The Eric Andre Live Show is coming to downtown San Diego during San Diego Comic Con 2013. On Saturday, July 20, Adult Swim is bringing a live version of the bizarro talk show to the House of Blues in the Gaslamp District.
In addition to host Eric Andre and co-host Hannibal Buress, the live show will include a DJ set by Los Angeles electro-pop duo, Yacht. Beyond a very loose talk show format and the music, it is difficult to predict what to expect this Saturday night. Andre has been know to strip down, go up in flames, crash through desks, and rain burgers down on the audience. If you’re coming to the show after Comic Con, you may want to change out of your costume if it isn’t waterproof.
“We’re going to destroy everything. We interview fake George Clooney, fake Russell Brand, and we’ll have some surprises, ” Andre said.
Andre and co-host, Hannibal Buress are both experienced stand-up comedians, with Andre planning a show in Brooklyn this summer to commemorate reaching the ten-year mark as a comic. They will be doing stand-up at the American Comedy Co in the Gaslamp on Thursday, July 18.
Photo by Gijs van der Most
In addition to the late night show on Cartoon Network‘s Adult Swim lineup, Andre was a regular on the ABC network’s “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23.” The show, edgy by prime time network TV standards, was recently cancelled. The Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim, however, is coming back for another season.
“We finished shooting, we’re editing now. We’ll be back in October,” Andre confirmed.
Andre is also a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, and collaborated with Yacht on a mixtape, Dr. MDMA, M.D., which is available to download on Soundcloud.
How do you paraphrase someone who has an awesome way with words? When I sat down and listened to the interview I recorded with Ben Johnson, I was stymied as to how to write it up. The man spits hot fire as Grammatical B, and growls furious ire with The Long and Short of It. Every quote is quotable. As intense and intimidating as he can be onstage, in person, Johnson exudes the easy calm of a person who has learned the art of self-acceptance.
“Haters have motivated me far more than people going ‘that’s really awesome’ in my life more than anything. But I don’t have those haters anymore. I’ve reached this pinnacle where I’m so not bitter anymore, and I’m so not angry anymore,” Johnson said. “It’s almost like this purging exercise. I talk crap to the microphone, and I don’t need to talk crap to that person.”
Johnson created the hilarious hip-hop philosopher, Grammatical B at the suggestion of friend Michael Periera, who was looking for a partner in crime for his own urban-themed alter ego, Microphone Mike. After collaborating on the song “Do Fries Come with that Shake”, Grammatical B became a standalone project.
Johnson recorded an album and videos with blood, sweat, and karma-in lieu of a big budget. An extended family of friends, fans, and relations appear in the video for “Rules & Laws,” filmed at the Casbah, where Johnson has been manning the bar for 13 years. The song calls out every variety of pain-in-the-ass patrons that a bartender has to endure.
“Even though I’m talking shit, I’m talking shit about stereotypes. In Rules and Laws, I’m talking about two percent of the people that come in to the bar, even less. People by and large are so great.”
Johnson has been playing in bands for most of his life, and has seen the rise of technology re-shape the landscape of the music business. We all look back and laugh at MySpace as an antiquated social media platform, but it was built as an ideal way for artists to promote themselves to the world, for free.
“I’m so old school, I was calling people on the phone to book nationwide tours in 96’ and ’97. And then you get the $400 phone bill, and you have to get the phone bill in someone else’s name. Then MySpace came out and bam, immediately, you save that phone bill money,” Johnson continues, “and for that shining moment of 3 or 4 years, it was this amazing thing. I can go to this town and…say ‘hey maybe you’ll like our band,’ and the kids say ‘yeah we like your band we saw you were coming to town and checked you out on MySpace, we’re coming to the show’. And then MySpace became basically porno light and no one paid attention to it anymore.”
When his tech-savvy collaborator Periera moved to New York City, Johnson found himself forced to learn a new set of DIY skills. Long gone are the days of hustling Ma Bell and stapling fliers all over town, Johnson is now embracing the possibilities of digital DIY.
“I went and got the cheapest recording program for Apple you can get, like Logic for babies…the barest bones thing you can get,” Johnson said, “Mike moving away forced me to get literate on the musical tip.”
Even though he’s taught himself to play more instruments, and learn more about recording and production, Johnson still struggles with vital skill for a musician: Shameless self-promotion.
“I can’t get on that whole self-promotion tip. I don’t know how to market myself at all. If you’re good at marketing and you’re good at music, you’ve got a leg up. If you’re good at the marketing and your music sucks, you’re still better off. I’d rather be good at music.”
Johnson has been nominated for San Diego Music Awards as Grammatical B for Best Hip Hop, and Best Hard Rock with The Long and Short of It. The public can vote on the website until Monday, July 25. http://www.sandiegomusicawards.com/#home
“Everyone is in a band. And their mom is in a band. And their Grandma is in a band. Because everyone can be in a band, because it’s so easy to be in a band,” Johnson said of the seemingly endless stream of bands spawned by MySpace.
“We don’t have a street team we don’t have people working for us in The Long and Short of It. I don’t have anybody like that for Grammatical B. Nobody’s going to do it for me, and if they are going to do it for me, it’s going to cost money. We don’t have any money. The Long and Short of It doesn’t have band money. Grammatical B doesn’t have a red cent.”
Brian Karscig has been a fixture of the San Diego music scene since I discovered there was a San Diego music scene. It was a different time, before twitter and iPhones, even before MySpace. He’s met me at a coffee shop near 30th and University in North Park, which is the cradle of scenester civilization in San Diego.
I’m actually early for our meeting, so I sit at a table outside, to try to catch him on his way in, and offer to buy him a coffee before we start the interview. As I said, Karscig is a fixture, which means a lot of people have seen him on stage with various bands over the years. And we’re at a coffee shop in North Park, where all the cool kids are. Naturally, he ran into some other musicians and had promised to go to a show and gotten a coffee before he even made his way to me.
Like me, Karscig is old enough to remember the days before Evites replaced flyers. He has dark hair and a slender build. He’s got a baby face hidden behind a full beard and mirrored aviators. He’s fond of wearing hats onstage. The rest of his wardrobe stays about the same onstage, and off; Tight-fitting pants, vintage button-down, long sleeved shirt, vest, and a belt with a serious buckle.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a living as a writer for years, and I’m always looking for case studies of people that make a living with their art. Luckily, he’s been interviewed many more times than I’ve been an interviewer, and after I tell him I want to hear about his experience with the ups-and-downs of the music industry, he begins, right at the beginning.
“It’s an ever changing climate with music,” Karscig says, “I never set out with a specific, real goal, except to make music to live.”
Making a living as an artist has always been a tricky proposition. Even during the Renaissance, there were only so many noblemen looking to bankroll creative geniuses. Today, the only wealthy patrons left are of the Hugh Hefner variety, and they’re not interested in geniuses of any sort. Singer, songwriter, and guitar player Brian Karscig has managed to achieve his seemingly humble goal of making music to live, while most people I know can barely make a living with a sensible degree and a dull desk job.
“I started out in high school, with Jason and Mark, and we started a band called Dishwater, just playing around town at the Casbah and the old Spirit club.”
After a couple of years, Karscig and his former schoolmates, now band mates, went on to form another band, Convoy.
“Convoy was my first little taste of national touring, you can make a living off music, get a record deal, stuff like that. It was also my first experience of how things change constantly in music.”
“I haven’t had a day job in a long time. I worked in a French restaurant in Rancho Bernardo, did telemarketing, and my friend Mark and I had a window washing company. That was fun. But, I haven’t really had a day job since Convoy got busy.”
Even though he’s been fortunate enough to avoid waiting tables for the last two decades, following the path of a professional musician has been a long and winding road. Karscig details the brutal food chain of record labels buying each other out, bigger fish eating little ones, and putting finished records aside, instead of spending the money to release and market them. This practice of “shelving” leaves artists trapped in contracts with no choice but to sit and wait for their deals to expire.
“We were just kind of sitting ducks there [at the label]. We couldn’t do anything as Convoy. After a year of twiddling our thumbs, not being able to do anything, a couple of the guys got frustrated, got married, whatever. Mark, Jason and I took a bunch of ideas that were going to be the next Convoy album, and started Louis XIV.”
“Louis XIV was an example of how everything can happen overnight. With Convoy, I was at it for six or seven years, touring, sleeping on floors, doing it hardcore, just putting a lot of effort into it. And then with Louis, within a year, we had a deal on a major label, and had a big hit song.”
Karscig tells me about the grind of writing, recording, and touring at the international level; the expectations and the stakes are higher. Behind the scenes, the personal lives of the band members began to suffer. There’s a reason this story is a cliché; the business is structured for artist burnout.
“That was 2005 when we signed, then, by 2009, we’re supposed to put out another record, and half of everyone at Atlantic [Records] got fired.”
By this point, Louis XIV had attempted a tour with hired guns stepping in to replace some of the band members at the last minute, and as the déjà vu of waiting out another shelved record kicked in, Karscig began to realize it might be time to move on. When the band returned from a tour in Australia, they decided to a break.
“I took a plane straight to Cambridge and finished some songs I’d been working on for a few years on my own…After playing with the same guys for the last 12 or 13 years, I thought this might be my only chance to do something on my own.”
Karscig finished a few songs in the studio, and began to worry about releasing something new to fans who were expecting more Louis XIV material.
“I kind of thought of releasing it as The Nervous Record, because I was worried about how people were going to react.”
While he was preparing to release the songs as a one-off side project, Karscig got a call from The Killers, offering him an opening spot on their upcoming tour. In three weeks. At that point, he didn’t even have a band. Karscig called on some musicians he knew in other San Diego bands, drummer Andy Ridley from Transfer, and pianist Maren Parusel. Through mutual friends, he was introduced to guitar player Lindsay Matheson, and after a little googling revealed that The Nervous Records was already taken, The Nervous Wreckords was born.
They may not have a hit record, yet, but the change seems to be just what Karscig needed after so many years laboring under the weight of other people’s expectations with his band mates in Convoy and Louis XIV.
“It’s been fun. It’s been rewarding rocking out with such an enthusiastic group of people.”
Karscig acknowledges that he’s lucky to have the luxury to release his music with The Nervous Wreckords without the backing of a record label, big or small. He’s garnered enough experience, connections, and financial stability to be able to release the first two albums of this new project himself.
Producing albums for other artists is another avenue that Karscig uses to make a living in music. While he was with Louis XIV, Karscig and his band mates took advantage of having major-label money to build their own recording studio here in San Diego. With great equipment now at their disposal, he began to record other bands.
“Since we really didn’t need the money at the time, we just started to record our friend’s bands for super cheap. None of our friends in bands had $600 a day to record something good. It’s just kind of grown from there. It’s a changing climate for musicians. You kind of have to stay on your toes to try and stay one step ahead.”
To paraphrase Darwin, and perhaps Madonna, the key to surviving as an artist is “adapt or die.” Brian Karscig has adapted to being successful, being shelved, and being unsigned. It’s helped him achieve that humble sounding, yet nearly impossible goal, of making music to live.
I didn’t go to Comic-Con this year, but I still managed to engage in plenty of geek gawking, zombie watching and celebrity sighting. I went to a happy hour party hosted by my favorite show on Comedy Central, Workaholics. It was at Float, the roof-top, poolside club at the Hard Rock Hotel. It was on Friday afternoon, so I developed a 24-hour flu and got in line solo at 1:30.
As with most things related to Comic-Con, it was a long line, and there was no guarantee I’d even get in. It would have been super boring standing in line except for the endless parade of cosplayers, some dude in a DeLorean, and Shaq rolling past in an Escalade. My phone was fighting the other 200,000 phones for a signal and I couldn’t get on Facebook, twitter, or even send texts while I was in line. Within a few hours, my fully-charged battery would be totally dead.
Thankfully, my battery held out through the Workaholics party, and I got pictures with Uncle Blazer, Ders, and Adam. Since I was flying solo, I had no choice but to engage in conversation with other people, so I’d have someone to take the pictures for me. I met a young couple who didn’t seem like they’d try to get me into some weird furry three way, and agreed to trade photography duties. They were adorably star-struck by the basic cable celebrities we were meeting, and I think if anyone more famous walked in, their heads would’ve exploded. That kind of enthusiastic fandom is probably the best part of Comic-Con. Well, that and the hosted bars.
So here are the photos of me and the guys from Workaholics.