Across the Margin: The Podcast


Episode 145: Chris Forsyth's Evolution Here We Come

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with musician Chris Forsyth. It isn't hyperbole to describe Chris as one of rock’s most gifted improvisers. Chris got his start in Brooklyn's experimental circles in the early 2000s and promptly grew into a masterful technical player. As the bandleader of Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, he composed mostly instrumental pieces that channeled both the psychedelic jamming of the Grateful Dead and the precision of art-punk guitar acts like Television. Whether with the Solar Motel Band or on his other solo projects, Chris sources from an extensive pool of influences — psychedelia, folk, noise, classic rock — melding the varying influences into Chris’s own brand of cerebral improvisational rock. Chris’s latest album — the focus of this episode — is entitled Evolution Here We Come, a largely instrumental album and a powerful and driving work of art. Featuring contributions from Douglas McCombs (Tortoise), Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra), Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project), Tom Malach (Garcia Peoples), Ryan Jewell (Ryley Walker), and co-producer Dave Harrington (Darkside), Evolution Here We Come is seven sprawling sonic journeys that exhibit just how talented of a guitarist Chris persists as. In this episode host Michael Shields and Chris Forsyth discuss how music from the 80s and bands such as ZZ Top influenced Evolution Here We Come while talking about what it was like co-producing the album with Dave Harrington (Darkside). They recount how Chris was able to get Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra) to play on the album, what it meant to cover Richard Thompson’s “You’re Going To Need Somebody,” his forthcoming tour with Meg Baird, and so much more.

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Episode 146: Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science with Patrick L. Schmidt

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with the author of Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science (The Rise and Fall of the Department of Social Relations), Patrick L. Schmidt. In Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science, Schmidt tells the little-known story of how some of the most renowned social scientists of the twentieth century struggled to elevate their emerging disciplines of cultural anthropology, sociology, and social and clinical psychology. Scorned and marginalized in their respective departments in the 1930s for pursuing the controversial theories of Freud and Jung, they persuaded Harvard to establish a new department, promising to create an interdisciplinary science that would surpass in importance Harvard’s “big three” disciplines of economics, government, and history. Although the Department of Social Relations failed to achieve this audacious goal, it nonetheless attracted an outstanding faculty, produced important scholarly work, and trained many notable graduates. At times, it was a wild ride. Some faculty became notorious for their questionable research: Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (reborn as Ram Dass) gave the psychedelic drug psilocybin to students, while Henry Murray traumatized undergraduate Theodore Kaczynski (later the Unabomber) in a three-year-long experiment. Central to the story is the obsessive quest of legendary sociologist Talcott Parsons for a single theory unifying the social sciences — the white whale to his Captain Ahab. All in all, Schmidt’s lively narrative is an instructive tale of academic infighting, hubris, and scandal. Patrick L. Schmidt is an attorney in Washington, D.C. He received a BA, magna cum laude, from Harvard College, a JD from Georgetown University, and an MIPP from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He first examined the history of the Department of Social Relations in his undergraduate honors thesis at Harvard, meaning that he has lived with and examined this story for many years now. In this episode host Michael Shields and Patrick L. Schmidt examine why a group of some of the most distinguished social scientists of the twentieth century embarked up the controversial yet noble endeavor of birthing the multidisciplinary, innovative Department of Social Relations at Harvard. They discuss the famed thinkers that were members of the department such as Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Henry Murray, and Talcott Parsons. They explore the exciting rise of the Department of Social Relations, it’s controversial downfall, and ultimately expound upon the legacy and lasting impact of the movement and those a part of it. Grab a copy of Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science here!

Episode 144: Kenny Roby's Kenny Roby

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Woodstock, New York via North Carolina singer-songwriter Kenny Roby. Roby is the former lead singer of 6 String Drag, which he formed with bassist Rob Keller in the early 1990s, a band which quickly became one of the more notable bands of the Americana movement. The band's style ranged from old style country with a hint of soul and gospel to rock. While 6 String Drag broke up in the late 1990s, Roby continues to make records and play live shows with the Mercy Filter, which includes Scott McCall of $2 Pistols. Roby has released seven solo albums, his latest album — the focus of the episode — is self-titled and written and recorded in Woodstock, NY. Throughout Kenny Roby, the gifted storyteller embraces the spirits of songwriters who once inhabited the very same hills like Fred Neil, Van Morrison, Tim Hardin, Karen Dalton, Bobby Charles, Levon Helm and, of course, Bob Dylan. Over the album's dozen tracks, Roby — supported by a cast including Daniel Littleton (guitars), Jeff Hill (bass), Tony Leone (drums) and superb guest vocals from Amy Helm and the legendary John Sebastian on harmonica — takes us on a sprawling walk through the neighborhood of his mind. In this episode host Michael Shields and Kenny Roby discuss Kenny Roby’s genesis and the themes present in the album. They talk about the outstanding players on the album such as Amy Helm and John Sebastian while exploring how living in Woodstock, New York led to who contributed to the album’s enthralling sound. They discuss Roby’s friendship and working relationship with Neal Casal and the gifts that deep acquaintanceship still award Roby, and so much more. 

Episode 143: The National's Boxer with Ryan Pinkard

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with author Ryan Pinkard, a music journalist from Denver, Colorado. Pinkard is the author of the new 33 1/3 book, Boxer, which is the focus of this episode. Boxer is a comprehensive and enlightening oral history of the band that traces The National's early career and struggles, culminating in the creation of their watershed album. He has just begun work on his second book for 33 1/3's new Genre series, in which he'll explore the ethereal genre of Shoegaze. We all know the story of the Boxer. That grisly, bruised American allegory of a fighter who somehow gets up more times than he's knocked down. Pinkard’s 33 1/3 book, Boxer, chronicles the fight that nearly broke The National but turned out to be the one that allowed them to become champions. Released in 2007, The National's fourth full-length album is the masterpiece that veritably saved them. For fans, Boxer is a profound personal meditation on the unmagnificent lives of adults, an elegant culmination of their sophisticated songwriting, and the first National album many fell in love with. For the band, Boxer symbolizes an obsession, a years-long struggle, a love story, a final give-it-everything-you've-got effort to keep their fantasy of being a real rock band alive. Based on extensive original interviews with the fighters who were in the ring and the spectators who witnessed it unfold, Pinkard obsessively reconstructs a transformative chapter in The National's story, revealing how the Ohio-via-Brooklyn five-piece found the sound, success, and spiritual growth to evolve into one of the most critically acclaimed bands of their time. In this episode host Michael Shields and Ryan Pinkard dive deeply into what made Boxer such a game-changing album for The National while exploring the challenges and pressures the band faced while working on bringing the album to life. They discuss the importance of lead singer Matt Berninger’s wife Carin becoming his lyric writing partner during the Boxer sessions and how that has shaped the band to this day. They converse upon the political climate of the day that inspired the album’s essence and, ultimately, they ruminate on what Boxer means to the band’s legacy and to their enduring success.Grab a copy of The National’s Boxer 33 ⅓ by Ryan Pinkard here!