Ultraman creator Eiji Tsuburaya poses with Bin Furuya, Susumu Kurobe, Hiroko Sakurai and the cast of the original ULTRAMAN.

Mecha VS Kaiju? It all started with ULTRAMAN!

With Mecha VS Kaiju (Giant Japanese Robots and Monsters) on everyone’s radar, I thought this would be a good time to talk about ULTRAMAN.

It was created as “A Special-Effects Fantasy Series” by Tsuburaya Productions, the same folks who brought GODZILLA to “Man-In-Suit” life back in the 1950s. In it’s original run in 1966-67 (on Tokyo Broadcasting System), ULTRAMAN was the story of the Science Special Search Party, or SSSP, a UN based “police force” intended to combat nefarious aliens and yes, Giant Monsters. One of their own, Shin Hayata (Susamu Kurobe)… well, who ever wrote the Wiki says it better than I. Take it away Wikipedia!

“The first series begins when Science Patrol (Kagaku Tokusou Tai) member Shin Hayata is flying his plane and a red sphere of light crashes into his Mini-VTOL. The sphere turns out to be the transport (Travel Sphere) for a red-and-silver giant being who calls himself Ultraman. Feeling remorse for having killed the human, he merges his essence with Hayata to revive him. In return, Hayata serves as the human form for this being, and whenever danger threatens, and the resources of the Science Patrol are not enough to counter it, he raises and activates a power-object and artifact called a “beta capsule” and transforms to Ultraman to save the day.” –from Wikipedia.

Anyway, ULTRAMAN (the show) was as big in Japan as the 1960’s BATMAN was over here, and soon became a world-wide phenomenon. spanning 22 television series and over 20 Movies between its inception and 2012.

It’s kind of a big deal. Several Stories of a big deal when the Beta Capsule is activated.

Well, this past spring MONSTERPALOOZA (a Classic Monster Horror Convention in Los Angeles) hosted three of the of the stars from that original Iconic TV show in not only their first American appearance, but their first appearance together anywhere: Bin Furuya (who played the Red and Silver giant himself), Susumu Kurobe (Shin Hayata, his human host), and the lovely Hiroko Sakurai (Akiko Fuji, the SSSP’s communications operator, and only female member).

I was honored to do a limited edition print to commemorate the occasion.

An ULTRAMAN limited edition print that I did for the MONSTERPALOOZA in LA this past spring, commemorating guests Bin Furuya, Susumu Kurobe, and the lovely Hiroko Sakurai.

An ULTRAMAN limited edition print that I did for the MONSTERPALOOZA in LA this past spring, commemorating guests Bin Furuya, Susumu Kurobe, and the lovely Hiroko Sakurai.

Bin Furuya, Susumu Kurobe, and the lovely Hiroko Sakurai signing my ULTRAMAN print at Monsterpalooza 2013.

Bin Furuya, Susumu Kurobe, and the lovely Hiroko Sakurai signing my ULTRAMAN print at Monsterpalooza 2013.

Thank you very much kind readers and giant monster fanatics!

Thank you very much kind readers and giant monster fanatics!

Showing off some of the signage that I designed for Texas Frightmare Weekend 2013.

Hey, what’s shakin’?

Seems like I’m always making this excuse… You know the story of the cobbler who was so busy making shoes that his own children went barefoot? That is kind of my relationship with this blog. But I hope to get better about it… (famous last words.)

Well it’s been quite a year so far. Far and beyond the biggest thing that has happened is that my wife, the amazing Realitychick, is currently gestating this decade’s designated Mirthling, codenamed ZEPPO. About once every 7-9 years we bring forth a new version to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting populace. Of course, that you have the forethought to peruse my blog on the oft chance that I actually UPDATE it, you now have fair warning. As is the common cinematic parlance… He’s “coming this October” to a delivery room near… home.

So I’m staying plenty busy with my art projects, making sure that we can stay afloat once October comes.

Here’s something you might be interested in…

I also had the honor of being a guest at the 2013 Texas Frightmare convention (My first as a guest!) and had a great, though remarkably busy, time. Being a guest is a WHOLE different thing than being a attending as a patron or working it as staff though. I sat less than 20 feet from Danny Trejo the entire weekend and never got the opportunity to talk to the man. But I *did* make some great contacts (it helps when you’re “art directing” the show), and its always good to see friends from previous years. Looking at the pictures from the show though has started me on the long haul back to a reasonable weight. It’s a hard row to hoe, but I’m gonna do it. Mock me if I don’t!

I’m gonna stop here, for now. Next time, I’ll show off some of my recent logo work! Won’t THAT be exciting?

Pushed into the Deep End.

“North America’s getting soft, padrone. And the rest of the world is getting tough. Very, very tough. We’re entering savage new times, and we’re going to have to be pure… and direct… and strong… if we’re gonna survive them.”
— Harlan (Played by Peter Dvorsky) in David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME.

Today is September 11, 2012… the eleventh anniversary of the attacks in New York, Arlington, Virginia, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Like Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy Assassination and the Challenger disaster before them, it was a defining moment in out recent history. Just about everyone alive remembers where they were when they heard the news.

Where was I? I was at Wichita Area Technical College, in my Quark XPress class. One of the guys in the back of the room always started is morning by checking the news on the internet.

“A plane has hit the tower of the World Trade Center.” he announced.

I didn’t bat an eye. I grew up with ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, in which the narrative started with terrorists hijacking Air Force One and crashing it into Manhattan, yet that didn’t cross my mind at the time. First thing I thought was “I’m surprised that hadn’t happened before now. It’s an awfully tall building.” Even then, I was thinking it was a Piper Cub or something.

A few minutes later he announced that a second plane had hit the second tower.

Suddenly we were all at our workstations, logging into the internet news stations… CNN, ABC, NBC, BBC… anywhere we could get information. And we were stymied… not by our own IT department (who had lifted the restrictions on our department) but by the limitations of the infrastructure at the websites themselves.

The news websites were simply not prepared for the pounding that they took those first few hours. The Internet to that point had always been a novelty to the bureaus and networks. But not on that day. We needed to know what happened and NOW, and were going to all lengths to get it. Infrastructures were updated on the fly in a heroic effort to get the information to the people.

Eventually that day we were astounded by what we saw. Live updates, streaming video, and reports worldwide, as the globe mourned for our losses.

In our classrooms and labs at the tech college? We were artists, video producers and web designers… This was the first time any of us studying “New Media” really saw our own careers at work. The media was disseminating information like never before, through any means necessary. Though we were appalled at the situation, we were amazed and appreciative of the technology we were studying. It was the beginning of a whole new age. New media got pushed into the deep end, and, for better or worse, really learned to swim.

But now, after a decade in the pool, are we getting Pruney?

“Well, I think we live in overstimulated times. We crave stimulation for its own sake. We gorge ourselves on it. We always want more, whether it’s tactile, emotional or sexual… I admit it. I live in a highly excited state of overstimulation.”
— Nikki Brand (Played by Debbie Harry) in VIDEODROME

Because of the advances made on and because of that day, you are reading this blog, watching cat videos on YouTube, watching streaming movies on Netflix, vilifying presidential candidates on Facebook and are kept up to date on every news story no matter how monumental or trivial, not only from your computer, but from your cellphones, ipads and video game consoles.

We are a generation hardwired into the internet, junkies of the information age, overdosing on terabytes of data every day. Is it good? Is it socially positive? Or are we effectively dragging down our own humanity and becoming desensitized because we see everything through the filter of our LED screens?

That’s a subject for another blog. Long Live the New Flesh.

NATALIES: Natal Anniversaries for August 7, 2012

NATALIES!* Today is August 8th, The Day of the Roleplayers, Frozen Custard Day, Happiness Happens Day, Admit You’re Happy Day, Zucchini Day, Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night, Stable Clean-Up Day, Swimming Day, Burryman Festival Holiday (Scotland), Cheesecake Day, Date to Create, Discordian Season of Bureaucracy (first day), Fairies’ Finest Fairy Finals Festival Holiday, Fourteen Holy Helpers Day, Garage Sale Day (varies), International Character Day, International Day of the World’s Indigenous People (Australia), the Nudist Convention Holiday, Universal & International Infinity Day, and the feast day of St. Dominic, patron Saint of Astronomers.

THIS DAY IN GEEK HISTORY: On this day in 2004, one of the original “Scream Queens”, Fay Wray passed away a few days short of her 97th Birthday. She had been scheduled to make a cameo in Peter Jackson’s KONG remake. When he death was announced, the lights in the Empire State Building were shut off for 15 minutes as a mark of respect.

On this day in 1960, Brian Hyland and the John Dixon Orchestra hit the top of the charts with their hit single, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”

On this day in 1930, writer Terry Nation was born in Cardiff, Wales. The writer, who created the science fiction series SURVIVORS and BLAKE’S 7, is probably best known for the creation of DOCTOR WHO’S Most iconic Foes, THE DALEKS!


Samuel Glass, Illustration by M Mrakota Orsman

Samuel Glass, Illustration by M Mrakota Orsman

Today’s featured BIRTHDAYS include screenwriter, promoter, and all around good guy Samuel Glass, and one of our all-time favorites of our kids’ teachers, Alisha McClure, who was savvy enough to catch something that not only everyone before her had missed, but whose intervention also had positive consequences far into the future.

They share their birthday with Katie Leung of the HARRY POTTER films; Peyton List of FLASHFORWARD; Meagan Good of SAW V; editorand director Lee Unkrich of TOY STORY 2 & 3; Filmmaker Jon Turteltaub of NATIONAL TREASURE and SORCERER’S APPRENTICE; Don Most, aka “Ralph Malph” of HAPPY DAYS; GHOST IN THE SHELL director Mamoru Oshii; PlayStation creator Ken Kutaragi; Keith Carradine of DEXTER and COWBOYS & ALIENS; Adult actor John Holmes; Brooke Bundy of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and 4; Connie Stevens of TWO ON A GUILLOTINE; Dustin Hoffman of MARATHON MAN, LITTLE BIG MAN, and WAG THE DOG; Keith Barron of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT; TV producers Donald Bellisario and William Asher; Richard Anderson of FORBIDDEN PLANET and THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN; Illustrator Károly Reich; Rory Calhoun of MOTEL HELL; and the patron saint of movie producers, Dino De Laurentiis.

Happy ate ate!

*“NATALIES” is a combined short form of the words NATAL (refers to birth) and ANNIVERSARIES… In other words, Birthdays. For the last year or so I’ve been posting these on my FACEBOOK page. I’ve been needing to start blogging more regularly, so this kills two switchboards with one operator… or something like that.

Frightmare 2011: The Paradigm Shift

I promise you, I don’t JUST type about Frightmare. But I am starting to see a trend.

This year, the plans were to make this Casher and Mirth’s Repugnant Recrudescence to North Texas. I had even arranged to pay Casher’s way in. But alas less than 24 hours before we were to leave, the plans COMPLETELY fell apart. In a fit of karmic malevolence, he found out that he just couldn’t go. I took the time to rearrange my fecal roster (no, Casher is FAR from it), and looked for a suitable traveling companion.

My wife, the truly amazing RealityChick, is not a big fan of crowds OR horror movies, and both she and the kids had school that they couldn’t miss. So I asked my friend Leif Jonker if HE wanted to go. Leif had written and directed a horror film with a cult following a few years back called DARKNESS, and we had been gearing for a follow-up film for a while. So I figured he’d be interested in going, and rightly so. He did, contacted Loyd Cryer (the grand poobah of Texas Frightmare Weekend)… and immediately became an official GUEST OF THE CON.

That I wasn’t expecting. It put a paradigm shift on the whole trip. Not an unpleasant one, mind you. Things were just different.

He contacted Loyd Cryer (the grand poobah of Texas Frightmare Weekend)… and immediately became an official GUEST OF THE CON. That I wasn’t expecting. It put a paradigm shift on the whole trip. Not an unpleasant one, mind you. Things were just different.

First of all, I was in full-boat promotion mode. I had done the t-shirt and marketing art for the convention, so I saw my art everywhere. I had ordered about 400 Sharpie Pens with my contact info on it from LOGO ENVY (represent!) which I was using for my personal business cards (Sharpies are always at a premium at conventions; I surprised no one had done it before, and I’m sure there will be tons next year), and had printed up about 500 postcard advertisements for my day job at Wirewaves, featuring Shannon Lark (the day job’s only real horror movie street cred, right now, is creating her site.) But I also had to assist Leif in setting up HIS booth. Not that there was a TON of heavy lifting involved, but it did eat up the afternoon that I had planned on us going to Hard Eight BBQ with TFW friends and a buddy from High School who now lives in DFW. (Next year for sure, Howie!)

The DARKNESS Booth happened to be right next to the Booth for Kerry Beyer’s Kerosene Films who had released the hilariousSpirit Camp, and were now working on a sci-fi horror piece called Code of Evil. Who had just been cast in it and was one of the folks “manning” the booth? Shannon Lark. Yeah, I know. It’s a small weird world.

The Texas Frightmare Weekend 2011 Having access to the booth was nice as I had a “home base” to work from on the con floor, and I needed it this year. As a way of getting face time with all the guests, I had printed up a personal one-of-a-kind “Directors Cut” of the Marketing Artwork that I had done for the show which included a lot of the people that were announced too late to make the cutoff for the program cover, like Malcolm McDowell and Jill Schoelen. I had every guest autograph it, from Cary Elwes to Roger Corman, from Angus Scrimm to Yoshihiro Nishimura, and it’s now hanging in a place of honor in my home office.

Next time: Anecdotes, old friends, new acquaintances, and how knowing how to draw will open the most interesting doors.

Unclogging the Blog!

The 2011 Texas Frightmare T-Shirt, art by Matt OrsmanMuch like the proverbial cobbler with barefoot children, I have been derelict in my blogging duty… I’ve been Busy!

  • I’m finishing up work on my very first children’s book! Hope to have it available in just a matter of weeks, so watch the Facebook page!
  • Speaking of Facebook, I’m giving away digital caricatures at benchmark “fan” numbers! I’ve done about 15 of them since I started that project, so if you want in on the drawing, become a “Mirthquaker” and “like” the page! As of this writing, we’re at 309 fans, and I’m drawing again at 350!
  • Been keeping afloat doing designs for WIREWAVES, a company that specializes in web applications and internet radio, but honestly we do all kinds of graphic media! From a basic website to your own facebook, we can do it for you! Go check the site for more information!
  • Doing some Illustration work for Karen Knotts for her one woman show about her famous dad, Don Knotts, called appropriately TIED UP IN KNOTTS! The next performance is in Tennessee on April 15th, so go check it out and see some Mirthquake action!
  • Been keeping busy with one of my other blogs… CathARTic Art and Film Events is doing weekly interviews with people involved in the film and art industries! Interviews include Ad Man and Film Producer Bob Walterscheid; Actor Brandon Slagle; Actress, filmmaker and film festival goddess Shannon Lark; world renowned Horror Photographer Joshua Hoffine, and this weekend, I’m posting an interview with Texas Frightmare impresario Loyd Cryer!
  • Speaking of Texas Frightmare Weekend, I’m also had the honor of designing the Official TFW2011 T-shirt and Program Cover! The shirts are being printed by Joe Garcia at Fast Custom Shirts in Corpus Christi, Texas! He’s got lots of cool indy shirt designs, so throw him a little business, and tell him “Mirthy” sent you!
  • And I’m also the official graphic artist for the Viscera Film Festival in Los Angeles in July! And yes, I actually hope to GO to this one!

So as you can see, my dance card has been staying pretty full. But I will try to stop by more often!

Texas Frightmare Aftermath (Part Drei)

“I now realize that it was a three day con… so this should be a three part post. Next time, meeting icons, contact from Krypton, and imaginary fruity drinks!” — Me, six months ago.

My how time flies when you get busy with work and start living for the NEXT Frightmare!

OK, I promised I’d get back to this… and now it’s faded within the fog of a diet-addled memory. Please note that these are not in any particular order, but just as I remember them.
I Took a picture of my friend Matt Ray with Keith Gordon of CHRISTINE fame, putting me in an elite company that includes John Carpenter and Brian DePalma that has directed Mr. Gordon. Keith and I also talked about A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, one of his first directorial efforts. NICE GUY. Had I realized he had directed THE SINGING DETECTIVE, he would have hard pressed to shake me away from the table. REALLY enjoyed that one. Alexandra Paul is just as pretty as she’s ever been. Alas, I should have brought my DRAGNET poster for her to sign.

Finally saw DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW. I knew nothing going into this but Fright-Rags thought it was cool enough to make a shirt about. I was treated to a pristine copy of a clever, surprisingly violent complex 1981 TV movie with Charles Durning, Larry Drake (in the role that must have gotten him his L.A. Law gig), and one of my all time favorite character actors, The late Lane Smith. Phenomenal flick, and now that I’ve waited this long, I can actually link to the DVD on Amazon. Buy it today.

On my way out of the con, I ran into Julian Sands. Other than goofing my friend Leslie who would literally go into palpitations every time he got near, I hadn’t had a chance to talk to him. We chatted a bit about WARLOCK and ARACHNOPHOBIA, but the conversation soon turned to SMALLVILLE. It was bound to. He was wearing his Jor-El shirt.

Well, my friend Darren is a HUGE Superman fan. So I somehow convinced Julian into calling him.

“Hello Darren? This is Julian Sands. Jor-El from Smallville. Your friend Matt is here, and I’m calling to tell you that he’s too cheap to buy you an autograph. Take care now.”

Hey, Casher and I were literally out the door when this happened, and I was all but out of money. If Loyd and crew bring him back next year, Julian’s is the first booth I’m going to. Class act.

OK, the imaginary fruity drinks. Terry Alexander, Jarlath Conroy and John Amplas were there representing 1985’s DAY OF THE DEAD. Terry and Jarlath, in the film, had set up a faux tropical paradise in the underground bunker they were in, so I made it a priority to get big tropical fruity drinks and get a picture with them raising their glasses in a toast. One problem… the Hotel had nothing that even remotely looked “tropical”. So I ended up with little cheap plastic tumblers, and will photoshop in the fruity drinks later. Was a bit disappointed, but when life hands you lemons, make Lynchburg Lemonade.

There is so much more I can tell you about… the never-ending screaming Hollywood auction in the lobby that no one could hear over comes immediately to mind, but some things are better lived than told.

So go buy your tickets for next year’s FRIGHTMARE. Just save me a couple of VIP passes. I don’t wanna miss THAT party again!

Mirthquake does cover for BATMAN TV Series book, ONE MONTH WINDOW TO ORDER!

Wednesday, September 29th greets the arrival of the October issue of PREVIEWS in comic shops everywhere, wherein you will be able to pre-order GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES.

Gotham City 14 Miles, cover by Matt Orsman

GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES, Cover by Matt Orsman. Order yours today!


For those of you new to the party, Gotham City 14 Miles offers the 1960s Batman TV series the critical reevaluation it deserves. Its essays examine Batmania, camp, the role of women, the show’s participation in ’60s counter-culture, its many celebrated actors, its lasting cultural effects, and other critical subjects.

And I did the cover for it.

I ask very kindly and humbly that you consider ordering a copy and also that you may also ask your comic book shop manager/owner to order one or two copies of the book for their shelves. NOTE: please don’t assume your shop will automatically order the book – PREVIEWS has thousands of items and too often good stuff gets lost among all the clutter.

“I now have a new book for my ‘Five I’d Take to a Desert Island’ list. Gotham City 14 Miles is the perfect companion to my favorite pop-culture phenomenon of all time!””
— Mark Waid

There is a ONE MONTH window to order, beginning on Wednesday the 29th. Order soon, order often!

300 pages / ISBN 9780578064611 / $22.95 MSRP

Here’s a new article about the book:

http://www.toledofreepress.com/2010/09/28/local-editors-book-revisits-iconic-60s-television-series/

And here’s the official publisher page for it:

http://www.sequart.org/books/7

If the book sounds interesting to you – remember, its the first all-new book about the BATMAN TV show in over a decade – I hope you will order one.

Those of you in the Wichita Area, you can order at

AGENTS OF COMICS 924 W DOUGLAS AVE WICHITA, KS (316) 262-6642

PRAIRIE DOG COMICS 4800 WEST MAPLE SUITE 122 WICHITA, KS (316) 942-3456

If you don’t know where your local Comic Shop is, go to http://www.comicshoplocator.com/

Thanks, and we’ll see you Same Matt Time, Same Matt Channel!

Interview with a Drummer… and a Guitarist

Originally published May 20, 2003

 

Matt Orsman: Hello faithful readers! Matt Orsman here
with the very first FRACTURED FEMUR Interview! I am here with two of
the extremely talented members of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s band; percussionist Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz and guitarist Jim West!

Matt: Aloha Fellas, and thanks for taking time out
of your busy schedule to talk to us! First, I have to ask: How is Elvis,
and have you seen him recently?

Jim: I haven’t seen him but he’s probably a little
dusty.

Matt: It’s been four years since your last album, Running with Scissors, and three since you
last toured extensively. What do you do in the meantime?

Jim: I write music for various media-TV mostly. I
also record my own stuff, travel to Hawaii when I can and play around
in my garden.

Bermuda: Mostly relax. The tour in 2000 ran over
nearly a 9-month period, and I was very happy to be home and NOT have
to play drums all week long! I did eventually start playing and recording
again, and as always, I have some web design clients that kept me busy
each day, even if just for an hour or two. I also made some serious
progress in my archiving project, where I am converting audio tapes
of me & my bands from the past 30+ years, to CD.

Matt: You said “Bands” as in “more than one?” Who else have you worked
for?

Bermuda: Nobody quite as well-known
as Al, but some niche artists like Ray Campi, Rip Masters, Painting
Over Picasso, Bernie Pearl, and also members of The Rolling Clones.
Plus dozens of other nameless, faceless project bands in L.A.
Okay, they had names, and most of them had faces.

Matt: Jim, you recently produced an album by legendary
comedian Bill Dana. What’s “José Jimenez” really like?

Jim: Bill is a very gifted writer and entertainer.
He is in his late seventies now. He can definitely make me laugh!

Matt: You even have your own record label, Westernmost
Music. Any notables you publish?

Jim: Just my own stuff really, but I produced a CD
for Lily Wilson who is a very talented singer/songwriter.

Matt: Speaking of musicians: You all (or mostly all)
come from improvisational music backgrounds. When will we see the big
“Free Association” CD?

Jim: When Bermuda exacts his revenge by releasing
his Al rehearsal tapes.

Matt: Rehearsal tapes? Part of your “Archiving Project,”
Bermuda?

Bermuda: It includes a ton of Al rehearsals, demos,
live shows and studio outtakes. I’ve converted probably 500 cassettes
and reels so far, and have maybe 250-300 to go. It’s been really interesting
to hear some of my old work again, and of course there are some very
funny moments with Al!

Matt: You just started rehearsing for your latest
tour. Your concerts are nothing short of an extravaganza, including
extensive Multimedia presentations, and more costume changes than Cher!
In the past, you’ve even caught the audience in an inpromtu “snowstorm!”
How long does it take to plan the concert, and does it change during
the tour at all?

Bermuda: Typically, we’ll rehearse for about a week
to prepare for a new tour. That may sound like a short period when you
consider that some bands rehearse for weeks or even months. But we know
a lot of our material very well, so it’s largely just a refresher. That’s
not to say we don’t work hard during rehearsals, and for the Poodle
Hat Tour, we have a LOT of work to do, and it will take longer than
a week!

Matt: Tell me your best road story.

Jim: I have so many, it would
be hard to pick one… I do remember a certain crew member spiking
Rubén’s Phantom mask with raccoon urine…

Matt: (Laughing) Ewwww! For those of
you not up on your Al lore, Rubén Valtierra is Al’s traditionally
publicity shy keyboardist. He makes up for his anonymity by being
an intregal part of the schtick during the concerts. He’s a favorite
with the fans.

Speaking of the fans, I have some e-mail from some of your fans. Care
to answer? Here’s a question from William Sparks of Derby.
William writes “I’ve watched a number of specials where we see the
“Behind-the-Camera” view when you’re creating the Music Videos. It always
appears that the entire group is having fun. However, in normal work
days, do you still have all the fun?”

Jim: Making record and videos is fun but it can be
a painfully slow and boring process sometimes.

Bermuda: It’s certainly fun for me being onstage and
seeing a lot of the US and Canada at the same time. But we’re not always
hanging around together. Apart from being on the bus or getting ready
for the show, everyone’s got different stuff they work on or like to
do. Occasionally a few of us will catch a meal together, but we generally
don’t hang around together during the day.

Matt: Here’s another one from William, that after
hearing about Rubén’s mask, I’m kind of curious about too. “Who
would you say is the prankster in the group?”

Jim: We are all pranksters to some degree. It’s part
of the road rules.

Matt: The very prolific Mr. Sparks has another question! “On your “Running With Scissors” tour, in which town did you have
the best time? Which was the worst?”

Jim: I don’t remember the cities so much. There were
good times and bad times but I guess I’d have to look at the tour itinerary
to figure out where in the dickens we were.

Bermuda: Every city has something to offer. I usually
gauge my good times by how many cool record stores, drum shops, and
sushi restaurants are in the vicinity. I like all the big cities, but
smaller cities turned out to be great as well: Hartford, Cheyenne, Davenport,
Johnstown, Portland (Maine, ) Halifax, London and Kitchener (Ontario,
CAN.) I manage to find something fun in every city. No bad places that
I can recall. If there’s really nothing else to do, it’s a treat just
having a quiet hotel room to catch up on emails and do a little surfing.

Matt: I’m from Wichita, and August 3rd will mark the
fourth time you’ve played here (to my knowledge.) Any Impressions?

Jim: Not to dis your city but I have only vague memories
of the place. The tours are like an endless chain of concert venues
and often we don’t get to see much of the city. Probably a lot of steak
houses and feed stores?

Matt: Less of both, unfortunately, than you might
think. I’d kill for a good steak. There are more legitimate theatres
in town than steakhouses, by about a 5 to 1 margin! Do you remember
much of our fair “Doodah,” Jon?

Bermuda: I have seen very little of the city so far.
It’s one of those cities we seem to arrive in time for the show, then
leave immediately afterward. Maybe we just can’t get a good hotel rate?

Matt: We’ll getcha hooked up this time. What town
has the best hotel food?

Jim: I would say San Francisco but the best hamburger
I ever had was in a hotel in Hong Kong.

Matt: Here’s another “fan question.” “When coming
up with new songs, do each of the band members get a say in how the
wordings go or is that just up to Al?”

Jim: Lyrics are all Al but sometimes he asks for
an opinion here and there.

Bermuda: He occasionally might run an alternate line
or word by one of us if he’s not sure which is better. It doesn’t really
qualify as legit input to the writing process.

Matt: And our next “fan question” comes from Jim Weeks
of Wichita. “Have each one of you completed your goals with where
you wanted the music to go?”

Jim: You always listen back and hear things that could
be better, but after it’s done, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Except maybe overdub on every CD.

Matt: Spoken like a true engineer! How about you,
Bermuda?

Bermuda: Completed, and then some! I had decided at
age 12 that I wanted to be a professional drummer, not really having
any idea of all the facets of the music business, some of them yet-to-be-invented
(such as cable-tv music channels!) I’ve performed and recorded a lot
of music before and during my tenure with Al, but it’s definitely him
that’s allowed me to be on TV, tour and travel through North America,
and apart from initially being labeled a ‘comedy drummer’ after the
first few hits, eventually gain a lot of respect for my drumming.

Matt: Speaking of Respect, you have some orchestral
credits to your name. Want to tell us about ’em?

Bermuda: I’d played with the California Jr. Philharmonic Orchestra as a
member when I was in my teens, and as an alumnus ever since. The
group is nationally renowned, and has played some classic venues
in Los Angeles. During their Anniversary concert each year, celebrities
participate in a Battle Of The Batons, conducting the orchestra
and vying for a “golden baton” award. Al was one of the celebs
in the early 90s, and of course won! But I’m not the only orchestra
member to enjoy some success in the rock world… Flea
from Red Hot Chili Peppers was also a member around the same time
I was, playing 2nd trumpet! He’s also been back a few times as
a celebrity guest. Very strange seeing him in
a tuxedo.

Matt: From what I’ve seen of the videos, it’s
probably strange to see him wearing anything!

Matt: How did you meet up with Al?

Jim: Steve and I go way back. He met Al first and
introduced him to me when Al was looking to put a band together.

Matt: That’d be Bassist Steve Jay, right? You’ve mentioned
in other interviews that you and he were actually bandmates when he
introduced you to Al. How long have you guys known each other?

Jim: We met way way back in Florida, in the mid seventies.

Matt: You must have been, what, twelve? How do you
feel now?

Jim: I feel like a nice, cold beer

Matt: Sooo. . . Tell me about the first single.

Jim: Well, Al’s first single happpened before my time
so you better ask him about that. I believe it was “My Bologna”.

Matt: Ha-Ha! Actually I meant the first single from Poodle
Hat
. It’s an Eminem parody called “Couch Potato,
” Isn’t it?

Bermuda: It’s not so much a single, as the first
track Al is presenting from the new album. But getting permission
from a notorious, well-known, and recently honored artist like
Eminem was a real coup. The track is a dead-on copy, I
know we’ll be accused of borrowing Eminem’s masters on this one,
but it’s all us. Al’s vocal is perfect on it.

Matt: Rolling Stone recently reported that the
first track off the album would not have an accompanying video.
So, what WILL be the first video from the album?

Bermuda: The other current parodies are Nelly, and
Avril Lavigne (isn’t she Jewish?)

Matt: Couldn’t tell ya.

Bermuda: So if there’s a video, it will probably be
one of them.

Matt: Wow. You just said *IF* there’s a video. The
fact we might not see Al on TV just boggles the mind. Speaking of which…
how does it feel to be a cartoon? (Editor’s Note: Al and the band
appeared on the Simpsons episode EABF12, which first aired in the US
on April 13, 2003.)

Jim: It was nothing short of an incredible honor to be animated for
The Simpson’s.

Bermuda: It’s very surreal for me to see myself on TV at all, so being a Simpson character
is a trip! I got a ton of calls and emails from friends & family,
and all my drumming buddies are envious. These
days it seems like you’ve really ‘made it’ by being on the
Simpsons!

Matt: I can dream I suppose. What one thing have you
learned from Al, (and vice versa!)

Jim: I have learned to not make fun of the accordion
and those who make their living with it. As far as vice versa-I once
showed Al how to make a power chord on the guitar…

Matt: Ever eaten a twinkie-weiner sandwich? How about
a Jellybean and pickle sandwich?

Jim: No, no, no but I have eaten cobra soup.

Matt: Really? Did it have much of a bite? Sorry…
couldn’t resist.

Matt: Ok. . . Forgive me. I have to ask. When was
the last time someone asked you “Jim West? Where’s Artemus Gordon?”

Jim: Oh probably about two months ago!

Matt: Anything else that annoys you to no end?

Jim: I don’t let things bother me that much but people
who talk all the time and don’t listen kinda annoy me. And restaurants
that smell like Lysol.

Matt: Bermuda, there is an internet rumor going around that you’re dead.
Are you?

Bermuda: I don’t think so… I’ll check my pulse. (Checks Pulse) Yep,
I’m fine.

Matt: Good thing. Hard to keep rhythm if you
don’t have a pulse. If you weren’t Drumming, what would you be
doing?

Bermuda: Almost certainly something in the music
or entertainment industry.

Matt: The FRACTURED FEMUR is, by default, predominately
a theatre website. Any experience trodding the boards?

Bermuda: Not me, but I got to see OTHER people trod
the boards. I’d played for some high school productions and the stage
was eye-level to me.

Matt: Jim, ever had any comments from the artists
parodied about your skills as a guitarist?

Jim: No, not really. Maybe they are embarrassed because
I had to learn their mistakes! Only kidding… Generally I’ve heard
good comments about the tracks.

Matt: What is your FAVORITE Weird Al track? Any particular
one stand out in your mind as a “keeper?”

Bermuda: It’s impossible to say, I have many favorites
for many reasons. It’s slightly easier to say what my favorite album
is: typically I like our most recent works, so Poodle Hat qualifies
as my overall favorite Al CD.

Matt: Can’t wait to hear it! How about you, Jim?

Jim: I like “I Wanna Be Your Hog”. It’s Al at his
most sincere.

Matt: Sixteen seconds of pure bliss. (Editor’s
note: It’s track 7 on the UHF soundtrack.)
We
have a couple more questions from the fans. Michael Rafone of Oaklawn
asks “Have you ever said anything you regretted in public, and if so,
would you pose nude on the cover of a magazine to apologize?”

Jim: I once told someone that this club was a pit,
not knowing the owner was standing right there. As far as the question
about posing nude-that would be something I would publicly regret!

Matt: The song says “It’s All About The Pentiums.
” Is it really? What computer do YOU use?

Bermuda: Let’s just say “It’s All About The AMD k-6”
wouldn’t have made a very smooth title!

Jim: I’ve been a Mac guy since I started with computers. I have a new
dual 1 gig processor, G4 with a DVD burner. it rocks. I also have
two PC’s-a Dell and a custom made box. They are great but the
Mac is my main squeeze.

Matt: I knew I liked you for a reason! Now,
let’s make it two for two… Did you get to keep
the cowboy outfit from the “Dare to be Stupid” video?

Jim: No-wish I could have though!

Matt: Bummer. Would have been quite the chick-magnet,
not to mention being collectible as heck. So, do you guys collect
anything OTHER than “Weird Al” Merchandise?

Bermuda: I collect Bermuda Schwartz merchandise. Which,
not surprisingly, has a lot of crossover with Al’s stuff! My and his
archive totals – so far – just over 1, 050 unique, audio & video products
from around the world.

Matt: I love swag (Artist memorabilia
sold at a concert). What one thing would you love to see sold
at a “Weird Al” concert that has never happened?

Jim: My CD, “Coconut
Hat
!!”

Bermuda: I remember something that should NOT
have happened. It was in 1984… the venue had cooked up their
own merchandise for some reason, and based on Al’s then-current
hit “Eat It” made black panties with the words ‘Eat It’ printed on the front! They
were quickly ‘yanked’ before they could be sold, and I doubt that
anyone’s got a pair… except for me! They’re
quite comfy!

Matt: Poodle Hats. Coconut Hats. Do any of you actually
wear hats?

Jim: I occasionally wear a sporty topper when piloting
my sloop.

Matt: Sounds very tropical. Speaking of which, Jim,
you play Hawaiían Slack Key guitar. I have a Les Paul CD called “Lovers’
Luau” where he plays Hawaiian songs. Is Slack Key something similar?
Where might we have heard it before, landlocked in Kansas as we are?

Jim: Slack key is a rural Hawaiian sound that came
in to being in the early 1800’s. What Les Paul was doing was more like
mainland Hawaiian music of its day. My CD Coconut
Hat
is a modern approach. Another good source is anything
on the Dancing Cat label.

Matt: I notice that you have some soundtrack credits
on your curriculum vitae, Jim. What have you been working on recently?

Jim: Most recently, “Fighting
Foodons
,” an animated show on Fox, Saturday AM. Not sure if
it’s still on-it might have run it’s course.

Matt: What is the strangest Instrument you’ve ever
played?

Bermuda: French Horn. Well, it’s not really fair to
call that a strange instrument, nor is it fair to suggest that I played
it. I kind of blew into it once and got one bad note from it.

Matt: Better than
me. About all I can play is iTunes. What is in your CD player/iPod/mp3 player right
now?

Jim: Mostly my own stuff — I keep my library
there for quick access.

Bermuda: Poodle
Hat
! I LOVE that album!!

Matt: Does your band actually have a name? Want
one?

Bermuda: The name changes with each tour, usually
reflecting the name of the current album in some manner.

Jim: Hmmmm. . . Poodles Without Hats?

Matt: How about Weird Al and the Belawalkers? (Editor’s
note: Bela is Weird Al’s Poodle.)

Bermuda: Now you’re amusing me.

Matt: Any wisdom to impart on our readers?

Jim: Don’t take anything personally. Do a good job
at whatever you do. Think before you speak. Don’t assume anything. Always
wash your hands after picking your nose.

Matt: Mahalo, Fellas! We do appreciate taking time
out of your busy schedule to talk to us! Ladies and
Gentlemen, “Bermuda” Schwartz and Jim West! Give’ em
a hand! (Thunderous Applause!)

Go to the “Weird
Al” Website!