Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Law school dropout Demetri Martin has thrived in comedy — landing TV specials, albums, a recurring spot on “The Daily Show”, his own series, starring in the movie “Taking Woodstock” and writing a best-selling book — and at 38, he’s just getting started. LEO spoke with him as he drove on his “Telling Jokes in Cold Places Tour”.
LEO: Usually a headliner does a weekend. Why do we only get you for one night?
Demetri Martin: I’m doing a TV taping on the 18th of February, a stand-up special. I haven’t done one of those since 2007, so I wanted to do a bunch of shows and get ready for that. We just found places that I felt would be fun to run the set, try out new material and lead up to it.
LEO: How’s the new material going over?
DM: Really well. I haven’t had a chance to focus exclusively on stand-up in quite a while. I wrote a book, I’m writing a pilot — an animated show for Fox — I’ve written a couple of screenplays, and had a couple acting jobs. It’s been cool to get other things, but now I get to go back to what I do most, which is stand-up.
LEO: Zach Galifianakis has, like you, been using sketch pads in his stand-up for years. Is there something about Greek-American comedians that makes you guys more visual?
DM: (laughs) Maybe! There’s Zach, me, Tina Fey’s Greek … there aren’t that many of us, especially in comedy. We have to reach. I have a lot of Jewish friends, and that list is amazing — they have Einstein (laughs). We have Telly Savalas, who a lot of people don’t know any more. John Stamos.
LEO: Comedy Central has given shows to a number of talented people who seem to walk away unhappy with their experience. Did you have problems with them, creatively?
DM: The creative side, they were pretty good to me. Marketing it was always a real struggle; how to promote the show and myself, as a human being. You get a sense that they’re not interested, like, “We know how to sell stuff, and we’re going to sell it, and that’s how it’s gonna be.” But, on the Comedy Central scale of dealing with people, they were pretty nice to me. When it comes to business, they’re pretty notorious, pretty tough. They’re not too amenable to compromising too much. But I can’t really complain; I got to do a lot of stuff. I got to do my series.
LEO: Is your goal to have a career like Woody Allen’s?
DM: If I could have one-tenth of his career, I’d be lucky. I always think of Woody and Albert Brooks. There’s two examples, and rare examples, of people who develop a specific sensibility and they’re able to tell stories — and in different media. On the page, in films, stand-up …
LEO: Were you able to learn from some of the directors you’ve worked for?
DM: Yeah, the few movie roles I’ve been able to get, those have been really educational. I got to be on a set with Ang Lee and Steven Soderberg, and those were really cool. There’s so much information to absorb while you’re there, even if you only work a couple of days. And doing my series, two seasons of that, was really helpful. That taught me a lot about getting through a production day, all the moving parts, and also budgets, which is really not my strong suit at all.
LEO: Is it true that you were up for the part Jonah Hill played in Moneyball?
DM: Yeah. I was attached to the part, when it was with a different director. I worked for a day with Soderbergh and Brad Pitt, it was really fun — and then the next day, the movie was shut down.
LEO: You picked the cities on this tour. Was there anything about Louisville that appealed to you?
DM: A couple things. Number one, I’ve never done stand-up in Louisville. I’m certainly interested to see who shows up, and how it goes. Number two, it worked well with routing. Number three, I dated a girl a long time ago from Louisville, and she was really cool. That’s not very relevant to stand-up, but it’s nice.
441 S. 4th St. • 581-1332
$30; 8 p.m.
c. 2012 LEO Weekly
at 10:12:00 AM
Heartless Bastards began in Cincinnati clubs and, less than a decade later, have established themselves as one of the most vital rock ’n’ roll bands left. Just in time for the so-appropriate Valentine’s Day, Heartless Bastards’ fourth album, Arrow, produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, will be released. Bandleader Erika Wennerstrom, who spoke with LEO, moved to Eno’s Austin, Texas, four years ago.
“I moved to Austin because I was in a nine-year relationship, and we split up. I happened to have family here, and my management at the time was located here. So I had a support system to help me get started,” Wennerstrom says. “Although I think Austin’s a great music town, and I love living here, that’s not what drew me here. I think a lot of people assume that, but … it’s a nice perk to living here.”
Wennerstrom’s tendency to travel influenced her latest record in some unexpected ways. “I’m really proud of it,” she says of the new album, the band’s first for Partisan Records after three albums released by Fat Possum Records. “It took me probably three years to write. I’d had melodies over a two-year period popping in my head, but once we got done touring from (2009 album) The Mountain, I started sitting down and focusing on how to say what I wanted to say in the songs. I have some sort of A.D.D.-focus problems, so I ended up deciding to take some road trips.”
Wennerstrom got in her car and drove around for a month or so, from Austin back up to see friends and family in Ohio, then over to the Catskill Mountains.
“I met up with some friends who were playing at (the festival) All Tomorrow’s Parties in the Catskills in New York, fall 2010. That was inspiring. I stayed in a cabin up there after it was over on my own for several days, then I drove down to the Alleghenies in Pennsylvania and found a place there, a cabin on a lake, to stay. It was a campground, but, on weekdays, it was pretty vacant.”
From there, she continued on to Arkansas, where her father once lived near Hot Springs, before landing in a friend’s house on a ranch outside the famed artist colony of Marfa, Texas.
“I think, through that process, I didn’t get done nearly as much as I’d hoped, but I feel like it was a lot of the inspiration for what I did end up writing,” says the 33-year-old native of Dayton, Ohio. “There’s a lot of imagery from the trip, and certain lines would pop in my head when I was driving. They would guide me to finish the songs. I brought the songs in to the band, and we all started working on them. Jim Eno, who produced the album, made some suggestions; one of his suggestions I really liked was touring on the songs before we recorded them. So we opened up for the Drive-By Truckers on a month-long West Coast tour last spring, then we went right in the studio two days after we got back. I really feel like it created a real live sound to the album. A lot of the takes that we did, there’s not a lot of added instrumentation and filler.”
Wennerstrom is happy for the success her friends The Black Keys have had, and is realistic about the Bastards’ place in the universe.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. I do what I do, and release songs to the public because I want people to hear them — so, sure, as many people as will like a song that I create, that feels good. If I were to only go as far as I already have, as far as people being aware of who the band is, I’m content. I love what I do, and I want to do it for as long as I’m capable of it. And I’m going to do it whether I have five fans or 5 million, or … something (laughs). There’s just something in me that needs to create, and this is my way of expressing myself. I’m going to do that, whether people hear it or not.”
with Hacienda and Houndmouth
Monday, Feb. 13
Headliners Music Hall
1386 Lexington Road • 584-8088
$15; 8 p.m.
Photo by Nathan Presley
c. 2012 LEO Weekly
at 10:09:00 AM
Our Home Is a Deathbed, the first full-length album by the Louisville-based thrashy hardcore punk band Xerxes, will be released next month. Recorded with Kevin Ratterman (Wax Fang, My Morning Jacket) at his Funeral Home studio, the album is a big step forward for the precocious quintet, who will play a show at a secret location this weekend. LEO spoke with bassist Will Allard in December.
LEO: You guys are going to be pretty busy in 2012.
Will Allard: It’s getting really crazy. We did a bunch of touring earlier in the year (2011), then we took time to write the record; we did basically nothing but put all of our energy into that. We’ll be gone most of 2012.
LEO: On the first leg of the tour, coming back through here, you’re doing 40-some cities in about 40 days?
WA: Yeah, 41 shows in 41 days. Then we’re home for three weeks, then we go out again. It should be pretty wild.
LEO: Why did you want to work with Kevin Ratterman on this album?
WA: We went with him because of his past roster. He was awesome to work with, the vibe of the studio fit our needs, and it was an awesome experience. We didn’t want to go anywhere out of Louisville, we wanted to keep it all in the circle. Not to sound cheesy, but keeping it where home is, keeping it Louisville, I guess.
LEO: What does that mean to you?
WA: We grew up all loving the bands that were before us — like Mountain Asleep, who’s our brother band, and Coliseum, Young Widows, By the Grace of God, Breather Resist — all those maximum Louisville bands.
LEO: How long do you think it will take before younger kids start citing you as an influence?
WA: Oh, I don’t even know. I don’t even care (laughs), but if it happens, it’s cool. It’s not a goal.
LEO: What’s the age range of the band members now?
WA: Everyone is 19 except (guitarist) James (Moore). I think he’s 20.
LEO: That’s pretty young to have gotten as far as you guys have come already.
WA: Yeah, we’re all a bunch of youngsters. We’ve been doing this since we were, like, 16, and we’ve been touring since we were 17. We wanted to just do it, and take advantage of being young while we can abuse our bodies, you know? (laughs) When you’re 30, you can’t really go out for 41 days in a row and expect to function.
LEO: When you talk about abusing your bodies, are you talking about playing and jumping around?
WA: Yeah — sleeping on floors, loading in to dirty venues, playing a 15-minute-long set and abusing your body by letting it all pour out, just burn it all out in 15 minutes or so.
LEO: Can you look ahead to 30 and guess if you’ll still be playing music like this? Or will you turn into one of those ex-punker folk singers or rockabilly guys?
WA: (laughs) No, I’ll be doing this for forever, so … the only thing I know is this is all I want to do, and the same goes for everyone else in the band. We’re not really good at anything else (laughs).
c. 2012 LEO Weekly
at 10:07:00 AM