Latest Episode

The Organist Episode 13: High-Heeled Boys

Annie Clark, better known by her stage name, St. Vincent, gives the listener a tour through her personal musical history. She talks about the music that raised and influenced her from age two (Ritchie Valens) through high school (Sonic Youth, Solex, Fiona Apple, Big Black). She also made a mix tape for the Organist featuring some of her current favorites:

And here’s a video from St. Vincent’s new self-titled album:

 

Previous Episodes

Episode 12: Worm People

A day on the streets of New York with the singular Alabama musician and artist Lonnie Holley. Holley always sang while making his junkyard assemblages out of objects including pick-axes and buckets, but it wasn’t until the age of sixty-two that he began releasing records and performing live, both of which caught the attention of a younger generation of musicians (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Dirty Projectors, Black Keys) who have since become his collaborators.

This episode also features a world-premiere of Apologies, a very short radio play written by Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag) and Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live), who together make the sketch-comedy show Portlandia on IFC. The play was performed by Tig Notaro (This American Life, The Sarah Silverman Program) and Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Pineapple Express, Buffalo 66).

Episode Eleven: Another Planet

Clyde Casey was a street performer in the 1980s who would often perform in the parking lot of L.A.’s Wallenboyd, the experimental theater space where John Cusak, Tim Robbins, and many others got their start. One night the theater’s security guard didn’t show up, so they asked Casey if he could keep an eye on their patrons’ cars before and during the plays. He agreed, but only if he could stay in character—festooned with toys and musical instruments and homemade chrome-painted sculpture, he metamorphosed himself into a surrealist crime fighter, keeping Skid Row safe using only the powers of art: that night, Clyde Casey became The Avant Guardian.

But this is only where Casey’s story begins: he soon commandeered an abandoned gas station  across the street from the Wallenboyd and converted it into a remarkable unprecedented (and unrepeated) project called Another Planet, a place beloved and fondly remembered by the hundreds of homeless men and women who frequented it, along with high-ranking city officials, movie stars, and artists.

For over twenty years, no one in L.A. knew what happened to Casey. Producer David Weinberg finally tracked him down, and the Organist is thrilled to present his incredible story on our season-two premiere.

62469_1417374003090_2095330_n

This story is a collaboration between the Organist and Love + Radio from Radiotopia. It was produced by David Weinberg, Nick van der Kolk, and Brendan Baker, with special thanks to Tina Antolini and Austin Hines. The Organist is produced by Andrew Leland, Ross Simonini, and Jenna Weiss-Berman. Thanks to  Shelby El-Otmani, Gary Scott, Jenny Radelet, Mario Diaz, and the staff of the Believer and McSweeney’s. Daniel Handler wrote the thing at the top of the show about the acorn.

Episode Ten: Thundershirt

Inside the January episode of the Organist:

  • This whole episode (our season one finale) is a conversation between Lena Dunham and Judy Blume, in Blume’s Manhattan apartment.
Also: We asked Lena Dunham to help us score the interview, and we made this mixtape of the songs she suggested. The mix complies songs Lena thinks go well with the interview, as well as music she’s currently listening to.

 

Episode Nine: The Sonic Barber’s Pole

Inside the December episode of the Organist:

  • Kenneth Walton in conversation with Jonathon Keats on art forgery at the dawn of the internet;
  • Andy Battaglia and Ben Vida on aural illusions and the use of psychoacoustics in art;
  • A mixtape of Swedish progg selected by Wooden Shjips;
  • Lars Iyer on the intersection of philosophy, literature, and the internet;
  • Excerpts from an instructional cassette tape that accompanied all medical marijuana prescriptions during the five-month legalization of medical marijuana in the fictional province of Maniscotia in 1978. Courtesy of Sunset Television.

Episode Eight: Kittens in a Basket

The October episode of the Organist features:

  • Jesse Eisenberg performing a short radio drama written by Ben Greenman
  • Mac Barnett, Catherine Keener, and Emily Bazelon on Russell Hoban and the “moral question” in children’s literature
  • An oral history of the artist Mike Kelley, who died last year, featuring Kelley’s most significant collaborators and friends
  • The “listening history” of Alexis Georgopoulos, who records as ARP, describing his musical genesis from dad-Classical through Human League, Terry Riley, and beyond.
  • An original bite-sized radio drama written and performed by Jesse Eisenberg

Episode Seven: Against Lineage

In this month’s episode of the Organist:

  • Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!, Hell Baby) as an unhinged Urban Outfitters security guard in a short radio drama written by Nick Jones (Orange is the New Black, Jollyship the Whiz-Bang)
  • The story of Chris Stroffolino, ex-Silver Jews, ex-Shakespeare scholar, currently living and performing amazing music in a 1983 Ford Econoline van in L.A.
  • Kathleen Hanna on Julie Ruin, the Julie Ruin, and writing her own eulogy
  • Mahzarin Banaji on the unconscious racial prejudices of four-year-olds
  • Thomas Lennon (see above) reading a short, unhinged radio drama written by Blake Butler (There Is No Year, Ever, Scorch Atlas)
  • Nothing else.

Chris Stroffolino’s story was produced by David Weinberg. Kathleen Hanna was interviewed by Jenna Weiss-Berman. Mahzarin Banaji was interviewed by Audrey Quinn.

Episode Six: The Pyramid Club

The August episode of the Organist features:

  • Son of Rex, a tiny radio drama written by Nick Antosca and performed by Edgar Oliver;
  • Hua Hsu on an ancient unsolved mystery of hiphop sampling;
  • Sam McPheeters on shoplifting hardcore punk 7-inches in 80s Manhattan;
  • French percussionist David Langlois on how his career began with the theft of his grandmother’s fondue pot;
  • Dawn of Midi on what live music can learn from computers;
  • Max Tundra’s 10 favorite five-second recordings;
  • maybe a tiny bit MORE

The David Langlois piece was produced by David Schulman. The episode was produced by Jenna Weiss-Berman, Ross Simonini, and Whitney Jones, and engineered at KCRW by Ray Guarna. Special thanks to Shelby El-Otmani and John Bosson.

Episode Five: Plotz

In this Episode:

  • Sunset Television’s first-ever foray into radio: “Who’s the Other Celebrity in the Room?” Starring Manute Bol and Sly Stallone 
  • Vernon Chatman on editing a new album of Andy Kaufman’s personal mini-cassette recordings
  • Harmony Korine on his teenage mini-cassette recordings, his first novel, and people who plot things
  • Camara Miller and Chris Wood investigate sonic warfare against beetles
  • Jack White in conversation with Tempest Storm, the oldest living burlesque dancer

James Yeh produced the Andy Kaufman piece. Ross Simonini produced the Harmony Korine story. Earlier this year, Sunset Television debuted a web series on our Tumblr.

Episode Four: Richard, the Angel of Death

In this episode:

  • James Franco performing a new original radio drama by the playwright Will Eno
  • Jonathan Coulton on the strange (and infuriating) intersection of Sir Mix-a-Lot, U.S. copyright law, and Glee
  •  Tao Lin on speaking very slowly
  • Kitty and Kool A.D. rapping Tao Lin’s fiction as quickly as possible
  • the artist Nick Cave on his horsey sound installations in Grand Central Station
  • Isis Aquarian on documenting her years living with two hundred other members of the Source Family cult in a mansion in L.A.
  • Julian Koster of the Music Tapes on his touring sideshow, The Traveling Imaginary
  • A tiny bit more!

Jonathan Coulton’s story was produced by Andrea Silenzi of the FMA. Christian Lorentzen appears in the Tao Lin piece. Nick Cave’s story was reported by Anna Altman. Isis Aquarian was interviewed by Patrick James.

Listen to a mixtape of songs chosen by Kitty to score this month’s episode.

Episode Three: Tween Anxiety

Featuring!

  • Sarah Silverman on the relative merits of her virtual pet owl
  • Shane Carruth on the sound of  his new film, Upstream Color
  • Conan O’Brien on “Benny,” a dissatisfying, unhelpful Frankenstein monster
  • A brief, bizarre conversation between Jack White and Conan O’Brien
  • Novelist Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers, Telex From Cuba) in conversation with painter Laura Owens (many awesome paintings)
  • JM Tyree and Ben Walters on the relative merits of the 1958 horror-cheese classic The Blob
  • Charlie White and Boom Bip cut an album composed entirely of the anxieties of young people
  • Nathan Salsburg on a treasure trove of hillbilly records he found in a Louisville Dumpster
  • More, some more

Sarah Silverman’s owl speech was written by Alena Smith. Shane Carruth was interviewed by Ross Simonini, who also produced the Charlie White piece. Conan O’Brien’s Frankenstein riff was produced by Jack White. Nathan Salsburg’s story was produced by Matt Frassica. Thanks for listening! Please give us a rating on iTunes if you have a sec. Sad as it is, podcasts can’t get all of their nutrition from listeners alone — they need iTunes ratings to thrive.

Web extras: hear an extended edit of the Rachel Kushner / Laura Owens interview.

Announcements

Subscribe on iTunes!

Don’t miss an episode of the Organist — subscribe to our podcast on iTunes now!

Episode Eight Extras!

Yahoo!

Big thanks to Rob Walker for naming the Organist one of “the best podcasts you aren’t listening to but should be”! And apologies to those of you who have been listening to the Organist already who shouldn’t have been.

The Organist reviewed in the Onion’s AV Club

Terrific review of the Organist from the Onion’s AV Club: “Stellar…impressive…thoughtful and engaged…fascinating…remarkable depth and richness…an engrossing experience that leaves listeners with plenty to think about long after episodes have ended.” We discovered  most of our favorite podcasts from the AV Club’s podcast coverage, so this glowing notice feels extra special. Scroll down on this page to read the whole review.

The Organist in Current

The public-media newspaper Current published a nice notice about the Organist, including a semi-portentous quote from KCRW about our chances of ending up as a real-live on-air broadcast!

New and/or Noteworthy

We are mega-chuffed to report that we’re number two in iTunes’s vaunted “New & Noteworthy” listings! Who knows how long this will last? We are enjoying it while we can. Thank for subscribing to our podcast in iTunes, rating it, leaving prolix reviews, volunteering at your local youth center, etc!

iTunes is operational!

We’re now available in the iTunes store. Subscribe to the Organist in iTunes.

Episode One of the Organist is Here!

It’s over there to the left. Listen to it! Roll down the windows and blast it! Subscribe in iTunes (hang on a minute for this — almost there), follow us on Soundcloud, or get the KCRW mobile app and listen on demand. Thanks for checking it out.

Social Media

Engage in zesty public conversation with the Organist’s producers on Facebook, Twitter, and a barn. Someone just described Soundcloud as a social media site, so OK let’s include it in this list, too. Soundcloud.

Web Extras

St. Vincent’s Mix Tape for the Believer/Organist

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, made this mix of music she’s currently enjoying.

Lena Dunham’s Mixtape

Lena Dunham assembled this mix of songs by female musicians to accompany her interview with Judy Blume for the Organist, featuring Laura Marling, Nancy Sinatra, Laura Veirs, and others. Listen here.

Wooden Shjips’ Swedish progg playlist and interview

As promised in the December episode, Ripley Johnson from Wooden Shjips has put together a playlist of Swedish “progg” music that we festively strewed throughout episode 9, and is available in its unadulterated form below (or here). Also below, find a quick interview between Johnson and Oneida’s Kid Millions.

It’s kind of like the time in Fort Collins when the hippie jam band told my band Oneida not to worry, their set was short—they only had five songs—and proceeded to play for two hours. But there aren’t any direct correlations between that experience and the experience of listening to this Swedish mix besides duration… and perhaps this mix is shorter and stronger in almost every way.

I love the Wooden Shjips and I think you ought to as well—but I haven’t taken anyone’s advice on what to listen to in a long time. The Shjips take the basic building blocks of psychedelic rock and explode the expectations from there—and maybe you’re left confused, ecstatic, frustrated, exhilarated and wanting more at the end of one of their tremendous live shows or one of their equally tremendous albums. These tracks are exciting and emblematic and illuminating to his band’s aesthetic—and they can perhaps point in a direction of further listening if you find them as unique and compelling as I do.

This seems like the Wooden Shjips in a nutshell—the music can be strange, awkward and otherwise chaotic and not obsessed with technical considerations (thank god)—they seek a different path to those familiar feelings of dislocation, comfort and repetition—and the vehicle remains as strong as ever. I emailed the Shjips’ guitarist Ripley Johnson a few questions while he was on tour in Europe supporting their new record, Back to Land, out this month now from Thrill Jockey.

—Kid Millions

 

KID MILLIONS: How deeply do you care about physical manifestations of recorded music? Sometimes I walk into a record store and feel despair—mostly because it seems like in the midst of a deluge there’s no space for my own work. But when I leave the store I no longer feel this way. But after watching your Amoeba Records video I thought record stores might be inspiring to you. But God—do we have to romanticize places where the clerks are assholes?

RJ: Well, I like vinyl, but most of the vinyl I buy is old and used. So that’s part of my love for record stores. I buy new vinyl, and that’s great, but I really prefer the hunt. I carry around a list of records that I’m looking for at all times. When I go into a record store, even an Amoeba, I’m not usually overwhelmed because I have that list. I used to live just down the street from Amoeba in SF and I would go in there sometimes just to browse endlessly, to pass the time. Now I live in Portland and there are a whole bunch of smaller record stores. They’re funky and cheap. That’s key as well. I’ve shopped for records in NY and got sticker shock. I’m not paying $20 for a scratched copy of Growing Up in Public (r.i.p. Lou).

KM: Along similar lines—Neil Young, in his book Waging Heavy Peace, talks about his digital music service Pono—reattaching “soul” to the digital technology that got thrown away with overly compressed MP3s files. His argument is that MP3s remove the ineffable material that allows us to make deep emotional connections to music, but also we listened to shitty bootleg cassette copies of Neil at Massey Hall with at least twenty generations of warbles and tape decay, and we loved every minute of it.

RJ: Yeah, I listened to so many classic albums on cassette, vinyl dubs, that had skips in particular places, or were sequenced wrong because sides were dubbed in the wrong order. I still hear those imperfections in my mind when a particular song comes on the radio. Or bootlegs recorded at the wrong tape speed, so everything’s pitched up and fast. I don’t think that’s what Neil is talking about, though, and I don’t think higher quality digital is going to bring back that ineffable quality he’s after—it’s still just ones and zeros. But it’s got to be better than mp3s.

KM: Last time I saw you at the Knitting Factory you were killing it on guitar—just shredding. What’s your practice routine like?

RJ: I like to play along with records—that’s as close to practicing as I get. I like to experiment with playing wrong notes in interesting ways. Usually I’m trying to unlearn things. But mostly I just make it up as I go along.

Kid Millions is the founder and drummer of the bands Oneida, Man Forever and People of the North. He has played drums with Spiritualized, Boredoms, Yo La Tengo and Rhys Chatham. A new Man Forever album, called Ryonen, will be released in April 2014. 

Episode Eight Extras!

Videos of the Piano Van

Many more amazing videos on Stroffolino’s website, pianovan.com.

Web Extras for March 2013

Throughout episode two of the Organist are snippets of songs selected by Devendra Banhart (interviewed in this episode by Ross Simonini). Listen to all of Banhart’s selections.

photo

Bonus Items for February 2013

Listen to the full interview with George Saunders, stream the Matmos track, and find out more about the music discussed on episode one by browsing the February 2013 Bonus Items.