever, he says, “The band is Ted Nugent and the song is Cat Scratch Fever.” It’s great. He takes music lessons every Monday. Takes drums, guitar and piano lessons. He switches off each week. He loves it.

Alex Obert: You’ve been posting headlines on Twitter of crazy ways people have gotten arrested. What are some of your favorites?

Jim Florentine: I love it when it’s something like a guy blowing a horse and he gets arrested. And it’s the second time that happens. Shit like that is funny to me. There’s so much serious shit out there and just silly shit and propaganda. I figure some guy wants to read about the neighbor fucking his dog and he’s in love with the dog and wants to have a relationship with it.

Alex Obert: Would you say there are trends or approaches that you dislike from newer comics?

Jim Florentine: I don’t really watch other comics, so I don’t know what’s going on. I respect any comic that has the balls to go up on stage and perform in front of a bunch of strangers. I never trash comics. I root for ’em all. There’s room for all of us. Make it your own way, whatever way you gotta do it. Some of the shit isn’t for me, but whatever. Whatever works for people. There’s an audience for nerd comedians, there’s an audience for hipsters, there’s an audience for edgy guys, for dirty. Whatever genre you can get and you get your audience, that’s fine. I got no problem with it.

Alex Obert: What was the reaction from your comic friends to Awful Jokes from my First Comedy Notebook?

Jim Florentine: People loved it. Every comic loved it. Some people didn’t understand it, but that’s fine. It was a big hit amongst comics.

Alex Obert: And they admitted to having a similar notebook?

Jim Florentine: Yeah, exactly. I might do a volume two, there’s enough material. I like doing different shit like that.

Alex Obert: With the recent release of Terrorizing Telemarketers Volume 6, how has it felt to be back at it seven years following the last release?

Jim Florentine: We weren’t sure if we were gonna do one after we did the last one seven years ago. We thought we were out of ideas and done. We left it alone and got busy with That Metal Show and touring. And with those things, I always say you really have to have nothing going on in your life. You have to sit around and wait for the phone to ring. I was married and Don was in a relationship, then this past January, both of our relationships blew up. So I’m sitting in my house by myself and he’s sitting in his house by himself. “You know what? Why don’t you come over and we’ll do a telemarketers CD. We got nothin’ else going on.” We’re sittin’ in empty fuckin’ houses and all of a sudden it’s February, we’re sitting in my house and waiting for the phone to ring.

Alex Obert: How do you attract the calls? Do you sign up on various websites?

Jim Florentine: I have a house number cause it comes with the whole fuckin’ cable package. I always unplug it cause I don’t even use it. If you’re on their call list, they’ll keep on calling. So we’re gettin’ those calls. Then we have friends that have businesses in the area, so any telemarketer calls, here’s the number to give ’em. The phone rings constantly. We had enough over the course of a month to get it done. It was great.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, can you fill readers in on what you’ll be up to for 2016?

Jim Florentine: I got a special that I shot last year that’s gonna air somewhere soon. I did a one man show a few years ago that I just put on the shelf for a while. I have a great copy of it and I’m gonna put that out in 2016. It’s already done and I’m working on getting that thing together. I’m working on a book, rants from my podcast basically. I’m transcribing that. And then I’m gonna shoot a new comedy special, I’ve got a whole new hour of material. I’m gonna shoot that this year too. I got a busy year up ahead. Everything’s good.

Alex Obert: Looking forward to it! I’d love to thank you so much for your time.

Jim Florentine: Yeah, no problem. Absolutely!

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On the Line with Pete RG

Pete RG is a thoughtful and gifted singer-songwriter who has been making a name for himself in the world of music with his chilling voice, truthful lyrics and intrigue. Having recently finished a run of dates across the U.S., we had a conversation about what he appreciates about New York City and Los Angeles, meeting fans, finding himself as a musician and more.

Alex Obert: You’ve been playing in New York City as of late, what did you take out of that whole experience? I sense that someone like you would really appreciate it.

Pete RG: As an individual, I love being in New York City. I’m fortunate to go there a lot, playing shows for our fans in New York. Building new fans too. It’s just always great. It’s a nice change of pace from not just LA, but pretty much any other city. The energy on the streets, the energy in the venues, the people just have a very unique approach. It’s special to play there and nice to get great feedback and great support. It really is the same for the band too, everyone loves being there. Spending time there is just really inspiring.

Alex Obert: What goes through your head while walking around New York City? What does it mean to you?

Pete RG: I first went as a little kid to tag along with my dad on business trips. We don’t have buildings like that in Los Angeles. It’s just like this epic feeling. My family, they’re Greek immigrants. When they first came to the U.S., my dad and his siblings were in their teens. They landed at the Port of Manhattan and that was their first experience in the U.S. It was their first experience in a major city because they had grown up in a small village in the mountains of Southern Greece. They had never really seen running water, electricity, cars, for the most part. They have these stories how they were walking down the street and they were looking at the buildings and they were like mountains to them. They all have the same story, so I know there’s not a lot of embellishment going on. I always reflect on that too.

Alex Obert: How do you feel growing up in California helped shape you?

Pete RG: Venice is an odd place. (laughs) It’s changing tremendously right now. It’s getting gentrified, as are a lot of other formerly run-down neighborhoods across the U.S. Cleveland is going through a major overhaul. Growing up in this artsy, beachy, hippie community, there’s nowhere else I’d really rather be. I love to visit other cities and spend time there, but this is where I like to be permanently. This is home because the people are very open here for the most part. They like to think outside the box. There’s all these pop-up shops up and down every street. People have little shops in their garages. They’re making different kinds of clothes and little accessories for your phone. It’s just really kind of an entrepreneurial spirit, man. I enjoy that.

Alex Obert: When finding yourself as musician, did you ever take the opportunity to set down your guitar case and perform in the beach area for those passing by?

Pete RG: Crazy enough, I never did that here. But I did do it back on the East Coast. I did it in Baltimore. I used to play Fell’s Point a lot. It’s an old waterfront in Baltimore and a lot of the old buildings that housed the different businesses and warehouses on the docks, they were converted to bars and restaurants. They’re pretty small fifteen foot wide storefronts and they all have a Minstrel or a small band in front. I’ve done some busking there. I did some in Washington D.C. as well. So that’s where I experienced it, but actually never in LA. When I was home, I would just play venues.

Alex Obert: Through playing different venues across the country, what do you take out of meeting fans from all over?

Pete RG: Going to different towns and meeting different fans, that is, hands down, the most rewarding experience of being on the road. We were recently in Mississippi and it was like going to a foreign country. It’s hard to understand what the people say. (laughs) They speak with such a heavy southern drawl. You get to see how they live and how their manners are. They’re just incredibly polite. They are really appreciative of the efforts of musicians. It’s great to meet so many people within our own country who have such different ways of life. There’s different cultures, different ways in which they dress, different ways in which they speak. It’s interesting because music really is something that bonds everyone. People come up to me and they’re like, “You remind me of Neil Diamond.” I’ll get that everywhere I go. But then someone in each town will throw an off-the-wall one, someone I’ve never even heard of. A local artist or something like that.

Alex Obert: When you first started experimenting with music, how did you determine the vocal style that fit you the best? There’s those who establish themselves with high-pitched screams and others who go way down low.

Pete RG: Funny you should mention high-pitched screams cause we recently played Tucson last week and Randall Dempsey from The Desert Beats, he had the most incredible screech I’ve ever heard in my life. The whole band was talking about it. We want to fly him in and sample some of his screams. Regarding me, it’s pretty simple. I have a deep voice. I’m pretty much a bass. I can sing higher; I can sing baritone. That is what I often do. I can get up into a low tenor range. The fact that I’m a bass determines what register I sing in. Within that, it determines what I do stylistically. For instance, if I push my voice, which a past record label actually tried to have me do, it will sound okay. It sounds a little nasally, a little harsh at times. Ultimately, the big downfall is that it’s nothing special. “Okay, yeah, he sounds like another rock guy pushing his voice hard.” When I stay more relaxed, I sing within myself. That’s where I’m best and it sets the tone of where I should always be trying to be.

Alex Obert: As a fan of music, have you ever listened to a song that was so powerful that it brought you to tears?

Pete RG: I think that would have to do with timing. There have been times where I’ve heard a song and it shook me because it hit at a particular moment. There’s the Bright Eyes song, First Day of My Life. It’s a melancholy reflective love song and how he misses someone and wanting to make sure he stays with that person. I can’t say there are songs that consistently move me to tears, but there are songs where they play at just the right time. And then there are other songs where I hear them and I’m like, “Wow, I can’t believe someone actually wrote that. That’s amazing.” It’s not even a matter of wishing I had written that; I just appreciate the sheer genius of the writing. Revealing and so touching.

Alex Obert: Where do you draw the inspiration for your own lyrics? Do you rely more on real-life situations and influences or ideas you make up in your head?

Pete RG: The lyrics, phrases and a melody will come out at the same time. It will be something that just hits home with me and I don’t often even know where it came from. That’s the majority of the time. Then I sit with it and I’ll work it over and over again and I’ll hunt for the rest of the melody. I’ll hunt for the rest of the music that’s beneath it and whatever’s missing. I’ll work on the chord progression and the rhythm. The lyrics come out of me and it’s like I’m searching for the right word that matches the spirit of that moment. That’s when the melody and the lyric and the music meet at just the right spot. It means something to me. That comes from a personal experience and I will usually fill in the gaps with stuff that’s in my head or just hyperbolize to make the point that I feel simply because I’m having so many feelings in such a short amount of space.

Alex Obert: It’s important to reach out to those who buy your records and come out to see you perform, but what’s equally as important is reaching out to your friends and family. When you released Reaching For the Moon, how was their reaction?

Pete RG: It was really good. I think the first person we gave it to was my dad on the day I got it back from mastering. My dad happens to be a musician. We were actually on a family vacation and so I gave it to him. He got up the next morning and he was like, “Hey, I listened to it like two or three times. It’s great! The songs are really good. The lyrics are strong. Musically, you went in a completely different direction than I expected.” I had played him the songs just on an acoustic guitar and a keyboard right before we recorded them. In his mind, he thought that they were going to be a batch folk songs because of the way I played them. The songs were really influenced by the drum machine that we had written the songs with, as well as the keyboard parts. And there was the poppy electric guitars. That took him back, but he really enjoyed it. Across the board, family and friends were really into it. That’s always nice.

Alex Obert: One year from now, how do you hope to evolve as a musician and as a person?

Pete RG: As a person, I want to continue to push myself and challenge myself to be a better person. That means something as simple as eating better, especially when you’re on the road. Exercising consistently. And I want to learn to understand myself better. I sometimes have a tendency to get a little frustrated with things and get a little whiny. I want to try to temper that a little bit. I want to relax a little bit because right now, I’m seeing it myself and with everyone I talk to, we’re just inundated on a moment by moment basis. We’ve got these blips and bleeps and phones ringing at us and computer screens and everything, let’s keep that at bay a little bit. Let’s just step back and relax; let’s close things down. How that translates to music is that I want to do the same thing there. We have a lot of things going on right now with having our own label we’re setting up. We’re basically managing ourselves out of choice, not a necessity. We’re booking a lot of our shows out of choice. I want to take that and evolve with the foundation we’ve developed. I want to really hone in on what’s important, simplify it so we can keep our lives a little less hectic. I think that will manifest itself in that we’re gonna just let things come at us a little bit more with the music. We’re gonna be focusing more on what the music means to be played live, as opposed to what it means to be played recorded. We’re going to relax on the recording and push things more a little bit with the live show.

Alex Obert: A live performance can make it a completely different song in the best way possible.

Pete RG: Exactly. It’s like the recording will be the template, some basic tools you use to pull it off. Then we’re just gonna run with it live. That’s where it’s at these days and I don’t think that’s gonna change anytime soon. And it’s really a lot of fun.

Alex Obert: It makes you look forward to a live show every time because you never know what’s gonna happen. It can really be something different every time and each song can take on a new life.

Pete RG: A hundred percent.

Alex Obert: On that note, I’d love to thank you so much for your time and sharing a piece of your story with me.

Pete RG: Definitely. I really appreciate it, Alex.

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On the Line with Tuk of Biters

Tuk fronts BITERS, a band with their hearts set on bringing rock n’ roll back to its purest, most authentic form. I discovered them when they opened for Calabrese earlier this year and their set blew me away. They brought something to the stage that has really been needed from newer bands. Following the release of their debut album, Electric Blood, I spoke with Tuk about the new album, live shows and more.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about playing shows with Calabrese earlier this year?

Tuk: It was cool to tour with them. Their tour was already booked and we hopped on with them. We got to play some other markets we’ve never played. We usually do headlining tours of our own, but it was a good experience to open for them. Some of the markets, they were strong. They were really nice guys. We had the same management as well, so it was cool.

Alex Obert: So when you’re headlining a show, how is the vibe backstage with the opening bands?

Tuk: I’m always respectful to all the bands, as long as they don’t come in our dressing room and drink all our beer. Sometimes you get opening bands who have never toured before and they don’t know what it’s like. That’s when they’ll come in your dressing room, drink all your beers, eat all your food and take up your personal space. It’s about being respectful to each other, especially when backstage is the only place you have to go.

Alex Obert: What is your general order at the bar?

Tuk: I don’t really drink that much, but if I’m drinking, I’ll order a shot of whiskey or a vodka and Red Bull. Something just to get me some energy before I play.

Alex Obert: When on stage, which type of venue do you feel is best suited for Biters?

Tuk: If were doing a headlining tour, we’re usually playing bar-sized rooms. I really like playing the big stages with the big sound system. Hopefully we can start being able to headline those. I love the big rooms, man.

Alex Obert: What are some venues that you remember in particular?

Tuk: I’ve done almost every House of Blues in the country. When we did Social Distortion, those were really good venues. Ace Frehley tour was good. Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta with Cheap Trick. Just a bunch of mid-sized venues around the country.

Alex Obert: With the music scene always growing and evolving, who are some newer bands that you’ve been keeping your eye on?

Tuk: I like a band called Dirty Fences, they’re from New York. I like a band from New York as well called Wyldlife. They’re awesome. There’s a badass band from Italy called Giuda. I don’t really keep up with new music, so it’s very rare that I find something that I really dig.

Alex Obert: What do you feel some newer bands might be lacking or doing wrong with their approach?

Tuk: The music industry is like the Wild West right now. I see a lot of bands getting famous because they have Instagram followers and the good looking singer takes selfies. Remember Tila Tequila on MySpace? That kind of thing has continued and there’s a lot of bands that focus more on social networking and what they look like rather than trying to write songs. And some of those YouTube personalities are getting big too, it’s really weird. My advice is to just focus on writing good songs. Concentrate on your art and it’s not all the other bullshit.

Alex Obert: When fans come to see you play, how do you want them to walk out of the show feeling?

Tuk: I hope that we sparked something inside of people where they realize that there’s still cool rock ‘n roll bands left. Everybody nowadays likes the idea of rock ‘n roll, but a lot of people don’t listen to it. Rappers wear rock ‘n roll shirts and dress like they’re rockers. They don’t really listen to it. Hopefully when people come see the Biters, they regain faith.

Alex Obert: Outside of music, who would you say are your influences?

Tuk: I usually write about what I see around me. Where I’ve lived and the way I was raised in the South, all that stuff has had a big effect on me. Most of that kind of stuff is what really influences me every day. Where I’m from, it’s a lot different than being raised in a place like LA. I was raised in the deep South, it’s pretty fucked up down here. That definitely influenced me.

Alex Obert: How do you feel it benefited you?

Tuk: I think it gives me more of a story to tell. If I was raised in some rich family where everything was handed to me and I never had to struggle, I wouldn’t be as hungry and driven as I am. I probably wouldn’t have benefited as much. I know everybody goes through things, but the way you were raised shapes who you are.

Alex Obert: You clearly made a big impression on Nikki Sixx due to the fact that he endorsed the band on Twitter. How did that feel?

Tuk: I think it’s awesome. The kind of rock ‘n roll I’m trying to do is starting to get noticed. It makes you feel good when somebody of the caliber of Nikki Sixx endorses you. It gives you some reassurance that you’re doing something cool. It really helps, man.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about Electric Blood when looking back on the finished product?

Tuk: I think it’s cool, man. Like every artist, you wish you could do stuff different. But it is what it is. It has gotten really good reviews and the reaction to it has been almost all positive. I’m happy about that.

Alex Obert: What are some dates and happenings up ahead?

Tuk: We’re on tour with Scott Weiland and The Wildabouts. Doing some dates with him. Then we’re going back to the U.K. in February for a bigger tour. I think we’re doing Germany as well over there. That’s gonna be good.

Alex Obert: Going into the future, where do you hope to see Biters a year from now?

Tuk: I would like to see us playing really big venues, at least a couple thousand people a night. I would like to blow up in Europe because we’re doing really good over there right now. They seem to be catching on to what we’re doing more than the U.S. Hopefully we can influence a lot of upcoming bands to quit rapping and screaming and do some rock ‘n roll again.

Alex Obert: That’s the best way! I’d love to thank you so much for your time and I hope the success continues and grows.

Tuk: Thank you, buddy! I appreciate it.

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On the Line with Samuel Shaw

Samuel Shaw made a name for himself as one of the bright, young stars in TNA. There’s no doubt that he made his character (influenced by Patrick Bateman in American Psycho) unforgettable and definitely had all eyes on him. Now that he is a free agent, it will be just a matter of time until he stands tall in a major wrestling ring once again. Did you know that Shaw is also an incredibly talented artist and has been at it throughout his entire life? We definitely cover both sides of the life of one interesting and personable gentleman. Topics discussed include getting his big break in TNA, what he took out of training with Bubba Ray and D-Von, working with Ken Anderson, NXT, discovering his artistic talents, the current state of wrestling and more.

Alex Obert: One of your earliest experiences in TNA was Hardcore Justice 2010. What did you take out of the whole experience?

Samuel Shaw: Just tons of emotions. I was pulled into the office at Team 3D Academy probably a week before that event. Bully Ray pulls me in the office and he just says, “We’re gonna use on the Hardcore Justice pay per view.” I’m just like ecstatic. Just a young guy looking for a break, anything I could really get. For him to tell me that they’re gonna put me on that particular pay per view, it meant that much more because I was such a huge ECW fan growing up. I think about two weeks before that, I worked an indy show against Tommy Dreamer. I told him how much I respected him and that the ECW stuff was such a big reason why I wanted to get into the business. Knowing that Tommy and Bully Ray are such good friends, I’m certain they had some sort of conversation. I guess Tommy was like, “Hey, let’s get him on the show.” Bully Ray agreed, then he pulled me into the office and let me know. Then he told me I was gonna be Lupus. I had to really think for a second. I didn’t really remember Lupus that well, but sort of. I remember he had a little blow up doll and he was basically Raven’s lackey. For Bully to tell me I’m gonna assume that role, I was like, “Okay…well this’ll be interesting.” And he’s like, “Oh, you’re gonna do a big leg drop off the top rope too.” So I’m like, “Sweet! I’m actually gonna do something physical on this show.” Very exciting. I mean it was crazy to be there with all these ECW originals. I don’t know what they were looking at me like “Who the hell’s this kid? Why is he here?” I had Bully’s blessing. I was just soaking it all in while keeping my mouth shut, eyes and ears open. I remember earlier in the day, they needed to get a fire spot approved by the fire marshall because we’re at Universal Studios in Orlando. Well Bully looks at me and he says, “Sam, you’re gonna go through this flaming table.” And I’m like, “Oh, sure! Yeah, I’ll do that!” So sure enough, in front of all the boys and Dixie Carter and fire marshalls, they powerbombed me through a flaming table for no exposure whatsoever. I was just the test dummy for that. That was a fond memory for me, saying that I went through a flaming table, but there’s no video proof. Maybe there is, but I’ll never see it. And then Mick Foley stuck the barbed wire sock in my mouth. Taz put it over on commentary so huge. I think everybody was like, “Who the hell’s this?” I think it was more of a spot for Tommy to pop some of his close friends. I was just ecstatic to be there. I was just thinking, “Oh man, this is gonna get me some exposure. This is gonna open some doors for me.” You know, I think it did. I think I had a dark match the next day at TNA. I thought I was gonna get signed. You’re at that young age and you’re just so excited to be there. I was just thinking that I’m onto something here. But this business is all about patience and I had to learn that. That was one of the learning curves there. It was gonna take more time for them to be impressed with me enough to put me in a spot to where I could get signed.

Alex Obert: Seeing as though you have been involved with Team 3D Academy, I wanted to get your thoughts on what has taken place recently. How do you feel about the Dudley Boyz returning to the biggest stage of them all?

Samuel Shaw: All of us that started with Team 3D years ago, I think we all just saw it coming. We just didn’t know when. I was with Team 3D Academy for four years. I didn’t really know Bubba and D-Von as WWE Superstars. I’ve sort of graduated from that school and I’ve moved on, but they still had a huge amount of students at their academy. They’re training guys the right way. I actually stopped in a couple weeks ago and I saw D-Von and a lot of the students. It’s just one of the best schools out there, I can’t put over that school enough. With everything they offer, you’re getting the training that you need to succeed in this business. Getting back to their return to the WWE, it was just a matter of time. We all knew they were gonna go back. I was taught it was always about timing in this business. I think this was the perfect time and the perfect opportunity for them to come in and make an impact again.

Alex Obert: I have a feeling that Bubba will test those breaking into the business in order to see if they can tough it out and to earn his respect. Would you say that is accurate? If so, did that happen with you?

Samuel Shaw: I think for him, he’s just very old school minded. That old school mentality is “If this kid really wants it, let’s test him. Let’s test him not only physically, but mentally.” And I think that weeds out the guys that can’t really fathom this business. There’s a lot of people that want to be wrestlers, but when you’re actually grinding and not making very much money on the indy scene and possibly living on somebody’s couch for years and just grinding, grinding, grinding, it wears on you. And then going into Team 3D Academy four to five times a week like I was doing. There was just times when I was just like, “I really don’t want to go to training today. I don’t want to deal with Bubba’s shit today.” But at the same time, I knew this is what I wanted to do. Even if he was gonna say something to test you or make you feel like you don’t belong, I always took it as like, “Okay, that’s a challenge. I’m here to prove him wrong.” I do have one particular story regarding this. I was getting a lot of extra work at TNA years and years ago. Bubba would always call me and I would be at work, I was a caricature artist at Universal Studios. So that was literally my plan, to live in Orlando, it’s a wrestling hub. You had WWE/FCW an hour and a half away in Tampa, you got TNA in Universal, Team 3D Academy, you had a bunch of indies. I was in Orlando, trying to be as close as I could so I could possibly knock on the door at TNA each and every day. I just wanted to see if there was any opportunity. Bubba knew that, he saw my work ethic and I think he saw my talent. He may not have necessarily liked me as a person, but he definitely gave me the opportunities because he knew I wanted it. He’d call me and he’d say, “Hey, can you come up to TNA? We got a spot for you today.” On one particular occasion, he called me the night before and he said, “I need you to get three or four other students and you guys dress nice. Come up here and you’re gonna do some stuff with Jeff Jarrett, the Team Jarrett MMA gimmick.” And I said, “Sure, we’ll be there.” We show up there and some of us are wearing jeans. I think he expected us to wear suits. That’s a lesson that I learned. Every time I go for a tryout, I’m wearing a suit. I am dressing extremely nice now, no ifs, ands or buts about it. And I’ll tell you why, we show up and some of us are wearing jeans and just not looking as sharp as guys that are trying to represent Team 3D Academy, Bubba and D-Von, and be professionals. We’re not looking very professional walking in. You can just tell that Bully is just so pissed and just giving us that death stare and making us very uncomfortable all day long. They still used us that night and we performed well. We thought everything was gold. Bubba kinda cut a promo on us. Like I said, we were uncomfortable all day, but we did a good job for Jeff Jarrett. Bubba said, “There’s no heat, everything’s good.”

Well I didn’t go to the training the next day because I was working, but a bunch of the guys did that were involved with this thing in TNA the day before. Bubba tells them all to get in the ring and he tells them, “Do a thousand squats. Right now. Otherwise you’re kicked out of the school.” He felt like we needed to be disciplined for not being a good representation for the school. I got text messages from all these guys and they’re all like, “Oh my God, Bubba made us do a thousand squats. None of us could do a thousand. Guys were puking. Some guy ripped his asshole out, tore his hamstring. Guys are just dropping like flies. Bubba’s disappointed in everybody. He said ‘Don’t think I won’t get Sam cause I’ll go to one of his little indy shows and I’ll make him do it in front of all the boys there.'” I was just waiting for mine. I was like, “Okay, I’ve never done a thousand squats before. I’m gonna go in every day and if that’s what he wants me to do, I’m ready for it.” I went in every day and he never showed up for about two weeks. And then all of a sudden, he showed up one day. Everybody thought he’d forget about it and that it’s all water under the bridge. But nope, he sees me and he says, “Get your ass in the ring. A thousand squats. You gotta go past parallel. If you don’t do a thousand, I’ll just know what kind of man you are and you’re not welcome back here.” I proceeded to do a thousand squats and I never thought that I could do that. It was a challenge. The thought of doing it sucked, but once I completed that, I realized that was all mental. He tested me and I did it. I went in the office and I thanked him. I’m not saying that he had ultimate respect for me after that or anything, but I think he was like, “Okay, I see this kid. He fessed up to fucking up. He paid the price and he did it.” He’s always gonna test you. You’re gonna screw up in this business, especially as a young guy just trying to come up and make it. Hopefully you don’t screw up in front of a Vince McMahon or something like that. Screwing up in front of a Bully Ray, that’s probably worse. I just made it a goal of mine to just always make him proud.

Alex Obert: When you first started paying your dues in the ring, who was responsible for giving you the chop initiation?

Samuel Shaw: (laughs) That was definitely Bully. I initially spent about a year at WWA4 in Atlanta, Georgia with Curtis Hughes. Just traveling up and down the road, he taught me all the fundamentals. He was a great trainer, but after a year in Atlanta, I just felt like there was something missing. I moved back to Florida and I found out about Team 3D Academy. I went down to Kissimmee, Florida and just started immediately with Bubba and D-Von. They filled that void. I felt like, “Okay, now I’m understanding why I do certain things in the ring.” The psychology element was what I really wanted to get a hold of. Along with that came the chops. It’s not pleasant, I’ll tell you that. But it’s your initiation. You gotta go through that phase where you’re like, “Man, one of my heroes just chopped me! That’s awesome!”

Alex Obert: It’s as much mental as it is physical.

Samuel Shaw: Absolutely.

Alex Obert: As a fan, how did you originally discover TNA?

Samuel Shaw: I think it was back in the Asylum days when it first started in Nashville. Being a fan of wrestling and knowing ECW had folded and was bought, now we just had WWE. What else is out there now? Then you hear that there’s this other federation being started by Jeff Jarrett. You’d see the commercials for the pay per views, Wednesday night or something like that. There was a bunch of talent that either had come from WWE and they were just on the outs with them or you saw some young guys doing some stuff that you may have not seen before. It was following it here and there and then it was around 2005 that the notoriety of Joe and Daniels and AJ Styles having those triple threat matches. That’s when it’s like, “Alright, let’s really check this out.” And that was when they just started on SPIKE TV. It was a totally different presentation and they were onto something really unique. They tape at Universal Studios and they have a six-sided ring.

Alex Obert: You had a program with Ken Anderson during your time in TNA, but did you originally discover him in WWE?

Samuel Shaw: Yeah, I caught wind of him when he first had his debut matches. He came in with some pretty outlandish music and he’s coming down to the ring to cut these ridiculous promos. He’s got that whole echo thing going on and it’s just like, “What the hell? This is weird, but it’s funny.” He wrestled Funaki on the first match I saw him in. He did that Finlay roll from the second rope turnbuckle. This guy’s onto something. I could see him being a big star. I mean he just oozed that confidence and charisma right from that starting point. It was cool for me because I thought, “Here’s a guy that’s six foot one, two hundred and thirty pounds. Like me.” It seemed like there were a lot of monstrous guys, a lot of guys that were more like six five, six six and almost three hundred pounds. Those were the ones getting that push at the time. When he just came in, it was very reminiscent of a Steve Austin kind of thing with the way he carried himself. Definitely was an eye catcher for me. I was keeping watch on that.

Alex Obert: Did you take something out of being in the ring with him during a promo?

Samuel Shaw: Absolutely. I also took a lot out of just sitting down with him and picking his brain. You’re handed a script every day with bullet points. It’s a loose script of what they want you to say. The dialogue they give you is never really what you or I would really say if we were in that position. Ken will look that thing over and then he has an idea of where the situation is going. I just observe him going out there, knowing what the script was, but I’d see him just cleverly put it in his own unique way. He would just feel it, just feel it out there. He can get it over organically. It made it so much easier for me. You get it crammed in your head that it’s such a TV business and you have to follow the script, hit this bullet point, hit that bullet point. You’re sitting there trying to read the script and memorize lines. That’s not what I grew up wanting to do! Being an actor is one thing, but when you’re in front of a crowd and you’re just trying to feel it and really get that emotion over to the crowd and to the TV viewers, just go over the bullet points and feel it, man. Know what you gotta hit out there and make it mean something. He really just drove that home for me.

Alex Obert: So the signature character for Samuel Shaw develops and at some point through all this, you grow a mustache. How was that set up?

Samuel Shaw: (laughs) Samuel Shaw, which is my real name, was a very clean cut, handsome young man. He’s always trying to exude that clean cut, American Psycho demeanor. I think the direction they were trying to go was “Well we’re done with the Christy Hemme thing, so now what? Okay, he finds solace in a friend, in a Gunner. Well Gunner has a beard, he has a mustache. Can Samuel grow a mustache? Can Samuel grow a beard?” I can’t grow it like Gunner, I’ll tell you that. But I can damn sure try. And it might actually be funny to see what it would look like if I tried to do it. (laughs) I’d never really given it a fair shot. It’s just so silly to me. I have blonde hair, you can’t even see it from five feet away. I think I got a text message from creative like “Hey, can you grow a beard? Hey, can you grow a mustache? Start doing that now.” And then I think like a month later, I show up to TV and they’re ready to shoot all this stuff. Everybody just looks at me like “…That’s it?” “Yuuuup…that’s all I can get in a month! I don’t know what to tell ya.” After the Gunner thing was phasing out, I talked to John Gaburick and asked, “Can I cut this facial hair? I just don’t really feel like it’s me, ya know? It’s not really the character. What can we do about it? I say if we keep anything, keep the mustache because it’s more like a Salvador Dali artist type thing.” And he was like, “Yeah, yeah! That’s a great idea. Let’s keep the mustache going.” That was fun to play with, but now it just seems like everybody has a mustache.

Alex Obert: You came in through Gut Check with a head of spiky hair, how did it all develop into your current hairstyle?

Samuel Shaw: The whole idea of the character, I just felt like he had to be very concerned with his look at all times. He can’t come in with messy hair. He can’t come in with the normal attire that a wrestler might wear. He’s very concerned with his body and he doesn’t want to be touched. He covers himself up a little bit. I think just having that slick hair really topped off that character. It’s almost like an aerodynamic feel to him. He’s very suave. I just feel like he had to have that. And it’s very American Psycho-ish too. There was an influence there and for some reason, I was always a huge Adam West fan. As Bruce Wayne in that Batman series from the sixties, he was just always so put together with his attire and his hair and his mannerisms. Everything was just full-on. I just tried to emulate that any way I could.

Alex Obert: A recent name that made the jump from TNA to NXT is of course, James Storm. What are your thoughts on that?

Samuel Shaw: I’m happy for James. I think every wrestler that comes up, even if they’re happy for a number of years in a TNA or a Ring of Honor or even Japan, I think everybody wonders if they could cut it at WWE. Like I said earlier, timing is everything. I think James just saw the perfect opportunity to jump in and see if he could make a difference there. He ended up getting a great reception. I think it’s great for him.

Alex Obert: And it’s a great validation that the crowd instantly recognized him when he came out.

Samuel Shaw: Absolutely. I definitely could see somebody like that coming in and having a strong performance, like a James Storm, like a Joe. It validates that these TNA guys, they’re actually really damn good. They’re coachable and they can adapt. It wasn’t a question of if Joe could adapt or James Storm could adapt, you just knew they would. But as far as looking at most of roster there, if opportunities were given to them, I think that for the most part, they would all perform well in the NXT environment. Or also the RAW or Smackdown environment for that matter.

Alex Obert: I recently saw on your Twitter that you’ve been conversing with Solomon Crowe, how did you get connected with him?

Samuel Shaw: I guess you could say we’ve known about each other for quite a while. I’m very aware of his great work on the independent scene. I know he did a lot of stuff with Evolve. I’m good friends with a guy down here in Jacksonville named Jon Davis. He was in Ring of Honor with Dark City Fight Club, a very talented tag team. He did a lot of stuff with Evolve. He works a lot of different opponents and Sami Callihan was one of them. It’s just a matter of mutual respect. I’m a fan first and foremost. I’m not trying to send out mixed signals or anything, I just like to converse with people I’m a fan of.

Alex Obert: You’ve been able to establish yourself not only as a talented wrestler, but a talented artist as well. What was the first example where you really displayed your talent and knew you had something special?

Samuel Shaw: My mother has told me that around the time that I was two or three years old, I was just watching Superman and Batman on TV. And I was also watching professional wrestling, watching Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and those kind of guys. When the shows were over, it’s like, “Damn, I want more. Now what?” I’d ask my mother, “Hey, can you draw this for me?”She would start drawing a Hulk Hogan esque picture for me and I’d just be like, “That’s wrong! Do his yellow trunks right. Those aren’t what his boots look like.” She’d just handed me the paper and be like, “You do it then!” So that’s what I did. I just started drawing all these larger than life superheroes. I can remember pretty vividly going to the grocery store with my mom and just seeing the comic books and muscle magazines and things like that. They had Arnold on the front and Frank Zane and all those bodybuilders from the golden era. Just picking up one of those magazines, flipping through it and being like, “That’s how I wanna look one day. That just looks cool to me. That’s how my heroes look. That’s how Ultimate Warrior looks. That’s how Hulk Hogan looks. I want to look like that.” And I would just draw it all the time since I knew I was too young at the time to look like that. (laughs) I used it as a reference to draw and make my art stand out a little bit more than other kids my age.

Alex Obert: What are some of the most memorable commissions you’ve done?

Samuel Shaw: Oh man, I wish I could tell you what I’m working on for EC3 right now. (laughs) For the past few years around holidays, I do ornaments. Notwithstanding the hatred I have for Ken Anderson in the feud scenario, we do have some mutual respect for each other. He did ask me to do some ornaments with his family on them, his twins and his dog were the subjects. He put it over huge on Instagram. I’ve already been taking holiday orders and everything. I recently just got a bunch of emails from people that are interested in getting ornaments. It just started out as “Hey, I’m doing ornaments and I’m drawing your dog or your cat on an ornament for thirty bucks or something.” I couldn’t believe when two years ago, I was slammed for the twenty days before Christmas. Every night, I had six or seven ornaments to do. It just became like “Holy cow! If I started this earlier than twenty days out from Christmas, this could actually be lucrative.” Just this past year, it turned into people sending me their orders and it was like “Okay, here’s two dogs and I have to draw somebody’s grandma on one.” I didn’t even know how it was gonna go. I’m just so used to drawing dogs and cats on an ornament and now I have to draw a grandma. Then I drew someone’s kid and so now I’m doing people. It’s turned into that. But hey, gettin’ business. Business is good.

Alex Obert: So when you were a caricature artist, what did you draw people doing? Anything outrageous?

Samuel Shaw: One of the more fun things was when I worked Halloween Horror Nights. A couple sits down and they want to be drawn as zombies. That was always really fun and entertaining to do. I’d always get a crowd hovering around. If you’re doing a really good job, then two more people sit down and you have a busy night. Very fond memories of doing that at Halloween Horror Nights.

Alex Obert: I found out that you drew a match card for Impact Wrestling and really liked how it came out. How was that arranged?

Samuel Shaw: Magnus actually had that idea. He CC’d me in an email to John Gaburick. John got right back to me and was like, “Let’s do this!” I think it was unique. It was really cool to test the waters with that and have different match up screens like that. They were just seeing if that could be something that they’d go with in the long run. But there’s just so many changes going on there all the time, and it’s no disrespect to them because TNA gave me a launching pad for my career. I did a lot of cool things with them. I would never want to burn a bridge because I’m appreciative of everything I get in this business. The way I was taught was that this business doesn’t owe you anything, we owe it all to the business. I did that one shot of those match up screens and I think like a month later, I was released. I think there were some ideas to still maybe work with them and do some artwork for them. But who knows what’s going on with them, I think they’re focusing on different areas right now. Don’t know what’s going on with Destination America. But I’m good, I’m doing my ornaments! (laughs)

Alex Obert: Being in Jacksonville, have you been to Metro Diner?

Samuel Shaw: Yes.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about it? I used to go there during road trips and it always blew me away.

Samuel Shaw: What blows you away about it?

Alex Obert: Every meal that I’ve ever ordered has always been so good. I am convinced there is not a single bad choice on the menu. It’s just so good. Every time.

Samuel Shaw: (laughs) Which one did you go to?

Alex Obert: The one on Hendricks Avenue.

Samuel Shaw: That was the original one. And I think the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives guy, they had a spot on his show where they were at Metro Diner. They have great food. Every time I go into that place, I walk out just smelling like the food. (laughs) That’s my only beef with them, but other than that, the food’s great. Absolutely. The pancakes are ginormous. Good stuff!

Alex Obert: What is your preferred eatery when traveling on the road for wrestling?

Samuel Shaw: It’s always like a hard thing to deal with in my brain, what I want to do for eating. I’m always eating really clean for the most part, especially the last six months. I’ve been on this really healthy six meal a day kind of thing. If I’m on the road, it’s tough. When I’m home, I get a lot of food from Whole Foods. Grass-fed beef and a lot of organic greens and stuff like that. Steel-cut oatmeal, sweet potatoes, it’s all natural stuff. When you’re on the road, you don’t really have that luxury all the time. You could pack your meals, but that it’s kind of a bitch to go through flying when taking that with you. I don’t know why this comes to mind, but if I need something quick, I’m not opposed to stopping at McDonald’s and getting a salad with the double chicken breast on it. I know it might be blasphemous, but that can constitute as a meal. I usually do some shakes on the road. You can always go to a Denny’s or an IHOP or even a Waffle House. You can get clean stuff there, it doesn’t always have to be the Philly Cheesesteak or greasy grilled cheese or something that. You can get a healthy omelet with greens in it and some chicken or something. When I was traveling with Gunner, we were always looking for an IHOP or a Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel has good coffee and their breakfast stuff is really good.

Alex Obert: You recently gave a shoutout to Ken Anderson’s podcast, Push the Button, on Twitter. How do you feel about that?

Samuel Shaw: Man, he had a really good episode recently with Vince Russo. It’s tough because I see the business, wrestling is changing so much. I don’t want to say it’s going in the direction that I don’t really like, but at the same time, I really feel like we’re getting away from what really attracted us to wrestling in the first place. Things like the larger than life characters. They touched on this subject a tremendous amount on this podcast. No matter how many people hate on Vince Russo, the guy was a part of a really, really strong period for wrestling. Guys were just killing it and the business was at an all-time peak. There was a reason for that. It didn’t really matter what they did wrestling-wise, it was because the crowd just felt a connection to these characters. Unfortunately at this point, the masses just don’t really watch wrestling anymore. And it sucks. It really sucks for me to say that. I’ll probably get a lot of heat for it, but whatever. You ask anybody, “Hey, do you watch wrestling?” And they’ll say, “No, I used to.” “Well why did you used to?” And then they always say, “Stone Cold was cool. So was The Rock. Those guys were awesome. I couldn’t tell you who’s there now.” It’s the same shit I hear everywhere I go. What’s it gonna take to get all these people back? I don’t have all the answers; I’m just speaking from the heart and what I’m feeling now. I’m not saying I was the be-all and end-all great character from TNA. I was there for what equates to a cup of coffee. (laughs) I really feel like I did something that I’m proud of. I really feel like I learned a lot about myself and I became more comfortable doing a promo in front of a crowd. For years, I was an indy wrestler. I had countless tryouts. Tryout, tryout, tryout. Just being told “You’re not getting signed right now.” It’s probably because they’re not really looking for indy guys right now. I don’t feel like I am an indy guy anymore, but I’m still not getting hired per se. The indy guys are really popular right now with the NXT vibe. They’re satisfying that niche. That’s all good. Sami Callihan, Rich Swann, Biff Busick, guys like that are finally getting some recognition on a WWE level. That to me is awesome. Having conversations with those guys in the past, I feel like they know why they got into wrestling and they can do a lot of cool stuff in the ring. But in the long run, I think they are all capable of being solid characters that people want to gravitate towards. I just think they need to find that and when it’s time to be on that main stage in front of the masses, they need to make that connection. We all do.

Alex Obert: Pretty interesting that you recently met Ken Jeong. Can you take readers through that?

Samuel Shaw: (laughs) So I went to Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, that’s where I graduated. I went to school for illustration. All of my friends were film/video majors. They graduated with the skills to be a director, be a producer, anything related to that field. As soon as they graduated, they moved out to L.A. I try and get out to L.A. at least once a year. I wish I’d get out there more. There’s just so much opportunity out there and a lot of really cool things going on. I was just recently out there to visit them and one of my friends is dating a young lady who is a cast member on Dr. Ken. While I was in L.A., we went and hung out on the set. Man, I had a crazy conversation with Ken Jeong and he’s a huge wrestling fan. And I have forgot about it, but I guess years ago, he’d actually guest hosted on RAW with Jeremy Piven. He was actually kind of sad about it when he was telling me, he was like, “Man, I think I really blew it! I was such a huge wrestling fan and I was just there and I was such a fan. I was so excited and I just blew my spot, man. I just didn’t do what I was supposed to do. I think that they’ll probably never bring me back.” That’s a shame because he started telling me about how much of a Ric Flair and a Steamboat fan he was growing up. He grew up in Charlotte. Man, we just had a really cool conversation. My buddy was like, “Hey, let me get a picture with you and Ken!” Ken’s like, “You mind if I put a headlock on him?” So he put me in a headlock and we got that ridiculous, awesome picture. He was a really cool guy.

Alex Obert: Briefly getting into music, what might we find on your iPod?

Samuel Shaw: People might laugh at this, but I was always a rap fan from a very early age. More old school rap, the hardcore stuff. But you can only listen to that so much and you’re always trying to keep up with what’s going on now. I don’t really think the rap today is as good as it once was. But at the same time, I’m getting older. Isn’t that what they say? As you get older, the music isn’t as cool to you anymore. When you started listening to music, you thought stuff was cool, but the older people thought it sucked. I think that’s what’s going on now. I listen to a lot of Three 6 Mafia and Juicy J. I listen to some hard stuff like Rage Against the Machine, that always gets me amped up for the gym. I don’t know what it is, I just always gravitate towards the same music. Three 6 Mafia and Rage Against the Machine always comes up in my head as artists I like listening to.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, do you have any particular upcoming dates?

Samuel Shaw: I know I have a big show on December 19th. I have a few things going on before then. December 19th in Clarksville, Tennessee. A friend of mine, Crimson, he is running his second show. It’s called Tried -N- True Pro Wrestling. He’s got me, Madison Rayne, Chris Melendez, Bram. I think he drew close to a thousand people on his last show. That’s unheard of for this Clarksville area. He had the show on a Sunday night. He’s got a lot of great sponsors. This is gonna be a really huge show. Other than that, man, just trying to stay busy. Just grindin’. Open for opportunities here and there.

Alex Obert: Hope the show goes well. I’d love to thank you so much for your time and I wish you the best ahead.

Samuel Shaw: Appreciate that, man.

FOLLOW Samuel Shaw on Twitter
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For Art Commissions: shawdawgarts@gmail.com

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Brian Myers Returns

After originally speaking with Brian Myers early this year at House of Hardcore 8 at the legendary 2300 Arena, we sat down once again (this time at Chase Con Expo in Saratoga Springs, NY) to discuss all of the great things he’s been up to since. Topics covered include Global Force Wrestling, Impact Wrestling, Zack Ryder, Hornswoggle, FCW, Create A Pro Wrestling Academy and more!

Alex Obert: What did you take out of the recent major event for Global Force Wrestling on October 23rd in Las Vegas?

Brian Myers: I love it. It’s cool to be part of something that’s from the ground up. I’m a part of its origins and that’s history now, no matter what comes of the company. I’m honored to be a part of that and I hope for the best. I want to create more awareness and buzz, hopefully it’s a bandwagon that wrestling fans will hop onto.

Alex Obert: Seeing as though the event was in Vegas, were you able to get in any gambling?

Brian Myers: Not really a gambler, it’s just not my thing. With WWE, you go to certain places so many times that it’s not even special anymore being in Vegas. WWE, I was there at least twice a year. Seven years on the road, so it’s not special for me to be in Vegas. It got to the point towards the end of my WWE run that I would purposely make sure that I was with Kofi because he doesn’t have any vices at all. He doesn’t gamble, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t do anything. I would purposely ride with him so I could just hide in my room and pretend like I wasn’t in Vegas and hate myself and not be an idiot. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Was there someone in the ring for the GFW event that you didn’t know much about before, but they immediately captured your attention?

Brian Myers: The guy I wrestled, Kongo Kong. I really was not familiar with him and after wrestling him, I was just blown away. He’s just a really good big man. From what he looks like and what he can do, so deceiving. I was really impressed and I really enjoyed our match, a really fun three-way.

Alex Obert: How does it feel to be a babyface in GFW? A significant chunk of your career has consisted of you being a heel.

Brian Myers: Every weekend, I wrestle all over and I literally sometimes don’t know if I’m gonna be a heel or babyface until I show up to the building. Different situation, different company. I have to perform my duties the best I can for whatever I may be. I’ve been doing both for a year and a half now, sometimes it’s different every other day. I have actually really come to enjoy being a babyface. I think I’ll always love being a heel better cause I think it’s more natural for me to be an arrogant shithead.

Alex Obert: How do you go about tweaking your character when you’re working as a babyface?

Brian Myers: Just the fire I have. I try to get rid of all the unlikable qualities of me, but it isn’t all that easy sometimes. With the independent companies I come to a lot where I’m consistently a babyface, it’s been workin’ and it’s been a lot of fun.

Alex Obert: On the night prior to GFW, you were on a show with John Hennigan and RVD. Did you get a chance to catch up with them?

Brian Myers: Yeah. I love seeing John, he’s an awesome guy. I actually told him I was thrilled that Lucha got renewed and that I was happy for him. That was cool. RVD’s the man. He’s cool, he’s chill, he’s laid back. I’ve gotten to wrestle him before.

Alex Obert: Going way back, John gave you and Zack exposure and promo time on The Dirt Sheet. How was that for you?

Brian Myers: That was cool, but I think that was more of a thing that really helped Zack out. People got to hear the “Woo! Woo! Woo!” thing that he was trying to get over. It’s hard to get something over that’s verbal like that when all we do is lose to Great Khali in ten seconds. It was a stepping stone for him and a pivotal part now, when looking back in retrospect. Some people got familiar with it that way.

Alex Obert: What ended up happening with The Sweet Life of Zack and Curt? It seemed to pave the way for Z! True Long Island Story, but never took off on its own.

Brian Myers: We pitched that and thought it was great. Everyone that saw it thought it was great too. We put it on YouTube and this was like 2008, maybe a passé thing to do. A writer called Zack, reamed him out and said to take it down immediately. That was the end of that.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about Zack Ryder’s Last ReZort from YouTube last year?

Brian Myers: (laughs) We bust his balls about it. The original series is so funny and uplifting, then that one’s emo and a half-assed attempt. I don’t think he put any real effort into it. I don’t know what he was trying to prove. He gave up on it so quick. He gets a lot of shit from us for it because it was pretty stupid.

Alex Obert: What was your reaction when Zack caught off his long hair for his ECW debut and the birth of Long Island Iced Z?

Brian Myers: That’s another thing we bust his balls about. Go back and look at those pictures, Zack Ryder had some of the ugliest, nasty, ratty long hair that any long haired wrestler’s ever had. He’ll admit it. Pretty much any picture just looks awful. I think he was thrilled to reinvent himself and also get rid of that because it looked pretty awful. Edge and I, we pull it off to a tee. But the first time I saw Edge with his haircut, I was devastated. “Oh no! We’ve lost one of our long haired brethren.”

Alex Obert: How do you feel about him breaking out more and more into acting?

Brian Myers: It’s cool, man. He accomplished everything he could in wrestling, so these are new goals now. He’s knocking them down and he seems to be really enjoying it.

Alex Obert: So one of the viral videos over the past month in the wrestling community was of Hornswoggle falling down the stairs at your wedding. What was going on there?

Brian Myers: It’s funny. Dylan’s a great guy, he was in my wedding party of. It was great to spend some time with him again because it’s been a while. He did that to bust balls, falling down the steps. He did it just to pop all of us. Every attendant at the wedding believed it to a tee and they were mortified. It was great.

Alex Obert: And how about having Howard Finkel announcing the entrances for the wedding party?

Brian Myers: That was awesome. He did the as a favor, we’re friends. I thought it would be a treat for what I call my civilian friends, having their names said in the voice of Howard Finkel. That’s a once in a lifetime type of thing.

Alex Obert: How have you connected with Maven as of late?

Brian Myers: That all just happened by chance. He’s like the coolest dude and a great guy. I’ve been trying to help them out. I don’t think he realizes that people remember him and care about what he did. I have to push him sometimes. (laughs) Come on, man! Get out there, come to this thing with me. Do this, do that. Have this match. But I’ve been really enjoying it because we’ve become friends and he’s a great, great guy.

Alex Obert: Is he taking wrestling gigs other than what you’re getting him into?

Brian Myers: If I talk him into it, he’ll do it. He doesn’t think high enough of himself that it’s possible. Dude, you had a significant run. You can get out there and do these things. You have fans that want to see you and meet you. If anything, you owe it to them.

Alex Obert: With the storyline of TNA vs. GFW this past summer, you found yourself competing in the middle of the Impact Wrestling ring for the first time. What do you notice about the backstage atmosphere compared to the WWE?

Brian Myers: It’s a lot more laid back. I think the locker room is awesome, there’s so many great guys. I’ve really, really enjoyed it. It’s just fun and everyone’s just bustin’ balls and stuff. It’s the kind of atmosphere that I really like. (laughs) It’s something that I can sink my teeth into. I really don’t have a bad thing to say about it. I’ve enjoyed my time and it’s another company that I just wish the best for. I hope they get through whatever’s going on, come out the other side and they can get their product seen by more people.

Alex Obert: Kurt Angle left the WWE less than a year before you debuted on the main roster. Since you didn’t share the locker room with him then, did you get a chance to say hello to him?

Brian Myers: Yeah, that was really cool. He’s one of my favorites. I met him when I was an extra talent in 2005, that was the only time I met him. So that was cool to finally share a locker room with him and be like, “Kurt, it’s an honor to meet you.” I could tell that resonated with him and he really appreciated me saying. It was cool. I wish to share a locker room with him more often.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about EC3 getting to reach his full potential? As we all know, he was only able to get so far as Derrick Bateman in the WWE.

Brian Myers: It’s awesome. Every wrestling fan that’s seen it has to appreciate it. He’s doing such a great job and I’m really proud of him. I knew he always had that, he had it in FCW. He’s finally getting this platform to show the world.

Alex Obert: I saw a photo on your Instagram a few months ago where you’re sporting a nasty black eye. How’d that happen?

Brian Myers: This isn’t ballet. Wrestling’s dangerous as fuck. (laughs) It was just an accident, it happens. I was just glad to get that out of my system before my wedding. Plenty of time for it to heal. My wife would’ve killed me!

Alex Obert: Since you spent some time in FCW, I wanted to get your thoughts on a recent statement made on WWE 24. There was video footage of the sold out TakeOver event in Brooklyn compared to hardly anyone showing up for FCW tapings.

Brian Myers: I thought that was an unfair statement because there’s obviously a lot more promotion and hype behind NXT. The guys I came up with in FCW were just as talented. And they’re on the roster now, so you can’t say I’m wrong. But no one knew about FCW. To my understanding, developmental was always supposed to be like that. For instance, Bray Wyatt wrestled down there as Duke Rotundo. He was a hillbilly with blonde hair and talked all the time. The idea of developmental was “do your thing, get your experience because we don’t know if what you are there is necessarily what you’ll be on the road”. He’s a perfect example. Then he gets called up as Bray and it’s a completely different thing. They don’t want you to get exposure cause they’re not sure as to what you are really gonna be. Now the philosophy’s completely changed. But I think it’s for the better cause you’re not wasting your time trying to be this comedy character and you bring him up as this dark guy. It makes a lot more sense. But it’s unfair to look back on it like they did because no one cared about it and no one gave us any promotional tools. You still had talented guys that could’ve done everything.

Alex Obert: During your time on NXT Redemption, you got to be there for the rejuvenation of Tyson Kidd that carried on over to Full Sail. How do you feel about him?

Brian Myers: He’s one of my best friends. I talk to him every day. Super sad about what happened to him. I’m hoping for the best. I’m hoping he comes out on the other side. Hopefully his in-ring career isn’t over, it’d be a shame. He lives and breathes wrestling. He’s been sitting home with a broken neck for six months, but he doesn’t miss a thing. He watches every single current wrestling thing. He’s watching the Network and old stuff. I sent him a care package of DVDs and stuff when he first got hurt just cause I knew he was gonna have so much downtime to do that. And that’s where we bond, we’re both sick in the head in love with wrestling. That’s how we became friends in the first place. And on top of that, he is just one of the best wrestlers in the world. Technically, from bell to bell, he’s just top-notch.

Alex Obert: I have to ask because I’m curious, have you ever been in radio? You seem to have the voice for it.

Brian Myers: No, but I chime in on my buddy’s podcast from time to time, Two And A Half Wrestlers. I’ll mess around on that, but not other than that. But there’s the time when that transition has to come where the in-ring stuff isn’t quite up to my standards anymore and I need to find some other way to make it in pro wrestling, I always saw myself as a commentator.

Alex Obert: Have you done guest commentary?

Brian Myers: I did it on Superstars a couple times when I was in WWE. In FCW, we would have days where Dreamer just assigned people to do commentary on the first four matches. I would do it there with him my year to help me out and feed me stuff.

Alex Obert: Who is the next wrestler that you see transitioning to commentary in the way that Jerry Lawler and JBL have?

Brian Myers: Corey Graves is already in that spot, man. He’s probably got a stranglehold. And it’s funny because I know he didn’t like doing it, but I thought A-Ry was fantastic. But it just wasn’t in his heart; you can’t force him to do that. I’ve grown to like JBL a lot. I thought the interviews that he did with Bischoff on the Network were phenomenal. He put a lot of effort into that and you could tell. It was a great job.

Alex Obert: When you were starting out in the WWE, was there an initiation rib that was pulled on you?

Brian Myers: Early on, we won the Deep South titles for the first time. This was typical wrestling, sort of bullshit, but now it’s funny when looking back on it. At the time though, I was devastated. So we win the tag titles and we get rushed back into the locker room. In Deep South, pretty much all the time, you had to go right into Jody Hamilton’s office and hear his critiques and stuff. I put my tag titles facedown on my gear bag, which I guess was slightly overflowing with stuff. It was on a little tilt. I put it down and went into Jody’s office, but I guess it eventually slid down and then hit the floor and made this loud noise. Everyone’s like, “What was that? Oh my God, it’s the tag title!” I have no respect for it, I left it on the floor, that’s what it turned into. I come back out of my critique and I’m missing the tag title. I didn’t get it back that night. That was a Thursday and then proceeded into the entire weekend of getting the Shawn Michaels shot of a naked dude with just the belt covering his private parts and not seeing his face. The boys just had it and kept fucking with me the whole weekend, but I eventually got it back. At the time, I was like “What the fuck?” and pissed off, but now I can laugh about it and think it’s funny. I would probably do the same thing. Stuff like that happens. I tell my students this all the time, “If you don’t put a rib over, they’ll stop. The more you put it over, the more guys are gonna just hammer you.” If you’re trying to get a reaction and you give it to them, it’ll just keep coming and coming and coming.

Alex Obert: What is one thing that you place emphasis on at Create A Pro Wrestling Academy when talking to your students?

Brian Myers: Just overall, and I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I have the most up to date knowledge of WWE style than anyone that’s training guys period. On the flipside and with all that stuff aside, nitpicky stuff and how wrestling works, I just tell them, “Wrestling’s difficult. Very, very difficult. Extremely difficult. It’s unique all to itself.” The main thing that I try to tell everyone is that there’s no instant gratification. I’m not gonna say this is how you sell and then you’re good at selling. It does not work like that. Not gonna say this is how you do a hip toss and it’s gonna be perfect. There’s no instant gratification in any aspect of it. You just gotta show up everyday and give it your best to get better. That’s the only way. It takes time. If you have that understanding of that, you’ll be good to go. You’ll be good to at least get your feet wet and start getting into this.

Alex Obert: How many walkouts have you had?

Brian Myers: Tons. I can read guys as soon as they walk in. They’re gonna pay me for this month, maybe do this class and I’ll never see them again. That’s fine because those kind of people keep the school afloat. They come in and they have no respect for the sport. I don’t know how in this day and age, they haven’t seen a documentary for a book. There’s so much information out there and they still just think it’s fake so anyone can do it. It’s just mind-blowing. There’s a ridiculous amount of athletic ability that goes into this. Like I said, I hate it and I love it because they’re the ones that keep the school afloat.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, what are some dates that you have up ahead?

Brian Myers: I’ve got Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore coming up. I’m the current Five Borough Wrestling Champion, I love doing those shows. Been wrestling for Afa Jr., or Manu, in Pennsylvania. It’s never-ending, but I’m very fortunate. I go to these shows, I bust my ass and I try to have the best match of the night. The business is in the repeat business where they want me back. I do my thing and it’s awesome.

Alex Obert: Definitely is awesome. I’d love to thank you for your time.

Brian Myers: Thanks, man!

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On the Line with Andrew Keegan

Though he originally made a name for himself in the entertainment industry, Andrew Keegan’s main focus these days is Full Circle Venice. The official website describes Full Circle as “an open source spiritual community center that offers regular yoga and growth-oriented workshops”. Founded in 2014, it is housed in a one hundred and ten year old temple. People of all beliefs and backgrounds are welcome to come and reach their true potential. Keegan is proud of what he has done so far and is excited to move forward with the development of Full Circle through embracing innovation, enlightenment and creativity. We had a very uplifting discussion about Full Circle, the power of music, being around Heath Ledger and Zach Braff, breaking ground through film and more.

Alex Obert: What has been going on throughout the month of October over at Full Circle?

Andrew Keegan: The month of October’s dinner been our busiest month so far. We actually did two of our first weddings. We had a really beautiful ceremony for an activist celebrity who is having and dealing with terminal illness and so they’re just taking the opportunity to celebrate life with friends and family. That was so amazing. The music that we have happening, which we like to refer to as spirit music, has been a big component to our events and even crossing over to some more of the ceremonial type of events. Some of the artists we worked with in the past are Nahko Bear, Trevor Hall, Samuel J and Ryan Whitewolf. We did a Cacao Ceremony, which is a sacred chocolate that they brought in. Suns of the Earth were the performers that night. It’s kind of all over the place, if you haven’t picked up on yet. We do literally every kind of event that we feel is sacred.

Alex Obert: How does music help shape the whole experience at Full Circle?

Andrew Keegan: We really believe in the importance of sound and how healing it is. It’s really the great communicative transmitter, whether it’s positive or negative. We use sound in many ways. Sound is actually being done in a healing way; we happen to have a combination event of meditation and sound healing called Future Self Meditation. That is paired up with one of our premier sound healers who goes by the name of Torkom. It is essentially looking into the future at where you see yourself being in a year from now and working through the obstacles that prevent you from being there. It’s really taking the opportunity to have that vision and then really infusing it with the sound. He works with four hundred and thirty two hertz frequency, it’s the frequency of healing. Between the two of those, it’s amazing. One of the really interesting things about the event is that in Back to the Future, the date in the future is actually October 21, 2015. We find it pretty synchronistic that we would have a future medication landing on that very date. It’s a lot of things like that that happen in the space, very synchronistic connectedness between everybody that either works here or comes through the space. Everybody’s super fascinated with how well things do work.

Alex Obert: Where do you see yourself one year from now with all that you’re doing?

Andrew Keegan: We have quite a few things that are circulating. We really have been able to start to focus on our community initiatives. We really feel it’s important to function at a level of influence. I have been referring to it more recently as recognizing systems exist, it’s just a question of how they are being directed and whether or not they have a connection to the spirit. As humans, we are all very enspirited and I think we recognize organizations are lacking in that area. It’s all about the bottom line with money. For us, it’s about the triple bottom line. It has to be in balance. A year from now, I see us focusing on some of the things that we started now. We’re working in some capacities with other larger organizations in an effort to support them and the people that work in the organizations. That’s something that’s just about to be contracted and that’s one department. We just recently worked with the Westside Coalition, they represent sixty different agencies that deal with homelessness in our area and the greater L.A. area. We hosted a dinner just a few weeks ago. There’s actually a breakfast that’s being hosted by our councilman, Councilman Bonin. It is called the Celebrating Success Breakfast. The idea is really inspiring and encouraging for the solution. That’s really what we align with here, focusing on the solution. In this particular fundraiser, these are twenty five previously homeless folks that have persevered through bad experience and were matched up with agencies. The agencies nominated them and now they are living successful lives off the streets. And that’s really what we have been most focused on here. We have had a couple very serious incidents this year, three different specific shootings in which homeless people were lost. It really was close to home for us. One was literally on our street and another was maybe just a couple blocks away. We believe in the preservation of life. There’s many issues around it, but we really want to get to the core. We look to help people and inspire people to get to a place in life where they’re safe and comfortable. That’s really what we’re focusing on.

Alex Obert: I’ve seen through photos and videos that people from all different walks of life, young and old, are present at Full Circle. How do you view the importance of “come as you are”?

Andrew Keegan: There is a general idea of being present and being who you are. I think we have an utmost respect for our space and we do encourage people to come within a place of love. We have experienced it long enough now to know that the space itself has an effect on people to be their better versions. We do deal with every kind of personality and every kind of an experience. As far as the idea of welcoming people, we’re open to the experience of being an available resource for people to have a meditation experience, we have yoga, we have educational workshops. We do a lot of different programming and we see a lot of different people, depending on the program.

Alex Obert: Is the vision to make everyone feel that they are on the same level and that nobody is above anyone else?

Andrew Keegan: We really follow the Co-Creator’s Handbook, which is about that. That’s the significance of the circle. Everybody has a talent and skill and so it’s just a question of where it fits. I think as a developing organization, there’s some realities for what it takes to function and that just comes into our own particular experience and design. We’re providing experiences and education for people who come in. The key things are authenticity, balance and being really centered in a place of love. And making decisions from a place of love. To me, it’s the idea that people are in their heads and they need to be in their hearts. That is the message of the shift, acknowledge the love within and be in the space as much as you can. Thoughts and ideas are in your head and I think in balance is what people struggle with.

Alex Obert: When walking around Venice, what do you take out of people watching?

Andrew Keegan: We do live in the homeless capital of the world and we have a lot of people that are struggling. It goes back to mental health and a chemically altered state of mind, so there are some occasional really out there kind of characters. (laughs) But as far as the movers and shakers in our community, there’s a lot of tech companies that have moved in. Venice really does provide a breeding ground for everybody.

Alex Obert: Outside of Full Circle, how has music been there for you and helped to shape you?

Andrew Keegan: I certainly always steer towards things that are inspiring. In more recent years, Nahko Bear and Trevor Hall. It also crosses over a little bit. I think what I’ve come to discover is just the way that music really does have a profound effect on your experience in life. That’s why all the movies are so good if the soundtrack’s good. My musical tastes are across the board. But if it’s good, it’s good. That’s my take on it. People always find a lot of identity in the kind of music that they listen to, that can clearly be seen a lot. I can go from a rock concert to a metal concert to a rap concert. Spirit music is what we do the most here. To me, that feels the best. That’d be my preference. I experience how much of a role this music has played in my life all the time. It’s really literally healing; you literally feel better. To me, that is valuable time spent. It’s an important acknowledgment for people, whatever you’re listening to is directly having an effect on your experience. If you’re listening to somebody singing rap and doing whatever about guns, violence, this or that, it’s gonna permeate your experience and you may perhaps find yourself being affected by it. I think it’s important to really consider what you’re taking in.

Alex Obert: I wanted to briefly touch on your acting career, but also tie in with everything that we’ve been talking about. You worked with a bunch of actors and actresses and there has the potential to be this aura, a vibe, when you meet a particular person and work with them. That tends to lead to a bond on and off set that cannot be broken. Did you feel that way around the late Heath Ledger?

Andrew Keegan: Heath was magical. Anybody that you speak to who knew him would say the same thing. In hindsight, you kind of understand the story. He really was just an out of this world person, he could do anything. Musically, he was talented. Obviously talented as an actor. I remember he was making t-shirts, he was making other films, just such a creator. That spirit was inspiring in a lot of ways. I did a play some years back and it wasn’t too long after he passed. It was a great part of my influence do it, to break that limitation of being on stage during that particular period of time because it was so close to the tragic loss. He’s still a spirit and he’s still with us in a sense. It depends on what everyone believes in, but that’s what we believe. It was really profound to have had such time with him over the years. After we shot 10 Things, we spent a lot of time together. That was a really awesome experience.

Alex Obert: Shortly following 10 Things I Hate About You, you had a role in The Broken Hearts Club. Judging from the way you’ve spoken about it in the past, you seem to be very proud of that experience. It was certainly different from the role you took on in 10 Things I Hate About You. What did that all mean to you?

Andrew Keegan: There’s clearly different kinds of movies, 10 Things is a comedy based on Shakespeare. In that category, there’s very few movies that can really compare. What was unique about The Broken Hearts Club was this was a personal story, obviously still comedy, but there’s more drama elements. Levity’s always important in a film. And it was a personal story for Greg Berlanti and his coming out. And coming out at that time, to make it a movie when the culture wasn’t really there yet. It was in those communities, but we’ve really come a long way since then. I took in the experience of working with Greg and really being able to understand, on a very deep and emotional level, what that was like. And as an actor, I was able to stretch into an area that was very uncomfortable. I’m a straight man and I was playing a character that is obviously not. (laughs) I got to be a part of a pivotal movie, especially with seeing what’s happening now with the recent Supreme Court decision. Beyond the movie, it’s like being part of a movement. I’m so honored that I had that experience. The actors who were in the film were just so great to work with and now to see where they’re at with their success, it’s a really great experience.

Alex Obert: So Zach Braff was one of your co-stars in the film and the year following the film’s release, he started his role on Scrubs. That was undoubtedly a massive success for him. But prior to all that, do you have any particular memories from working with him?

Andrew Keegan: There was a period of time after the film that he was not working much. I remember seeing him working at a restaurant. He ended up having great success on the show and as a filmmaker. Just another super creative guy. It’s always nice to know when good people are able to find the path in this business because like I said, many talented people are working at restaurants and they are very capable actors and creators. It’s a challenging business, there’s nothing like working in the entertainment business. I’m happy that I got to work with him early on.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, I have to ask the almighty question. What is the meaning of life?

Andrew Keegan: I think that we are very clearly humans here and it’s how we can get as close to center. In the center, there’s love. It’s what keeps us all going. That’s what we all strive for and it’s what movies are made about. And there’s obviously the golden rule concept. The meaning of life is being happy and being good to one another. I think we’ve got a great opportunity in these times to really define what our culture is going towards. I think there’s a millenial movement, it’s beginning and merging. It really has the great ability to do something that no other generation has. That’s really what we feel most compelled to support, the young people who have a great challenge and what’s been presented to them. You should be able to be good with yourself and get into a good space. Then you can go after the world and do good things.

Alex Obert: In closing, what does the recent future hold for Full Circle?

Andrew Keegan: One of the things that we have been dealing with, we’ve had a really hard time with some of the media. We’ve most recently had to take a stand. I personally have had to deal with a lot of negative press. We just decided to be proactive and we are stepping into a litigation. The real issue is the damages that are done when things are said that are not appropriate or true. We’re really taking that position and it’s an added element to everything else that we’re doing, but it’s important. There have been some really unfortunate effects that cause damage not only to myself, but the organization of course and other people that are in our community. It was a very difficult process to step into, but what we’re looking at is a great opportunity to see that there’s a solution in all of it. I think we really consent that people want good, healthy information. They don’t want inaccurate information or systems that just prey on public figures. That’s what has been happening on some levels with the media. That’s a big undertaking that we’re just stepping into. Really what is most important to us, of course, is providing a space to the community. That’s ceremonies, music events, educational workshops. It’s a space where people can come and be their most loving selves. That is what we’ll be doing all throughout the next year and for years to come.

Alex Obert: I am hoping that things will work out for the best for you and Full Circle. I would love to thank you so much for your time and for filling me in on everything.

Andrew Keegan: Absolutely! Thank you for your time.

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On the Line with Eric Stuart

Coming straight out of Brooklyn, Eric Stuart has been able to live his dream by getting into the worlds of music, voice acting and directing. He made a massive impact as a voice actor over fifteen years ago when he provided the beloved and classic voices for Brock and James on Pokémon for the first eight seasons. His time as a musician predates that and he’s had some amazing opportunities and experiences like opening for Ringo Starr and collaborating with Peter Frampton. He currently fronts The Eric Stuart Band, who came out with an EP entitled Character earlier this year. We had an enlightening discussion about the worlds of music and Pokémon and what they both mean to him. Learn about his connection with the Ramones, getting the opportunity to open for major acts, his signature look, providing the voices for various Pokémon, why Team Rocket isn’t necessarily evil and much more.

Alex Obert: Seeing as though you are a musician and a voice actor, how do you feel one helps the other?

Eric Stuart: I was a singer long before I was a voice actor. I think that being a singer helps in voice acting in general because inflection is pitch. When you need to stress certain words, you’re actually modulating your pitch. Having a good year for that makes conversation a lot easier when you’re reading a copy off of a script. Someone might say, “Hey, could you go for that word?” Really go for that word means “Can you use your pitch on that word?” So that was helpful. Also with pace, I think that having a sense of rhythm and timing is very helpful when you’re doing commercial copy where someone says, “This is a thirty second commercial and we need you to read it in twenty nine five.” You sort of get a sense of how fast that means. If you’re watching ADR, which is of course matching the lip flap, which I do so much of, seeing the pace of the ADR, the lip flap and being able to match it pretty quickly because of the timing of it. Being a musician and a singer has helped me a lot.

Alex Obert: Singers will have vocal warm-ups they do before performances. Is there something you might do prior to a day of voice acting?

Eric Stuart: I treat my voice like any sort of athlete would warm up and stretch because without my voice, I really can’t do anything that I do for a living. Sometimes I’ll be on panels with fellow actors who say they drink tea and do all these sort of vocal exercises. My main thing is that when I wake up in the morning, my allergies are usually pretty bad. I have a cup of black coffee and I usually don’t do voiceovers before 10:00 in the morning so I can get the cobwebs out. I drink a lot of black coffee, which is not really the greatest thing in the world because caffeine can actually dry you out. I do also drink a lot of water. But I don’t really do a whole lot of serious vocal exercising. I sing in the shower, I do that a lot. I gargle a little bit in the shower too, just to warm things up. I don’t have anything in particular that I do that I would recommend.

Alex Obert: As it goes for your concerts, you have shows with a full band and then some acoustic performances, what is your approach for each?

Eric Stuart: As a songwriter, I sit down and I write solo. I sit with my guitar and that’s how I write a song. What’s nice about the intimacy of an acoustic show is being able to hear the core of where that song came from, stripped down to the melody and the lyric and just the single guy doing it. With the band, the more things you add, the more things that can go wrong, but there’s more dynamic. People can take solos and it’s a challenge of steering the ship. When you’re doing a solo show, you can wing it a little bit more. You can switch the songs around and at the drop of a dime, you can decide that you’re gonna change an arrangement without having to cue anybody else on the stage. I love both dynamics. I love to rock with the band and I love the camaraderie of working with other people like that. It’s a very organic experience to have four or five people working as one. You want to get that magic for the night, but someone might be in a bad mood or a pumped up mood, you’ve gotta get everybody in the same place and that’s a great challenge. Solo stuff is cool too. When I do the conventions, I like to introduce the anime fans to my music. When I do the rock shows, I will make the announcement to the audience about the other thing I do. They think it’s cool that I do both things.

Alex Obert: What was it like to grow up around the New York City music scene?

Eric Stuart: I just got finished recently playing a show at The Bitter End, which is a place that I played when I was in my teens. I’ve gotta say, there’s a big difference of what New York is, in terms of music, compared to what it was when I was growing up. Of course all cities change, rents and leases go up more and more in price and they price people out. That’s when your great rock clubs get replaced with banks and Starbucks. Not that there’s anything wrong with a Starbucks, I need coffee just like everyone else. It was really neat growing up there because we had some great venues like The Bottom Line, The Bitter End, Lion’s Den, CBGB’s, places like that. The Mercury Lounge was a great place I played as a kid. So many great places and so much music going on, you’d walk down the street and say, “One day, I’m gonna play here.” And of course a year later, you’d be playing there because you would develop an audience and people would come out and support the music. It’s changed a lot. It was definitely a very cool place to grow up and play. I snuck into so many clubs when I was underage just to see cool rock bands. The Ramones came out of CBGB’s, that was a cool time.

Alex Obert: Did you get to see the Ramones play?

Eric Stuart: I didn’t get to see them at CBGB’s, but I saw the Ramones when they came to my college in D.C. I went to American University; they came and played a show my freshman year. I got to see them really up close and personal. Strange thing though, I taught tennis during the summers from probably my late teens into my mid-twenties. One of the people I played tennis with was Joey Ramone’s dad, which was kind of funny. I remember meeting him for the first time and he said, “What do you do when you’re not playing tennis?” I was like, “I play rock ‘n roll.” “Ah! So does my son!” Of course, I didn’t know who he was talking about. And he’s like, “But you seem to get up a lot earlier in the day than he does.” (laughs) I thought that was great. Of course I realize he was talking about Joey. I bet he doesn’t leave the house until eight or nine o’clock at night! (laughs)

Alex Obert: While developing your music career, you’re opening for these major names. Who did you take the most out of opening for?

Eric Stuart: I was playing a couple times a month to maybe thirty to fifty people. That was a good-sized crowd for me. My first big opportunity was getting to open for Chicago at PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey, which was called The Arts back then. It was about ten, twelve thousand people that night and it was an acoustic show. The reason that that show means so much to me is that before I went on the stage, I said to myself, “Okay, so if you go out there and you freeze up and it’s a horrible experience, then this is not what you’re supposed to be doing. If you go out there and you love it, then this is what you should be doing.” So I went out there and after the first song, the sound of the audience cheering was delayed because it was such a big venue. The last chord and then it’s like a beat, then you hear the fans cheer. I thought it was fantastic because the thrill of live theater and live playing, it’s like a drug. Once you get hooked on it like that, it’s very hard to quit it. That was a huge show for me. And then of course, I got the chance to tour with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. I had submitted my music through my management. They didn’t want to tell me what they were submitting it for, but they said, “Listen, we’ve got this interesting project that’s going on and they’re looking for an acoustic opening act. You think you can give us just some guitar/vocal rough demos so that we can send it to somebody?” I was like, “Sure.” And at the time, I didn’t really have anything that wasn’t with my band. I got into my walk-in closet and closed the door. Back in those days, it was cassette players. I stuck a little cassette player on the shelf and recorded four or five songs of me just playing guitar and singing. I sent it to my management and about a week later, they said, “Okay man, you’re gonna be flying off to Seattle next week and they picked you to open for Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.” So that was very exciting.

These were the people that I grew up listening to. You had Peter Frampton, Jack Bruce from Cream, Gary Brooker from Procol Harum, Simon Kirke from Bad Company, Ringo was there. Classic rock is what I grew up listening to, so this was very exciting for me. I also made sure to do my research. I bought two encyclopedias of rock ‘n roll and I read each chapter that was on each one of the acts that I was gonna be working with. I wanted to also pay respect to them by being knowledgeable about their background, their history and their careers. If I did get a chance to talk to them, I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. And that’s great because that’s exactly what happened, I was able to chat with them. They saw that I really was a fan and wasn’t just some young kid that was on the tour. I paid my respects to my elders every night and finally, that led me to working with Frampton and having him produce me and also touring with him. That was a huge moment for me in my career, getting the opportunity to work with Ringo and those guys.

Alex Obert: Did Peter Frampton give you a particular piece of advice or remark that has stuck with you since?

Eric Stuart: My relationship with Peter is very special. I consider him a dear friend and he is definitely a mentor. He has given me advice on many levels. We talk about personal things and professional things. He is someone who has had such a level of success and traveled through so many parts of this entertainment-crazy world that we live in, the roller coaster ride, the ups and the downs and having a perspective on how to deal with those things. And it all comes from someone who cares; anything that comes from him is priceless. He’s really guided me and I feel like I can talk to him about anything, music wise and personal as well. With where he is in his career now and the success he’s had and the music he’s still making, the fans love him and his live performance is so fantastic, I still learn from him every time I see him. I just saw him play here in Nashville; he was playing a tour with Cheap Trick. The Nashville audience can be a little fickle sometimes since we have so much great music playing every night of the week. But when you see an audience really get into a show, you know that act must be really good. They were really so happy to see him play and so into the show that it just proves me once again that he’s truly a superstar. And a very humble one at that. It’s been an honor to work with him. He produced my first record and we did two tours with him. It was so much fun to play on the road with him, I’d love to do it again.

Alex Obert: There are musicians who add something to their look to help them stand out. In your case, I feel as though it’s the hat. What’s the story behind that?

Eric Stuart: (laughs) I loved baseball caps as a kid, but then towards the end of high school, I bought myself a black leather porkpie hat in the style of Popeye Doyle from The French Connection. I always liked that look. And of course coming from Brooklyn, it sort of fit in with the whole vibe. In my neighborhood, everybody thought I was being like Rocky. However, a fedora is not a porkpie. I’d wear the hat all the time. I’d be running around in the city for voiceover auditions; people would know if I were in the booth auditioning because my hat would be on the rack. So it became pretty much a signature thing. And then when I moved down to Nashville, you can’t really get away with wearing a black leather hat when the summertime is like ninety degrees and humid. I had to find some lighter weight hat that was still kinda cool. I came across this company called Hats In The Belfry. I got a couple of their hats and I liked them. I was wearing them a lot and it’s definitely part of who I am. Now hats are so popular, it’s almost like I gotta stop wearing one because everybody’s wearing one now. I wrote the company and I said, “Listen, I wear your hats all the time. Have you ever thought about endorsing a musician?” At first, they were like, “We didn’t even think about something like that, but that seems like a great idea.” So I actually have a hat endorsement from Hats In The Belfry. I feel like I’m a NASCAR guy; I wear the hats now because they also endorse me to wear the hats. Like any gear that I use or anything that I wear, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t use it or I wouldn’t wear it. This worked out great. They’re all very similar. People ask if it’s the same one, no, it’s a different one. This is a navy blue one with a dark band, then there’s a black one and then I’ve got another leather one. I try to alternate them around, but they’re all porkpies.

Alex Obert: You released an EP this year entitled Character. Can you fill in readers on that?

Eric Stuart: Not that long ago, we released our last full-length album called Lipstick And Barbed Wire. Peter Frampton plays on that one, which is great. He guest stars on one of the songs. I’d been doing a lot of songwriting since that release, that’s always what happens. You really look at the timeline between writing, recording and then playing live to support an album. By the time that record is done, it could be a year later from when those songs were written. I write, we play them live, we test them out and then we go in the studio and then we go out in support of the record. By the time Lipstick And Barbed Wire came out, we had been playing probably about ten new songs that were not even on any record. And of course, fans say, “Hey, when are you gonna do that song? What is that song gonna be available?” And so I said to the guys, “Look, everybody keeps asking for this one particular song called One Last Dance that we’ve been playing. We should go in and record it.” But since this was pretty much my seventh or eighth, maybe ninth full-recording project, you never go in only recording one song because then you’re putting a lot of pressure on that song. It might come out terrible. What you really need to do is say, “Let’s go in and record three or four songs, throw that one into the mix. We’ll see what happens.” Of course you’re hoping that that single sounds like a single, but just in case it doesn’t, you don’t end up putting that pressure on it.

So we went into do this and I think that One Last Dance came out great. It definitely is a standout single track on that EP. We weren’t ready to do another full-length album, so we did five songs. Four of them are very, very live rockin’ tracks and then the last song is an acoustic track called Tattered and Torn that is going to be used in a soundtrack for a film called Torn. It’s about brain trauma injuries to a soldier that comes home and the lives that are torn apart due to his injuries. And part of the funding goes towards the Wounded Warrior Project. We were honored to be asked to write the theme for that. That song doesn’t necessarily really fit with the other four songs cause they’re pretty rock ‘n roll, but I thought this was too important a song to not include on our next release. And then of course if you look at the cover, you saw that it’s called Character and the cover is a caricature of me and the guys in the band. Where that comes from and this ties into my anime fans is that an anime fan had drawn the badges for the guests at one of the conventions and I loved the style of the art. And so I asked that fan if they’d be willing to draw my next album cover; that’s where that came from. The word character has so many meanings like how you behave, being a character and then of course, I play a cartoon character. (laughs) I thought that made a lot of sense, so that’s really where that little five song EP comes together.

Alex Obert: You’ve also had the opportunity to lend your voice to the Pokémon television series. Though you’re best known for being the voice of Brock and James, you also provided the voice for various Pokémon. When they want you to do the voice for one, do they give you a description of how they want it to sound or do you just go with the look and what you think would sound appropriate?

Eric Stuart: If I was booked to come in and do my Brock and James stuff for Pokémon and they were going to introduce a new Pokémon, let’s say Squirtle, the director would look at the actor’s schedule to come in and play their human roles, they’d say, “Oh look, Eric’s coming in. He probably can sound like Squirtle.” And when I mean sound like them, we would reference the original Japanese. Not that we were speaking Japanese, but we’d listen to the tone and the sounds that the Japanese actors were making to sound like those creatures. Then we say, “Yeah, Eric can make it sound like that so it registers the same as that.” A lot of the high, squeaky ones were given to the women actors who could get up into the higher register. And of course, some of the bigger Pokémon that I do like Blastoise are deeper register things. Certain guys could get down low like that and certain guys can get higher, so it was really based on who it’s coming in. Rarely were you ever to just do a Pokémon. Of course once you became that Pokémon, so like when I became Squirtle, if there was an episode that Brock wasn’t in or James wasn’t in, I’d still be brought in to play Squirtle. So that’s how that happened.

When that show first came together, there were probably six men and four women who worked on the show regularly. So in the beginning, we played everything. It wasn’t like there was a cast of fifteen or twenty people were maybe one guy played five or six Pokémon. I played at least thirty Pokémon in season one. That’s just how that worked. When we listened to the Japanese version, we would go, “Okay, that’s what that sounds like. I can mimic that.” And also, we only use syllables from the names of the Pokémon. We don’t grunt, we don’t scream. I do the Water Gun attack as Squirtle, but the thing that we do is we use the names. The reason we use pieces of the names or the full name of the Pokémon was to teach you each one and what their name was because there were so many. If we were just making noises, you’d go, “Uh…is that Wartortle or Squirtle or Blastoise? Which one is that?” But if I’m saying “Blas-toise!” and I’m doing that all the time, you’re gonna go, “That’s Blastoise!” So it was a way to teach the kids the names of each Pokémon.

Alex Obert: But what about those such as Charizard that would roar or something along those lines?

Eric Stuart: A lot of the Charizard stuff was lifted from the original Japanese. I had played Charizard here and there in some episodes, but a lot of the roars were used because the fire is shooting out for the attack. Pikachu is the original Japanese actor. We would get the music and the effects separate when we’d get the stuff from Japan and every once in a while, they’d mix those together and we couldn’t split them apart. If we couldn’t use the effect that was happening at that one particular placement, so then someone like Rachael Lillis could do a perfect Pikachu. She would impersonate Pikachu in certain spots if we had to do it. But most of the time, I’d say probably eighty five percent of the time, it was the original Japanese actor.

Alex Obert: I found it really interesting that a banned episode from season one was dubbed a couple years later and randomly aired during season two. This being Beauty and the Beach, the one that was banned because of the scene with James’s implants.

Eric Stuart: I remember the banned episode, but I don’t remember dubbing it. It’s interesting because I was also a staff director for ten years as well, so I directed a lot of the shows that I worked on from Yu-Gi-Oh! to Viva Piñata to Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. There’s such a difference between what’s accepted in one culture and what’s accepted in another. Not that one is right and one is wrong, but there’s certain jokes and visuals and things they could get away with in Japan that we couldn’t get away with here. I remember when we first started working with one piece, which I always thought was never a show that should air on network television, especially Saturday morning because it’s too violent. It’s a good show, but it wasn’t right for what we were doing. I remember there was one episode where there was a whole shot of a field of people and they were all being crucified. They were all on crosses. When we got it, we said, “We can’t air this in America! That is just gonna offend too many people.” And we had to turn them into diamonds. They’re still hanging on something, but they’re not hanging on crosses. Now for the Japanese, that wasn’t a big deal. But to the American audience, it was. Subtle things like that. The thing with the breasts was a transgender kind of thing, they thought it was promoting the wrong thing.

That was an American problem. The American networks had a problem with the breasts being shown in a bikini. How many American movies have had men in drag, especially for comedy, in disguise? Mrs. Doubtfire, go back even further, Some Like It Hot with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. There’s Tootsie, which won an Academy Award. There are so many movies where men dressed up like women, especially in disguise. And that’s all that James was doing. But that’s where that all comes from. I do remember the banned episode, but it wasn’t as bad as the one that gave everyone seizures. I think that only aired once. But yes, the breasts were very real. If anyone knows anime, you know that a lot of Japanese culture seems tame and conservative on the surface, but you just go one notch underneath that and so much of the anime is very dirty. It’s very pornographic. I think they snuck a little bit of that into the drawing of James with the breasts. I thought he looked good in the bikini! He’s in great shape! (laughs)

Alex Obert: I read that you also provided the voice for Butch. I feel like that’d be a strain on your vocal cords.

Eric Stuart: I came into do Brock and James and the director says, “Okay, so there’s this other Team Rocket that makes this appearance and we’d like you to play Butch. It’s Butch and Cassidy.” But they’re all talking to each other throughout this episode. I know a lot of the fans don’t know that I’m Brock and James. I pick registers that are so far away from each other and the tone is different. I love when fans come up to me now and go, “Oh, I totally knew you were both Brock and James!” And of course the majority of the fans are like, “I had no idea you were both Brock and James!” But Butch, I had to pick something that was completely different from both of them. I picked my Harvey Fierstein and Selma Diamond voice. Though it sounds like it hurts, it doesn’t really hurt at all. It’s actually pretty easy to do for me. That way, I can have all three of them talking to each other and arguing with each other and also not be distracted by the fact that it was the same actor. The hardest voice I’ve done was playing Dr. Z on Dinosaur King. He gets really high and screams. That was the craziest choice of a voice that I had to do. That I couldn’t do for more than a two hour session at a time or I wouldn’t be able to do anything else for the rest of the day.

Alex Obert: You’ve stated in the past that the three members of Team Rocket aren’t necessarily bad guys, they’re just trying to make a living. I’ve seen them take a backseat role in episodes where someone truly bad appears.

Eric Stuart: I don’t think Team Rocket is evil. I think they are misguided. They have heart. Their friendship is strong and they have honor among themselves. I don’t think they would do anything that was truly evil. They’re trying to capture Pikachu because that’s their job. I think that if they actually did it and thought that Pikachu was gonna be harmed, I think that they would intervene. I think that once they put two and two together, they would be like, “Wait a second, this is wrong.” I never played James as a villain, he’s a comedic bad guy. He was just on the other team. You have your main guys and then you have Team Rocket. I rooted for both of them. Even the same thing with Kaiba. He’s not a villain to me. I’ve always said that I played Kaiba in a way that it’s like Rocky and Apollo Creed, you can’t be the champ if someone doesn’t push you to be the champ and be the best that you can be. If there was no Kaiba, then Yugi would not be the best. That’s how he stays at the top of his game. As an actor, I think that that gives more depth to these characters. You have to approach them with something redeeming. A role that I can relate to is The Joker. He is evil, but there is something in him that we feel for. We know that there’s something that caused this, there’s something behind all of this. If there’s one little grain of a redeeming quality to a character that supposed to be quote end quote bad, I still think we have some sympathy for them.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about a major part of Brock’s character being that he became infatuated with most girls that he encountered?

Eric Stuart: I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t like girls, especially in high school. I definitely was a fan of girls and I was a flirt. Brock is supposed to be fifteen or whatever, I could relate to that fifteen year old boy’s focus. I found it very funny that the two characters he constantly fell for looked identical, Jenny and Joy, but to him, they were completely different in every town. That was funny to me. And also, I like the fact that he could break the tension. There’d be a battle going on, an intense moment between Ash and some young girl. Everyone is worried about what’s gonna happen and whether or not Ash is gonna lose and he’s just wondering what she’s doing after the match. I like that comic relief from him. But he was also a good friend. As much as he was a goofball with the girls, he was also someone you could always depend on. And he was a great cook. That dynamic was a great addition to his personality. I only follow the animation and I follow the way it’s been written. They’re like, “Here’s Brock chasing after another girl.” No surprise, here we go. But it never got old to me. A fan once sent me a link, it was a YouTube thing where they had cut together Brock’s best horndog moments. It was an eight minute sequence of every one of them cut together. I gotta say, even though I’m the actor doing it, I was laughing out loud watching him. It’s one thing when they’re sort of peppered in a show, maybe there’s a moment like that once every five or ten minutes. But when it’s back to back to back to back, it becomes like, “Wow! Doesn’t he ever take a break?” (laughs)

Alex Obert: When you brought up the fact that Brock is a great cook, it made me remember the mysterious “rice balls” and the awkward moment of calling them jelly filled donuts.

Eric Stuart: When 4Kids bought the Pokémon series, what they were doing was they were turning into an American show that can basically be redubbed in other countries so that every country that took on their version of the show could relate to what was going on. The show is Japanese, so the food is pretty much sushi and Japanese cuisine. Well that already makes it seem like it’s a Japanese dub, so we tried to make the food and the names a little bit more universal. If it was being redubbed in Germany or redubbed in France, yes sushi is everywhere, but probably more people know what a jelly donut is than maybe rice balls. That’s what their thinking was. That one is one that a lot of the fans gravitate towards. “Did you make your jelly donuts?” We know they’re rice balls. But yeah, that was the poor attempt. It could’ve been reanimated and turned into a donut, but it had to fit with lip flap. Rice balls is two flaps, so it’d have to be “do-nut”. Maybe that’s what it should’ve been. “Do-nut.” That would’ve been better than jelly donut.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, with the worlds of voice acting and music that you live, how would you want to be remembered if it all ended today?

Eric Stuart: You hope that you’ve made a difference somewhere during your time on this planet. You hope that you’ve affected people some way, especially in a positive way. I write my songs and I play my music because I get joy in connecting with people as a musician. I like when people say that songs have become soundtracks to their lives. That is a great way to be remembered. I also feel like it’s an honor to be part of pop culture history. There are fans that come up to me at conventions who say that I’m the voice of their childhood or “I didn’t have friends in school, you were my friend. When I’d come home from school, I felt like I could depend on you guys and you got me through tough times.” Though it might sound silly to say about a cartoon, you’d be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t be, at how many people have said things like that to me. The message of the show was so positive that I think that affected a lot of people. To be part of that was very humbling. I would hope that people would say, “He was a good guy. I liked his work. He had a good soul. He made a positive difference. The world was better since he was here. We would’ve missed him if he wasn’t.”

Alex Obert: I’d love to thank you so much for your time and an informative interview.

Eric Stuart: Thank you! I appreciate it!

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On the Line with April Richardson

April Richardson has been making a big splash in the world of entertainment. She lives life as a stand-up comic, but wait, there’s more! Having made frequent appearances on Chelsea Lately and @midnight, her presence is felt on television screens across the world. If that wasn’t enough, she also hosted a Saved by the Bell podcast called Go Bayside! And did you know that she also has a immense love for music and fashion? Whether it’s her look, her presence on social media, her material on stage or something else, you will undoubtedly find a likable quality without even trying. Throughout our conversation, we discussed Blur, Morrissey, Danzig, Chris Hardwick, life on stage and on the road, musician fashion and more.

Alex Obert: So you recently went to see Blur. How did that go?

April Richardson: (laughs) That’s why I was up until 4 AM! I snuck into their afterparty with the help of my friend Marcia; it was rad. I got to meet them again. I followed them around in high school, like, legit saw them ten times in high school and got them to sign my senior yearbook. So I followed them a bunch when I was younger; they’re just one of my favorite bands of all time. Of all time, all time, all time. Anything Damon Albarn touches turns to gold, as far as I’m concerned. I just have everything that guy ever did, like Gorillaz, The Good, the Bad & the Queen, his solo records. The show was amazing. And even speaking of comedy, crazily, I saw like, fifty people there I knew. I got there and saw Scott Aukerman and Jake Fogelnest. I was looking at my Instagram and everyone I know is at this show right now. It was really incredible. And yes, I snuck into the afterparty … and I had the picture on my phone of me and Damon from when I was seventeen or eighteen … showing it to him, he was like, “Whoa!” I was like, “This picture’s like, twenty years old, dude.”

Alex Obert: Was it him whose door you knocked on?

April Richardson: My friend Michelle lived legit down the street from him. We were walking around London and she’s like, “That’s Damon Albarn’s house.” I was like, “Holy crap!” But no, I haven’t knocked on his door. I’ve knocked on other people’s doors. Ian Brown from Stone Roses, he answered. This is when I was living in Manchester. He was actually really cool to me. And again, I was a teenager. That’s a dick move, you shouldn’t knock on people’s doors. It’s insane. Luckily, he was very friendly. When I was in England, the accent got me out of a lot of shit. Once I started talking, I could go, “Well you know, I came from America to see you!” And he’ll be like, “Oh my God, I’m so flattered!” It was something I shouldn’t have done and could have gotten arrested for, but he was like, “Well cool!”

Alex Obert: What’s your take on men with British accents?

April Richardson: (laughs) Well obviously, I’m into it! I mean, I’m not a weird fetishist for it though. I don’t say that I will only exclusively date dudes with accents or whatever. When I was in high school, it was prime Britpop time. That was the shit I was into. I was way into all those bands and still am. I don’t think it’s a controversial statement to say that England puts out cooler shit than we do. (laughs) England has pretty much got pop culture on lock.

Alex Obert: I’m aware that you are a huge Morrissey fan. On that note, The Smiths recently received their second nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How do you feel about that?

April Richardson: I don’t care, to be honest. Not to sound like a jerk, I just feel that those kind of things are meaningless. It’s cool when people win awards or whatever, but ultimately, it’s meaningless. I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum for fun — actually, it was when I was there in Cleveland to see Morrissey play nearby. I went for a day and it was cool to look at, in a museum way. It was cool to see something like, “Here are The Clash’s handwritten lyrics.” As a novelty, it was cool. But ultimately, I don’t care about any of that stuff. First of all, I don’t think they’re gonna get it. And even if they do, it’s definitely not gonna be like R.E.M., when the original four get back together on stage. There’s no way that’s happening. I’d bet none of them show up to claim it if they did get it. Morrissey definitely won’t, a hundred percent. I don’t think Johnny Marr will, I don’t think he really cares. Yeah, I don’t think they really care.

Alex Obert: Have you ever met Morrissey?

April Richardson: I have. Oh yeah, I have like, five or six times, but they were always in passing. I met him a bunch at Cat and Fiddle when that still existed here in Los Angeles. And I met him a few times at other shows. I’ve talked to him a few times in passing. The first time I ever met him, I was in my early twenties. It was in Atlanta and I won a radio station contest, but that was very regimented. It was very much that we were ushered in, got to talk to him for five minutes, ushered out. It wasn’t like hanging out with him and getting coffee or whatever. I’ve never been able to really talk to him for an extended period of time, but the times I’ve met him, and he’s thankfully been really cool with me. Been really nice.

Alex Obert: What would you say is the biggest misconception about him?

April Richardson: I think the thing that is still the biggest is people only associating him with sadness. He’s secretly really funny, I think. And I know a lot of comedians who are also into him because they get it. Yeah, a lot of his stuff is sad and talks about depression or whatever, but it’s in a funny way. A lot of his lyrics are really hilarious. He’s kind of this secretly really funny, self-aware guy. There are people who don’t know that or just don’t like him in general, and I don’t fault anybody for not liking him. I really think he’s an acquired taste. I dated a guy for a while that could not get into him. And I understood. I get why he wouldn’t like him. But yeah, I think the biggest misconception is that he’s miserable all the time. He’s actually really funny about being miserable, if that makes sense. I appreciate that about him.

Alex Obert: I understand you went through a Danzig makeover. What’s the story there?

April Richardson: Remember on Facebook when everybody was doing that doppelganger thing? They were changing their default pictures to whoever they thought they looked like. I changed mine to Danzig and everybody was like, “…What?” My hair’s naturally black, so I think I kind of look like him… I mean, if I were a dude, I would look like him. And the picture that I posted is from the early days of his first album; we kinda look alike! Other than the muscles or whatever, but just the way he was posing and his hair and everything. (laughs) My best friend, Millie, came to visit me on my birthday. I was like, “Yeah, I want you to make me over like Danzig.” So she drew all his tattoos on me. I worked on my hair and basically tried to recreate that same picture. I did it and just made this side-by-side graphic; but the crazy thing is, my birthday’s May 1st and he was here on May 2nd. He did a signing on May 2nd, and it was around the corner from my apartment, literally. I knew I just had to go to this, regardless of how long the line was. I called my ex-husband — he’s the one who got me into the Misfits — I called him up and said, “Dude, we gotta go meet Danzig today.” And he’s like, “Yeah, totally.” So the two of us went and waited in line. And David, my ex, put his hair in a devilock. And we’re grown, like in our thirties, he’s there in a devilock and I had the picture from the day before. To be honest, I was a bit scared to meet him; I expected him to be mean and I almost would’ve been disappointed if he wasn’t. I would’ve gotten weirded out if I got up there and he was like, “Hey guys! What’s up? Nice to meet you. My name’s Glenn,” when you know him as super surly with a super deep voice. I got up there and I was like, “What’s up, dude?” And he’s like, “Yeah…?” I was like, “Look, yesterday was my birthday. The one thing that I asked for for my friend to do was make me over to look like you.” He was kind of like, “…What?” I showed him the side-by-side photo on my phone and he laughed. He legitimately laughed and then went, “Yeah, but your fuckin’ arms aren’t big enough!” (laughs) For real, he said that. I went, “I couldn’t get to the gym for a year before doing this!” But yeah, he totally laughed at it. It was the most amazing moment of my life. It was like making the devil himself laugh; it was pretty great.


Alex Obert: Which musician do you feel has the best fashion sense on and off stage?

April Richardson: I grew up idolizing all these dudes and I took bits and pieces. When I was a kid, I asked my mom to buy me Adidas shell toes and Fred Perry shirts because Damon Albarn wore those. I think Jarvis Cocker, for sure. That dude is totally suave. The older I get, the more crazy I get into goth. I want to dress like Siouxsie Sioux and wear crazy makeup. I have this friend, Kristeen Young, who opened for Morrissey for a bit. That’s how met her, and she’s now one of my dearest friends. She is stylish, so stylish. She makes all of her own clothes and looks amazing all the time. She wears all this really great stuff. It’s kind of fascinating; she’ll print words and phrases on it. The last time I saw her play live, she was wearing a homemade dress that she made that had across it “They tried to publicly shame me, but I was having none of it.” She stitched that into the dress, it was amazing. I just like people who dress interesting. Life’s short, man. I’m gonna be one of those crazy old ladies on blogs where they take pictures of me and say, “Look at what this weirdo is wearing!” That’s gonna be my future. And I don’t mind it, ‘cause it’s just like, what else am I gonna do, wear khakis? No, let’s get weird everybody!

Alex Obert: Do you sense that there are parallels between being a touring comic and a touring musician?

April Richardson: It’s definitely less cool as the comic. The process of actually traveling and staying in hotels and all that, I love that. I really, truly love it. I love being alone in a hotel room. I’m weird like that. I love going to airports. I love performing also, but I’m on stage going, “I can’t get a date!” I don’t look cool in the way that if I were on stage playing a song and you’re like, “Oh my God, look at these cool motherfuckers!” No no no, I’m on there talking about how I haven’t dated in a year and sharing stories about me farting. I don’t look as cool as a musician, but I think I talk to more people after a show than musicians do. I think comics are approachable and people get nervous to talk to musicians. If there’s a dude comic that just talked about his dick for an hour, of course you’ll be able to talk to that guy. That’s not intimidating.

Alex Obert: Have you experienced offended people walking out of your set?

April Richardson: Oh, sure! People have definitely walked out, but I don’t know if it’s ‘cause I was offensive or because I was just bad. Well, on Chris Hardwick’s tour, I couldn’t tell you because I couldn’t see anybody in the venue. And they’re all there to see Chris; I’m the opening act. I’ve definitely gotten angry emails afterwards. Whether or not people walked out, I don’t know. I don’t talk about particularly offensive things. I’m not Bill Hicks, I can’t tackle politics and shit. I’m not a good enough comic yet and I think you have to be a really good to be able to talk about that stuff. Most of my shit’s just about me and my parents or whatever. I talk about some weird sex stuff and I talk about furries. I did come home once to an email from a guy that was like, “You should know I’m a furry, we don’t do X, Y, Z! What you said in your joke is not what furries are about!” He really took me to task for not accurately representing furries, I guess. I don’t know if he went straight home in the middle of my set to write that email or if he waited until later.

Alex Obert: I’m glad you mentioned Chris Hardwick because I wanted to discuss your appearances on @midnight. For each time you’re on the show, do you notice a significant increase in Twitter followers?

April Richardson: Totally! Oh my God, yes! The nights that I’m on there, I get like, a thousand new followers.

Alex Obert: How did you and Chris first meet?

April Richardson: I first met Chris years ago at either a party or a show. His ex-girlfriend, Janet Varney, is one of my closest friends in the world. Me opening for him came about just because we were at dinner one night, he was like, “Hey, do you wanna open for me?” And I’m like, “Uh, yeah! That would be cool.” (laughs)

Alex Obert: @midnight is just one of several big projects that he is currently taking on. What’s your take on how hard he works?

April Richardson: He is the hardest working person I’ve ever met in my entire life; that’s not an exaggeration. There’s a lot I admire about him; even hanging out as friends, I’ve never seen anybody with better time management. I’ve never felt lazier hanging out with somebody. (laughs) The fun thing about being on the road with him is we are friends, so when we’re in different cities, we really will go to museums and go out to eat and see the city. But then I’ll be like, “Let’s do this! Let’s go to a movie, let’s kick it!” and he will be like, “No no no, I gotta go to my room because I have a conference call. I’ve gotta write the rest of my set. I’ve gotta decide which joke I’m gonna put when.” He’s always very responsible and his time is always accounted for. I wish I could do that like he does! He never loses his patience. I’ve been around times where eighteen people are trying to get a hold of him and he’s gotta have a conference call and he’s gotta text this guy back and he’s got a meeting. He’s never snappy at anybody. If somebody calls me twice, I would be like, “WHAT!!!” That is very admirable. And on top of all that, if we don’t talk for a couple days, he’ll call me if he knows I’m bummed out or something and say, “Hey, I’m just checking in. Are you feeling okay? Is everything going okay?” He’s already managing seventeen jobs and he’s also a good dude and a good friend. I’ve got a lot to learn from him.

Alex Obert: Whenever I see you on @midnight, you always stand out with your look. How do you determine what you’re going to wear? I bet it feels like going back to deciding what to wear on the first day of school.

April Richardson: (laughs) When I was on Chelsea Lately, I made a point of wearing a different band T-shirt every time I was on. I made a point of doing that, which was inspired by seeing Dave Foley wearing a Smiths T-shirt on a Kids In the Hall sketch when I was like, fourteen. But now with this, honestly, a lot of places give me free clothes. Shoutout to Pinup Girl Clothing, shoutout to Mode Merr, shoutout to Steady Clothing. And again, I just wear the weirdest, most colorful thing I can think of. Same for when I get to the makeup lady Amy and hair lady Nena there, they are so rad. I just go and I’m like, “Hey, make me look like a John Waters character. Make me look like a girl Elvis Presley would have dated in 1963.” I watch a Cramps video the night before and so I’m like, “Yeah, make me look like Poison Ivy.” If you’re gonna be on TV, why would you not look as weird as possible? That’s my whole philosophy for if you’re gonna be on TV or on stage. I don’t mean weird like gross, but just like, that’s the time to get nuts. When I first started comedy, Paul F. Tompkins, who is one of the greatest of all time, I admired how he put so much effort into what he’s wearing. I loved him making sure that it’s like, “I’m here to perform for you. I am a performer.” As soon as he steps on stage and you look at him, you realize that he puts effort into what he does and he cares about it.

Alex Obert: I brought up misconceptions about Morrissey earlier, but what would you say is the biggest misconception about yourself?

April Richardson: I think in life, I’m very loud and boisterous. But the weekends I’m not out doing shows or whatever, I’m at home reading a book on my couch. In social situations, I’m super loud and obnoxious, super chatty and always want to yell about all the shit I’m into. But at the end of the day, yeah, I’m pretty chill. More chill than maybe I come across. Maybe?

Alex Obert: In closing, can you fill readers in on some upcoming shows?

April Richardson: I’m opening for Chris Hardwick through January of next year. We have a few more dates this year and then every weekend in January, we’re out. Then he records his special at the end of January and that’s it. Then I gotta go find another job. I’m actually gonna try to do a headlining thing like I did in July. I did my own tour while I was following Morrissey around, doing my own shows in between. They were tiny, like punk clubs and stuff, but it was so fun. I’m gonna try to do that again because I would love to just drive across the country again.

Alex Obert: Sounds like it’ll be exciting! I’d love to thank you so much for your time and a great interview.

April Richardson: Thank you so much, man! Thanks for having me.

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On the Line with Jason Marsden

Simply put, Jason Marsden is a dynamic powerhouse in the worlds of acting and voice acting. The charisma he displays on the microphone and on set is second to none. Now he’s gotten on the road to Nashville, Tennessee where he hosts The Mars Variety Show. We had an engaging discussion about how he wants to get involved with music, being the voice of Max in A Goofy Movie, fun times from the set of Full House, the importance of voice acting in video games and much more.

Alex Obert: So you recently attended the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tennessee. What was that experience like for you?

Jason Marsden: It was the first music festival in Franklin, Tennessee. It went over two days. It was run by Kevin Griffin from Better Than Ezra. Two days of music and the headliners included Willie Nelson, Weezer, Steven Tyler, Cage the Elephant. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, they’re a mother/son duo from Kansas City, Missouri. I have to recommend you check them out, they’re amazing. Big Sam’s Funky Nation, they’re from New Orleans. They’re a big funk, soul, rock band with a little bit of metal infused here and there. St. Paul & The Broken Bones from Alabama. There were vendors and great food trucks. It was a good time. For a first time, they put on a heck of a show.

Alex Obert: Who do you feel put on the best performance?

Jason Marsden: I was so moved by Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. There’s also these kids in a band in Franklin called Down Boy. The kid must be twenty years old and he sounds like Jack White. It was ten o’clock in the morning and they didn’t care, they just shredded. I have video of it. As far as performance goes, these kids just killed.

Alex Obert: You told me that you went to see ZZ Top about a month ago. That must’ve been something!

Jason Marsden: What a show! Some friends of mine are in a band called Goodbye June and they, along with Blackberry Smoke, opened for ZZ Top. Just to put it into perspective, Goodbye June and Blackberry Smoke comprise of five or six people in the band and not doing them a disservice, they were outstanding, but ZZ Top comes on stage, three guys…three guys, they get on stage and they commanded like nobody’s business. And it wasn’t just because of their longevity and experience, but something magical happens when they hit the stage. They owned it and they didn’t let us go until the very end.

Alex Obert: What would you say is the best concert that you ever attended?

Jason Marsden: Man, oh man, maybe Jack White performing at Bonnaroo two years ago.

Alex Obert: And what was your first concert?

Jason Marsden: First concert I ever went to was Billy Joel. I’ve seen him a few times since. He was at Bonnaroo this year, but I couldn’t go.

Alex Obert: When you attend concerts, do you ever get approached by fans who recognize you from roles?

Jason Marsden: I do, yeah! Especially when I’m in the Southeast. People watch Step by Step a lot out here, so I get a lot of that.

Alex Obert: A major role for you over the years has been providing the voice for Goofy’s son, Max. That all started with A Goofy Movie. How did you feel about that first gig as him? Also, how did you feel about the plot of the film? It really helped give Goofy’s character depth, far beyond the classic shorts.

Jason Marsden: At first, I was stoked. I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since we did it. I knew the, dare I say, franchise cause I watched Disney afternoon and Goof Troop was part of that. At the time, Max was voiced by a woman, the late Dana Hill. I only got to meet her a couple times. She was in European Vacation and did a lot of on-camera stuff. She also did a lot of voice-overs. Usually when they make a movie out of a TV show, there’s executives involved and they want to change it up a bit. They wanted a not as cartoony kind of voice, so they were casting real kids. I came in, I read a couple times, booked it and I was over the moon. It was my first animated feature and I also got to work with Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy, who I’m a big fan of. I was a Disney nerd, I’ve had the bedsheets and everything. I’m surprised I got laid when I had so much Disney stuff in my house! I was surprised about how human they made Goofy and I didn’t really absorb it until watching the finished screening. I completely credit Kevin Lima, the director, and Bill Farmer for giving such a non-cartoony performance, a zany and cartoony character. There’s some really great moments. I love that it’s a road trip, that it’s a father-son thing, especially now that I’m a dad. That adds more emotional value to it for me. It’s one of those things that I’m just stupid proud to be part of. It’s not just A Goofy Movie, it’s a good movie! It’s a great story that has stood the test of time. We had a big thing at D23 with a big concert and a Q&A and a reunion. Every year, I watch A Christmas Story, so it’s cool that people pull out their Goofy Movie VHS or DVD every year and watch it with their families or their parents.

Alex Obert: You must have been very flattered to see the live action remake of After Today.

Jason Marsden: (laughs) That was like eight or ten years ago when they did that. That’s when I really started to recognize that people really like this movie. People have held onto it, enough to put their blood, sweat and tears into something like that. So yeah, that felt good.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about the music from Powerline?

Jason Marsden: It was great. At the time, Tevin Campbell was really popular. He was young and he had a great voice, a great sound for someone so young. He was compared to Michael Jackson. To have him in the movie was like, it was huge. I like all the songs in the film, but my girlfriend at the time, she wasn’t as enchanted with the movie as most people. She said the songs were kind of silly, but she thought the Powerline songs were great. (laughs)

Alex Obert: You also have some great accomplishments in the field of live-action programming. I was originally introduced to you through your role on Full House. What did you take out of the experience?

Jason Marsden: It was so much fun. They just gave me that role, I didn’t have to audition. I think it was only supposed to be a couple of episodes. I remember actually walking by the producer who was talking to Candace Cameron and asking her “Hey, what do you think of Marsden? Should we bring him back for a couple more episodes as a love interest?” She approved and I just kind of walked into the tail end of that. Well that’s super cool! (laughs) As a result of that, I got to go to San Francisco and shoot on location and got to experience the zany antics of Bob Saget. I realized that he’s kind of a fucked up individual, just a weird sense of humor! He’s not the squeaky clean Friday night TGIF image that people think. (laughs) The whole experience was just grand. Again, to this day, people still point me out from that. I’m part of pop culture. I mean you can’t buy my t-shirt at Hot Topic, but people know who I am and I like that.

Alex Obert: Do you have a story to share from the set of Full House?

Jason Marsden: So there’s an episode where DJ can’t decide between my character and Viper, played by David Lipper. In the episode, both he and I have to kiss her. We show up for work one afternoon and the mood is kinda somber. The producers take us aside, me and David. “Just want to let you know, Candace isn’t feeling well. She might have mono.” (laughs) Now I’m not sweatin’ it cause I had mono, so I’m good. But David was freaking out. He’s like “I don’t know what to do! Do I need to call my agent?” “No, no, no. It’s all good. We don’t even know what it is.” Turns out she didn’t have mono. We’re all good, none of us got effected. That’s a terrible story! (laughs) I got a better story for ya. They were shooting Batman Forever, the one where Jim Carrey plays The Riddler. And I’m a big Batman fan, so I would sneak over on the set any chance I got. So I snuck on the set and I saw Jim Carrey dressed as The Riddler and doing his thing. I went back to the set and I was telling everybody about seeing Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey on the Batman set. Bob Saget’s like “You saw Jim?” “Yeah.” He’s like “Show me.” So we got up, went over to the stage and couldn’t find Jim anywhere. He’s in his trailer and Bob finds his trailer. We knock on the door, Jim opens up and invites us in his trailer. I get to hang out with Jim Carrey in his full Riddler outfit for like ten minutes while him and Bob talk about stand up and old times. That was a treat.

Alex Obert: You’ve also been on Boy Meets World and I found it really interesting that they used your real first and last name for your character.

Jason Marsden: That part was written for me and I was working on something else at the time, so they cast another actor. At the last minute, they did a switcharoo and brought me in and I did a number of episodes. So there came to be an episode where Feeny had to refer to me by my last name, which he always does for all his students. The writers just came up and asked me if they could just use my last name because they thought it’d be kinda funny. So I agreed to go along with it. (laughs) So it’s kind of like an inside joke.

Alex Obert: I watched the acting reel you have out there of your live-action roles. The roles were all over the place and ranged from being awkward and nerdy to being a condescending asshole. So I have to ask, which is your favorite personality trait to take on? What feels most comfortable?

Jason Marsden: (laughs) Oddly enough, it feels most comfortable to be the asshole. I’m five one, maybe a Napoleon complex, maybe I just behave like I’m bigger than other people and never realize how short I am until I see a photograph. I always have had this kind of swagger, this conference, this arrogance. Those are the kind of parts I always seem to get cast in. Those are the ones that come the easiest. I also like moody characters, villains, anything that can chew up the scenery. (laughs) That’s what I prefer. I don’t mind playing the sidekick though, the guy with a lot of attitude and a lot of opinions.

Alex Obert: Do you feel you have ever gotten typecast because of your height?

Jason Marsden: Oh I know I’ve gotten typecast for my height. It was told to me point blank a few times. It was always frustrating because I always thought that I was bigger than the role. But this is at a time where there wasn’t as much diversity as there is now. I auditioned for a show to play the lead girl’s boyfriend and this was the first time it ever happened to me. I did the audition and the producer got up and escorted me outside, he’s like “Can I talk to you for a second?” “…Okay.” I thought I was in trouble. And he said “You are the best actor that’s come in today, but I can’t hire you.” “Why not?” “Man, you’re too short! She’s like five four and she’ll tower over you.” And I’m arguing with him, I’m like “Dude, my girlfriend is taller than me! This is real life!” And he’s like “I just can’t do it. There’s a certain aesthetic.” In a lot of auditions I go on, I’m brought in because of my height. They’re looking for that gimmick, that sight gag. Every so often, I’ll find a casting director who knows my work for my talent and not just my look. It’s always been a challenge, but it’s also worked for me in a way, you could say.

Alex Obert: It seems as though you’ve been prioritizing voice acting over the past several years. Are you content with that or are you looking to get some more live-action roles?

Jason Marsden: I wouldn’t mind doing more live-action. I live in Nashville, Tennessee now, so it’s much easier to focus on voice-over here and I’m so entrenched in it. Voice-over’s a very small community and I’m lucky to be a part of it. I can audition from anywhere and when I book stuff, I still have to fly back to LA, depending on the project. There is an on-camera scene in the southeast, I just haven’t been here long enough to really pursue it. There’s other things I’m enchanted with out here, I like the music scene in Nashville and working with musicians, especially independent musicians. I put on a variety show, I do music videos, I shoot live performances, so I’m trying to maybe work that angle. But I’ll always act, that ego needs to be fed. (laughs)

Alex Obert: You recently spoke out on Twitter against a controversy surrounding video game voice roles. What’s the story there?

Jason Marsden: For several years now, every time we have a negotiation with the producers in the gaming industry, and I haven’t been in these meetings, this is what I’ve heard from people who have been in negotiations on my side. They come in with a reasonable proposal and the producers just don’t wanna hear it, they have their agenda that they want to focus on. They don’t care what we have to say. And every year, they up the stakes and they become more intimidating because intimidation puts fear in actors. Most of us rely on this industry for stability. We’re professional gamblers and the magic carper ride could end at any time. I tend to want to stand up to these producers saying “Let’s have a conversation. Don’t be so omnipotent.” And one thing that really pissed me off is that they say, I’ve heard this, they said that they can do this with anybody. “Go ahead, keep pushing it, we’ll go non-union. Anyone can do your job.” And that upsets me. No, not anyone can do my job. Trust me. I’ve been to many voice-over workshops. Yes, there is some great talent in these workshops, I guarantee you not every one of them could last in a four hour video game session. It’s hard work. It’s not more of a role, it’s the process of it. A video game script is so much bigger than any feature film script because the universe is so vast. You have to handle lots of dialogue. And because they’re trying to save money, you have to be able to do lots of dialogue relatively quickly. Do one take if you can. A lot of these games are filled with drama, so you have to be a good actor. You can’t just have a good voice, you have to be able to perform it. There’s some games that require a lot of action, so you could spend a day just shouting. Just shouting dialogue. And what’s the big thing that happens in video games? You get killed, death rattles. So you spend a good hour doing “Okay, you’re getting punched in the face. Give me a small, medium and large punch. Now, you’re punching someone. Okay, now you’re getting stabbed. Now you’re getting electrocuted. Now you’re falling down a cliff. Now you’re falling down a small cliff. Now you’re getting hit in the head with a rock.” I challenge anybody off the street to do that and be able to save their voice and save the producer’s money and knock out a session like that. So it’s not just the role, it’s the process of it.

Alex Obert: You brought up the variety show earlier, entitled Mars Variety Show, and I know that’s been a big deal for you. I’d love to learn more about that.

Jason Marsden: It’s one of my proudest things that I’ve done over here. For my birthday, I turned forty in January, I threw myself a variety show. I know a lot of musicians out here. A lot of great, talented folk. Nashville comedians and artists. I do like old school variety shows, I grew up watching The Carol Burnett Show and Tim Conway. I watch The Dean Martin Show and Hee Haw. And I did kind of a hybrid of that. The Mars Variety Show is live music, it’s burlesque, it’s comedy, it’s spoken word, it’s art. I call it a relentless evening of entertainment. If I host, I throw it to a musical act on stage, music act is done, lights out, stage lights up, stage right and there’s a skit. When that’s done, immediately lights out there, lights up on the other side of the stage. I use the entire venue. There’s no one place to sit, people have to crane their necks and turn around to stand up and look, it happens all over the venue. Each show has a theme. First one, I guess I would call Life because it was my birthday. For the second one, I did Death, kind of a celebration of. The third one was called Porch cause I’ve had a lot of really fun experiences here in the Southeast on people’s porch, the front porch in the middle of the night or the afternoon or dusk. They bring out their instruments and they play songs, a little pickin’ action. It’s just so enchanting that I turned the whole venue into one big, giant porch. (laughs) We had stories and we had music. For the next one coming up, the venue we’re using is unfortunately closing, so we’re gonna do one big performance and call it Blowout. It’s gonna feel like when you know your job is ending and you’re just like “I’m just gonna do whatever I want cause what are they gonna do, fire me?”

Alex Obert: How has the reaction been from friends and family that have attended the shows?

Jason Marsden: A lot of real positive support. I think I’m doing something that’s actually lackluster compared to the entertainment I come from in LA, I’m just kind of throwing stuff together here. But the musicians and talent really appreciate it, they keep telling me that no one in Nashville does this, so that feels good. I’m giving artists a forum to perform and experiment and I’m giving the audience something different to experience. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, they keep me wanting to do it. It’s not that hard to put together and I love doing it. I go to live music all the time, I see someone like Down Boy and I’m like “Man, they’re outstanding. I would totally give them a forum to perform at. People need to see these guys.” I’m much better at promoting other people than myself.

Alex Obert: So we both have something in common, we’ve been through the long hair phase. What inspired that?

Jason Marsden: (laughs) That started as laziness. My wife and I own a yoga studio in Burbank, California called Yoga Blend and I don’t know, maybe you could say it was my hippie phase. Maybe I was transitioning into voice-over and I didn’t have to worry about being on camera, so I didn’t have to maintain a certain look. I never grew my hair that long, so I wanted to experiment and see what that would look like.

Alex Obert: What led to you cutting the long hair?

Jason Marsden: My wife was pregnant and her water broke about twenty two weeks early, so she was in the hospital hoping he’s gonna stay in. I realized we were gonna be there for a few months hoping he stays in and cooks. So then alright, I’m gonna be here for a while. “I don’t want to deal with this, I’m gonna go get it cut off.” That afternoon, got my hair cut off. That night, my son was born. (laughs) One pound, seven ounces.

Alex Obert: What an experience! Before we wrap up, there’s one more thing I’d like to get your thoughts on. Being in the entertainment industry and going through all these auditions, how have you learned to handle rejection?

Jason Marsden: I don’t think I ever really handle it. I mean it still hurts, but maybe I just process it quicker than I used to. It also depends on the role. There’s certain things that I really dig where I’m like “Aw man, I really wanted that! Was it me? Could I have done something different?” I think I’ve just gotten older and more content with myself. I know that without a doubt, Alex, I’m really good at what I do and I don’t pull punches when I audition. I do the best that I can do and if I don’t get it, it means it’s not me. I’ve been on the other side were I’ve had to cast and I know it’s not personal, I’m looking for a certain aesthetic, a certain fit for the role that I’m looking for. And that’s just what the producers are looking for. So I remind myself of that and then I move on cause life’s too short.

Alex Obert: In closing, what do you have up ahead for the rest of 2015 and into 2016?

Jason Marsden: I’m making a full transition into Nashville. I’m hoping to work here more. Here’s a voice-over scene here, we’re talking about if it’s possible to bring animation here. Why does it have to be in one place? There’s a lot of talent here, let’s try and do it here. I wanna make a movie here. I want to bring more of the industry to Nashville. I want to work with musicians. Being at the festival, I see a lot of photographers in the pit and they have the perfect landscape to get these great shots. I want to be part of that. I mean I know I can’t do everything at once, I have to pick just a couple things. I wouldn’t mind moving into focusing on musicians and doing music videos and shooting live stuff, promotional stuff for them. I want to put on live shows beyond The Mars Variety Show, “Mars Presents” where I’ll pick one band to be an opener and just put on concerts. I could be very happy doing that for the rest of my life. But there’ll always be acting, there’s great theatre out here in the film scene nearby. I’m gonna follow my highest excitement.

Alex Obert: I’m excited to see where your future in Nashville takes you and the changes you can bring. I’d love to thank you so much for your time and a wonderful interview.

Jason Marsden: Thanks, man!

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Sit Down Series: Trademarc

Marc Predka, who is best known as Trademarc, has unquestionably made his mark in the world of hip hop. Though it is well-known that he is the cousin of WWE’s John Cena, his body of work has shaped and molded a persona far, far beyond that. After working with John on You Can’t See Me a decade ago, he has been able to take that momentum and hold his weight with the releases of Inferiority Complex and his 2015 release with DC, Black Ash Days. On top of that, he released two albums with Esoteric and DC as East Coast Avengers. (Prison Planet and Avengers Airwaves) I sat down with Trademarc in the basement of his childhood home in Peabody, Massachusetts for an incredibly in-depth conversation about everything from the music he’s put out there to the deep and truthful message behind Black Ash Days to his relationships with John Cena and Kurt Angle to overcoming personal struggles and much, much more.

Alex Obert: So you attended Boston Comic Con this year, how was that?

Trademarc: In a word, “overwhelming.” 7L and Esoteric just released an album called Czarface with Inspectah Deck of the Wu-Tang Clan, they had a table there. We went in and I had never been. I had gone to E3 before because I love video games, I’m all about it. Comic Con was pretty cool. I bought a couple of action figures, a Ric Flair and a Larry Zbyszko. Why not? (laughs)

Alex Obert: Was anyone notable there that caught your eye?

Trademarc: Tim Sale, who illustrated the Batman Long Halloween story was there. Scott Ian of Anthrax was there also, but I’m not really a fan of them so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Stan Lee was there the day before I went and I would have loved to have met him. Other than that I was just excited to see all the old Star Wars and Transformers toys in their original packaging.

Alex Obert: I noticed that your new album, Black Ash Days, is being sold at Newbury Comics. What does that mean to you?

Trademarc: I guess I’m supposed to say ‘It’s really cool to see it on the shelf. It’s always nice to see something that you put a lot into actually make it onto the shelf somewhere,’ but in reality it’s a mix of satisfaction and depression. I mean not the kind of soul crushing, crippling depression that brings on suicidal ideation, but the kind of depression closely related to the “what could have been” variety. I mean even something as successful as my album with John which went Platinum depresses me in retrospect because I now know how much of as asshole I would be about the whole thing.

Alex Obert: How did you originally get involved with recording music?

Trademarc: The first ever track that I recorded was actually with my best friends, Trevor Gendron (Karma), George Andrinopoulos and Seamus Ryan, 7L and Esoteric respectively, this was back in ’93. This is back when we all met at Salem State College, which is Salem State University now. Trevor, George and I had known each other since grammar school and through high school. We met Seamus during our first year at Salem State. We called ourselves God Complex and we recorded two songs, Slap Happy and Word of Mouth, before I left the group. I found them recently on cassette, they’re pretty crazy. (laughs) Basic Thuganomics was the first recorded song that got out there commercially. John came to me and he was like “Hey, I wanna do this intro song, you wanna do it with me?” At that point, he was still living at home and we were all getting together at this bar called O’Keefe’s, which was really just a room in his house. We would just hang out and freestyle pretty much every night we had free time to.

Alex Obert: What was it like being in the music videos for a couple of the tracks off of You Can’t See Me?

Trademarc: It was really fun. The A-Team one where I got to shoot blanks out of an AK-47, are you kidding me, that’s every childhood dream I ever had come true. It’s ridiculous. Then dressing up like all those guys. It was pretty great, it was basically like being in a movie. I was on a set doing all these crazy things and getting makeup done and all that jazz.

Alex Obert: How was it set up that Gary Coleman appeared in the music video?

Trademarc: That whole part is still a mystery to me.

Alex Obert: And how about appearing on RAW?

Trademarc: That was so stressful, dude! (laughs) There were a couple lines in the song where I swear, so I was like “Just don’t fuckin’ swear, dude!” That’s the one thing I’m thinking. John was like “Dude, just don’t swear. Don’t swear cause we’ll be fucked.” But you know what was weird, I said this to my girlfriend at the time, it was almost less stressful than doing a show with five hundred people. The show with five hundred people, it’s crazy intimate and everyone’s right there, all eyeballs and faces just glued to you, waiting for you to fail…at least that’s how I look at it. I guess that says more about me than about the reality of those people in the crowd, but whatever. But when we did that, there were fourteen thousand people there and it just becomes fake at that point. There’s really no way to describe it. You just go out and this surreal feeling hits you, it’s not even real. They’re so far away too, it basically just becomes this buzzing background. Kinda like a thick layer of white noise.

Alex Obert: How were those shows that you did with John in 2005 while he was on the road with WWE?

Trademarc: We performed in LA, Philly, Cleveland, Buffalo and Boston as far as I recall offhand. One of my favorite shows was the trip to Milan, Italy. We were on a TV show comparable to TRL, then we performed at this club called The Rolling Stone. It was just an incredible five days. Great people, great food and just an all-around good time.

Alex Obert: How did it feel to have WWE heavily promote the album on television?

Trademarc: It was really pretty great. I was living with John at the time and it just seemed like there was a constant outpouring of positive things happening. I mean looking back, I realize how I was fairly complacent and difficult. Even when I had the self-awareness to not be complacent, it was tough to get any momentum on my own as an artist without everyone asking or demanding John and the WWE be involved. Let’s just say I was lacking in gratitude and made up for that by being heavy handed with feeling a little too good about myself. In short, I was probably kind of a dick.

Alex Obert: How does it feel to have your voice heard every week on WWE programming when John Cena comes out to The Time Is Now?

Trademarc: It’s pretty damn cool! I’m not gonna lie. Most people don’t even know it’s me, but I’m still proud of it. It’s not like I’m like “Hey yeah, I did this fucking great thing!”, but when I see kids rapping the verses at live events I attend, it feels pretty good. Most kids are just rapping the song because they know that it’s a John Cena song and I think most people assume that’s just him but I don’t care. There was a ten year review of the album that came out recently and even the people that reviewed it didn’t even know who I was and that I was on every song. (laughs) But I don’t even care about that at this point. Okay, that’s a tiny lie. I care far too much about those types of things. I have an unhealthy ability to perceive everything, intended or otherwise, as a slight or a personal attack. I take way too many things personally but I’m lucky to have Katie (Mitchell) in my life. She’s honestly the best thing that could have happened to me. She keeps me from going down the rabbit hole.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about the crowds adding in “John Cena Sucks!” to the beat in the same way that they used to add “You Suck!” to Kurt Angle’s theme?

Trademarc: I think it’s incredible. (laughs) It’s the best. How is that not awesome?

Alex Obert: How do you feel about him being such a polarizing figure?

Trademarc: I mean I can see it, I can see how people probably want to see something change. But it’s like what do you want? I mean, really. I think what he has right now is perfect. I really do. But I guess everyone grows tired of prolonged success on any level. I mean I’m a Patriots fan so I see it all the time with them as a team. I felt the same way when the 49ers and the Cowboys were winning. Just brand or team fatigue. It’s natural to want change in that regard.

Alex Obert: You Can’t See Me was released ten years ago and John was only just starting to get as big as he is now. Do you feel that factors such as him being the face of the company and the product becoming TV-PG prevents him and yourself from putting out another album?

Trademarc: You would honestly have to ask him. I’d obviously be down to do it. I mean he was supposed to be on three songs on my latest Black Ash Days album and he sounded better than ever. His writing was more polished and personal. It was great to hear.

Alex Obert: Through John, which wrestlers did you really enjoy meeting?

Trademarc: Funaki, he was incredible! John traveled with him, I think that was one of his traveling partners when they were on Smackdown. He’s the nicest dude in the world. And Rey Mysterio, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Kurt Angle did a lot for me when I stopped doing stuff with the WWE.

Alex Obert: How did you connect with Kurt in the WWE and get back in touch with him when he went to TNA?

Trademarc: I did this solo album and I think I gave it to him. He told me backstage once that he liked my stuff and went about his business. But somehow we ended up talking again. He helped me out, man. I don’t know why, out of the kindness of his heart, he’s such a giving dude. His manager, Dave Hawk, was also a really, really helpful dude. That was a dark time too, man. Just in general, not working with the WWE anymore, John and I not really talking as much. That actually got me through, it got me to at least stay focused on making music and being positive, rather than going down the aforementioned rabbit hole and going crazy again.

Alex Obert: How did that connection lead to you recording his entrance theme?

Trademarc: He wanted me to do a song or something, he wanted to hear what I could do about him. So what I did is I read his autobiography and I wrote a song just about his life. I just did it for fun because I didn’t know what was happening. It was just cool and Kurt Angle’s such a great guy that I’m gonna do this for him and send it to him. So I sent it to him and he really liked it. He was like “How would you like to do a thing on my entrance song?” And I did. He had the instrumental for the Vision Quest song, Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider. I added lyrics in there, but I don’t think he uses it anymore.

Alex Obert: He does! He’s been using it ever since the first time he came out to it.

Trademarc: (laughs) I had no idea!

Alex Obert: So your voice is heard in the entrance themes of the two top stars of the two top wrestling companies.

Trademarc: It’s pretty cool.

Alex Obert: You also happened to appear on TNA programming.

Trademarc: I did. That was pretty awesome! (laughs) I don’t even know what I did to deserve any of that, it was great. Dave Hawk just gave me a call. I’ll never forget, I was painting my parents’ bathroom and I just got a phone call, it was Dave. He was like “Hey, how would you like to be on a TNA pay-per-view?” And I was like “What?!” I’m painting a bathroom, you know what I mean, it’s just out of nowhere. Alright, yeah! So I went down to Orlando and went down to the studios.

Alex Obert: Did you ever consider getting into the wrestling business yourself?

Trademarc: Absolutely not. Those guys are so talented, I don’t think anybody fully realizes it. You can’t just be this big, jacked dude or you can’t just be this super athletic guy, you have to have everything. You have to be able to talk in front of people and be creative in how you market yourself. It’s a crazy mix of gifts, you can’t just have one. If you see somebody on TV, you can usually tell right away whether or not they have it. You just know because the whole picture might not be there. It’s so rare to have all of those things. John is undoubtedly blessed with all of those things; a surplus of them actually. I’m obviously not blessed with the physical gifts, I’m five ten if I’m lucky. (laughs) You could always pack on mass, but then it’s like “Alright, cool. I have a ton of muscle now, what can I do?” There’s so much that goes into that, so much hard work. Not for me, man. Talking to you is hard enough and they have to talk on live television in front of sold out crowds every week. Nope. I’d rather write music, play video games and read books, to be honest with you. (laughs)

Alex Obert: What are some of your favorite video games and books?

Trademarc: My favorite video games of all time would have to include Tecmo Bowl and Super Tecmo Bowl, Tenchu, the first and second Bushido Blade, the whole Metal Gear franchise, The Last of Us and any Madden up to about 2004. But books, man, I’m trying to finish Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace now. It’s the third time I’ve tried it. I’m currently three hundred and sixty five pages in. But I read everything. Summer is like my Stephen King time, so I read a ton of horror. But I usually try to have a fiction and nonfiction book going at the same time. I’ve got The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker going right now as well.

Alex Obert: Was there an autobiography that you really connected with?

Trademarc: Not really. Living my life with all of its anxieties and insecurities is enough for me. I don’t need to take on someone else’s as well.

Alex Obert: How did you become most interested in hip hop over other genres?

Trademarc: Jesus Christ, I listened to the worst music growing up! (laughs) I was stuck listening to whatever my sister, Kristen, was listening to, for better or worse. I mean she had all that boy band stuff from the early eighties and late seventies. But I also got into Ozzy Osbourne, I got into Mötley Crüe, AC/DC, all that stuff. I went through my hair band phase, stuff like Ratt, Def Leppard and Poison. If it wasn’t for Guns N’ Roses, I’d probably be listening to adult contemporary crap to this day. They kinda gave me a shove into the whole, ‘pissed off rockstar’ genre. I think the first two hip hop albums I got were The Fat Boys, Crushin’ and The Beastie Boys, License To Ill. Then I gravitated towards West Coast rappers like The D.O.C and NWA. I actually fell in love with the Geto Boys and everybody that was from 5th Ward and on the Rap-A-Lot Records label, which is based out of Houston, Texas. Guys like Big Mike when he was with The Convicts and later, Scarface’s solo stuff. It was great starting to listen to hip hop around that time because you almost had to listen to good music by default since it seemed like there wasn’t as much shitty music. I mean you could find it if you looked for it, but even if you were listening to rap on the radio, it was good. You weren’t gonna put something on and hear a ton of unoriginal shit, whereas a lot of the rock I was listening to was shit. One of my best friends, George Andrinopoulos (7L) gave me mixtapes all the time with Gang Starr, Boogie Down Productions, Erik B & Rakim and all these other East Coast rappers on it so my tastes started to shift. Jesus, now that I think about it, George probably saved me from a life of listening to garbage.

Alex Obert: What are some of your all-time favorite guilty pleasure hip hop songs or artists?

Trademarc: I would have to say Kwamé the Boy Genius; His first album. But shit, I listen to pop music as well. I’ll at least give it a chance. Taylor Swift and stuff like that. I just got that Ryan Adams cover album of Taylor Swift’s 1989 and it’s goddamn earth shatteringly good.

Alex Obert: Briefly touching back on your mention of rock music earlier, you told me prior to this that you dig Steel Panther.

Trademarc: Honestly, I’ve never really listened to them. I just know that their whole shtick is incredible. I listened to them on Toucher and Rich, they were on 98.5 The Sports Hub to promote a show. I will definitely be buying their music. They played some of it, but they really couldn’t play a lot because a lot of it’s just filthy. It’s incredible, dude. It’s the best.

Alex Obert: How did you originally connect with Bumpy Knuckles?

Trademarc: That was crazy. John and I were promoting the album You Can’t See Me in New York. So we walked in, we’re on the radio show and we’re just talking about the album, blasé blah. And one of the hosts is like “Hey, we have a surprise guest and and we’re gonna have him arm wrestle you.” I’m like “Oh Jesus Christ, what’s gonna happen here?” The door opens behind me and I see Freddie Foxxx come through and I’m like “Holy shit!” Industry Shakedown was one of my favorite albums, it’s incredible. So he comes on and John’s just like “…Oh shit.” They had an arm wrestling competition and it was like they just hit it off instantly. It was the greatest thing ever. We’re sitting here with this hip hop legend, just an absolute badass. He was just like “Hey, let’s try to do something.” It was incredible, man. It was a good time.

Alex Obert: With music you’ve put out there, what have you tried to do with sampling?

Trademarc: We’ve actually got away from that just because it’s impossible to sample stuff now. I guess on one level, it’s probably good because the people get to keep the rights to their music, but in another respect, it limits you. I love sampling. It’s very difficult to make beats that sound like they’ve been sampled when they’re not. I think the best example of beats that sound like that would be on my album and on the latest Czarface album because those are so well-produced, by DC and 7L & Esoteric respectively.

Alex Obert: What would you say is your favorite usage of sampling in a song?

Trademarc: I love the song The Bomb by Akinyele, it’s one of the best hip hop songs ever. Anything on his album Vagina Diner is incredible.

Alex Obert: What is sampled for it?

Trademarc: You know what, I don’t know. I’m not a producer and I don’t pretend to be. (laughs) I was always the guy that knew when something was sampled. But if you asked what it was, I would have no idea, I’d have to look it up. When I used to rap with Seamus and George, who are 7L and Esoteric, those guys could rattle off samples. And even my friend Trevor, who is Karma and does a lot of their design work, he would rattle off “Yeah, that’s so and so from this record. That was put out by this and that.” And I’m just like “Jesus Christ, dude.” It’s not my field. (laughs) My field is dick and fart jokes. So if you want to talk dick and fart jokes, we can do that.

Alex Obert: So in that case, what are some of your favorite comedies?

Trademarc: The animated series, Archer. I just started watching Silicon Valley too.

Alex Obert: Getting further into your albums, I’d like to discuss Prison Planet by East Coast Avengers.

Trademarc: That was produced by DC the MIDI Alien. Esoteric and myself were the two MCs. Bumpy Knuckles was actually on that, as well as Apathy and Celph Titled, Slaine, King Magnetic, Terminology and Statik Selektah. I honestly love that album. I love both East Coast Avengers albums.

Alex Obert: How did you discover that Kill Bill O’Reilly was banned on MySpace and YouTube?

Trademarc: It’s funny that MySpace was on that, that’s how you know something’s dated! (laughs) It’s like being banned from AOL. I don’t even know how they took it down, I just know that every time we put it up, it got taken down and said taken down by whatever it was. There was an email sent to whoever had the account, they were basically just taking it down and sending emails saying it violated something. I forget what the exact words were, but it’s funny because they were taking Kill Bill O’Reilly down, but they were leaving up all of these white supremacist groups that were putting up their videos. We sent them back emails saying “Hey, it’s kind of funny you’re doing that, but you’re leaving all this other hate group stuff up there. What’s the deal?” We never got any answers. But that song got a lot of feedback, positive and negative.

Alex Obert: What was the negative feedback like?

Trademarc: It was like death threats and stuff. I mean I’m not gonna say it was concerning because I’m sure most of it was just like internet tough guy talk. “I’ll fucking kill you. I’ll meet you here, blah, blah, blah.” When we did the song, it was basically just to point out how easy it is to use hyperbole. That’s what O’Reilly’s all about, that’s what all those guys are about. I’m not a liberal or a conservative, I just think that all these talking heads guys just use hyperbole and hot button propaganda as their weapons. They just feed the fire of whatever they’re trying to get out there and stay relevant in their media markets. We did the same thing through a song and everybody lost their fucking mind. “Oh my god! These guys are thugs!” Michelle Malkin was like “Don’t these guys have drugs to sell and bitches to slap?” She made the most ignorant statement ever. It was like “…What?” Women to slap, drugs to sell and whores to beat or some shit. What the fuck are you talking about? Stuff like that is what we were trying to point out, it’s so easy to speak and cause a fucking riot. And we did.

Alex Obert: How did you originally become invested in the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world?

Trademarc: Esoteric and I went to a Red Sox game. (laughs) We were in obstructed view seating. There was a fucking two foot thick beam in front of us, so all I could see was the ass-end of the catcher and the umpire and basically the shortstop and outfield. So we were basically just sitting there shooting the shit, this was back in like 2006. I remember I was reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and we started to talk about that. It was like “We should do something.” And he’s like “I have this talented producer DC who sent me a ton of beats. Why don’t we do this project?” And I was like “Shit, alright.” So we agreed on it. He was actually the one that came up with the whole idea behind Kill Bill O’Reilly. It just kind of came together. He would write a verse and send me over the beat with his verse, I would just go and vibe with what he was doing and then I would write a song. I don’t even know if there was ever this conversation between us that was like “Let’s just keep it social and political.” I think at the time, everybody just had enough. They were like “Alright, Obama’s getting in and we could have all this change.” Which in retrospect, looks silly, but there was so much unknown and anxiety in general. I think we portrayed that pretty well.

Alex Obert: So then we move forward to the release of Black Ash Days. When did that come out?

Trademarc: That just came out this past May. I put it out on the same day that John and I’s album was released ten years ago.

Alex Obert: What took place in between the time of Prison Planet and Black Ash Days?

Trademarc: We actually put out a second East Coast Avengers album. It was called Avengers Airwaves, it’s really fucking good. I was really proud of it.

Alex Obert: With ups and downs in all genres of the music world, what are the politics that you’ve experienced?

Trademarc: It’s who knows who. The politics of the music business is probably something I don’t even know enough about. I don’t know if I was ever just fully invested enough. Honestly, the only reason I’m in the quote unquote music business is because I was lucky enough to have a famous relative. I’m not stupid enough to not be able to admit that. I was really fucking lucky. John was famous and we made an album together, very fortunate. And I use that to try to keep making music because I just love music. Music now, it’s just hard to sell. And it doesn’t even matter, now it just sounds like sour grapes. But I don’t know, it just gets to the point where I’m like “Am I good enough? What would it matter?” You start getting into the whole self-doubt thing because I have an inferiority complex among other things. (laughs)

Alex Obert: I’ve seen instances of established and well-known rock bands that can’t even fund their latest album, it’s people all over the spectrum that deal with it. It’s pretty depressing.

Trademarc: It is sad. It’s like the only physical copies of albums that you see sell are names like Taylor Swift and Zac Brown Band or people that have just been around forever like U2 or even Billy Joel for Christ sake.

Alex Obert: Black Ash Days had a very bold theme and strong lyrics. Would you consider it to be a concept album?

Trademarc: Yeah. It’s about me having a full-on mental and emotional breakdown. When I was nineteen through about twenty one, I started to have anxiety attacks and suffer from crippling depression, as well as auditory hallucinations. Even back in high school, it started then. I would count everything. I would have to do things in threes like if I was touching something or even looking at someone. And if I didn’t think the right thoughts, I couldn’t leave the room yet and I’d have to do it again. It took a while to even get out of the house sometimes. It was never enough for me to want to go back in the house and do stuff, at least not at first, but it started to get really bad and it would increase my anxiety. So I was twenty or maybe twenty one and I was driving down the highway with my girlfriend to pick up a check at work and I just had a monster anxiety attack. I had no idea what it was because you’re just not ready for that shit. Everything just goes numb. I felt like I was floating above the fucking car. It was dark, my arms were numb and I thought I could be having a fucking heart attack. We had to pull over and wait it out. I started to just have constant anxiety after that. It got to the point where I couldn’t even go to work. I went to a psychiatrist, they’re giving me all this shit like Clonopin and Paxil. They gave me the same medicine that they had given family members that had similar problems thinking that maybe it’d help, but it just made shit worse. It ultimately led to a suicide attempt, well a few of them, attempted pill overdoses. When I was at Syracuse, I had two pill overdose scares and I had to come home. The added shame and failure coupled with my already worsening depression and anxiety led to the most serious of my suicide attempts. There were pills and alcohol and I also cut my wrists and tried stabbing myself in the stomach. I was hospitalized, inpatient/outpatient, all that jazz. I’ve seen that whole world, a lot of it, and it’s not pretty.

The psychiatric unit I was in was not conducive to healing. I guess it may have helped me in that I got some kind of frame of reference, or a little perspective. I mean I know it’s probably not healthy to compare yourself and your own inner turmoil with someone else’s, but it’s also pretty goddamn hard not to. I would sit in group therapy and we would all tell our stories and there were people that openly admitted to being homicidal. I kinda took a little personal inventory at that time. I was like, “Look, am I unstable? Yes. Am I in need of help? Abso-fucking-lutely. But I need to get the fuck out of here as soon as fucking possible.” I learned how to manipulate the system and play the game. Now mind you, my thoughts weren’t as clear or precise as this, but the sentiment was the same. Having a psychotic/emotional breakdown crippled most parts of my brain, but other parts seemed heightened. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it’s true. I mean I could barely get my eyes open in the morning without crying and wondering when the “feeling” would go away. I don’t think people understand what that really means, and I hope most people don’t ever have to find out.

Alex Obert: Has it inspired you to help others going through the same thing?

Trademarc: Absolutely. I’m setting up a donation system with House of Roulx, that’s a company that my friends own. We’re gonna sell prints of the lyrics of the single Black Ash Days and a hundred percent of the proceeds are gonna go to a local hospital around here, we’re still trying to pick out which one we’re gonna use. I wanna go back, get my Master’s and become a therapist. Mental illness is really something that people still shy away from. There was never any way for me to have known what was going on. It’s really just never brought up. Not that abnormal psychology is something that you would just drop on people randomly, but here I am taking all these classes in high school and I even took a psych class. And I just think no one is prepared. Not that they should give you this “Alright, if this happens, you’re fuckin’ nuts” kind of talk, but when it was happening, it was just like “what the fuck is going on?” Nobody’s prepared for that. And then once it does go on, it’s very difficult to find someone to talk to that even takes you seriously, or is prepared to want to broach the subject of mental illness, never mind suicide. Especially when you’re a teenager because they just assume you’re at the beginning of puberty or you’re just going through a phase. Trust me, I was a fuckin’ idiot. Everybody’s an idiot going through their teens and some, such as myself, are idiots well into their twenties, you just do stupid shit. You’re already an emotional fucking mess, so that’s what they think it is. In reality, you’re going nuts. The problem is, from the outside, the symptoms look the same. It’s also more convenient for people to be able to put a concrete label on something, myself included. It’s much easier to see someone going through issues with substance abuse or mental illness and just throw a nice little bow on it and put it away where it won’t cause too much of an inconvenience in my life. It’s emotionally draining to get involved with other people’s shit. I get that. But that’s why I’m trying to open lanes of dialogue any way I can. It just so happens that this time around I chose to do it with my music.

Alex Obert: Did you ever second-guess the decision to put all that out there on an album?

Trademarc: No, never. I wanted to do it sooner, but there was really no platform for me to do it on. At this point, unfortunately, I wish more people would hear it. But whoever does hear it, I hope it helps them. I’m not gonna stop, I don’t care. I’m working on another album now and it’s gonna revolve around similar subject matter. It’s not gonna be the whole concept of a story that’s linear, but it’s linear enough. This one’s gonna be a little bit more all over the place, but it’ll have a theme. But yeah, people need to talk about these things.

Alex Obert: What do you do to keep busy to help manage your anxiety?

Trademarc: My anxiety isn’t even really that bad anymore. I’m bipolar, so it’s more the mood swings that get me. When I was diagnosed, I was probably twenty one. They like to throw around the whole bipolar label because I guess they can give you better medicine. Bipolar Disorder is the easiest thing for psychiatrists to attempt to treat because they can just throw everything at you. So I only really notice anxiety now when I’m trying to go to sleep and I start thinking about something. I have an occasional panic attack during the day but they don’t phase me much anymore. I’ve reached the point now where panic attacks are fun…in a strange way. It’s the closest you can come to a body high without taking drugs.

Alex Obert: Moving on to a lighter note, I noticed a photo of you rocking the hi-top fade on Instagram. What was that like?

Trademarc: (laughs) There was an unofficial battle between myself and a friend who has since passed away, unfortunately. He had a kickass hi-top and he also had the money symbol shaved in his head, so if he put it up and put his head down, you would see the money symbol. So I took this as an unofficial challenge to have a better hi-top. I don’t even know if he even knew. Just word of mouth, “Hey, Matt has an awesome hi-top. Better get one.” I think it was inspired at first by Kid ‘n Play, but Kwamé also had a nice hi-top. I rocked that and obviously got the fake glasses to look like Kwamé and a ridiculous goddamn hoop earring.

Alex Obert: Did you wear anything outrageous during the era of hip hop fashion throughout the late eighties and early nineties?

Trademarc: Hell yes. I had parachute pants in the eighties and MC Hammer pant suits as well as Z. Cavaricci pants and jacket with shoulder pads in the early nineties. In the late nineties I wore mostly Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica and Polo. I had gold fronts with the Polo horse on them, as well as a two fingered ring with my name engraved on it. I also rocked cornrows for a while. I was an unmitigated disaster of fashion.

Alex Obert: Prior to the obvious connection with John Cena joining the WWE, how was wrestling a part of your life?

Trademarc: My uncle, John’s dad, would always get all the Wrestlemanias. I used to be so jealous. They would get it and we would always have family dinner out there every Sunday and we’d have to leave by the time that Wrestlemania was starting. I would be so pissed, you have no idea. I know John has covered a lot of this in interviews, but he made cardboard belts and so we would wrestle for cardboard belts at his house and everything would be set up. There was Intercontinental Champion, Champion of the Bowl of Spaghetti, there was a champion for everything. (laughs) He always had Champion of the Universe, he never lost it. It was ridiculous. Nobody could win that thing. When we were little, even before that, we played wrestling guys. And this was even before they made wrestling figures, we would use He-Man figures. And we would use the AWA/NWA figures by Remco when they were released, they would look like He-Man guys. We would use those dudes too. We just always loved wrestling, it was just always there. I forget what days it was on, but I just know that I was always watching on USA Network. You’d see Hogan run through some nobody and then Ultimate Warrior squash someone, all these big name guys just come out and destroy people. It was always talked about and always part of your routine. The routine was cartoons, Three Stooges, Godzilla, wrestling. (laughs)

Alex Obert: So I also wanted to bring up the music video for Right Now. Where was that filmed?

Trademarc: That was filmed at the house we would have family dinner at. That was in West Newbury. That’s the stomping grounds. We still go there for family holidays. It’s where John grew up. That house is full of memories.

Alex Obert: I noticed John giving someone a suplex in the video. Was that you?

Trademarc: That was his brother, Matt. He gave him a good go for his money because Matt used to wrestle.

Alex Obert: I have to ask though, did you ever let John give you an Attitude Adjustment?

Trademarc: No, but I did have him chop me once. I had a hand mark on my chest for a week. (laughs) I’m like “Dude, just chop me! Just chop me!” We were in his dad’s kitchen and he’s like “Dude, you don’t want me to chop you. Trust me.” So I took my shirt off and he did one and he was like “Ah, that wasn’t good enough!” I could barely breathe at that point. I’m like “No dude! It was good enough!” He’s like “No it wasn’t! Let me do another one!” So he ended up chopping me three times until he got the real good Flair chop on the chest and dude, those are no joke. That’s another reason why I couldn’t wrestle, are you shittin’ me? Taking ten of those in the corner? Nah dude, not for me. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Have you been to any notable events as a fan?

Trademarc: I went to the Wrestlemania in LA and the Wrestlemania in New York. John and I performed at the House of Blues. The album had just dropped so we were performing wherever we could. Wrestlemania is what it’s all about. If you’re gonna go to an event, be there. The fans get rooms and hang out for a week, it was just so much fun. All the wrestlers stay in same hotel, which is rare. It was a blast. And I’ve gone to a ton of pay per views too, a ton of shows. Whenever they’re around here, we usually try to go.

Alex Obert: Outside of music and wrestling, what do you do for enjoyment?

Trademarc: I do Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I’ve been training for about twelve years. I have a very close friend, Danny Morera, who has his own Jiu Jitsu Academy. North Shore Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Salem, Massachusetts. It’s a great place and you can’t beat the workout.

Alex Obert: Where do you enjoy traveling to around here?

Trademarc: Whenever I drive, I just go towards the ocean. Wherever the ocean is, that’s where I need to be. Something about it, the smell, just everything about it. It’s peaceful.

Alex Obert: In closing, what do you have planned for the rest of 2015?

Trademarc: We have four or five songs already done and I wrote six more, we need to record those. Hopefully we’ll write the remaining part of the album. I want to get it out sooner rather than later. This one took a long time because we weren’t sure if John was gonna be on stuff or not and by the time we found out, it was basically too late. We spent too much time on that, rather than trying to get it out. This time, we’re gonna get it done.

Alex Obert: I’m wishing you the best with that. I’d love to thank you for your time.

Trademarc: Yeah dude, thank you.

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On the Line with Matt Hill

Matt Hill has put in a lot of hard work to make television, film and the world a better place. He has taken on many voice roles, most notably as Ed from Ed, Edd n Eddy, one of the most popular and successful shows that Cartoon Network has ever had. Interestingly enough, he acted in the Raphael suit for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the third film from the legendary live-action trilogy of the early nineties. But roles like this is just a fraction of who Matt Hill is and what he has done. In 2008, he and his friend, Steph Tait, ran through Canada and around America (eleven thousand miles) in a one year journey entitled “Run For One Planet”. (The video detailing his travels and messaged can be found at the bottom of the page) Matt was able to fill me in on his experience as Raphael and on the set of the film, giving “Single D” his identity, what Run For One Planet means to him and more.

Alex Obert: When you were a kid, which cartoons were you watching on TV?

Matt Hill: I was a huge fan of early Superman and I loved Mighty Mouse. Watched a lot of Scooby Doo. I loved Super Friends, that was a big one for me. Massive. There was a period that I didn’t actually watch a lot of television because I was playing a ton of sports. For a while, my folks didn’t believe in the TV. My jumpstart into voiceover was really when I decided I wanted to be an actor myself. I’d watch television, everything from The Partridge Family to Donny & Marie. At one point, I thought it’d be so cool to join a band and take my family on the road and be like them. I thought maybe I could do this on TV too. Everything just started to happen in Vancouver at that point. I just made the decision one day at thirteen years old, my life is passing me by. I better make a career happen. Went downtown, got an agent and the rest they say is history.

Alex Obert: Through breaking into the industry, did you meet someone that left you starstruck?

Matt Hill: I’m a huge fan of The Six Million Dollar Man. I had a massive crush on Lindsay Wagner, she was The Bionic Woman. Interestingly enough, one of the very first shows that I was ever a special skills extra in, I got cast in this made for TV movie that Lindsay Wagner was doing. I remember just being so enamored by her. I was completely starstruck and I couldn’t talk to her, but I still had such a huge crush on her. I was standing next to her in the food line and the only thing I could say is “Hey…how’s it goin?” (laughs) She was so kind and asked me if I was just starting out. I told her I was and she said to just keep going and follow my dream. Fast forward about fifteen years later and I got cast in a made for TV movie. Interestingly enough, I ended up playing her assistant in this role. She was at the disease control center and I was her trusted assistant and we were trying to save all these sick passengers from a cruise ship that had a bad case of food poisoning on it. So there I was acting it up with my childhood hero. We just had a blast together. It’s neat to hear a nice comment like that and then fifteen years later, we’re working side by side. It was pretty cool.

Alex Obert: It’s quite notable that you had a major acting role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III as you wore the costume for Raphael. What was the feeling like inside the suit?

Matt Hill: Have you ever been in a really, really, really tight and dark cave where it’s super hot? You can’t see, you can’t really hear anything, except for your own heartbeat that is screaming that you might die at any moment. (laughs) There were really many moments where you had to be comfortable being in a really tight, dark space. That’s for sure. Most of the time, we were acting blind and deaf and dumb. If it weren’t for our trusted puppeteers literally screaming in our ears and telling us to go left or right or straight, we’d be falling off of ledges and all sorts of things. The first couple of weeks of Ninja Turtles was quite funny, the outtakes of us wiping out into each other and falling over things. It was quite comical. Interestingly enough, our bodies got really adapted to having all this foam and latex on us, it kind of ended up feeling like a second skin. It’s a feeling that you are one with this character when you put the Ninja Turtles suit on. Quite a metamorphosis.

Alex Obert: Do you have an estimate as to how much the suit was worth?

Matt Hill: That’s a good question. I have no idea, to be honest with you. But I do know they were obviously very valuable to the production company because at the end of filming, we had three suits. One was considered our A-suit, it had everything on it, all the real expensive stuff. And then we had two sort of utility ones with less stuff, but we could use them back and forth if something broke. One of the costumers said we could just take one of the extra ones because they’re not gonna want it back. Fine. So we originally went home with a good portion of our one stunt suit. I had one of the heads and then about a month later, I got a cease and desist letter from the lawyers of the production companies saying to send them back and that those are theirs. (laughs) I boxed it up and sent it back pretty quick.

Alex Obert: So if you are in the costume and someone else is doing the voice of the character, how was the audition process handled?

Matt Hill: Well you know what’s interesting was they totally treated it as if it was a Shakespeare audition. We had to learn the lines verbatim. I literally watched Turtles 1 easily twenty, thirty times because we were then told that for our callback, we were gonna be with the main producers from Hong Kong. I just remember Raymond Chow asking if I knew how to do a flip. I remember thinking inside going “I have no idea what he said, but I think he said a flip. Yes! I can learn how to do a flip.” I knew how to do all the other stuff. “Oh yeah yeah yeah! No problem!” Then he asked if I was claustrophobic. And I’m like “Claustrophobic? What does he mean by that?” Little did I know was that was because the suits were so heavy and claustrophobic, you really had to get good at doing all that stuff. I did the audition where I literally had a paper bag over my head for the second callback and I was doing these scenes from Turtles 1, these big fight scenes with Casey Jones. I remember the one with “What’s that, a Jose Canseco bat? You kiddin’ me?” It was literally like being in Kabuki Theater. I had a bag on my head and I was doing these big movements, but trying to imitate Raphael as best I could. I guess I did it the way they wanted and they thought I’d make a good Raph. But when I got the nod to actually have the part, they put me together with a gentleman by the name of Shishir Inocalla, who was also the stunt turtle for Michelangelo. So we trained together for about seven months before we started filming. I went from not being able to basically do anything to being able to do flips and kicks, some of the big moves that I ended up getting to do in the movie. But then they also had the world class martial artists that went in when you saw all the high, high, high, high level stuff. It was all them. They would just cut back and forth between us and them.

Alex Obert: You are well-known for your role on Ed, Edd n Eddy as the voice of Ed. What was that audition like?

Matt Hill: Ed, Edd n Eddy was probably then and still the longest audition process I’ve ever had. I’m not kidding you, it probably had twelve callbacks for that thing. Danny Antonucci, who’s the genius, brilliant creator behind the show, just knew what he wanted. As we were getting closer and closer to the voice that he had in his head, before I knew it, I kept going back and auditioning with the same two guys, Sam and Tony. By the time it was just the three of us always going back, we had about another six auditions together where they literally just threw us in a room with the mics going. They would tell us to find a way to do it differently or do this or that. I remember probably about the seventh audition, just before we got the nod, I kept thinking there’s no way I was gonna make the next callback. I didn’t think they could stand what I was doing. Out of just sheer frustration, I literally touched the top of the microphone where it makes a big “pff! pff!” on it. I just looked at the mic and said in Ed’s voice “How do you get water from this thing here?” And Danny just shoots up from his face and his hands and is like “That’s Ed! That’s him right there! Do THAT! If you do that, I’m happy! If you don’t do that, you’re fired!” (laughs) So fully coming from left field, that’s when Single D was born. It was so cool because as we went along, Danny would say “Don’t read your scripts the night before. Don’t prepare. I want Ed to be completely unaware and out of left field.” For an actor, it was really hard because I’m always preparing everything and reading these scripts. For Ed, Edd n Eddy, I was allowed to basically show up and just let it happen. It was pretty brilliant. We worked so hard and it pays off because it’s one of those ones that people are still discovering. Kids who watched it then are now having kids and they’e letting their kids watch it. I think it’s just so cool. It’s nice that my buddy, Ed and the other two are all living on in perpetuity.

Alex Obert: There was a boom during that time period on Cartoon Network where they delivered with new content like Ed, Edd n Eddy, Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Powerpuff Girls and others. There was also competition with shows from Nickelodeon. What do you feel separated Ed, Edd n Eddy from the other cartoons out there at the time?

Matt Hill: I think there was just something, maybe it was in the water. I have no idea. (laughs) I think there was just something that was so unique about the three Eds and the rest of the cul-de-sac gang and the way we were all encouraged to play these characters. Danny just had this vision that I think really started to grow, it just came out. It was good timing because I don’t think anything had been on the airwaves that was kind of like that at the time. With all the good things that happened, I think they all just collided at the same time. Me, Tony and Sam ended up becoming great friends from spending so much time together. We went through so much. But me and Sam, we still get to work a lot together on lots of different shows and that’s good. Tony left the biz a few years ago and last time we heard, he owns part of an oil patch up in northern Canada.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about the series finale in the form of a TV movie? It was especially effective because one, they finally introduced a new character and two, they finally get accepted by the cul-de-sac gang.

Matt Hill: I think it was a nod to Danny and his creation. I was all for it. I thought it was cool. I think it was neat that we ended it the way that it was. People still think there is a possibility that it’ll come back. But who knows, fellas…who knows? (laughs)

Alex Obert: Which episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy would you say is your all-time favorite?

Matt Hill: I still think the Christmas special is still one of my all-time favorites. I also like the Halloween special as well. But Christmas is my favorite time of the year and Ed was kind of like a reflection of me. He’s putting out stuff for Santa and basically get so excited, he pulls Double D through the wall and all over the place. He’s like “I am a good boy!”

Alex Obert: I understand that Run For One Planet has been a significant part of your life over the past few years. How has this whole journey changed your general outlook and attitude on life?

Matt Hill: It was so interesting because when going on the run, I wanted it to be about the run and not about “Hey, here’s a guy who does cartoons and TV!” But yet, it was interesting as we went along because it was by bringing in all the cartoon characters that I’d been playing that really helped us connect with the kids instantly. It helped them feel like they already knew me. It was a really interesting experience to be able to embrace what it was that I’d been doing for so many years. It helped to share these messages inspiring people to make healthier choices for themselves and the planet. It was a real big gift for me because I really got to see every single day, not only through the inspiration of running a marathon each day, but at the same time, meeting these thousands of kids and their parents that were saying “Oh my god, Ed, Edd n Eddy has absolutely helped my kid get through a tough childhood.” Or a kid will come up to me at a school and say “Aw dude, I love Ed! Single D is the best!” I remember this one teacher in Houston at this huge inner-city school that we ended up at, he was a giant man. I thought he would crush me with his big finger. He came up to me afterwards and he actually had a tear in his eye when he came to shake my hand. And I’m like “Hey brother, what’s up?” He goes “Man… I just want you to know, the Ninja Turtles, they were it for me. Raphael really made me feel like I wasn’t an outcast. He made me feel like it’s okay if you’re not understood, you can still have a big heart and be generous towards people.” He said he had a really tough childhood and the Ninja Turtles, in particular, really helped him believe in himself. It just brought it all back home, it made me feel blessed that I get to do what I do. I always felt really grateful for the work that I got to do, but I never really knew the full impact of it on people’s lives in a positive way until we literally went to run around North America. Going into it, I had no idea it was gonna be like that. I mean I knew it was gonna be wild because we were running so much and I was gonna get to literally talk to people every day. I love running and I love the metaphor of small steps add up. But in terms of being able to bring my cartoon characters along, my god, what a gift!

Alex Obert: What was going through your head and what was the feeling like each time you saw the “Welcome To” for a new state or province?

Matt Hill: Aww man, you just nailed it. I remember the first couple while going across Canada, running out of our town. There was the border of British Columbia into Alberta, from our first province down. I felt like “Oh my god, this is the farthest I’ve ever ran in my life!” And then I remember looking out towards the rest of the provinces and going like “Wow! We have a huge country!” We literally just ticked each one off and seven months later, we entered into America. We entered in Maine and ran into Bar Harbor, it was crazy! Again, same thing, tickin’ off all these “Welcome To”. Massachusetts. Welcome to Connecticut. I remember running into New York City and it literally was on the eve of the 2008 election. You remember what it was like being an American for that, right? It was such a huge time for Americans and I felt so honored to be witnessing this. We were literally running into Times Square, there was a part of the video where it showed us running in on a Friday night. And it was like the coolest thing I’d ever experienced cause not only were we there, but we ran there! (laughs) Getting to witness America absolutely have this huge outcome, it didn’t matter what political party. It was absolutely amazing to see traffic cops and bridge workers and street sweepers and people in shops all the next day going “Yes We Can! Yes We Can!” It was really wild. The spirit for change was just so huge. We call it running like hell because we knew at that point, it was November and once the snow hit on the East Coast, we’d be totally hooped. It was so hard after New York to get down to South Carolina, so we ran for thirty days straight and literally ticked off the miles. We arrived in a little town in North Carolina called Chocowinity, it was probably still one of the best school events we ever did and it was the poorest town we ever ran through. The teachers said that ninety percent of the town had been thrown out of work. These kids had never got to have a tour, let alone a couple people from Canada run and speak at their school. Imagine having run thirty days in a row and plus all the running we’d done previous to get that point. We ran into this little town where everyone’s on food stamps and assistance. They raised more money per capita than we had. They went town to town, door to door. All these kids going like “I love Ed, Edd n Eddy!” (laughs) Me and my friend, Steph, we become these two superstars for the day. It was literally like that kind of floating magic carpet ride, all that running and all the things that went wrong, helping to make it right.

Alex Obert: What was it like to finish the journey and end up back where you began it?

Matt Hill: So it took a year and four days, three hundred and sixty nine days to run across Canada and around America. We started in Vancouver on May 4th, 2008 and arrived back home in Vancouver on May 8th, 2009. And that was literally the biggest homecoming rush of energy I’ve ever felt in my life. We got the nod from our own city by the mayor declaring it “Run For One Planet Day” on May 8th. So every year, it’s declared Run For One Planet Day here. We give out a legacy for kids with the Green Dream Grant. We’ll donate a couple of grand a year, essentially doing this for the rest of time.

Alex Obert: Upon getting back home, what did you notice about the overall improvement of your health from the running? Did you check in with a doctor?

Matt Hill: It’s interesting, that’s where I wished we would’ve had the technology set up before we left to do all that blood work and do all that sort of stuff to see what all our numbers were. Unfortunately there was just so much to do beforehand. But I definitely know that when I got back, I just kept running and running and running cause the train for me was so far along the tracks. I think it was around Christmas when I finally realized “Oh…we stopped. Okay.” (laughs) I stopped my running every day for a bit. But yeah, it was a big change coming home after that huge rush of finishing. All those questions from people, it’s all well-meaning, but it’s like well when’s the next one? When’s this? When’s that? Like I said, it took me six months to realize that we were even home. After that, we spent quite a bit of time on the road then doing keynote talks around North America, talking at leadership conferences and different groups about the tour. So it really wasn’t about until a year later that I landed back in Vancouver full-time and was saying “Okay, what’s the next part look like here?” Back at the cartoons I went. I mean I was still doing cartoons while we were away, but there were a couple that I recorded while we were on the tour.

Alex Obert: I have to ask, what’s the story behind the car on fire in the video?

Matt Hill: (laughs) We had just taken a break and we were about to head back out and go for the run. This car goes screaming by and pulled up in front of us. It was a young kid that had just bought the car about an hour earlier and I guess something caught on fire. We called 911 and kept everybody back. It was quite a sight cause we realize moments like that, we seem to always dodge just being out of the way of danger. We knew full well what we were getting into. But for the most part, we really only got ran off the road I think three specific times throughout the whole year, which was pretty scary. Woah…that car’s really coming towards me. Oh my god! I’ve gotta get out of the way! For the million of cars that must’ve passed us, most everybody was pretty darn courteous and polite. They gave us a lot of room. We’d get a lot of stares too, especially when people found out where we were from, people from the deep South or Texas. They’d be like “You’re from Canada?! You ran here?! …On your feet?” (laughs) They’d think of us as crazy Canadians!

Alex Obert: Can you fill readers in on the process of putting all of these great stories into a book you’re working on about the journey?

Matt Hill: It’s an interesting transition. I’ve had a few periods where I did some writing on it before my brain started forgetting some of the details. But it’s kind of cool because now, I’m really feeling strongly about the message to be what lights our fire. We’re all on such a journey, look what you’ve chosen to do and share that with the world. You started this site and imagine the lightbulb moment you had when you wanted to start it up. It’s the same thing, it’s honoring what that song is inside you. “Yeah! I’m gonna do this and I’m also gonna do that.” For me, I’ve always had this dream of being an actor and at the same time, I’ve always passionately believed in a healthier world and leaving as positive a stamp on the planet as I can with the time that I’m given to be here. When part of the journey that I’ve always wanted to do is write the book. I’ve been involved in putting some other ones together and helping with compilations, this will be my bonafide first “Penned by Matt Hill”. (laughs)

Alex Obert: With all the great things you’ve done, has appearing at conventions been one of them?

Matt Hill: Yes, I have. I’ve been invited to quite a few, actually. It’s so neat to be able to be able to meet the very people who are the reason that I have a job because they love the shows that I get to work on. But then again, it’s another extension of the gift that I found on the Run For One Planet tour. And that’s being able to talk to people about living an inspired life. Instead of just sitting at a table and reaching out and shaking somebody’s hand, I get asked to talk to people at the conventions. I’ll basically do a mini keynote where I pretty much get to talk about my life as an actor, an hour of taking questions. I get lots of questions once they find out about the tour because for some of them, running is so foreign. It’s so neat for me to be able to go “Hey you know what, you can do it too! You can essentially do anything you want.” So that’s what I love. Every new cartoon I get is another opportunity to not only be gainfully employed in my industry, but at the same time, being asked to go to more conventions. It’s so neat to be able to continue that cycle and to keep talking about being really, truly blessed to live this life that I get to live.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, can you fill in readers on your current projects?

Matt Hill: On Netflix, Dinotrux just premiered in the middle of August. That’s from DreamWorks Television. I play Ton-Ton. And then I’ve got Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, I think that’s on Netflix as well. And then for all the little preschoolers, there’s a new one called Kate & Nim Nim. That’s on Disney Junior in the states.

Alex Obert: What else do you have planned ahead into 2016?

Matt Hill: I just did my eighth Ironman Distance Triathlon recently, so my plan is to keep swimming and biking and running. Start and finish this wonderful book that I’ve begun. Me and my fiancé are taking the next steps towards being officially husband and wife. I think that’s gonna happen in early 2016. And just to continue to work as much as I am possibly given the opportunities to. I’ll get out to as many conventions and things like that and meet as many people as I possibly can.

Alex Obert: Sounds wonderful. I’d love to thank you so much for your time.

Matt Hill: You bet, man! Thank you so much. I sure appreciate it!

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On the Line with Jesse Hughes [Eagles of Death Metal]

Whether you know him as Boots Electric, Father Badass, The Devil or maybe even Fabulous Weapon, one thing that is known amongst all is that there is none quite like Jesse Hughes. He and Josh Homme are not just two compadres in Eagles of Death Metal, but they are two of the last authentic rockstars and they are redefining cool. The band will be releasing their fourth album entitled Zipper Down on October 2nd and prior to a gig in Birmingham, I had an incredibly enlightening and undoubtedly entertaining conversation with Jesse. You’ll get to see why he really is one in a million.

Alex Obert: To start things off, I’d like to wish you a happy belated birthday.

Jesse Hughes: Thank you, my friend! It was a great birthday.

Alex Obert: How did it feel to celebrate it in Nashville with an Eagles of Death Metal gig?

Jesse Hughes: Well, eighty seven women got spontaneously pregnant and no one knows how it happened. I always wear a camouflage condom so no one can see me cumming and I think that’s what happened. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Nashville happens to the home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. An inductee there and one of the biggest names in country is Johnny Cash. As you know, he transcends genre and is no stranger to rock n’ roll. How do you feel about him and his legacy?

Jesse Hughes: I relate to Johnny Cash, a speed freak with a penchant for wearing black. I think that’s awesome.

Alex Obert: And here you are in Birmingham tonight for yet another awesome night of rockin’, what’s your outfit going to be for the stage?

Jesse Hughes: Tonight, I am gonna be wearing the most adorable pair of pants you’ve ever seen! I like to wear black. And a t-shirt. I’m gonna sweat through it. I’m gonna be sweating like a drug dealer under questioning by the cops. I don’t want to wear anything too fancy, you know what I’m sayin?

Alex Obert: There’s already been an addition of songs off of Zipper Down onto the live setlist. I’m especially glad to see Silverlake already making its way there. You’ve previously mentioned that the album is influenced by musicians such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry. When I heard Silverlake in particular, I had a sense that there was a Motown influence behind it. Would you agree?

Jesse Hughes: Oh, absolutely. It’s mostly Stevie Wonder, especially I Was Made to Love Her and songs like that.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about playing these new songs live at gigs?

Jesse Hughes: I love ’em. I think this album is actually the most accomplished of my albums, musically. It’s not like they’re more difficult, they just require a little more musicianship. And there’s nothing wrong with that, dude.

Alex Obert: I can fondly recall falling in love with Kiss the Devil the first time I ever heard it. And it was one of the first songs I ever heard from Eagles of Death Metal. What’s your take on it?

Jesse Hughes: Well the real question is how do you feel about it, son? If you’re singing the song and you’re calling out the name of the devil and the devil don’t give a rat’s ass if you believe in him or not, you call his name, he’ll show up. Then what are you gonna do?

Alex Obert: I was introduced to that particular song during a very rough point in my life. For that, I’ve always been appreciative. It really meant a lot to me.

Jesse Hughes: I really appreciate that. You know what, man, I wrote those songs, truly, when I was going through the worst fucking divorce I think anybody could’ve gone through. And a custody battle. I wanted to find some happy places. Music was the place that I could make where nobody could go except for me. Those songs literally fuckin’ saved my life, dude.

Alex Obert: That’s amazing to hear. Music undoubtedly changes lives whether it’s listening to it, recording it, reading lyrics, writing lyrics, anything. Your partner in crime, Josh Homme, has been making music even more special lately with his latest gig, The Alligator Hour. What did you take out of your appearance on there?

Jesse Hughes: Well it was the highest rated Alligator Hour that he’s had so far, so I think that’s pretty fuckin’ cool.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about him as radio host?

Jesse Hughes: Well I’ve been a radio host now for two years, so I think of him as two years later than me! (laughs)

Alex Obert: And how about his eclectic and diverse song selection for each episode? Through listening to what he comes up with, I never fail to be blown away.

Jesse Hughes: Well I’ll tell you what, I’m very glad that he listens to my DJ sets.

Alex Obert: As it goes for your endeavors on and off the stage, what you have to say about living life to the fullest each day that you wake up and until you go to bed?

Jesse Hughes: I live life to the hardest. Fullest is something else. But living life to the hardest is like having a dick bigger than John Holmes…all the time. I’m a horny dude and my music’s very horny. I stay horny, that’s my philosophy to living forever. You have to stay horny, that’s the rule. Outside of that, anything else goes.

Alex Obert: You’re also very comfortable in your own skin. What’s your take on that?

Jesse Hughes: I’m incredibly comfortable in my own skin, but I’ll tell you what, dude. I could probably be like Hannibal Lecter and be comfortable in someone else’s skin too. I’m a pretty easygoing dude. What do you think about living life to the hardest?

Alex Obert: I feel part of it does have to do with being comfortable in your own skin, learning about and utilizing what you have to offer. It’s not always about following the path that someone else has left behind, it’s about finding your way and searching for your inner strength when you feel lost on the journey.

Jesse Hughes: There are a lot of roads to get somewhere, but if you want to be a good lawyer, you better go to fuckin’ Harvard. There’s normally a right way to do it. A lot of times, people will say there’s two sides to a coin. But in reality, there’s three sides to a coin. There’s my side, your side and then there’s the fucking coin. And that’s all you can spend. That’s what my grandpa always used to tell me. Two sides to the coin doesn’t matter, you need both of them at the same time to spend. And that’s money.

Alex Obert: What have you gotten out of spending it?

Jesse Hughes: I like spending other people’s money. (laughs) Sugar Daddies are so cool, trust me!

Alex Obert: For a second there, I thought you were talking about the candy.

Jesse Hughes: I do like the candies, Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies. I like Sugar Babies better than Sugar Daddies.

Alex Obert: If you stop at a gas station while on the road, what would you get?

Jesse Hughes: I would get Red Hots and Lemonheads. I would also get Abba-Zaba, which is my absolute favorite.

Alex Obert: While driving through the desert, what’s some ideal music to put on?

Jesse Hughes: I normally let my girl decide, she’s got the best road mixes. It’s always bizarre. It’ll be like Dwight Twilley, Looking for the Magic into something about eating dead babies from a necrophiliac-sounding band or some metal. And then it’ll jump into D.I., I Like Guns. I mean when you’re driving, you don’t wanna go to sleep. You wanna be entertained in a way. I have nothing in my life to do but listen to music and therefore, it’s difficult for me to find something that I haven’t heard. Looking for something that you haven’t heard isn’t really the point because everybody’s had vanilla ice cream and it’s still good. And my grandma used to tell me “Music’s like milk. It ain’t nothing new, but it’s only good if it’s fresh.”

Alex Obert: Makes sense, I can dig that. So we have not only Zipper Down on the horizon, but Gutterdämmerung as well. What does that mean to you?

Jesse Hughes: It’s a movie written by Henry Rollins and I get to act with Henry Rollins. And Henry Rollins called me an actor, that’s awesome! That’s like winning an award!

Alex Obert: How has he been an influence on you throughout the years?

Jesse Hughes: He’s influenced me greatly in that I’ve learned not to be so angry because he can do it all for me. I don’t have to ever be mad.

Alex Obert: Beautifully said. Before we wrap up, how does it feel to be in Birmingham tonight? What’s going through your head while here?

Jesse Hughes: What’s going through my head right now is “Damn, my girl looks amazing in that short skirt she’s wearing.”

Alex Obert: Thinking positive thoughts, that’s the way! I’d love to thank you so much for your time. I wish you the best with future touring and the official release for Zipper Down.

Jesse Hughes: Thanks, dude!

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Photo Credit (Above and photo on front page): Chapman Baehler

Sit Down Series: Tito Santana

I sat down with wrestling legend, Tito Santana. He’s been the Intercontinental Champion, Tag Team Champion, King of the Ring and is forever immortalized in wrestling through his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. On top of that, he’s starring in an upcoming sitcom called Wrestling with Joeylicious.

Alex Obert: So you filmed an episode for Wrestling with Joeylicious, how did you connect with Joey Cassata and his project?

Tito Santana: I think I ran into Joey just from doing the Comic Cons, New York and New Jersey.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about the filming of the episode?

Tito Santana: I thought it was fun. He emailed me a final copy when they got done with the project, it looked great. I saw quite a few of them and I think he’s got something good going.

Alex Obert: As it goes for present-day wrestling, do you keep an eye on WWE?

Tito Santana: No, I’m just too busy. I just don’t watch it and I don’t follow it. It’s a different sport, totally entertainment now. I like other sports. But I do know they have Cena there and I know he’s very talented. I know Bob Orton’s son is there and he’s very talented. I know they have a lot of talent, but I just don’t follow it.

Alex Obert: What do you see in the wrestlers that are on the independent shows you’ve been on as of late?

Tito Santana: From time to time, you run into some talent that has a lot of potential. They need to meet the right person and be in the right place at the right time, that’s the way everybody gets started. You gotta learn somewhere.

Alex Obert: How you feel about these second and third generation wrestlers out there? There’s been a lot of sons and daughters of legends making names for themselves.

Tito Santana: Just because you’re second and third generation doesn’t mean that you’re gonna be successful. Look at the Million Dollar Man’s kids, both those boys had talent, but they just never got the big break. But then you have Orton’s son, he’s doing fantastic. I believe some of the second and third generation pick it up a lot quicker than some of the guys that don’t have any experience. Again, it’s being at the right place at the right time and being what the WWE’s looking for. I do seminars and some of the guys that aspire to be wrestlers, they don’t train and don’t have a body that Vince might be looking for. I tell them “If you’re eventually gonna make it big, you have to stand in front of Vince and say ‘This is what I have to offer.’ Is he gonna buy what you’re offering?” I do believe it’s a one time shot, you can’t show up out of shape and think you’re gonna get another chance.

Alex Obert: Do you see wrestlers picking up bad habits on the independents?

Tito Santana: Not necessarily bad habits, but if you come to the WWE, it’s totally entertainment. They’re gonna tell you what they want. In professional wrestling, there’s basic fundamentals that you gotta learn and you can learn them in the independents.

Alex Obert: How you feel about all of the promos being scripted word for word on WWE programming now?

Tito Santana: It’s a different ballgame. They brought me back into do a RAW and I had to introduce Alberto Del Rio, but I had to memorize a few short lines. There was an exact way I was supposed to introduce him and I was nervous as hell doing it. We used to ad lib and just create our own interviews, it’s all different when you have to memorize what they want to say.

Alex Obert: What was the environment backstage like at RAW that night?

Tito Santana: Definitely a different environment. When I was wrestling, it was very loose. We would play cards in the back. Now it’s all business and everybody’s memorizing their lines and thinking about what they’re gonna be doing.

Alex Obert: I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you faced Shawn Spears on an independent show in 2012. He is currently doing very well for himself as “The Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger on NXT.

Tito Santana: Good for him. That makes me happy. Whenever I wrestle somebody, I try to teach them as much as I possibly can about the business. You can pretty much spot talent when you wrestle somebody who’s got it. You tell them. And there’s a lot of guys that have talent that never get a chance.

Alex Obert: When you do seminars, what do you want the wrestlers to take out of it?

Tito Santana: If you truly want to make it in this business, you gotta go a hundred percent. You gotta give it all, everything you got. To me, the most important thing is to follow through and get a good education. It’s something to fall back on. If you have a good job, don’t quit until you’re ready to go and know that you’re gonna be making some big money with the WWE. Learn as much as you possibly can, have fun and see where it takes you. But when you have a college education, you’re likely to find a pretty decent job if you don’t make it there.

Alex Obert: On the topic of education, you are currently a teacher. At the start of every school year, do you tell your students that you are a wrestler and were a part of the WWF?

Tito Santana: I work in the town that I live in, so everybody knows Tito Santana. When the kids come in, they know of me. I talk a little bit about wrestling, but not much. I tell them that in the classroom, I’m Mr. Solis.

Alex Obert: Do you see that some of your students currently watch WWE?

Tito Santana: Some of them are.

Alex Obert: And then are they like “Do you know John Cena?”

Tito Santana: “Can you bring John Cena here?” “Can you bring some of the guys, some of the good-looking girls that are on television?”

Alex Obert: In closing, what do you have to say to wrestlers who are trying to find themselves through their promos?

Tito Santana: When you’re doing a generic promo and talking about yourself, you gotta talk about your qualifications without bragging about yourself so much, unless you’re gonna be a dominant heel. The heel can get away with just bragging and talking about how good they are. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.

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On the Line with Matt Hardy

Matt Hardy is one half of one of the greatest tag teams of all time and highly accomplished as a singles wrestler. He’s been prominently featured throughout the years in WWE, TNA and Ring of Honor. In 2015, he can currently be seen his brother, Jeff, on Impact Wrestling (Wednesday nights at 9 on Destination America). He’s once again proving his worth in singles competition as the North Carolinian has been looking to take the TNA World Heavyweight Championship away from EC3. With the remarkable story that is his life in and out of the ring, we had an engaging and insightful conversation about his TNA experience, what it takes to be a heel, his new YouTube series, his memorable entrance theme in WWE and more.

Alex Obert: You’ve been working with EC3 a lot and that includes a couple recent title matches. I feel that when wrestlers like EC3 and Drew Galloway come in, they’re able to reach their full potential and really have a character with meaning. What’s your take on that?

Matt Hardy: I think it’s nice to see someone, like Drew for instance, get to go out and show everyone his full potential. When he came to WWE as The Chosen One and I was working with him, they had a lot of grand plans on the table for him. But I don’t know what happened along the way, there was some sort of monkey wrench thrown in or whatever. Then he ultimately ended up doing the 3MB gig and it just didn’t allow him to live up to his potential. He was becoming typecast in a certain role. It’s one thing that’s great about TNA because some characters may not have gotten great opportunities at WWE. They actually get the opportunity to realize their full potential on Impact Wrestling.

Alex Obert: How does it feel to be back in a TV-14 environment?

Matt Hardy: It’s enjoyable. I feel as I get older and now a father, I try to be a little more conscious of the things I would say and do. I try to be more creative as opposed to using a cheap word, cursing or something vulgar, to get a reaction. I try to be more thoughtful about that, but it is nice to have that freedom and that wiggle room to go out and be edgy if you really need to be in a particular situation.

Alex Obert: It’s no secret that you’ve utilized YouTube over the past several years. Now you’re delivering once again with Thoughts From The Throne. There’s a lot of competition with podcasts hosted by wrestlers, but it seems like this is your unique outlet to do something similar and talk about recent news in wrestling. Is that what you were going for?

Matt Hardy: I was yearning to do more YouTube videos, even from an entertainment aspect. My wife helps me with it right now because I’m so busy, she films for me and does the editing and puts it up. We’ve been busy just because we have a newborn obviously. But yeah, it is. It’s my way of getting my opinion and maybe a fresh take out there. People might watch the video and get a different perspective on whatever might be circulating, the hot news and whatever’s being talked about in the wrestling community. I try and go out there with a healthy mind. I don’t try to be biased, I try to be fair. That’s my whole thing in life now. I’ve been through ups, I’ve been through downs, but I need to look at things from fair perspective. That’s what I try to do with Thoughts From The Throne.

Alex Obert: With all those ups and downs throughout the story that is your life, have you ever considered doing public speaking in a setting such as a school so you can share what you’ve been through and what you’ve done?

Matt Hardy: I would. I would totally be open to doing that, especially down the road. I had actually just tweeted that I feel the best I’ve felt in seven or eight years. For the last couple years, I’ve just done a lot of resting and repairing my body. I’m constantly evolving my training schedule and my diet. I’ve gotten myself into really good groove. Physically, I’m not gonna be able to wrestle and take bumps forever. Afterwards, I would love to speak. I’ve worked very hard on my speaking through promos and in general over the last few years. So yeah, I would love to do public speaking and share my story with people. Once again, I want to talk with them on the same level and give an interesting, fair and honest perspective.

Alex Obert: One of your closest friends, Shane Helms, has recently come to TNA in a behind the scenes role. How was that arranged?

Matt Hardy: I was speaking with Josh Mathews and they were wanting to update some of the agents and producers. Shane Helms was a name that we talked about and I thought he would be great for the job. That is a tailor-made gig for him just because he has such a great wrestling mind. I suggested Shane and they brought him down. They tried him out and lo and behold, he was hired almost immediately. No disrespect to any other agents, but I think Shane is the most creative and fresh producer that is working in TNA right now.

Alex Obert: Both of you come from North Carolina, so I have to ask, how do you feel about South of the Border?

Matt Hardy: It’s definitely unique. When I was in high school and also college, we’d go to Myrtle Beach and we would always drive through South of the Border from where I lived in Cameron. I always loved stopping at South of the Border and doing all the touristy stuff and whatnot. It’s still very interesting. My wife was born and raised in New York and she moved to Florida for a little while, she’d driven through there a few times. We’ve stopped in and it’s just such a fun little tourist attraction. It’s such a unique gimmick. It totally reeks of wrestling because if you go down there, everything is a gimmick. There’s a little piece of merch for every little idea that exists there. So yeah, I’m a South of the Border fan.

Alex Obert: When I first started watching wrestling, I was introduced to you when you were just starting out as Version 1.0.One of the biggest things that stuck with me from all of that was your new entrance theme from Monster Magnet. It’s easily identifiable and impactful when it first hits, it really helped you to reinvent yourself and fans have really gotten into that theme over the years. How do you feel about it?

Matt Hardy: I love that song. It would be very hard to have a better entrance song than that. I had turned in ideas to WWE about using a different style of music and I’d given them a couple samples that I was thinking of. When I first heard the Monster Magnet song, I said “Well, it’s okay. I’m not crazy about it.” Then we got to the point where they really wanted to differentiate between myself and Jeff, so they wanted us to have different theme music. And then they said “Oh, we’ve got other music and we’ve got some ideas for it. We’ll eventually use that, but we’re gonna use the other one for tonight.” I’ll be honest, after two or three entrances with using the Oh Yeah Monster Magnet music, I couldn’t imagine having it any different. It’s such a great tempo for the whole environment and the excitement of coming down to the ring. It makes me hyped and it makes the crowd hyped, it’s a great, great entrance song.

Alex Obert: You went over to Smackdown to reinvent yourself as a heel singles competitor with much more mic time, all things that were relatively unfamiliar to you at the time.

Matt Hardy: It was interesting. I look back now and I liked a lot of the things I did, they were very entertaining. Sometimes it was hard for me to get booed in some arenas and I realize why when I look back now. You know how the saying goes, man, if you knew then what you know now. My approach to being a heel now would be different now, so drastically different. I feel like I could be a great heel. I actually feel like there’s more money in a heel Matt Hardy as a singles competitor than a babyface Matt Hardy as a singles competitor. I have a good grasp on what it takes right now to be a heel and what it takes to make the wrestling fans dislike you and want to see your opponent whoop your ass. Looking back, it was good for me because I was able to go out and show that I was a solid singles wrestler and entertaining in a singles role. It gave me a chance to showcase my own personality. But looking back, I could’ve been such a better heel. I think I was just in that mindset where I had just split from Jeff and everyone knows that Jeff was much more of a representation of what the Hardy Boyz were meant to be than I was. He’s the guy that is the natural daredevil and he does such beautiful, graceful, athletic moves. He is more of an extreme guy than I am. Once we split, he continued down the Hardy Boyz path and I had to do something drastically different. In my mind, I just wanted to be good and to succeed. I wanted people to like what I was doing with my act. I just wanted to make sure that I was going to be established and successful, that was probably my priority even over being a heel at that point.

Alex Obert: Who do you think is the best heel right now in wrestling?

Matt Hardy: Eric Young is an excellent heel. I think Eric Young is a really, really good heel because he does things intentionally so that you don’t want to cheer him, you don’t want to get behind him and you don’t want to support him. Who are some of the heels that stand out in other companies?

Alex Obert: Definitely Kevin Owens.

Matt Hardy: Yeah, Kevin is good. I worked with and against Kevin in Ring of Honor when I was there. Kevin Owens is good because he is very good at seeming normal. He’s a father and he loves his kids and his wife, you would think that describes a babyface. He’s able to turn things around. He’s able to do the things that seem cowardly, although he’s projecting an image of being tough. Kevin really knows who he is and that’s important. If you’re a wrestling character, especially as a heel, you have to understand who you are and you have to understand how the crowd views you. Kevin is really, really talented in doing that. Kevin Owens and Eric Young, those are my two top heels right now.

Alex Obert: Something that I’ve always been curious about, what was the filming process like for when they would show you posing on the on-screen match cards in the WWE in the early to mid 2000s?

Matt Hardy: They were filmed in front of a green screen. It was very simple, you would turn to your right, you would turn to your left and all angles. With the posing, they would just ask what our signature stuff was. We’d be told to do our signature stuff, poses or hand gestures or whatever your mannerism is. We’d represent our character. Most guys that have a grasp of who their character is, they have their own creative control to do whatever.

Alex Obert: There’s a lot going on right now with GFW and Impact Wrestling. PJ Black, formerly Justin Gabriel in the WWE, has been making appearances on Impact Wrestlings. You two are no strangers because he was your rookie on the first season of NXT back in 2010. Was your rookie/pro relationship solely an on-screen thing or did you take the time to mentor him outside of the ring as well?

Matt Hardy: We became buddies. We grew a relationship out of the professional aspect of being paired together. We hung out and stayed in touch. It was real cool to see him show up in TNA and be back around again. I was happy for him, just like Drew Galloway. I don’t think they utilized him to his full potential when he was on WWE television, so it’s nice to see him getting an opportunity now to be one of the staples of Global Force Wrestling. Unfortunately they aren’t on television yet. Hopefully that does happen for them. I would love to see him be on a television product and be highlighted as one of the top stars.

Alex Obert: So in closing, what is your plan once you finally hit one million Twitter followers? You’re currently at 979,000 and getting closer every day.

Matt Hardy: Maybe when I hit one million followers on Twitter, I’ll buy myself a gift. Maybe I’ll buy myself a little present, it’ll be a celebration of a million followers.

Alex Obert: Sounds like a plan. I wish you the best ahead in wrestling and in life. I’d love to thank you so much for your time and an insightful interview.

Matt Hardy: Thank you, man. I appreciate it.

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On the Line with Josh McDermitt

Josh McDermitt is a charismatic and talented actor who established himself in the comedy world before getting the role of a lifetime as Eugene Porter on The Walking Dead. The AMC smash hit series is one of the biggest and most popular television shows of all time, what better outlet could there be for Josh to showcase his acting chops? Josh and I had an engaging discussion about the conventions he’s attended, wrestling, preparing for the role of Eugene, season six of The Walking Dead and more.

Alex Obert: So you’ve been a guest at various conventions all over. In the unique environment, what has the people watching been like?

Josh McDermitt: It’s really exciting to see the different conventions we do. It’s one thing to have someone walk up to you when they dress as your character, it’s another thing when they’ve got their friends involved. It’s a group of them from the show. Some of these people, I’ve seen them without their cosplay outfits on and they look nothing like me. Then they throw all the wardrobe on and the makeup and everything else, that’s when they look just like Eugene. The lengths in which they go through is hilarious. There’s a lot of kids that are really into the special-effects makeup. I like to take pictures of the kids that come up with giant zombie bites. I’ll text the picture to Greg Nicotero and he goes nuts when he sees young people finding the passion that he did when he was younger. It’s such a fun environment for people watching and to experience the excitement that these people have for the show. It’s just been awesome.

Alex Obert: Which celebrity guests have you encountered at these conventions?

Josh McDermitt: I got to meet William Shatner once. That was really cool because I feel like he’s the king of the convention world. That was really neat to experience. I snuck a picture with him while I was eating in the green room and he was reading a book. I had my friend take a picture of us while I was eating, but Shatner wasn’t aware of it. I put it online, he tracked it down and he said I shouldn’t have taken that photo. He said no photos in the green room. I thought it was hilarious that Shatner called me out. (laughs) He’s a legend, man! He’s amazing. I still think it’s awesome I got that photo.

Alex Obert: We were actually at the same convention earlier this year, Super Megafest in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Chris Jericho was also there and I listened to the episode of Talk Is Jericho when he had you on.

Josh McDermitt: They all have a similar name to me, so I know them by city and not necessarily the convention name. Jericho’s a huge Walking Dead fan. It was a cool moment for me to be on his podcast because I’m such a big wrestling fan and a fan of his as well. It turned out that just a few weeks later, he and I were at the same convention. We only had a few minutes to chat, but it was cool. It was like seeing an old friend the moment I saw him, he’s such a great dude.

Alex Obert: Being a fan of wrestling, have you attended a live event?

Josh McDermitt: I have. I’ve never sat ringside, but that is something I would love to do. I would love to get in the ring, as a matter of fact. Anytime they would come through town, I’d go to Monday Night RAW and a bunch of different events. My cousin, Tony, and I were huge wrestling fans growing up. We had a trampoline in the backyard and perform wrestling moves on each other, it was probably pretty dangerous. (laughs) It was always fun to wrestle and body slam each other in the pool or the trampoline. It’s such an excitement to be at a live event and to see the showmanship that a lot of these wrestlers have. They can command a crowd of twenty thousand people. You’re just one man or woman standing in the middle of the ring and you have everyone’s attention. It’s pretty awesome. I learn a lot by watching them. I honestly don’t get to enough shows.

Alex Obert: How do you think it would be if Eugene was a wrestler?

Josh McDermitt: If Eugene was a wrestler, he would definitely have to use a lot of smoke and mirrors to win. Maybe throw some smoke bombs down on the mat and have the smoke rise. That’s when his opponent would start choking and Eugene can get around the back and give him a headlock, do a suplex on him or something like that. I think that Eugene would have to cut the mullet though because I feel that too many opponents would grab that and use it to their advantage. I would root for Eugene to cut the mullet. That’s the only time I would want Eugene to cut the mullet.

Alex Obert: Did you study anyone to really try and get into the mind of Eugene or did you just get the feeling as you went along?

Josh McDermitt: I always study people, so there wasn’t anyone in particular where I said “Oh, I want to look at this person when I do Eugene.” There’s not a lot of time in TV to really get into the role, you have to be ready to go. It’s pretty much an actor’s job to observe and people watch when they’re not working. I like to do that a lot. It gets harder now because I get recognized for whatever. But I’ll go to the mall and just watch people. I’ll observe them and watch their behaviors, that sort of thing. Eugene was just really a mixture of several years worth of people that I’ve observed over time. And with the voice, I’m doing an impression of my brother in terms of how little affect he uses when he speaks. I know my brother gets mad when I say that, but I don’t really care. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Is there someone that helped to coach you with the transition from comedy into a dramatic series?

Josh McDermitt: I had several acting coaches that I’d been studying with for a while in L.A. I was just focusing on comedy and it was a moment where I wanted to focus on drama, so I got with some of them again. One was Alice Carter at the Carter Thor Studio in Studio City. John Rosenfeld helped me out a lot, he’s in Hollywood. And then my friend, who is also a casting director, a dear friend of mine and a fellow wrestling fan, a guy named Mark Sikes. Mark’s great because he calls it like it is, he’s able to call bullshit on you when you’re trying to cheat your way through doing a scene or something like that. So I really credit those three people with helping me to transition into that part of my career. It’s been pretty fun.

Alex Obert: The Walking Dead has a very dedicated fanbase. Once you got onto the show and people became invested in your character, did they seek out obscure work of yours from the past?

Josh McDermitt: I had a couple web series things that my buddies and I would do. We were in a sketch and improv group in L.A. We would just film stupid videos and throw them on YouTube. I don’t even know if I added my name in there. But yeah, a lot of the fans have gone back and found a lot of the dumb videos that we shot in 2007 when we all just moved to L.A. and were trying to figure out what it is we’re supposed to be doing. So that’s funny because I’ve long forgotten about those. It’s hilarious to revisit them and see what kind of fools we were making of ourselves back then! (laughs)

Alex Obert: You have mentioned that you filmed something for Food Network that never took off. Can you fill in readers on that?

Josh McDermitt: I don’t know if it ever had a name. I don’t want to say it was like a competitive eating show, but it was about two buddies that would dare each other to eat things. So you’d get together and it might be something like the world’s largest pizza. You’d compete to see who could eat it faster or who could eat the most slices. It was these two guys just trying to get each other to do something like eat a ghost pepper, one of the hottest peppers in the world. There’s a chili joint in L.A. and they serve a ghost pepper burger, so we’d role in there and see who could eat the most before taking a drink of water. It was just a pilot and it never ended up airing. Thank God because I don’t think my body could’ve handled that. (laughs)

Alex Obert: I read that you previously worked in a setting involving country music. What’s that about?

Josh McDermitt: I produced a syndicated radio show for a number of years. I initially started listening to the show because I thought they were funny, not necessarily because I was into country music. When I started working with them, I became a huge fan of country music. It was really fun to be in that world and see that side of things. My grandfather played steel guitar for a lot of musicians while growing up. It was cool to carry on that legacy in a different arena. It was really cool.

Alex Obert: What your go-to song for karaoke?

Josh McDermitt: My go-to song for karaoke would have to be Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells.

Alex Obert: So filming in Georgia for The Walking Dead, where do you enjoy eating and what do you do for fun?

Josh McDermitt: There’s good barbecue here. There’s not a lot of great Mexican food here. Growing up in Arizona, I have a high standard for Mexican food. I’m always on the lookout for a good Mexican joint in Georgia. But they do great Southern cooking here. In terms of things I like to do for fun, I’m always going bowling with some of the cast members. Christian Serratos, Austin Nichols and I do archery. It’s always fun to get out and test our skills on the bullseye and see how far we can push each other before we shoot each other. (laughs)

Alex Obert: With season six on the way, what do you have to say to fans who are looking to observe the evolution of Eugene’s character?

Josh McDermitt: I’ll say this first, season six is gonna be amazing. It’s the biggest season we’ve done. We have more walkers and it’s so intense and enormous. I can’t wait for people to see it. Along those lines, Eugene’s big threat is not living in Alexandria. I think he is constantly looking to see how he can insert himself into the group and be a contributing member to that society. He wants to stay in Alexandria and again, that threat is always there that he could be on the other side of the walls and not living in a place like that. I think that this place represents safety and stability for him, but it’s always gonna be on the table to be snatched from him.

Alex Obert: And what’s the date of the premiere?

Josh McDermitt: Sunday night, October 11th on AMC. Can’t wait, man. It’s gonna be awesome.

Alex Obert: I wish you the best with the next season. I’d love to thank you so much for your time.

Josh McDermitt: Thanks a lot! I appreciate it.

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Josh McDermitt (7)
Photo Credit: Isaac Sterling

On the Line with Bayley

Bayley has been a significant part of NXT since 2013 and she’s undoubtedly one of the most popular names in NXT history. Fans have gotten behind her and watched her remarkable journey as the lovable underdog that had her sights set on the NXT Women’s Championship. That dream became a reality on August 22nd at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn when she won the championship for the first time from Sasha Banks, the biggest and most special moment of her career. I spoke with Bayley about finally winning the big one, being a role model, her start on NXT and more.

NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the breaking news this week that Bayley will defend the NXT Women’s Championship in the main event of NXT TakeOver on October 7th.

Alex Obert: You have come up through NXT and much of that has been performing at Full Sail, as well as at armories for the live events. However, the biggest match of your career took place in a massive sold out arena. What was the feeling like to win the NXT Women’s Championship in that kind of a setting?

Bayley: Going into the match, I thought I was going to be so nervous. The thought of performing in front of that many people freaked me out. But once I got out there, I realized that it was a million times easier because there’s just so much more energy and so much more noise. It helps the match a lot. It turned away all those nerves and just turned it into excitement. I really do love shows in small, intimate settings like Full Sail and the armories and stuff, but there’s really no feeling like being in front of almost sixteen thousand people. Now I just want to do that every week.

Alex Obert: A lot of people have been talking about you, Sasha, Becky and Charlotte having an honest moment after the match with an emotional celebration in the ring, despite having just portrayed the story of good versus bad throughout the match. What did it mean to you?

Bayley: It was really cool and I feel like that was a defining moment in our careers, all four of us. I feel like it’s something a lot of the fans wanted to see because they’ve seen all four of us grow up together in the past couple years. They know how hard we all worked together and what we’ve done for the division. They’ve all seen us grow separately and go our own ways. They saw Sasha and Charlotte win championships and everything. Storylines aside and everything, I know it meant the world to us because we’ve all seen each other training every day and working for the same goal. We all know how important every championship match is, especially that one. We knew that all four of us together, including the other Divas, all of us worked to get to that match where it was Sasha versus myself. If it wasn’t for Becky and Charlotte and everybody else that works hard in the division, we wouldn’t have been able to be in that spot. To us, it was all four of us together until who knows how long. They’re all doing their thing, they’re all busy on RAW and Smackdown. I’m holding it down in NXT, so who knows the next time we’ll all get to be in a ring together. And it was just respect, regardless of how we feel about each other, problems in the past. I think I finally gained Sasha Banks’s respect and showed her that I’m not just giving out high-fives and stuff, I want to take the division as far as she does. It was a really cool moment, personally and professionally. I think that’s what the fans remember most.

Alex Obert: What did you think of Stone Cold Steve Austin addressing the match and showing his appreciation on his podcast?

Bayley: It was really cool. I just listened to it actually. In the past, he’s been a fan of our matches. After the fatal four way, he started following me on Twitter. I was going crazy! Then I started to notice he does watch NXT and he appreciated the women’s matches specifically. So I knew he was a fan, but when I heard that he was gonna review our match, I listened to it and I couldn’t believe how much thought and time he took to talk about our match. He was saying nothing but good things. He was watching it as he was talking about it on the podcast. He called us both stars and he said that match is professional wrestling. There’s no higher compliment that we can get. If we can impress Stone Cold, I feel like we can do anything. It’s the best!

Alex Obert: Your character has been over two years in the making and there’s been a lot of growth throughout that time. Those who have followed that journey has gotten behind you and as a result, you are undoubtedly one of the most popular names in NXT history. With that said, it’s very interesting to see that your fanbase runs through both sides of the spectrum, from little girls to adult males.

Bayley: I was actually just talking about this recently with one of my friends and my dad. I see all these little girls who are dressing up like me and it’s amazing. That used to be me, I was dressing up like Lita or whoever it was that I loved that time. And then I see a grown man in an “I’m A Hugger” shirt and he’s proudly wearing it. I have the moms come up to me and thank me for inspiring their kids. And there’s support from teenagers and stuff. I’m really noticing different varieties of fans that I’m getting whether it’s because they want to cheer for me or be like me or they’re just thankful for me because their kid has a role model. But I think my favorite is a grown man in a Hugger shirt. (laughs) It’s really cool. I never thought that I’d have such an impact in such a short amount of time. I’m happy and excited to see how much bigger it can get.

Alex Obert: How do you feel about all the artwork that you’ve received from fans?

Bayley: I love all the artwork. I think people just have a lot of fun drawing me because I wear a lot of bright colors and they can do the headband and the side pony and they can do little dinosaurs and robots or whatever on the side. They make really cool stuff of me. I have a lot of posters and pictures that people have given me that I keep in my apartment and in my room and stuff. And now we’re getting a lot with the Four Horsewomen. I love seeing how much time fans put into showing us their appreciation.

Alex Obert: Back in 2013, who was it that helped you to shape and mold the character?

Bayley: Dusty, The American Dream. Since we had promo classes every week, he was seeing the material I was coming up with and the ideas I had. Every week he was like “Oh you should do this. You should start out with the yearbook and have all these pictures of the Divas and the Superstars. Just have them come out and sign it!” So much material and so much knowledge. He just kept telling me “Just reach back to when you were actually eleven years old or twelve years old as a fan. Just bring that out of you.” Once he said that, it was so easy because this is literally how I was when I was ten or twelve years old. In my first match as Bayley against Alicia Fox, I put my hair in a side ponytail. But if you watch it back, once I got in the ring, I took it out. I was like “Well I need to have my hair down. This is a wrestling match.” I normally had my hair down for matches. When I got to the back, the first person waiting there was Dusty. And he said “Why did you take your hair out?” “Because I don’t want it to get messed up.” I didn’t want it to get all crazy. He was like “You wear a ponytail forever now. You go out there with the ponytail, you wrestle with the ponytail. I don’t care how it looks when you get back, that’s your thing.” And I was like “Okay, cool.” So then I always wore the ponytail and I was so happy he gave me that word of advice.

Alex Obert: How was the name Bayley decided upon?

Bayley: It was one of my choices. There was a small list of names and Bayley was one of them, but it was spelled the other way. B-a-i-l-e-y. So I asked them if it was possible that we could change it to B-a-y-l-e-y. I wanted it to mean something to me, not just a random name. I’m from the Bay Area and so I asked them to spell it that way. I had to wait I think another week to make sure it was clear with legal and stuff. But yeah, they were able to spell it that way and it represents something.

Alex Obert: What is your opinion of your current entrance theme?

Bayley: I really like it. I really liked my old song. I’ll be honest, when I got this new song, I wasn’t a huge fan of it. I started listening to it more and more. I started playing it over my song as I would watch my matches on my laptop. I would watch myself come out with the new music and I started really liking it. That’s when I thought it could be cool. When it played for the first time at Takeover, it just seemed like people really got with it right away. They started clapping and going with the beat. Because of that, I knew it was going to be good. Now I really like it, it just seems like one of those fun songs that could always put me in a good mood.

Alex Obert: I saw photos on Twitter this year of a very notable and unique match at a live event, it was you and Sami Zayn against Sasha Banks and Tyler Breeze. What was that night like for you?

Bayley: That was so cool. Being a longtime fan and growing up on the independents, Sami Zayn was somebody that I always looked up to. You can’t deny how amazing he is. Tyler Breeze, my boyfriend knew him from back in Canada. So he was someone that I always knew about. And Sasha Banks is my favorite opponent ever. I was in the ring with three of the best wrestlers and three of my favorite people. To team with Sami Zayn and seeing him come out with a Hugger shirt, it was just so cool. And it was the main event, which I felt honored about. I was also honored to be in a match with Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn. It was so good all around. I wish we could do that more often.

Alex Obert: Touching briefly on music, what might one find on your iPod?

Bayley: I listen to a lot of Paramore. I grew up loving them and I hope I can meet Hayley Williams someday because she’s my favorite! I’m into all kinds of rock. I started listening to country recently, but I don’t know any of the names or anything. I’m into Taking Back Sunday. There’s this band called Pierce The Veil, I used to listen to them in high school and go to all their shows. They’ve actually gotten bigger throughout the years. That’s pretty much it right now.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, who do you feel will be the next breakout star on NXT?

Bayley: Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, who are just getting started in the tag team division. Jason Jordan’s been a hidden gem for a while, so I’m glad he’s finally got something going. And Chad Gable is just amazing, he has so much charisma and he can move like nobody else in the ring. Riddick Moss and Elias Samson have so much potential and I hope they get their opportunity soon because they’re working so hard. In my opinion, they’re so good. Some of the Divas too. I feel like Carmella is gonna be a huge star one day. We have girls such as Peyton Royce and Billie Kay. I think there’s going to be a lot of stars soon, even within the next six months.

Alex Obert: In closing, how do you feel about going into the next TakeOver as the champion, rather than your familiar role as the underdog and challenger?

Bayley: I feel more pressure now than I felt before at the last TakeOver because now that I’m the champion, I’m the frontwoman. I’m holding the torch and I’m the target now. I need to be twice as prepared as I was before I was the champion. I want to show the world that it’s wasn’t a fluke. This is something that I’m going to hold onto for a long time with pride. This is my legacy now and it’s time for me to write my story.

Alex Obert: I look forward to seeing where it all takes you. I’d love to thank you so much for your time and an insightful interview.

Bayley: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

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Juice Robinson Returns

It’s been an eventful and important year for Juice Robinson. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, you’re more likely to remember him as CJ Parker from WWE NXT. I sat down with him for an informative interview shortly after he left WWE this past spring when he was going by “CJP”. He will now be going by “Juice Robinson” and wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling. We met back up recently at the first ever Us vs. Them Wrestling event in Enfield, CT to talk about his wrestling tour this past summer as CJP, who Juice Robinson is, memories and reflections on his time in NXT, wrestling for NJPW and much more.

Alex Obert: What was it like being in the ring EC3 tonight? You two go way back to the days of FCW and NXT. Since then, both of your characters have evolved tremendously.

Juice Robinson: He’s one of my buddies. I’ve known him for the last four years since I walked into FCW in Tampa. First thing he said to me was “Hey, only one guy with curly brown hair here.” And he walked away. I didn’t know how to react and I didn’t know his personality at the time. But he’s awesome, dude. He’s one of my friends and I’m glad I got to get back in there with him. And to see how much he’s changed, he’s like a totally different person than he was when he left WWE. It’s him now, he’s better. He’s more fun to watch. He’s a star now. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s fun as hell to be in there with him.

Alex Obert: Team Tremendous and David Starr are all in the area tonight, all of which are friends of yours. How did you meet them?

Juice Robinson: I’ve known Bobby Dutch, well I know him as Bobby Dutch, I’ve known Bill Carr since I walked into FCW. He was a real good friend of mine down there in developmental. So of course when I left WWE and he was tagging with Dan Barry, we became friends, me and Dan. That was through Bobby Dutch, which was cool. David Starr picked me up from the airport when I was going to do Best of the Best for CZW. And we just became friends. When you’re in the car with somebody, you get to talkin’. He’s a cool dude, so I’m gonna become friends with him. Those boys, all three of them, are gonna become lifelong friends of mine.

Alex Obert: What did you take out of the CJP Tour after you left WWE?

Juice Robinson: The CJP Tour was in Europe, man, and I had the time of my life for eight weeks. I’d never left the country for wrestling, unless you count Canada. I don’t though, sorry Canadians. I started in Sweden. Went from Sweden to Ireland. Ireland to England. Then back to Sweden, back to England, just kind of went all over there. I was in London, Liverpool, it was a blast. I got to see another part of the world, learn a lot about myself, meet a lot of new awesome wrestlers that I’d never met. I got in the ring with people that I didn’t think I’d get to. It was so much fun. And over there, you wrestle every day. I was wrestling every day and it was beautiful thing.

Alex Obert: Were a lot of them aware of NXT and CJ Parker?

Juice Robinson: Maybe on the spot shows or the independent shows, but I did most of my work over there for a guy named Brian Dixon. And his boys, man, they don’t know. They don’t care about NXT, I’m just another wrestler walking in. There’s guys that have only worked for Brian Dixon there. Colt Cabana did a great interview on his podcast with a guy named James Mason. Boy, I got in there with him about ten times…wow. How everyone doesn’t know a guy by the name of James Mason or Dean Allmark, there’s some hidden gems over there. Just some great workers that U.S. fans should be familiar with. If you get a chance, go on Cabana’s podcast and listen to James Mason.

Alex Obert: While in other countries, which bars did you head to?

Juice Robinson: Wherever I was brought. (laughs) Whatever was in the near distance of a show. I went to Sweden and they have great beer there, now that we’re talking about bars and stuff. Their beer is just stronger. Women over there will drink beer with you. I went on a date with a beautiful girl and she just drank beer like it was nothing. She stayed right with me, didn’t even notice it, she was just pounding beer after beer during a great conversation. Scandinavian women, beautiful. My favorite. So many beautiful blonde women in Stockholm, Sweden. I’ll tell you what, I’ll go back right now.

Alex Obert: Catch any musical acts over there?

Juice Robinson: I saw Paul McCartney over there. Saw Paul McCartney in Stockholm and I saw Robert plant at some sort of fairgrounds. Dude, so much fun. Mark them off the bucket list. Paul McCartney’s insane!

Alex Obert: What was it like to use Rocketman as your entrance theme over the last several months?

Juice Robinson: Using that song was awesome. Rocketman, Elton John, what’s not to like there? It’s a classic! So you come out to that, it’s got that nice, long intro and everybody in the world knows that song. I love that song and when I’m walking to the ring, I feel it. I feel cool. It went good, but I’m not gonna use it anymore. I’ll walk out to the music that I’m using in New Japan. That’ll be my new song, whatever that happens to be.

Alex Obert: Which wrestlers from NXT have been keeping in touch and checking up on you throughout the past few months?

Juice Robinson: All my friends, dude. I’m tight with all those boys and I talk to them all the time. I send texts, we’ve got our little group chat going on and we try to make each other laugh. I never seem to make them laugh as hard as they make each other laugh, that makes me mad. (laughs) As far as coaches and stuff, definitely Robbie Brookside. I think it’s because I was working for Brian Dixon. He worked for Brian Dixon. William Regal too. They’ve been checking in here and there. Everybody, man. I developed relationships with those people where even though I’m not there, we’re still buddies. We’re still family. I know it sounds cliché and all that, but they’re my friends. When they check in on me it’s not like “Hey man, you got a match tonight?” It’s not like that, it’s just like “Hey dude, how are ya? You’re home in Chicago? You’re happy to be by your family?” Just real things. I don’t know what’s going on in NXT right now. I hear it’s awesome, but I don’t really know. And they probably have no idea what the hell I’m doing. But if they ask, I tell them I’m having fun. That’s about where it ends.

Alex Obert: Who have you talked to the most about joining NJPW?

Juice Robinson: That would definitely be Matt Bloom and Fergal. I ask William Regal a lot too. I go to those people. Seth’s somebody I go to for advice, even though he’s never been there. But he obviously has a pretty good grasp on everything. I talk to everybody. I saw Matt Striker today and I talked to him about it. I don’t know what to expect. Nervous, yeah. Overwhelmed, yeah. I feel like I need to show up with my A-game, gotta go there ready to rock.

Alex Obert: How did you work out the deal to go over there?

Juice Robinson: I caught them at the right time, some of the higher-ups from the office were at Wrestlemania. I had already said that I was leaving. It was done, it was a conversation that had already been made. They were there and I was introduced to them. They watched me and it was just right place, right time. And it all just kept rollin’. Rollin’ along.

Alex Obert: So who is Juice Robinson?

Juice Robinson: Dude, Juice Robinson, he’s different than CJP. He’s closer to Joe Robinson. You never know. He’s a weirdo. He’s flamboyant. He’s over the top. He’s fun. He’s cute. (laughs) He’s got a haircut. He shaves. Where I want to go with this character, I think it’s more like a flamboyant and over the top rockstar. I wanna walk down the aisle and just exude sex. I just want Japanese women, Japanese everybody to look at me and just be like “Jesus!” Whatever that is, I like it. Or I hate it. But I kinda like it. I don’t know, exactly. But I do know, it’s just hard to put into words. It’s gonna be fun.

Alex Obert: While on that tour, did you run into any wrestlers that are prominent in the states?

Juice Robinson: I did. Chad Collyer, he was trained by Dean Malenko. Or maybe Father Malenko, maybe all of them. But it was funny because I met him in 2009 in Dreamwave when I first started. He was doing a gimmick called The Metal Master. I had a long ass day of travel and I got to the place where you stay in Birkenhead, which is right next to Liverpool. I was just exhausted and I found an open couch because it’s just this big, big, big house full of ten wrestlers. You’re hardly there because you’re on tour all week. That was an off day, so everybody was there. I threw my bag in the corner, laid down on the couch, pulled the bandanna over my face, but then I see somebody walk in. I peek through and I’m like “Metal Master?” (laughs) He goes “Juice?” I hadn’t even seen him, no offense to him, I hadn’t even thought of this guy for five, six years. And here we are. From Dreamwave and LaSalle to Liverpool All Star Wrestling for Brian Dixon. It was pretty cool. Also, Corey Graves’s brother, Sam Elias was there. He’s a friend of mine. Mason Ryan, Oliver Grey, they were there. A guy named Rampage Brown, who was in developmental for a while that I knew briefly, but didn’t really become good friends with until this summer. There’s all kinds of great guys there. A guy named El Ligero. It’s a great place. Nobody knows about Brian Dixon and what he does, as far as in the U.S. They should because it’s a great thing.

Alex Obert: Some of the biggest news in wrestling over the last month is that Bayley finally won the big one in Brooklyn. It was a two year storyline.

Juice Robinson: Beautiful, right? They let it simmer and it was sweet. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard that it was just awesome. And I know how much it means to her, so it’s a great thing.

Alex Obert: What was your first impression of her?

Juice Robinson: Honestly, I had a crush on her from the moment I saw her. There’s something about her. She’s real. What you see as Bayley is what you see with her in real life. What’s not to like? Of course everyone in the world is gonna fall in love with Bayley. And I was no different. (laughs)

Alex Obert: How do you feel about one of the women from NXT that recently debuted on the main roster, Becky Lynch?

Juice Robinson: I love Becky Lynch. She’s a sweet, sweet girl. She’s so nice. She’s funny. Quirky. She’s goofy. She’s a great person. I’m so glad that she’s doing her thing on the main roster at the highest level. Very happy for her, she deserves it. She’s had a long road to get where she’s at and it’s paying off now for her. It’s awesome to see.

Alex Obert: There’s another top star from NXT that you go with back with that I wanted to ask you about. How did you get Kevin Owens to put his guard down and open up when you met him?

Juice Robinson: I’ll tell you how you get a guy like that to open up, you palm strike him right in the nose! He’ll open right up! (laughs) You set me up for that one! But I used to watch him in ROH when I was just a young kid starting off. He was having awesome matches and I always thought he was cool. So right when he comes in the Performance Center, I want to be his friend right away. I’m gonna of course gravitate towards a Kevin Owens, the indy wrestlers. That’s what I am. When he came in, I just talked to him. I tried to make him laugh a lot and I couldn’t and I couldn’t and I couldn’t. Then something happened and now he’s one of the easiest people for me to talk to. I don’t know what it was, but we became really, really, really, really good friends for whatever reason. And we were tight before we had that match. He was worried that it was gonna be with somebody else, but he said that he wanted it to be with me. Then it ended up being us in a match and it was a great thing. We’re pals.

Alex Obert: What was it like to watch the quick rise of Kevin Owens in NXT, his championship win and beyond?

Juice Robinson: Kevin reminded me a lot of Dean Ambrose. Both those guys came, they saw, they conquered. They kick ass, they take names and now they put NXT right in the rear view mirror. In Ambrose’s case, FCW. Came through, rocked the house and moved on. Just passin’ through. They’re both just passin’ through. Wasn’t a destination for them.

Alex Obert: Though there are success stories such as Kevin Owens, have you ever seen someone drop out of the Performance Center?

Juice Robinson: Oh yeah, dude. I’ve seen so many. The funniest one ever was this girl, she was probably some kind of model or something, you know how they are. She did like a roll, did another one, stood up and looked at Sara and said “Terminate my contract. This isn’t for me.” (laughs) It’s like damn…haven’t even taken a hip toss yet. You haven’t even taken a back drop on the ground in the middle of Enfield, Connecticut for no reason. But yeah, all kinds of quitters. Can you blame them? Think about it, if you don’t absolutely love wrestling, how on earth could you wake up every single day at eight in the morning, walk into a giant warehouse and fall down a bunch and get back up and fall down and run around and bounce around the ropes? If you don’t love that, you’re not gonna do it very long. It’s almost like “Here…here’s a developmental contract for wrangling bull elephants.” If it’s as hard as I think it would be, I don’t think I would do it very long. I’m not really into that. I’m not really into wrangling bull elephants. But if it was my passion, I’ll wrangle some bull elephants. Those people aren’t passionate about it, of course they’re gonna quit. It’s hard, dammit. It’s not easy.

Alex Obert: Did you notice someone that came from another field grasp wrestling while training at the Performance Center?

Juice Robinson: In my opinion, the person that has grasped it the most is Jason Jordan. He’s just a big, strong athlete. He grasped it about as quick as anybody could, in about every area. Chad Gable, he picked it up quick as hell too. I always thought Carmella picked it up pretty quick.

Alex Obert: Who do you feel excelled the most at promo class?

Juice Robinson: There’s about ten, fifteen, twenty people that are gonna cut a good promo every single time. There’s certain people that I would make sure to watch every week and pay attention to, guys like Enzo and Cass. I was excited to watch them get up there and perform. Those guys are funny. They always came with something a little different and always had me laughing. They’re my favorite promos to watch. I completely can get caught up into them. They entertain me and they make me laugh. They pop me and they make me smile. The amount of guys down there that can cut a promo and grasp it, it’s a long list.

Alex Obert: Needless to say, it was a controversial season of Tough Enough. Even though you had told me that you didn’t watch it, what’s your reaction from what you’ve heard?

Juice Robinson: I heard it’s not that much fun to watch on TV. I haven’t seen one second of it, I know that. I know Billy Gunn’s on there, so there’s a reason to watch it. To be honest with you, Alex, I haven’t heard one good thing about it. And that’s the truth. So here’s my answer for that…I hear Billy Gunn’s on it. (laughs) But I really am looking forward to WWE 24: NXT and WWE Breaking Ground on the Network. I’m stoked to see the hard work that all the guys and gals put on featured prominently. Viewers will get to see how much they put into everything, both physically and emotionally. It goes far beyond a full time job, it’s a way of life.

Alex Obert: What was a typical day at the Performance Center like?

Juice Robinson: You get there at ten and you’d have film study or in-ring training from ten to one. Then you might have an hour off and from two to 3:30, you’d be in the weight room training with the weights, doing the cardio, strength and conditioning stuff. And then you’d have a couple hours off, you’d come back in the evening for promo class. That’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Thursday, we’d do TV sometimes. If not, maybe a house show somewhere in Florida. Same with Friday. Same with Saturday. On those three days in the morning, at least in my schedule, it’s a little lighter than some of the guys, you would do maybe weights in the morning and shows at night. And Sundays off.


Alex Obert: Most ridiuculous tweet you ever got?

Juice Robinson: It said “go get cancer”. I screen captured it for a while and I used to just laugh and laugh and laugh. It was just so good, that’s great! That’s the funniest one I’ve ever gotten. I would’ve retweeted it, but you can’t nowadays. You’ll have the cancer organization of the world coming after you. “You support cancer!” My rule is if I ever wondered if I should tweet it, I just didn’t. That was my rule for myself. When I got Twitter, it seemed like a thing I would get in trouble for. I’ll say something stupid eventually. So if I ever wondered, just don’t tweet. But there were times where they said don’t tweet this or that.

Alex Obert: First wrestler you met as a fan?

Juice Robinson: The first big name that I ever met was in Morris, Illinois in 2005. Isn’t that weird? I was sixteen the first time I met a real wrestler. Ugh, that’s embarrassing. But it was Billy Gunn and he was so big. So jacked. He was just so big and so damn tan. I remember asking him if he would ever go back to WWE, he looked at me and he goes “Nah, I’m done with them.” (laughs) I had a picture with him that I wanted to show him so bad when I was there and I could never find it. I’m still looking for it at the house.

Alex Obert: The next person from the Performance Center that will make an impact?

Juice Robinson: Braun Strowman, how cool did he look on his debut? I think he’s gonna be just fine. I’m excited to see him reach his potential and beyond as a member of The Wyatt Family. Again, it’s a case of right place, right tie. He sure does look cool on TV, I’m happy for him. I told you in our last interview that he was gonna be a badass. So far, he’s delivering on that. He has what it takes to deliver on a whole lot more in and out of the ring.

Alex Obert: What’s your Subway order?

Juice Robinson: I’m always gonna get Footlong Honey Oat, unless I’m trying to be really healthy. In that case, I’ll get a salad with a bunch of bullshit spongy chicken breast. But I usually get a Footlong Honey Oat with turkey, double meat, double cheese. I don’t know if I like toasting it or not, I flip back and forth on that. No lettuce because they fill those sons of bitches with lettuce, so I figured that out right away. I’ll either do spinach or nothing or just get straight to the veggies, pretty much everything besides jalapenos. And then mustard and mayo. Salt, pepper, oregano, bam. Buncha cookies.

Alex Obert: Favorite podcast at the moment?

Juice Robinson: It’s always gonna be Stone Cold’s, man. His is the best. I can listen to Stone Cold talk about picking up dog shit in his front yard. He pops me. I love when he talks about the business. I love when he talks about beer. He’s cool! It’s Stone Cold! Cabana’s is cool too. J.R.’s is fine, I like his too.

Alex Obert: Favorite wrestling shirt you own that’s not yours?

Juice Robinson: My Robbie Brookside Wrestling Academy shirt I just got. I love it. It’s red, white and blue. It’s beautiful.

Alex Obert: Favorite opponent on the CJP Tour?

Juice Robinson: James Mason. So much fun. The best. He’s had ten thousand matches and has been wrestling for twenty five years. He’s thirty five years old. He’s the man. If you do not know who James Mason is and you’re reading this, you need to look him up.

Alex Obert: In closing, what you have to say to the NXT faithful that want to follow you on the Juice Robinson journey?

Juice Robinson: Thank you for everything. NXT, WWE, all that was so much fun. Everything that I’ve done to this point has been awesome and it’s made me who I am. But it is time to not be CJ Parker anymore, not be CJP anymore, not hide behind what I’ve done before. It’s time for me to start fresh in a land far, far away. As Juice Robinson. As me. Juice Robinson is Joe Robinson, Joey Robinson, Joseph Ryan Robinson. It’s the same thing. It’s Juice, man. It’s me. It’s still the same dude, but you’re gonna see more of who I am as a person and as a wrestler. It’s gonna be great. There’s no gimmick anymore. I am what I am. And you’re gonna see it.

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