Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Meet a Visiting Comic Book Writer: A Chat with Nejc Juren of Slovenia

by Mike Rhode

Early next month, DC will have the rare treat of two Slovenian cartoonists visiting to sign their Animal Noir graphic novel and open an exhibit of comic art at the Embassy of Slovenia. Last week, we interviewed Izar Lunaček.Today, we chat with Nejc Juren, the co-author of Animal Noir.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I write scripts. I'm so bad at drawing that I never dared to hope I could do any work in comics. However, I've always loved comics, and since I consider myself more of a storyteller then a writer, I jumped at the chance when Izar suggested we tell some stories together in comic book form. I truly believe comics are one of the best storytelling mediums. The possibilities here are endless.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I try to adapt to the process of the illustrator. If he needs a panel by panel script, I try to write it that way, but I prefer the process to be more loose. I tell the illustrator the broad story and then I let his visual ideas guide and shape the script. With Izar, the process was just incredible. When we did Animal Noir we spent a couple of months just world-building. We really went into the foundation of the world those animals created. Then we created the long arc of the story (which has yet to be told and I guarantee is really epic) and only then all the small arcs, the first of which came out last year from IDW.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1982. Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia and a socialist country. Yugoslavia dissolved when I was 8 years old and I grew up watching a lot of American television.

Where do you live now?

I live in Ljubljana, our nation's capital.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I always got the worst marks in drawing. But I also always got the worst mark in music and now I make ends meet by writing comic scripts and running a semi-popular swing band. As for formal education, I finished law school.

Who are your influences?

René Goscinny, Allan Moore, Joan Sfar, Christophe Blain.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I don't think I'd change anything. I kinda take it like this: it takes around 20 years to become a good storyteller. So that's a really long journey. And the more you meander, the more you get lost and side-tracked, the more walls you hit, all that should - by this theory - just add to your journey. That's why I'm trying to cherish all the wrong turns I take.

What work are you best-known for?

In comics, it's Animal Noir. However, in Slovenia I'm more known as a musician. This is my band, Počeni Škafi, if you want to check us out. I write all the lyrics and most of the music. In English, it means The Cracking Buckets. Our original singer's surname was Škafar, which means the bucket maker.We have an album on Spotify and all the other streaming sites, but a good sample is here:

What work are you most proud of?

You'd make me choose among my children? Okay, check this video out. It's the first thing Izar and I did together. Dive is a short comic that was done as a music video for Fed Horses, a band I also write lyrics for. I'm really happy the way it turned out but I don't think the Youtube algorithm likes it too much.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

Izar and I are working on a comic called Thursday Girl that I think will be great. We're hoping to find a publisher soon so we can get our claws into it. I'm also preparing a collection of short stories that's going to get released next year.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I stop and let my brain solve it on it's own. I have a constant writer's block and usually resolves it self around deadlines. Or I find that a long walk or a long shower really helps.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Who knows? But stories will always be important. And if by some chance the world gets overrun by amazing storytellers and will have no use for me, I'll just go back into law.

What conventions do you attend?

I usually go to the Angouleme festival in France. It's super nice.

Have you visited DC before?

Yes. I visited in 98. I was an international student at the Governor's school of South Carolina and we make a field trip.

If so, favorite thing? Least favorite? If not, what do you want to do?

I remember putting my finger into Einstein's nose.

If you've visited, what monument or museum do you like?

I guess the answer is again Einstein. I'm not into the big phallic monuments. I did enjoy the Air & Space Museum.

What can you tell us about your book that you're signing at Big Planet Comics?

One of Goodreads reviewers called it: so intensely overthought that it's hard to tell if it's good or just totally insane. I guess that's my work.

Did Animal Noir when we appear in the United States, or did it appear in your country first? How did you guys bring it to the attention of IDW? Did you do the English script yourselves?

Animal Noir came out in the US first. Some publishing houses in Slovenia liked it, but none wanted to risk the investment. The Slovenian comics market is very small. Our original plan was to find a publisher in France and the first few pages were drawn in a little larger format. When IDW showed interest, we adapted it to the floppy format and we re-wrote the script to fit it into 20-page episodes.

Izar met Ted Adams at the comics festival in Barcelona, pitched him the story and showed him a few pages. Ted liked it so much, he also took on the editing duties. It was surreal for us.

Yeah, we wrote Animal Noir in English. When in came out in Slovenia 6 months later, we needed to translate it into our mother tongue. Moreover, when we did the world-building we named everything in English with some reckless abandon, so we put ourselves in some tight spots when we needed to translate those names into Slovenian.

Do you have a website or blog?

No. But you can follow me on Instagram.

As Izar Lunaček noted on our blog last week:

The first days of November will see a double hit of Slovenian comics descend on Washington DC. On Thursday November 1st at 7PM, Nejc Juren and Izar Lunaček will swing by Big Planet Comics on U St., NW to talk about and sign their book Animal Noir, a comic thriller about a giraffe detective in a world of lion politicians and hippo mobsters that came out with IDW last year, and on the 2nd the same guys will open an exhibition on the vivid history of their own country's comics scene at the Slovenian embassy on California Street. Admission to both events is free and food and drinks might be served. Come on, come all, it'll be wonderfully fun! 

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

A quick chat with Gary Lucas on reviving the Fleischer Brothers cartoon music

by Mike Rhode

Gary Lucas, a New York musician, will be in town this weekend with his tribute to the Fleischer animation studio music heard in Popeye and Betty Boop shorts. His band Gary Lucas Fleischerei has just released a new album Music from Max Fleischer Cartoons from Silver Spring's Cuneiform Records. I've been given a copy of the album and it's a lively, fun interpretation of cartoon music that's not been revived nearly as often as either Disney's or Warner Brothers'.

I'm on jury duty this week, so I'm going to lift a couple of paragraphs from Cuneiform's press release. Original ComicsDC material resumes with a short interview after the italicized text. 

Gary Lucas is one of the great spelunkers of contemporary culture, a fearless explorer who delves into forgotten and overlooked crevices and returns bearing exquisite treasures. His latest project Music from Max Fleischer Cartoons is a particularly spectacular find, a gleaming confection from a hurly-burly era when the Jazz Age crashed into the Great Depression and Tin Pan Alley borrowed shamelessly from Harlem. A 2016 Cuneiform release, the album features songs from Fleischer Studios cartoons originally delivered by actress Mae Questel, who provided the voice and vocals for two beloved but very different characters: the eternally sexy Betty Boop and Popeye’s sometime ‘goilfriend’ Olive Oyl. Finding a singer who could capture the insouciant spirit of Mae Questel while comfortably inhabiting the material proved far more difficult. Lucas turned to his wife Caroline Sinclair, a New York City casting director, who said, “why don’t you let me cast this one?” “That was a good idea,” Lucas says. “Sarah Stiles is really a bundle of fire who can do it all. It was crucial to find a singer who wouldn’t try to hijack the idea and make it about her. We conceived this as a tribute to Mae Questel and the Fleischers. This is about trying to spread Fleischermania.” Part of what makes Stiles such a perfect fit for the material is the way she captures the spirit of the characters. It’s immediately obvious when she’s singing a song associated with the effervescent Ms. Boop and when she’s donning the slippery guise of Ms. Oyl. The album opens and closes with bits lifted from Fleischer productions.

“Fleischer’s animation has a gritty, funky urban sensibility that feeds right into R. Crumb,” Lucas says. “His cartoons had that Jewish and urban wiseguy sensibility. There’s a dark, black humor associated with Eastern European immigrants, and even though I’m from upstate, those are my roots. Betty Boop in particular embodies a knowing sophistication emanating out of Times Square, which was a node of melting pot culture where Broadway, Yiddish theater, and jazz all converged.”

Did you have to have the music transcribed from cartoons, or does written music for the cartoons still exist?

I transcribed and arranged the guitar parts by ear off the soundtracks; I'm not sure how Joe Fiedler who arranged the group parts did it that way, but he could have-- we both have very good ears. I really don't know if any of the cartoon music exists in their original arrangements as written music. It is possible it's filed somewhere, at for the stuff that the assembled studio bands cut in front of the cartoons being projected, photos exist of one of the main composers Sammy Timberg conducting one of these ensembles in a Fleischer cartoons recording session. Some of the music came from actual records of the day that the Fleischer's edited right onto their cartoon soundtracks--such as the "jungle jazz" instrumental tag on "Betty Boop's Penthouse" which FLEISCHEREI perform, which I recently learned comes off a 78 recording of the Mills Blue Rhythm Band entitled "Heat Waves." Perhaps the group re-cut it for the cartoon because it sounds slightly faster on the soundtrack, but, if so, they stuck to the identical arrangement. The connection with current Harlem recording acts is a natural as Mills Blue Rhythm Band were one of the regular ensembles at the Cotton Club uptown.  Paramount was the distributor of the cartoons - and as part of its arrangements with Fleischer Studios, the studio lent some of the artists in their catalog such as Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong to make cameo appearances in the Fleischer cartoons, which were filmed at Paramount Studios in Astoria, Queens. Sometimes these artists toured nationally in the same Paramount theaters that the Fleischer cartoons were screened in, with the cartoons themselves serving as advance publicity for the artist's live appearances.

Did you consider showing the cartoons behind you while you play, as is so popular with symphony orchestras?

Yes we do this, in a roughly synchronized way. As we improvise a lot unlike symphony orchestras it's not easy to always have the right clip on the screen behind us, but I don't think it matters much. It's more about capturing a flavor. We show the intact cartoons also as part of our show.

What did singer Sara Stiles really think when someone asked her to channel Betty Boop's voice?

That someone was I, and Sarah loves Betty Boop's voice. She has no problem channeling it. That is one reason I selected her as the singer.

How has the reception been so far for the tour/album?

We haven't really begun touring this yet. Reaction to the album has been extremely positive.
Do you know who the original composers are?

Yes, and they are duly noted in the booklet credits.

(And so they are. There's a variety of names with Sammy Timberg being credited the most with five songs)

Did you have a hard time convincing the other musicians to join you in this project, or is everyone just seeing it as a fun way to spend a few months?

Everyone in the group loves playing this music. They wouldn't be part of this otherwise.

How does the live audience react?

The reaction has been phenomenal - people love this project, they get off on hearing the music and they adore the cartoons.

Why do you think that Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon music has survived, and relatively prospered, while the Fleischers' was forgotten?

I don't think it was forgotten, I mean, come on - people all over the world know Sammy Lerner's "Popeye the Sailor Man" theme for instance. I just don't' think the music has been effectively  curated (until now!). 

What's your favorite Fleischer cartoon?

1930's "Swing You Singers"  - a surrealist classic.

Favorite animation overall?


I note Robert Crumb is mentioned in your press release; are you a Crumb fan? Have you seen him and his Cheap Suit Serenaders? Have you ever met him and talked music or cartoons?

Yes I love Crumb's work. I never did see his ensemble, although I did see his guitarist, the late Bob Brozman in action, I have never met Crumb alas - but I feel a kindred spirit there. I know he was a HUGE  fan of Max Fleischer!

We now go back to Mr. Lucas' website to round out this post.

Next up, the full swinging FLEISCHEREI 6-piece band will appear along with many classic Max Fleischer cartoons as a special event night at the Washington Jewish Film Festival on Sat. March 5th 8pm at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring Maryland.

Preview the tracks "The Broken Record" and "Ain'tcha" from the new FLEISCHEREI album—
and order the album now!

Monday, November 02, 2015

DC-area band Exit Vehicles has just released an animated video

They tell ComicsDC:

We released our debut album STAGES in July 2015, and the first of a few music videos was released November 1st, this one for our song Module.

We felt the story for this could only really come across well if a cartoon was made from it, so we contacted a mutual acquaintance whose stuff we liked, Michigan-based artist Matt Rasch. Matt agreed to animate and direct for us in his unique style ( It's just a whimsical cartoon about a monkey rocketing across space and back, and we think it's plenty of fun.

Exit Vehicles - Bandcamp website:


Exit Vehicles are a DC indie rock four piece who formed in mid-2013 as a project between twin brothers Brian and Adam Polon. After being in several bands and releasing several albums apart, the brothers felt it was finally time to try something together, and quickly sketched out 50 original songs on bass and guitar. The twins met drummer Jacob McLocklin (also in DC's indie/pop/rock outfit Cake and Calculus), and recorded 30 tracks with variations on Soundcloud under the project name The Debuggers (the three bandmembers all work in the DC computer/tech sector). The brothers found singer Brian Easley (a recent DC transplant via Austin and Chicago) through the Internet and began playing a show every month across DC for the next year under the name Exit Vehicles, their homage to science, space, technology, and NASA. Easley is a combat-disabled veteran.

Exit Vehicles recorded STAGES, their first LP, at the Lighthouse Recording Studio in Del Ray, Virginia with Peter Larkin early in 2015. The ten track album is a tribute to the Polon brothers' intricate and complex songwriting, McLocklin's dazzling drumwork, and Easley's visceral lyrics and wiry vocals. The album was also produced by Peter Larkin at The Lighthouse in Del Ray, and mastered by Dave Harris at Studio B in Charlotte, NC. The band's earlier 2014 EP offering – which Natan Press of The Deli Magazine described as "Aggressive yet melodic, progressive yet tight, a solid post-punk rhythm section drives a clean alt/indie sound reminiscent of the best in the city's history" – was recorded at Inner Ear Studio in Arlington, Virginia by Don Zientara. Exit Vehicles only play every month or two around DC, so be on the lookout for the next show! They play next on Saturday, December 12th, 2015 at Iota Club and Cafe in Arlington, VA.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Japanese anime music band played in DC last night

Well, I missed the Boom Boom Satellites at the 9:30 Club. How about you?

Boom goes the dynamite
By May Wildman
University of Maryland Diamondback October 12, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Aug 6-7: Bugs Bunny At The Symphony at Wolftrap

Friday, August 6 and Saturday, August 7 at 8:30 pm at the Filene Center
Ticket Price: $20 - $52
Bugs Bunny At The Symphony
Created and conducted by George Daugherty

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony website

That "Wascally Wabbit" returns for two fabulous nights of film and music! The NSO provides live accompaniment as everyone’s favorite bunny brings new cartoons and music to life on large screens in-house and on the lawn.

Warner Bros.’ Bugs Bunny On Broadway reinvented a new genre of symphony concerts with its premiere in 1990 and is celebrating its 20th anniversary with this newly created concert sequel.

Among the timeless cartoons shown are “The Rabbit of Seville” (1950) and “What’s Opera, Doc?” (1957), as well as cartoons set to the overtures to William Tell and Die Fledermaus.

A number of new cartoons from the Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes vaults will be added, including the debut of Tweety Bird and Sylvester into the concert with “Tweety's Circus,” the misguided romantic musings of Pepe Le Pew in “A Scent of The Matterhorn,” and the concert debut of special guest artists Tom and Jerry in one of their most celebrated face-offs, "Tom and Jerry In The Hollywood Bowl."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Greg Bennet's band, Jet Age, reviewed in Post and appearing in DC

Album review: The Jet Age's 'In "Love" '
by Mark Jenkins
Washington Post Friday, June 25, 2010; WE07

THE JET AGE - "In 'Love' ''

Show: With the Electricutions on Wednesday at the Black Cat. Show starts at 9 p.m. 202-667-4490.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May 17: "Hey Girl" comic book soundtrack performed live

Erin McCarley writes in about her cool project and upcoming performance:

“Hey Girl!” is a comic that myself and a friend created that we also recorded a soundtrack for. (Kinda like the Sesame Street records I had as a kid that had follow along maps). Anyways, we are going to perform the soundtrack live for the first time and we are pretty excited about it.

The show info is:

Monday, May 17th.
8:30 pm, all-ages $8
The Black Cat
1811 14th Street NW
Washington, DC

You can see more info about the comic here: and

I just ordered mine from Dischord.

Monday, March 08, 2010

March 13: A true comic opera

This weekend is The Metropolitan Opera's staging of Shostakovich's The Nose. And why should we care? Because it's being directed by South African fine art animator William Kentridge and carried on WETA 90.9FM at 1 pm on March 13. The NY Times reviewed it today.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Superhero mixtape from DC dj

Jon Fischer of the City Paper passed along this - Davy DMV – The Mixtape Super Heros Mixtape (Hosted by DJ Torkaveli). I'm just downloading it now and haven't listened to it, but I like the cover.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Weldon on music and comics

Presumably Glen Weldon is snowed in like the rest of us in DC, so he's written a long look at "Comics That Have A Nice Beat And Are Easy To Dance To," National Public Radio's Monkey See blog (February 10 2010).

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Jet Age - a comic? No, a band

Big Planet Comics owner Greg Bennett plays in a local band - The Jet Age. They've got a new album coming out on October 27th, and you can hear snippets online now. It sounds good - check it out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nov 20-21 BSO plays Superman-based Metropolis Symphony

Daugherty's Metropolis Symphony is probably almost a couple of decades old by now. Hard to believe. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is playing part of it next fall.

Demons, Drama, Dance
Friday, November 20, 2009 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 8:00 p.m.

Marin Alsop, conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
Daugherty - "Red Cape Tango" from Metropolis Symphony
Liszt - Totentanz
Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique

Marin Alsop leads a program of musical flair and fantasy. Michael Daugherty's whimsical "Red Cape Tango" portrays Superman's fight to the death with Doomsday. French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet flashes his breathtaking technique in Franz Liszt's "Dance of Death" for piano and orchestra. And Berlioz's symphony takes us on a rollicking dream of passion gone mad.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Semi-OT: Marc Weidenbaum on DJ Spooky in Nature

This one's stretching a little, but my friend and Viz Editor (and former Tower Records Pulse! comics editor) Marc Wiedenbaum's got a review of a new book by DJ Spooky, who was born in DC and has gone on to being, in Marc's words, "a centre-stage cultural figure — performer, composer, remixer, sound artist and activist." And it's in Nature!

See, if you can, Nature 453, 33-34 (1 May 2008); Published online 30 April 2008
An experimental musician explores how technology has transformed our cut-and-paste culture.
BOOK REVIEWED-Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture
edited by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid
MIT Press: 2008. 416 pp (plus CD). $29.95, £17.95

Actually it's pretty interesting. I have little to no interest in the music that Spooky would be DJ'ing, but the concepts in the book sound intriguing.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Feb 2: African cartoonist Issa Nyaphaga appears

Issa wrote in:

Please join us for a music / painting performance at the opening of Issa Nyaphaga's exhibition, "Mystic Forms" at Mount Rainier’s H&F Gallery on Rhode Island. Mount Rainier residents, Surabhi Shah, Deepak Shenoy, and Silver Spring resident Shareen Joshi will accompany with music and vocals Mount Rainier’s Issa Nyaphaga, while he performs improvisational live painting using the music for inspiration.

Date: Feb 2, 2007, Saturday
Venue: H&F Fine Arts Gallery, 3311 Rhode Island Avenue (next to Artmosphere), Mount Rainier, MD 20712, (301) 887-0080 (
Reception: 5-8pm
Music/Painting Performance: 7-8pm
Live Painting - Issa Nyaphaga (Mount Rainier, MD & Paris, France)
Tabla (Indian percussion instrument) - Deepak Shenoy (Mount Rainier, MD)
Vocals - Surabhi Shah (Mount Rainier, MD)
Vocals & Harmonium (Indian keyed instrument)- Shareen Joshi (Silver Spring, MD)
Presentation by Shivali Shah.

Check out this radio show about Issa.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007