Category Archives: Music

Interview: Mariel Darling, A Portait of a Singer

Mariel Darling illustration by Henry Chamberlain

It is truly a pleasure to share with you a rising talent, singer-songwriter Mariel Darling. You might think of her as a future Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga. Who knows? She certainly has got talent and determination and, at 16, she has some solid songs like “No Mirrors” and “Unknown,” to show for it and a work ethic going back to the age of nine. So, yes, Ms. Darling is the real deal. I believe in Mariel Darling. So much so that I created the above illustration. Mariel, if you ever need an artist for an album cover, I’d be more than happy to do it.

A Western Massachusetts native, 16-year-old Mariel Darling started recording music when she was only nine years old after being discovered by manager Jackie Sarkis (formerly of Radio Disney) and working with producer Shaun Bless, and by age ten she was already turning heads performing at the New York Knicks halftime show. Even in her early years, the young singer knew that she wanted to use her talent to help promote positive messages, and by eleven she was already hard at work writing and performing songs for the National Education Institute encouraging other kids in a fun and upbeat way to read, study, and focus on their education as a way to further their well-being. These initiatives lead Darling to perform on bigger national stages and festivals including the Maritime Festival, Washington D.C.’s CureFest for Childhood Cancer, and the Camplified Tour which saw her perform in front of thousands of teens and tweens at summer camps across the nation at fourteen.

Mariel enjoys motivating her fans with her music. During our conversation, Mariel said she’s excited about connecting with the huge fan base of girls and young women who follow her music. She’s proud of her songs, like “No Mirrors,” that resonate with her fans and speak to positive self-image and empowerment. And another more recent song, “Unknown,” speaks to the challenges in young lives in facing the unknown. Mariel says she admires those performers that are able to reach out like Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish. No doubt, you can add Mariel Darling to the short list of the best influencers. Listen to my interview by clicking the link below:

Keep up with Mariel Darling on Instagram right here.

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Filed under Entertainment, Interviews, Mariel Darling, Music, Women

Comics Review: THE BEATLES YELLOW SUBMARINE

“Beatles: Yellow Submarine,” an official illustrated adaptation published by Titan Comics

An announcement about a graphic novel based on The Beatles Yellow Submarine was one of the most popular posts on Comics Grinder. Well, here is a full-on review (with video) that delves right into the book! This is the official illustrated adaptation, published by Titan Comics.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles Yellow Submarine comes this fully authorized graphic novel adaptation! We all know the story:

When the music-hating Blue Meanies invade the underwater paradise of Pepperland, the Captain of the Yellow Submarine sails away to find help… and stumbles upon The Beatles! Can the Fab Four free Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, return music to Pepperland, and overthrow the evil Blue Meanies through the power of love?

This book beautifully and faithfully adapts all the antics and charm of the original animated feature. It’s genius to create such a work. Who doesn’t love The Beatles? And who can resist a book that transports you to Pepperland and beyond? Here is a perfect gift for any Beatles fan. And it can make for a dazzling bedtime story too!

THE BEATLES YELLOW SUBMARINE

The layout to this work is quite impressive. The pacing is spot on as it captures the wacky and irreverent humor. An adaptation of this scope and significance requires a master and that is exactly what we get from writer/artist Bill Morrison, co-founder of Bongo Comics, artist on classic Disney posters, and editor of Mad Magazine. Usually, it works the other way around but Mr. Morrison has managed to take a legendary work in animation and find a viable graphic novel counterpart. He has done a wonderful job of sequencing a narrative from something that is both iconic and rather loopy and might seem impossible to properly transfer from one medium to another.

There is plenty to love here. All you need is love, right?

The Beatles Yellow Submarine is a 112-page hardcover, in full color, published by Titan Comics.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Music, pop culture, The Beatles, Titan Comics

Music Review: ‘Nowhere Land’ by Olivia Olson

NOWHERE LAND by Olivia Olson

Los Angeles is both magical and manic. Entertainer Olivia Olson should know. Just take a listen to her song, “Los Angeles,” from her newly-released album, Nowhere Land. A mellow vibe belies a darker outlook. Among her credits, Olivia can proudly claim to be the voice of Marceline the Vampire Queen on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. She’s an L.A. kid through and through. So, she means what she says with lyrics like, “So what if I’m scandalous…I’m so Los Angeles…I’m so over the hills, so under the spell…Is it heaven or hell?…I’m so Los Angeles.”

“Los Angeles” sets the tone for an album with a youthful kick. There’s a powerful vibe to such torch songs as “Chasing Your Chances,” “Anyway,” and “Tore Up.” Each one of these nine tracks is a piece to a puzzle revealing a complex artist with a multi-layered vision. If you’re searching, and a little bit lost in the big city, this is the album for you.

Olivia says that she is very proud of the team she worked with to put this album together. As an independent artist, she looks forward to spreading the word and folks enjoying what they hear.

Nowhere Land is available on all the major music platforms including iTunes.

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Filed under Adventure Time, Music, Music Reviews, Olivia Olson

Interview: Mark Gottlieb chats about project with George Clayton Johnson

Émile Zola illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Mark Gottlieb is a composer and a lucky person to have been a lifelong friend of screenwriter George Clayton Johnson. This friendship led to a collaboration between Gottlieb and Johnson on “Zola,” a compelling musical that features the Dreyfus affair, a scandal that rocked France at the end of the 19th century and reverberates to this very day. There are a number of things to unpack and discuss here. We begin with an overview of what the infamous Dreyfus affair was all about and go from there, with plenty of recollections about the great ole storyteller, the timeless, George Clayton Johnson.

The Dreyfus affair focuses upon a wrongly accused man who made the perfect scapegoat for the time. Considering how Rod Serling was such a steadfast advocate for human rights, it is quite fitting to find George Clayton Johnson, one of Serling’s fellow writers on The Twilight Zone, as co-creator of this musical. Johnson was always a person to side with the nonconformist. So, it was natural when Gottlieb, in search of a libretto, came calling on George. The two entered upon a partnership and worked, off and on, on the Zola musical for many years. Since the death of George Clayton Johnson in 2015, the impetus has been to get the musical out into the world. To that end, Gottlieb is contacting like-minded souls such as myself to help spread the word. As someone who also got to enjoy a special connection with George, it is my pleasure to present to you this conversation I had with Mark Gottlieb recently.

Now, a little history: The Dreyfus affair occurred during France’s Third Republic. It was sparked by the wrongful imprisonment of French army captain Alfred Dreyfus in 1894. The matter would officially drag on until 1906. Dreyfus was convicted of treason for allegedly selling military secrets to the Germans in December 1894. At first the public supported the conviction; it was willing to believe in the guilt of Dreyfus, who was Jewish. Much of the early publicity surrounding the case came from anti-Semitic groups (especially the newspaper La Libre Parole, edited by Édouard Drumont), to whom Dreyfus symbolized the supposed disloyalty of French Jews.

The effort to reverse the sentence was at first limited to members of the Dreyfus family, but, as evidence pointing to the guilt of another French officer, Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy, came to light from 1896, the pro-Dreyfus side slowly gained adherents (among them journalists Joseph Reinach and Georges Clemenceau—the future World War I premier—and a senator, Auguste Scheurer-Kestner). The accusations against Esterhazy resulted in a court-martial that acquitted him of treason (January 1898). To protest against the verdict, the novelist Émile Zola wrote a letter titled “J’accuse,” published in Clemenceau’s newspaper L’Aurore. In it he attacked the army for covering up its mistaken conviction of Dreyfus, an action for which Zola was found guilty of libel.

What follows is my interview with Mark Gottlieb. Here we begin with the Dreyfus affair and quickly dig deeper into the issues involved. Then we steadily see how Gottlieb and Johnson joined together as a creative team. In the process, we get a unique inside view into the world of George Clayton Johnson, a unique voice in storytelling. He is best known for iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone like “Kick the Can,” and “Nothing in the Dark.” Among his work, he is also known for writing “Man Trap,” the first episode broadcast of Star Trek, as well as being the co-writer, with William F. Nolan, of the landmark science fiction novel, “Logan’s Run.” Lastly, I have to say, I believe this interview will really hook you in. The proper warm up and set up is done and off we go:

For the interview, click the link right here.

Stay tuned for more news on the Zola musical.

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Filed under France, George Clayton Johnson, Mark Gottlieb, Music, Musicals, pop culture, Social Justice

Kickstarter: On The Off Chance debut album on Vinyl

On the Off Chance

I just reviewed a work by fellow cartoonist Dan Dougherty. And I feel a separate post is in order to let folks know about Dan’s band, On The Off Chance. I have heard their music and this feisty band out of Chicago is a lot of fun! Check out some samples for yourself at the band’s Kickstarter, going on through March 23rd, right here.

I am listening to “Payday” as I write this and its rockabilly vibe has put me in a very good mood. This is a band definitely on the rise. Later this year, with a little help from their friends, they will be releasing some very cool music videos that include the talents of Joel Murray (Mad Men), Jim O’Heir (Parks and Recreation) and David Pasquesi (Veep)!

On The Off Chance

A note from the band:

And as to the album itself? It’s the best thing we’ve ever made in all of our years as musicians. It’s eleven original songs written by either Dan or Steve, with beautiful harmonies, powerful lyrics, and hooks to spare.

The album is already recorded, mixed and mastered at the band’s own expense. The album art is complete and ready to print. The campaign funds go towards printing and shipping this special vinyl edition. As you will see among the reward options, you can choose whatever fits best your musics needs: CD, digital download, or vinyl, plus some other goodies.

As of today, Dan’s Kickstarter for the debut album of his band, On The Off Chance, has surpassed the $2,000 milestone of its $3,500 goal! This campaign ends on March 23rd. You can support the campaign by visiting right here.

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Filed under Comics, Dan Dougherty, Kickstarter, Music

Comix Scene: Bumbershoot No More

Bumbershoot Only in Brand Name

Bumbershoot Only in Brand Name

A lot of great things have happened in Seattle. Grunge. Coffee. Software. Amazon. And Bumbershoot, our Labor Day weekend music and arts festival. In fact, the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, now known as Seattle Center, is the site of Bumbershoot. Through it all, Seattle had managed to somehow keep a relatively low profile. It used to be known as a place you could drift away to and that appealed to countless artists and dreamers. But, in the span of a generation, it has gone from being called “the nicest place to live in America” to being called “the fastest growing city in America.” That is quite a leap and it does not come without a steep price to pay.

The Anschutz Corporation’s AEG LIVE division bought out Seattle’s beloved Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival from local nonprofit, One Reel. Bumbershoot was an emblem of that quirky egalitarian spirit that Seattle has been known for. Last year, was the first year under the control of AEG LIVE. The price hike on tickets raised eyebrows. People noticed. Locals noticed, for sure. Here is my recap from last year.

Here’s the thing, Bumbershoot has been in need of better organization for some time. Crowds keep growing while overall entertainment, including the arts, keeps decreasing. Like it or not, the Bumbershoot that all of us grew up with is no more. It’s not a lot of quirky, authentic, indie fun anymore. There is still a glimmer of the old ghost but it’s now mostly a corporate brand. Can we turn that around? I wish we could. There is a price to pay for being the biggest–and it’s too high a price! Burning Man was once just an authentic feel good thing but no more. So too for good ole Bumbershoot. Bumbershoot no more.

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Filed under AEG LIVE, Bumbershoot, Comics, Comix Scene, Corporations, Music, pop culture, Seattle

Seattle Focus: The Crocodile’s 25th Year

What we can always use is more love. Here is something special put together by cartoonist Noel Franklin that touches the heart of all us Seattle locals. This is Noel’s tribute to one of our great landmarks, one of the best music venues in town, The Crocodile nightclub. Here is a link back to where it appears at Seattle Weekly.

Noel Franklin's tribute to The Crocodile in Seattle Weekly

Noel Franklin’s tribute to The Crocodile in Seattle Weekly

And be sure to keep up with Noel Franklin right here.

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Filed under Comics, Music, Noel Franklin, Seattle, The Crocodile

Review: METROLAND #3 by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele

David Bowie chats with Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie chats with Ziggy Stardust

“Metroland #3,” published by Avery Hill, is the best yet of this quirky series. Of course, you want to read it all as it builds! The hints have been made from the start that there is something unusual, perhaps other-worldly, about rock stars Jessica Hill and Ricky Stardust. They keep abandoning their band, Electric Dreams, leaving them cooped up in a small castle in Greenwich just outside London. Not the worst thing in the world, mind you. Although not until you take into account that the mysterious activities of Jessica Hill and Ricky Stardust could bring about the Apocalypse!

Alright, so the world’s fate may hang in the balance. But this comic’s main appeal is its style and humor. Let me tell you, it’s a particularly British club scene thing going on here but it’s also quite applicable to any scene. The recurring theme is looking and acting cool. Go to a club. See a show. Pose. Make pithy comments. The humor and the style are priceless, way before snark was ever born–and much better. It’s a world-view honed over generations. Funny I should say that, given the nature of this narrative.

Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum!

Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum!

Ah, yes, this is a story spanning generations–or should I say it goes much deeper than that. This is unnatural. This is cross-polinating generations! Let me come clean: Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum in a huge way. Ever hear of President Elvis? No, that wasn’t supposed to happen. So, yeah, we’ve got a mad helping of Doctor Who with just the right hipster vibe.

Where is Ricky Stardust and Jessica Hill?

Where is Ricky Stardust and Jessica Hill?

You see, Ricky Stardust has been leapfrogging all through rock ‘n’ roll history making adjustments as he pleases. Rumor has it that he’s Ziggy Stardust and that he’s set into motion some cataclysmic jinx. Not the sort of thing the David Bowie we all know and love would ever do. Ricky Miller’s script has such droll humor and Julia Scheele’s artwork has such devilish wit.

Henry the Blogger!

Henry the Blogger!

As for comics about gloriously misspent youth, this is one I highly recommend. Come for the repartee and stay for the characters. There is even a middle-aged pop culture blogger who proves to be a pivotal character. Ah, there’s hope for me yet. Well, I must admit the character is pretty spot on in a lot of ways. Eerie, his name is Henry and my name is Henry. Okay, that alone gets my attention! Did someone travel back in time just to spook me? Ha, ha, I do like this Henry the blogger character!

Kevin refuses to meet with Henry!

Kevin refuses to meet with Henry!

“Metroland #3,” by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, is a 36-page full-color perfect bound comic. For more details, visit Avery Hill Publishing right here. You can also venture over to Retrofit Comics and find Metroland right here.

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Filed under Avery Hill Publishing, British Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, David Bowie, European Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, London, Music, science fiction, Time Travel

Pop Culture Focus: Randy Bowles and the Sixties

Randy Bowles at Simply Desserts

Randy Bowles at Simply Desserts

Here at Comics Grinder, we not only love pop culture but we dig deeper–all the way to its roots. With musician Randy Bowles, I have a friend who can share insights into the Sixties from a unique perspective. As a co-founder of Yakima, Washington’s Velvet Illusions (1966-67), Bowles found himself in a catbird seat to view and participate in his generation’s journey through identity, rebellion, and so much more. It was the beginning of a career in music that would take him in many directions.

Randy Bowles of the Velvet Illusions

Randy Bowles of the Velvet Illusions

Ultimately, Randy Bowles carved a niche for himself in folk music and he’s remained active in that, and general storytelling, ever since. You can enjoy his special brand of insight at his WordPress blog right here. We became friends through the WordPress community and it just goes to show you yet another benefit of being part of WordPress.

The Velvet Illusions (1966-67)

The Velvet Illusions (1966-67)

Getting back to Randy, an important thing to know is that he was in this cool band, The Velvet Illusions, and then he went on to other cool bands and his own solo work. As for Velvet Illusions, listen for yourself and you’ll find a fun and steady beat. Here they are singing the Velvet Illusions theme:

In our recent chat, we discuss the Sixties for a bit and mainly focus on fashion. Bowles provides some insight on the passions and interests of the Sixties generation: what was homegrown versus what was manufactured to sell to a mainstream audience.

Randy Bowles is a good guy. I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

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Filed under 1960s, Counterculture, Music, pop culture, Randy Bowles, The Sixties, The Velvet Illusions

Book Review: ‘H8 Society – How An Atomic Fart Saved the World’

2Dans-H8-Society-How-an-Atomic-Fart

Transmedia, content that includes more than traditional text and illustrations, is still so new. Basically, it is storytelling on multiple platforms: there’s not only a book but there is video, music, games, social media, and so on. I feel it’s going to take a number of years before the novelty wears off and things integrate more naturally, if they ever do. Take this latest hybrid of book, music, and social media: “H8 Society – How An Atomic Fart Saved the World.” It does not take on the whole transmedia spectrum but it is in the same ballpark. The intent is to bring in young readers and it is designed to be ideally read on a smartphone.

This is a young adult book which has an overall upbeat and dynamic vibe to it so there’s some real potential there to attract new readers. This is a sci-fi adventure of sorts that is meant to appeal to teens. That is absolutely the demographic that is being targeted. It is clearly stated in the title, and not just the idea of farts. The idea of haters is pretty obvious. A lot of buttons are pushed, including all the usual suspects of sex, drugs, and race. The story begins with a satire on a jihadist which is odd at best. There are also scenes you can call sexist at best.

The press release describes this book as “a first-of-its-kind ‘extreme reading experience’ that marries music, graphics, and literature to tell an unforgettable story about an apocalyptic American dream.” Much more to the point, this is light entertainment or contemporary pulp fiction. It is not literature. It’s just light stuff featuring popular music. This book is sort of a contemporary version of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon singing in “Beach Blanket Bingo.”

An illustration by Bill Sienkiewicz in "H8 Society"

An illustration by Bill Sienkiewicz in “H8 Society”

Something that is strongly in its favor is that the book is punctuated with vivid artwork by master illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz of DC and Marvel Comics fame. And the music peppered throughout this story is an impressive collection of twenty-six indie songs (curated from over 4,000 ReverbNation submissions). You’ll be reading along for a while and then have the option to play a song that sort of goes with the narrative. For instance, Boomer and the gang are right in the middle of an exciting scene. To add to that reading, you may want to listen to Valora’s “Extreme.”

While you read "H8 Society" on your smartphone, you can listen to songs like Valora's "Extreme."

While you read “H8 Society” on your smartphone, you can listen to songs like Valora’s “Extreme.”

The story is a caper involving two rival teen gangs who must confront a global network bent on taking over the world through mind control. It’s not the most cutting-edge scenario but it gets the job done and proves to be as entertaining as any light sitcom you might stumble upon. The choice of music is fun and that’s probably the most intriguing thing about this project. From time to time, a reader, immersed in his or her own reader’s world, is open to supplemental material. If you get that right choice of song, it can have a very moving and lasting effect upon a reader and actually enhance the reading experience.

First, you need a worthwhile reading experience before you can enhance it. In the case of this book, it is what it is: a simple caper story. And maybe that’s just what some readers will want during a commute. One caveat, the creators of this book go by the name of 2Dans. They are two former MTV executives which adds to the sense of this being more of a packaged deal and less of something to take too seriously. But then, atomic farts were never meant to be taken seriously, right? Find out how you can access this book for free by visiting the official book site here.

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Filed under 2Dans, Bill Sienkiewicz, Book Reviews, Books, Mark Z. Danielewski, Marketing, MTV, Music, Transmedia