theMusic Sessions: Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!)

Filmed and edited by Daniel Cribb.

With their roots firmly planted in folk punk rock, it’s always a pleasure to catch Against Me! songs stripped back and raw.

Currently touring the country with their latest record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, in tow, Laura Jane Grace stopped by our Perth office to play a couple of acoustic numbers, both from the aforementioned release.

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2015/06/06/against-me-vocalist-laura-jane-grace-goes-acoustic-for-us/

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theMusic.com.au: Watch Highlights From Supanova’s ‘Futurama’ Panel

Filmed & Edited by Daniel Cribb

From the depth of Futurama‘s storylines to the show’s unique characters, there’s nothing really like it, and animation fans will attest that it is one of the all-time greats.

When voice acting legends John DiMaggio and Billy West, who voice Bender and Fry respectively among other characters, were united at Supanova in Sydney over the weekend, the chemistry returned, and fans had a chance to ask the pair questions during their panel.

On top of bringing Fry, Bender, Zoidberg and more to life, DiMaggio discusses Adventure Time (on which he voiced Jake The Dog) and West recalls his time on radio and voicing Bugs Bunny.

You can catch the pair at the WA leg of Supanova, which goes down 26-28 June at Perth Convention &
Exhibition Centre.

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2015/06/22/watch-highlights-from-supanovas-futurama-panel/

INTERVIEW: John DiMaggio (Bender on Futurama)

Published in The Music (WA & NSW) and on theMusic.com.au, June 2015

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 Although Futurama wrapped up in 2013, voice actor John DiMaggio suggests we might not have seen the last of Bender’s shiny metal arse. Daniel Cribb chats Adventure Time and documentary I Know That Voice with the legend.

Having spent seven seasons voicing robot criminal Bender on animated hit Futurama, it’s not surprising to catch John DiMaggio engaged in conflict when he answers his phone. “I’m in the car,” DiMaggio says, erupting with laughter for seemingly no reason, and just like that, the evil chuckle he perfected during his time on the show breaks through. “Welcome to Los Angeles via phone. I already have somebody totally crossing the lane in front of me illegally like a jerk.

“I think a part of Bender is in me and a part of me is in Bender, absolutely. I think that if you are able to be in this business and be privileged enough to play a character this long — or as long as I was able — you can really dig into it and get inside it, and really inhabit that character both physically and mentally. I mean, he’s this incredible being, you know? And I just get to bring him to life. It’s a joy. And that’s one of the reasons why I love doing what I do so much.”

The last we saw of Bender was during the The Simpsons/Futurama crossover episode in 2014. With voice acting legend Harry Shearer — famous for Mr Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner and a handful of other Simpsons characters — departing from the show recently after constant struggles with contracts and pay disputes, documentary I Know That Voice, which DiMaggio narrates, is playing an important role in bringing voice actors to the forefront of the conversation. “I think it’s starting to change. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think it’s starting… we get recognised and we have that kind of cult-like status, which is kind of cool; I like it. I can go shopping and nobody recognises me, unless they’ve seen the documentary.

“I have a really interesting job, and people always ask me, ‘Hey, what’s your day like?’ [I Know That Voice] is basically a backstage pass into that. And the response has been really, really positive and a lot of my peers are in it and a lot of big people in the business are in it, and it’s just really cool.”

As far as current projects go, DiMaggio is still a part of Cartoon Network mega-hit Adventure Time, voicing main character Jake The Dog. With a bullet train in Korea with his character painted on it and a house dedicated to the show in Melbourne, the project has far surpassed his expectations. “People all over the world are into Adventure Time and that just blows my mind.

“The great thing is that they’re doing an Adventure Time feature film. They’ve just signed on to do it, and I haven’t been approached yet, but, I mean, I figure they’re gonna, you know,” he laughs.

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2015/06/17/john-dimaggio-adventure-time-daniel-cribb/

INTERVIEW: Nancy Cartwright

Published in The Music (WA & NSW) and on theMusic.com.au, June 2015

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THE SHOWS WILL GO ON

When an integral, long-running voice actor departed The Simpsons in May, fans worldwide went into panic. The voice of Bart Simpson, Nancy Cartwright, tells Daniel Cribb not to worry, and reveals a new project in the works.

Having been the voice of Bart Simpson, Ralph Wiggum, Nelson Muntz and more since The Simpsons started 26 seasons ago in 1989, it’s not surprising Nancy Cartwright has picked up enough knowledge along the way to produce her own show. “I’ve got an animated show that I’m pitching,” she reveals. “It’s called Unassisted Living and it takes place at a retirement home. We’re in development and pitching, but it’s fully fleshed out and ready to go. It takes place in a retirement facility and everybody thinks they’re dying and somebody comes in to run the place that is only twenty-two years old, and she gets them all working and contributing.”

That’s on top of turning her 1995 one-woman stage show, In Search Of Fellini, into a film for release next year and her interest in sculpting. It’s surprising Cartwright has the time to commit to another project, with The Simpsons being renewed for an additional two seasons over the next two years. That news unfortunately also came with the departure of voice actor Harry Shearer, who voices about half of Springfield in Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Mr. Burns, Mr. Smithers and more, who is stepping down from the show due to reported contractual issues. It’s a subject that makes Cartwright uneasy. “I don’t really have all the details on it; you’ve got to interview Maggie Simpson (which, of course, Cartwright also voices), and I don’t think she’s talkin’. The show’s going to go on. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t know that he’s really gone.”

Despite the hiccup, Cartwright, who, for her work as Bart’s voice, won an Emmy in 1992 for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance and an Annie Award in 1995 for Best Voice Acting in the Field of Annimation, is certain that the next seasons will still continue strong. “The pick of seasons 27 and 28 is great news. Doing a negotiation is always a challenge; it’s not fun for anybody, to be honest with you. It’s a lot of pressure, but the outcome of it, I’m very happy to be back and I’m glad it worked out for two years guaranteed.”

INTERVIEW: Veronica Taylor (Voice Actor)

Published in The Music (WA & NSW) and on theMusic.com.au, June 2015

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IT’S THE JOURNEY

Voice actor Veronica Taylor’s work on Pokémon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to resonate with the generations that grew up watching them. Daniel Cribb discovers why.

Anime series Pokémon did so much more than introduce a wider audience to the genre when it debuted in the mid ‘90s, and as the original voice of main character Ash Ketchum, Veronica Taylor has discovered over time the true meaning of the show. “I actually just had a Skype session with an elementary school,” Taylor begins, taking a break from her human studio.

The Q&A-type sessions she offers come with a lot of expected questions from kids as to how she got her start, what it was like to voice characters in Pokémon and April O’Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it’s recurring queries such as the absence of Ash’s father that reveal the depth of the story. “Maybe that’s a driving force that makes him leave home to search more for himself, ‘cause he doesn’t see it reflected in both of his parents.

“I think the stories transcend because they’re so universal. And in a sense, because it’s so simple, you can add your own ideas to it. So many people have theories on different things in the show – things I never even thought of – but they’re able to because it challenges their creativity and imagination.”

Fan conventions such as Supanova give Taylor the opportunity to meet fans that have grown up watching the shows in she was an integral part. “Some people come up to my table and they don’t even know until that minute that a girl played Ash. And so the shock of them finding that out is pretty amazing. But there’s something about when we are face-to-face, I hear everyone’s stories about how they found a comfort in it, because they were bullied at school or they were having problems with their parents divorcing or something.

“Now we go on our journey together, because we meet and then we meet again every so often at other shows, and so many people have come back and said, ‘I’m going to college’ or ‘I graduated college’ or ‘I have a job now’, so it’s been an amazing experience. And that’s why I go to conventions, to be able to meet people and start a new journey.”

While those who grew up watching the original TMNT cartoons may have kept up to date with the live action films, Taylor admits she hasn’t seen Michael Bay’s 2014 effort, kept busy with a hectic work schedule that currently includes voicing characters on Mofy and Astroblast. “I am a big Ninja Turtles fan, but I haven’t seen a lot of the new stuff. A lot of it is because I’ve been really busy working and just don’t have time. I haven’t seen a lot of the shows that I’ve worked on either. When we work on something that we’re just dubbing, I only see my line, so sometimes I don’t know what the whole show is about. With Ninja Turtles, we were all in the booth at the same time so we did it like a radio play and that was really great.”

INTERVIEW: Jebediah (Cover Story)

Published in The Music (WA, NSW, VIC, QLD) and on theMusic.com.au, June 2015

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THROUGH IT ALL

A lot can change over two decades, and while the friendships formed in Jebediah stay strong, bassist Vanessa Thornton and guitarist Chris Daymond tell Daniel Cribb the music industry might be in trouble.

There are a number of reasons why WA rockers Jebediah still have a place in the hearts of fans around the world 20 years since their inception. With their debut record, Slightly Odway, they came out of the gate with an iconic album that became the soundtrack for a generation, and its worth still holds strong today, as evident by sold-out anniversary dates around the country, where fans have the opportunity to step back to 1996 and relive the album as the band plays it in full. But perhaps one of the biggest reasons Jebediah cemented themselves a lasting place is they encompass everything that music should be; friends hanging out together and playing songs they enjoy, and that’s something that fans can pick up on. “We’ve always had differences of opinions; we’re all different people, but it’s your ability to compromise that is a strength for a band,” guitarist Chris Daymond suggests, sitting in a man-cave-like bunker at Sony’s Perth HQ. “There’s obviously going to be moments, but they always seem so small in comparison,” bassist Vanessa Thornton adds.

It’s one thing to put on a smile and say they’re still best friends, but the fact the band has the exact same members it did back in 1996 when forming says it all. “Is it worth driving a wedge between you and one of your best mates because you think the guitar sounds shit or the lyric is crap?” Daymond asks. “Whatever you have a pickle with, it’s like being in a family; you’re going to have to be around or sit in a van with that person you’re picking a fight with – it’s up to you if you want to pursue that, and I don’t think we’ve ever had the fucking energy to run each other up the wrong way and find that to be stimulating,” he laughs.

With hits Leaving Home, Jerks Of Attention and Harpoon all on the tracklisting for album number one, it’s no surprise it lives on strong all these years later. But it’s not a record that defines the band, as its four follow-up records saw their sound evolve, keeping things interesting and subjects relevant, while staying true to the essence from which their debut stemmed. “There’s definitely a freedom to it,” Thornton says. “To me, it just feels really honest and really free. It’s just a bunch of kids having such a good time.”

“It’s an easy record to listen to; it’s catchy, upbeat and has a good energy,” Daymond adds. “It’s pretty humbling to be in a position where people want you to entertain them.”

The timely release of Jebediah’s greatest hits record, Twenty, further reinforces the strength of each album. Having 20 hit singles over only five albums is an impressive feat. “It’s like if you’re a chef and rather than creating the dishes, you’re putting together your best menu,” Daymond says on constructing the album’s tracklisting. “It’s what we’ve done as musicians, and to be in a position to be able to milk that for twenty years is awesome. The recorded output – to put it bluntly – is a small part of that experience for me. It’s the excitement of getting together and being on the road again with your crowd that is exciting to me.”

With frontman Kevin Mitchell now residing in Melbourne, distance and time apart may have played a role in maintaining healthy relationships for so long. But it’s a separation that renders rehearsing and writing harder than ever. It took Jebediah seven years to put together their most recent album, Kosciuszko, and that was with all members being in the same state. “Writing stuff is always something that’s just kind of happened when we’re together, so it’s a lot harder now,” Thornton admits. “We did get together for a week in Melbourne at the beginning of last year, but it was just a strange time being in a rehearsal room and thinking, ‘Alright, now we’ve got to write a bunch of songs.’”

“We didn’t really get anything out of it or write anything,” Daymond adds. “I don’t know what Kev’s plans are with doing another Bob [Evans] record – I’m sure he has those as well. We always have to allow for it to be open-ended so that everyone’s other pursuits are accessible… without talking about it, I’m sure we’d all love to make another record, but Kosciuszko took us seven years to put together, so if that trend continues, it could easily be another ten years before the next record is out.”

Blowing up in the ‘90s when major labels were still largely the key to a band’s success and continuing to still work with them while being embedded within the local scene, the members of Jebediah are in a unique position to analyse how it’s all changed. Thornton describes a young Jebediah being wined and dined at fancy restaurants wearing cut-off army pants, which leads the discussion into a wider analysis of how the scene has changed. It’s a transformation they say might not be for the better. “Trends have changed, but we don’t operate any differently,” Daymond says. “When bands do all that DIY, it doesn’t seem to make it any healthier for the industry, because the less cash flowing around, the less other satellite industries can operate around bands.

“You cut off that fuel and it all starts to shrink in on itself and becomes a lot more competitive and harder to survive. I think it is far more competitive now, but half the reason is that there isn’t the recording industry and labels around to nurture bands into success… I don’t know how easy it is for bands to be able to just enjoy it like we did.”

As far as the increased presence of smartphones at gigs in recent years, Jebediah’s stance is a strong and justifiable one. The digital age has also taken away some other simple pleasures of being in a band. “It’s like, you’ve bought a ticket to see a live band and you then stick this filter in front of your face,” Thornton says. “You’re so worried about preserving the moment that you miss it; you don’t get to just let go and enjoy it.”

“Handwritten fan mail was certainly a really great part of being in a band,” Daymond recalls. “Going around to your manager’s house and going through and answering all our fan mail. I certainly got a lot of out of that, but it could be a thing of the past.

“I don’t think it would be unusual to find that a seventeen-year-old that wrote us a fan letter in 1997 is probably still going to come to the Odway show and act the same way that they did back then – jump around and have a great time.”

Jebediah can still play sold-out nights around the country when they hit the road, but with families, jobs and other projects consuming a lot of their individual time, it’s no longer a full-time endeavour. On top of scoring fruit platters at most shows – a perk Thornton is still thrilled about 20 years later – it truly is like hanging out with old mates for the Perth four-piece; and considering they need to take annual leave from their day-jobs, it technically is a holiday. Daymond gives us a rundown of what touring means to him in 2015. “Travelling has probably been one of the biggest rewards for committing this amount of your life into a project. I hate trying to organise my own life, so when someone else is doing it for you and you just have to rock up at the right time and you’re away, it’s pretty fucking sweet. I’m very grateful for that experience. When you’re travelling around, it’s all those experiences of eating and immersing yourself in new things and meeting people and sightseeing, and not having to go to work in the morning, so all of those positives are a real blessing. When we check in now, Vanessa and I say that we’re on our honeymoon most of the time, and get a bottle of champagne or something – we’re always rooming together because we fly from the West. Travel is a big reward. We’ve still got all our limbs and we’re not deaf.”